Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Summertime Thing

The summer sun was cold in 2009. Spring lasted for far too long and bouts of rain punctuated New England through the month of July. When summer did finally arrive, few were the days that I drove around with the car-top down and the radio on. Yet, when I did, I was always glad to find this song playing across the dial.

This is my favorite song of the Summer of 2009.*

*Which only beat out this song as my favorite.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Moments of Silence

I was just leaving my office to get coffee when the first radio broadcast telling us that "a plane" had flown into the World Trade Center was met with chuckles. "What idiot could fly a small plane into that big building?" Ted said aloud. Still, we were unsure what was happening, even as we watched live footage of the smoking tower on TVs in the office next door. Then we watched in horror as another plane hit the Towers, quickly proving this was no joke - or accident. Confusion reigned in our office. Too many questions; too few answers. However, after we heard that the Pentagon had been hit then all bets were off. The unthinkable became the now.
We were under attack.
Katie and I lived in Jamaica Plain and we had access to the Orange line, commuter rail and even a cab, if necessary. We volunteered to stay behind in the office so that people who lived further away could leave earlier. I felt that I should stay at work as long as possible - phones being critical services and all that. I wanted Katie to leave; she wouldn't. We were two of the last people to leave the office. We exited the building onto Franklin Street. We were shocked by what we heard.
The city was silent. There were no horn blasts, no cars speeding through red lights and no sounds from anyone on the street. White, puffy clouds passed through bright blue skies and the temperature was warm. A late summer day with a hint of Autumn in the air. It was a beautiful day. As people silently walked passed us heading towards South Station I stood on the corner of Franklin and Congress, wondering when the next airplane would fall from the sky.
And I was afraid.
"My daughter lives too far away" I thought as I contemplated the end of the world. Too many people I loved lived too far away from me.
Our train ride home was silent, too. The click-clack of the train wheels the only sound louder than my heart which was pounding in my chest.
As we exited Forest Hills the silence was shattered by the sound of a fighter jet streaking over the city. We knew all air traffic had been grounded. The sight of this attack craft searching the skies a grim hint of the hours and days ahead.
We arrived home and called our families. I called Jenna, who had arrived home safely from school. I called my Dad, who was safe at home, too, and wondering what the world would look like tomorrow.
Like the rest of America, we stayed glued to our television sets, watching our lives unfold (and end) before us; watching our futures change before our eyes. Our silence was only punctuated by the horror of it all.
We cried as the Towers fell.
We cried a lot that day.
There are very few events of my lifetime that are burned into my consciousness: The notification from the doctors that Mom had died, the Challenger explosion, and now this. To this day film of the burning Towers fills me with a dread and sorrow that I can't explain. Scenes from movies that feature the Twin Towers in their skyline seem old, out-of-date, profane.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. It is the horror that stalks the shadows of my complacency and smugness. It is a living thing; a scar on my personal psyche as well as that of our country. It is the wound that never heals. I hope it never does.
Because as much as I want to forget it, I never want to forget September 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Following the Path

Six years ago I received a gift at my 20th high school reunion.
Not everyone received a gift that night. I'm sure that some did while others did not. I was one of the lucky ones.
I had just ordered drinks for my wife and I when a woman I knew a lifetime ago walked up next to me. We reintroduced ourselves and made small talk while the bartender made our drinks. My friend quickly caught me up on the last 15+ years of her life while I listened, amazed.
She had lived more in fifteen years than I had my whole life. She had her ups and downs but she was still standing in the ring, swinging and jabbing at whatever came her way. I complimented her on her appearance. She was always beautiful in high school and time had done nothing to diminish her beauty. There was still the same fire in her eye, depth to her laugh and sincerity of spirit. The years may have kicked her around a bit but, in the end, she was the same woman I knew so long ago.
It was a death that kept us together.
A fellow classmate died not long after our reunion. Thanks to the reunion committee, she was able to pass this information along to many at once. I knew she was close with our now-departed classmate. I sent her an e-mail of condolence, expressing my sympathy at her loss. And we began to talk. And talk. And talk.
Soon we were hip-deep in e-mail conversation.
We realized we shared much more in common then we ever had as kids. Back then I was a "skinny little nerd boy" (her words) and she was a "burnout" (not really, but she wasn't a prep, princess or jock so that's all that was left). Now we were adults, and our friendship once forged in the fires of high school now was now fully-formed with a lifetime behind us. We had our shared experiences even as we realized our paths had diverged somewhere along the way. Sure enough, our paths now rejoined further on along the bend. Now, we both enjoyed writing, wine and good books. We laughed at the same jokes and watched the same movies. We were comfortable with who and what we are. I could see the shadow of the friend I left behind in high school even as I marveled at the woman who was becoming my friend today.
Life intervened and she became our neighbor, living the next street over from the house we had recently sold in JP. We enjoyed drinks at James's Gate and cocktails at Costellos. We walked the streets for First Thursday and the paths of Forest Hills Cemetery for the Lantern Festival. We founded our 2nd book club together and we shared meals in each others home. We laughed when it was right to do so and we listened to each other when it was needed.
In short, she became my true friend.
I'm saying good bye to my old friend this weekend.
My friend has finally found what she has always looked for - even when she didn't know she was looking for it. She is following her heart - and her love - to Arizona. She has put her faith in the greatest gift she has - herself.
Selfishly, I wish she had found what she was looking for here and not there. Nevertheless, she has found it and I am truly, sincerely happy for her. While I am wishing her well, I realize that I will miss her presence at book club, around the dinner table, at the Gate and in my day-to-day life. Thankfully we will stay in touch with e-mail, cell phones and Facebook. She will never truly be gone yet she will always be a bit too far away.
Goodbye, dear friend. Thank you for finding your way back into my life.
Our paths have diverged once more.
Yet I know that we will meet again, just a little further on down the road.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be." - Douglas Adams