Passages – A Marriage I Was Actually Involved In

Make no mistake, this post – more than perhaps any I have ever posted in this blog – is strictly personal. But it is also highly celebratory – another avenue to express my hopes and deepest love for a newly-embarked mission of Love into their very own and undoubtedly unique family and on into Infinity as a new constellation made up of so-willing participants……..Hey – my family expanded last weekend.

The metaphor of Mark Twain’s where he mentioned “I spent the coldest Winter of my life one summer in San Francisco” has always seemed the best-abbreviated single statement about a complex situation in my personal reading history. Well, I think I might have my own answer to that, after this last week:

“I had the most meaningful experience of my life celebrating someone else’s marriage last weekend”. 😉

In this case, of course, I am referring to giving away my very own daughter, Alena, to her very agreeable choice of a man who I actually both like and admire. I spent an entire visit to San Diego in an emotional oven which I would not have traded for anything in this entire known world.

This picture pretty much says it all……………

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After 19 full months of my life’s very first medical challenges including literally learning to walk – twice! – the timing of the wedding of Alena and Greg fit so perfectly into the “What I most need now” category, it had to be designed by a physical and spiritual therapist.

My most recent road to here has been winding and full of stops and starts, punctuated unfortunately mostly by “stops”. To say ‘I had a bad experience’ is an understatement of rare dimension. As I mentioned in my Father of the Bride Speech at the reception, I first met my daughter’s husband over Skype on my computer at home. Stuck as they are all the way out in San Diego, 2,500 miles from Dad, it was the only method of actually seeing people while completely unable to walk 100 feet without a cane. Make that 10 feet, actually. That’s how bad it was.

I remember that call as if it were yesterday……. Alena and I had planned it and it finally unfolded as I sat here in my social media cockpit, completely reluctant and nervous about putting my face on the screen. I weighted about 130 pounds at the time (“Like I had taken a taxi straight from Auschwitz”, is how I framed in in my speech, lol)  but what we were celebrating at my end was the relative fixing which had finally occurred following a mistake in a surgical procedure for me. It had cost me – plenty.

(I may as well confess also that it was the lowest ebb of my entire life…………bar none)

So I answer her call and I see them and I punch up the camera on my computer linking us and I get this monster smile out of them both as my mug appeared to them. It was the first time I had met Greg, although I had had conversations about him with Alena. She was pretty in love, lol. Hey – works for me!! 😉

The long and short is how impressed I was with Greg. We dominated the conversation as Alena could tell I was pushing and prodding, lol, in my predictable protective fashion. We were able to laugh as a crowd and I couldn’t help but notice his jokes were completely as lame and dreadful as my own. We have a winner!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh Lord, still my thrice-beating heart!!

“Dayem, Cletus, I dunno but something in me says I shore hope she keeps this feller!!” 😉

We laughed and cajoled our way through this initial conversation – and later ones as well, but hardly as refreshing or as noteworthy as my first meeting with Greg – which went for at least an hour of leisurely pace and relaxed exchanges. Note too, this was long before he popped the Big Question. (And which question, it very much bears noting, he called me privately later to seek my approval…………a moment I will treasure forever and ever……….(LOL, as I also said in my little speech – “The truth is, you had me at the ringtone!”, lol)

At the time, I was just enjoying my daughter’s boyfriend and delighted to see he embodied many of the values I also admire, such as hard work, a tendency to sacrifice and a way human urge to help others as a fireman, EMT and now Safety Supervisor for the largest electrical contractor in America, Par Electric. That he was a nut very much like me was just a bonus and probably predictable, for all you deep personality scientists out there. 😉

Here is Greg now, sporting his marrying socks and a pose for the Ages:

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And this is what he thinks of my daughter:

(That would be me fiddling with my cam on the right and hooting a little with the rest of us, lol.)
13061921_10208069113378312_960597819837344805_nThe bottom line in all this is the remarkable restorative power of Alena and Greg’s so obvious love for one another and its effects on me and my strictly personal health. It was a shot in the arm like a tsunami of enforced Loving. I have been suffused with love – just drunk as hell on it – and I don’t plan on forgetting it in all of the time remaining in my days of abusing the Earth.

The social ritual of marriage is such a cleansing, hopeful and refreshing moment. We welcome each into the wider world as they form a small nucleus of their own bright new planet. Our hopes cling to them now going forward as they inhale all of our best angels on a daily basis. We have, as a group who are so willing to love them until the end of time, ushered them most supportively into their next phase as adults – the phase of forming their own family as free adults. As a rite of passage, marriage is easily the very most hopeful. The delicacy of life and love could not have a more splendid send-off than what occurred on that magical weekend in San Diego. It was muscular.

