Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Speaking Well of Others Speaks Well of Ourselves

June 17, 2017
Be careful how you speak of others.
That sounds like the start of a stern lecture, so let me word that another way. Take care to think through what you say when you speak of others.
It doesn’t matter whether they are living or dead. The more negatively you speak of others, the more negative the reflection on you.
This stuff is called dirt for a reason.
I’ve always marveled at the interest of others have of drama not on the stage. Soap Operas, Reality TV, and a host of other things suck people in. This in addition to the drama we find ourselves facing on a daily basis. Speaking poorly of others only feeds that beast. How much is enough?
If you wish to speak of someone in a way that might warn others about their behavior, then consider the trust but verify approach. It carries more weight than muckraking.  An example I’ll share involves a referral. I was asked by a stunt coordinator about an individual she wanted to hire. The stunt side of the Film and Live Show entertainment business is different from the acting side. Where actors have to audition, stunt performers typically get their work through relationships and referrals. I was honest with her. I told her this particular performer had presented performance challenges on a previous project, and that I had to chase her for several weeks to get her info for a production I was coordinating, which ultimately opted not to hire her. It would have been easy to say, “the kid is lazy, immature, and unreliable” but there was a better way.
Find the better way.
A word when spoken is a bird taking wing for flight forever. The things you say you cannot undo, you cannot change, and you cannot take back.
This past week found me remembering my brother’s birthday, gone five years, and marking the passing of two people close to me. That qualifies as a pretty crappy trifecta in my book.
Neither who jumped ship this week was perfect, but both were worthy of stories that make us smile. In the one case, an old friend from my Rocky Horror days in the 80’s (and part of the then-famous Wild and Untamed Things) passed away after a lengthy battle with mental and physical health issues. At the memorial, my dear friend Jack and I both determined that stories to make people laugh was the order of the day. The Matriarch from my mother’s side of the family also shuffled her mortal coil. Her story to share (since I was and am still not ready to grieve openly) involved her walking up besides me, in the midst of a group of people we both knew, and rubbed my belly…as she looked at me and said, “Say it, honey. Lower and faster.” and then she walked away, laughing hysterically. In a rare case, I was left speechless.

When we are saddened by loss, someone more callous might observe and say, “boo hoo, people die.” That is not in the least bit mature, and we should not be those people. Nor should we pay any attention to those who demonstrate such ignorant temerity.

Speak well of others, living or dead, no matter how much the temptation to do otherwise. It’s better to be the better person than to live with regret because you said something in haste. Similarly, look for every opportunity to speak well and positively of those you know and those you love. Finding and extolling the good in others brings out the good in ourselves.
That’s how we should immortalize others; this, no doubt, is how we ourselves would want to be remembered.
Speaking of remembering, remember to call someone you love and remind them of how important they are to you.
Do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

How We Change The Past

March 24, 2017
We Don’t. We can’t change the past.
I learned a great deal in the presence of my mom recently. Dad died a few months ago and she has managed to summon the strength necessary to move forward through the fog that besieged us all.
I mention we can’t change the past because I have spent so much of the recent past woefully lamenting how horrible a son, brother, or friend I have been I’ve managed to miss a few opportunities to do my level best in a situation.
There are several layers of danger in looking back. The obvious is you’re not looking forward. That’s bad because you don’t see what’s coming, and can’t prepare in the event something whacks, trips, or otherwise reaches out to influence your forwardly locomotion. It’s also not good because you are distracted. You’re so focused on the thing that already happened, and the “what-ifs” that surround it, you are fairly well insulated from anything happening in real time.
Many do this unintentionally. You’ll know it’s happening with someone else when you are sharing a story or insight and you get a “what’s that?” Or they nod absent-mindedly, and offer some form of affirmative answer in the hopes it is the correct one. Usually they’re thinking about something else, sometimes trying to connect the dots with a thought you just shared. Other times their mind is simply wandering.
But it is that other looking back, the one where you’ve lost the ability to move forward, breathe, or achieve on your own. That form of looking back can become a false comfort, providing a seductive darkness.
We miss out on opportunity when we continue to look back. We turn our back on the chance to experience in real time when we look back. People who live their entire holiday, or another event, through the lense of a camera suffer this fate.
An old friend hastened to advise me, with my love for photography, to try enjoying moments as they happened, and not through the view-finder. Another old dear friend, long passed, questioned why people couldn’t just enjoy the memories as they happened, since it was impossible to duplicate in a photo.
I have spent much time pondering how I was not the friend I should have been, that I was never truly there for those few who would have thrown themselves on the blade for me. My brother pointed out, years ago, it wasn’t possible for me to be an active participant in the ‘group thing’ because I was like Hans Solo in my Millenium Falcon (a 1972 Mach I with a 351 Cleveland, 4bblcarbs, and the destinct ability to both turn heads and cause whiplash). He told me I was running solo and had to because that was where I was in my life. It was a sort of Buddhist assessment. But it was also right.
My brother has also long sinced passed; at that moment death became a callous creature that reminded me of all the things we’d never get to do or share again, and of missed opportunities.
With my family the lament was similar. Holiday get-togethers. Phone calls. But it’s all in the past…
We can only influence the future.
Another wonderful and wise person told me the only reason you should look to the past is to see how far you’ve come, and hopefully, what you’ve learned. She’s right. We have to see where we’ve been to know where we’re going. The plus is we can change our behavor at any time.
In that case I think I’m doing ok. I just returned from a week in the mountains of Western North Carolina followed by a week in the coastal lowlands of South Carolina. Both places, rich in history, have residents whose sensibility is entrenched in the here-and-now. I worked hard to enjoy the moments as they came, and found myself living most of them. I spent much of my time around mom, doing work in and around the house, and simply being there without being suffocating. We scattered dad’s ashes in relative silence, hung his plaque, and did a bit of work around the area without somber reserve. Mom said to me, as we walked up the path from the garden, “I can’t imagine anyone else I would rather have done this with.” I didn’t take it as a commentary on how I was the favorite child: I am not; I viewed it instead couched in the context I believe it was meant: even if I devalued my own contributions to the family as a unit, I was appreciated in full and my value should not be be questioned.
Not looking back with regret will be tough, but I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Perhaps you can do the same, and check in from time to time with your own procedural?

