I'm obviously not an objective reader, but I can say that I'm really digging the book. It's about my grandfather, a man I never knew. My mom never knew him, either -- he was a submarine captain, and he died at sea before my mother was born. Her mother, my grandmother, remarried quickly and tried to move on, urging her children to do the same. So for most of my mom's life, she obeyed, and didn't ask questions about her father. For the first twenty-six years of my life I never thought about my grandfather. I didn't have any stories about him, and because nobody had ever talked about him, it didn't occur to me to be curious.
But my mom got curious about him about 9 years ago, and her curiosity started her digging into archives, learning about submarines, making friends with WWII veterans, and re-tracing the steps my grandfather took while he was alive. And she wrote this book, about him, and about what it was like for her to learn about and grieve a man she never got to know.
I'm struck by how thorough she has been in her research, and how brave. She's learned all kinds of things about submarines, about WWII, and, indeed about war itself. She's questioned her own biases (a pacifist, the process of war research forced her to reconsider her own notions about war, duty, and honor). She asks uncomfortable questions: was her parents' marriage a good one, was her father a gambler, did he take unnecessary risks with his mens' lives? She's assembled what seems like a pretty clear picture of a man, a life, and a time in history, from interviews and scrapbook excerpts, old letters and war accounts. It's her past she's discovering, and mine, and it's really compelling to realize that I did want to know about this, all along. I'm learning a lot about submarines and WWII history, and about its impact on family life in the years immediately following, and this is probably the most universally appealing and intellectually interesting part of the book from an objective point of view. But for me those are incidentals -- I'm reading to learn something way more personal.
I can see traits in myself that I probably inherited from this grandfather I never knew. I'm gregarious; I like to work a room; I'll strike up a conversation with a stranger without hesitation. It isn't learned behavior. My parents are friendly but introverted. They'd just as soon stay home and read, or, if they go out, sit at a corner table with good friends. I've wondered over the years where my urge to reach out comes from. I think it's from Jim Coe. There's something really neat about getting a gift from someone who died 65 years ago. And of course my mother gave me this gift: she gave me a second grandfather, another one I can be proud of. I didn't know what I was missing. It turns out it was a lot.
I wanted to sit down and write you a nice thoughtful post summing up carefully what I've learned from three years of playing with this medium. I wanted to write it both to give it to you and to figure out just what those things are, because the way I figure out what I know or what I believe is to write. Words come out and make clear what's gooey and confused inside.
But today was instead spent on other things, things that took longer than I predicted. And I don't want to break more promises to you so instead of a dissertation about the interesting and scary and challenging and liberating possibilities of having a weblog, I'm going to tell you a story about my underpants.
I have been writing this blog since September 9, 2003. That's 1198 days, or 3 years, 3 months, and 11 days. It's more than 170 weeks. It's longer than the original Scheherazade entertained the Sultan and kept herself alive.
Including this one, I have written 2665 posts. Most of those I've published, although a few are just drafts.
You have left 9562 comments so far. Some of those are spam, and some stung me a little bit, but most of them made me laugh or made me think.
We've had two birthday parties. We've played games. You've seen me happy and sad. You saw me as a lawyer and as a sailing coach. You were there when I crashed my car and when my dog lost her leg and when she died. You stepped in to help when my mast toppled, and that generosity and grace made me cry. You were there during food poisoning and heartbreak and sadness and still morning walks and rowdy parties and all kinds of things. You've talked about books and music with me, and we've talked about love and sadness and finding your path. Some of the things you've said to me, here in front of everyone or privately, by email, have made me gasp and my eyes water with your courage and your honesty. Thank you for that. Thanks for the friendly forgiving eyes with which you've witnessed my life. Thanks for keeping me company as I fumble along trying to figure out my way in the world.
I've made friends through this blog -- some of whom I've gotten to meet in person and many of whom I still hope to have a chance to meet. I've fallen in love with someone I met through this blog, bizarre as that still seems.
Tomorrow I'll turn 34, and I'll stop posting on this weblog. I have a present for you, but you have to wait until tomorrow to get it.
On Thursday I turn 34, and leave my early 30s behind forever. Mid thirties, here I come. Yikes. Mid 30s is the time of professional accomplishment, the earning years, family time. The time of exploration is over; now it's time to get done what it is you're supposed to do. It's a lot to live up to, the associations I have about this life stage. No more laughing, no more fun -- now it's time to Get Things Done. People in their mid thirties are Definitely Grown Ups. I was more grown up when I turned 30 than I am now -- rocketing along in my responsible professional career, a new home- and boat-owner, socking away savings. And I'm happier now, I think, although making sluggish and wobbly progress along a much less well-defined path. So it's hard for me to figure out what my path through the Mid 30s should look like.
