When they came in 2013 it was just me living here. Got a call from them the day they left Cleveland letting me know about how long it would be before they made it from there to here.
Told them that it seemed like more than a few people left Cleveland for Texas and wished them a safe journey.
Cue my buddy the younger Dylan and sing along with him, “Man, I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same.”
By the time they made it here the second time I thought of it as being more like the first time because of the things that happened and the impact those made upon me.
We hit a Texas Roadhouse the first night of their second first time trip because they were tired and there was one five minutes from the house.
That meal took much longer than expected because the wait staff dropped the tray with our meals and they had to redo it all.
11.5 months later we returned to the scene of the crime for mom’s last meal before she goes back to LA and though I knew there wouldn’t be evidence of my father’s brief visit there I looked.
The empty peanut shells on the floor weren’t his, but if he was here they would have been.
I found the owl sitting in his normal perch and asked him to share some of his wisdom with me but all got was a loud ‘who.’
“If I took this stone and brained you with it the answer to your question would be me.”
The bird didn’t understand or care about my foul response to his failure to share and so I shrugged my shoulders and told him he could make it up by listening.
“Your real best friend, the one who you share more with than anyone may leave you high and dry. They may walk away and go dark. You may founder in the silence and then be surprised by their unexpected and unheralded return.
One day they are gone and then one day they are back. Makes no sense if you apply logic to it so you have to let that go and say they went on a spiritual walkabout.
Or fuck it, you went on the walkabout and you don’t need to get a long explanation because they can’t explain why they left any more than you can explain why you asked them back or how they just did it.
That is cuz your ‘real’ best friend doesn’t operate off of standard social practice and that is what makes it cool. There is magic there.”
That fucking bird still didn’t say more than ‘who’ nor did he have the decency to nod his head like he was paying attention.
So I said fuck it and continued.
“I’d give them the biggest goddamned hug they have had in a month and a day or whatever time frame best describes such things in ways that aren’t cheesy but respectful.
And they’d probably like it better than they could say cuz sometimes you can’t speak but it wouldn’t matter because they would understand and I would understand, we’d understand. Sometimes that is all you need, to look someone in the eye and allow them to see you while you see them.”
There is a Facebook group that memorializes a pizza place in Jerusalem that I often think of as being the original social network.
A thousand years ago when I was a younger man wandering around the Holy Land with a million other teenagers we would drop in to grab a slice of pizza and leave a note on the message board there.
It was how some friends knew to meet me at Champs so we could watch that Live Aid concert that sounded like it would be so cool.
A place where a kid from LA could let his cousin from South Bend know how to find him while standing in the midst of people from a million different backgrounds.
The Reform dude from Boston and the Chabadnik from Brooklyn talked to each other and laughed as the Brits, South Africans and South Americans made fun of each others accents.
It was hard not for it to feel like a time of endless potential and possibility. There were no kids or parents to worry about and retirement was far off and uninteresting to those who hadn’t put decades of labor into careers.
The family at the table to my right had an infant who sat in high cheer and alternated between eating and making assorted baby noises.
I looked at him and at the the two teens sitting across from me and smiled.
One complained that her hands were too similar to mine.
“At least I don’t have your sausage fingers, but my hands are still too big.”
I rolled my eyes at her and smiled.
“My hands don’t look big until I see them compared to my friends, but they are still not as big as yours.”
I smiled at my son and wished him good luck.
“You expect to be taller than me, better expect those paws to be bigger too.”
He made a face and I looked at the baby to my right.
Eighteen years ago I sat in Lamaze class and listened to the instructor tell the new fathers to be to be prepared for the possibility that their sons/daughters could show up early.
Mine did, the kid whose hands are virtually my size ambled in and made me smile. Made me wonder too if the older parents had lied about how fast it goes.
They didn’t and now that I can almost see the flip side of the beginning I wonder again about other things.