People. People Who Need People.

March 21, 2016

If we’re lucky, I mean truly lucky, every so often someone will come along and offer you the kind of unsolicited advice that amounts to a life talk. It might happen when you’re a captive audience, or it might be something tossed into play from the periphery of a fleeting moment in your day.
That advice? Well, it might come in the form of a sentence or two.
It might also take the form of a full-fledged conversation. Or, if you’re fortunate, it might be a series of conversations than span decades.

I can remember those significant moments now 30 and 40 years later.

The first time was when I was in Boy Scouts. I was at a weekend event and did something really impressive. Once accomplished I proceeded to strut about like a male peacock displaying his full regalia. I’m certain this deed was not nearly as impressive to those around me, but I was a teenager (which really ought to explain a lot). In the midst of this, one man, my best friend’s father, waited for me to finish then pulled me aside. “Ron,” he began, “whenever you do or accomplish something worthy of recognition let other people notice without bringing it to their attention.”

You know, that’s pretty heady stuff for a 12 or 13 year old. Lee Widner was one of those people who just did that sort of thing. While growing up he was, in some ways, sort of a surrogate father. He often encouraged me with expert subtlety to get those Merit Badges and seriously focus enough on getting my Eagle Scout, which I completed all the requirements for, but moved out of the state and territory before I was awarded this honor. (To make matters more complicated, when I settled and located another troop and scout master, Richard Brown he did the research and could find no information I’d completed the process. I learned of two stories later, though had no way of confirming either. One said the troop disbanded. The other story suggested a massive vacuum created by several assistant scout masters leaving because the scout master left. I’ll never know. And I digress). Point is, Lee took the time to provide me doses of attention ordinarily reserved for his son Brad. I have little doubt, in reflection, that he didn’t provide such doses of guidance to others. It was his nature, and no doubt sewn into his DNA.

The second person that saw something in me worthy enough to garner his attention was my history professor, Ralph Clark. Mr. Clark was the kind of professor for whom people took classes they didn’t need nor would apply towards their curriculum credits. In many ways I was reminded of him the first time I ever watched Dead Poets Society. You see, Mr. Clark took the time to talk about history and went so much further. He loved teaching as much as he loved history, and he loved history. After a series of lectures and facilitation in Honors Western European History he set up a road trip. Destination? Vizcaya (if you’ve never heard of this place, look it up).

I went to college in South Florida, getting both my Associate’s degree and Bachelor’s degree from institutions of Higher Learning. The Chateau Vizcaya was an hour away from school. I signed up and was glad I did. I love history and always have. But what Mr. Clark did transcended anything I’d ever Learned. We walked through the rooms and then went outside and walked the grounds, studying the architecture. Mr. Clark would point out an architectural nuance or an element that had been talked about in class and then quietly step back and watch us engage each other. That keen sense of awareness, of how history would resonate because we were not only exposed to it but we were talking and living it. He was no fool. He knew we’d retain more than he taught.

Last class of the last semester of my Associates degree with Mr. Clark. I was halfway through the room when Mr. Clark said, “Ron take a seat for a moment.” So I did. After the room cleared he came over and sat down next to me. “Ron? You’re about to go into the big leagues. I mean sure, you may have a professor that cares enough for you to get to know your name but in most of your classes your grades are going to be determined by a Midterm and a Final. Extra credit will be a thing of the past.”

