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22 Mar


1.  dearly loved.
synonyms: darling, dear, dearest, precious, adored, much loved, cherished, treasured, prized, highly regarded, admired, esteemed, worshiped, revered, venerated, idolized


Morning light


A Long run

Cold water on a hot day



Riding my bike




Back roads

Grasshoppers skimming from weed to weed

The smell of cut grass

My Dad

Small towns



(With a hard preference for the old rail car variety over the giant, novel-length menu, Jersey variety.)



Being lost

But not that lost


And it’s music (Bob Seger)

Grand Haven


Shaving in the sun, window open with a view through the trees.


And all it’s boltholes

History.  Near, and brushed against.

And the trains

Withnail and I

The Orkney sky


Late at night and early in the morning


Robert Elms

Open Country

His Finest Hour

Road trips


And their pools in the afternoon light


Wild Flowers

Okie Donuts

And kindness

My neighborhood

My friends

The little patch of dirt I call a garden

A slow afternoon in the kitchen


With wine

Especially the reds of Italy

(I could go on)

Waking up after a snowstorm with nowhere to go

Soft warm socks

And a good book

Jim Harrison

Michael Palin’s diaries

The music of Gavin Clark.

Time alone

Skating the smooth ice of a frozen lake

The evening sky ablaze


And People





Hallie, nearby, as I’m falling asleep

Heath, with his arm across my shoulders

And Amy, who illuminates it all and makes my life shine.



21 Sep


If ever there was a sun that shines on me,

If ever there was a dream come true,

If ever the truth existed,

It was you

–Martin Sexton*

In the autumn of 1993 the sun shone in Northern Italy as grapes were harvested, gently crushed and slowly allowed to ferment.  Sunlight was captured in a bottle, while half a world away, I met a girl.

I was 30 years old, just back from Europe, and I was alone.  I was not a religious man, but there were prayers.  During those gray fall days, they went something like this:  “Dear God, if I have to choose between having a career as an actor and finding the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, please let me find that person.”

Of course, I still expected both.  But I had begun to sense that maybe all my dreams were not going to come true, and I wanted to make sure my priorities were clear, which was wise.  Because, looking back, it was as if I had walked into the mountains without a map, dropped my compass in the river, lost all my food, and took every wrong turn.  Until I met Amy.  Beautiful, talented, funny and wise, she found me wandering in circles and, together, we found our way home.

Wine is about moments.  Fleeting on their own, together they create an alchemy of weather, skill and time, evolving toward the moment the wine is tasted.  There’s magic in all of this, but there’s a special magic in the sharing.  Wine never tastes as good as it does with Amy.  And tonight, when things settle down; when Hallie’s in her PJs, and Heath’s had his shower, in celebration of our marriage, twenty years ago today, we will open that bottle of wine, a 1993 Barolo, and unleash the sunlight of the autumn we first met.

And we’ll kiss, and I’ll realize, once again, just how lucky I am.  And then I’ll say another, simpler prayer.

“Thank you.”

Let Love


* You (My Mind Is Woo) by Martin Sexton


The Distance

6 Oct

DSC_1023 (2)

“It isn’t what’s left to do at the end, it’s the things left unfinished along the way.”                                                     — Deadwood, by Pete Dexter

Driving in darkness, I hug the road as it rises and falls through the night.  We plunge downward and as trees blow past, I am in a mountain pass, my mind creating walls that can’t possibly exist, for this is Wisconsin, and surely we are surrounded by farmland.  But the road tells a different story.  Veering right, my headlights glare off the window of a small cabin before sweeping back to the asphalt, trees, and the staccato white line I desperately try to follow. Tired, I flash my brights whenever possible, scanning for those little bounces of light along the roadside.  Because the deer are out there, and tonight they’re feeling lucky.

*     *     *

When we were kids, my siblings and I would occasionally find mom face down on the laundry room floor.  Familiar with the situation, we would stand around her.

“Mom?  Mom?  We know you’re joking mom. Mom?  Come on, mom, get up.”

And still, she would remain motionless, to all appearances having suffered some sudden cardiac episode.  This would continue until someone’s voice took on an edge of panic, and then her body would begin to quiver, the movement growing ever more convulsive, until, finally, we’d realize she was laughing.  Releasing the sound as she got to her feet, she’d laugh so hard tears would come to her eyes.  And while down through the years this story has been met with universal horror, it’s always made me proud.  Even at a very young age, when it came to death, no babies we.

