Category Archives: Love

40th day of Lent. Life is About More Than Curtains.

You are forgiven. Free. Jesus has taken everything you could throw at him. Your worst rants. Your fiercest moments of hate. He doesn’t say, “Is that all you’ve got?” He doesn’t say, “C’mon, you can do better than that!” He says, “I forgive, you. Even if there is more, I forgive you. Even if you insist there has to be more because I really don’t understand how bitter, frustrated, hateful, and flawed you are: I forgive you. Even if you’re not convinced of my love, of my forgiveness, they’re still yours.”

“I know there’s a bit of crazy in you, I do. Just the other day you were welcoming me, the way the people welcomed me into Jerusalem. We were talking, and I was loving it, because there is nothing better than being with you. Then something happened. What was it? I’m kidding. Of course I remember. That happened and you forgot that I was with you. You felt like you were alone. You believed that no one understood you. You became angry. I remember that kind of anger, that darkness. I know you know the story. The same people who welcomed me, crucified me. It’s ok. You were scared, just like they were. I understand, and I’ve already forgiven you. I’ve already forgotten what it was. You don’t have to hold on to what happened. You don’t.”

“I know you see everything you aren’t. I know what it’s like to do that. Do you know what I see? All that you could be. All that you are when you love someone freely and openly. All that you are when you love someone because they exist. When you’re loving that way you’re not attached to anything they’ve ever done that is good or bad in their lives. You don’t have amnesia, of course. But the good and the bad are simply moments that happened. The love you have for them has its own completeness. The one you are loving becomes enough the way they are. That’s what loving you is like, for me, all of the time. You are enough, as you are.”

“A number of years ago some friends of mine made a funny movie. There’s a great moment in it where a king is trying to impress upon his son his future inheritance. I’m sure you know this film. It was very popular. Anyway, in the scene I’m thinking of a father is standing at a window and says to his son: “One day, lad, all this will be yours!” And the son says, “What the curtains?” You said it with me! Ha! I thought you knew it. I love that film. Do you remember what he says next? Not many do. He says, “No, not the curtains, lad. All that you can see! Stretched out over the hills and valleys of this land!” All that you can see. Isn’t that marvelous? Those writers were spot on. You are glorious. So magnificent. You really are. Here’s what I’ve been trying to say. Life is about more than curtains. Come. Take and eat, that I might dwell in you. Find me in the people you share your life with. Be my body. Be me, in your corner of the world.”

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23rd Day of Lent. Adult Dance Classes, and Bill Murray’s I am.

Every morning like most people, I take a quick look at email to see if any important messages came in overnight. Today the message that leaped out at me had as its subject: “Adult Dance Classes.” It was striking, not important. My mind started spinning. My first thought–pre-coffee–was that “Adult” meant sexy, and not that the classes were for adults and not children. As my coffee brewed I wondered, “how sexy?” They couldn’t mean Chippendale lessons, could they? Would that be a Groupon? I’m not sure I’d want to take that kind of dance lesson. I’m not sure anyone would want to see me dancing like Chris Farley in an SNL skit. It’s not that I think I look like him. It’s that I know I don’t look like Patrick Swayze. Maybe the class is something closer to Swayze’s dance in the film Dirty Dancing? That’s more reasonable. Though any woman I lifted into the air would end up crashing to the floor on top of me. Yep. I know who I am.

From email, I did a quick check of Facebook to see if anyone had a birthday today. That’s where I found Bill Murray’s answer to one of the worst questions reporters love to ask of athletes, politicians, and celebrities in press conferences: “How does it feel to be you?” To his credit, he turned around the question and presented it to everyone there:

“Let’s all ask ourselves that question right now: What does it feel like to be you? What does it feel like to be you? Yeah. It feels good to be you, doesn’t it? It feels good, because there’s one thing that you are — you’re the only one that’s you, right?”

“You’re the only one that’s you, right?” That’s a fundamental observation we hold to be true, often to our detriment. I say detriment, because our sense of being unique selves can keep us from understanding how alike we are. We want what each other has, just because they have it. We imitate each other, we make people, and brands, and cultures our scapegoats (Girard). Yet the differences between us are trivial. Michael McCullough, in a wonderful podcast at On Being drives home how alike we are, saying:

“[I]n a world where we hear a story a lot that there are genetic differences among persons, those genetic differences, for the most part, are trivial. They are trivial, trivial, trivial. They are just filigree. In all of the important ways, we are the same genetically. Our brains are largely the same.”

