Track 82 — Say You Won’t Let Go

About a week before leaving to climb Jade Mountain, a well-known Taiwan Peak, Rachel turned to me and asked if I would be angry if she didn’t go. I just smiled at her. You see, I of all people understand that my Love has absolutely zero affinity towards any prolonged amount of time spent outdoors. Yes, pools and beaches are okay; however, any vacations we have taken which included extended treks exploring castles, temples or ancient sites have ended on slightly less than amicable terms. This trek was an eleven-kilometer slow ascent up a narrow mountain trail which would peak at 3950 meters. Needless to say, I had been expecting this question for a while.

“To be honest,” I joked, “I was surprised that you agreed to go in the first place.” She grinned. I continued. “No, of course I won’t be angry. I know that you hate the thought of hiking. I won’t be upset at all.” I took a breath and kept going, “I will be honest with you though. I’ll be disappointed. I was really looking forward to reaching the summit with you.”

Rachel returned my smile and quipped, “Even if nag at you the whole way up?” I laughed quietly and nodded to her, “Yep.” And that was it. Nothing more was said. I guess my words were enough to convince her to make the ascent. And I am so glad that she did because it was breathtaking. Truly. Breathtaking.

The sheer grandeur or her stature

overwhelming

Her natural dichotomy

raw, rugged, peaceful, calm

constantly pulling me forwards

carrying me upwards

Her static beauty

captivating from the start

opening with each step

revealing

changes that had occurred over time

they

they are the reason for her majesty

 Each line and every wrinkle

a story to tell

inspiration, tragedy, hope and sorrow

Love

The splendor of her summit

The victory of our climb

Stepping back from her

basking for a moment in her splendor

watching her shadow

flowing gently into the horizon

leading the way

A blessing

And then

Taking my eyes from her for a moment

I look to the mountains above

Rachel turns

stares back at me

with love

We begin to climb.

My life has been blessed with a partner who completes me in every way. Our ascent to the peak of Jade Mountain is yet another testament to the beauty, purity and the depth of her love. I know that she made the climb for me. To be with me. To share with me. And I am grateful for her.

In any relationship, it is important to keep climbing. To constantly reach for the vibrancy of every sunrise that lies in the distance. It is necessary to face each obstacle, witness each miracle and most importantly to just make the journey hand in hand. Together.

And that, my Love, is something that I promise to do. Forever. To continue to love you and grow with you. To do my best to complete you as you have done me. I promise, Rachel, to never let go.

Say You Won’t Let Go Youtube link:

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Track 80 – Guilty

“You have a choice.” Anyone who knew my parents when we were kids most certainly heard at least one of them utter this phrase. My brother and I certainly did. Almost daily in fact. These four words seemed to be their mantra to us growing up. For some time, I seem to remember every conversation either starting or finishing with, “You have a choice.”

Now that I am a bit older, I feel comfortable in admitting that there was a period in which this phrase annoyed the hell out of me. Honestly. Okay, going to Dairy Queen and deciding between a chocolate or strawberry sundae – that was a choice. Getting to stay up late on a Friday night to watch TV and choosing between Wonder Woman or The Muppets – that was a choice. Cleaning up my Star Wars action figures and putting them away or having them thrown out – what the heck. I’m sorry, but that was NOT a choice. Sure, my parents said the words, but in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy whose whole life revolved around Luke, Han and Leah, there was no choice. How could there be a choice?

As I grew up, I began to understand more deeply the meaning behind those words. “You have a choice.” As annoying as the phrase may have been, it still empowered that eight-year-old boy and allowed him to save the universe, or at the very least Luke, Han and Leah from being demolished in the abyss of a real-life trash compactor. Those four words had tangible meaning even if I wasn’t fond of the choice.

And now, as a parent, I have come to understand that the sense of control I got came not from those words, but from something else. “You have a choice” would have been meaningless had it not been for one key ingredient. An intangible act that put tangibility into the phrase – follow through.

As an eight-year-old boy, I knew that if I hadn’t picked up my action figures, they would have been tossed out with the rest of the trash. No hesitation. No second chances. They would have been lost. Both Scott and I knew that my parents said what they meant and meant what they said. About this, there was never a question. We knew that with every choice we made, we would be held accountable. We knew that our parents would follow through on what they said.

