Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Bench

I have recently had two frequent requests from friends on social media. One is to turn my profile purple in order to honor those that have battled with cancer and also those who did their best but lost the fight.  I have done this not just because I think it is admirable of the people at Chevrolet to give up to a million dollars to fight this curse but also because I have played in this game too long and want to see it stop.  It was not hard decision to make. I watched too many of my friends and family wage against this; too many that I have loved and lost because of it.  Every little thing helps. I am willing to turn purple for a day for this.

The second request I have been receiving is this. It is about a bench and if you had an hour, who would you choose to sit with, who would it be?

I have written a couple of responses to people about this, but on a cold snowy night I came up with my best list. Here it is in ascending order.

I would sit with Joyce, Faulkner, Einstein, Picasso, Mozart, Churchill, Freud, Seeger and any other of the great minds in our history, just to learn from them.  An hour would not be nearly long enough but I would take it if that was all I got. My questions to them would be “Why? How?”

I would like to sit with my grandfather again and listen to his stories full of embellishments as they were, and to hear him sing me a lullaby as I fell asleep against his arm.  I would like to hear him say one more time that I was his boy, the son he did not have.  The same is true of my grandmother, the greatest woman, who put up with him, raised a beautiful daughter and then took on us and all our children when her daughter and husband were gone.

If the bench were big enough, I would sit in the grass and watch my five brothers and sisters, how they interact, argue, and laugh.  I love the tornado that is our loud and overlapping conversations, filled with intelligent ideas, opinions and trivia. I am blessed to come from a very smart and caring family. I would do anything for them. They do the same for me. I model them as I raise my own children.

I would like to sit with mother and tell her about how the 24 year-old man she left behind too soon became a good husband, father and man. I would like for her to tell me about her life and understand how it became my life. I would especially like it if my wife was there too, lying with her head in my mom’s lap, like she always did, listening to us and smiling.

I would like to be with my Dad and ask again for advice. It was something he always gave willingly and kindly but I can’t request anymore.  He always shared his life with me and I appreciate that, but questions still remain. It would have been nice to get those questions answered on a bench some afternoon. I know though, because he was a generous man, he would have answered any questions I asked. He always told us and promised that there was no question we had, regardless of what it was about, that he wouldn’t answer.

I’m not sure my children would sit on a bench with me because they are too restless and there are a lot of them.  Nevertheless, I would sit on a bench with any one of them, not just my three but any and all the kids that I have had the privilege to participate in raising or have mentored over the years.  There is no such thing as growing old when you have young people around you who treat you as their equal and engage you in new music, new movies, new literature, and all sorts of other ways of thinking about things. I like that they all have very strong values. I hope me and my wife had a part in that.

I would sit with my best friend for over 35 years who I still adore. I know I would still smile and laugh at anything Mrs. Campbell, as I call her, said and feel better about just about anything I felt bad about.

The ultimate person I would want to sit on a bench with is Karen, my wife and companion for more than half my life.  I imagine we would talk about how wonderful it is that we built a family, a home, a life together.  One that is good. I see holding her hand and talking about what the next chapter of our lives will look like now that some of the children have grown and gone on to their passions, and only one is still finding her fruit.  One hour would never be enough with her.  We would just have to plan that every morning and every evening we would spend one hour doing that and then string it together for the rest of our lives.

There is only one other that I haven't mentioned that I would want to spend one hour on a bench with. That is God. I can’t imagine what he would look like. I might not even recognize him if he sat down beside me. He may be rich or poor, old or young, black or white or something else. He might be a she. I have a feeling he would look a lot like me because he would want me to feel comfortable in talking to him.  Like the great minds of our civilization, I would have many questions of him.  I think I would probably ask him or her, the same question I would ask all other brilliant people, “Why?” As I played around with that in my mind and tried to think how God might respond to that, the only thing I could come up with was “Because.”  I thought I would probably respond like I did as a kid, as my daughter, Meredith, did when she was little, "Why because?"  The answer would be "Just because."  

 It’s a bad answer in some regards, but not really. It is a parent's answer. I have used it myself sometimes.  What is God, after all, if not a parent?  I think if I got an hour on the bench in the picture above with God I would take that answer and just sit, silently, enjoying the beautiful sun setting on another day, feeling grateful I am alive and that I got an opportunity to watch it with him (or her). I know that as parents we often say, "Just because." I also know it is shorthand for the full line which is, "Just because I love you."