Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just Thinkin' Out Loud

There really isn't anything terribly remarkable about this evening.

It's just an ordinary Wednesday. As Jimmy Stewart observed in "Rear Window," the calendar is full of 'em.

But that calendar runs out on everyone eventually. That's something of which I have been reminded far too often in recent years, and it's something we all know we'll have to face ... someday. We alone among the creatures who walk or swim or fly on this planet possess the intelligence to know that our days are numbered.

That knowledge can be as much of a curse for some people as it is a blessing for others. I have known people who feared — and I do mean feared — death, and I have known people who welcomed it — the sick and the elderly.

When you think about it, there really isn't much people can leave behind except their appreciation for the things they hold dear. They can only hope that someone will pick them up like a fallen baton.

Most people have children with whom they can share their passions for things or activities. In my family, my brother was more like my father. They liked to build things with their hands. I leaned more to the things my mother liked — books, music, that sort of thing. Both of my parents were creative. They were just creative in different ways.

Mom encouraged my passion for writing, which had a lot to do with my choice of journalism as my profession. And i wouldn't trade the years I worked as a reporter and an editor for anything in the world, but I often think that, without realizing it, I made a trade that will always make my life experiences different from those of most of my friends.

Relationships never seemed to thrive for me when I was in my 20s, and I was working five nights a week (including weekends and holidays) for a morning paper or getting up at 4 in the morning to get to work at an afternoon paper by 5:30. There was a time in my life when I really wanted to get married and have a family — but I never had the experience of being a parent, as so many of my contemporaries did.

But I did kind of experience it by proxy.

My best friend from my high school days and his wife at the time made me the godfather of their daughter, Nicole. It is, I believe, the greatest gift anyone has ever given me — or will ever give me.

I didn't see much of Nikki when she was a little girl, and that is something I deeply regret, but we have communicated a lot in the last few years, and I have tried to pass on to her some of the things I have learned, some of the things that I value.

She and I often exchange thoughts via Facebook, where she frequently posts quotes from writers and other creative types. She reminds me of Mom when she does that, and it makes me realize, in a way that little else could, that Mom died far too soon.

Mom died before the internet really blossomed commercially, but I have no doubt that she would have embraced things like Facebook, sharing quotes that she found meaningful and/or intriguing with her friends.

She was the one who introduced me to many of the writers whose works I cherish today — Mark Twain, Allen Drury, Joseph Heller. One memorable summer when I was in college, we discovered the writings of Stephen King together and exchanged his books all summer long.

I've tried to share some of my passions with Nikki — like this evening, for example. Nikki quoted Jim Morrison on Facebook, and I mentioned that she should listen to some of his music if she hasn't done so. She indicated — as one can do on Facebook — that she liked my comment.

I don't know if she has listened to the Doors' music or not. She must have at least some exposure to it if she is quoting Morrison.

I mentioned the other day that I felt her tastes were very literary, and she indicated that she liked that, too. I teach writing at the local community college, and I found myself wishing, as I often do, that Nikki lived close enough to enroll in one of my classes. It would be a lot of fun for both of us.

I know that won't happen, though, but I will continue to encourage these things in my goddaughter that I saw in my mother.

And perhaps those things that meant something to Mom and also mean something to me will be passed along to her. Maybe she will pass them on to her son, and he, in turn, will pass them on to his children.

In that way, I can experience what most of my friends have experienced, and, in a way, I can live on after I'm gone.

Well, it's worth trying, don't you think?

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