I bought butter at a gas station.
That’s something that never happened before, and, God willing, will never happen again.
It really wasn’t a panic purchase. It was more of being resourceful. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. (I actually think I’m right, but you never know.)
It was a week or so ago, and there was shopping to be done. That was my job. I had heard about the toilet paper situation (which I still don’t get). I figured bread would be low (it was gone save for a few loaves of cinnamon raisin something or other). There wasn’t much meat. Butter was on the list, so I went there next. Nothing.
Driving home from the store, I thought, well, the gas station has everything, maybe I’ll find success there. And, lo and behold, it had Land ‘O Lakes. Mission accomplished. We had butter.
I’ve been to the store a few times in total and the most recent trip had things (except toilet paper still) pretty well stocked, so that was a good sign. Now, when I go to the gas station again, I’m hopefully the only thing I’ll be purchasing is a full tank of regular unleaded.
But, yeah, these are strange times.
The kids are adapting to life at home, thanks in part, I believe, to a schedule we put them on Day 1 (which they helped design). Renee is home and transitioning to official distance learning tomorrow. Tonight, she said it was like being a first-year teacher all over again. Well, those kids are pretty lucky to get a first-year teacher like her.
My work has been busy and full of action, though clearly not to the level it would be if I was still involved in healthcare. While I’m incredibly grateful for the job I have, and I believe I’ve been a valuable asset in how the school has managed this scenario so far, I also find myself thinking a few times a day about my former colleagues, many of whom are on the front line of this. I knew how incredible most of them were when I worked at the hospital. Now, even more so. I think about them. I pray for them.
I refuse to look at my 401K. Long term, we say to ourselves, and that’s true. Long term. We’ve got good jobs, great kids, roof over our head. Truly blessed.
While I always try and live in the moment, you can’t help but think about the next few months. Now that I’m in education, I worry about kids missing great field trips, a prom, time with their friends, spring sports and even graduation. Not all are off the table yet, but with each day the odds don’t get any better. In fact, just a few hours ago, the Governor said schools will be closed another month. It’s the right call, but tough.
Erin is missing out on an all-state music experience and her state gymnastics meet. She understands, but I feel for her. And all of the others missing that and more.
Aidan? Well, don’t get much out of him, but we were going to take off for a few days over April break to look at colleges, if you can believe that. And, he’s been invited to the senior prom — as a sophomore (that’s my boy!). I remain hopeful. At least part of me does.
Renee and I? Well, we were planning a party in April that’s going to be cancelled. That’s no big deal. We got our taxes back, and we owe. That just doesn’t seem like a big deal right now.
I miss sports immensely, though I’ll be honest, I’ve soured so much on baseball this off-season that I hope absence will make the heart grow fonder and bring me back to the game I love. Though I will also say I’ve enjoyed the classic replays of great games on TV recently. That’s been a walk down memory lane. Funny how even when you know how a game ends, it can still give you thrills every time.
When is it going to end? That’s the great unknown. Watch these idiots that aren’t doing anything to protect themselves — and each other — and you wonder.
Not to get political. But if you want to beat Trump, the answer isn’t Biden. It’s Fauci.
We ordered take out tonight. It was so strange to go to a place that has a constant flow of customers and walk right in, past nobody, to get a pizza. Doing our part? Maybe. But is it enough?
So many unknowns. So many questions. So much left to figure out. I’m not scared. Truly. I’m not anxious. I’m more miffed than anything else. That something like this could happen. That people can be so careless and so caring at the same time.
You learn a lot about people in times like this.
The biggest thing I’ve learned — that at the time was a game changer?
That you can buy butter at a gas station.
I’m headed back to Disney World this summer for the first time in, well, a long time. More than 35 years, in fact.
Summer of ’76 — Bob and Jackie packed the four of us up in the station wagon and we headed due south. Next stop, the Magic Kingdom. Since that trip, I’ve done Epcot and Universal, but I’ve never been back to the Magic Kingdom.
I don’t have many memories from that trip. And, those that I do have are more centered on the actual trip itself — the stories that a family travelling in a station wagon are destined to have forever.
One of the few memories I have of the actual Magic Kingdom revolve around the “It’s a Small World” ride. I don’t remember it for a great ride. Rather, I remember it for the annoying song that I can still hear in my head — as if I was six-year-old on the ride today.
