Monthly Archives: August 2010

For a Dancer: thoughts about life, death and dreams.

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

Jackson Browne penned some of the most beautiful and profound lyrics ever written in the song For a Dancer, a song that he wrote about a dear friend of his who passed away too early in life, and a song that is not only a personal favorite of mine, but clearly a favorite of a large number of Jackson’s loyal fans.

 I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
’cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(there’s nothing you can do about it anyway)

As you get older in life, unfortunately, you are forced to think more and more about the cycle of life and death and where you currently reside in that process.  As parents and the older generations of your family move on, you seemingly get closer and closer to the roots (or leaves depending on how you draw it) of your family tree.  I don’t particularly like that!  It’s comforting to me to have that umbrella of older more experienced folks hovering over me, even if they are not really significantly involved in my day-to-day life anymore.

 Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

I read a beautiful tribute today to a passed loved one, written by a friend of mine, Chris, and posted on Facebook.  In this tribute Chris speaks of an older brother, Jay, who was lost to a freak traffic accident twenty-five years ago.  Chris’ brother was only 22 years old at the time.  One can only imagine how devastating that must be to a family to lose someone in the prime of their life, but Chris talked about memories and keeping his brother’s spirit alive.  Chris also talked about hearing the lyrics from a John Mayer song for the first time on the most recent anniversary of his brother’s death:

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart, then waking up can be the hardest part.”

Chris says, “Dreams about Jay are treasured.  And like the song says, when they happen, waking up is the hardest part.  For each time I dreamed about him, I never wanted it to end.”

I understand that feeling.

I lost my mother to cancer in 2002 when she was only sixty years young.  A brutally aggressive brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, had taken her from us just seven months and two brain surgeries after her initial diagnosis.  We held a nice reception at the Swan Hotel Bar in Lambertville, New Jersey, after her funeral services and in good family fashion had a lot of fun, a few too many drinks and for a short time we were able to forget about the ceremony we had all just cried through.  Towards the end of the reception I remember standing outside the bar with a few of us and a close family friend, Jon, talked about dreams he would have about his mother, who had passed several years earlier, and how those dreams always seemed to correspond with something that was going on in his life at the time.

 Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(the world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

I dreamed about my Mom a lot after her passing.  Although I am not a spiritual person, I always believed that was her way of trying to communicate with me and let me know everything was going to be okay.  When I had problems or stressors in my life I would have dreams that included my Mom that would somehow help me find the answers to whatever was plaguing me.  Like Chris, I treasured those dreams.  It was so real at the time and I too never wanted it to end.  Of course they always do, and waking up I would always crave the memories and try to piece together the scattered images that quickly fade when one wakes from a deep sleep.

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know 

I see Mom in my dreams much less frequently anymore.  That makes me sad, but one cannot control what goes on in one’s mind when the lights are out and the REM sleep takes over.  Although I have lots of photographs of my Mom to remind me how she looked, I have a hard time now remembering what her voice sounded like.  It’s all just a function of time, of course.  As another close friend said to me around the time of my Mom’s death, “it gets easier every day.”  I hate to think it gets easier because it makes me think I am forgetting, but in reality it does.  I believe our loved ones (especially my Mom) wouldn’t want us sitting around mourning them for eternity.  They would want us to keep them alive in spirit and in memories and in photographs, but they would also want us to move on, to continue enjoying our beautiful lives and to make the most of every living day, both when we are awake… and in our dreams.



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Life Goes On

I wrote this after the Vikings lost the NFC championship game this past winter…

So I woke up this morning, having gotten about 3 hours of sleep last night, a dull headache from drinking too much yesterday. I was in bed by 11:00 last night, but woke up throughout the night replaying football plays in my mind, especially that last pick… ugh Brett, why didn’t you just run the ball, pick up 10 yards, kick the field goal, head to Miami! Yeah, the Vikes lost another NFC championship game. I’ve witnessed four during my fan-hood. This one wasn’t quite as bad as 1998, but I’d probably put it 2nd on my list. I really thought this was the year we’d go to the Super Bowl. But I probably felt that way back in 2000 when we got drubbed 41-0 by the Giants, and in 1998 when we lost in OT, and in 87, and in… but those are thankfully all just vague memories now.

This season was a good ride, fun to watch, engaging. When a team is at the top, they get lots of TV air time so I got to watch a lot of games. Who would have thought Brett Favre, one-time enemy, one-time QB of the hated Packers, would now be carrying the team. Love him or hate him (and there was lots of both), I think it was a good story, and good for the NFL ratings. Boy, if this old guy can go out and play pro football every Sunday, surely I can still play hoops with friends, or throw the ball around with my kids. I wasn’t sure what to think when Favre signed with the Vikes back in August of last year, but regardless of what he did for the 2009 team, I now KNOW the guy is a class act, a leader, and a deserved hall-of-famer. I suspect he will finally retire for good now – he sure took a hell of a beating last night – you could see the wincing on his face. But who the hell knows. If he does, maybe the Vikes can finally go out and find themselves a franchise quarterback, and stop trying to win with the Warren Moon’s, Randall Cunningham’s and Brett Favre’s of the NFL ranks.

I could have cried last night watching that Saints kicker nail that final field goal. Really! I’m not afraid to admit it. It hurts to watch a team lose like that! I was friggin’ spent with adrenaline pulsing through my veins. I was mad and wanted to throw my drink class at the flat screen! The emotional investment we put into rooting for these teams is so powerful. Sometimes I think it’s crazy, silly even, but every year so many of us put our collective hearts and souls into whichever teams make us tick. And you know why? Because its fun… and it’s a release… a release from the stress of life, from work, from the day to day monotony we all face. I’m glad I’m not in Haiti or Iraq, or one of the many unemployed here in Michigan. It’s just football and life goes on.

We put the kids to bed after the game ended. I came back downstairs to watch the post-game, saw the confetti flying, and just couldn’t do it. I went to bed thinking who gives a shit about the Super Bowl. But a good night’s sleep… uh, well even a bad night’s sleep puts thing back into perspective. I’ve got a wonderful family that puts up with all this craziness, two beautiful kids that have already forgiven me for yelling at them for walking in front of the TV, and a wife that makes cookies with purple icing! I will watch the Super Bowl. In fact, I’ll probably root for the Saints. For a city still reeling from the tragedy of Katrina, they’re a good story too!

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Driving at Night

I love driving at night. The open highway empty other than the few other drivers and the truckers out there with you. The radio playing faintly in the background and those late night DJ’s seem to connect so well with their audience. I find it peaceful, watching the hypnotizing white lines and highway markers pass by. It’s a different world at night, as you drive by all the small towns with the neon brightly glaring but most of the businesses closed for the night and most of the resident sleeping soundly in bed. And the people you do see at night, in their cars and at the truckstops and restaurants that stay open 24 hours… they’re just regular folk, but somehow different, somehow more interesting, unconstrained by the mainstream 9-5 jobs, or the traditional daytime waking hours. Do these people know what time it is? Do they care? I don’t know. What I do know is they’re folks on a mission. Anyone who is driving on an empty highway in the middle of the night must have somewhere important to be. Maybe they’re young college students roadtripping, maybe they’re truckers trucking, maybe they’re parents traveling with sleeping kids in the back seats of the minivan. Regardless, I suspect they’re all free spirits, happy to be on the road and willing to look the darkness and lack of sleep in the eye and say “fuck it”, let’s get some more coffee and go for another few hours!

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