About a month ago, my son Charlie (to distinguish him from all my other sons) decided he wanted to shave his head.
The reason? An upcoming volleyball tournament of course. (Why I missed that connection is beyond me.)
"Who else is doing it?" I asked.
He looked puzzled at my question. "Nobody I know of," he said. "Just me."
I asked again today, minutes before our jaunt to the barbershop.
"Because I'm me," he said. "Because I'm a little crazy. Because I'm the unofficial team cheerleader."
These are all true. He is very much his own person. Plus, as the youngest player on the varsity team, he doesn't always get to play. So he screams and yells and whoops during the game, usually coming home hoarse and happily wiped out.
I was fine with his decision. Pretty tickled, actually. So off we went to Huey's, where Charlie has had his hair cut since he was 10 months old.
As we sat and waited our turn, we couldn't stop smiling. When Huey's son called Charlie to the chair, I followed with my video camera (post to follow...soon!) We laughed like idiots as his beautiful dark brown hair fell to the floor.
And we agreed that yes, this was indeed a good idea.
I met Adam Kaplan at Enterprise, when we were both renting cars while our respective vehicles were being repaired. He mentioned running...and participating in the New York City Marathon...and how he'd lost 70 pounds...and I was intrigued.
So I tracked him down a few days later, met him and his wife at Starbucks, and wrote about him. Here you go: Click here to read more about this fascinating man with a dream & determination.
My nephew Ben and I have a bit of a running tradition going. As a Christmas/birthday gift two (three?) years ago, I ponied up for his Dallas White Rock Half Marathon registration.
It's something we both count on now. We drive to the race together, chat in the bathroom line, hug at the starting line, and meet up again two hours later. He's always waiting at the finish line, having crossed it 20 to 30 minutes before I do.
Last March, though, he agreed to pace me at the Rock to Victory half. It turned out to be one of my most inspiring and fun and memorable races ever. Read about it by clicking here.
All of this to say that on Sunday, Ben ran yet another half...13.1 miles at an jaw-dropping pace of 7:19. Oh, yes, and that's after having swum 1.2 miles and biked 55 of 'em.
Yep, my nephew is now a half-Ironman'er, having participated in this: The Longhorn Ironman 70.3 He finished 6th of 99 in his age group.
I couldn't be there, but my niece (his sister) kept me posted through text messages:
"He just got out of the lake!" "We saw him ride by on his bike!" "This is so cool watching him!" "We've seen Ben five times now!" " "He'll be finishing in about 10 minutes!"
I kept peeking at my phone, making sure I hadn't missed a message. It was a chilly and windy day in Austin; I kept thinking of Ben swimming in the choppy water...riding his dream bike...running on those long legs that stayed by my side for 13.1 miles in March.
I alternated between giggles, goosebumps and tears. They were all for Ben yesterday. Yet writing this now, I realize they're a tripod of life, or at least of mine: What strikes me funny, what takes my breath away. And yeah, what makes me cry: Tears of sorrow, tears of joy.
Twenty-one years ago today, one of the best friends I have ever had in my entire life died. Gary was 32. Thirty-two! With each year that passes, I'm struck anew by how young that is.
Gary was funny; he was smart; he was clever as all get out. We had a friendship whose depth was only equaled by its inanity. Even today, 21 years after he died, I still think of him when certain things (OK, or people too) strike me as amusing or absurd. I want to pick up the phone and call him, or write him a letter -- two forms of communication we relied on. I shudder to think (and am at the same time highly tickled) how little work Gary and I would have gotten done if he were alive in the email era.
After Gary died, I looked for him for a long time. Longer than I should have, really. I looked to find someone I could send silly post cards to; someone who would love the word "pumpkin;" someone whose insecurities surpassed even my own. Maybe that person would even associate gin and tonics with my parents.(They introduced Gary to that drink after he was mugged and, being new in town, could think of no one but my parents to call)
Somewhere in the middle of my search, though, I called it off. It could have been a dozen years ago; it could have been five, it could have been one. But one day I realized I will never find another Gary.