 *     *     *

Having eluded the deer, and found our hotel, we continue on the next morning, refreshed.  Unable to find a diner in downtown Janesville, we settle for a chain restaurant out by the highway, the kind of place where the portions are huge, but it seems they occasionally run soup through the coffee maker.

Chicago is Chicago.  Rain, road construction and the slow tide of humanity crawling down through the northwest suburbs, past the rusty overpasses and the neighborhoods of my youth.  Occasionally I miss it.  There’s no better place to make friends, and of course it gave me Amy.  But nevertheless, Chicago and I never warmed to each other.

Back on familiar ground, we fly.  The Skyway, Gary, and around the lake into Michigan.  That great gray swath of the world where the steel plants have been silenced but the smoke never seems to go away.  Cars, campers, exits and boats; a great world of motion that always seems to be going fishing.

And then we’re at Mom’s house.  A quick repacking, hiking boots and dirty clothes boxed up to be dropped in the mail, and off to the airport.  But even before I reach the counter, they tell me my flight has been canceled.  The storms, currently raging over Lake Michigan, have followed us all the way from South Dakota.  There will be no flight home tonight.

 *     *     *

When my father died I was not nearly so well prepared as I’d imagined.  It effected me in ways I still don’t understand.  I know it created a distance.  A safety zone, as it were, from the people I love.  My kids have chopped this down a bit by simply refusing to recognize it.  And Amy, trail-blazer that she is, has grown familiar with the terrain, and is willing to cross it when I cannot.  But my mom, my sister and my brothers are still out there, loved, but at the distance they were placed by a fourteen year old who could not bear another loss.  Each of us, in our ways, living these past 38 years with slowly mending hearts.

But we’re not alone.

From the unexpected death of Amy’s father, which started this journey, to friends along the way, and their stories of prairie wind, blinding snow, and the sudden loss of the people they’d thought to spend the rest of their lives with, we are not alone.  From the families of others, further back, buried beneath the mud of a collapsing dam, to the loved ones of those lost in the violence of a place and time that valued gold above human life, we are not alone.  And with the stories of a family who struggled, built a life, and died, leaving quiet houses, a few gravestones and the fields they worked, we are not alone.

*      *     *

You know when you drink a lot of coffee in the morning, and about an hour, hour and a half later you really need to go to the bathroom?  You know what that’s called?  Prostate cancer.  — Lesson from my mother

Our first days on the road, I was struck by her calm assurance.  Like a bird aloft in strong winds, her mind, of late, had seemed unable to settle and find rest.  But the woman beside me was different.  Seemingly free of worry, she was less a mother, and more a friend.  The comfort of her presence was palpable.  The ways in which we are alike, and the simple pleasures we share, brought days of quiet enjoyment.

But on our return the serenity slipped away.  When I pointed this out, she replied, “Well that’s normal.  To return home is to return to your worries.”  Which I understand, but can’t agree with.  Home is a refuge.  I struggle to make it so.  Where did I learn this if not from her?

*     *     *

It had rained, and the cabbie splashed along the quiet streets of my neighborhood.  He was chatty, which I enjoyed.  I love how easily people talk here.  If the best journeys bring you home, I was glad of his company these final few blocks.

He pulled up to the curb, and as I grabbed my bags I looked up at our house.  Not a worry in sight.

 *     *     *

A few weeks later, in response to something I posted on my wedding anniversary, my mother writes:  “I feel your love for each other when ever I am around you!”

Pleased, I think of Amy, and the gentle chaos that is our life; of Hallie, and the feeling I get when she sleeps across my chest, and of Heath, and how my love for him seems to never stop growing.   Then I write, “When it comes to love, I had two very good teachers.”  And, by just a bit, I feel the distance close.
Todd 4 folks 2

Big Magic

22 Sep

Central Park

Falling in love is small magic, a beginners sleight of hand.  With a little time and patience anyone can do it.  Marriage is something more:  A time-release miracle, performed in tandem, naked on a high-wire. Friends and relatives offer a toast as you climb the ladder, and then go their way, leaving the two of you to walk out alone, exposed, your lives in each others’ hands.  And while this is very brave, it’s not yet miraculous,  for alchemy takes time.