So, “you’re the only one that’s you” and the differences between us are “filigree.” In light of that paradox Murray’s next comments make complete sense.

“[W]e get confused sometimes — or I do, I think everyone does — you try to compete. You think, damn it, someone else is trying to be me. Someone else is trying to be me. But I don’t have to armor myself against those people; I don’t have to armor myself against that idea if I can really just relax and feel content in this way and this regard.”

I think the way he points out that armoring ourselves is a choice is precious. It’s optional. A choice you don’t have to make. How do you avoid doing it? Murray leads everyone gathered at the press conference in a short meditation. His goal is to encourage “the most personal identification, a very personal identification, which is: I am. This is me now. Here I am, right now. This is me now.” If you can develop that sense “Then you don’t feel like you have to leave, and be over there, or look over there. You don’t feel like you have to rush off and be somewhere.”

What he’s describing is living life as Parker Palmer likes to say, “inside out” as opposed to “outside in.” People who know who they are are, who accept and own their flaws as well as their strengths are people we describe as grounded. Meditation can help get you to that place because it help us quiet our minds. Without thoughts spinning through our heads–the way they were in mine this morning–we can begin to find rhythm to our being, and work on sustaining that grounded experience. In Christian terms, the ultimate ground of being, is God. The ability to sustain living from this place is possible because opting out of the “armoring” we feel we have to do, opts us in to the flow of who and what God is. That is what living Christianity is about.

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22nd day of Lent. The Cornucopia I’d Forgotten.

Yesterday I stood in the middle of Sahadi’s–a specialty foods store in Brooklyn Heights–staring at their selection of nuts and dried fruit. I was there with two wonderful friends. One said, “What do you like? Nuts? Dried fruit? Do you like hummus?” And the other, “Isn’t it amazing? Pick something. We want to buy you something.” “Oh, I have no idea” I said. And, “You don’t have to do that.” I was overwhelmed with the cornucopia of products, the commotion, and absolutely taken with their adorable toddler. Couldn’t I just keep playing with him?

There are multiple ways to express love. What’s less obvious is that there are ways we prefer not just to receive love, but give love as well. I didn’t realize people had a bias about love until several years ago when I read Gary Chapman’s book The Five Languages of Love. In his book Chapman does a nice job distilling five easy ways or languages of loving. According to Chapman, some prefer to show their love with physical touch, while others prefer to show their love through acts of service. There is also spending quality time, sharing words of affirmation, and receiving gifts. The idea is not that we don’t value all of these ways. Most people do. The key insight is that because we prefer some more than others it is helpful to appreciate the love language your partner has so that you can love them in ways they’ll appreciate, and easily see. It’s also important to understand theirs so that you can remember what is important to them as they go about loving you. Who wants to miss being loved?

Standing in Sahadi’s, it became clear that it would make my friends happy if I picked a few things. They–I know this is obvious–were simply trying to show me their love. When it comes to loving, the worst thing we can do, is refuse. As Michael Himes points out in the talk I listened to the other day, unrequited love is as painful as it is because we are made in the image of God, who is love. When our love is rejected, the pain reaches to our core.

We left Sahadi’s with five pounds of love. As we walked away from the store, I picked up their toddler. “Would he let me do that?” I wondered. At first it didn’t go well. I tried facing him forward. “Mommy?” he said plaintively. That was better but not good enough. I lifted him high into the air, and then down. High into the air and then down. “Look honey, he’s smiling” my friend said to her spouse. As we walked my actions gave them both a small break from actively parenting. I was delighted. Being of service is the my favorite way of expressing love.

As we parted I remembered something I’d left out of yesterday’s refection about grieving. It’s something David Malham says about love in his piece Momento Mori:

“The awareness of premature or unexpected endings can motivate us to routinely demonstrate our love to those important to us. Let’s not save our affection, as if a rare wine, for special occasions. Give and receive it as essential nourishment.”

