Got up late this morning. 10 minutes before 6:30 – or 6:20, as they say. But have to be out of the house by 6:30 if I am to not be late.
Went to bed last night, and remember not setting my alarm. And thought, I’ll get up on time. A cat will disturb my sleep. Might even make it to my spinning class. Something will happen, my wife will notice my alarm not set and she will set it for me. Nothing to worry about, I’ll get up on time.
Well, my cat did pounce on me. But don’t know what time that was, because I went back to sleep. Put my arms behind my head in a posture as to support, but also shoosh the cat off my face with my elbows. It’s a basketball player’s sleep position.
Then rolled to my side. Toward the window. And noticed that the sun was coming through. Not to worry, I’ll get up on time. The sun is always rising a bit early this time of the year.
It is so nice to have actual seasons here in the Northwest. I think the days in the summer are close to 18 hours long with the sunlight. Maybe a bit less at the Solstice, but it’s close to that. With about 6 hours of dark.
And then in the winter it’s reversed. About 6 hours of day during the darkest time of the year.
Then you can catch up on so much sleep during winter, like a bear. It’s so much easier to hibernate during long periods of darkness. And so that’s why it’s so difficult to get to sleep early to be able to get up for that gym class at 5:30 am.
And then I sat up, put on glasses and looked at clock – it was 6:20. I had to get going quick!
So brushed my teeth and hair, threw on hat. Pair of jeans, Hawaiian shirt (its Hawaiian day at work today). Threw together some trail mix for breakfast, grabbed a cup of coffee (was already made – thanks!). And then took off.
Got to work on time even. With a minute to spare.
When I was maybe 9 or 10 years old a boy who went to our church died. Killed himself in a car accident. I think he was 16 or so. Nobody ever thought drugs were involved or anything. He had just fallen asleep at the wheel. Colin Raja. The Raja’s. He was driving home from dropping off his girlfriend and had fallen asleep.
That kind of grief affected the whole Raja family. And my dad would tell me they never got over it. I don’t think there is a way you can ever get over a death like that. 16 years old. He was Indian. They were from India – it was an Episcopal church. And he was very handsome. Attractive. Very athletic. I think he played soccer or cricket or something like that. I remember he would wear a white V-neck sweater to church on Easter Sunday and he was just so handsome and British – with his brown skin and white sweater, khaki pants.
But there is no way you can ever get over a grief like that. It is just too powerful.
I think it affected the whole church. He was my brother’s age, he was Pat’s age. And I think it must have affected their Youth Group (that I was too young to join at the time). Because people stopped going to that church. And that youth group just sort of faded away.
And it wasn’t just because of that, but that must have been one of the big reasons. I remember sitting in church on a Sunday morning with my family and maybe 4 other old, really old people in there too. That was it. Maybe just like 4 or 5 families, including ours.
And then we stopped going too.
I think it’s because I found a Lutheran church that was much closer to home than that. And they had a youth group I could belong to.
I remember mom would tell me as she would tuck me in to bed at night that she and her sister would go to a Lutheran church when they were little girls. That it was a part of their mother’s heritage; she was Norwegian, came to California from Wisconsin – but that she never went. It was just little Susie and Debbie – and I think they went with Aunt Mable. Grandma ‘B’ was always too sick to go. Or she just wasn’t into it. Whatever it was, Grandpa Don never went. And then he became Mormon.
Mom made me go to Confirmation class at that Lutheran church. I never wanted to do that, but now I am so glad she did. So glad to have that part of a Christian education. She never forced Pat or Timmy to go. And now neither of them goes to church. I wonder if that might be a reason why – they never were confirmed.
But I didn’t start going back to church until RJ was born. I remember it was a weird feeling to say, publicly admitting, that I am a Christian. That I am a Lutheran. We were at a dinner at Pastor Joes and telling our faith stories and I admitted I was a Christian. That was odd at the time.
I don’t know if I believe in all the miracles in the Bible, but I long to grow in faith. And the biggest miracle of all is that if you forgive someone, they are forgiven. It’s just that simple, really. As simple as love. Because that too is a miracle. In this world full of corruption and hate and fear and greed and death … to be able to have something like love still matter – and still be so powerful – it has to be a miracle. What else can it be?
Surely not some chemical reaction in the brain triggered by man’s living animal instincts to procreate, provide, have security, and eat. Consume.
Why do birds fly south in the Winter? Why do Salmon swim upstream in the spring? Why does man work hard to get more money to buy a bigger home, provide security and comfort for his family? It must be love. It has to be love.