He took the time to explain to me what I was getting into. Honestly I had no idea and simply justified his conversation as the rattlings of an old man. But he cared enough to take time out of a day no less busy than any other to talk to me. When he finished he simply said, “Well, that’s all Uncle Ralph has to say.” He retired and went to live in the Shenandoah Valley, a place rich in history. With his departure went a era.

Another advocate was Dr. Peter Roundy. Fifteen minutes into my first class I knew I had to take others. And I did. Much of my  electorate requirements were populated with courses taken where Dr. Roundy was professor. Our relationship developed into a genuine friendship. He travelled the world, gone for six to nine months at a time, teaching English in Thailand or some other fantastic locale. In a turnabout for memorable experiences, he told me once, over lunch, I was one of the only students that wrote him every time he travelled. I liked him and couldn’t help myself. His method for dispensing advice was simple: a few words here and there, doled out like chocolate sprinkles on a double dark chocolate cupcake. It was as if he’d see you starting to slip off the path and he’d turn you right again. Of course, if you were me you chose to bulldoze your way through life, only reflecting later on something said and remarking to yourself, “Oh. That’s what he meant.”

And then there was Christopher Burns. I have written much on the man that became my brother with a bond that could not be broken by words or actions. Every living creature should be so fortunate as to have someone in their life so generous. He was a general in my army, champion to my action, and quiet observer to my missteps. He was wise enough, as any oracle, to let me stumble.

An idea man, he often studied and dissected things (including me), looking for a way to make it better. I was fortunate to be the recipient of those talks, even if the ideas might take years to stick.

I still reflect on those conversations and wish I had the chance, especially with Christopher, to sit and simply talk, letting that wisdom pour over me like a comforting breeze. Those talks never truly resonated with me at the time. But that’s the thing with really insightful advice: sometimes it requires time to germinate, to find purchase in the rich soil of the mind. Many take heed and respond to the call quickly. Others like yours truly sometimes miss the opportunity to give such advice the chance to help us change direction. As a result, when it does seat, we’ve already moved on.

I guess my message is this to you, my dear reader. We need people like that in our lives. They give us contextual insight through objective eyes. They are sometimes our reset button. If someone comes along and gives you the sort of unsolicited advice that peels itself like a Foxtail Palm or an artichoke and reveals more every time you glance its way, here’s what you do: if you can’t actually listen, retain and immediately apply that information, at least try to remember the critical piece of it. Give that advice a chance, just as that person who cared gave you. In time, you’ll not only be applying some of those helpful hints and life coach adjustments, but just as good, you’ll discover someone who might just need a little bit of the same.

It’s another way of making the world better one deed at a time.

Second Chances: Love & the Unrivaled Feeling of One More Day

February 24, 2016

What would you do with a second chance?
What would you give for one more day?
What would you sacrifice for one more moment with someone you love?
What would you do if that day were granted?

I have a friend, dear and close to me in ways not easily definable, who has battled a progressively debilitating physical illness for several years.
Here’s a guy who’s still a bonafide badass to me. In his youth and younger days he lived a life others idolized or feared.
One of the perks of being so close that wasn’t a perk at all? I was privy to seeing how he had to deal with the pain when he wasn’t putting on airs for the public.
Even with the struggle of declining health, Those happy few of us permitted to hold council with him and receive counsel from him are fortunate indeed.

I’ve known about this physical challenge of his for a while. The first sign of impending mortality appeared to me sometime ago. We were sitting at his office and decided to get lunch. I walked out ahead of him and turned. That was when I saw him wince as he went to stand. A simple effort that taxed him mightily.
The next sign came when I visited him in a hospital. He was pointedly angry the medical staff had resuscitated him (because of the pain, as I would later learn).

But the day, a year and a half later, I got a text message that read, “not doing well” followed by a phone call and message that said, “come by the office and get what you want. I don’t think I’m going to be here tomorrow” you can be assured my heart nearly left my chest in panic.
I’d never heard my friend so devoid of life. My mind became quiet as all non-essential thoughts vacated.

I went to his office and saw a man struggling to walk.
All the stuff in his office, always changing as he got new and different stuff, to him was just stuff. Simple entertainment. To me it was stuff I had to have. I always saw things I wanted. I finally got it. It was all just Stuff. He looked at me and in that moment understood my thoughts. And smiled.
“Here,” he said as he reached for something on his desk. “This might be said to be one of my prized possessions. I’ve had it for over 45 years.”
He handed me a well-loved folding knife. I gripped the wooden handle and unfolded a shining, clearly sharpened blade. At the base was stamped the name “Buck.”
“Wow,” I said. “Thanks. I’m going to take it and clean it up.”
“Why? That’s 45 years of life, of experiences. Know what I mean? I mean, do what you want, but I’d leave it like it is.”
I nodded. Once again he was right.
He coughed. “We’ve had some good times.”
I smiled at him as the tears started. “I’m not ready to say good bye. I’m not ready to see you go.” I didn’t know where it came from, but I’d become a 9 year old boy whose best friend was moving to another country.
“I’ve hung on for those few who it would hurt for me to die. I can’t do it anymore.”
I nodded again, wiping my nose on my sleeve.
“Here, take this. That’s a nice shirt. Don’t wipe your nose on it. Haven’t I taught you anything?”
I smiled and took the tissue. His sense of humor was still as strong as his wit.
We sat there quietly for a few minutes, unusual because we always had something to talk about.
“Thanks,” he said, breaking the silence.
“For what?”
“Everything. For camping. For introducing me to your family. For showers with hot running water. For roasting hotdogs on sticks over an open fire.”
“I would give so much to do that again.”
“I know,” he said with a nod. He coughed. “I know you have to get to work, so go on.” He grabbed a green storage container and filled it with fresh produce: eggplant, mini bananas, tomatoes, avocado, celery, and cucumber. “Take this before it goes bad.”
As I took it he tossed a couple of bags of chocolate in with the collection of healthy fare.
“Give my love to the ladies.”
I nodded. “Love you,” I said as I turned and walked out.