And how did they become so committed to follow through? So tenacious when it came to providing us with the rewards and consequences of our choices. One might assume that it started from countless hours spent studying the works of Freud, Skinner and Adler. Through years of working with children and adults in various school-boards, halfway homes and developmental centers. Through continued education and professional development. One would assume that all of this helped them understand how important it is to follow through. One would assume. And one would be wrong.

I believe that their understanding of choices and follow through had little to do with their schooling, training or counselling. Their commitment to follow through came from something much more significant than all of that. Something so surprisingly simple that most people seem to overlook it. It evolved from the first, most important choice that they ever made together. A choice that they have followed through on and lived every day since. Their choice to say, ‘I do.’

When one looks at the two of them and who they have become together, it becomes glaringly clear that they are and always have been true to their words. They ‘did’ and they continue to ‘do’. This is a truth that will exist until death do they part, of that I am sure. Our parents have lived a life of nearly fifty years together. They have shared more good times than most could ever imagine, weathered enough bad times to keep their bond strong, suffered through sickness and flourished in health. And all of that, they have done together, thus following through on a promise they made so many years ago. The promise to be one.

While perusing my parents’ photo albums in preparation for their 50th anniversary party, I came across an old newspaper clipping entitled “Kaufmans Cook up a Storm.” It was an interview done by a reporter working for the Standard Freeholder, celebrating my parents and their 25th wedding anniversary. In the reporter’s words, their relationship was an accomplishment to be admired. However, in my parents’ opinion, it had been easy. They were both quoted as having married their best friends. The longevity and follow through on their promise to be together was simple they said. “Cook together, walk together and talk together.” And this is what they have done over the years. Although their cookbooks have been replaced with take-out pamphlets, and walking has evolved into cruising, their conversation has never stopped. It continues to keep their relationship alive and well. Twenty-five years later, they remain the same best friends that they have always been.

In these twenty-five years, Scott and I have grown up and started families of our own. Respectively, we and our loves have learned our parents’ lessons well. To be together, to grow together, and most importantly to stay together ‘til death do we part. I remember, 16 years ago, when Rachel and I got married standing before our wedding party and thanking my parents for teaching us the meaning of truth, love and commitment. For giving us choices and most importantly for following through. Their example was an inspiration that helped us build relationships with our brides. I promised them that we would work to build relationships that would at the very least match the beauty of theirs. I was right. And I know that as the years continue, the vows that we made, the same as those that were made by them, will be honored. For, as my parents always said, “We made a choice.”

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being the couple that you have always been. For teaching us, guiding us and most importantly for giving us the choice. We promise to follow in the loving footprints that you have left in the wake of your fifty years together. We promise that we will be part of the legacy that you leave. For as you have always done, we will continue to do. Cook together. Walk together. Talk together. Love each other. And as always, we will  continue to follow through.

Guilty is one of my parents’ many anthems. It brings me back to my youth. To them getting ready for their weekend get-togethers. To the many Friday nights we all spent curled up on beanbags in front of the fireplace. To the Saturday night dinner marathons. To them dancing in the living room. To them and the love they have always exuded. To them.

Happy 50th!

 

Guilty Youtube link

 

 

Track 78 — Where the Streets Have No Name

A while back, when I was blogging a little more regularly, I wrote of faith. (See Track 73 – Faith) Faith, I said, is a belief in something without proof. It is an intangible force that gives us the strength to push forward during the most difficult of times. Today, I find myself clinging to that same faith and I pray that you, Mom, have it in you to do the same.

Dear Mom,

As I sat beside your hospital bed last Saturday morning, peering at you from over the side-safety-rail, I couldn’t help but think how cruel life can be. As Dad continues to say, it’s heartbreaking. Seeing you laying there curled up in your hospital gown, so fragile, so weak, was a scene for which I was not fully prepared. A salty moisture began to coat my eyes and tears began to form. I didn’t cry though, Mom. I held back my sorrow, fearing that my teardrops might steal away the faith to which I was so desperately holding on. The hope that you were simply on ‘vacation,’ and that you weren’t completely gone. I swallowed hard and pushed my sadness deep into the lump which still sits at the back of my throat. A stone that began to grow the first time I saw you in this state. Head shaven. Eye sunken. Energy stolen. A sight, knowing how strong and independent you once were, that shook me and my faith to the breaking point. I had to find a way to believe that you were coming back from this. Seeing you there, that morning, however, made it hard.

