Saturday, March 26, 2011

Our Weekend in Heaven

A friend of mine posted a video on facebook yesterday.

I saw it and watched it this morning with my cup of coffee.

It was a country music song called “If heaven weren’t so far away”. In it – the singer talks about how he would pack up his family for a day and go visit all the people he cared about that passed away.

What a powerful thought, eh…?

If you could just pile up the family in a car and go visit heaven?

Needless to say, we all have our list of people we would go see.

Imagine … contrary to John Lennon’s song … that heaven was within driving distance.

Who would you go visit?

I would introduce my lovely wife Darlene and my two little girls to my Dad. We would pick up my Mom in Pensacola along the way.

We would find Dad sitting in the cockpit of his sail boat – likely a 30 foot Coronado or a C&C. Dad would be reading a book by Neville Shute as we approached, and he would sit the book down and come out onto the dock to greet us with hugs. And I would introduce him to my family. We would tell him about all that has happened to us since he passed – my Mom sitting by his side and hugging him with all she has to hug with.

He would tell us that it was too bad we just missed my Brother Paul and his family – who just left for the drive back to Baton Rouge.

We would probably go to a ball diamond. And have a little infield practice. Dad would teach the girls to charge a ground ball to take it on the short hop, to step through a throw. And he would spend hours with them working on their batting stances while Mom (who is now eighty) would lob pitches to them from the mound. This activity would end when Dad finally had both girls consistently hitting line drives over the short stop and second basemen.

We would return back to the boat, where Dad and I and Darlene would get out the sails and set the riggings. We would cast off the dock and set sail across the waters of heaven to the spot on a remote beach where my Uncle Fred and Aunt Sheila had set up a campsite – my grandfather Papa would be sitting on a lawn chair whittling and enjoying a small plug of chewing tobacco.

And I would re-introduce my family to Papa and ask Uncle Fred and Aunt Sheila if they remembered Alannah and Ashley-Rae.

And Papa would regale us all with his stories of being a young man and his adventures in the 1920s working in Detroit.

And suddenly, my Grandmother would appear out of a tent from a nap – and I would run to her and hug and ask her if she knew who I was?

Why yes” , she would say with a faint Irish lilt in her voice, “you’re little Freddy! I haven’t seen you since you were nine years old”.

And we would sit there around the camp fire that Uncle Fred kept just at the perfect size – late into the night until the morning came. And we would never feel sleepy.

What a wonderful weekend it would be, sitting and talking and remembering. Laughing and joking. And Papa would be sitting over to the side with Alannah and Ashley-Rae explaining to them how important honesty and integrity are and to be the best person you can be.

I would ask so many questions that I have held to myself that I would have asked my Dad. Questions about how to better myself professionally, about what we should really be doing with our finances, about all of those things.

And everytime I would light a cigarette – my Dad would join me – and explain to me how stupid smoking is while I am still alive. He might even go so far as to say that being able to smoke again is the best part about heaven. I don’t know.

Keep smoking over there, it’ll kill yer yet”, would holler my Grandmother.

I’m already dead Ma”, would say my Dad.

But Freddy isn’t”, she would reply.

Dad would look at me as if to say, “she’s right ya know, this stuff will kill you. Look at me

And being the smart ass I am – I would reply “you like fine to me Dad!”. And I would light another.

Stupid asses”, my Uncle Fred would say.

The next morning we would all climb on Dad’s boat to sail back to his dock where we had parked the car. Along the way, my Mom would tell my Dad about the lovely July night in 1991 when we took Dad’s ashes to a beautiful point on Lake Huron and spread his ashes around the light tower by the water’s edge and the amazing outside steak and lobster benefit barbecue we came across in a small town church yard as we were leaving.

How perfect that was.

I know”, would say Dad. “I was with you”.

Imagine how much easier our lives would be to carry on after the loss of someone so dear to us left us behind for the wondrous life in heaven that would follow.

To know they are in fact okay. To let them know that we are okay.

To know what is in store for us after this life is truly worth the effort of living this life to the best of our abilities; to re-instill that dedication to try harder.

To know that they are not gone.

But in the end, as the song describes, the hardest part would be watching those you love in the rear view mirror waving so hard as you drive away.

But you would know that you would be back … someday … somehow.