That day was a blur.
The next day I steeled myself to go through the motions, similar to when my brother moved halfway around the world. I’d call his phone and leave a message. I’d keep calling until the phone would stop taking calls. And that would be the end of that.
The following morning I reached for the phone. After 3 rings an answer.
It was my friend, sounding groggy and tired, but very much alive.
“Ah hell, guess I’m still around.”
My heart leapt. “Want to go to breakfast?”
“All right,” he growled. “What time will you be here?”
“30 minutes.”
I made it in half the time.

We went out and had a helluva time. Who knew Denny’s could be the epicenter of a carefree morning where 2 friends laughed at themselves and the world? It ranked as one of the best extended moments ever, talking and laughing over runny oatmeal and cold eggs. Best. Day. Ever.
But that’s the point. It transcended magical. It was a second chance. I greedily drank in every second of that morning. Whatever else I had waiting could continue to wait.

The next time I was at his office he was in no less pain, but his spirit was somehow less burdened and buoyed. Mine too.
“I guess it wasn’t time. Dammit, it sure as hell felt like it.”
I nodded. I could have told him I was glad, but I think he knew.
“I’m thinking we should do hotdogs over an open fire again. Think you’d be up for it?”
He smiled. “Let me know when.”

I called that afternoon. “Want to do hotdogs tonight?”
“What time?”
“6 pm.”
“See you then.”
He called me later to tell me he’d gotten dirty and greasy working on his truck, and maybe we should reschedule.
Nothing doing, I thought. “Take a shower at my place.”
“Aren’t I lucky? 2 showers in 3 years.”
“See you when you get here.”

It was another great evening spent with a dear friend. A tasty concoction was fashioned out of the ingredients he’d given, a salad right out of a Gastropub.
Hotdogs roasted on sticks over an open fire, and laughter over candlelight and torches in the cool January evening.
It was an evening of beautiful second chances.

And that’s the point.
What would you give for one more day?
Live every day like you’ve gotten a second chance.
Sometimes we miss the cues when they happen.
Let those in your life know, through word and action, how important they are to you.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to the experience of the passing moment. Don’t sit and wish you had a second chance, another day, to let someone know what they mean to you.
Now then…go and let those people in your life know what their life means to you.

How to Live the Relevant Life

January 4, 2016

Take a look around. What do you see?
Seriously – When you drive to work, what do you see? When you drive to school, what do you see? When you’re running errands, going to the supermarket, or going to meet friends, what do you notice about your surroundings?

Are you taking in the beauty of everyday things? Are you taking delight in the little things?
If you live in a rural agricultural area, have you noticed new animals in a rancher’s field? If you live in a suburban area, have you counted the number of playgrounds?
If you live in a dense urban area, have you noticed the architecture that surrounds you with its evocative expressions and mood?

What about the people you encounter?

Look at the people in your life. Look at the ones who bring value, love, compassion, and respect. Are you reciprocating? You should be.

Take the time to look around… And this isn’t about texting and driving (although that certainly is a worthy topic for discussion, but maybe another time).

This isn’t about unnecessary distractions. It’s about life. It’s about the beauty in everyday things. It’s about noticing something for the first time. It’s about appreciating things that you’ve seen before. It’s about setting your mind, and your emotions up for the kind of supreme awareness that makes you sympathetic & empathetic to your world, to the people, and creatures of all kinds. To the plants and even the stones.

Let everyone in your life, everyone who matters, know they matter. Show them. Tell them. Share with them. Because life isn’t about how we start things, it is about how we sustain and polish things.
Take a look around.
Take the time to make your life one where quality lives in the present moment.
Do it now.

A Commitment to Memories

July 13, 2015

What do we have after everything is said and done?
The memories. And there’s a subtle beauty in this. Because that’s what we both take and leave.
Three years have passed.
How did that happen?