When I was 11 or 12 I got to be a pretty good soccer player. There were some other guys that were joining this team, and they wanted to know if I wanted to join too. It wasn’t a Select Soccer team, but they got to pick who they wanted to play with. It was a little more competitive. And I was pretty good.
I was a defender. I would not let any balls get past me. And if they did, I would hustle my little white ass and take that ball back.
I would use my speed. I would use my desire to be faster. I would use my skill and my strength and my size. I would use my body to pound up next to the attacking wing (because I played on the right side) to strip the ball, take the ball back, and keep it away from our goal. I would slide tackle. I would sing Metallica songs at the top of my voice as I did this (“Die – by my hand – I sweep across the land – killing firstborn man”), and I would impose the opposing player. And we would win. More often than not.
We would drive across town, from East San Jose to the Westside. Or to the Southside. To Cupertino and to Palo Alto, Los Gatos and Saratoga. I was the only white-boy on the team. And we were, this group of kids, driven in the old green Plymouth Volare, or the VW Minivan, or whatever Toyota or Chevy or Ford our parents would be driving. Now, this is during the 80’s. So I’m sure there were some Hondas too. But the opposing team would come to the games in BMW’s and Mercedes, SUV’s, or whatever. Much nicer rides than ours. And their uniforms were better too.
But we would always drive home victorious. We would bully those white boys and take their soccer balls and win the game.
Jason St. John was the other white kid on our team. He was a midfielder. He was smaller, but fast. A read-headed streak, he would take the ball, run down fast on the left side, pass it over to Raul, and then be there for the rebound when Raul would shoot from the far left. And then Jason would score. Many times, many goals would come from Jason St. John.
Anyway, he died too. When we were 17 – we had all retired from playing soccer. It was the summer before our senior year at Silver Creek. He went ‘off-roading’ in the hills behind our house with 3 other kids from our senior class who I didn’t know. And their little Bronco or Blazer or whatever it was flipped over and all four kids died. Tragic. It affected our whole senior class. All year long, that graduating class was dedicated to their memories.
Jason’s dad was a police officer. We used to see him around town, all the time. Very close ties to the community. And his sister was a year or two older than us. She was a cheerleader. I had a crush on her. Cute, gorgeous redhead. I think everyone had a crush on her. We would see them around town all the time.
But after the accident, after the funeral, just not so much. I think they withdrew. They circled the wagons. We just never saw them around much after that. And then when you did – when I did – I just wouldn’t know what to say. What can you say? You just can’t get over something like that. It’s just too much. Here he was, this young man with so much potential in life. Good looking, active, athletic, funny, friendly, people liked to be around him – and then, just gone.
I don’t know why bad things happen to good people.
When I was 18 I drove into a light-pole. Christmas 1992. December 17, it was a holiday party at the pizza restaurant where I worked. A tradition for my bosses – to close down the restaurant and throw a party for their employees. Ausher and Ramsey and Simon, their dad. They loved their employees.
I don’t remember leaving the restaurant. Must be a blackout. I’ve had a few. But story goes, I went to Danny’s house who took care of me for a while and then gave me back my keys when I assured him was okay to drive, and that I would just drive home. But here is where the story gets murkier … I did not drive straight home. I drove to where I knew I could do some more extraneous partying. And I did. And from there I drove, loaded, over the hill. Over Yerba Buena hill toward my house. At about 85 miles per hour, and skidded across 2 lanes going the other direction and crashed into a lightpole. $120,000 light pole after insurance.
And that lightpole went right through my windshield. And it would have impaled me if I had been wearing my seatbelt. But I wasn’t, and was somehow able to squeeze down to my left, towards the driver side door. And broke my neck. Busted the C3, third clavicle from my brain stem. And tore ligaments in both my knees. Firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to get me out. Car was mangled.
And here I am today, alive and well and whining about not going to my spinning class because I can’t get up in time. Because I can’t get to sleep at a descent hour. Wearing my Hawaiian shirt at work, typing. With a job where I get to use my brain to figure out solutions to problems, and complain about low pay.
I am blessed. I am so blessed.
Making music, writing poetry and short stories in my spare time. Taking my kids to baseball practice and scout camp.
Figuring out if we have enough money for pizza tonight with my family. Firday night, I’ll do the dishes. Because I am blessed. And because they will need to get done.
And then I’ll get to my spinning class.