It happened last night. As I reflect, I realize it has happened all along. Each day, in most every moment I have an opportunity to look at life and learn. Yet I become consumed with more immediate concerns. He said. She said. The system, situation, or some other entity supplants a deeper assessment. Years ago, I came to understand that I create my own chaos, calm, or shades of what will be. As an Educator, I speak of this often. My students often quote me on the subject of choices. Yet, until yesterday, I never fully grasped how true my words might be. I am unsure why the events of the evening took me where they did. I share the story.
I received a mail from a magnificent man, someone who has achieved much and is well-known beyond the circle of my life. This gent is a Scholar, an Educator, an esteemed and prolific Author, a Sage.
Indeed, over the years, Mister B’s published works have helped me grow by leaps and bounds. I never imagined I might become acquainted with him as a person. Yet, accidentally, we met. Minutes after Michael presented as part an expert panel, he and his spouse made way for the auditorium exit. I was on my way back into the lecture hall. Unexpectedly I had an opportunity to introduce myself, which I did.
His mention of a bad cold earlier, whilst he was on stage, led me thoughts on my miracle cure. Delighted, he turned to his wondrous wife and asked her to take notes. The two he said would purchase the ingredients before the day was done. It was obvious to me that Michael and Joslyn are quite close. Caring exudes from each of them. Surprisingly to me, Michael hugged me for the help I offered.
Over the many months since, Michael and I have spoken, not often, but also, not infrequently. The conversations are expansive. Mostly we discuss personal philosophies, experiences, and just enjoy getting to know each other. Through electronic mail, at a distance, we have worked on a few endeavors together. Mister B has become more real to me. His relationships with family, friends, life, and living are beautiful to behold.
Then it happened. After weeks of unanswered calls and emails, I asked was there trouble. Unusual for Michael, he had not responded to my communications. He wrote back and said all was well. Michael was and is rebuilding the front entrance to his home.
Once I learned that the lack of responsiveness was not a reaction to what I had said, done, or been, I was relieved. The real story led me to inquire. Was Michael doing the work himself? I discovered he was. This spectacular specimen of a human being was not solely a Scribe, an Academic, an Educator, and an authority on pedagogy. Michael B is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth.
Mister B was kind enough to share a link to a webpage that showed his life’s less noticed path. As I perused, my mouth was agape. Thirty years earlier, Michael built his own home. He used no sub-contractors or Contractors. All the work was done with his own two hands, assisted only by a mind intent on a mission. That gray matter was also his own.
He and his wife Joslyn reside on a river. During the construction, the two lived in a small duplex, on the dock. This dwelling today is attached to the main abode, and serves as a guest quarter. The house that Michael built stands stately in a wooded region, overlooking the same waterway where he and his spouse watched him give rise to his vision.
The home is three-stories high. Some of the windows are floor-to-ceiling. The rafters reach for the sky. Balconies abound and surround the abode. A very large round window appears in the uppermost floor. In another photograph, an interior shot, Joslyn is comfortably seated. Her body fits securely in the window frame. Joslyn obviously has much room to move about. The portal is huge! It, the house as a whole, is beautiful; but the dwelling’s exquisiteness is nothing in contrast to the lesson I learned when I probed further.
Overwhelmed with this vision, initially, I did not do, as was my impulse and call Michael. Instead, I rushed about in an attempt to leave on time. I prepared a hurried breakfast, inhaled my food, or began to, and then, I picked up the telephone. I dialed .with the expectation that I would speak to a voice mail machine. Mister B was likely working and my being rushed, I thought that fine. Much to my astonishment, Michael answered. My words were as a white light. All I said was uttered in haste. In contrast, Michael’s voice was calm and reflective. He shared stories.
The domicile took three years to complete. Plumbing, masonry, milling, electrical jobs were all his, as were all other aspects involved in building. As he worked on the edifice he also composed and published a book. Michael kept a notepad close at-hand during the construction. Prior to the actual endeavor he designed, plotted, planned and developed his thought.
When he felt overwhelmed, or stuck, Michael would step back and work on another undertaking. He immersed himself in some effort that freed his mind for further reflection. Mister B might fix a machine, or make one. The possibilities are endless for someone such as he. Michael understood then, as he does at present, his own learning style, his likes, and all that he loathes for himself. Idle hands or head, these are not habits Mister B embraces.
