Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Aging FanBoyWonder

"Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

"Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain. You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

"And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinkingAnd racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're olderShorter of breath and one day closer to death

"Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the timePlans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled linesHanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. The time has gone the song is over, thought I'd something more to say."

--Time from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

With that stirring introduction, we announce that today FanBoyWonder is 37-years old. We’ve been having a real problem with our birthday this year—with turning 37. We’re not exactly sure why—37 being a nice round number and all.

There’s a line from a Billy Joel song that we can’t help but remember—“I`m young enough to still see the passionate boy that I used to be; But I`m old enough to say I got a good look at the other side…”

Although we’re closer to 40 now than we are to 30, we don’t think this is a mid-life crisis in the brewing. This is not like James T. Kirk mourning his birthday to Bones in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, but as we see the flecks of unmistakable gray in our beard, we’re struck with a feeling of….. “what already?”

Maybe another favorite quote of ours from Indiana Jones is more fitting—“It ain’t the years, it’s the mileage.”

Being a 30-something grandpa to Brianna the Girl Wonder—and as we’ve recently been told, a grandson on the way in addition—we fully realize puts us in a strange box.

We’re WAAY too young for AARP or Social Security (whatever’s left after the boomers suck it dry), but we used to relish being Brianna The Girl Wonder’s Dziadziu (ja-JEW—Polish for “Grandpa”) when in fact, if not name, we were acting the part of her father. That is until circumstances changed and neither acting fathers, nor maternal grandmothers, get a vote (at least one that counts) in decisions that affect the child’s health or welfare.

Losing Brianna (again) has been NOT easy to deal with—for either Mr. or Mrs. FanBoyWonder. When that and other losses seem to come all at once, it gets all too easy to look at the glass as half empty.

Inspiration & Renewal at the Cemetery

That’s when we look around for perspective. For that, we look to our good friend Dr. Bill Marcus—Dr. Bill and FBW share the same birthday. Today, Bill is 78 years old but he easily looks 20 years younger. This retired surgeon and one-time champion gymnast and remains fully capable of flipping FanBoyWonder like a cheese omelet.

Bill has always reminded us of Al Pratt, the original/Golden Age Atom http://www.dcdatabaseproject.com/Atom_(Al_Pratt) from the Justice Society of America. If we can manage to look half as good and have a quarter of Bill’s zest for life as we get older, we’ll be doing quite all right for ourselves.

Determined not to indulge in a pity party but rather to simply step away from the rat race for a day, we treated ourselves to a vacation day from work. Too hot to go hiking, we got up at dawn and drove to Mt. Olivet Cemetery http://www.mountolivetcemeteryinc.com, a favorite walking place for us.

With Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (naturally) in our headphones, we walked laps around and through the several square-mile graveyard as the sun rose.

Cemeteries by design are solemn places but they can also be places of inspiration and renewal if your mind is open and your eyes are sharp.

Dating back the 1850s, every one of the stones, markers, tablets and plaques represents a person—a life either played out to its natural end or suddenly curtailed.

Among Mt. Olivet’s more famous “residents” include Francis Scott Key, the author of the Star Spangled Banner, and Thomas Johnson, Maryland’s first governor and one of the original Supreme Court Justices named by President Washington.

They both have ample monuments to their life and achievements but for most everyone else, all they leave behind here is a marker with a name and dates. Some no longer even have that as time and the elements have made the identities of those interred unreadable and lost to history.

As we read the markers while we walked, some people were born or died on historic dates, others on dates that held personal meaning for us. It makes us realize that life is busy and vast.

Right now in this moment that we are sharing—us the writer, you the reader—someone’s journey is ending or perhaps only just beginning. The cycle of life. Some have it better, others have it worse. It’s all perspective….perspective and appreciation.

Speaking of perspective, as we indulged in our birthday retrospective, we remembered that in Minnesota there are families coping with the loss of loved ones whose only fault was to get in their cars and drive about their lives—wrong place, wrong time.

It makes one wonder, just how much of our basic everyday health and safety and welfare depends upon the honesty, work ethic and just plain competence of the contractor who submits the lowest competitive bid?

