Saturday, September 6

Done Right

I've felt really good about three things in particular lately. They aren't really connected, but perhaps I can "tie the room together." Perhaps not.

First is our kids. We apparently raised them right.  They both came home for the Minnesota State Fair this year, and they both took time out of their busy lives to spend Labor Day with us at the cabin. Because they wanted to, not due to any begging or pleading on our parts. Though we would have been perfectly willing to cajole, if not beg.

I acknowledge that the primary draw may have been the joy of a Donna's pork rib sandwich.

But it really felt good to have them make the trips. The fair has been an annual tradition for our family for their entire lives - as it has been for many Minnesotans. And it's a great event.  People from all parts of society, getting together for a cornucopia of varied treats. Food. Animals. Art. Trinkets and gadgets. People watching.

And family time at the cabin, another lifelong tradition. As it always has, the "family" expands and contracts depending upon the weekend. But it's so good to spend time with them and enjoy the wonderful people they have always been and continue to be.

Second, Kate and I spent a quiet but practically perfect day yesterday. Yuppie coffee and the paper. Followed by a trip to the Y for Body Shred and Core Conditioning classes (the aches in my arms, shoulders and butt this morning make it likely that it will be harder to have a practically perfect day today). Then a rousing game of PickleBall - a court game we had never heard of played with a Whiffle Ball and low net with Ping Pong rules, more or less. A Costco and Cub run to pick up some food needs. In a probably doomed attempt to help me look better, Kate went with me to the "Hurtburger's" black dot sale - where we bought nine or ten shirts (with a commitment that I will turn into rags or give to Goodwill a similar number of my current shirt inventory). Then a movie (more on that in a minute). Walking through a garden store.  Discussing the movie and life. A quiet dinner. Then another movie at home (partly to watch an earlier movie of the female lead in our afternoon movie). Conversation. Laughs. Tears (from the movie). Exercise. Just a nice quiet day spent together.

Thirdly, Kate and I have started going to movies lately, and we've seen some good ones. I found "Boyhood" just amazing. Such a fresh and original approach. Really a collection of moments from the life of a boy as he grows to be young man. The choice to film it over a long period of time created possibilities that most films don't have. At at least for me it really resonated. No grand, cataclysmic epiphanies.  Just a long string of moments which had a nice progression and growth but without too much effort to "tie the room together."  The whole "present moment, only moment" philosophy has always made sense to me.  I have a little sheet of paper in my office which says only "E I +".  It's a reminder to myself to try to make every interaction positive.  Not happy or laughing, necessarily. Just an attempt to remind myself to pile up positive moments - the stuff life is made of.

Then yesterday, we went to "The Fault in Our Stars" - based on a "teen novel", I guess.  One I will have to read.  About two teenagers with cancer, their developing relationship, their world views, and more. There is nothing much more sad than young people with cancer, I suppose.  But there is also much to be learned from thinking about in what direction a potentially terminal illness leads you. Obviously, having experienced cancer at the "young" age of 48, this is subject I've thought about quite a bit. And I thought the filmmakers (and I'm guessing the author of the book) did a wonderful job. At least, their approach really resonated with me and my cancer experience. There was one line about how Gus (the male lead) was made up of both his tumor and his heart. It's probably lost on most viewers. But it was something I thought about a lot when I was sick. The tumor is you - or part of you. The whole "battle with cancer" metaphor, used so often, is for me missing the point a bit. [Note: please do NOT put it in my obituary. I'd be happy to have the phrase "he lived with cancer for ___ years" in my obituary (hopefully with the blank filled in with a 68).] For me at least, I dislike the idea that the only successful approach to cancer is to "beat" it by not dying from it. I thought then and think now that there is great value in living well with cancer. Or, more accurately, in living well. With love and laughter. Treating every moment like the precious thing it is. Surprisingly hard to do. Even if you've had a potentially fatal illness and should know better. And the movie does a good job making the point that we all have a limited time to live, but doing so quietly and with humor. So where does that take you? In the end, at least for me, the movie says it takes you to love. To making the most of your "small infinity" - in the parlance of the book. 

And in a futile attempt to tie this disparate room together, maybe we didn't raise Madeline right. She recommended the book to Kate but not to me. Maybe she knew that in my own way I had already read it.