And how could it not? I mean, how could I be there doing what I was? How could you need me to be doing it? Helping you get to and go to the bathroom. Helping your get your meals ready and watching you fumble as you ate. Clarifying, constantly clarifying, what you were doing and why you were doing it. Reminding you not only about where your grandkids were, but who they were. Quizzing you about names, dates, numbers and events. How could I be there doing that for you? You?

You. The woman who changed my first diaper and washed my soiled sheets. You who kept my napkin folded neatly on my lap and my elbows well off the table. You who never had a problem telling me what to do, when to do it and how long it needed to be done. In no uncertain terms. You knew. You, Mom. The woman who remembered every date, every name and never forgot a face. You who sat with Scott and I before tests and while we wrote reports. You, Mom. You. How could I be there doing what I was doing for you?

And yet, I was.

I was sitting there. Heartbroken. Waiting to push you. To help you. Wanting you to struggle harder to keep anything trapped in your memory for more than a moment. Your room number. My phone number. Any number. I sat there, willing you to fight harder to reclaim the independence which was so suddenly and unexpectedly ripped from your spirit. I needed to see you improve.

And I did. You did. You made it to the bathroom. You used your knife and fork. For moments stacked together you knew where you were going and what you were doing. You rolled off the names of your grandkids and where they lived. You retained the name of your doctor and even the number to your room. You made progress. You began to take baby steps towards recovery, towards going home. In the week that I sat by your bedside, every heartbreaking instance seemed to be matched with a tiny step forward. Small baby steps that have helped me to maintain my faith. Something which you seem to have misplaced.

You explained to me on numerous occasions, Mom, the frustration that you felt. The sadness that overwhelmed you as you stared through a blank fog of mixed-up confusion. You said that you lost the ability to focus and completely understand your surroundings. It was as though you were trapped under a wet blanket of uncertainty and timid fear. You told me once that you that you were beaten. I cannot and will not agree. Not for a moment. Not you.

You, my mother, are strong. You are independent. At your core. In your heart. You have not changed. There is no denying that you are damaged; however, do not believe for a second that you are broken. You aren’t. Listen to me as I tell you to pick up your feet and fight through the sluggish fog that surrounds you. Don’t shuffle. Push. Believe in yourself as we all do, and understand that each small victory is a triumph in the making. Don’t for a second think that your baby steps are anything but amazing. You are in a battle and nothing is quick. Nothing is easy. But for you. For you, it is possible. All you need to do is to believe. All you need to do is struggle. It will come back. Have faith.

Do you remember the present I gave you for Mother’s Day when I was in grade 8? (Or 9) It was a record single. I wonder if you can remember the song. The band who sang it. Think for a moment before you continue. Struggle to remember. I don’t think that I ever told you this, but I ‘found’ that single in a video arcade at the mall a few days before. Instead of leaving it there, or handing it into the coin clerk, I silently picked it up and slid it beneath my jacket to take home. Not honest, I know, but this find couldn’t have come at a better time. I had no money and I wanted to give you something for your birthday. This isn’t a lesson that I would teach my children; however, I can’t help (hope) but think that I found that record for a reason. That that gift was more for now than it was for then. Maybe it’s the title. Possibly the lyrics. Or maybe it’s just one more piece of the past that will help bring you back to the present.

Where the Streets Have No Name was the song, U2 the band. Both were introduced to us the first time you put the needle to that vinyl, and a love for both became another bond that we would share. I wonder if you are listening to this song as you read my words. I hope you are. The music. The lyrics. Both seem to hit a chord. Maybe they will be the spark that you need. Not to help you remember. But rather, to help you ignite. I pray that they will be another catalyst that helps to set fire to the woman who lays dormant within. I know you are there. I believe you have the strength. Now it’s on you.