The point, in case you’re trying to figure this out, is that Walt Disney was right.
It really is a small world.
And, the thing that’s happening now is this — as I get older, the world gets smaller.
At first, I wasn’t a big fan of this notion. Well, both notions, actually – that I’m getting older and that the world is getting smaller.
I can’t fight the age thing, obviously. Though if I could, I certainly would.
But the getting smaller part? I’m a lot more open to this than I would have been just a couple of years ago. Those that know me best, know that I’m actually more shy than social. Hard to believe for some, but 100 percent true.
When I’m in a new situation and/or environment, there are typically two things that help me ‘loosen’ up and become more of my self.
The first usually take the longest. It’s simply a matter of me feeling comfortable in the situation/environment. That could be just becoming more comfortable in the physical space or, more likely, taking my time to get to know new people before letting them know more about me. Before really letting them ‘in.’ Once in, it’s a different story. But it takes a while for me to let someone in. Always has.
The second part of this can get me to my comfort level faster. That’s finding out that, in this new situation/environment, that I actually have a connection with someone there. Usually, you don’t know that connection exists. Maybe it gets discovered in a meeting. Maybe it gets discovered in casual small talk. Either way, when it does, it makes, at least me, anyway, much more comfortable.
Sometimes, that connection is short-term, but it still has a huge impact. One of my previous posts addresses just that situation when I made a deep connection with someone who knew my Dad. I didn’t expect the connection to happen at all — and it came about only through small talk. And thankfully it did, because I still remember that moment fondly. And I know I always will.
Other times, it’s more long-term. And that’s more likely with friends and co-workers. With friends, it’s that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve communicated, you’ve always got some connection. It doesn’t matter how your life has changed, there’s always something there to bring you back — if you wish. For me, there are two situations here that I don’t want to be brought back. I’ve been hurt enough to want that. However, I can acknowledge that if that ever changed, there’s enough in the background (enough of a connection) to at least have a starting point.
With co-workers, it’s a little more challenging — at least for me. But the beauty of this is when you find the connection, the relationship often times goes from colleague to friend. And that’s what’s cool. My workplace employs nearly 3,000 people. I figured it wouldn’t take too long to make some of these connections. And, well, I was right. Start the conversations strictly about work. Get more comfortable. Learn more and discover a connection — whatever it is. It’s a great feeling when it happens. Because it just means you’ve not only gained the trust of a colleague, you’ve gained the trust of a friend.
And, in the grand scheme of things, there aren’t many things that trump the trust of a friend. That’s always been part of my thing, too. While I don’t necessarily hang in big circles, I do hang in tight circles.
The point of this mess is simple. What’s not simple is how I’ve gone on trying to explain it.
As I get older, the world is becoming smaller. There are more connections. And that’s a good thing. Particularly for someone like me, who doesn’t have any easy time otherwise — believe it or not.
Sometimes, those connections are more — and this isn’t the right word — emotional. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to make a connection with someone because you know some of the same people. You can make a connection because of a shared experience, for example. Does that make sense? I hope so.
In that sense, the world becomes smaller because you discover you, believe it or not, aren’t the only one going through something.
The other side of it, though, is making a connection because you do know certain people that someone else knows. You find common ground. In other words, the world gets smaller. There are more connections. There are more shared experiences. It makes sense when you think about it. Person A knows 100 people. Person B knows 100 people. Person A doesn’t necessarily know Person B. However, when they do have a chance to meet, they discover common connections — and that gets the ball rolling.
Usually, at least for me, if the ball gets rolling, good things happen. And, when good things happen, it all ties back to what Walt Disney said years go.
It’s a small world, after all.
Brace yourself, this post has nothing to do with death.
Still with me then? Good. I’m glad.
So I had a pretty awesome experience last week. If we are connected on Facebook, then, well, you’re sick of hearing this again — I flew in a Blackhawk helicopter!
Well what does that have to do with my job in healthcare? Nothing. Or, maybe it does. Let me explain.
Each year, the local chamber of commerce offers a program designed to expose new leaders (that’s apparently me) with the opportunity to learn more about specific things happening in our area, in a variety of topic areas. The group (there are 22 of us) consists of people from healthcare, education, defense, finance, healthcare and a few other industries. We meet once a month to learn more about a particular topic.