Saturday began early, crisp and cool, as we made our preparations for the Buddy Walk, the yearly Central Park gathering of the nicest families I know, and the day we join with friends to celebrate Hallie.  Heath hates this, of course.  He has to leave the house, spend hours outdoors, walk great distances, socialize in a loud communal atmosphere with limited technology, and all because of his little sister.  “Why God?!”  he cries, his hands aloft like a latter-day Tevye, “Why must there be so  much walking?  Why must there even be a Buddy Walk!?” And then he does his best to close out the world, burrowing beneath a sweatshirt, and desperately trying to find something, anything, to do on his tablet.  For Heath, we call this being a good sport.

As we move through the day, the clouds come and go.  Far more social than I, Amy is in constant motion.  She greets, she organizes, she chats.  I hang with Hallie as she gets her nails done (tasteful pink) and her hands painted (“Star,” she says, pointing solemnly to her left hand; “Heart,” she says, pointing to her right.).  Spending the day within a few feet of each other, we barely speak, and as the afternoon winds down, and our friends disperse with hugs and thanks, we make our way home to prepare for her brother Tim’s annual cook out.  More food, more wine, more friends.  A day of love, friendship, good food, and a little too much wine.

Sunday is our anniversary.  No gifts, no dinner, no expectations.  We can barely get off the couch.

Eighteen years ago I knew little of magic.  I just thought I was lucky.  I had met this sweet, funny, beautiful woman, for whom I felt a love stronger than any I’d ever known.  I offered my hand, she took it, and together we climbed the ladder and stepped out onto the wire.

The wonder of a good marriage is that there is no illusion.  It is very, very real.  And very pure, for it’s a miracle you create solely for yourselves, using only what you’ve learned from each other.  A mutual act of strength, humor, joy and grace, performed fully cognizant of how many times you’ve kept each other from falling.  And it’s so much fun.  To this day, nobody makes me laugh like she does.  And the magic just grows with each passing year.

I’ve always had trouble seeing myself.  There are moments of clarity, but most of the time I struggle.  Perceptive with others; I am, to myself, an amiable blur.  But for eighteen years Amy has been my mirror, unrelentingly showing me my best self.  A simple gift of incredible value.  And the biggest magic I know.




Winter Rain

5 Mar


Morning darkness, and the house is at its most gentle, whispering me awake.  Amy has gone upstairs to prepare for her shower while I lie warm beneath the covers, listening for the water, shaken by a dream.

I’m on a ramshackle camping trip, a bunch of us kids unloading gear from our beat up cars and station wagons, carrying it through the grounds of a small carnival to the old houses beyond the fairground.  And somewhere on this journey, it seems, I have made a friend.  She has short dark hair and great big eyes, and although we’ve just met, we’re like puppies in the back seat, leaning into each other, shoulder to shoulder, heads close, laughing, and then going quiet as the miles roll by because nothing has ever felt this good.

Then it begins to rain, and everyone’s a step ahead.

Tents have gone up, a garage floor has been cleared, and while I stand outside, my ratty, unrolled sleeping bag growing heavier by the minute, I realize I have nowhere to go.  She stands at the door of her tent, wringing water from a cloth, and even though she has plenty of room, there’s no way I can ask.  It’s embarrassing just to be standing there.  I move away, into the garage, out of the rain.  But looking around I see all the spaces have been taken.  Busy strangers ignore me as they smooth their pallets across the floor.

And then she’s there, her sleeping bag spread out, and she’s inviting me to join her.


“Yes!” she says, smiling, shaking her head.  I step lightly on the sleeping bag, and we laugh because it’s a little squishy from the rain.

Suddenly my knowledge accelerates, and in a flash, I see everything that’s about to happen . The longing, the intensity, and the unbearable sweetness of this friendship going somewhere I had never thought possible.

And then, for the first time, I remember my kids.  And Amy.  She would know.  And even were I willing to risk that, this young woman clearly has no idea I’m married.  My ring has been lost.  I’d be lying to her as well.