And next weekend we would make plans to go and visit Darlene’s Grandparents.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami of Inevitable Change

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am a fan of how the Internet connects us all around the world.

The power of what we once called the World Wide Web has been made even more evident to me over the last few weeks.

Tonight I have spent a great deal of time watching the horrible tragedy afflicted on Japan from the Richter scaled 8.9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that engulfed their northeast coastline. I watched it on the Internet.

Then it spread across the Pacific Ocean and hit the western coast of the United States and Canada, albeit much weaker.

And it dawned on me …

Over the recent months we have watched as the peoples of North Africa, Egypt, and then Libya found their countries entrenched in the “I’m madder than hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore” level of protests that has or will toppled those governments.

It spread like a tsunami across the Middle East – with little sign of slowing. Protests today were held in Saudi Arabia.

A tsunami ensuing after an earthquake whose epicenter is global and webbed together by Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites.

I am not commenting at all on what they were protesting for. Nor what they hope to accomplish. That is not where my wonderment lies.

Basically, they want change.

Instead I am in awe of how merely being connected evolves to a collective force that can topple those governments that refused to change.

Governments simply washed away in a violent flood of demand.

It’s incredible.

All of the people on Earth are going through this internet induced earthquake together. Those that enjoy freedoms that others do not in different locations around the globe create a pressure on the less fortunate to stand up for their newly realized empowerment to fight for their collective rights.

Pressure, like the tectonic plates of the world causing each other to shift – at their fault lines - and shake the entire world as they move. And impact the other places with the repercussions.

And new faults are often created in the process.

Repercussions like drastically rising oil prices. Aftershocks from those repercussions like skyrocketing food and produce prices. The potential of crumbling economies should the tremors shake be too fierce or last too long.

This global political earthquake could shake for decades, resulting in explosive wars and shifts in alliances and trading partners, and changes in political power and gross national products – until finally a new balance is found – one that global collective can all be content with – if we survive the turmoil.

The shift in the political plates that hold our world together are now shifting – as the forces that pull the world wide web pressure our world to change shape.

But change is scary.

Lands where people have lived content with their freedoms and their higher standards of economy – well – they may not want change. That regional collective mindset that change is bad is also powerful – although often more apathetic than revolutionary.

Because we all know things change.

But no one knows what the result will be.

If the laws of physics are an accurate model – things in the end will equal out. Massive shifts will finally result – someday – in things being more equal – global equality.

Global freedom.

Global democracy.

It sounds incredibly idealistic, don’t you think? Almost sickeningly so.

But the ideal won’t be reached for generations. It takes generations for mindsets to change. It will take generations for old bigotries to fade away, for old hatreds to cease, for old loyalties to reshape and re-establish.

And the ride will be hell on earth.

It will be one long continuous earthquake, with a never ending tsunami of demanded change reaching all corners of the planet as each fights for new equalities while or to hold on tight to the liberties and freedoms they currently cherish.

I am not looking forward to it.

But it just seems to be inevitable.

Some of you will shout for joy. Others of you will scream in terror.

I’m really not looking forward to this.

As regional alliances fracture under the repercussions of change – like a loving married couple fighting over money problems – the people of those populations will suffer. Other regions will benefit as their standard of living rises – the wave of the tsunami is born.

But every year computers get faster and faster – and the ties that rope together our world wide web grows stronger and stronger as new ways to be connected evolve – global collaboration evolves with it – only not everyone will be collaborating together.

But will this make change come even faster?
Scary indeed, this brave new world – predicted decades before to happen in 1984 - by the famous science fiction futurist George Orwell. But Orwell wasn’t quite right. 1984 was when the desktop computers first made inroads to the global population – but the Internet did not become globally accessible until a decade later.

And the decade after that – as we figured out ways to use these personal devices connected by our World Wide Web – here we sit. Inching closer to Orwell’s result of one collective mind.

You can almost feel the ground shaking.

I’m definitely not looking forward to this.

It will not end before I pass away, nor before my children or their children, or even their children.

But I don’t think the world will ever be the same. For better or for worse.

And I don’t think we can escape to higher ground.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Movie Night

Last Friday was movie night at my little girl’s elementary school.

My lovely wife Darlene was busy with prior commitments, so I decided to take my daughters myself.

