During a recent flight a man sat next to me and told me that he was tired of living a life in which he just passed through the days and did nothing to live a life of value and service.
It wasn’t the sort of conversation I wanted to have with a stranger, not even the kind you are unlikely to ever meet or see again.
Truth is, I was exhausted and didn’t want to talk to anyone.
The flight out of Dallas had been delayed and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and snore my way through the friendly skies but this guy had other ideas.
Even though he saw me take out my headphones and grab my book he never stopped talking. Most of the time I would have apologized for not wanting to talk and tried to sleep but I didn’t.
Not really sure why, I just didn’t do it.Most of the time I would have apologized for not wanting to talk and tried to sleep but I...Click To Tweet
This time around I decided if I was going to share something about myself and my life I would have fun. I figured I would make it all up as I went along.
When he asked me what I did I told him that I was a retired athlete and a professional storyteller who auditioned to be James Bond at 25 and was told I was too young for the part.
I said that I spent much of my life on airplanes moving between Texas and the West Coast and that occasionally I would hit the East but that I tried to avoid it because I don’t like snow.
He told me he understood that and said he had grown up in a township in New Jersey and gone to high school somewhere in Philadelphia.
“I’ll be 55 on my next birthday but I’ll be working until I am a 120, not because I want to but because I got remarried and my wife wants more kids. She is 31 and can’t imagine only having two boys.”
I smiled and nodded my head and watched as he took a long sip of the Rum and Coke he had ordered. But he didn’t start talking again, just went silent for a while so I took that as a cue to get some rest.
Are You Living Life Or Just Passing Time?
Something about the conversation reminded me of Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt. Maybe it is because so much of what he said sounded like it could have been part of the song.
He sounded sad and defeated and I wondered why he didn’t do anything to mix things up and see what happens.
A piece of me wanted to scream something at him that the boys and I have passed back and forth.
“You are not a fucking tree that is rooted to one place. It is your choice to stand still or to move.”
Granted it is always easy for us to fix another person’s problems. Always easy to maintain perspective when they have none but he and I weren’t/aren’t friends so I just let him ramble.
But I also made a mental note to myself to never forget the sentiment and that I am not a tree.
It is an expression I have shared with the kids too, but they have heard the sanitized version.
How Did The Children Learn Those Words
If you ask my kids where they learned how to curse they’ll probably point their finger at me before their mother. It is not because she doesn’t use the saltier terms but because their old man is freer with them.
But if you ask me where and how I learned those words I’ll point my finger at my old man. Sorry dad, but if I know anything about us it is that you and grandpa will blame your fathers too.
So consider a time honored tradition I am following, a lack of accountability for silly stuff.
Anyway, I have made a point to teach and remind my children about the importance of language and how you can use those words effectively.
Best to try and be sparing so that when you do use them they retain some impact.
Speaking of the children, I learn all sorts of interesting things from them too, like I don’t have a clue how to help them with common core math.
Ok, that is not entirely true, it just takes longer for me to read the textbook and solve the sample problems.
Who Is Madonna?
Speaking of things we teach and learn I have been working on the kids’ musical taste and trying to introduce more of the music I prefer to listen to.
They can listen to whatever they want in their rooms or with their earbuds in but in the car musical choices tend to revolve around my preferences.
Call it a perk of fatherhood.
Anyhoo, the other day we were listening to some songs on an Amazon Prime playlist and they were laughing because I couldn’t name half of the stuff they played.
So then I played some of my selections and watched them scrunch up their faces and tell me they thought they recognized the old stuff, but wasn’t sure.
I made a point to run through a wide variety so we hit the 60s, 70s and 80s. They recognized a bunch of it and then my daughter asked me who one person was.
After I answered she looked at me and said, “Who is Madonna? She must not be famous or just really old.”
I told her that when I turn eleven I hope I am as smart as she is. She just shook her head and laughed, “dad, you are losing it.”
Do me a favor and try not to tell I her I never had it.
Those little moments, they are the ones that make it clear to me that I am not passing through life. Might not be exactly as I want right now, but it is moving in the right direction.
I should have told the guy on the plane, “Don’t be a tree.”