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There are moments in life which build a prior momentum of their own and which we recognize only when they unfold before our doubting eyes. These moments are the Treasury of our existences. Their preciousness has no competition – they are galaxies which extend our souls into those of others – in delirious Joy! – as we experience the common human mutuality of all of our collective emotions, hopes and fears – in this case, invested in the fallible and starkly hopeful persons who we try to influence in the very best of ways. This precious couple embody everything that matters in this world of ours. Our Idealism is never more clear than when we participate in the rite of marriage. This was never made more clear than 6 days ago. I was stunned by its impact and I still am.

Back to the theme of selfish entertainment……… 😉  Did it make me healthier?

Ha ha, that one is easy. How about this?:  “I never felt better in my life!!” 😉

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(You can tell, lol) 😉

So it has gone from this…………….

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To this:

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And now this old fart is crying again, lol. 😉

Y’all know I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. Absolutely nothing. It may well have been the very best day of my entire life. Already and gratefully rich in friends, I am now richer in family. How does it get better?

Musings Among The Fading Blooms

While waiting for Summer, remarkable things happened. Spring sprang, then sort of faded like some sort of temporary enthusiasm of Mother Nature’s. Her blooms were absurdly rich this year, all struggling to get there at the same time, much like the huge and , clamorous 20 horse Kentucky Derby field – an event which always signifies real Spring to Kentuckians.

It lent this amazing philosophical sense to my morning walk around the hood where I found myself concerned about the nature of permanent things – which led to musings about more temporary things….things such as me, for example. Which led to musings about aging. Yes, this is going to be a completely depressing subject today because you just know aging is always such a draggy thing to speak of. After all, there are supposedly no merits to the process and, in the end, you accomplish a few steps closer to Death and not much more, according to Conventional Wisdom we are all so terribly well aware of. I mean, we read, don’t we?

I turn 65 this July 6th. I can’t even believe it. Thus, all this leads to pondering what gifts and what grotesqueness are in store those who are aging and crossing barriers of retirement and Social Security eligibility. We all understand the great sustenance a family provides. Not that I have any personal experience with this (ahem, daughter) but Grandparents experience some pretty cool emotions in welcoming tiny little people into the world who are direct descendants  There is also some righteous pleasure in watching our children run to repeat the foolishness we also experienced in child-raising. How divine to watch the advent of unconditional love – it’s really quite the event.

But what else is there? Honestly, is aging merely a bitterness, the Cosmic Joke played on the Eternally Young where rude Nature intrudes with palsies, weaknesses, poorer skin tone and occasional forgetfulness? Is God or Nature so cruel? Or is our culture so obsessed with Youth and the marketing of us all that we devalue that which doesn’t sell? Are we used up after work is over? How angry should we be as our faculties begin failing and we become more susceptible to pain and, often, illness? I’m not saying for a moment I am there whatsoever, but I certainly know those who are.

Eric Hoffer:  “The misery of a child is interesting to a mother, the misery of a young man is interesting to a young woman, the misery of an old man is interesting to nobody.”

Now how true is that? We expect misery and it offers us the theory that allows us to ignore their semi-chronic complaints. I think that leads to Hoffer’s next quote:

“The best part of the art of living is to know how to grow old gracefully.”

So here we land. Back to where we started.

Social Reality

Naturally, I have another take on what we who are aging – gracefully or not – can offer. In fact, I have quite a lot to say on the matter. Primarily – first and foremost – I have to believe it would be a shame for the accumulated wisdom inherent in this crowd of amazing people to go un-addressed and unstated. In fact, I have a hard time imagining a bigger scale of robbery to those who need it most – those younger than ourselves. The scale of achievements accomplished by my friends dwarfs me at my least humble moments.

What many of us have endured and overcome is yet another entire realm of courage and fortitude. Sure many of us have lived reasonably predictable lives – we followed the conventions and rituals of career and family unquestioningly. For those of us to whom this applies, it could very well be that you took your time growing up, yet here you are, standing with giants. Will you enjoy this moment or, once again, take the easy way?

I grow tired, personally, of our quiet. I feel obligated to at least make an effort to take part in complicated and contentious elements of life. When I watch the political processes of this truly blighted Century act out, I cringe at the amazing level of not only a self-destructive compliance but in the ignorance passing as some sort of wisdom.

I lament the loss and subsequent escape of common sense. Common Sense should be a Player, for Pete Sakes. I yearn for the day when Twain’s quote about “Truth” once again means something:

“A lie travels halfway around the world by the time the Truth puts its shoes on.”

