The Road Less Traveled Author: BobRDate:01/16/2013 03:42:01
I had a blog planned for Wednesday. It was to be yet another screed on something or other political. That all went into the dumpster when I found out that a friend is succumbing to cancer, and Raine and I will not get the opportunity to see him again.
Some of you may know John - he went by "Bounced Granola" at the old AAP board. He was a good activist liberal. We got to meet him the first time at a protest march in DC back when no one knew Raine and I were having an online "relationship". We all had a blast. We thought for certain he had figured it out, but - he hadn't.
It was later when Raine and I finally let others know about "us" that he was very supportive. Raine was unsure about selling her house in NY and moving to Atlanta to be with me when my divorce was not yet complete. John encouraged her to make the leap. I don't know the details of those conversations they had, but I suspect it was something along the lines of "sometimes in life you have to follow your heart and say 'fuck it' and take that chance...". Raine and I severed the ties with our individual pasts and made a future together. Were it not for John's support and encouragement, that may not have happened.
We did get to see John again one more time. It was the summer of 2006, and AAP decided to have a meetup in DC. I don't remember if it was for a protest... I actually don't remember too much at all. I know we had cocktails and made a video:
What I do remember is John's easygoing calm approach to everything. No stress, no worries, just enjoying the moment. He exuded an essence of being at peace with the world as we walked to an old-school Italian restaurant and had a blast. Sadly, that restaurant no longer exists, the building sacrificed upon the alter of progress. The bar at the Holiday Inn is still there, though, and everytime we happen into it, we look at the table where we sat so many years ago and drank and laughed and acted as silly as kids. It may seem odd that we feel this deep connection with someone we only met twice in person, but we have a long online history, and his gentle soul was a catalyst that led to our marriage.
If I recall correctly, John didn't find out about his cancer until it was the size of a grapefruit. He went through the operation and the usual treatments, and seemed to be getting better, but he had relapses. This latest one a few weeks ago seemed like it would be another he would fight off, or perhaps he only let us all believe that. We found out otherwise last night.
It's moments like this we are reminded of our own mortality. Death is the final disease which ails us all - none are immune. There's no going back and redoing your mistakes, there's no dress rehearsals or do-overs. Time - and life - moves in one direction only. Time is without end. Lives, however, always have a starting point and an ending point. Though we celebrate birthdays, and mourn those who preceed us in leaving this life, what is most important is what occurs between those two bookending milestones. We cannot take our riches to the grave; nor should we take any regrets.
Life is meant to be lived, to be enjoyed, to be cherished, and to be shared. We should love freely and never sit on the sidelines when we want to play the game. It was a bit of serendipity that this news item (written by Tina Fey) came across my feed about the same time as I got the news about John:
[In 1997], I moved from Chicago to New York to work at "Saturday Night Live." I packed up and was going through my things to see what I would take with me and what I'd leave behind. I found an orange folder -- a regular school folder -- in a bookshelf. As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was. There were quotes written all over the front of it. Some of them were: "Greet everything with 'Yes, and....'" "Make statements instead of putting the burden on others with questions." "Stay in the present, as opposed to focusing on the past or future." "The fun is always on the other side of a yes." [..] The things I learned in that class became part of the way I live my life. A couple of times I've been called on to do things -- jobs or whatever -- where I've felt, Maybe I'm not quite ready. Maybe it's a little early for this to happen to me. But the rules are so ingrained. "Say yes, and you'll figure it out afterward" has helped me to be more adventurous. It has definitely helped me be less afraid.
"We're offering you a job here at 'Saturday Night Live' -- can you move here within a week?"
"Ummm, yes I can."
"You know, you haven't been here that long, but do you want to move up and try to be one of the head writers?"
Feeling completely terrified inside, but saying, "Uhhh, yes, okay, yes, for sure."
"Do you wanna do 'Weekend Update' with Jimmy?"
Petrified. "Yes, thank you, of course!"
Self-doubt is natural, as is the tendency to take the safe route through life. That safe route, however, is paved with regrets. As the old Schlitz commercial used to say "You only go 'round once in life - grab for the gusto". Tina Fey said yes to the unknown and had a wonderful career making people laugh. John got Raine and I to say yes and we've built a wonderful life together.
To quote Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference"
We'll meet you on that road again someday, John...