You, mom.

You are still there. Believe. Struggle. Stay positive. Have faith. You are there. You are all there. Listen to my words, listen to your song. Listen. Just listen.

I love you.

Love,
Shane
Where the Street Have No Name Youtube link

Track 77 — I Write the Songs

I remember writing a poem about six months after my brother and I had moved to Taiwan. I don’t know the words that were written, nor do I have a copy of the poem with which to refresh my aging memory; nevertheless, I do recall what the ode was about. My hands. I can also recollect why the poem was written. I had looked down at my hands one afternoon (Don’t ask me why.) and was stunned by what I saw. These were no longer the hands of the boy who had come to Taiwan a few months before. These were now the hands of a man. At some point during my first summer in the country, I had stepped away from the child that had always peered back at me from deep within gleaming mirrors and glossy photos. I had somehow transformed into the man that I was meant to become.

It was about time.

I was twenty-six years old after all. I had already finished both an undergrad and a law degree. I should have made the mental leap into manhood years before. You’d think. But, as with many things in my life, I was a bit slow to get things done. I know for certain that there is a story to be told explaining why it took so long for my self-perception to catch up to my years; however, that is for another time. Another post. Another revelation.

Or not.

As often as I have been writing recently, it is possible that I will never get around to hitting publish on that one. Then again, you never know. For now, however, I am quite content to just share a few words in dedication to the spark of man who helped me to realize that I was more than just a boy.

My dad.

His are the hands which held me when I needed to be held, carried me when I needed to be carried, and pushed me when I need to be pushed. His are the hands which led me through Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. They taught me to give, receive and more importantly to share. His are the hands which pushed record at every play, concert, or performance that I was ever in. They are also the hands that could be heard the loudest when the recording was done. His are the hands that built bunk-beds, toy tractors and go-karts for fun. They are also the hands that taught us how to play with his creations. Oh, how they loved to play. His are the hands that waved playfully in the air as he tried to convince me that he could fly. They moved with such childlike precision that I was sure he could. His are the hands that were never violent or full of spite. Instead they were always open, ready to embrace. His are the hands that I often reached for when in need. There was never a doubt that they would be there for help, support and guidance. His are the hands that picked me up when I was down and raised me even higher when I was up. They are the strongest I have ever known. His are the hands that have stayed locked within those of my mother, pampering, nurturing and loving. They do everything that a husband’s hands should do. His are the hands of a father, a friend and a husband. His are the hands of a man. His are the hands that I was finally starting to see as I looked down at my own

Ironically, it took me moving halfway around the earth to make this connection with my father. It was during my parents’ first visit to Taiwan as we were sitting at a restaurant counter eating teppanyaki when I first started to truly listen to what he had to say. It was the first time that I felt as though I was interacting with my father on an even level. It was the first time that I felt like a man.

And now, on his seventieth birthday (Actually his birthday was on April 26. As I said above, I am a bit slow to get things done.) I figured it was about time to thank my father for all that he has shown me, taught me, given me. His are the hands which I will continue to hold with love, pride and thanks. His are the hands which I hope to pass on to my own children as they continue to grow. His are the hands.

I Write the Songs, by Barry Manilow, is one of the many songs that has been with me for as long as I can remember. It has been on every playlist that my dad has ever made and it has been blasted in every car that he has ever driven. As much as I make fun of my father for his affinity towards Mr. Manilow, his songs bring with them the visions of my dad and more importantly, the warmth of his touch.

Happy birthday, Pops! I love ya!

I Write the Songs youtube link

Track 76 – Someone Like You

Last night I found myself in front of the computer fighting with my fingertips (again) , trying desperately to find the words to express what was going on inside. I guess the gap between tracks has been too long. One o’clock came and went and I had written nothing worth posting. At about one thirty, Rachel finally came out into the living room and asked me to go to bed. Five thirty was going to come around way too quickly. It was time to catch some z’s.

Without argument, I closed up my laptop, padded off to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and quickly slipped under the covers next to Rachel. As I snuggled up close against her bulging belly, I concentrated on the gentle movements coming from deep within her womb. I looked at her and smiled. Our little one seemed to know that it was finally time for us to meet. His day had arrived.