We’ve done healthcare. We’ve done education. We’ve done judicial. We’ve done economic development. Along the way, this program has given me the opportunity to tour behind the scenes of an area casino, spend time with a judge and tour a prison, take part in an amazing program that aims to prevent teens from being distracted drivers and more — including the opportunity to listen and talk to industry leaders in this area.
While the program is teaching us new skills and techniques of leadership, it’s also showing us just how much is ‘in our backyard’ and how the area in which we live are so dependent on all of the industries we are observing.
That was never more prevalent than last week.
Our focus? The military.
Now, this part of the world is heavily connected in the military community. We are, among other things, ‘the submarine capital of the world’ — since the world’s best submarines are, in fact, built here. We have a naval base that employs more than 10,000. We have a major service academy in our area, too.
We are military focused — yet for some reason, the leadership class hadn’t taken on the topic of the military.
Until this year.
Because this was the first time, the military partners involved in the tour rolled out the red carpet. And, well, that’s where the Blackhawks come in.
I, along with a few others, was completely stoked for this experience. Here I am a week later and I’m still in awe of what we did, where we went and how we got there.
The morning started on the base. On the way to the Blackhawks, our national anthem was played over the speakers for morning colors. Everyone stopped and it was hard to not feel different hearing it where we were — and with what we were about to do.
The Blackhawk was incredibly smooth — that’s what shocked me the most. It was such an easy, effortless ride. We touched down at the local National Guard camp and got a tour there, as well as multiple speakers explaining the Guard’s role and much more.
Back in the chopper for a 30 minute tour of our region — just an incredible experience to fly over places I see everyday and get a completely different perspective on the area I call home and all that’s around it.
We landed at another local facility where Blackhawks are maintained and refurbished. I had no idea this was going on in my community.
After that tour, one more short ride where we landed on the front lawn of the Coast Guard Academy. An absolute special experience to do that and then be toured around the Academy by a cadet, before joining up with senior administrators for lunch in the officer’s club. You couldn’t leave the Academy without being impressed.
When we did leave, it was in a van this time (so depressing!) for a ride back to the base where the tour continued with a trip inside a submarine simulator used for training, followed by a look at how submariners train for deep water rescues and then finally aboard an actual US submarine in port for minor repairs and preparations to be made before its next significant voyage — which, according to the commander, could be as long as six months. Where to? He, of course, wouldn’t say. But, with all the continued drama in the Mid East, I couldn’t help but think this sub would soon be Syria bound.
So, Mike, you’re probably asking…here you are, more than 700 words in and you really haven’t explained the point of this.
Well, I say, it starts with the title of this post — ‘Behind the Fence.’
When the morning started, one the military types told the group that our access that day would take us ‘behind the fence.’ That we’d get to see things (the sub simulator) and do things (um, fly in a Blackhawk!) that others just don’t get to do. All of this, he said, was to show us ‘the other 1 percent.’ He wasn’t referring to the uber rich and talking taxes. No, he was talking about the 1 percent that protects the freedom we enjoy every day — without ever really thinking about it.
In exchange for this access, for this unique experience, he asked for something very simple in return. He asked for us to take what we saw back to our world and share it with people we know. To tell them not just what we saw, but who we saw doing it. And to see how much pride was involved.
So, here I am. Letting you know what a day this was.
Now, I’ve basically lived in this area my entire life, save a few years here and there. Obviously I know the importance of the military in this area. But, well, maybe I underestimated that a bit. I had no idea there’s a training ground not far from here where soldiers train in mock villages to simulate what they might discover in the Middle East. I had no idea that helicopters from 13 states along the east coast are brought here to be repaired/refurbished. I had no idea of the size and scope of the National Guard. I had no idea how impressive the Coast Guard Academy would be. I’d been there before, sure, but for a football game. I had never set foot in an Academy building until last week. I was thoroughly impressed.
The base. I had no idea how big it was. I had no idea how many sailors go through submariner school. I had no idea what life was like on a submarine. I had no idea how much work goes on when a sub is in port preparing for its next destination. I had no idea of the true economic impact the military has on, not just this area, but the state as a whole.
Flying in a Blackhawk. That was fun for me and the others in the group. But for the team flying us, it’s more than fun. It’s there job. For everyone we met that day, it’s more than just a submarine or a helicopter. It’s a job. But it’s really more than that. It’s about freedom. Their freedom. Our freedom. My freedom.
