He Was a Good Dude… Back In the Day
There is a distance between us now. We are separated by more than space, more also, by more than time. We used to run together. He was care-free and strong. He smiled more than I do now. Though he knew so little about the world, he seemed to have it, as they say, by the tail. Depending on how you look at the world, it might seem that he is gone forever, or it may be that he is as close to me as he ever was. We can leave that one to the thinkers of big thoughts on such matters.
What I remember most about him, a memory that makes me smile to this day, was seeing him lay on his parents driveway one summer night in 1987, with no shirt, no care in the world, and listening to a new Sammy Hagar cassette. His mother and father gave him a new radio/cassette player with a back lit display and two new speakers for his recently rebuilt car, as a birthday gift. He just listened. There were songs of peace, songs of love, and a song of some hammer falling down. If I remember correctly, he shed a tear or two when he heard about eagles flying.
His days were spent that summer playing basketball in the mornings alone in that same driveway, and in the afternoons he would ride his used ten speed to play pick up games at a local Catholic school’s outdoor court. He did not know what would happen in life and he never really stood a chance. He loved Jesus. He loved his family. He thought he loved a girl he had met during the school year. He was so uncool, he was cool. He never cared about money, but knew somehow, it was a necessary evil. He was happy.
Though he was born twenty years too late, he fancied himself a hippy. He did not look the part, but he listened to the Woodstock soundtrack and Bob Dylan regularly, dreaming of what it must have been like back in the day. Anyone that met him noticed his smile and his genuine interest in their story. He collected those stories in his heart. He poured over them each night in what he considered prayer. There was a spark in his eyes and in the way he lived.
I miss the man, even though he was only a man by virtue of his age. He was not meant for this world. He had so much to learn. I wonder sometimes if he learned too much. Did he drown in a sea of what those at the university call education? Was his spirit killed by mothers of teens in a church program? Did his first marriage make him distrust every relationship that followed? Most likely, he just stepped aside, as other versions of him took were born.
On nights where I find the time, I look him up. We talk over things and try to make decisions that will help both the world he knew, and the world I now know. He could not exist in my world today, but I like his perspective. His time has passed, but he is amazed every time he sees what has happened to me. He does not bemoan the hard times. His motto was always, “If it won’t matter in 100 years, don’t worry about it”. He is still in awe of the world. He is still in awe of God. He still, believe it or not, thinks he can help others.
Like I said, I like his perspective. He helps keep the mystery of living alive. And just as I know my current self will help my future self, my 18 year-old self, helps me now. With the click of a computer mouse controlling a cursor hovered over that Sammy Hagar album, he comes to me and asks, “What is the matter? Why do you worry? Will it matter in 100 years?”.
We are tempted to think we have “matured” and have things figured out. The tough news is that we do not. Just ask your 18 year old self, who more than likely, had a better understanding of what was important than your current self. We may have more things, but we are not any better or worse than any version of ourselves we once were. The great news is this. It is not for us to figure things out. It is for us to observe our lives, to share happiness, and to be grateful. And of these, being grateful is the most important.
Did you catch that? Did you notice? Did you miss that last miracle? It was that last breath. This is enough for which to be thankful. Another chance. Another breath. Use your power, your miraculous, wonderful life, for good. You are the hope of, and for, the world around you. Be thankful for that, and those in your life, who were the hope of, and for, your world. Look at every day with new eyes. Be a beginner. Forget what you knew and look only for goodness, kindness, and mercy. My guess is, that is what you will find.