And what a blur of a day it was.

It is now one fifteen in the morning of January 5th and I cannot help but wonder where the hours have gone. Our baby boy, Onan Aaron Kaufman, was born in the wee early hours of January 4th, 2014. He was brought out from the delivery room, face scrunched up in discomfort, by one of the nurses. We were told his weight (3.6 kilograms), his time of birth (7:44 a.m), the status of his mother (healthy) and were allowed to take a few pictures before he was whisked back inside to be cleaned up and swaddled.

The rest of the day was a series of visits, texts, snuggles and pictures. Somehow, through all of the excitement, time, the elusive demon that it can be, managed to slip away. The early hours of tomorrow became today, and here I am, once again, perched at my computer searching for something to say.

Fortunately, tonight I have found my words.

Kind of.

I have actually borrowed some words. Two to be exact. A short sentiment that was passed to me through the lips of my other brother. Something that he said to me after I thanked him and a group of friends and family for all they had done to give Rachel and I such an amazing baby sprinkle. His words were nothing special. Nevertheless, they were something very profound. They gave me an outlook that I hope (and pray) I can pass on to my children. What he said was,

‘Thank you.’

At first I thought it was a rather odd response to my words of appreciation. After all, he (and everyone else) had put so much time and effort into making little Onan’s baby sprinkle such an extravagant success. He had no reason to be thanking me.

Or did he?

My ‘brother’ replied that the anticipation of Onan’s arrival had given us all a reason to celebrate. It was an act of love that provided a group of friends with an excuse to let love’s beauty shine. He continued by saying that we live in a world where love must be cherished, nurtured and spread. Any reason to celebrate it is something to be thankful for.

As I sit here in the faint light of my computer, looking over my wife and daughter and thinking of my newborn son snuggled peacefully below, I am struck with the wisdom and insight of his words. All I can do is to respond with nothing less than the same sentiment.

‘Thank you!’

(Someone Like you, by Adele, is the background music for Onan’s birth announcement. (http://magis.to/fX9xAwMHRQkfDnIGAw) It was the song that seemed to fit the moment and for me it will forever be ‘his’. Welcome to the world, my son. Thank you for the love that you have brought with you!)

Someone Like You Youtube link

Track 75 — This is the One; Hidden Track — Seasons of Love

I sat down tonight with a mission; a mission to finally complete this post; a post which I had every intention of publishing three weeks ago; three weeks ago, of course, being my forty-first birthday and the intended finale to my 365 day blog; a blog which somehow never reached its conclusion.

Sigh.

Trust me when I say that I tried. I wrote, scratched, typed and deleted so many introductions and ideas that I almost forgot what it was I that I had hoped to say. I struggled so much, in fact, that I felt as though I was playing a game that my brother and I used enjoy as kids. (Actually, it is not so much a game as it is a psychological phenomenon. But I digress.) He and I would repeat ‘giraffe’ over and over again until the word completely lost its meaning. It was somehow amusing for us to disassociate the word ‘giraffe’ from the long necked animal that roams the Savannah. What can I say? We were easily entertained. Now. Not so much. Now. This game of semantic saturation has lost all of its appeal. Now. All I want to do is get to track 76.

Unfortunately, in order to do that that, I must first open the door to track 75. And as I have said, that has not been an easy task. I am not sure why, however, as I had chosen the song about two months before I really began thinking about what I wanted to say. Come to think of it, maybe that was the problem.

The song I had originally chosen was Seasons of Love from Rent. The selection seemed appropriate for the occasion. (To me anyway.) How do I measure a year? From the words I have written over the past 365 days, I hope that the answer is obvious. In love. For my family. My friends. My past. And of course, my future. The answer should be nothing but – love.

The snag came as I tried to relate the song to my life. Rent was the last musical that I saw before coming to Taiwan. My parents purchased four tickets; two for themselves, and two for me and my fiancée at the time. Life worked out, however, that I needed to find another date for the performance. (see track 54 Closer To Fine) Although it might not have seemed true at the time, I know now that I was sitting next to the perfect person as the final number faded and the curtains came down.