Love given and received, overflows. It’s too easy to forget this cornucopia is there when you’re with people you love. I forget all the time. Today, with quality time, five pounds of gifts, and a toddler lifted high, I remembered.

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19th day of Lent. The Most Extraordinary Statement About Being Human.

After soccer practice today Sweet’s called me. She said, “Dad, guess what?” “What?” I said, expecting the latest update on the recent drama she’s been experiencing with her friends. She said it again, “Guess what?” She really wanted a guess. “Your mom picked you up from practice.” “Yes. But that’s not it. It’s so cool.” That wasn’t what I was expecting her to say. I punted. “You’re going to have to tell me. I’m stumped!” She paused. “I scored a goal!” “A goal? Fantastic. Wow!” It was practice, yes. It’s also her first time playing soccer. She’s having fun. For that I’m grateful.

Later I ask about the day at school, and its related drama. “I learned that Mary thinks this, and Rose (not their real names) thinks that. It doesn’t make sense.” As she relays the stories it’s clear that they’re hard to experience again and again. At the same time, she’s beginning to learn that what’s going on isn’t about her. There may have been tears in school when she heard the latest gossip. By the time she returned home and said the words “it doesn’t make sense” she spoke them plainly, with a hint of disbelief. This isn’t over for her, not by any means. Still, if she can find this place enough times, she’ll be ok.

I listened to a rich talk today about family life, and what it teaches us about love. Michael Himes is a professor at Boston College, and gave the talk as part of BC’s student speaker series called Agape Latte. The talk is 25 minutes long and is worth watching. I played his closing comments several times over. They became a personal gif, and in that a mantra for prayer. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful, too:

“[W]hat family gives us an intimate chance to do, in circumstances that may be very supportive or very painful…[is] the opportunity to give ourselves, to learn how to give ourselves to one another wisely and courageously and with tremendous forgiveness and deep acceptance.

If you learn that, you’ve learned everything that you need to know. If you learn everything else and you never find that out, you’ve missed what it is to be a human being, because human beings are called to be the people who do what God is. God is agape, and we get to enact it. That is the most extraordinary statement about being a human being that I know.”

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16th day of Lent.

16th day of Lent. Selling Girl Scout cookies is teaching my Sweets goal-setting, people skills, decision-making, money management, and business ethics. This morning she was crushed because she misplaced a four dollar payment a friend gave her. It took a while to realize that it was only four dollars, and that she’d been doing a great job keeping track of the rest of her sales dollars. Once she remembered that she said, “if I don’t find it, I’ll take it from my allowance.” “Great!” I said.This afternoon, she had a nice lesson in customer service also.

I received a call from a customer she’d delivered to who said that two of the boxes she received were for cookies she didn’t order. “Okay” my daughter said when I handed her the phone. “I don’t have those cookies right now. I’ll come back with them later.” She ended the call and turned to me. “Dad, look at the spreadsheet, the cookies I gave her were the ones she ordered. What are we going to do? She wants Tagalongs. I don’t know if I have any.” “Well, I’m sure we can get them somewhere” I said. “What do you think would make her happy?” “Tagalongs. But what if she made a mistake when she placed her order? She has to take those cookies.” “Well, how would you feel if you had to take cookies you didn’t like just because you made a mistake?” “Okay” she said, not because she would feel ok if that happened but because she understood my point. I asked her to look up the order on the original form. She did. “Dad. This says she ordered Do-Si-Dos.” It’s a data entry error and her second mistake of the day. “What do you think you should do?” I asked. “I have to call her.” She calls and confirms that it’s the Peanut Butter sandwich cookie she wants, and not the Tagalongs. That’s what the customer gets.

Sweets loves selling cookies. Tonight I asked her what she likes the most about selling cookies. “People get so happy” she said. “What about delivering cookies. What do you like the best about that?” “It’s the same thing. They’re so happy to see me.” Marshall Rosenberg said “the most joyful and intrinsic motivation human beings have for taking any action is the desire to meet our needs and the needs of others.” She loves selling cookies because she sees them making people happy. To me what she is doing is meeting the needs of others through her service.

