Track 81 — 100 Years

The other morning as our train pulled into Union Station, Siaya turned to me and asked if three weeks at grandma’s and grandpa’s house was enough. I stared at her for a long moment, regarding her question with a little more thought than she was expecting. I know she was hoping for a quick answer. A simple ‘yes’, or ‘no’. Not the monologue she was about to get. Nevertheless, I smiled at her and began.

I can remember back when I was your age, traveling to visit my grandparents, aunts and uncles. Although your grandparents, Uncle Scott and I lived in Canada, we were always a plane ride or eventually a road trip away from everyone. Visits were never frequent. Back then, they remained annual events, very similar to our own trips back here to Canada. And like our trips here, they seemed to finish just moments after they began. Really. Doesn’t it feel as though we just arrived?

Siaya stared at me with polite boredom. I knew I had already lost her; however, I pushed on.

I listened to you and your brother laughing and chattering away as we pulled away from the platform in Cornwall. This train ride has been fun for you both. Onan loves just being here. For him, trains, buses, planes, you name it – they are all amazing. He is still at that age where a ride on any type of vehicle is exciting. You, I think, are anxiously anticipating the adventure that awaits you in Toronto. This will be your first vacation alone; your first summer camp. Your focus is on the freedom and independence that lies just around the corner.

 Believe it or not, I can still I remember feeling the same sort of excitement and delight every time I boarded a train, walked down the gangway onto a plane or piled into an overstuffed car. When you are young, your focus is very much on the now. This means, every time you travel anywhere, the trip is all you can really think about. Your attention remains on the present adventure. This usually means that any amount of time spent on holidays is enough. Of course, there is disappointment when you leave; however, you have the trip home to make things a little easier. A little more fun. And that, my dear, is a youthful perspective.

Siaya’s eyes told me that I was beginning to take away from her fun, but, hey, I was on a roll.

For me, I must admit that this train ride carries with it a little more bitter than sweet. I am very sad to leave your grandma and grandpa behind. They are getting older and I don’t know how many more trips home like this I will get. Although I am thrilled to be sharing this train ride with you and Onan, I don’t have your youthful view on life. I can’t shake this feeling of sadness as we move farther and farther from your grandparents’ home. At this moment, I am preoccupied with where we are leaving rather than where we are going. And that, my love, is a more aged perspective.

I knew that that was too deep, so a backtracked a bit.

For a time, your grandparents, Uncle Scott and I would drive to New Jersey to visit my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. New Jersey is only a seven-hour drive from Cornwall, so we did this with a little more frequency. We made it into long-weekend vacations, about twice or three times a year. And every time the weekend ended, as we drove away, your grandpa would honk his endless goodbyes, and your grandma, Uncle Scott and I would wave wildly through the windows of our packed car (You really have no idea just how packed it was.). I remember watching as my grandmother grew smaller through the rear window of the car. She was always so much sadder than the rest of us. Her wave had a little less weight to it. Her smile never seemed to penetrate through the slow trickle of tears that made their way down her cheeks. At the time, I didn’t – couldn’t truly understand why she felt so sad. I was about to eat pretzels, chips and chocolate-marshmallow cookies for the next seven hours. What was there to be sad about? And besides that, we would, of course, return on the next long weekend. Youthful perspective.

Now that I am older though, my perspective has changed drastically. This morning, for example, as we boarded the train, the only thought on my mind was having to leave your grandparents. And it sucked. This feeling got even worse as the train pulled away. I’m not sure if you saw your grandpa standing on the platform as we left. You were very busy getting settled into your seat with your brother. I, however, did. And it broke my heart. How sad he seemed trying to catch a glimpse of us through the tinted windows. His waves held much less promise than the torrent of beeps he used to give his mother so many years ago. It brought tears to my eyes.

I had Siaya’s attention, if just for a moment. I needed to bring my rambling to an end.

No, my love. Three weeks was not enough. But as you get older, you realize that no amount of time will ever be enough. All I can do is to enjoy every moment that I share with your grandparents and satisfy myself with the understanding that each goodbye is simply a prelude to the next hello.

I could have gone on. I had more to say. But, I didn’t. I recognized that Siaya had had enough. So, instead, I kissed her on the forehead and let the moment pass. For her anyways.

Not for me. Not yet.

I turned from Siaya and stared out from behind the tinted glass for a moment, looking for another glimpse of my father’s face that was miles behind. I wish he could have seen me waving back at him as the train rolled away. He would have known that I shared in his heartache. But then again, I’m sure he knew. I’m sure they both know.

100 Years, by Five for Fighting is a song I tried to introduce to Siaya a few months ago. Unfortunately, at the time, she asked me to change the music. She said that she had had enough of my ‘old-school’ tunes and wanted to hear something from her generation. Fair enough. I do hope, however, that one day, maybe after reading this, she will give the song a second chance. For me, the lyrics have a lot to say. Once again though, perspective.

Life is short. As my father has said on many occasions, “Tomorrow always comes.” Fifteen turns to twenty-two turns to forty-five turns to sixty-seven turns to ninety-nine. And we’re done. As quick as that, it’s over. And all that is left are the memories that we have helped to create for ourselves and for others along the way. I have learned over the years to do my best to live these moments that I have been given. To laugh, to live and most importantly to love. Understanding that there is never enough time has pushed me to better cherish the time that I have. I may not have 100 years, but I will do my best to live a life that feels like it.

100 Years 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