Morning comes.  The rain has stopped.  Friends and neighbors appear.  We share a big box of raisin bran.  It’s the best raisin bran I’ve ever tasted.  Revelatory.  As people pack all around us, I look for her, but she’s nowhere to be found.  Maybe she’s in the car.

The water downshifts to the low hum of the shower, and I have to get up.  Leaving the warmth of the bed for the cool morning air, the anger builds like a cloud in my head.  Tight and sore, my achilles tendons play hell with my balance as I head down the hallway, passing all the stuff we don’t really need.

She took me in out of the rain.

Hand on the rail, I climb the stairs,  squinting and unsure; not yet ready for the light of day.

B&W Rain

Grand Haven, Summer 2013

16 Oct

Grand Haven Postcard

The week has almost passed and I have yet to see a sunset.  I’ve missed them all.  Every single one.  I love my family, but moving all four of us in any specific direction can be a bit like turning an ocean liner.  And as our vacation draws to a close, my patience has worn thin.

“I need to get out.  Just for an hour or so.”

Thankfully, Amy agrees.  As I head for the door, I add, “Hey Heath, do you want to go for a walk on the beach?”  And miraculously, he says yes.

Walking beneath the planks of the porch above, and then climbing the wooden stairs, we leave behind the cool green world of our cozy apartment, tucked down the side of a wooded dune, hidden in the trees which surround The Khardomah, a ramshackle 1870 hunting lodge turned boarding house where we’ve been spending our week.  Heath and I cross the quiet street, and as we head down the gently curving road we pass the original Highland Park cottages; the Loch Hame, the Bonnaire, and others, built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when this land was nothing but forest and sand, and far enough from town that, for a time, it had its own trolley line. 

As we round the bend, Lake Michigan opens before us, a vast, inland ocean whose sudden appearance down these steep, curving roads, never fails to take my breath away.  We look out over the beach, windblown under dense gray clouds, extending north to the town’s most famous landmark, the South Pier, its dark candy red lighthouse temporarily shrouded in the gray primer and netting of a late summer paint job.  The green flag on the lifeguard stand flaps in the breeze, indicating it is safe to swim, but the water is largely empty due to its unseasonable chill.  There had been red flags earlier in the week, not for riptides, as is usually the case, but for hypothermia, and while I did not swim on those days, the water remained cold enough throughout the week to give me a chill that was hard to shake.  

From the top of the hill we make our way down four long flights of stairs, through the sand and dune grass, to the road, where we stop to check for cars, then skitter across and into the parking lot, before kicking off our shoes and stepping into the clean, white sand, cool now this late in the day. The water writhes beneath the overcast sky, a chaotic world of gray and white, and the sunset looks hopeless.  But as we approach the gentle roar of the shoreline, the evening breeze ruffles my son’s hair.

I ask him if he wants to walk down to the pier, and he says “Sure.”  And so we begin.  Walking easily.  Relaxing into each other.

A pair of jet skis scream from far out in the water, their noise, amplified by the open distance, seeming oddly loud to be coming from such small bouncing shadows.  Heath asks what they are, and I tell him that, basically, it’s a couple of guys flying around on floating jet engines, and that on a day like this it must be a pretty rough ride.  He asks why anyone would want to do that, and I tell him I haven’t a clue.

The water is cold against our feet, and Heath is timid at first, skipping awkwardly back up above the waterline every time a wave rushes in.  But slowly, he acclimates, growing bolder and stepping further out into the cold, reveling in his own courage. 

“Oh My God! I can’t believe how wet my pants are getting”

“Well, here.  You need to roll them up.”

I step out into the water and roll his long shorts up above his knees, soaking mine in the process, his laughter contagious.

Heath has Asperger’s Syndrome, and, as a result, so many things have been difficult to share.  His mind is sharp, and his passions are strong, but his palette is limited.  Going outdoors is troubling, exercise is not his friend, and moving him beyond a computer screen is a battle gently waged on a daily basis.  And yet here we are, on a whim, walking the waters of my childhood.  And with every step I can see something inside him ease.

The jet skiers call it a day, their sputtering, high-pitched whine fading into the distance, and as the light begins to retreat, we make our way down the beach, passing three boys who have built a small mound of sand, and are now wrestling about, each one struggling to be king of the hill.