This year she beat her goal by a hundred boxes, selling three hundred more boxes in her initial order than she did last year. She did it in less time, and with less effort than she ever has. At the same time, she’s about a week behind in her deliveries. When you sell 1100 boxes of cookies there’s a lot of work that has to happen in between the fun of taking the orders, and the fun of delivering them. That in between part went missing until she came to terms with what had to be done. Now, she’s flowing.

When I think about what it must have been like to be a disciple of Jesus, I think that early on the disciples must have felt, that it was fun. They were spending their days with someone who made them think, who helped others, and who introduced them to living their lives as Jews in a different and compelling way. Like Peter, I wouldn’t have known what to make of the Transfiguration. Mark says, “He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified” (Mk 9:6). Once it’s over, the scriptures say, Jesus told them “not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.” I think they loved being with Jesus, helping people, and listening to him teach. What was next for Jesus was beyond them.

For Jesus, saying that the transfiguration wasn’t to be spoken of? That’s his first real “come to Jesus” moment (it’s late as I write, and bad jokes come out when I’m tired). Or to make more painful and obvious wordplay, it was his “mountaintop experience.” The moment when he realized that being who he was, and living the life he believed he was meant to live, came with a cost. A price greater than any of the work involved in between selling and delivering Girl Scout cookies, yes. But experiences like that for Jesus, for my daughter, and all of us, are crucibles through which we find out who we are. They’re not easy. As a mom who’s given birth to a child might say, “it’s the most pain I’ve ever experienced. It was worth it, too.” Along the way there are moments, and lengths of doubt. Being true to the life you’re called to live, as a scholar, a nurse, a sibling, or spouse isn’t often easy. What parent doesn’t sometimes wish for “a break?” You do the best you can, whether you feel like it or not. Ten times out of ten, it’s enough. When you give what you have, it is enough. That’s you being only the person you can be, “living in time” (Christian Wiman).

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13th day of Lent.

What happened to Peter and his companions during Jesus’ transfiguration? They fall asleep and wake up. They see Moses and Elijah with Jesus and don’t seem to know what to do with that experience. As if anyone would! The best that Peter come up with is an idea to put up shrines and consecrate the place as sacred.

People still do that. They have a religious experience in a particular place and suddenly that place is where you go to find God. That place, as opposed another, as if God is more present in one place than another. A church isn’t the house of God because God is more present there. It’s the house of God because people gather there. Churches are for us that way.

Peter didn’t get it. He doesn’t yet get what this experience will require from him. Peter needs to be transfigured, too. As the Scripture says “he did not know what he was saying.” (Lk9:33). Mark says “he was terrified.” Almost to emphasize this while he’s talking a cloud forms around him and he hears a voice say “listen to him.” The him, being Jesus. Once he gets it. Once he understands that he’s not just witnessing something, that instead God is asking something of him, and of Jesus, he’ll have his own epiphany and be transfigured. He’ll see things differently, and he’ll live differently as a result.

Today a video started popping up in my feed that showed the skeletal shapes of people on a black screen, behind which folks of all shapes, creeds, sexes, ages and abilities were kissing, hugging, and dancing. The people behind the screen were couples, spouses, families, and friends. The “Love had no labels” video is lovely, and effectively helps one understand that relationships are about love. In that way, it offers three minutes where you might find yourself transfigured. Take a look.

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Please Stay.

You, reading this, and feeling that you are alone, that no one is there, or can possibly understand what you are going through because being raw with vulnerability, you wonder what worth your life has. Thank you for staying.

You don’t know this, but you posted a status the other day–on Facebook–that lifted my spirits and turned around my day. I liked it, but didn’t tell you how much it mattered to me because while I’m a huge mush most of the time, I’m shy, too.

Last week you tweeted a picture of a quote I found inspiring. Now, I only retweet or favorite those, every once in a great while. That’s on principle. I can be silly that way. I didn’t let you know.

I haven’t told you how much I like seeing your endless selfies, vacation shots, pictures of things you find interesting, and pics of kids I have never met, or don’t really know. Often your smiles, and theirs help me wear one on my face. I love smiling. Thank you for those gifts.

