After my friend Robert died and I wrote a heartfelt eulogy, containing thoughts and feelings that I had not bothered to share with Robert openly and completely before he died, I vowed to at least attempt to show my appreciation for the living, the people who love me, move me, kick my ass when it needs to be kicked and who, though certainly not perfect, appear to be well-centered, not just in their words, but in their actions. So far, I’ve written appreciations for a singer I don’t know and for this crazy, wonderful and wacky country that I love dearly. Now it’s time to move to a few folks I DO know.
Exception to the previous paragraph: My dad
My dad died at the RiDICuLous age of 59. I’m not that far away from that terminal year of my dad. I do not obsess about this..I don’t understand the complexity of genetics, but it does give me pause. My dad was an art teacher, and fashioned a world where respect for his Maker, love of sharing his passion about his art and his spirituality lead him to live one of the most blessed lives I’ve ever known. He was the child of the great depression and he wasn’t good at saying ‘I love you’ often. What I’ve come to learn (yeah, I got a piece of his wisdom)is that his every waking step with me though his life contained the words ‘I love you unconditionally’. He taught me that a man who understands and gives boundaries to his passion (a good number of feet from addiction), but who lives in his passion is a lucky man indeed. Ironically, this lead me to understand why Keith Richards is still alive. Watch the man when he is playing his guitar mid-song. You’ll understand.
My wife: I’ve told a few people this already, but I pulled the anti-Oedipal bit off..I married my dad. And I mean that in the highest extent of honor. My dad and wife, Lynn, were and are both incredibly hard working people. As an avid practitioner of one of the seven deadly sins (sloth), this has worked out quite well for me. I am as moved by her touch as when we were married almost 32 years ago (she may have touched me before that..) and I have come to understand, with some of that inherited wisdom, that I myself am a lucky man because of her. We’ve had some rough months, and even a rough year or two, but we both know it matters, and despite my occasional inanity, she puts up with me. Lynn, like my dad, is an artist and a true lover of the arts. When she is caught up in her painting, she glows, just like my dad in a classroom.
A few friends:
Roger Dinwiddie. I came to know Roger because my daughter is his daughter’s best friend. We spent some time together and I immediately was impressed. Sadly, when I was, in my younger years, around people who REALLY impressed me off the bat and seem to carry themselves in ways I can’t begin to attain, I often become aphasic and begin flapping and stuttering. Then I realized that the guy was way more impressive than I imagined. He’s a nationally known figure in education, the effects of bullying in education, substance abuse..and he’s the president of STARS. Look it up sometime..If I didn’t get aphasic when I met you, it’s because I’ve grown a bit, thanks to this guy!
More importantly, in my life (hey, this is still about me), he has been an incredible friend. Fierce, funny, inspirational and wise. If for no other reason than one phone call I made to him in anger (anger not directed at Roger), and he called ‘bullshit’ on my anger (I was actually totally irate with the person in the previous ‘sketch’). I was throwing verbal punches and just feeling so sorry for myself, the victim, the victim, the victim, and Roger called me on it, and told me that I had to get myself (he perhaps used another word at this point) together, and then proceeded to explain how to start. And he helped me walk through the fire to the beginnings of the truth (I didn’t have myself together, and like the cliche’ goes, when you are pointing one finger there are more pointing right back at yourself). It took a friend to get me to that point, and I am honored by his friendship. Plus he has one amazingly wonderful and talented and clever wife, Suzanne!
Dennis Dumbauld: Dennis is retired military. He’s in great shape, both mentally and physically. We don’t think alike or process alike. When I was getting whiny in something I wrote, he called me on it. I didn’t necessarily like his wording, but it didn’t take me long to realize something way more important. He was being a friend, and friends who are true, will call you on the things that need to be said.
Much more importantly, for his family, Dennis and his beautiful and wonderful and generous wife Josie, have molded a family that is individualistic and as healthy (in all aspects of life) as any family I’ve ever known. His kids are not perfect (similar to most kids), but they are so together. They have certainly figured a lot of this on their own, but it came to them quickly, because of Dennis (and Josie’s) completely unconditional love for those kids. His friendship is unconditional too. We process differently, but there are not many men I admire more than Dennis.
Another father and friend: Phil Kendrick
Phil is the brother of Robert, whose passing made me want to appreciate others in a more visible way while they are still here on earth. Phil has one of the greatest blueprints I’ve ever known for being a dad (his own dad). A brilliant combination of wisdom and humor cannot be repressed. He and his also-wise and wonderful wife, Karen, have fathered 5 boys and are now grandparents. I’ve told more than one person this bit: If a space alien landed and for some reason asked me to show him what a family should look like, I’d drive him out to Phil’s and tell the alien to shut up and observe. Seriously.
Susan Barber. Susan is the most generous person I have ever known (and it’s not like I wasn’t parented by generous people). She is steady and smart and funny and I have eaten lunch with her more times than anyone on the face of this earth, and I’m ready to go again (she’s out of the country and I’m missing her!). She gives her time and much much more, even though she keeps long work hours and participates (and has participated) in most every sport known to (wo)man. Leg and knee surgery have slowed her pace, but they have not stopped her from marathoning, playing soccer, playing tennis, playing golf, playing ultimate frisbee, inventing other games, and so many more things that I get tired just thinking about it.
At a time in my life when my wife needed a friend to help deal with me (I have been a pill more than once), Susan gave great assurance and friendship to Lynn, and had a lot to do with the healing process. There are many more, equally impressive deeds, but that is one that I will never forget, and one for which I am eternally grateful.
There are many many more of you out there. I plan to do keep this series going. But it’s late and I’m really missing my out-of-town wife and I can’t put off sleep much longer. Also, if you are on the list, I’m not asking for a loan or a reference.
In closing, I’d like to say a word about Don Finto, the man who led Belmont church from a small smattering of folks to a wondrous group of sojourners. Don spoke at Robert’s funeral.Even if you are not nearly on the same page spiritually with this man, and I really haven’t been around him much in years, and differ greatly in places, you cannot help but be moved by this guy.
My dad taught me something with his artistic eye that many people have heard, but few understand as well as a man of his observational powers. He explained that a person gets the face they deserve in the later years of their life. We’re not talking superficial standards of beauty here, but you probably know what I’m talking about. A negative person will have lines in their face that a centered person cannot (and should not) dream about. A centered person may be disguised as someone not so beautiful, but if you keep looking, you see untold depths. The fact that I may not be in the same place as Don Finto is not the primary point. The fact is that there is not a more beautiful 79 year old person on this planet…outside, in.