What happens in the time from when we’re children, blissfully unaware, to young Turks, immortal and eager to take on the world?
The blur is the pace by which we transition from twenty to fifty.
But you don’t realize it until you get there, turn around and question where it all went.
Ah, the joy of being a kid living on the edge of space, sitting ripe for the picking of moments.
How do the Fates arbitrarily cherry pick what experiences will be ours?
How do they determine the impact that is to be?
Really, this is rhetorical musing. The truth is, three years later and I’ll be damned if the emotional tax on your departure has been paid in full.

It’s not just the things we’ve done, the places we’ve been, the adventures we’ve shared, but it’s the other stuff.
It’s the disagreements, the disappointments, and the depression.
Too stubborn to look past the first, too proud to look past the second, and too, well, who knows what, as far as the third.
We did indeed hear those bells chime at midnight. We shared many a laugh.
We cried, we celebrated, and we swore we’d make the world a better place. We hashed out idea after idea, with the singular commitment to making certain who ever rocketed first took the other along on his coat tails.
We agreed to do all that together.

You might be just beyond my sight line, this temporary inconvenience, but this thought does little to adequately mollify the roller coaster of melancholy felt.
I am not a wise man, else wise I’d possess a modicum of the wisdom reserved for others.
I am not a sad man either.

So much has happened.
How I wish you could hold Addison Rose. She would make you smile from ear to ear a second or two after you realized what we’ve all figured out: she’s smarter than the rest of us bunched together.
I would willingly do all you asked and more to be able tell you, to your ears, that I finally finished my Bachelor’s degree. And when you’d give me a hug, that would be the time I’d tell you that a half century plus on the third planet from the sun seems like a good time to go to Grad school. We’d finally make good on our plans to join the Guild, or at least talk about it. I would be willing to sit through a viewing of The Vault, just to hear your richly infused laugh. That would be time together, and that would be good enough.

To tip a pint to all these things and more…

I am not a sad man.
I simply wish you were here to share these joys.
Hey? Take care of Fendi. He’s not like the rest.
I promise you that you’ll never want for love from him.

Happy New Year? The New Year and Your New Year

December 31, 2013

Some thoughts to ruminate over.

On the last day of 2013 many people contemplate the year in review while others set lofty goals for “new year’s resolutions.”

At the threshold of 2014, I contemplate the fact that those of us fortunate enough to Make Magic and Create Happiness for tens of thousands and smile at the blessings granted. This is a great place for anyone to start. Dwell not on the chances missed but opportunities granted and grasped.
This year moved quickly, even though the measure of a second, minute, day and week are the same no matter where on the planet you are, it somehow felt like 2013 slipped by in the blink of an eye.

I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve alone. And that’s okay, except for the absence of loved ones. Minus my little girl? Now my joy is a bit reserved. I missed her first smile…and I am going to miss her first New Year’s Eve.

I miss my brother, but that is another post for another time, or perhaps something best understood when not spoken.

As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” The periods in life, or even during a particular year, that blasted by unnoticed happen because we were not actively engaged. When you’re playing football you have the choice to risk it all and get the ball or stay clear of the mix. Get the ball and you’ll get the crap knocked out of you…but never forget what it was like running with the ball.

Whether a lead or supporting character in the story, the responsibility is to do your very best, to shine in that instant and blossom where planted, even when others do less. The story depends on you, even as your nerves have your heart racing like The Quickening.
That’s Life.
A very dear friend told me once the hardest part to playing Hamlet is getting asked.
But when that choice role comes along, regardless the venue, whether parent, pilot, or player, grab at it with both hands and wring its neck as you make its life your own. That intensity is Life.

This is what happens when one lives in and by the moment, and it is still worth every second. Think about how you become engaged. Do you sit on the sidelines, testing the water, or dive right in? Be engaged. Recognize and realize the moments as they approach.

With a new life wholly dependent on you there are milestones yet to mark. I look forward to each one, even as I dwell on the delight of those I’ve experienced.

Challenge yourself to do the same. Live in the moment, take the time to do things right, and smile even at the smallest things. You never know whose life you made a little brighter by the action.
Say Please and Thank You, and encourage others to do the same. Be Charitable with your words and actions. Engage in random acts of kindness even if no one is looking.
Read a book. Write a poem.

Let’s not regret the chances and opportunities not seized.
Wonderful New Year’s Wishes to Everyone.

Christopher Burns – The Most Interesting Man in the World. Truly.

