“What edge was that?” That’s the question that popped into my mind having just watched a snippet of, of all things, Family Affair. You kids out there may or may not be familiar with ancient television programming from the 1960’s. It was a program written around what then was considered a middle aged bachelor (no, he would never be a contestant on “The Bachelor”) who had custody of his teenage niece and her fraternal twin, 6 or 7 year old siblings. The show’s “moral of the story” was sacrifice for others – doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do but by doing so would make the other person happy. “If it makes you happy…..”
From that I remembered a most unique and touching moment from the year 1993. It was not a particularly good summer. Sadness, emotional turbulance and a conviction that I needed to “see what was on the other side of the road”. No going back….I couldn’t not pack up everything I owned and transport myself and my 2 felines 800+ miles away. I had this idea in my head, hanging by very thin, yet very strong hooks, that I couldn’t shake.
It was quite an emotional time – that late summer. I did not want to leave my little “pleasant valley” apartment by the ocean, my friends, both old and newly re-discovered, yet the notion that I “needed to know” how life could be different drove me in a way I don’t recall experiencing until then. Little did I know then that what was behind this “drive” to see life out there was fear, the pre-eminent domain of we like people. (clarks)
On the eve of what was to become the odyssey that was to become the rest of my life, I recall sitting on the front steps of my apartment building. It was a pleasant enough place – a victorian type home converted into small apartments situated only one street away from Narragansett Bay. I loved living there so close to the ocean, to walks along “the Wall” – a place that suited my soul.
I was sitting on the top step, in the late afternoon, asking myself what in the world I thought I was doing. Indulging in self doubt, I was treading water in a pool of confusion when an aquaintance walked up to me. He was the son of the man who owned my apartment building. Mark was more or less the carpenter on call, the go to guy if something went wrong maintenance wise. Close to my age, he was a pleasant guy – always a smile. Easy to talk to, he had a naturally calm, cool, collected way about him.
Mark walked over to me that hot, sultry summer day. He wanted to say goodbye and wish me well in my new life. I thanked him for his good wishes. Up until then, our conversations were never of any great length, just short ones people have when they run into each other on occasion. I found myself sharing with Mark my thoughts of “oh my God, what the hell am I doing?” and surprisingly he was quite understanding.
He wished me well in my new life and I wished him well in his. Before concluding our goodbye, I complimented him on his t-shirt. It was white and on the front was the likeness of Johnny Winter. “My idol” I told Mark “My first concert.” At that moment he took his shirt off and handed it to me. “No, really. I can’t”, I said. “Yes, you can. I want you to have it”.
I sat there astounded and touched that a man I knew for such a short time, gave me the shirt off his back. Literally. His poignant gesture spoke volumes about him, about how simple and genuine and uncomplicated life can be…