When you invite me to things, I’m grateful for being thought of, even if the event is hundreds of miles away. How could I possibly attend? You know that, and asked anyway. Thank you. The invites across town? They mean a lot too. Even I don’t go. Keep including me the way you do. It helps me remember I’m not alone.

Like a lot of people, I’m stubbornly set in my ways. I don’t think I am of course (who does). You help me break free, and think differently about things I think I know. You’ve introduced me to things I wouldn’t otherwise know anything about. My sense of life is bigger as a result. All I can say is, “Wow!”

When I’m too serious, you help me remember there is a lighter side, and way of seeing almost everything. I often forget it’s there, waiting to be discovered. I have let out the most wonderful belly laughs as a result. Thank you for them, also.

You teach me a lot. I bet you don’t know that. About what it means to love, to have courage, to persevere, and find a way through. You help me get perspective when I’m struggling. You’re wonderful that way. You really are.

When you ran into me at the grocery store you asked me my favorite question: “How are you?” For a lot of people the question is a throwaway, something you say. It matters to me. You remembered that and gave me your attention as you asked. You gave me your presence, too. There’s no greater gift.

All these little things you do, all of them, they help make my days–which are sometimes very hard–brighter, and easier to get through. These are just a few examples of the way you make a difference in my life. Thank you for staying. I know there are moments when choosing to stay takes all the courage you have. If it sounds like I’m being a little selfish here, I am. Last night I learned what it’s like to have a Mork-shaped hole in my heart. I don’t like this feeling. It hurts. And well, this is something else on my list of things we’ve been through together. You’ve held me through so much. Ha! What a wonderful auto-correct typo! I meant, you’ve helped me through so much. Really, what you’ve done is hold me. I hope I get the chance sometime to hold you, too. Please stay.

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Ten Lessons I Learned From My Other Dad.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone whose been lucky enough to have had two dads instead of one. Seventeen years ago today, I lost my other dad. What follows are a handful of the things I learned from knowing him.

1. Let your life be about abundance.

My example of this is a small one. Most Sundays, breakfast consists of two eggs fried sunny side up, with bacon, hash browns, toast, and a great cup of coffee. That is, unless I have something to celebrate. Then the hash browns turn into potato salad. The toast turns into an “everything” bagel, the butter a smear of cream cheese blended with, or topped with lox (and onion, and capers). Sometimes I’ll skip the lox, and substitute white fish salad. When this breakfast becomes lunch I keep the eggs, and add the white fish salad as a side. Just like that, lunch becomes a feast. I didn’t grow up on these breakfast foods. Bay and Annie shared them with me. What good is the richness of your bounty, if it isn’t shared?

2. Be welcoming.

When a friend comes to your door, greet them with a smile and a bear of a hug. Every time. It’s the way he welcomed me every time I visited. It’s the way I welcome people I love.

3. Laugh, and laugh again.

My dad gave me my love of everything Broadway, and did his best to teach me about Classical music. We saw good movies, and many of them had to do with music (funny that). Bay helped me discover my love for physical comedy. It was with him that I first watched–on television–the wonder that is “It’s a Mad Mad Mad World.” There’s a fabulous collection of moments from the film here. My dad is quieter than Bay was. Watching it, Bay laughed to the point of tears. More than anything, when I think of the way I know to laugh, and that it’s okay to simply let loose, and laugh myself to the point where I’m gasping for breath? That was one of his gifts to me.

4. Don’t forget to laugh at yourself.

He owned an unusual looking car. A brand I’d never heard of. An Avanti. A what? Exactly. What I remember most about it was that it often didn’t run. One time, would-be thieves tried to steal it from a repair shop, and failed. They started it, rolled it into the side of the shop, and left it there. The car didn’t have any brakes. Or was it, no steering? It may well have been both! Whenever he told the story, he laughed.

Once while in high school I was out driving with a group of friends. I was in my car, a Dodge. JBR, Bay’s son–and my best friend–was driving his dad’s Avanti. We were driving aimlessly as teens can, happy to have friends in both cars. More importantly, some of these friends were girls we hoped to impress. We needed a destination. I tried to flag him down and was unsuccessful. Knowing that he’d boasted the Avanti had a Corvette engine, and knowing that mine had a powerful engine of its own, I decided on a manly approach. I would pass him. We were driving in an empty county park after dusk. What could happen? 