At the pier I show Heath a shortcut up the rocks, and having reached the top, we follow the battered concrete out from the shore, walking beneath the catwalk, passing  the last few tourists as we make our way around the lighthouse and then out toward the foghorn, its deep, melancholy moan, one of my first memories, long ago replaced by a smooth sonic “ping “.  Stepping around its squat red bulk, we come to the end.  Three fisherman, their equipment scattered about, stand before an infinity of water and sky.  A reel hums as a one makes a cast.  His sinker plops as it hits the water and disappears into the darkness. 

As we head back toward shore, the lights are coming on in the cottages, stars among the hills.  Reaching the end, we scramble down to the sand, and Heath heads back to the water, greeting the waves as long lost friends, kicking at them, and delighting in the galaxies that explode off the ends of his feet.  Looking back, I see the pier lights come on, and notice, up above, in the northwest , a small opening in the clouds, it’s edges stained orange and red, the colors beginning to leak across the sky.  Heath continues on, wading up to his knees, smashing at the rushing water. 

Both brooding and vibrant, a vivid rose now dusts  the turbulent blue-gray clouds in every direction.  And then, with no visible movement, the gray is vanquished altogether, and everything above me goes pink.  Neon as far as the eye can see.

“Heath, look!”

Suddenly the lake ignites, the sky illuminating the water like fire on foil, blazes of pink dazzling the crests of the dark blue waves, mirroring the sky to the point that for one dizzying moment, I cannot tell them apart.  

“Heath!” I cried


“Are you seeing this?”


Catching up to him, I wrap my arms around his chest and gently turn him toward the light.    

“This is the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen.”

But even as I say it, the color begins to recede; the pink melting to orange, the gray closing in.  I hold him for a moment.  We watch, and nothing seems to change.  But when I look away, and then back again, everything is different.

“Heath, have you ever heard the phrase ‘in the moment’?  Do you know what that means?”

“No.” He replies, slipping from my arms and returning the water.

Following, I do my best to explain: the past is gone, the future never arrives, so all we have is now.  How much he takes in, I can’t be sure.  But in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

He’s already there.

Grand Haven pier 


When Time Hesitates

20 May

Some days are holy, some days are rough, but that’s alright…

  –-Patti Scialfa

Standing in the kitchen on a rainy Sunday afternoon, Amy smiles as she catches my glance, and asks, “What?”

“Nothing,” I say, and move on, still shy with her after all these years.

It’s her eyes I’m searching, taking a moment to plumb the depths I dance across from day to day.  Because while two children and nearly twenty years together has fostered the illusion that I know this woman, I know that’s not true.  I’ve  amassed a certain amount of knowledge, certainly.  But I don’t kid myself that it’s any more than the tip of the iceberg.

When I read a truly great novel for the first time, I figure I’m lucky  if I get ten percent of what it has to offer.  I read too quickly, my eyes racing faster than my thoughts.  I get the story, but I miss so much.  Rereading helps, but it is only in slowing down, in forcing myself to savor every moment, every thought, that I begin to fully appreciate what’s before me.  This is even more true of Amy, a creation of far greater complexity than any work of art, whose beauty I will never comprehend and whose mysteries will never be fully revealed.  Blending the outrageously comic with the heartbreakingly tender more effectively, and more honestly, than any piece of literature I have ever encountered, she is a wondrous work in progress, her final pages yet to be written, let alone read.

And that is why I’m standing in the kitchen on a rainy Sunday afternoon, while our daughter takes apart the house and my son yells at the computer, as darkness approaches and baths are delayed and the idea of making dinner grows more daunting by the second.  That is why I’m looking into her eyes, trying get behind her smile, and into the warm depths of the twinkle that comes with it.

“What?” she asks, and I’m almost there.

“Nothing,” I say, and move on.  Still shy with her after all these years.


Burgers, Valentines & the Sky

12 Feb

Every Valentine’s day I get Amy a box of truffles from Li-Lac chocolates, which, since it moved from Christopher Street a few years back, is now steps away from my favorite bar.  And so, yesterday afternoon, basking in one of life’s great win-win situations,  I made my annual pilgrimage .  Chocolates for Amy, burger and beers for me.

