Saturday, June 27, 2015

Taking Up Again, At Our Fortieth Reunion

It was that class we took together, both out of our element. A business class, way outside our academic path, but it was really about what we we both passionate about, human interaction.  The psychology major and the political science major, finding the “juice” of our college experience. 

Our big assignment for the term was to get together every week, for a day, maybe a weekend, and spend time together, interacting, observing each other. And, most importantly, observing ourselves observing others and how we behaved, inwardly, within a group.  We had to write about it all, without any real direction on what the professor wanted, how we were going to be graded.  

It was, we agreed, standing outside in the hot evening after our class reunion dinner, the best experience of our undergraduate years, studying how people related with each other, how that really was the gist of becoming a better person, how we used those skills, those observations, in growing our lives, in making a real difference in the world.  

We took our experiences together, all those late night conversations, the four years of living on campus during the social upheaval of the Vietnam War years, and went our separate ways.  We kept in touch, sharing news of our careers, our marriages, our kids, and how our lives were enriched by what we learned at college, and in navigating our lives in the world. 

The best things in our lives, we realized, weren’t the things we thought we’d do, once we graduated and moved on.  Life happens, and we used our skills and brains to do unexpected things, growing ourselves and learning even more about life, and who we are.  

One of the reunion organizers asked us to ponder whether or not we had changed the world, like we’d all talked about in those late night gatherings, and if we’d made a difference in our lives.  

“Yes, indeed,” we answered, but not in the ways we had thought, back in the days of Watergate, and the week we staged a sit-in in the college president’s office, angry at Nixon bombing Cambodia.  

The conversations that night were about good relationships, connecting with people, making a difference about how people felt about themselves, how we could make their lives better, simply by being who we were. No one showed their bank statements, their stock portfolios, their photos of their real estate or talked about their job titles, or the cars we drove to get here that night. We didn’t wear any fancy clothes. We laughed at the photos of our days on campus, the wild hair, how much beer we could drink back then, and the times when Angela Davis and Anais Nin spoke on campus.  

We talked about the people we had become, how that one class, that one professor made all the difference to us as we went on about our lives, how we became better people, how forty years gives you a perspective on life and the world that we may not have had back during our days as eager, curious college students.  And, who we are today is still about who we were then, curious, looking inward, and figuring out how we can connect with someone, and change their lives.  

—Neal Lemery 6/27/15

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fathers' Day -- Shifting The Sun

Fathers’ Day raises a wide range of emotions and reflections for me, giving me a rollercoaster ride of thoughts.  This poem helps me sort all of that out, and make some sense out of being a son of a number of men who were dads to me.

Today, I was a dad to a young man in prison.  We were out in the garden, admiring his gazebo he had built.  It is his first experience with wood, hammers, nails, and drills.  He has struggled with its design and construction, but has accepted the help of others, and has applied his own talents, and his own eye for beauty and simplicity.

His gazebo is a work of art, and his very own creation. It looks good, and fits well with the rest of the garden.

I expressed to him my thoughts on its stability, its beauty.  He tried to put himself and his creativity down, but I kept at him, praising him and his talents.  He told me he wanted his dad to be happy with it and tell him he liked it, but he was afraid of letting his dad know what he had built.

I saw that familiar fear of rejection, that sense of “I am not good enough” in his face.

I became his dad for a few precious moments, letting him hear words of praise and adulation fill his ears. I let him know he was a good man, a man of talent and ability.

He smiled, and shook my hand.  And, perhaps, in all of those few minutes, there was a feeling that he was, indeed, a man of worth, a man of value and talent.  And, there was a dad in his life who thought he was worth something after all.

Shifting the Sun
When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.
When you father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.

~ Diana Der-Hovanessian ~

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fathering Time

Fathering occurs unexpectedly, often in the richest, most productive ways. 

Undefined, unlimited by the clock and the calendar, those moments of rich, intense interaction suddenly come into our lives, without us often being aware until it comes upon us. In the moment, space opens up between us, and the energy, the love, flows. 

Wisdom comes out of our heart and, often unspoken, shared. Emotions pass between us, and the gifts of the moment are exchanged. 
The refrigerator calendar announces that Fathers’ Day is coming, but the fathering moments don’t pay attention to that, nor do these heart to heart conversations need to have a Hallmark card or a boxed up tie to get the juices flowing, to say what is deep inside of us, as we reach out to someone we love, and just be a dad.

This work we do, being the dad, a small moment of reaching out, giving a compliment, a hug, sharing a few words of wisdom, comes at unexpected moments. The phone rings, there is a welcoming silence in the car, or time to put your arm around someone and give a squeeze, and then, the moment is gone. 

Life gets busy, and the daily to do list is calling. But, I try to find those moments to do my real work, the important work, of just being there, listening and speaking with my heart, just being a dad.  

—Neal Lemery 6/16/2015

Monday, June 1, 2015

Peace Out Loud: Tillamook for Love!

A guest blog from my friend, Romy Carver. She is an advocate for justice and truth. She writes about the social consciousness conversation our town is having. Peace Out Loud: Tillamook for Love!: Ah, small town life.  I live in a town where, if your house catches fire, a loved one dies, or you have a flood (which is common here), peo...