By Ryan Hilligoss, May 20, 2017
Life Is Short, Even In It’s Longest Days
I’m sitting at my local coffee shop looking out the window at the passing clouds as the sun comes out after a rainy, cold morning which cancelled our baseball games for today. Nothing sadder than a baseball rain out. Your hopes are up for a day of baseball and all the joys that come with it, watching young kids give it their all on the field for a few hours. Well, there are much sadder things in life, I know, there are many, too many to count sometimes.
As I type, I know my mother is 300 miles away, suffering from Parkinson’s disease while my father does the best he can to help her get through daily life. I just ended a phone call with her in which we had our normal conversation that we’ve had thousands of times. What are you doing? Not much you? What’s the weather there.? Rainy and cold here, how about there? What are you up today, how are the kids? What day are you coming home next weekend? Sunday. 30 seconds pass by. What day are you coming home next weekend? I’ll be home Sunday mom and the kids are coming with me. That’s good. Yes it is. It comes and goes each week, each day, each hour. Sometimes it’s OK, and others her memory come and goes. She gets lost a little in time, usually the days of the week and the season of the year. But the next minute she’s fine and talking about the latest news. Her sense of time, much like the clouds overhead, and life in general, is transient and ever moving, ever changing without any help from you or I.
The last few years have not been pleasant. My father in law passed away unexpectedly. My mother in law was in a nursing home for a few years before passing in December. My spouse has had many serious health issues. My father had to have emergency heart surgery to repair clogged arteries. I had a blood clot in my leg that was luckily found by my doctor in time, avoiding what could have been the end for me if I had waited much longer. And tragically, I lost my brother Sean nearly two years ago, passing away from diabetic ketoacidosis, leaving behind two young daughters who won’t have much to remember about their dad as the years pass. With each event, what is important in life came into focus, only to be followed by the next thing and the next, to where you become too defeated, worn down from stress and hanging on the best you can, just doing the day to day stuff to get by the best you can.
I’m Not Afraid To Live
Sometimes happy accidents happen in life, usually for a good reason., when we least expect them. Recently, a new/old friend of mine, gave me some very helpful words in the form of lyrics from U2’s Kite, “I’m not afraid to die/I’m not afraid to live/And when I’m flat on my back/I hope to feel like I did.” The events I enumerated above are very personal, but not things I haven’t already shared with many. And I know what I have endured has not been mine alone, all of them effecting countless others in more direct and profound ways. My problems are not singular. All who walk the earth suffer similar losses, in ways small and large. Our tragedies are tempered by the knowledge that for the most part, we’ve lived a blessed life, something that billions around the world live without on a daily basis. A roof over my head, shoes on my feet, clean water, children, family and friends, good health, more food than I need, entertainment, earthly possessions and the ability walk into a store at any moment and get anything I want or need.
But I also know, based on genetics and family history, I’ve probably lived half my life. 40 years await me down the road and I plan to squeeze as much as I can out of the days remaining, to live deeply and suck the marrow from life as Henry David Thoreau wrote so long ago. I want to listen to as much good music as I can. I want to go to as many concerts as I can given limitations of money and time and geography. I want to travel as much as possible and maybe go overseas to see sites I’ve only seen in pictures and movies until now. I want to eat good food and drink as much Fireball as I can 🙂 I want to spend as much time as I can with my children, creating memories and as much love and support as I can for them. I want to take care of my family as much as they need and as much as I can. I want to dream big and live big. I want to leave the world a little bit better than I found it. And in the end, I want to be who I am, good or bad, while still being decent and having common courtesy and concern for those around me. I refuse to change the core of who I am or what I enjoy in life to meet someone else’s expectations or vision of who I could be with enough finesse and time. This is who I am, take it or leave it and if you leave it that’s Ok with me.
Good Companions For This Part of The Ride
What has kept me going , the essence that has sustained me this whole time has been my beautiful kids Graham and Rory, my family, of which I’m blessed to have a large extended amount, many close friends, baseball and music. Music has always been a large part of my life from an early age. I was fortunate to have parents who exposed me to the classic, good stuff of their times: Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Jim Croce, Neil Diamond, The Everley Brothers, Shirley Reeves, Buddy Holly, and on and on. My brothers Kevin and Sean exposed me to newer or different sounds of rock, country, roots and the blues. My parents and brother took me to see concerts from an early age, Neil Diamond on many occasions, ZZ Top, and Bruce Springsteen to name a few. As I’ve grown older, I’ve branched off on my own, listening to a myriad amount of artists and styles and have traveled near and far to see live concerts. Springsteen, Mellencamp, John Prine, Buffet, The Old 97s, Chuck Berry, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, etc. Jazz, country, rock, the blues, I don’t care what style, race, color, creed, politics or style of underwear they wear, if they play good music which speaks to me, I’m in and experiencing life as boldly as I can. And because of that, I’v been blessed to collect a wide assortment of friends from around the country. The basic decency and kindness I’ve witnessed first hand is staggering. I’ve never felt more alive than being surrounded by friends and family listening to the same music and giving back to the artists what they give us: sweat, love, joys, fears, laughs and tears.
As we get older, it’s easy to get lost in life with kids, a profession, sports, events, and adult responsibilities. We grow disconnected from people and get sidetracked in our own difficulties. But with some love and concern and support of those around us, and a lot of music, we usually can find our way home again. What was that 4 guys sang long ago, we get by with a little help from our friends? I think I’ll buy the damn concert tickets and take my kids to see Paul McCartney this summer so they can say they saw a Beatle. I think I’ll go see Jimmy Buffet and the sea of piracy and parrot heads that envelope the crowd. I think I’ll go see some great musicians, playing their hearts out and be one of the fans living life to the fullest. Hopefully, I’ll see some of my friends further on up the road. Hopefully we can climb on that train bound for glory. I’ve you don’t need no tickets, you just get on board.
“I will provide for you
And I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion
For this part of the ride
Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkness past”
-Springsteen, Land of Hope and Dreams