All the seats at the bar were taken, so I took my beer, grabbed a stool at the window, and settled in, letting the beer, the hum of the surrounding talk, and the stillness of the moment calm me.  I looked out at the red brick houses from centuries past, the Christmas lights twinkling in Li-Lac’s windows, the dishwashers horsing around in the back room of the Italian restaurant across the street, and all the people passing through the slushy old intersection of Eighth Avenue, Jane and West Fourth, deeply focused on the screens of their various devices and oblivious to the gentle glow of the approaching twilight.

Chet Baker’s voice filled the old speakeasy with his world-weary charm.

Let’s get lost

Lost in each other’s arms

Let’s get lost

Let them send out alarms…

The bit of sky visible down Jane Street slid from blue to purple and I thought of my son.  Heath is enthralled with the sky.  He longs to understand it.

“Why is it blue?”

“Why is it purple?”

“Why can’t we see the atmosphere?”

 All questions I struggle to answer, but never seem to satisfy.   For Heath, with his boundless curiosity and seemingly limitless memory, knowledge is all.  Maybe it’s a product of age, or maybe we are just very different people, but I don’t feel that way.  Facts don’t tug at my soul the way they do his.  I don’t need to understand the sky.  I just want to see it, to feel it, and most importantly, to savor it.

Which is also how I feel about love.  Because I don’t understand it.  I do, however, see it, I certainly feel it, and I try my damndest to savor it, all the more so for the knowledge that I owe it all to luck.  Even a cursory review of my dating history shows that I do not deserve it.  In retrospect, my marital forecast during my twenties was for continued turbulence with a strong possibility of loneliness.  A friend of mine actually expressed his belief that I would never marry, feeling I was too immature.  Now, in retrospect he wasn’t much of a friend, but still, this is the kind of confidence I inspired.

And then I met Amy.  Perhaps my five favorite words.

I recently read a quote to the effect that the best way to find love is not to search for it, but instead to work on removing all barriers that keep love from entering your life.  I like this.  I wish someone would have told me this twenty years ago, pointing out some of those barriers along the way.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day I think I’ll travel back in time and do just that.

Hey you!  Yeh you!  The skinny guy in all that denim with that big mop of hair.  Sit down for minute, I’ve got three things I need to tell you.

Love will not be rushed.

So relax.  Take care of yourself.  Be happy.  Make friends.  Have fun.  Love flees desperation.  Forget love exists.  It will find you when you’re ready.  And for god’s sake quit looking for the perfect person because…

Love laughs at ideals.

Your ideal person does not exist.  You’ve got to let them go.  Because the perfect person is out there, but they are almost certainly not what you expect.  They’re better.  Love has a plan of it’s own, and this is good news because you may know what you want, but (thank you to the Rolling Stones)…

Love knows what you need.

Now this is all assuming that you are in fact looking for love.  Because a lot of people say they’re looking for love, but when it comes right down to it, they’re looking for a transaction, a lightly binding contract in which a person of suitable age, class, education, wealth and appearance will perform the contractually stipulated duties of love in return for the same.  Kids will be born, houses will be bought, retirements will be funded as their bodies grow old and their souls wither and die.  This is not love, this is business.  And I know even less about business than I do about love, so enough said.

Would I have listened to myself?  Probably not.  I’ve always had a wonderful capacity for ignoring good advice.

Chet Baker gave way to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on the jukebox.  As I finished my burger a young woman sat down next to me and after some time with her Blackberry she looked up and asked if the burgers were good here.  I laughed because this place is always in the running for best burger in the city.  Her question seemed genuine, though, so I said yes, it’s what they’re known for.  Nothing fancy, just a good burger.  She smiled.

I finished my beer, paid the bartender, and as I was leaving I told her I hoped she enjoyed her hamburger, and she smiled again.  It was the gentlest of flirtations, and in a moment it was past.  But as I stood outside on the sidewalk, getting my bearings, I couldn’t help smiling.  And then I began to walk to the train, anxious to get home to the woman, and the family, I love.



First, Crazy & True

1 May

First love, crazy love and true love.

I had a crush on Kelly from the first time I met her.  Acting class, 9th grade, I must have been fourteen years old.  She was the classic older woman,  being fifteen, and seemed to possess all the knowledge and sophistication which that age implied.  She was out of my league and I knew it.   So we became friends.   Friends amongst friends, actually, as her basement became the de facto clubhouse for a whole group of us, a great place for Doritos and Cokes and Saturday Night Live.  