My nephew served and did multiple tours in Iraq. I’m proud of him. Or at least I thought I was. But now I’m even more proud of him — and the many others. Now that I got a better glimpse into the life, the work and so much more, I can start to appreciate the sacrifice even more. The sacrifice they make for me. And for you.
The point is, I understand it more. And I wish you all could experience what I was so beyond fortunate to experience. Who knows. I may never fly in a helicopter again — let alone a Blackhawk. I was given an extraordinary opportunity. One for which I’m thankful. And one which I wanted to share with you. Not just because I was asked to do it. But, well, because you should know. Particularly if you live in this area, you should know the incredible work that’s going on right in our backyard. It’s more than the obvious. It’s the stuff you’d never think about. Right here. This close.
And for that, those of us that live here should be filled with immense quantities of both thanks and pride.
Amazingly, I’m not here to write about death. Does that mean you’ll stay? Hope so. But, whatever. I mean, they are my words.
But it’s your choice?
Still here? Good.
You might learn a little more about me tonight. Why?
Well, for some reason, I’m feeling ridiculously sentimental tonight.
That’s OK, right? Wait. Why am I asking you? Of course it is. Remember, my words.
(But I am glad that you are reading them.)
So, this sentimental thing. I’ll try to explain.
Maybe it’s because we took the kids trick-or-treating tonight in my old stomping grounds. We’ve done it for the last few years, but something was different about tonight. Not sure what it was. It’s great to go there because my sister and her daughter join us. Or, we join them since they live in the neighborhood now. And I think that’s part of it. That we’re giving the kids a memory they’ll look back on in the years to come. Lord knows I’m looking back on it. I remember going to each house in the neighborhood. Who gave out the best candy. Who pulled pranks. Who kept the lights off. I did this year after year with Steve, Steve, Gary, Tim, Pete and Tim. Just great memories. The neighborhood was alive tonight. And what was even cooler about it? Coming home, signing on to Facebook and seeing other people comment about how great it was there tonight, too.
And, in terms of making connections there between now and then. Well, it happened at two houses. One is still owned by the family that I’ve know there forever. Though instead of the parents handing out the candy, it was the kids. And by kids, I mean, they were my age. And one of the two works where I work now, so that connection continued. And then another house, next to the house I played at the most growing up…well, the people that live there now? One of them works with me now, too. So it’s kind of like the old and new coming together. Only I didn’t know she lived there until tonight. Makes our next conversation an easy one. Good times tonight. Great memories.
Why else am I feeling sentimental? Maybe it’s because both my mom and my nephew have hard incredibly hard months medically — yet both are home. Where they belong. Neither are 100 percent, but each is getting stronger by the day. And, well, that alone is a good thing. I’m done asking for good vibes. For now. I’m just thankful to all who shared them. And, well, I’m just thankful they are both home. We’re the closest non-closest family you’ll ever know. And what I just wrote right here, well, that means a lot. Good times tonight. Great memories to come.
Hmmm….still want another reason? Well, I just read a friend’s blog tonight for the first time in a long time. This is a blog I used to read every day. Heck, this is the blog that made me start a blog. I miss this friend. She and I don’t talk as much as I wish we still would, but I think she knows that we’re always connected. I’m hoping we have the chance to get together for dinner some time soon. Because I want to hear more of her stories in person — and not just in a blog or a vlog. I think I have the connection with this person that it really doesn’t matter how long we don’t talk — because when we are together, it’s always easy to talk. Simply put, she’s the little sister I never had. Ready for dinner when you are.
More? Of course there’s more. I mean, when I get sentimental, I get sentimental. It’s all in, so to speak.
Well, I’m going to see two of my closest friends this weekend with a trip back to Marist. I’m wishing another friend could be there, but alas, that won’t work out this time. What I really wish — at times — is that another person could be there. But I’m not sure that’ll ever happen again. I don’t think about that person much, but when I do, well, it’s just a sad situation. What I’m most glad about is that I have some amazing friends and I’m looking forward to walking campus, going back to check out the places we lived, admiring how much the place has changed and realizing how much we really haven’t changed that much since we first got to know each other back in (gulp) 1988.