July 13, 2012
It’s been a hell of a week.
Andy Griffiths, Ernest Borgnine, & Christopher Burns.
please say it with me:
Christopher D. Burns, Esq.
Who are these people?
The first I never met; the second I met several times; the third was my brother.
I have to tell you I am absolutely in no frame of mind to do this but I can not suffer to remain quiet, my fingers are of a mind all their own.  If I am to frame my grief, better to do so through memory and catharsis.
So, a few words then for a poet, writer, genius, kin. A man whom, at the top of his game, saw none better.
In the passage of death we are often forgiving of the character flaws of those we lose.
Christopher was angry, passionate, and with a heart that knew no boundary.  He was truly an idea man.
He and I often reflected on how “we have heard the chimes at midnight.”
So many adventures, so much heartbreak, so many incredible memories.
No two could be closer had they drunk from the same DNA pool, sibling rivalries notwithstanding.
We would drive three and a half hours to drink nickel beers and dollar longnecks at the Cheyenne Saloon at Church Street.  That was living.
I never deserved his unrequited love, his enduring affections, his sage wisdom.  Yet, he persevered, refusing my stubborn efforts to alienate the world and on occasion, him.
I never had to defend his actions; he was never afeared to tell people what he thought.  In later times, when he kept getting kicked while down, I felt the need to let the world know what I thought. When the judgements would fly with much alacrity, how great a man he was.
It always began with the same sentence:  “I’ve seen Chris at the top of his game, and you’ll never meet a man better.”
He turned me on to Kahlil Gibran and The Prophet (and subsequently, to Kehlog Albran’s The Profit).  Buckminster Fuller, Alan Parsons, and Man Goat.  There was nothing this man did not know.
It was at The Dream Weaver Ranch he discovered his totem, nature, and through the sight of glowing eyes at the forest’s edge, the nickname BBBM.
You see, Chris was a big huge man.  Yet I never saw someone so terrified of something he couldn’t see.  I guess there’s a little of that in all of us.
I could fill a novel with our stories. No nuance or detail escaped his notice.
We never opened a pub, but we sure closed a few.
He was forever forgiving of my practical jokes.  Like the time mom insisted I take him shopping because he had little fashion sense (he wore black on black with black).  We walked into one of those boutique stores in Orlando years before I moved there and I convinced him the shirt he was trying on was perfect for him.  It was this screaming orange and yellow monstrosity which required a strong personality to wear.  He had the personality, but was convinced people were laughing at him (they weren’t).
Then there was the time I duct-taped a one gallon can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew to the rear bumper of his car.  He stopped at a fuel station to gas up and noticed a couple of girls looking at him and smiling.  He told me, “there I was looking at them, looking at me, and thinking, ‘I still got it.’  But then I wondered if there was another reason they were smiling.”  He told me he walked around to the rear of the car where he saw the big can of ready-to-eat stew.  All he could do was shake his head as he got in his car and drove off.
I snapped a photo of him one day, brushing his teeth, wearing nothing but his tidy whiteys.  And then I later taped said photo to the rear license plate of a friend’s motorcycle, who got pulled over by Gainesville’s finest. Fortunately the officer had a sense of humor and approached my friend by saying, “I think someone is having a joke on you.”
Chris had seen military service and action, yet just about climbed into my lap when we went through The Great Movie Ride and one of the Aliens appeared from the ceiling.  He was practically peeing from fear and I was peeing from laughter.
I taught Chris how to drift a car; the first time he did it was around a curb.  When I first demonstrated this, he was in the passenger seat and his son was in the back seat.
And his wife was on the curb ready to lose her mind until she realized I was driving. Oddly, she was okay with this arrangement.
His little boy said, “do it again.”
Chris simply got into the driver’s seat, and asked me to talk him through the physics and mechanics of the action.  He executed it perfectly.
And you never saw a greater hero that day than a father to his son.  Benjamin loved his daddy, and it didn’t hurt he had an uncle willing to help his pop get crazy.
Christopher saw practically every show I had ever performed, seen me do many of the stunts professionally for the first time, always proudly beaming.  He read my galleys, went to film festivals to support my early efforts and was always present with a smile and story.
I never have known anyone who could hold court on the nuances of Hamlet while simultaneously field stripping a weapon.  In fact, he knew a whole lot about everything whereas I knew just enough about  few things to appear smart.
Yet, for all his brilliance, I never understood why Chris held his own father in such high esteem. Any father would pray for such a son as my brother, but this father was unworthy. Chris always failed to live up to the man’s expectations, no matter how amazing his accomplishment. The man lorded over him some bizarre psychological ordnance that was a battering ram to his psyche, a bludgeoning instrument that slowly, inexorably chipped away at Christopher’s glimmer and greatness, until all there was left was tarnish.
But guess what? Even the finest art shows itself well with the patina of age and experience.
We had a falling out (my fault, naturally). But we managed to reconnect in short time. And it all began anew with no special words or acknowledgement I had fucked up.
That’s how he was. Never held a grudge. Someone or something would sabotage an honest effort and he still insisted on putting his best foot forward.
One night, on the roof of The Beacon, drinking some god awful piss of a beer, we had one of those epiphany moments. We made a point to go to this dive that carried the greatest variety of beer ever seen, and we would buy the worst named, nastiest looking bottles, and go back to his place, where his lovely wife would send us off to the roof with a “you boys have fun” wave of her hand and off we went.  And we would do the opposite of what any barley and fermented hop connoisseur would do.  Where the average imbiber would drink something delightful and say, “you really must try this,” he would take a swallow of some tongue curling liquid, make the most inhumanly grotesque face possible, curl his lips and say, “Snap. You have to try this shit.”
And it was that night I learned about one hundred proof truth.
From that point forward I ripped my chest open, so he knew my heart by its merit.  That was all it ever took, as if mundane conversation had transcended the ordinary, to become something greater.  It was one of those rarified times in my life where I realized I could talk to him about anything.  And I did. I have sought his wise counsel on a great many things and realize at the risk of apparent selfishness I have no idea who I will turn to with future questions from here on out.
Christopher – You were always a general in my army, always a beacon of light, always more than a shadow of hope.
A lifetime of experiences, and yet yours has been cut short.
And your absence is a vacuum upon that organ in my chest that tries to beat yet sounds more like a banging drum marking the time and passage of a great soul lost.
A Gibran quote for you, my brother.
“Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
 That is One Hundred Proof Truth.

