“What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.” ~ Saint Augustine.
It was impossible this week not to feel nostalgic and emotional. Yesterday marked 100 years since the birth of my father. It was a convenient year for a birth – those born at the start of a new decade (or the end of an old) make it easy for us to calculate ages. In the case of my parents I could work out my father’s age easily, then subtract three to get my mother’s. He worked the same trick with his kids. My middlest sister Deborah (that was how she signed a letter or a card to my parents once) was also born at the turn of a decade – and so I could work up or down to work out my other sibling’s ages. I missed the boat with my own kids, one was born in ’79 and one in ’81. Bad planning. My daughter compensated; her first child was born in 2010.
My father’s birthday triggered many memories, most of them associated with his voice. His singing voice, his preaching voice, his high pitched tenor with its lilting Welsh tones, his cheeky voice, they were all echoing in my head yesterday. It is amazing how close the departed can feel, even when it has been years since you heard or saw them.
Yesterday Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago, my first volume of Friday Morning Messages was released in Kindle edition. I had cleverly managed to get my book published in time for my mother to order several copies to be sent to friends and family. It was a matter of some pride that she had seen my words published, had seen me pick up the mantle of my father’s Friday morning tradition. She died later that year.
This year, this strange pandemic year, has forced all of us to think about our mortality, to pay attention to our health, to evaluate our priorities. This year, for only the second time in 22 years, our high school alumni association was not able to hold our usual action-packed fund-raising weekend. Every Labor Day weekend, all roads lead to South Florida for the extended Clarendon College family. Usually the chapter members are busy preparing, working, partying for 4 days straight, in the interest of generating funds for our alma mater. We compensated by holding our first ever Virtual Fund-raising party, courtesy of a local media organization (Flexxfm.online; to give them a plug). And it worked! We could see our friends, dance the night away while soliciting donations for our cause. Amazing how we can reimagine opportunities if we just try.
What else can we do differently? How will we be changed by the year 2020? It will be a watershed year indeed. Like those born in a year that ends in zero, we will use 2020 to measure events. Sometimes it helps, when things seem to be going wrong, to focus on the good things we have learned. For me I have learned that things will go wrong (like no internet when I need to write and send out my FMM!). And we will go with the flow. For so long as we are alive, we can adapt and evolve.
On Labor Day Monday, a day when ordinarily we would be gathering with a large group of party animals, out of towners who were not ready to go home, to eat, dance, laugh, take photos, and laugh some more (and eat), I headed out of town to the west coast of Florida. In the company of a few close friends, I was outdoors, appreciating raw Florida – the pine trees, the birds, the water. It was a reminder that even though some things have changed, Mother Nature is constant,
This Friday afternoon I give thanks for those who came before me, who taught me to appreciate life in its simplicity. My father often quoted Mother Theresa’s words: ‘Live simply, so others may simply live.” With tears in my eyes and a song in my heart I give thanks for a man who impacted so many, while never looking for accolades or awards. A man who understood how to be humble, how to listen, how to be authentic, or as one tribute posited when he died, a true Rasta man! There is a song which always grounds me: “I am a humble African” by Joseph Hill, and I think of proud humble men like my father, like my father-in-law, and I give thanks.
May you all have a wonderful weekend, Family! And remember to spend a moment giving thanks to those who came before you, both known and unknown.