What else? Well, I’m digging my new job. Totally digging it. Of course, it’s not really new anymore. Not after having been there for more than a year. But I’m really enjoying it and starting to make my mark a bit — or so it seems. At the same time, there’s one part of my old job that I really miss. So much so that I’m doing it again this holiday season. It’s not part of my old day-to-day job, it’s completely separate and doesn’t interfere at all with my current job — or I wouldn’t do it. But it’s a way for me to get back to something I loved doing for eight out of the last 10 holiday seasons. And I heard tonight that a lot of people are looking forward to having me back. That works for me. First ‘meeting’ is 11/7. And, honestly? I can’t wait.
Ok, we’re getting to the end, but there’s still a bit more. We had some family pictures taken a couple months ago and they just came in this week. A huge package arrived at the door and out they came. First really good shot of the family. First really good shot of Renee and me. Two awesome shots of Aidan and Erin. At one point, when I was struggling what to pick out, the photographer said, ‘think of what photo Aidan and Erin would want hanging in there house some day.’ Great perspective and it, well, made it easy at that point. They are lifestyle shots — all of them. And, well, it makes me think we’ve developed a nice little lifestyle here.
The last reason why I’m feeling this way — or at least another good reason why I might be….my birthday is tomorrow (or today, depending on when you are reading this). I’m turning 42. Every day. Every step of where I’ve been has brought me to this place. And you know what? It’s a good place. I haven’t always realized that. Maybe haven’t always appreciated it as much as I should. Maybe have been distracted by things beyond my control. But, at least I realize that now.
I’ve got family. I’ve got friends. I’ve got the best health I’ve been in for some time.
Yeah. It’s good. It’s real good.
So thanks for being a part of it. Seriously. I don’t always say it (yeah, that again), but I think it. A lot.
So today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 77.
But I’m not writing about him. Not now. Maybe not later. I mean, well, eventually. But this won’t be a birthday post like I’ve done in the past. Have I thought about him today? Sure I have. A lot, actually.
But I’ve also thought about other things in my past — and that’s what brought my here. Maybe it was on a whim. But so what. I’m here. And, well, apparently, so are you.
(Thanks for that, by the way.)
The inspiration for this post came from a strange thread on Facebook that started with an innocent comment about a friend’s interest in roller derby. She commented about another friend who would make a dynamic player. I made a comment that, even now, the two of them would kick ass.
I know that doesn’t sound like much but it then led to a look back at the roller rinks of southeastern Connecticut and southwestern Rhode Island, under 21 nights at a couple of now defunct establishments and old-school top 40 radio.
What do these things have in common? Simply, they are institutions of my childhood and early teen years. So, by default, they have an automatic place saved in me. A place where I can always go and pull out some fabulous memories — just like I do about my dad. But, as I said, I’m not writing about him.
So, those of you that grew up in and around Pawcatuck, maybe you’ll appreciate some of these things.
Since I started this thought with roller rinks….let’s start there.
Remember Galaxy when it was down at the beach and Roll-On America in Groton? And of course Wes-Skate in Westerly — Friday night sock hops, anyone? Now Galaxy is in Groton, ads are on the radio and I want to take the kids there. I never could shoot the duck, and I’d probably kill myself trying now, but forget the socializing nights as teenagers, remember the birthday parties and school nights roller skating — because there were a lot.
Maple Breeze. Do I have to say much more than that? I drove by today and was saddened. I went to the auction of when they sold the place — just to see whose hands would be on the property, knowing they’d never do it justice. I went to the property auction, and, as a result, have two special things in my garage — the old clown face and the golf ball sign that says, “Don’t Bounce Me.” On a perfect summer night like tonight, it was the place to be. Mini golf, go karts, bumper boats, water slide. And friends. Always with friends. Aidan and I were mini-golfing in North Conway this week and all I could think about was wishing I had the chance to take him to the best course ever.
There was always music playing at Maple Breeze. Always the local radio station. Maybe it was Fun 102 or 102.3 The Wave. Maybe it was RI104 before it became WRX, 103.7. Or, maybe it was the grand-daddy of the day — Q105. I have an affinity for the Q since I interned there and, most recently, was on the morning show a few years ago with Franco and Nancy and then Nancy and Shawn. But, the point is, more than a few of you reading this had red and yellow Q105 bumper stickers on your bedroom door or car.
So as some of you know, I went to St. Michael School. And, not sure about you public schoolers, but whenever there was an SMS school function, we always — and I mean always — ended up at Bee Bee Dairy in Westerly for ice cream. An equally good pizza place now, but each time I go in, I think about a Bee Bee Dairy sundae.