That isn't a bad thing; maybe it's a mature observation of sorts. I realized that what Gary and I had, and what anyone has with a friend or a lover or a family member, is a snowflake, a fingerprint -- any number of nouns singled out for being unique.
Maybe at some point, we accept that, as I did about Gary. We stop listening for an echo; we stop reaching for the ditto marks.
Instead, we take a deep breath, and exhale a thank you. Then we make a wish on that first star..and the second, and if need be, the third. We squeeze shut our eyes, and count to 100 by 2s. We roll the dice and we cross our fingers. We throw salt over our left shoulders, and we take a chance. Maybe we'll be lucky -- call it blessed if you will -- and our spirit & soul & sense of humor will meld again with someone else's. One more time. One more precious time.
My son is going to homecoming within a matter of hours. It is his first time to go, his second to be on a date.
I'm not going to get into how handsome I think he looks in his black suit and white shirt, or how beautiful his date's wrist corsage is. Nor will I say how, during the two weeks since the girl said yes, he pops up with questions or comments seemingly out of the blue, seemingly out of context. Yet every time I know exactly what he is means, and I answer as best I know how.
Instead, I'm going to pass along two thoughtful bits of advice from two really nice guys. The first is from Daniel, assistant manager where I work. He said this:
"Tell Charlie that she would not have said yes unless she likes him, unless she wanted to go. So he doesn't need to worry about getting her to like him. She already does. Instead, he just needs to make sure she has a good time."
The other is from my nephew Ben. He's 22, majorly athletic, funny as all get out, adorable, sweet and, like his father and grandfather -- well, listen to what he says, and you'll know.
"Tell Chuckles to be a gentleman. I think that's one thing that girls appreciate, and not all guys are smart enough to realize it."
True words, and so well and sweetly spoken. Admittedly, the white shirt -- and the smile -- certainly can't hurt either.
I am going to tell about a beautiful white German shepherd named Molly. She lives next to an elementary school, and she revels in the hour before school, and the hour after, when children pet her head and talk to her.
Once a week or so, I have walked by her yard at night, carrying three Milk Bones for her. When she was younger, I would give her each one at a certain spot. I would say, "Love you, Molly! Have a good night," when I left.
Lately, she hasn't even heard me approach. She has lain in the yard, and truth to tell I have thought she was dead. I have left the bones, and prayed next time I drove by, she would be at the fence.
Yesterday I brought her three bones. She was thin; for the first time I could see glimpses of her ribs. I cried as I walked home. I watched TV for awhile, then scooped out some of my dog Sally's food -- which I haven't been able to throw away since she died. I cracked an egg on it, stirred it up, and carried the bowl to Molly's yard.
I called to her; I rattled the fence. Molly didn't move. She was lying down again across the yard, close to her driveway and parked cars. I was a little scared to go closer -- scared she might not be breathing, scared she might be hurting, scared the person who owns her would come outside and ask what I was doing. I have never seen him pet her, never heard him call her name...though I have seen him in the yard with her and seen her eyes follow his every move.
Not knowing what else to do, I walked home, crying harder this time, crying like I am right now.
I still don't know what to do. I want to wrap a blanket and my arms around her, like I did my Sally when her life was fading. Instead I will say a little prayer for Molly. A prayer that either she is OK, or that she won't hurt any more. And that maybe, before she says goodbye, one of those schoolkids she loves so much will stop by, ruffle her white fur, and call her by name.
This morning as I finished my run on this glorious morning, I saw the man again. Yes, he still had crutches. But he held them more than used them for support; their rubber-tip ends hardly touched the sidewalk.
His wife wasn't with him; nor was his daughter. A younger man was by his side, a half-step or so behind him -- just in case the older man teetered a bit, or h'd wager, the older man teetered just a little, or lost his balance.
But I'm betting he won't do either. On such a delicious day, when sunlight streams through the not-yet-amber leaves and smoke rises from a chimney, more than autumn is in the air. I could also smell the unmistakable scent of hope.
I'm a writer who loves to run and who is basically optimistic, albeit a bit hard on myself.
My son (that lovable kid here) may have spent too much of his summer vacation neither reading books not cleaning out his car, but he does have a great sense of humor. In other words, he usually thinks I'm funny.