Jim Robertson – A Mission of Love

November 17, 2011

It was quite the gathering, somber and subtle.  The steady flow of people suggested the hope of getting a glimpse of someone known to many and loved by all, their mere presence a testament to the man.  They came from everywhere, current and former work colleagues, and all friends.  Jim’s storied history as an entertainer encompassed everything from clowning around to stunts.  Really.  He was a clown with Ringling Brothers and stunt performer at Wild West, calling upon his ability to make people laugh while doing stunts so effortlessly he made you believe anyone could do them.

It is said we are measured by the company we keep.  If you want to know a little about a man, take a look at the people he calls “friend.”

By such reckoning Jim is a man wealthier in character than most who measure their wealth by something more tangible, yet no more substantial.  His love and connection to those who paid tribute by their presence to him showed a man who had not only made peace with God and the complexity of the human condition, but he made the effort known to each and every soul who reached out to him.

Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer.  In sooth, he reached out to everyone, one delicate and fragile soul at a time.  It was like watching a receiving line for royalty.  He had special words for every person.  Even in pain, the love on his face shone through his smile, a beacon to each one of us lost in the confusing darkness.  Some of us chose to remain nearby, standing sentinel, others had not the strength to wait for the moment the ferryman would arrive.  His family was never far away, each one at one point or other in the evening offering every one of us a hug as thanks for being there.  Except for his father.  His father sat at the foot of the bed and gently massaged Jim’s feet.  The image is a powerful one that will forever remain with me.  You see, I lost a brother years ago, and the pain and sadness that affected me, while deep, was different from my parents, faced with the unsettling reality of having to bury their son.   No parent should ever have to stare this reality in the eye.

I said goodbye to an old friend tonight, careful to remain sure-footed and stoic in his presence. I’d summoned up the courage (which was nothing compared to Jim’s daily battles of late) to come to the house. I was conflicted about going, because I knew why I was going. By his invitation we all were there. I dug deep as I walked in to see him, bolstered by the presence of so many friends and loved ones gathered under one roof. Most of us tried the same tact.  But our body posture shouted something else entirely.  And Jim? He knew better. It’s why he smiled as he held my hand.  He spoke to me of marriage and of flying, the former a passion of his and the latter a passion of mine.  He offered wisdom to a neophyte married man with the same lucidity of conversations we so recently enjoyed at work.

Have you ever wanted to hug the pain out of someone?  I felt that way, and yet sensed Jim wanted to hug the pain out of all of us, one at a time.

That’s a lot of love.  That’s a colossal giant of a man.

I remarked later that I admired him for so many things, and most recently, for his strength.  To have the wherewithal to make peace with the world in general and accept the hand one is dealt, while capitalizing on the moments still hanging in the pass, takes remarkable fortitude.  I have never been so strong in the brilliant points of my life, allowing rather the crest of momentum to carry me.  I know with fair certainty I could never be so strong faced with the imminent advance of my own mortality.  I will never understand what sort of Herculean strength is required of a person to stave off the advances of organ failure simply to say good bye to those who need.

An anxiety attack is cause for concern in most.  Yet here was a man who found a way to smile as he sat at the portal, refusing the suffering any quarter as he kept the pain at bay in favor of the company of we few who trudge onward, forced to face the day of our own reckoning in the gentle eyes of a man twice as good as most of us will ever aspire to be.

People often use clichés to the point of exhaustion.  One such phrase, “…Charming to the last,” has seen more than its fair share of exposure for causes and people unworthy.  Yet such a simple phrase does not describe Jim in those hours and moments.

To say Jim was charismatic and charming to the last denigrates the statement and does little to stress exactly how much love and charm exuded from this man.  He inspired a prominent local entertainer, himself a charming and charismatic fellow, to take on the task of becoming a concert promoter, building a night of entertainment dedicated to a singular purpose: helping Jim and his family. During the pre-production period of bringing the “Mission of Love” concert experience to fruition, Donn managed on a few hours of sleep a night.  He didn’t care.  Forging forward with this pressing need, he touched upon its importance with every person he spoke to.  And wound up having to turn people down.  What’s that say for a man’s worth that entertainers were lining up when they heard whom the benefit was for?