Just a warm thought to ponder next time you cross a bridge, step onto an elevator, drive through a tunnel or ingest anything imported from China.

Ground Zero

As noted above, we often walk Mt. Olivet when the treadmill at the gym seems too boring or when we just want a change of pace and a quiet, lovely place to walk—so we know it well.

But there is one sector of the cemetery that we go out of my way to avoid—it’s a place called Babyland.

Babyland is the section where infants and small children are interred. Babyland is Ground Zero for every parent’s worst nightmare.

Until today, I haven’t been here since the day I found it during a walk. Sadly, but inevitably I suppose, Babyland has grown since the first time I was here a couple years ago—more “residents.”

Unlike the rest of the burial ground, every single marker here represents a tragedy. Promise unfulfilled.

Some of these babies would be my parents’ age. One little boy shared my birthday just three years earlier. Today he would be 40. Would HE be pissing and moaning about his birthday or would he see glass as being half full?

He died the same day he was born and didn’t live long enough for a name. But it’s okay—God knows.

The markers are all tough to look at but the toughest is “Baby Paige.” Paige shares the exact same birth date as Brianna—they were born within hours, perhaps within minutes of each other. Perhaps she was born in the same hospital as Brianna, perhaps in the next room.

Perhaps Brianna and Paige shared their very first dream. Baby Paige lived not quite six months. Brianna recently turned 6-years-old.

The first time I saw Paige’s marker, I felt tears then like an unexpected and uncontrollable tidal wave. I cried and cried and cried. I did not know Paige and I never will but I knew/know why I cried—it is but for the Grace of God that one child does live and while another child does not.

By definition all of these children were innocent. Too young to be saints or sinners. What could they have possibly done to deserve this?????? The answer is nothing. Life AND death is fickle and most definitely NOT FAIR.

Today I did not cry but I did bow my head, remove my ball cap and say a silent prayer. Even as I pray for this lost soul, I ask God to watch over MY little girl.

I know that the next time I come back to Mt Olivet; I will again give Babyland a wide berth.

We miss Brianna terribly and think about her every single day since she left again—it’s painful knowing she is growing up and we are no longer a part of that everyday—but we KNOW we will see her again and she is as close as our nearest phone. By the Grace of God, she has a future.

These past couple birthdays have been more about loss and heartache than celebration for us. And things promise to get worse before they get better as there are some tough choices ahead that have to be made.

Yet it takes walking through a cemetery to make us realize that as long as there is life, there is hope. Hope comes from faith and a positive state of mind.

Life isn’t always a box of chocolates. Sometimes it’s as nasty as a turd sandwich. Sometimes life just plain sucks. Life sucks, then you die. Those are the two choices—will it be Door No. 1 or Door No. 2?

Red (Morgan Freeman) from The Shawshank Redemption said it best—“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”


Anonymous Jeff Mac said...

Happy and healthy birthday, man. I just hit 37 about a month and a half ago, and yes, it's a weird one, isn't it?

Hang in there, FBW. Sounds like you've got a lot on your plate for 37, and it also sounds like you've got a fantastic attitude about it. Hang in.

And if the band you're in starts playin' different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon. (My favorite album of all time, by the way.)


5:55 AM, August 08, 2007  
Blogger FBW said...

Hey Mac,

As you well know, Dark Side of the Moon is the greatest rock concept album EVER.

Thanks for the kind words and for taking the time away from your own fine Website Manslations http://manslations.com to stop by and say hello.

If Red’s sage advice doesn’t work, I figure I’ll try Plan B—“Life Sucks, Get A F**king Helmet” by Dr. Dennis Leary, author of “Shut The F**k Up”—a revolutionary new form of therapy.

“I'm not happy. I'm not happy." Nobody's happy, ok!? Happiness comes in small doses folks. It's a cigarette, or a chocolate cookie, or a five second orgasm. That's it, ok! You c*m, you eat the cookie, you smoke the butt, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and go to f**king work, ok!? That is it! End of f**king list! "I'm just not happy." Shut the f**k up, allright?”

See…I feel better already.


6:04 PM, August 08, 2007  

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