The circular window is but one example. This porthole was once a Union 76 gas station sign. Michael asked if I was familiar with the expansive logo in the form of a light fixture that scrapes the sky in many a gas station. I am. Mister B found an old oversized signet on sale. He purchased it for $45 dollars. Once hollowed out, the frame would serve as his window on the world. Plexiglas was also purchased for just over $100. Michael fixed the two together and voilá. A place to peer out was born.
The structure survived five bad storms over the three decades since its birth. One was directly overhead. Yet, the building stood the test of a tempest and time. As has Michael B.
Prior to our conversation, I knew that Michael began his career in 1952. This was near the same year my Dad started his. I had wondered in the past; were the two close in age. I searched and found the answer. Yes, they are, as are many men and women. All sorts of people are born within a generation. This truth does not deny that we are all unique.
Still, these two men, in many ways are identical. Daddy too is extremely precise. Just as Michael, he is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth. My Dad loves to build. He envisions what others do not and acts on his farsightedness, or did when I was younger.
“Logan” [my father] is a scholar. He received rewards for his brilliance when he attended school. In his professional calling, he was a Professor, a Lecturer, called upon to train Medical Practitioners, Lawyers, Social Workers, Preachers, and Teachers. My father wrote and spoke on Education as Mister B does, although never so broadly.
When I was a teen, Daddy was on the School Board for an Independent School. “Logan” was looked upon as a pillar in the community. My Dad worked as a Public Planner for a very respected worldwide Leadership and Support Organization. Later, respected in his field, Daddy established his own firm. Up until a year ago, my Papa still worked each and every day. He drove to his office and counseled others; however, he was never able to console himself.
Just as Michael B, “Logan” had big plans. While he always worked to execute exactly and in a timely manner, much changed. In retrospect, I understand that Daddy had hesitated even whilst he moved forward. No one ever seemed to notice this. My father kept any self-doubt well hidden. Indeed, he seemed quite confident in his every enterprise.
For all practical purposes and by appearances, Daddy was a success! “Logan” was as Michael, he dreamed and then, built as he imagined. That is, until the day . . a turn of events did my Dad in. What occurred all those decades ago, popped the bubble that was Daddy’s triumphant existence
Choices Create What Comes
It was Mother’s Day, near a score in the past. While waiting for Daddy to return home from a day of fishing, the telephone rang. It was Logan. He did not call to say he would be late for dinner; he already was. Instead, he asked, would we pick him up? My Dad was in jail!
In this exposé, I will not share the depth and details. Suffice to say, murder, mayhem, and money played no role in the crimes. We arranged for his bail. Mommy, my beau Eric, and I drove miles to the Police station. No one said a word. I recall no conversation once we arrived either. From minds to mouths, all seemed frozen in time. Perhaps, we each were numb with disbelief. I know I was.
Indeed, I only remember a tall man with impeccable posture, a gent who normally stood six feet four inches tall, slumped over. Daddy’s stared straight ahead as the four of us walked to the car. He was alive. He looked as well as could be expected, but I could tell my Dad had died inside. Never did I imagine that the death would be permanent. It was.
Certainly, everyone, at some time believes they have seen the end. Frequently, a way of life, superficially concludes. This veracity was and is no less true for Mister B. I have heard him tell and seen . . .
While Professor B pursued his potential, he traveled down delicate paths that led to delicious delights and also his demise, of sorts. As all human beings Michael had a number of serious falls. I smile and think of a tome Mister B published.
Just as Daddy had in the course of his life, Michael stood strong and spoke up when he felt policies were wrong. For doing so, he was placed in precarious predicaments. Finally, his own words and deeds strangled him. In a teaching position, at a local College, after twenty-five years Professor B was handed a pink slip. His contract was terminated. The case went to court. While the job was lost, Mister B was born once more. His choices kept him alive.
Throughout the ordeal, the Scholar and Scribe never lost hope. Guilt for compensation lost, a career, nay with his reputation in question Michael did not blame himself. He did not allow himself to be consumed by what he could not change. Professionally, Michael’s identity was transformed. The agreement Professor B had with his family, friends, fellowship, and with himself remained solid. He would be true. His sense of strength could not be terminated. Then, and still today, Michael thrives.
“Logan,” on the other hand, found that task impossible to achieve. Granted, the choice that led to his demise was one society could not accept. More importantly, my Dad could not tolerate what he had done. The question I now ask myself is would Michael ever have chosen to “commit” a professional, let alone a physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual “suicide.” My Dad chose each of these. However, in practice, he decided to forego one of these self-destructive travels. In a corporeal sense, Daddy lives. Sadly it seems, life can be defined in many ways. Not all are what we would think of as living.