In times of trouble, and all too often at the expense of a person’s demise, does the kindest of words begin to drift skyward. We too often delay our effortless endeavor until we are robbed of the opportunity to say, “I love you” or offer some other sweetly noble cadence.  We create this sadness for ourselves and then wonder why we waited.

Yet Jim never waited, and he never allowed us to wait, either.  He compelled us to speak our mind, from the heart, in one voice.

Don’t wait.  The world needs the possibility of a universe with love, of people not willing to remain the silent majority, taken to task for thinking, “what if?”

I heard someone question why God takes all the good ones, and leaves the miserable, villainous sots behind.  I have an answer:  He is sometimes a selfish God, and when the mood strikes him, he wants the best for himself.   Or, to put it in the words of Donn:  “Open the Gates!  You got a good one!!!”

If you knew Jim, you’d agree.

Thanks Jim, for sharing your heart and showing us foolish mortals the hopefulness of a world with Love.

Ladybug

November 7, 2009

I had planned to write another response to USA Today’s recent article once again eviscerating the General Aviation community.  That article will have to wait.

The Unexamined life is not worth living.  This I believe:  this statement not only applies to ourselves, but those around us.

I lost my little girl  Ladybug yesterday.  Lady was a Golden Retriever who had not met a human who didn’t immediately fall for her.  You hear that sort of thing all the time from doting pet parents, but ask anyone who knew Lady and they’ll just silently nod their head.  With us was her mom and our dear friend Vicki.  A comment on Vicki – she is always the calm in a storm that is life and it has to be an exhausting effort to generate the energy she does to care and love her husband, son, and those who are fortunate enough to be covered by her umbrella of warmth and compassion.

When I was told I needed to get to the facility in Maitland if I wanted to see her before she passes I didn’t allow the internal turmoil to interfere with my outwardly stoic appearance at work – or so I thought.  Thing is, people have been aware of things going on in my life for a while, but I do like most.  I keep the walls high enough and thick enough to keep everyone out.

But this last bit of news would force me to rendezvous with my emotions.

I arrived and told the front desk I was there to see Ladybug.  When I walked in to the room she was on the floor, devouring a huge bowl of a delicious looking pasta dish Vicki made especially for her.  Lady was extremely food motivated, and I believe with enough motivation she would recite the Greek alphabet if there was a worthy enough gastronomic prize waiting.

I sat down and began to rub her coat.  Still so soft and luxurious.  She turned to look and see who was touching her and the recognition and joy was unmistakable.  And then she returned to the task of finishing the pound or so of pasta and vegetables.  She managed well despite the enormous mast cell tumor that had grossly disfigured her beautiful lips and face.

Except for bathroom breaks, I spent several hours touching her or rubbing her mane, or massaging her muscles.  She had a mild stroke a couple of years ago and I had taken to doing deep tissue on her joints every morning before I left for work.  It became a ritual for us just as she would come to me to get a good fifteen minute rub under her chin before going to sleep for the night.

Some things non-pet owners should know about our pets:

We love them.  They keep us.  They are moody, and social, and sometimes anti-social, but never complain.  They comfort us because they know when we are down or ill, and they love us in spite of our treatment of them.  Their Love is selfless and sometimes unrequited.  We recognize that having them in our lives is a lifetime commitment.  And all they ask in return is to be kept safe, because they’ll keep us safe, and to be fed, and most importantly, this one thing:

The last time they close their eyes and go to sleep, they want to be able to see us and hear us, and know that we will be there for them, because it is a difficult and uncertain journey to leave such a life behind.

When the doctor came in my heart began to race.  I looked at Ladybug and saw her chest slowly rising and falling as she lay there as relaxed as royalty being attended to.  The doctor explained the process, and a part of me wanted to say, “no, there has to be another option.  There has to be some other treatment we haven’t tried.”  But I knew that we had tried everything, just as they had.  And her body had become too weak even for the chemo.

Afterwards the doctor hugged us both.

“It never gets easier,” she said, with tears in her eyes.  “But we should be as lucky to pass on surrounded in our final moments by those who love us.”

I continued to rub Lady’s mane.  Her eyes were closed, I had facilitated that partially out of fear of not wanting to stare into lifeless eyes, and partly because I wanted to believe she was still gently asleep.

The trip home I cried like I have not cried in years.

Last night my dreams were filled with her.  She was fine and running and happy.

I awoke much earlier than normal and the first thought that filled my head was of every time I had been impatient with her.

She was never impatient with me.

The thought provided a valuable lesson.  We should aspire to become the people our dogs believe us to be.

Ladybug – We Love You.