Between this occasion (birthdays are always a time of self-reflection for me), and the end of the year with its inevitable assessment of 2006 and aspirations for 2007, and being here in a strange town with a new sweetie, I've been thinking a lot about what I want for the upcoming year. I'll blurt some of it out here.
Malcolm Gladwell's been writing about prejudice lately on his blog, and it got me thinking about my own biases. I have a bias against:
In every case except the grommet ears and the witty bumper stickers, I've overcome my prejudices and have warm and respectful relationships with people who meet the criteria above. Somehow that hasn't gotten rid of the bias, though. Maybe I should start looking for some bumper sticker and grommet ear friends, to open my mind a little bit more.
Stepping over a chessboard at a party, he suggested a move over his shoulder and kept walking. "What an arrogant prick," she thought. Now, they're happily married.
His dad was an employee at her company, and he asked her out at a company party. "Not my type," she thought. "Definitely not my type." But she decided there was no harm in going on one date, and it's been three years.
Match.com. Who meets this way? Lots of people. A year long relationship, a four month breakup, and then a reconciliation and a wedding. I was much slower to forgive him for the breakup period than she was, and gave him wary dirty looks for the first few months they were back together.
8 Minute Dating. When she proposed to him on a beach on New Year's morning, he told her he had to think about it. He went home and called his dad, asking for his grandmother's wedding ring. A few days later, he proposed to her, telling her how his grandparents had met at a "mixer," just like they had.
There was a room for rent. She came to look at it, and they started talking. She didn't take the room, then, but now they are living together.
They were set up. He asked his friends if they knew anyone, and they gave him her number, and let her know he would be calling. They went out to dinner, and were surprised that it wasn't awkward at all.
She was with friends, having coffee before going to meet her dad, a Democratic Congressman. A handsome man who knew one of her friends came by to say hello, and they both noticed one another. She asked her friend afterwards: "Was he really wearing a "W" hat? Did it stand for what I think it does?" The friend confirmed it, but suggested they might have a lot in common anyway, and invited them both to her next party, where they sought one another out.
He was at a party. She had a boyfriend, but she sparkled when she talked to him. He asked the hostess about her, and learned that the boyfriend was on the way out. The next time he saw her, there was no boyfriend, and he drove her home after dinner.
There are more, but I'd like to hear yours. I'm still a little sheepish that our story is, "She had a blog, and he read it." But I'm not sure there's any 'right' way to meet someone.
When doing your Christmas shopping, you could do worse than some handmade, funky gifts from Maine. I like the T-shirts at Milo (guess which one is my favorite) and the buttons and cards and plush dream pet toys at Ferdinand. I'm not usually a fan of scented things, but these balsam pillows make your underwear drawer smell piney and terrific. Or, if you order a Sea Bag, it might have been made with sails from a certain college sailing team that we all love to root for. You can get a bag from Portmanteau that you could use to carry a picnic to an island, and then use the bag to navigate your way home.
What's the grooviest remedy or quasi-medical intervention that you've tried? Did it work?
Mine: holographic repatterning. I think it did work, although all rational parts of me smirk when I say that. Also, something called 'myofascial release.' That worked, too. But the 'soul reader?' Didn't do anything for me.
We were sitting at a long table at a brew pub, playing pub trivia. The fellow beside me jovial, bow-tied, changing his beer order each time the waitress came by to check on us. The fellow beside him baby-faced, quick with high fives, leaning across bow-tie-guy to talk to me. Turns out they grew up together, both sons of pentacostal preachers. "He's my best friend," they each told me. One grew up to be a lawyer, and one grew up to be a preacher.
I asked the preacher to tell me about his church. When I hear pentacostal I think preaching in tongues -- is that an accurate association? He danced around it. We call it being moved by the spirit, but it doesn't happen in our church so much as in other churches. We're a church for seekers, we get a lot of people who were raised catholic or from other denominations. They're a little bit more staid. The lawyer listened and made faces, pursing his lips here and there, raising his eyebrows, nodding, tilting his head as the preacher explained his faith to me. I asked the lawyer if he believes anymore. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think so. I'm not sure." His friend, the preacher, looked on. Do you believe in the divinity of Christ? I asked. "Man, you go right to the quick, don't you?" He said, "I'm not sure. I'm really not sure. I don't think I do." The preacher shook his head, listening in. "I believe in loving your neighbor as yourself. If there's any god, that's the way I would believe. I try to do that." I asked the preacher, "Is that enough? Is he a Christian, if he emulates Christ in the way he lives but he does not believe?" Absolutely not, the preacher said.
I sat back and listened to the two of them pushing and pulling. Maybe it was just my ears, but their southern accents seemed to deepen when they were quoting scripture at one another, a thickened tapestry of sounds that occasionally left me completely behind. The fellows across the table, who had been talking about mountain biking, looked up and raised their eyebrows at the two preachers' sons, debating what it means to be saved.