And speaking of St. Michael’s…Saturday morning basketball league at the Pawcatuck Junior High School Gym. St. Mike’s, West Vine, West Broad, Deans Mill Green, Deans Mill Gold. Great coaches and refs and great stuff for us kids. Even cheerleaders for the girls. Every Saturday morning…two games. And the gym was packed. Or at least I remember it that way.
Nothing could be written about sports in Pawcatuck without mentioning Pawcatuck Little League. I’m a little biased. Ok, a lot biased. I practically grew up there. I have immense feelings for the place and the people who made it into arguably one of the top complexes in the country. Gibson. Knowles. Lenihan. Walsh. Crowley. Cray. Seriously, I could go on and on, but I won’t….I’ll miss too many people. It makes me crazy to go to my own Little League now and see what it is compared to what I had growing up. If I ever moved back to Pawcatuck, that would be one of the reasons. Call me crazy, but it’s true. I remember the boys team that won the district and you’d think they had won the World Series….I remember the girls teams that were good enough to win the World Series. I remember all of it. It’s just a part of me. And always will be.
Back to St. Michael’s for a bit…how about the summer festival? Another institution growing up. Are you kidding me? Charlie LoPresto and family making fritters in the corner. Bingo in the other corner. The white elephant booth. Charlie Shea calling, “put a dime down, win a dollar. put a dime down win a dollar.” My first gambling experience at the dice wheel where they’d sweep losing quarters off the board into rain gutters. The putting green contest where a prize was a free pass to Maple Breeze. The moonwalk when it was there. Pony rides on the convent lawn. And fried dough. Oh, the fried dough.
Wilcox Park and summer pops. Seriously, remember when it all started? Remember the glow sticks you’d get? Remember how early you’d have to get in the park?
And speaking of the park, remember McCrory’s nearby? You could go in and get popcorn — and everything else.
What about Besso’s on the bridge? A must stop before every movie to get penny candy when it was still just that — a penny.
And after the movies, you’d go to McDonalds. I mean, what else would you do? Of course, if the show was at the United, you’d be happy if you could sit in the balcony.
And the United was close to China Village — a mainstay for ‘special occasion’ dining.
So many memories. So many things to talk about. I mean, I didn’t even mention Rosalinis. I didn’t mention Thanksgiving Day football. I didn’t mention Del’s Lemonade. I didn’t mention “Smiley” working at the DQ. I didn’t mention the Westerly Community Credit Union holiday hoops tournament. I didn’t mention the wall. I didn’t mention the pavillions.
It doesn’t have to be mentioned to be important. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a significant event in your life either. It just has to be something — that when you look back on it — it makes you smile.
I apologize for typos and the ‘rush’ of my writing here, but the inspiration was there to get down a few thoughts and, well, that’s just what I did.
What I really hope is that some of these memories trigger some positive thoughts for you. I am blessed to have grown up in a very cool part of the world with a lot of very cool people around me. Some of them are still around me. And some of them aren’t. And often times you don’t think enough about the ones that are still around until they are gone. But it’s when they are gone that they can sometimes have the greatest impact on you.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
Of the nine people in the above phot0 with me, I’ve known three of them for 35 years. That’s not a typo, but it sure looks like one.
The others in the photo? Well, I haven’t known them as long — only 28 to 32 years.
Heck, there isn’t a woman in that picture that looks older than 30.
Who are these amazing individuals?
Elementary school classmates — three of them dating back to first grade. The rest joining along the way in either fourth, sixth or eighth grade.
We all went to St. Michael School — all for our own reasons (or, I should say, our parents’ reasons). And yet, despite the time that has separated us since eighth grade graduation in June 1984, there’s a bond that holds us together.
I used the word inviduals above, and it couldn’t be a better descriptor. Because, while we were an incredibly tight class, it was our individual spirit and personality that made us that way. In fact, I’ll never remember the words of our president on graduation night, “We are the very special class of 1984 that will never walk this way again.”
I’m sure there were some teachers that were saying, “Thank God” as they heard that line.
There were 30 of us in the class. We lost one classmate in later years to illness. Of the 29 that remain, 10 of us were able to make an impromptu gathering on a recent night to catch up, relive some memories (good and bad) and just be in the company of some amazing people.