It is my conviction that we are abdicating our responsibility in maintaining an intellectual balance in the affairs of our critical thinking as a country and society. Since it sort of “got away from us” during all the recent bizarre cultural wars inspired by nothing more than politics, I believe we should act to “get it back”. I am hoping our restlessness as older folks who actually experienced the history so often being misinterpreted by agenda-driven politicians will inspire us to at least laugh!

I feel some responsibility for what comes next. This is not about voting or parties – it’s about experience, common sense and hopefully the return of some compassion as a weapon most effective of all in the maturation of an entire people.

Because what older folks learn in the end is that humility and compassion complete the journey and make it all mean something.  Many of us are learning this. It leads to yet another relevant Hoffer quote:

“Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.”

I could – and will – go on. Let’s say our piece, is what I’m saying. To those around us and on social media. It is “growing old gracefully” to express yourself.

Ruminations On Work

This post was made a while back. For those who wonder, it shocks me to think I began my book project that long ago. It has become something more than I thought it would, for the record – and it makes my original expectations about the difficulty of getting it right pale in comparison to what my more developed expectations are now. Much of the free time I envisioned did not completely pan out, either, as the need to make a living has often intruded into periods of intense and productive writing. At any rate, this post was written to honor work itself – it’s own sets of trials and successes. I still honor work and I shall always hope hard work is rewarded in kind.

There are also lessons in here for those who feel confused about career advancement in an era requiring so much more sheer adaptability. It’s astounding how few of us will end up in the direction we began. It once was that a farmer knew where he was going. For a few generations, factory personnel in company towns well knew what was in store in their golden years. They could accumulate toys and friends pointing to all that, should they survive their work. This no longer applies. That fact speaks loudly to our present modern circumstances. We will all become more creative and far, far less certain of our individual and collective futures. The world went and changed.

I’m making a prolonged stab at writing a book. I was approached to put something together for my old high school coach, Jack Hicks (who I featured right here in this Blog, click here for the link to it) and I may very well proceed with that, even congruently with the current project. I have a respect for Jack and for sports in general – and even for my sports-mad former hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky – which are somewhere outside the average envelope.

I have recently felt a bit of a ‘higher calling’ in a sense, in choosing to write on another subject – landscaping – about which I am so familiar. I will write to explain its ups and downs, ins and outs and to present the trade itself in as honest a picture as I can draw. I do it for a variety of reasons, among which are to present this interesting trade to young people who might consider it as a trade and career option. I hope it gets some attention because I do believe what I can offer is a sort of blueprint of expectations in as many ways as I am allowed to present.

Like anything, we gain most from the people we associate with. I believe it was Will Rogers who said “the best way to become smart is to hang out with smarter people.” This has been my way and I have to suspect it will never change. The one way in which I do feel quite intelligent is in dealing with the entire concept of “work”. In the end, development in any trade requires the application of energy and the absorption of the lessons from our everyday experiences. The slow curing of a landscaper encompasses so many various trades and weirdly-connected abilities, it’s nearly mind-boggling in its entirety. But, above all, hard work is what one takes from this field, no matter what level one eventually reaches.

So, in this particular edition of philosophizing, there’s really nothing fancy here. This is about work. It’s about our perceptions of work and how we value it. If I never contributed anything else in this life, my body of work and my relationship to it would stand as my most forceful feelings on our mutual human existence I could ever imagine. I feel that work is such an integral part of our existence that it becomes literally heroic and worthy of all the praise we can find to lavish upon it.

No one has ever asked me more than I have asked myself why I stuck with a trade which consists – even at the top – of such enormous quantities of hard physical labor. I have felt a failure so many times, at every turn in this working history of mine. Yet, when I look back at this life and times, I find moments of such exalted clarity of purpose and literal accomplishment, it humbles me.

Here then is a passage recently worked on towards that end:

