Finding the happy pockets

It’s 04-18. And if you don’t really, really know me – haven’t travelled with me far back enough, you don’t really understand why that’s not a great day for me. That, and 08-02 are hard.

Confession – and seemingly disconnected side thought – I watch ‘Gilmore Girls‘ on Netflix with my daughter and wife. (Yes). The main love interest of the show, “Luke Danes”,  caught my attention one episode. People in the town knew that he had a “Dark Day”. A day that he shut down his diner and isolated himself from people. 04-18, 08-02, I get it. I get how it affects those around me, and my “Lorelai”.

04-08 was my birthday. I’m 46 now – according to all known public records. You think about things more when you’re 46. I’d like to think your brain picks up where your body shuts down- compensating. There’s more considering and contemplating than I remember at say, 36 or 26. More pauses prior to speaking. More thinking out how a situation might play out prior to acting. Rounder edges and corners. Less Hulk, more Dr. Banner.

On 04-07 , the afternoon before my birthday – I left my house. Got on a motorized bike (I call it a Motorbike in my brain to feel more like James Dean, and less like Paula Dean) and drove 40 miles to the tallest campsite around my house – a place called Hanging Rock State Park – combining a string of things I’d never done before in one experiential sentence. When I first bought the bike – this was what I’d dreamed of doing. Gas. Gadgets – gone. And on 04-07, I did it.  I mention it to you, because it was a “Happy Pocket”. A pocket of time that I’d envisioned – fashioned together, and executed…resulting in a huge smile and an even warmer heart.

There’s a big demand for happy pockets, lately.

A few weeks ago – Miss Evans across the street, died. She was affectionately known to everyone around as “Granny”. And Granny watched my yard and house from across the street in her kitchen. She watched the birds, and the flowers, and the children playing in the yard and street. She called several times to tell us that the wind turbine in my yard was slower than normal – or questioned why it was down at all and when would it be up again? Because she loved watching it spin. Watching all of it.  No one’s watching anymore, and there’s an empty kitchen window. And the turbine is just a turbine now.

A few months ago, someone I’d gotten to know  cheated on his wife and kids. For the 2nd time, after an initial reconciliation and forgiveness.  Little kids ‘little‘. ‘Don’t care that I did it, and consequences be damned‘ kind of affair. It’s about the 10th divorce since I got married – people I knew along the way that just bought a ticket to Crazy land, packed their marital bags, and pulled the pin on their respective devastation grenades.

Just down the road from us, yesterday – something horrible happened. The worst kind of horrible that you don’t talk about. If you do, it’s a hushed whisper kind of talk. The kind of bad where you hug your kids after, and ask your spouse ‘are you okay?’ every day for a long time afterwards, bad. You can’t ever make it right for that person darkest of darknesses bad.

So, I’ve been focusing a lot on my happy pockets.

I love watching Netflix with my wife Karen. Love shows we love together, like Stranger Things, and Grace and Frankie. We just watched “13 Reasons” together, and binge watched one night until past 2 in the morning.  When days are hard or long – I can see myself on a couch with my wife and that huge red NETFLIX logo (BUM BUM!) and it just makes me feel, well, happy.  I am together with my highschool sweetheart in a house we live in surrounded by a life – and safe.

I love riding my motor-bike (the hyphen kills me) the last 30 minutes before sunset. The light is thick maple syrupy golden, and I imagine what heaven must look like. Where I live, there are deeply green wheat fields growing now – lawns being mowed and spring onions cut scenting the air. And steaks being cooked far off somewhere where kids are laughing playing baseball or cows are grazing watching me ride by. My helmet speakers are on, and Glenn Fry is telling me to “Take it Easy” from a recording studio before I was born. And I smile – uncontrollably smile.  Catch myself the happiest I can remember being – not wanting to stop riding almost trancelike deliriously submerged in a brief eternal moment.

I love Tuesday night dinners. My oldest son Caleb goes to music class (he’s learning to program Dub-Step electronically), and afterwards we go to dinner together. We talk endlessly about the future of video games – the future of just about everything. I sit and listen to him passionately dissertate why PlayStation squandered a tremendous opportunity with the gaming community – artfully and skillfully presenting points and counterpoints – when I realize I could be reading what he’s saying in a trade publication, word for word. I realize he’s going to be ok as an adult. Admire his mind, and his heart. I half understand some of the game references – but ask boiler plate questions when I sense pauses (“What do you think that means?“….”How might that affect the gaming community?“….) and he launches back into his diatribe a 2nd or 3rd time like a whale diving miles deep down to the ocean floor disappearing in thought again in between bites of his meatball hero. Lately, my youngest son Evan Michael is joining us. He’s quieter than Caleb – but he’s been holding his own (deftly) at the roundtable. Some nights, I just watch them…my 2 sons – going back and forth about this game or another talking laughing sharing and arguing and eating and my heart is so full I have to look away.

I love watching my daughter Abbey compete at school sports. Her softball games….her basketball years, and now her latest foray into High School Track. I was never in any kind of organized sport at school – and don’t really watch any professional sports teams on TV. But when my daughter is competing or playing – I am Kevin Costner in “A field of Dreams”. I am the Miracle hockey team. I am riding next to Lance Armstrong and sitting next to Dale Earnhardt.  I have lost my voice at almost every game. Left with elevated blood pressures and sweaty hands. Pride so effluent, I’m practically slipping on it as we leave the school’s bleachers.  I never cheer for anyone, or anything – but when my daughter is out there, something in my heart stirs. I am Gladiator, and on that floor/in that field making all the hand motions that dad’s a hundred years before me have made…holding my breath when she swings, or swooshes……

Happy pockets.

They’re in short order and supply, now – more than ever.  And I thought a lot about them up on that mountain bike camp trip.

It was less about sleeping in a tent, and more of a “mental inventory” between 46 and the unstoppable 47. I was there, cataloging my moments…understanding the why of “it all“.  Looking squarely in the eyes of the not so happy pockets and having a counterpoint. A defense.

An answer, maybe, on the dark days.

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