Waxing Gibbous Moon
No offense to anyone in my family, but I am NOT coming to visit you this Christmas. Not because I don't like you. I DO like you and I like myself as well. I am also confident that each of you is intelligent enough and informed enough to understand and agree with me that this is the right course of action. I would also go so far as to say that if every other family was like my family we would have beat this whole virus thing months ago.
Fifty years ago this coming Monday I was a freshman at the University of Texas. I had no idea what I was doing there. I sure wasn't studying. I spent much of the daylight hours that year inside Gregory Gym playing pickup basketball against a wide array of amateurs like me. There were guys from New York, guys from Nashville, guys from Austin, guys from Africa, guys from all over. It didn't matter where I was from - pick and roll is the same everywhere and I am good at it. The truth is that I played basketball a lot more than I ever went to class. It made me happy even if in "reality" I was just spinning my wheels.
As Christmas time approached, most of the players disappeared - poof - gone home for the holidays to all corners of the country. I snapped out of my hoops revelry long enough to realize that very soon I had some adulting to do. My dear sister Diane, aka Dinesey, was to be married on December 28 up in Dallas and I had the honor of giving her away at the church altar to my future brother in law Patt, aka King Safari.
I had been shirking most of my responsibilities for a few months, so I had to scramble - to rise to the occasion as best I could. Number one on my list of stuff to do was to get a haircut. In 1970, most guys I knew had let their freak flags fly down to their shoulders and I was no different. I looked like a scrawny hippie hoop junkie, ragged around the edges and dressed exclusively in cutoff jeans, a less-than-fragrant sleeveless t-shirt, white crew socks, and white Converse All Stars. I was ready to hoop at a minute's notice, but not exactly presentable for a wedding ceremony.
So off came the hair, on went a cheap but acceptable sport coat and slacks and even a belt, shirt, tie, black socks, and dress shoes, and up the aisle I walked with my beautiful sister on my arm. There was a whole level of acceptability and gravitas in the church air that I failed to acknowledge back then. At the very least I should have rented a tuxedo and wiped the smirk off my face. But I was way too relaxed in attitude and way too immature in social graces to fully engage. At least I didn't make any obvious guffaws (that anyone ever mentioned) and the wedding went off as planned.
I didn't really come to grips with any sort of feelings about that day until I was much much older and began to come out of the haze of my extended childhood - the extended childhood that served to protect me from some of the trauma of my actual childhood - the extended childhood that was a form of self-medication like alcoholics practice I would suppose. Refusing to accept academic responsibility and being nonchalant about social norms was not uncommon and not really all that radical back then, but it was a little out of character for me and for my mostly very conservative family.
When I finally became aware of my true self, in my thirties, all kinds of things clicked and fell into place. And ever since, with a few wrinkles here and there, I have been comfortable in my own skin. Looking back, I just wish I had been a little less self-absorbed on that day fifty years ago. It really was an honor to be asked to be a significant part of the ceremony, but at eighteen, I just wasn't ready.
There was supposed to be a big 50th Anniversary party in Fort Worth this weekend, a giant family reunion and celebration. It was cancelled due to COVID concerns. I had been saving my pennies to go, to pay my respects for what to me is an amazing accomplishment - fifty years together with two great kids and a train of bright grand-kids - I can hardly imagine being THAT responsible. Would I have been any different at that party than I had been at the wedding? More present? More engaged? More loving? Less smirky? I think so, but I will never know for sure.