Everyone knows there is a beginning, a middle and an end to everything. We know this but nothing ever prepares us for that last goodbye. Nothing ever helps the realization that this might be the last time we see each other. And we hurt and we weep. We mourn and we lose and still, the world turns. The clock ticks and the eventual or inevitable countdown never stops. This never changes speed and never allows us to pause because there is no pause. There is only life and its brief course in a short span of time.
I used to head to this noontime meeting near Madison Square Garden on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There was another meeting up the block on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, which was good for me at the time. I made these meetings because I was told this is what I needed to do. I was told about the 12-steps and how to work them. I was told about a program and the need to come to an understanding with a higher power. And I took the suggestions. I showed up early and I helped set up the tables and chairs. I agreed to go under protest, but I still went and stayed out of trouble (for the most part).
And then there’s life. Then there’s the things we see and the things we think and feel. There’s the little things we pick up and the big things that we miss.
Life is eventual and inevitable. No one gets out, pain free, and no one goes without a scratch or without a trip to the hospital or a fever. No one goes without a stomach ache and nobody goes through life without the touch of a broken heart. I know this. I’ve seen this. And it’s true. Life happens to everyone.
Big wallets can go empty. Poor people can have the richest hearts. Success is a mindset and so is rejection. But before we go on from here, it is important to note that there are people who have built empires out of nothing and there are people who’ve been given the golden ticket and threw it all away.
I was moved by the lyrics of a song that went, “It’s been a long road, without you my friend. But I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”
Not sure if you remember but I was hospitalized when I was somewhere around the age of eight or so. My memory of this has faded. At best, my memories are minimal. My only memories were the window and the view from the bed. I overlooked a golf course. The air, the sky and the world around me looked clean as ever. But me, I was in a hospital room and in a bed next to a large window with the sun shining through. I can remember the green from the trees and the grass. I remember the sky was so incredibly blue with puffs of white clouds like pillows of cotton that flowed overhead. I remember this feeling inside of me, as if the entire world was living.
We were moving closer towards the last moments. I suppose this is when family pulls together. This is when differences are put to the side and that regardless of whatever happened in the weeks, months or years before, this is when family shows up. And it’s always amazing too because at the time, we always promise each other to get together soon and for better reasons. But somehow, life just seems to happen. It seems there are seasons to life. There are the seasons of birth and the seasons for birthdays and then weddings. And then there is the birth of the new generation. Then there was a time like this one when we were all gathered in the waiting room of a hospital called Hempstead General in the Coronary Care Unit.
It’s amazing what a little separation will do. Even more so is the amazing realization that comes when we see ourselves exactly as we are. And it was strange to see my bedroom. It was strange to think that I had only been gone for a little more than four months and already so much had changed.
The Old Man got older. He was laying up in a hospital bed with machines and tubes, all tied to his body. My life was about to change into the unknown. And there was a void; there was a strange space of emptiness. It was hard to believe that this was me. This is life and this is mortality. After my trip to the hospital, I went home to wash up and get some rest. But I couldn’t go into my bedroom. There was an overwhelming presence of energy. This was my room and this is where my secrets were hidden.
There is a certain numbness that comes over us. Maybe this is a state of disbelief. We hear things as if the news is not real yet, we know this is real. We know what’s happening but somehow, the news is like a funnel of water and we lose to it like water loses to a drain. At best, all we can do is surrender.
No one is ever ready for bad news. Then again, no one is ever truly ready for life when life happens. No one expects bad news to happen on days like Christmas. No one expects the phone to ring and have someone on the other end say, “You better get home fast.”
I started to tell you about Christmas Eve on the farm. At the time, I was four months into my agreement with the legal system. I was somewhat coasting and flying beneath the radar but the rules on the farm were hard to avoid.
The day is December 24, 2021, Christmas Eve. The time and date is interesting to me. The weather interests me as well. We are currently seeing light snowfall, which will make this a white Christmas. It is shortly after 4:00am and according to my time zone, my side of the world is mainly sleeping. But not me. And not for bad reasons either. I am up because I have work to do. Plus, I’m up so that I could have my coffee and sit with you for a while. Know what I mean?
I think back to this day and this time of year in December of 1989. I think back to what my ideas would have been about the year 2021 or better yet, I think about the sound of the upcoming year, 2022, and what this would have sounded like to me when I was 17.
It’s hard to believe this but here we are again. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and shortly after, the new year will come. It’s crazy to think about the last two years. It’s even crazier to think about where we’ve been and what we’ve gone through. Of course, there have been ups and downs, losses and gains.
Most of us have gone through different degrees of separation. We’ve lived through historic times yet, none of this is over; at least, not any time soon.
There were times when we had to breathe out so someone else could breathe in. But here we are again at a moment when we’ve spun once more, completely around the sun. It’s hard to believe that this is where we are. And here we are, back again in more ways than one.
You hear the word “Roommate” and you never know who you’re going to get. Safe to say that I’ve had different roommates in my life. The same can be said about coworkers and new hires. The same can be said about a new student in a classroom or in a focus group or on a team. You never know if this will be a fit. You never know if the change will go smoothly.
I have been the “New guy” before. I’ve had the “New Guy” jitters. I had worries and wonders.
Will I like them? Will they like me? Are we going to be friends or teammates or just coworkers and two people who have to coexist in this world?