I walk into the hall hearing Stuck In The Middle With You inside my head and take the first seat in the back row.
The row is empty until right about the time the line about clowns to the left of me and jokers to right comes on.
Now it is me and a bunch of other people, most of whom I don’t know, not that there is anything wrong with that.
I feel like there is a Seinfeld reference or two I could or ought to make and I realize an old feeling has come to visit.
It is that one that I used to get on the first day of school in college.
I’d look around to see if any of my friends or fraternity brothers were in there and take a moment to see if there any good looking girls.
For the brief moment or two before the professor started speaking there was nothing but potential and possibility.
Sometimes Dad Is Shy
The kids tell me separately about being excited and nervous about moving to Texas.
Sometimes they say they’re adamantly against it and sometimes they can’t wait to find out what it is about and to see if it is going to be as I say.
During one conversation they explain to me how it is harder for them than for me because “you are not shy” and I laugh.
“I can be very shy. There are moments where the last thing I want to do is talk to anyone, moments where I am perfectly happy to stand in the back and watch.”
My daughter isn’t convinced and lists occasions where she has seen me act in ways that contradict my claim.
She is right and she is wrong.
There are moments where I can do anything in front of anyone, anywhere and at any time.
But there are also moments where I am self conscious and reserved and the idea of being seen is not what I want.
It is why I tell her sometimes I can be the stealthiest ninja.
“Dad, I don’t know how you ever asked a girl out if you are like that.”
“Honey, there have been one or two that made me tongue-tied and feel stupid. But when I had to speak I usually found a way…maybe.”
Sometimes Life Changes You
Fourteen or so years ago I took a ticket from a carnival barker and wandered through the fair.
Spent a chunk of time in the fun house and did my best to swing the hammer hard enough to ring the bell.
Dropped some money on the games and food and when my wallet was lighter and my spirits were higher I walked away.
What I didn’t know was that the carnival I chose to visit was a traveler through both time and space or how that would forever change things.
The parking lot and the road back to where I had come from looked the same but everything was different, so much so that I was forced to change too.
That wasn’t easy and I fought it but eventually I realized there wasn’t any going back and that the only way things could continue was to go forward.
A Pleasant Surprise
At the end of a very pleasant evening the rabbi invited me to three more events and strongly encouraged me to come by.
I smiled back and said I would probably do so and walked away.
The funny thing about it was I hadn’t expected to enjoy myself as much as I did, let alone get an invitation to anything else.
It reminded me again about how many times I have been pleasantly surprised by people and moments.
“That is the picture I was talking about. Even if I didn’t remember that moment the angry look on your face tells me all I need to know.”
There is laughter on the other side of the telephone.
“Yeah, I probably overreacted but it was my birthday party and I was only 9.”
He is right, no one likes to get hurt, especially when you are only 9 and your father has suggested you and your friends slow down a bit.
It is hard to reconcile the deep voice belonging to the boy in the picture. Even though it initially changed months before I left it still sometimes surprises me.
It is a pleasant one and so is hearing him talk about certain other things. There is a growing maturity that has been there for a long while, but sometimes parents are slow to really hear it.
Life Is Short
During the past six weeks or so I have heard several stories about men in their forties who just dropped dead.
They didn’t get hit by cars or killed by dread terminal diseases that slowly rob you of life.
Massive heart attacks or something like that took them away.
I don’t mean for that to sound insouciant or unkind because I take their losses seriously.
It would be tragic if they were ten years older or younger, but it hits me harder in some ways because they are for all intents and purposes contemporaries.
So I take these stories and remind myself to continue to do things that improve my mental and physical health/well being.
You don’t know how long or how short it all is so you might as well do what you can to have fun and take chances on things.
It might lead to a pleasant surprise.