As we sat around the table, we took turns recapping what we’ve been doing — essentially since 1984. At the end of our recap, we had to answer one question, “How did St. Michael’s prepare us for the rest of our life?”
It seemed like such an easy question at first, yet none of us could really answer it.
And, as I said earlier, this group contained some amazing individuals. Among them:
— a veteran who put his life on the line for this country and now continues to serve as a policeman, all while maintaining the youthful spirit he had back in 1984;
— another veteran who found so much good in his time and now manages the shipping and receiving operation of one of the world’s largest casinos;
— one of the most amazing spirits you’ll ever meet who did everything from work in a bakery to produce the evening news to now chasing her dream as a filmmaker;
— an author — and mom of four — you can find on Amazon who doesn’t live in this country and tells amazing stories of a life she could write a book about;
— a teacher, coach and father of three who maintains the true spirit of gentleness he’s had forever;
— a mom of three who balances cheerleading, hockey and lacrosse with her ‘real’ job — taking care of end stage cancer patients with the type of care and compassion you’d want your relatives to experience;
— a relatively new mom — who is expecting again — and who has given so much of her life to helping others through her work in the department of children and families;
— another mom (of two kids) who completed law school after the birth of her first child — and who know works as a managing attorney for a non profit in Rhode Island specialing in housing law;
— a mom of two who returned to her roots, is now engaged, is running the books for her fiance’s business and still has that quality about her that drew everyone to her as a friend 30 years ago.
As I said, an amazing group of people. Yet not a one could truly answer the question in the way it was intended.
Yet, in hindsight, I knew how to answer it. In fact, we all did.
We didn’t have to say anything. The words were a struggle for everyone, but the actions weren’t.
Each one of us that came answered the question. In fact, we answered it by being present. By coming together to remember and reflect. By coming together as friends — friends with bonds so strong they go beyond anything life has thrown us since we thought we were experiencing real drama in 1984.
We stood by each other then. We stand by each other now.
And while we struggled to answer the question that night, the answer was in front of us the entire time.
So in one of my last posts, I put the question to you — what would you like me to write about? What would you like to know?
Well, a new reader asked a pretty amazing question. She challenged me to share something I haven’t shared. Or, she said, ‘tell me what moves you.’
What moves me? Heck, I’m not even sure what that means exactly. So, in order to answer it I suppose I first need to be able to define it.
To me, something ‘moves me’ if there’s an emotional reaction or deep feeling associated with someone or something.
The ‘movement,’ of course, can be for the emotional good or bad. It just, I suppose, depends on the situation.
So, with that loosely described definition, let’s take a look at some of the things (in no particular order) that do, in fact, move me:
Music. I simply can’t imagine a life without music. I’m not a singer — or at least not a public one. I can’t play an instrument, but the impact music has on me is sometimes even hard for me to explain. I associate songs with people, moments and just about anything. Certain songs spark certain emotions. And that will never change. Yes, I love Bon Jovi. But it’s so far beyond that. I love just about any kind of music. I have ‘high school’ songs, ‘college’ songs, people songs, driving songs, thinking songs. I love songs that mean something — for whatever reason. It could be a classical piece, it could be a country song, it could be a commercial jingle. It doesn’t matter. If it impacts me in any way, it becomes a part of the soundtrack of my life.
Words. More specifically, well thought out emotional and honest words. Written or spoken. Either way. Doesn’t matter. Fact is, words are powerful. For some, it’s easier to write than it is to speak. So what. Fact is, emotions are coming across — regardless of how they are delivered. Is it easier to hide behind the keyboard? Maybe. Heck, I’m even guilty of that at times. Is it ideal? No. But, if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. Good writing is such an art. An under appreciated art. You don’t always know good when you see it, but you certainly know bad — and that can move me, too — but for all the wrong reasons.
Friends. Can’t live without the support of my friends. I mean, how else do I say it? I’m not one for a huge group of friends. I’m much more of the get close to a smaller number and, well, let them in as far as they want. Those that want in, well, those are the ones I hold close. Those are the ones who let me in in return and the give and take is just fabulous. Friends that I’ve known since first grade. Friends that I’ve known since college. Friends that I’ve known for only a few years. It’s not how long you’ve been friends. It’s about what you’ve experienced. And with mine, well, I’ve experienced a lot — and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just hope some feel the same about me as I feel about them.