I stunned JBR with the attempt, and was successful. As soon as I passed him, I saw blue lights in my rear view. A county police officer ticketed me for speeding. I was driving a grand 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. “Officer,” I said, “we weren’t racing. I was trying to get him to stop.” I actually said those words. “License and registration” was all I heard in reply. A speeding ticket for driving forty miles per hour? Yes, I was foolish to speed, even at that rate. Reasoning with the officer? That was pure folly. Later that night, I was too stunned to laugh. Too afraid of what my dad would say. When he heard the story? Bay laughed out loud, and out of love. My dad? I think he laughed too. Me? It took a while.

5. Some choices are simple and make perfect sense. When they do, make them.

What else stays? When I joined Bay’s family for trips to dinner, or to see a movie, we always took their Civic. It was new, and tiny. What did I notice most? It ran and ran, and ran. After the folly of the Avanti, it was the perfect car.

I purchased the first car I owned from his eldest daughter. It was five years old, a diesel, and got fifty miles on a gallon of fuel. I asked a mechanic about it. He told me that diesel engines “ran forever.” The car was immaculate. She had every receipt for every repair and oil change the car had ever had. That choice was simple. Seven years later, and with over 170,000 miles on the odometer, I gave it away and replaced it with an Acura. I’d planned on buying a Civic, longed for an Accord, and ended up with an Acura for a price in between a Civic and an Accord. That was also a simple choice. It is also as close as I’ve come to an Avanti moment. Fortunately the Acura ran well, and long. By the time I gave it away, I’d replaced everything on it except the engine block. Now I drive a Civic. It too, runs and runs, and runs.

6. Life is about taking care of others.

My folks raised me with a strong sense of Catholic tradition. In practice, my understanding about what’s most important, revolves around what people do, not what they say they believe. That’s orthopraxis trumping orthodoxy. I remember many conversations over dinner, and after dinner, having to do with healthcare, and the emergence of HIV. What mattered most to Bay–as I remember–was doing whatever could be done to help those who had HIV, and to protect those at risk for contracting the virus. Even now, his passion for justice, informs both my faith, and my life.

7. Share your stories.

It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your stories. Tell them again. Stories are one of the ways we help each other remember that we share a human experience. That matters. Bay loved to look over the top of his glasses when he wanted to reinforce a point he was making, or deliver a punch line to a great story. With a gleam in his eye, and a smile on his face, I wanted to listen, even when I’d heard the story before (sometimes especially then). 

In 1947 Bay founded the Atlantic Chemical Corporation with his brother Rubin. Rubin is also a storyteller. Here are a few comments about Bay that are part of a larger, and very funny rendering of Rubin’s career in the dyestuffs industry. If you can imagine this story punctuated with laughter, along with hand gestures assuring you that the best is yet to come? Well, you’ll have a sense of the way Bay told stories.

“The most dynamic guy I know is my brother Bay. He is also the only man I know who could have built the Great Pyramids without stones. He could have done it on enthusiasm alone. Bay, my sons Jon and Josh, and I were the sole owners of Atlantic.

I remember once a frantic call from Bay at the Nutley factory to me at our headquarters office. He needed some money immediately. Without a second thought, I quickly dispatched a messenger to Nutley with $200.00. I figured a “collect” freight must have arrived or something equally urgent. I called Bay to tell him that $200.00 was rushing on its way. Would it be enough? There was a prolonged silence…”I only needed money for a haircut,” said he.

Bay’s penchant for surplus machinery at bargain prices was legendary. Nothing compares to his purchase of one million dollars worth of Univac equipment from Army surplus for $5,000.00. Atlantic may have had the first computerized inventory system in the dye business.

One day I received this phone call: “Mr. Rabinowitz, this is the US Naval Base in New London, CT. We are pleased to inform you that yours was the successful bid on Lot #543A, one surplus, slightly used submarine. Please tell us where you would like this delivered.” I was absolutely and totally speechless. I couldn’t even stammer. The thought of a submarine parked in our yard next to micro-motors, Irish shillelaghs, lead-lined tanks and tons of hopcolite my dear brother had bought for “future” use was too much to absorb. All I could manage were some strangled sounds. Suddenly, I detected a giggle on the telephone wire. Who the *@#x* is this, I demanded? The laughter broke out in full force. It was Bill Hoffman, P.A. of Burlington Industries, surrounded by a bunch of other low-life friends of ours just having some fun at my expense.