I had taken a half days vacation so that Darlene and I could attend a memorial service for a friend. Afterwards we sped around town trying to take care of some errands before the girls got home from school.

We arrived at the house when the school bus did. And we were greeted by two little girls excited for Movie Night.

Daddy, Mommy can’t go!” whined my youngest.

I know

Will you take us Daddy?

What time does it start?

Mom said 5:45”, said my eldest. “That’s a quarter to six”.

Really? That early?”, and I questioned it no more.

At 5:43 we piled into the jeep. We had blankets and chairs and a pillow or two.

At 5:45 we pulled into the school parking lot. The lot was sparsely filled with the odd minivan and pickup truck.

Movie Night’s not very popular, is it?” I asked the now hyper girls in the back seats.

Everybody’s going to be there Dad, c’mon”, said my youngest.

What movie is it?” Why I hadn’t asked this before now ran around in the back of my mind. “What if this is a Hannah Montana or Justin Bieber movie? Oh dear God what if it’s Hannah Montana or Justin Bieber! Two hours of a gym full of kids screaming for the Bieb!

Karate Kid”, answered my eldest.

Oh, I’ve seen that. It’s got the guy who owned Arnold’s on Happy Days”.

Happy Days? No Daddy this one is new”.

Who’s in it?

Jackie Chan”, said my youngest.

Cool, let’s go”.

I like Jackie Chan.

We hauled all of our stuff in the side entrance to the school; a door marked “Movie Theatre Entrance”. A teacher was waiting to open it for us as we approached.

She looked puzzled at our arrival.

The hallway to the gym was full of screaming seventh graders – each manning a stand selling cookies and cakes from the bake sale – bottles of water – candies and popcorn. A fundraiser to raise money for their graduation next year.

The first stand was the admissions booth. The admission was two dollars each and we had to get our hand stamped.

You’re our first customers" said the spectacled twelve years old, and I proceeded to herd my two little girls and our haul of chairs and blankets and pillows down the hallway lined with goodies.

Both girls had dipped into their piggy banks – and they quickly abandoned me to spend their not-so-hard-earned cash on junk.

When I reached the gym at the end of the hallway – it was empty. A laptop computer sat poised in the front center of the gym floor by the stage – hooked up to the PA system and a projector – and blaring loud obnoxious music that made Led Zeppelin sound like elevator music.

Come to think of it, I have heard Led Zeppelin on elevators. How times have changed.

I stood looking at that empty gymnasium, wondering if I should go in and set up my chair, alone like an iceberg that floated into warm waters.

I walked to where the front row would be, and set up my chair. And I sat down. My eldest came over to ask if she could help her friend run the bake sale table. My youngest came over to ask if she could play with her friends.

So I sat there alone in that gym full of bad dance club noise – and I waited.

You see, the movie didn’t start until 7:00 pm.

I sat there and I remembered how I loved the school gym when I was in school. And I wished I had a basketball or a soccer ball to goof around with. But I was too shy to ask. After about fifteen minutes – a tall gym teacher came over to see why I was sitting in an empty gym full of bad dance club noise all alone.

We’re early”, I smiled and said.

But my ears were burning red. I was a bit embarrassed. And this forty eight year old systems engineer did not know what to do.

So I sat there and waited some more.

Finally, an hour later, other parents started to arrive. They were each hauling chairs and blankets and pillows and such. I smiled as they came in. But they did not pull up a chair beside me. They sat behind me?

I didn’t recognize any of them. But I smiled and nodded. And I watched them all set up their gym floor camps behind me. At the same time, the littler kids started running up and jumping onto the stage in front of me, practicing their jumps into the safety cushions you normally find in a gymnasium.

They were having a ball.

Unfortunately I was not. I could feel the red burn on the tops of my ears.

When it was announced that the movie was about to start – in ran both of my little girls – separately – with their own friends – and each with plates full of cookies and cakes and brownies and god-knows-what-else. But they didn’t come over to me with their plates. They sat their plates down where their friends were sitting. Sitting with their plates full of cookies and cakes and brownies and what nots.

I looked around at the other parents. They all seemed to be okay with this sweets indulgence. So I sat there and smiled at my daughters. They each approached me, only to grab their blankets and pillows and return to their friends.

So I sat there alone, and watched the Karate Kid, with Jackie Chan.

It wasn’t really all that good after all.

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