Tag Archives: family

Grief at Thirty Thousand Feet

Sadness leaks in like the cold. You bundle up, prepared for it. Ready for the onslaught. But it comes in wisps – icy fingers that make you shiver at first. Then you choke as they tighten around your throat.

I stare at the text message, the orange glow of my phone in the dark of a strange hotel room in the middle of the country. I can’t read the letters on the screen, but the message has pierced the sleepy shrouds, the covers over me on the bed, the t-shirt I’m wearing, the skin of my chest and my heart. Continue reading Grief at Thirty Thousand Feet

The 15-year-decade

salvador-dali-persistence-of-memory-clocks-meaningDon’t worry, this won’t be one of those look-back posts where I sum up everything that happened to us last year.

Though, admittedly, 2015 was a big year.

But it’s been a big decade, for that matter.

Only they don’t have names for 15-year increments. At least they don’t have common names everyone can use like decade or century.

There’s actually an old name for 15-year cycles that comes from medieval Europe called the indiction and which had to do with a periodic reassessment of an agricultural or land tax.

What I’m talking about is the last 10 years of our lives, a cycle that I can’t quite fit nicely into a decade.

Continue reading The 15-year-decade

Radio Silence

radio silenceThe long, hot summer is giving way to what could be a long, warm fall and winter.

The daytime temps still reach into the 90s, but at night you can feel the chill in the air that precipitates fall.

Weekdays bleed into weekends in slow motion with little delineation.

The toxic glow of Fox News permeates the living room, so I hide away hunched over the laptop. And when the noxious wind of judgment and hatred from various numbered clubs and televangelists reaches its fever pitch, I head out on the bicycle trying to put miles between myself and my world.

The kids are spread out over two sets of grandparents trying to find a foothold after eight years away.

We pick up where we left off with old friends like it was June, 2007. Except their kids are growing up and leaving, which reminds of us of the advance of years.

Parents are more linear, more set in their ways, but then so are we, which provides the friction that causes the smoke that tells us there is a fire somewhere.

It’s months-long therapy for a chronic condition picked up in transit. Or a way to sift though life’s choices, to read the map looking for wrong turns and detours missed.

An unplanned rest stop in a slightly familiar place.

The radio silence is deafening.

When everyone else is living out loud.


Home is where the heart is, but my heart is nomadic –

I rode the bus to work with our CEO Torey Malatia the other day. We chatted about a bunch of little things, and then he asked me if we were settled in.

That’s a question we get a lot.

I used to think I knew how to answer it. Now I’m not so sure.

When I said, “yeah, we’re pretty settled in now,” he said, “No, I mean does Chicago feel like home yet?”

It would’ve taken too long to answer that question with its real answer, so I just said, “yes, in a roundabout way, it does.”

The routines are set, the train rides are a blur anymore, and the lake from the windows at WBEZ on the pier is a palate of grays and blues like picking muted ties that never quite stand out.

But does it feel like home?

We lived in Hawaii on and off for several years.

It never felt like home.

We lived in Missoula, Montana for three years. It felt like home, so we bought a house there. Then I was laid off, and it felt a lot less like home.

Alaska never felt like home.

But when my boss there asked me if we were settled in, I always resisted the desire to tell him that we were more dug in than settled in.

Cheryl and I met in Oregon. We were married there. We had two of our three children there.

I attended university there.

Our families live there.

It never really felt like home for me, just a base of operations. And I always had an overwhelming desire to flee it.

I’m not sure I’m qualified to know what feels like home, much less explain to someone else that it feels like home.

They say home is where the heart is, but my heart is nomadic.

It’s the curse or the blessing of having parents who are missionaries.

They also say that not all who wander are lost.

The definition of lost is – unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.

I can accurately say this describes me for the last 5 to 10 years.

I feel like a place will only start to feel like home when you know it like the back of your hand.

This has not been my experience.

In Alaska I did not drive for the first year, and as a result, I did not know my whereabouts. I trusted my global position to the pilots and drivers for whom Alaska is home.

Here in Chicago, I trust the train drivers and the bus drivers as well as the maps and GPS on my phone. I don’t have that familiarity of place. Sometimes I take a different road home, and I’m in another world for a while.

Home, for me, is where my best friend lives. It’s where the three lives that we created tend to dwell in a cacophonous chaos that mysteriously adds to my life. And for me, I’m whole as long as they’re in the same time and space that I’m in.

So yes, Chicago feels like home. For now.

A Note to My Son: Things that Matter

As I get older, the things I thought I needed become less relevant.
The shine fades a little and the perceived usefulness is gone.

The achievements that I thought would stand like road markers
are small memories that make me smile at the roads I chose.

But the day you were born stands out in my mind like a crisp
and sunny morning. The kind that wakes you up and embraces you.

I did not think a moment in life could feel like that. That this pride
could somehow be eclipsed by greater moments and new memories.

Holding my newborn son in my hands washed away everything before it.
Fourteen years now I have known you. I’ve watched you grow into more than me.

My dreams are not your dreams, but your dreams are now mine.
I am proud of everything you are and everything you will become.

Even as you reach higher than me and go further than me, you are
another in a line of great men who walked all of this out before you. 

Great sons and great fathers stretching back across the continents, across the years, unlimited by boundaries, borders, ideologies, politics, culture or technology.

They forged something on which you can always lean against in times of trial,
a kind of moving castle, its ramparts the wisdom and honor of those passed on.

They’ll say the world is your oyster, but remember that an oyster makes pearls
from simple ingredients and years and years of hard work.

As you dive into life with all the abandon that only a 14-year-old can muster,
remember who you are and where you came from. Your past will bear you up.

Happy birthday, son. I love you.