To this day, very few people, except for Max Birnbaum, know that surplus beams from the second layer construction of the [George] Washington Bridge support much of Nutley’s equipment, Bay may have been given to overdesign since these beams could have supported the Empire State Building!”

8. How Love Works.

This piece of wisdom is the way he described his romance with his wife, Annie. I think it’s the only way love, for me, has ever worked:

I chased her, and chased her, and chased her. Finally, she caught me!

9. Words matter. People matter more.

Sometimes Bay would join JBR and I as we watched a baseball or football game on TV. I learned to look forward to the comments he made during the game. Invariably a certain moment would repeat. A play would end and he’d turn around. Looking at us over the top of his glasses, he’d shake his head and say, “Would you believe that? They did it again. He made a catch, not a ketch. A ketch is a boat for christ sake!” Words matter.

At the same time, he never corrected my usage of words. I’m sure I gave him many opportunities. For a time, I had a girl friend for who loved to correct every mistake in usage I ever made. He never did. They both helped me pay attention to the words I use. The people who use them? He continues to help me remember that they matter more.

10. Celebrate, and give honor where it is due.

Bay’s and Annie’s New Years parties were legendary. Their house would fill wall to wall with people. I’d see family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and more folks I didn’t know. To me, it seemed like they’d invited everyone in our town. At Hanukkah, Bay’d light the menorah, and the window facing the front of the living room would become quiet sacred space. “Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the universe…”

When I was accepted to college. When I graduated. When I landed my first job. When I was engaged to be married (both times). When I married. What ever event was taking place in either family, they joined in or included me. We celebrated. Even moves. I helped with a number of moves. Wait a minute!

Bay passed away around the time “Bud” was conceived. When he was born, choosing his middle name was easy. Its Bay, and as his mom and I have always hoped, he’s becoming a man with a passion for life, and a love for people.

With appreciation, honor, and a lot of love for Bay Rabinowitz, born November 24, 1922 (a guesstimate), and who died on August 5, 1996. Thank you for all the lessons you keep teaching me.

I Missed You So So Bad!

The rule is simple, and clear. I am allowed to sing, in the car. That’s it. Step outside of the vehicle and my lips better seal. Sweets negotiated that deal to protect herself from the embarrassment of public parental crooning. She knew just what she was doing, too. I’ll sing about anything at the drop of a hat.

Related minor rules include the following: Dad does not dance in public, nor skip. She treads lightly there. She’s seen my personal version of a Monty Python “Silly Walk”. I think she knows she’s better off. At home, I’ll dance to some of the songs on Glee, too (I worked on these simple steps for a while). As long as I stand behind her, I’m okay. Now you know the reason why we don’t watch “Dancing with the Stars” or “So You Think You Can Dance” in my house. It’s not that I think I can dance, it’s that I keep trying.

Every once in a while, an allowance is made. Tonight was one of those nights. I was permitted to indulge in various renditions of Carly Rae Jepsen’s number one hit “Call Me Maybe” for close to an hour. Yes! It wasn’t an early Father’s Day gift, no. I just couldn’t get the lyrics right. We must have listened to various versions of the song, twenty different times on YouTube. The Harvard Baseball Team lip-synced cover. The dubbed Obama spoof. Assorted lyrics-on-the-screen videos. I even tried using the Suzuki method! It didn’t matter. I’d play a section, pause, and botch the lyric. Sweets thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. I haven’t seen her laugh that hard since she last watched the Mirror Scene in Duck Soup.

The first part of the song I got right, is the bridge where Jepsen sings:

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad
I missed you so so bad!

I think the truth those words express about love, is perfect. As I sang the bridge, I was tickling Sweets. The words brought tears to my eyes. They capture my experience of having kids. When you’re welcoming a birth, and you feel a child’s first kick, it’s hard to deny that his/her presence in your life is filling a space you didn’t know existed. I think that’s what it’s like when a heart discovers true love.