The arrogance of writing…………presumes one has something to say which will be of interest or have meaning to others. Let’s face it, it’s either that or else it is pure speculation based on a egotistic, self-congratulatory technique of little originality and even less profundity. Vanity is a highly dangerous solipsism and it somehow seems an unfortunately perfect analogy in that case. It requires a strict judgement to discern the difference.A perspective which can make the mundane seem thrilling is the alchemy most writers seek. One accomplishes this by ingratiating oneself into the passions of others, then extrapolating a known reward for a perceived mutually-rewarding projection. Facts, in non fictional writing, become a currency of highest merit, made alive by good writing.
Actual history then follows as a means of illustrating a felt picture of events and premises which refer to the theme at hand.Presenting a life in a trade which is probably beset with a ratio of 70% hard labor to an audience wherein labor itself has become not just undervalued but literally pilloried as an unintelligent career option just seems wantonly self-destructive. Americans have a love/hate relationship with work at this sort of level. It is often humiliating owing to the values we have somehow become most familiar with. The constant refrain demeaning “ditch diggers” being somehow “less than” educated office personnel is a meme of decades-old consistency. It’s as if the truth of hard-working Americans being the the backbone of the world’s most productive economic engine is some form of myth. One has to wonder if this attitude indeed has led to our own self-destruction, implicitly disregarding hard work as somehow useless and defective, simply because of the effort required.We attend self-help seminars by the hundreds, where we are told of “attitudes” and perspectives which will make us more successful, as if some magical mental elixer allows us to bypass what has worked so well in he past. Suddenly, beset with Mental Coaches and Spiritual Advisors, we find ourselves “pumped up” with quasi-mystical solutions to what are actually the simplest problems we could possibly face.

A trade such as Landscaping can be an unappealing trade when one considers the sheer level of labor involved. And, make no mistake, there are days and even weeks in landscaping where it seems truly endless – the constancy of wheelbarrowing materials into back yards with tiny gates, really bad weather from too hot to too cold, rain, snow, wind. Any assessment of landscaping as a career option should include all this. There are minor and, unfortunately, sometimes major injuries. Backs need attention almost daily, simply as cautionary provisions regarding survival and long term health. We stretch, those of us who know, so that the effort required and our often-straining output keeps us strong and healthy.

Make no mistake: those who landscape can be the strongest and healthiest. Working outdoors, far from being a severe sentence for the mentally-deficient, offers a level of oxygen, ozone and pure heart-pounding pleasure that even those who relish so little of it in their explanations of the trade, continue to show up for work, to entertain one another and regale their peers and captains with the standard humors and bad witticisms which are the province of the completely wry. There is a quiet acceptance of an endorphin high one reaches 2-3 times a day which makes for a ‘drug experience’ of ineffable self-production. The same high runners experience – and athletes of all kinds – perform a like process in landscaping, offering surprising mutual experiences which are nearly embarrassing in their felt effects. It makes for a muted, odd and rewarding sensation not experienced by everyone and is humbling in gratitude. I have often thought Walt Whitman’s great and memorable poem –“I Sing The Body Electric” was written for us guys in “the trade”…..

I know a man, a common farmer—the father of five sons;  
And in them were the fathers of sons—and in them were the fathers of sons.  
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person;   35
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and beard, and the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes—the richness and breadth of his manners,  
These I used to go and visit him to see—he was wise also;  
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old—his sons were massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome;  
They and his daughters loved him—all who saw him loved him;  
They did not love him by allowance—they loved him with personal love;   40
He drank water only—the blood show’d like scarlet through the clear-brown skin of his face;  
He was a frequent gunner and fisher—he sail’d his boat himself—he had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner—he had fowling-pieces, presented to him by men that loved him;  
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish, you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of the gang.  
You would wish long and long to be with him—you would wish to sit by him in the boat, that you and he might touch each other.

 

I really adore that passage of that brilliant celebration of Man and Woman Kind.  Whitman humbles us all in his frank appraisal that work is noble and healthy.The respect from earned accomplishment has no peer in my lexicon of achievements. I believe it can be the hallmark of character as well. The efforts and accomplishments form our legacies and they outlive us. The beauty of soil and its amazing and totally predictable products – of the art of design itself – and the work of amusement and labor are the game we play. It is as if being human sometimes seems unfair to our original assumptions, at times. Like a cosmic joke, our sufferings become something more, ennobled by caution and the conservatism of the March of Time and of Education.

A California Wedding To Remember

I think I just had “the time of my life”. And, yes, I’m pretty sure about this.

(all the pictures enlarge with a simple click)

While I am no expert in matters of weddings, I also have little idea of how much of anything could be more flat entertaining or generally optimistic than sending a pledged couple out on their way. This happened last weekend and I am still wearing a glow like a Brillo Pad on a hot fire. And, no, Steve, it isn’t the chocolate.

My best friend in life – known here as ‘just another Steve’ – who is somewhat Internet shy – has 3 of my most favorite children, barely behind my own in personal regard. Of course, they went and grew up, for which I may never forgive them. I mean, is it just me, or does Life seem to advance at its own pace, seemingly arriving somewhere, demanding our attention with medical problems and a secret aging process that defies how the heck I feel?

