Saturday, September 03, 2011

Life On Ice

I will participate in something very sad tomorrow: a memorial service for a gentle, humble and presumably happy young husband, father and professional athlete – Wade Belat: NHL hockey player with a beautiful family, a bright future and an impressive 14-year career. The details of his demise are still sketchy but indications suggest he may have taken his own life. If this, indeed, turns out to be the reality it is very important, for reasons that should be exceedingly obvious.
I have come to believe that suicide is the end result of a disease we struggle to comprehend or accept. Yet, few of us have escaped its ravages within our own families and/or circle of friends. Yes, it is dark, mysterious and otherworldly but it is also real. It ends life just like cancer, heart attack, leukemia, kidney failure, Lupus and other diseases. But it remains foreign to those of us who, but for the grace of God, have not wandered into the shadowy canyons of despair, depression and hopelessness.
In my younger years suicide caused me to be very angry toward the perpetrator-victim. How dare they leave this awful, embarrassing mess behind? Couldn’t you pull it together and realize that people love you and need you? What a selfish thing you’ve done. Look at us – those who loved you. We are riddled with grief and anger. Well, I have changed my tune. When it strikes closer to home than one would ever wish there is a new and gentler conclusion. Is it ugly and terribly horrifying? Yes, indeed, that doesn’t change. Is it something to be treated in some special spiritual manner? No. It is part of the circle of life – perhaps a part we have yet to embrace in any appropriate way. But I believe we must be gentle in these moments; forgiving, arms wide open. I am confident God knows the circumstances and God is All Loving.

Finally, back to the important, earthly reasons. The NHL, NFL, MLB and NCAA need to get upfront about these health issues. People are dying because of the brutality of sport. Please regulate this stuff. Are we as a people so bent on the profit of violence that we need Enforcers on every NHL team? Must we have brawls in every 3rd MLB baseball game? Should we be honoring the ‘hardest-hitting linebacker in the SEC? Sport, in its purest form, is about speed, hand-eye coordination, accuracy, elegance, balance and a host of God-given abilities. Leave the bullshit to the WWF and roller derby.

I will participate in something very sad tomorrow: something that should never have happened. But it did. Rest in peace, Wade Belat. And may the God of Lights watch over those you left behind. Amen.

What My Dad Missed

My dad died of lung cancer in February 1969. He had just turned 48. I was 16. I have often wondered how he may have responded to some of the people in the news and events that have transpired over the ensuing decades. I believe I knew him well enough to make some suggestions. Here’s a list with occasional commentary:
1. The First Moon Landing
2. The Watergate Scandal – I’m certain he voted for Nixon and this would have broken his heart but he probably would not have admitted it.
3. The End of the Vietnam War – As an U.S. Army veteran I’m sure he would have been very happy with this. My hunch is that he would have editorialized a bit (I paraphrase: ‘Democrats had to get their noses in this, The Texan had to escalate it and a Republican no one likes got us out. Huntley and Brinkley won’t be reporting it this way.’)
4. Black Sabbath – Given his initial response to the comparatively tame Beatles, I’m pretty sure dear, old dad would have wanted to kill them.
5. The Presidency of Jimmy Carter – May have caused him to use the F-word for the first time in my presence.
6. The Demise of Bethlehem Steel – As a lifelong employee in the management area he would have been angry, embittered, arguing loudly with his dear brother – Uncle Tommy (a dedicated USW member) – and devastated by the end of a 100+ year industry. Damn the government, damn the foreign dumping, where did my pension go?
7. Meeting Sarah, my Beloved Wife – I know he would have loved her and her family. They never met.
8. Meeting Tallu, my daughter and our first-born – Tallu would have been my dad’s 8th grandchild and 5th granddaughter. I saw him in action as Granddad. He was really good at it. This would have been another most appropriate love affair.
9. AIDS – My dad could be pretty grumpy as he spent the 2nd half of his life sober and dedicated to AA. Nonetheless, he seemed to have a remarkable compassion for those in need. I reserve any further comments.
10. Meeting Thomas Roy - his 9th grandchild, 4th grandson and namesake – I can only imagine the Roy Joy.
11. Attending the CMA Awards – I know he would have gone to support me but he would have preferred that Benny Goodman was performing rather than Alabama. He hated country music.
12. Michael Jackson – No comment.
13. Iran-Contra – No comment.
14. Meeting Howard Luke – his 10th grandchild and 5th grandson. He would have been 67 with a huge grin and that wonderful gap between his two front teeth! (My secret exposed.)
15. George H. W. Bush – Is this the best we’ve got? Okay.
16. O. J. Simpson – ‘Guilty.’
17. Desert Storm – ‘Nicely done, boys!’
18. Bill Clinton – No comment.
19. Snoop-Dogg – ‘Turn that shit off! It sounds like I’m in Hell! ‘
20. 9/11 – ‘Find those sons-of-bitches and make them suffer.’
21. Seeing His Beloved Like This
22. Walking His Beloved Down the Aisle at Tallu’s Wedding

And what did I miss all these years? My Old Man.