Jepsen captures perfectly the sense true love gives that “I always needed you.” It’s not because I was lacking and the child, or lover completed me, no, not that. For me, the words aren’t those of adolescent pining. They belong to an adult heart, proclaiming the life-giving essence of true love. It’s the fundamental realization that the presence of this person in your life is helping you become more than you were, and more of who you already are.

Before your true loves come into your life, you have no idea life can be richer, or more real than it is. After they do, you can’t imagine living without them in it. If you have to? There’s sadness, and thanksgiving. They may be gone, but the richness they helped you discover, remains.

The next time you hear this song, why don’t you call them to mind, and join me in proclaiming this truth:

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad
I missed you so so bad!

The Love In My Heart.

Bud was sitting in the backseat of the car as we pulled up to his mom’s house. He said goodbye to my friend in the front passenger seat, and looked at me. “I love you, Dad.” “I love you too, Bud. Do you have your keys?” He waved them in the air so that I’d see that he did. Then he got out of the car.

As he walked away my friend turned to me and said, “Wow. Did you hear that?” “Hear, what?” “He told you that he loves you! He’s almost fifteen for Chrissakes! When you were his age would you ever have told your Dad that you loved him in front of one of his friends?” He paused, long enough for me to realize that the answer to that was an obvious no, then added. “You two, have done a wonderful job with your kids, you know?” I nodded, and smiled. “He’s a great kid.” Pointing with his index finger, my friend waved his right hand the way I remember his father doing when he wanted to make a point. “They both are.” We sat with the stillness of that for the short ride to my home.

Sometimes I think telling me she loves me is Sweets favorite thing to say. “I love you Daddy.” “I love you, too, Sweets” is our typical exchange repeated through the day, every day. It’s said frequently enough that it’s like a mantra. I used to wonder if she was checking to see if I really did love her. As if there was a possibility in her mind that I might not respond, or say, no. Now I think it’s just the air we breathe. She’s rich and full. Like a good mantra, “I love you” grounds us.

Sweets is young enough, that her “I love you” comes from a cup that only remembers that love overflows. The wonder of Bud’s “I love you” is that he is old enough to realize that not everything works out in the end. He loves the repeated phrase from the Hunger Games books, “May the odds be ever in your favor…” and is discovering that life, like the game in the book, is unfair. The world can be hard. At the same time, he is also learning to identify his needs. It’s the coolest thing. Something like that can only happen when a person begins to understand who they are. Neediness, in contrast, comes from our emptiness. From the way we feel that we’re lacking, and so, we need approval for example, to know we’re okay, or we need to be in a relationship to feel whole. He’s growing up. He’s beginning to have a sense of  who he is. What a kid!

I love them both. I would do anything for them. When the kids were younger it was easy to see cause and effect between what I would do as a parent, and the impact it had. Just think of the game “peek-a-boo.” Adults don’t play peek-a-boo with kids because it makes the adult feel good, though it does that in a marvelous way. We do it, because we see the joy the child experiences from the play of the game. I think it’s one of the ways we are reminded what it means to love another person unconditionally. Sebastian Moore reports that Marshall Rosenberg–who works in conflict resolution–says that “what we want above all things is to be the cause of joy in each other.” We want to love and be loved. Not for any reason or because of anything we do. We want to be loved for ourselves, as we are.

The kids and I have all the disagreements parents have with their kids, of course. The way I make them happy is different today than it was when we played peek-a-boo. Then, many games brought the cry “Again Dada, again!” Seeing them happy remains something precious, as does seeing them become individual selves. When I told my son that I didn’t like the Hunger Games movie, he didn’t take offense. He didn’t receive it as a rejection. Instead, he calmly suggested that I read the book. That is exactly what my friends said. That sort of thing is happening more and more. Still, I wonder, am I leading them anywhere good?  I worry, even though I know it doesn’t matter how much I want to try and see down the road of their lives. Anything I think I see, is an illusion. Heck, I have a tough enough time seeing down my own road. Anyway, that’s my head trying to control, a richness my gut knows only comes when I am true to the love in my heart.