"There cannot be change without challenge". The gym where I work out recently changed their format. The voice on the video shouts this as I feebly attempt push-ups.
No.. this is not a picture of me. Last month I co-hosted a family reunion in Northern California. It was the result of attending too many funerals in a three year period. I began assembling "My Publisher" album books. My daughter took this picture; for me, it captured the spirit of the day.
As I did in March for "March Madness", I will assemble this as three-part blog post. This time the theme will be a family reunion through my perspective. It will be divided into three parts: eyes, hands and laughter.
There was one cousin I hadn't seen in many years. She is a UC Berkeley graduate and a few years older than me. In high school, she invited me to visit her in San Francisco. She was bright and funny and I appreciated her willingness to reach out to me. I believe she was one person in a bouquet of many that encouraged me to venture out beyond the bubble in which I grew up.
Fast forward thirty years and I can count the times I have since spent any time with her. What made this reunion potentially awkward is the death of her son only a few years prior to this event. She, her mom and sisters are quiet, reserved and extremely private. Being a bit of an "introvert" myself, I didn't have the words to express my condolences.
She had two grown sons living in Lake Tahoe, CA where I grew up. Her boys were close friends. On a freak motorcycle accident, her son hit a rock and flew off. Having no external injuries, it was his internal injuries that caused a quick bleed and his passing away in his twenties. I didn't hear about the specifics of his funeral until after it happened. Reaching out to his friends through social media, she quickly assembled a gathering of family and friends in Tahoe.
Now, in a sea of fifty people which included my immediate and extended family, I walked up to her and a gathering of people around her. The first thing I noticed... profound and telling... were her eyes. I cannot adequately describe them. Maybe the wrinkles or maybe the color but I knew those eyes because I had seen them in someone else I knew.
I now live in the home of my beloved, 89 year old neighbor that passed away two years ago. She and I enjoyed each other's company- going to estate sales, Costco and numerous shopping excursions and lunch. She had one grandson and several grand-daughters. She loved my son and because he and her grandson were about the same age, she thought it would be fun to introduce them on his next visit to California.
That time never came. It was in the mountains of Wyoming. It was late. There was a party and although her grandson had not been drinking, his friend had been and was worried he would be in trouble with his mom if he was not home. Along a dark, windy road the car slid off the road. Disoriented and injured, the two boys managed to get out of the car, only to be hit by a passing truck. They were killed instantly.
Those eyes I mentioned that I had seen before where the eyes of a mother in pain. Two people in my life not only sharing the same name but sharing the same loss - a son killed tragically. There were no words to adequately take away the pain. Only a remembrance of their names.
Love and friendship is all I had to offer.
There were two other things that stood out to me about the conversation: One was a cherished memory she had as a teenager in my home in Lake Tahoe. The gift I received that day was the realization that we shared the same wonderful memory. I have often thought of that day as one of my most prized memories growing up. I just didn't realize the extend of that prized memory for her.
It was Christmas. It was the first and last holiday in the home I helped build. I loved that home and it took many years in the building. We had the entire extended family come stay with us for for the holidays; there were about twenty of us. We began the day snow skiing at Ski Incline (now Diamond Peak). We followed it up with an evening of good food, dancing to the "Doobie Brothers", Christmas caroling with mugs of hot chocolate (something stronger for those older) and what to me now is a blur of love and good memories.
She never forgot that day and neither did I. I just had forgotten that family reunions mean a shared history of a different sort. Awkward- yes but in another Pinterest quote, "be brave enough to start a conversation that matters". Dau Voire In this atmosphere of a family reunion, was the beginning of a new friendship. Now it requires the action of one or both of us. It is not enough to pour the corn kernels into the popcorn popper, it requires turning on the heat and adding the seasoning.
The second thing she said was, "It is time to make new memories". That is where my initial quote about working out comes in. "Change does not come without Challenge" Jillian Michaels Although the quote was expressed in terms of a work-out video, it can also loosely be related to change in our lives. Anything that requires action on our parts. I think it is a challenge for each and every one of us. If you want people and experiences in your life, you have to put the work in to make it happen.
I know there are people who read this blog that have lost their mothers, family and friends. It takes courage to keep moving forward to "make new memories" and to allow friendships to flourish and grow. It takes bravery to keep walking, adding people and positive experiences to your life. In fact, any change requires challenge.
Aside from creating the time, it sometimes takes money to reach people outside your home, like flying in for a family reunion. We had one family member that flew in from Paris, France to spend time with us as well as her aging parents. This challenge is where grace begins. Allow love to penetrate your hard exterior of pride and self-preservation. We, as a people, are really more alike than you might think.
The Doobie Brothers was a popular American rock band selling more than 40 million albums. Drummer, John Hartman arrived in CA in 1969 determined to meet Skip Spence of Moby Grape. Spence introduced Hartman to singer, guitarist and songwriter, Tom Johnston who along with bassist, Greg Murphy became a "power trio" performing around San Jose in 1970. Those early years attracted bikers such as the Hells Angels. So much so, they began playing at a regular biker venue, Chateau Liberte in the Santa Cruz Mtns. Although there was a first album called "Introducing the Dobbie Brothers", it was their second album, "Toulouse Street", featuring the songs "Listen to the Music" and "Jesus is Just Alright" that brought their band breakthrough success in 1972. Hits, "Long Train Runnin'" and "China Grove" followed on their third album, "The Captain and Me" in 1973.
Huge success lead to rigorous touring schedules. The demands of the road took a toll on Johnston, who was eventually hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer in 1975. The year before, Steely Dan's co-lead guitarist, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter learned his band was retiring from the road. Needing a steady gig, he joined the Doobie Brothers. It was Baxter that brought co-musician, Michael McDonald from Steely Dan to the Doobie Brothers. McDonald filled the hole of singer, songwriter and keyboardist. In 1976, while still under contract to release another album, the band turned to McDonald (and Porter) since Johnston was still unavailable. The resulting album, "Takin It to the Streets" transformed the sound of the Doobie Brothers to a more soft-rock genre. That again began a long string of albums and tours. Despite the "revolving door" of musicians coming and going (See the bottom of my Wiki link for a listing of musicians), the Doobie Brothers continues to enjoy worldwide success while continuing to tour extensively.
In Nov, 2012, the Doobie Brothers released a documentary, "Let the Music Play: The Story of the Doobie Brothers". The above link is a trailer to the movie.
Information from Wikipedia and Doobie Brothers- Official Site at www.doobiebros.com
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.