Water. Not the drinking kind. The ocean/river/lake kind — with preference given to the ocean. I’ve been around water my entire life. Growing up by the ocean, going to college on a river, working by a lake. Now working on a river and back by the ocean. So much comfort in the water. A place to go when quiet is needed and thinking needs to be done. I can still see the exact spot I used to go to in college when I needed to be myself. Forget the iPod, didn’t exist then. I’d take the walkman with an Elton John tape(!) and just go sit by the river and think. I got engaged by the ocean for a reason. There’s just something mysterious and comforting about the water. And the best time of year to go to the beach? Now. Haven’t been in a while. Time to go explore.
Family. Be it my kids, my wife, my mom, my siblings, my relatives. Doesn’t matter. Family is important. Don’t forget that. It’s easy to do sometimes. Think of the holidays and what do you remember? Family. The best part of a holiday meal isn’t the turkey or the dessert. No, it’s the rehashing of the same family stories you’ve heard over and over. Stories that have shaped your life. It’s the kids — when after a long day of battles, a simple exchange of please and thank you can do wonders.
So, there are five things that move me — in one way or another. Mostly for the good. This isn’t as easy as it seems. It challenges your own emotions to think of important things that can have an impact on your life — and why. I’m sure more will come up, and, if they do, perhaps I’ll add them here at some point.
In the meantime, thanks to my new reader for asking the question.
And now I ask the same question to all of you.
You now know some of the things that move me. So tell me, what moves you?
The one thing I’m sure of?
That I’m not sure of a lot of things.
Some of it I’ve addressed here already. Some of it I’m not sure I ever will. Doesn’t mean I’m not dealing with it though.
Because I’m trying to.
Call it a midlife crisis. Call it what you want. I’m going with the fact that I’ve reached a crossroads in my life in so many different ways.
(And, ok, I’m secretly just a little excited that what I’m calling this is the name of a past Bon Jovi album.)
But, this isn’t about my man. This is about this man. Me.
I know you’ve heard me say that before. And, well, you’ll hear me say it again.
Because it’s true.
What kind of steps am I taking? Little ones.
In a lot of areas.
I’ve had some pretty good conversations lately with people I respect dearly — not to mention admire and trust. Both are people very familiar with my work. Both know me very well.
And both have told me things that I’m not sure I would have believed even a year ago. And, honestly, I didn’t really believe it when the first person would tell me these things. Well, that’s not true. Maybe I believed it (a little), but I had a hard time understanding it (and still do).
However, when the second person, who doesn’t know me nearly as well as the first person, reiterated exactly what the first person has been saying for almost a year, well, it sank in — so much that I told the first person that it was finally sinking in — after all this time. That what the first person had been saying was, in fact, true — even though I didn’t want to believe it.
By no means was I knocking what the first person had been saying. In fact I told this person they were right. And that it was finally sinking in — the more I heard certain things.
It wasn’t a matter of person two validating person one. It was a matter of my own self image — something that hasn’t been particularly positive for a while, for a variety of reasons.
Yet, when you have not one, but two people you respect dearly saying the same thing, maybe it is true. Maybe it is time to listen to that — despite what image is in your own head.
So that’s what I’m trying to do. Listen. Because if I do believe what person one and two are saying is true, then some changes are going to happen. I’m just not exactly sure what that means yet.
Change can, afterall, mean so many things.
And, for me, right now, the biggest challenge is figuring out what those things actually are.
And then, once I do, the next challenge is addressing them.
One at a time.
Thanks to your thoughts and prayers, freaders (that’s friends and readers together….get it?), Mom is resting at home.
She left Boston earlier this week and has enjoyed being back in her own bed — that’s for sure.
Medicine has been working — and that’s the good news.
So, I thank you all for your well wishes, thoughts and prayers — both public and private. Means a lot. More than a lot, actually.
So I used to love to roller skate.
And it was always fun to hear the DJ talk about what was coming up. “Shoot the duck.” “Backwards skate.” “Ladies’ choice.” “Guys choice.”
Well, this is like blog roller skating and the DJ just called “Reader’s Choice.”
The floor is yours. Tell me something you want me to write about.
Ask me a question.
I know there are a lot of new folks reading me (thank you, by the way!), and I know some of you have been going through my archives.
So what has piqued your curosity?
What question do you want to ask?
What story do you want me to tell?
Speak up. The floor is yours.