As I write this post, it seems to me that Seasons of Love was the perfect choice. The song was a prelude to what became be the next chapter of my life; the chapter which eventually brought me to where I am today. If only the last three weeks had been so easy.

I am not sure why, but any thoughts that I had put down onto the paper or screen in front of me did not seem to fit. Possibly I was trying too hard. Maybe I was looking for a bit of poignancy that was not there. It could be that I was striving for a depth that could not be reached. Or maybe I just did not know what to say. Nevertheless, for whatever the reason, I abandoned Seasons of Love. The post was not going anywhere and I decided that I needed a new song.

When I sat down today, I had no idea what track 75 would be. All I knew was that I had to relax. (The three-finger shot of single malt that sits next to me as I type is my failsafe guarantee to success.) It was not until I started writing that I began to hear the music. I guess that I needed to first understand that this post was neither a conclusion nor a finale. It was just a post; a rambling like any other. Not written to be deep. Not told to be meaningful. Just published as a means to tell my story.

My blog is nothing more than a compilation of musings that give insight into how I lived, what I have done, what I have hoped for and what I strive to achieve. As I tap closer to track 76, I have finally realized that this post was nothing to be planned or forced. It was simply the one.

This is the One, by the Stone Roses, was a song that was introduced to me in university by the same woman who sat next to me at Rent. (See track 71 Faithfully) It is a song that has been with me for all of my adult life. Although I have no idea what the lead singer is singing about, (I assume it’s about a girl, but his accent is just too strong for me!) the chorus sings out to me with every heavy strum of the guitar. This is the one. There is only one. I am in love with it and look forward to every moment of it. I pray for a future filled with the same love and happiness with which I have been blessed. To my family and friends, nothing but love.

Now, let’s hit track 76.

This is the One youtube link

Seasons of Love youtube link

Track 72 – Angel of Mine

My love,

When I first met you…

…I was sitting on my motorcycle outside of Nepal. You came out of the bar a little left of sober and I wished you a happy birthday. Our introduction was brief and uneventful. I doubt whether you even remember it. Why would you. I was just another foreigner on the prowl. Just know that I remember you.

I remember looking at you more closely a couple of months later when a friend of mine commented on what a good looking ‘bird’ you were. He was right. You were pretty hot. Jet black hair gelled up the sky; deep brown eyes full of mischief and excitement; a smile that filled the room. Everything about you seemed to draw me in.

From that moment

I already knew,
There was something inside of you…

… and I spent the better part of a year trying my best to get you to notice the same thing in me. This didn’t come without a struggle. Nothing worthwhile ever does. But in the end you heard my words, trusted my intentions and felt my love. You gratefully accepted everything that I had to offer and in return blessed me with a look of depth and purity that spoke of forever. In the end, you said I do.

Although our wedding day seemed to pass by in a blur, I will always carry with me brief moments and mental pictures of the day when we two became one: the sharp echo of firecrackers that awakened the world to our becoming; tears of happiness that were shed outside your parents’ home; prayers that were chanted for a future full of health and happiness; and the love from our friends and family that welcomed our union. It was and will forever remain a day to be remembered.

My love,

If you were to ask me why I think our marriage is so strong, I wouldn’t have a clue what to tell you. If you were to ask me why I still look upon you with the same sense of passion that I did when we first started dating, I would shrug my shoulders and tell you ‘because’. If you were to ask me how I know I will love you forever, I would kiss you and just tell you I do.

But you won’t ask me.

Instead, you will carry on squeezing my hand as you did on the day we were married; you will never stop caressing me with the tenderness of a young newlywed; and you will forever continue whispering ‘I love you’ into my ear.

How do I know this?

As I said before, twelve years ago, ‘My love, I just do.’

Angel, by Eternal, was the first song we danced to as husband and wife. As the music started playing, my head began buzzing and my ears started ringing. For a moment the world was empty except you and I. Time, for that second, stood still.

I look(ed) at you, looking at me
I know why they said the best things are free,
Gonna love you ’til the end of time,
Angel of mine.

Happy anniversary, my love.

You are my eternal!

Angel of Mine youtube link