Life Lessons, Losses Seen as Growth and Gains or Rain
As I recognized more than a decade ago in my own life, my or our choices create what comes. My personal narrative and the lessons learned was nowhere near as profound as what I see in the lives of these two. Perhaps, it is easier to understand what is separate from self. I know not for sure.
I am only certain that the man I know as Daddy was replaced on the day of his arrest. Ever since, a shell of himself stood in his shoes. Outwardly, slowly, “Logan” regained respect. A Governor’s pardon was awarded. He rebuilt his practice, and by appearances, his life. However, he was never truly the same. His relationships suffered. The man I was once so close to, for so very long, emotionally moved away from me. Try as I might, and I did, and do, Daddy, only infrequently welcomes rapports with anyone. In a meaningful manner, “Logan” separated himself from everyone, except perhaps, his wife.
While his marriage to my Mom did not last long after the arrest; Daddy wed again. I had long believed that, his marriage would be as Michael’s and Joslyn’s is, a lifetime of love. Better yet, my hope was the two liked each other. They had been through more than most relationships endure. Not in so many words, Daddy implied that my want for him was true. However, in retrospect, that assumption seems an erroneous one. From each of them, I heard. I saw. In time, I began to question whether Daddy was authentically connected to his life partner, or more importantly, to himself.
Often, my Dad speaks of regrets, all he never accomplished and could have. Manuscripts were not published, though written. Programs designed and developed were not implemented. Post Graduate work woefully waned. Daddy lost his will and his way when he was but a man in his forties.
Barely middle-aged “Logan” became his guilt. For a very long time, this thought was but my theory. I understood all I surmised was speculation. We can only ask and hope the answer will serve as a window to the other’s soul. Hence, months ago, I inquired. I wondered aloud whether “Logan” had reflected on what I observed, a change in his well-being.
Often, in conversation Daddy speaks of his physical health, or lack thereof. For my father, it seems nothing compares with the agony that has been his corporeal existence. Since, that dreaded day, “Logan’s” body has been racked with pain. He has survived various bouts of cancer, multiple heart attacks, permanent back injuries, and irreparable damage to his inner organs. My Dad has struggled through physical miseries He never had before.
Mentally too, I detected a change. Actually, he speaks of this often as well. The person who taught me to live as Don Quixote, to never say die, to believe that in the next millisecond, it will be better only showed himself in rare moments, and only after he and I chatted alone for awhile. A year ago, I mentioned what for me was this oddity to my Dad. I asked him, how could this be. Where had my Daddy gone?
My Teacher, my Mentor, my Muse, was my Dad. His truth was my truth. In my experience, our shared philosophy has always proven itself accurate. Today, I think of Michael B and trust he embraces as my Dad did and I do. Every cloud has a silver lining. Whence I forget, I realize I only need to only open my eyes. I will see again; rainbows are a spectrum of colors. Shades of pretty pink can be seen within the band of blood red.
One that day I proposed the question, what happened? Might it be that the fittest man, one whose health never faltered when I was younger changed the day he first chose to do what landed him in jail? “Logan” admitted, indeed, he took his own life. Verve, energy, an authentic excitement, all that he was and encouraged was gone. Yes, all those years ago, he killed himself in every way he could. His chosen weapon was his woe. Vigor was a void left behind near two score now.
Daddy said the only reason he remained on the planet was to take care of those who needed his physical presence. At the time he shared, I understood. I could do nothing else. His pain, physical and emotional is palpable. Yet, today, as I ruminate on the house that Michael built I realize there is much more to ponder. Are any of us here or as is said, “there” for others when we are barely present.
It is vital that we give rise to the best of our being. Houses are not built on hurt. Soreness does not allow our relationships or us to soar. We must reach for the stars, our stars, and not the rays of light others think bright. We cannot give what we do not have. A window, round, large, or square is not constructed without a strong, preferably steel frame. Beams able to withstand any storm, even one directly overhead, need to be sturdy, straight, and able to hold great weight.
If love is not within us the gift of such a treasure cannot grow. Dreams fulfilled or death delivered, each happens. My understanding of these verities happened last night. Today, I hold dear a broader belief; in every moment the choice is mine now and forever.