I mean, who dealt this mess? How on Earth did we get from here……..

To here……………….so dam fast?

Anybody got an answer?

Big sigh…………… Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, to Steve and Jody’s kids. Well, I made each of their weddings, nearly as if I were family, which, I guess in some ways, I am. The lady’s wedding – Flora’s – I just attended  and I can use no other term than “lady” for this adored child because she is now all of that – was equal parts satisfying and shocking in the Evolving Time component. My visit to Santa Cruz for this affair was a virtual life highlight in so many different ways. Flora, after all, provided the middle name for my own daughter – so there is a debt of pure soul which my daughter and I were both able to experience again. I’m saying it was Big Huge Fun.

Everything about this delightful experience was equal parts “formally informal” and satisfying. From the flower girls’ excitement…….and if you enlarge any pictures, make these the ones!

To their strict and rapt attention to their tasks, they were small stars in a wonderful atmosphere.

Appropriately and tastefully warned off taking pictures during the ceremony, we were asked to enjoy this service for what it was: enchanting. And we very much did. As we found our way uphill to the ceremony site, one of the Abbott Brothers accompanied us on his plaintive, solo violin, playing soft ballads with a soulful spirit which was exchanged fully by the happy crowd.

The seating was by Divine Hands, with some machine help:

And the “service” was all human hands, making it even nicer still.

Flora sang to her Father’s guitar accompaniment, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – one of my all time favorite tunes and an amazing accomplishment considering the “stakes”, lol.

Darragh, an author-to-be with a nice fat advance for his project from the best Publishers in the world, read a moving poem aloud and his Dad produced the classic “Seasons” bit from Ecclesiastics……..”For every thing, there is a season……and a time to every purpose under Heaven”

Human, respectful, touching – we were rapt. It was just about perfect.

And we filtered to dinner, replete with a sense of love and inclusion in this very Californian setting at Pie Ranch, just up the Coast.

Pretty fun stuff………..let me praise and link for a moment what the Wedding Planner, Emily, achieved along with the more than able help of the Bares, Steve and Jody. Emily was a great good childhood friend of the family’s and she now has a very busy little industry going in the Bay Area – EnjoyEventsCo.com  -along these very lines. She and her operation were magnificent.

The Abbott Brothers supplied the fabulous barefoot Bluegrass music which accompanied the affair as people filtered down to the expertly-arranged tables as dinner commenced and the various touching speeches were made. Here’s a link to them on youtube, check ’em out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0ZBzi3blAU

We milled around, drinking deep of one another’s company for a while, many of us reunited after nearly 20 years, for the first time, all curious about one another and enjoying a rekindled love – a very tight group of Viet Nam vets, wives and children, tiny kids, old friends, new ones spanning generations and interests like a virtual Encyclopedia of The Human Experience. Chris Moran was so delighted to reunite with us that she broke down and cried. It might have been my very best part of all.

The Barn Dance/Reception was next. After experiencing the coastal fog, man, we were ready to get indoors and jive. It began slowly………with some super Schmaltzy Lovin’.

The Father Of The Bride, a well-known boogie artist himself, further delighted us by getting down to the Funk………

And then it was “ON”!

Dam……..this band was plain badass, lol. They were specialists in “funk”, offering an impossible-to-decline dancing opportunity. Let’s face it – when you take a moment and look around and suddenly realize that a full 90% of those present are on the dance floor, “shaking that booty”, you have a massive “success”. I was personally delighted to work a bit on ‘The Swim’, a task I had neglected but which gained immeasurably this night. The International Crowd was delighted. In fact, as a testament to Pure Fun, here they lift our spirits – and the Bride – to yet new heights!

And then the face-painting commenced.

Some quite tasteful…..

And a few – well – not so much.

Fortunately, I declined.

After all, it’s not as if I had not paid the severest face-painting dues to many in this very same crowd, just 20 short years before this night (see how many you can recognize here, lol):

Yes, it is I, the infamous trauma-inducing Adolf Hitler of Easter Rabbits.

Be afraid…………….be very afraid. (Most kids were!) 😉

On my way out of town, in the San Jose airport, while grabbing a bite, I feel a tug on my sleeve and this: “Hey, Sned!!” It was Darragh, the groom, with Flora, also on their way to distant climes (Quito, Ecuador, in fact). It added a wonderful irony and an opportunity to spend just a few more minutes with this exciting couple of very creative souls, racing my pulse with another photo opportunity. Which I took advantage of liberally.

I feel undeservedly rich in friends and now, here I am, deeper than ever.

What a superb experience.