Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Pathetic Mid-Life Crisis

I am, as of this writing, 41 years old. Been married 17 years, have two kids, job I can't stand. You know the drill.

Normally, a guy my age would look around at what he has, or has not, wrought, and decide to get either a sportscar, a young girlfriend, or both. Well, I don't have the money for a sportscar. This fact sort of led to the crisis in the first place, didn't it? I mean, if I could afford a sportscar, perhaps I wouldn't be having a mid-life crisis at all. As for the young girlfriend, I have no interest. I'm quite in love with my wife, thankyouverymuch. And even if I wasn't, I don't have the time or patience any more for dating. Between sneaking around trying to find a hotel where I can park in the back, and sitting at home watching "Parking Wars," I'll take the couch almost every time.

So how is my crisis playing out, exactly? Well, I play a lot of games and read a lot of comics. But really, I've done all those things most of my life, so that's not really a change for me. It takes a little more explanation when people ask what the little superheroes around my monitor at work are for, but I've never had a complex about it so it doesn't really bother me. And comics really aren't geared for children any more. Most of my friends read comics, and they're all adults as well. No, the only crisis I see here is the one on Infinite Earths.

The single manifestation of my vaunted Mid-Life Crisis is the weeping. Every time I watch, or read, something from my childhood, I tear up. The other night, we were watching the classic "Year Without a Santa Claus." Predictably, my eyes welled up during the song "I Believe in Santa Claus." I've noticed that I cry a lot these days when confronted with anything that reminds my of my youth. Now that I spend much of my time stressing about money, or job, or my teenager, or my health, or the various deaths in the family in recent years, I think that I long for a simpler time. A time when my greatest concern was getting my homework done, and my greatest fear was of the Bumble. I cry because those days are long gone, and I know they're never coming back, and I realize that they won't last forever for my children, either. Granted, these are not unpleasant memories I'm dredging up. On the contrary, I love reliving those days. There's happiness there, too. But also sadness. Sadness for the passing of those days when the light at the end of the tunnel didn't seem quite so distant.

Monday, December 8, 2008

In memory of Nena Kalil, 1913-2008


I had a home growing up; most of us did, I expect. My home centered around my room. Action figures on the dresser, desk in the corner, Star Wars – then, later, bikini – posters on the wall. This was the center of my world, largely controlled by me, but only a part of a larger world including the whole house.

But I, and many others in this room, had a second home. The home on Main Street; the former Elkhart mayor’s home that was purchased by a grocer and his growing family. I inhabited this home for several hours every Sunday after church, along with my extended family. Once a week, this was my other home, and was just as much a part of my make-up as my room. Once a week, we would gather, not only as family, but as friends. Eating eggs with hot dogs, donuts, and juice. Playing piano with Uncle Mike. Creating carnivals and churches on the porch. Playing games from the seat in the dining room.

Some homes are just buildings. But others are alive. They breathe and exist and have personalities. And the heart of this home was Grandma. Every corner, every knickknack, every aspect of the home bore signs of her. The stocking with an orange in it on the fireplace was a signal she’d been there. The cookies in the cabinet were a clue that she liked putting smiles on our faces. The pictures on the mantle were evidence that she wished always to be surrounded by family.

If this house had a spirit, it was Grandma. Her laughter at the antics of her children and grandchildren was the house’s laughter. Her footsteps as she kept the house spotless were the house’s pulse. The smells coming from the kitchen on Christmas day were the house’s breath. The conversations around the table were the house’s mind. Her great strength through tough times, for her or for her children, was the house’s soul. And her abiding love for all who were privileged to be a part of her world was the house’s heart. She was the home, and the home was her.

And when Grandpa passed on, she remained in the house. She remained, because she belonged there. As far as she was concerned, her husband still dwelt there. She, as the living, breathing heart of the home, remained so even as the neighborhood changed around her. The Nena-Home stood as a beacon to all of us; as a symbol of what family could be; as a testament to the enduring strength of the woman who served as its heart.

And at the end of her life, she chose, as was right, to go on her own terms. Though her body gave out at the hospital, Grandma’s spirit truly faded in the place to which it had been inexorably linked.

In her home.

Here goes nuthin'

Well, this is baby's first blog. I've decided to go ahead and get with the program. Occasionally, I might actually have something to say.

The title of this blog, for those that didn't get it, refers to the Titan board game. In it, you move from space to space using the arrows leading from each space to guide you. Once you get on the outer ring, following the triple-arrows, you can remain there for quite some time. Like being in a rut in real life, this can last for a while until, every once in a while, you have the opportunity to escape to higher ground.

Welcome to my world.