During Kelly’s first year of college a bunch of us drove down for the weekend.  We laughed, we drank, and Kelly and I took a late night walk.  We sat on the steps of a quiet building and I told her about the death of my father, talking about it for the first time with anyone.  Shortly thereafter we had a date.  I took her home, I said good night and there was a kiss.  A kiss in the cold night air that was so long wished for and yet so utterly surprising that I could feel the thrill of it right down to my toes.  I can feel that kiss to this day.  First love.

The thing about Becky was that she picked me.  Yet another acting class, this one in college.  The teacher divided us into two groups, putting us on opposite sides of the room, and asked us to communicate with someone.  As the exercise began and the resulting noise ensued I realized that a very cute girl with long, dark hair was trying to talk to me!  I couldn’t believe my luck!  Of course, she already had a boyfriend who she’d been dating since she was fourteen and who she just couldn’t break up with because it would kill him!  She also scratched her shoulders until they bled and I once made her so angry that I got up in the middle of the night and hid the scissors.  Oh yeah, and the boyfriend never went away.  But these were all minor impediments.  Our relationship continued its ragged course as we chased each other around the midwest for the better part of nine years.  Thank god she finally decided to hate me.  Crazy love.

Amy was different.  As was I, by that time.  I’d been in the wilderness for a while.  I had turned thirty.  We met, we went out.  She liked me, but I wasn’t sure.  Then I liked her and she wasn’t sure.  

But then she invited me to a play.  It was long and tedious and on our way to a party afterward we got caught in the rain.    As we sat in our damp clothes in a slightly shabby Chicago hotel suite and sipped our drinks, I felt a subtle glow, and from within this quiet moment of contentment I heard myself say “What are we doing?” 

She smiled a rather bewitching smile and asked me what I thought we were doing. 

“I think we’re dating.” I replied. 

And so we were.  We’ve been together ever since and I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else.  She is, by my definition, true love. 

And from that love has grown a family, and a whole new set of definitions.

My child snuggling into my chest.  First love.

Heath insisting on wearing his underwear backwards and frequently eating his own boogers.  Crazy love. 

The absolute joy I get from making my daughter smile.  True love.

First love, crazy love and true love.  They make me who I am.



Gifts from my Daughter

9 Jul

Where to begin. That’s always the question, isn’t it? Every blessed day. Where to begin.

Hopefully this will be an exercise in finding my voice. An exercise in truth, hopefully. Although already I can feel the siren song of various personas calling. The terse, hardbitten realist, the wounded romantic, the hyped up Hunter Thompsonesque truth teller. Bullshit, all. Me. Just me.

I used to tell people I was an actor. That really doesn’t seem to work anymore. Not because I haven’t worked on anything for a while (although I haven’t), but because it’s not enough. People are not their jobs. Their lives are richer than that.

Four weeks ago my wife Amy gave birth to our second child, a beautiful little girl named Hallie Jake. She has my blue eyes, her mothers dark hair, her brother’s temper and an extra chromosome that has changed all our lives in ways I have barely begun to comprehend. As a result, it’s not easy to think very far into the future. I keep bumping into dreams that I fear will never come true. So it’s a day at a time. And in that time things are good. Their is a great deal of love in our little family, and beauty, and strength (especially in Amy, who amazes and inspires me every day).

And Hallie brings gifts.

In the days immediately following her birth, when my mind would not stop trying to somehow fix things, I couldn’t shake the image of myself standing between two sets of trap doors – one above and another both below and within me. Through the door above me came light, and I knew that through that door was my future, my infinitely simple future had Hallie been born normal. The other door, which had dropped open in the operating room the second the neo-natalist said “I’m going to do some chromosome tests,” and then avoided both my questions and my eyes, opened into a deep vast well of emotion that even now I have a hard time controlling. For the first three days I was a raw nerve walking the streets, and my mere gaze would back people down. I was also as clear, honest, empathetic and as deeply human as I have ever been. There’s power in that. And as the door above me closed and faded, there was also peace. These are the gifts my daughter has given me.

And this is where I begin.