Saturday, May 31, 2014

someone's daughter

I just read that "As the father of a daughter" thing that's been going around — one thing got under my skin till I named it.

"As the father of a daughter, I promise ... to remember that all women are someone's daughter, and to be brave enough to remind others of that when they need reminding." 

It seems to me that this good man who doesn't want to be part of the problem still is. Really, he can't see a woman's worth unless he remembers that it resides in the man she belongs to? This line of thinking has always bothered me, but I'm just now putting my brain around it: "Think about it: she's someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's ... — she's *someone's*." That's the problem, right?

May I suggest: "She's someone."

Monday, May 26, 2014

a salute

You I'm thinking of today, who gave so much of selves unseen, do you know the power of your sacrifice?

Some of you signed up, knowing it was against regulations for our military forces to enlist men or women like you. You signed up anyway, defying the rules to defend American soil or American allies. You served and died in 1775, and 1861, and from then to now.

In World War II and Korea, you died before you had the chance to be dishonorably discharged. You never knew that your brothers and sisters in arms were not only discharged but reported to their local draft boards, and thus revealed to their entire communities — communities they sometimes couldn't then return to. Many stayed in the cities they landed in, groups of unmoored veterans gathering in New York's Greenwich Village or the San Francisco Castro, the army of the banished, forming gay ghettos where you could have lived less hidden, if not entirely free, had you lived. Those communities have lasted to this day. People who speak dismissively of them may not realize how they got started.

Jesus of Nazareth said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends; you laid down your life for those who never accepted you, and who would have drummed you out of service if they'd known. Many would have cruelly mocked you, and did, and worse. But they owe you their gratitude, as do we all.

Soldiers who survived returned to embrace their loved ones as a grateful public looked on — but not the ones like you. Other servicemen and women retired and received pensions that are every soldier's due — but not the ones who got dishonorably discharged for being gay, and struggled for the rest of their lives, some even today.

But you never faced those later-in-life things. You fought, and died, and now you lie beneath the earth. We who remain must remember.

You may never have been saluted in life by anyone who fully knew who you were and what you gave to serve. Today let us, at last, salute you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

it happened last summer

I look over at my watch and the face is fogged up on the inside. I live a July afternoon all over again. I was keeping an eye on Greta, getting some cleaning done, checking to see her play on the back porch every 30 seconds or so. I looked out and didn't see Greta on the patio. I looked to the pool: the water was moving. My next memory is that I was right there at the edge of the pool; I'd moved out there to see Greta in the pool, no safety suit on, bobbing right at the foot of the steps, nose and mouth just going above and below the water. I couldn't tell what look she had on her face, but her eyes were a bit wide. It didn't look like full-on distress, though.

I had, however, read up on the whole thing, and knew that she was drowning. This was exactly how it looks: the arms out, the bobbing up and down, the lack of screaming and flailing. I asked firmly whether she was OK: no response at all, just the bobbing. As I'd done in imagination a hundred times, I took my phone out of my pocket and laid it at the side of the pool (gotta do that before impulsively jumping in, because you need to be able to call 911), and then plunged in and in one swoop she was in my arms, well above water, crying and sputtering. I assured her that she was OK, and that everything was going to be alright. Now that she was out of survival mode, she was able to relax into being very upset and scared. She called for her Mama, she cried, she held onto me. Ron came out, Linda came out, Catherine came out. It was all OK.

Later, Linda asked me if my adrenaline had surged. Nope: the whole experience was calm and clear and, though it all took split seconds, each decision and action felt like it existed in a space of its own. I wouldn't say I was shaken, but I'd say I was, and am, haunted. What if even one thing had gone differently? This July afternoon could have been a disaster written on my heart for the rest of my days. It's not like I felt my Parent Alarm tingling or anything: I just looked out, she wasn't there, the water was troubled, I went, I got her out. What if I hadn't looked out just to check? Ah, but I did. Never experienced any change in heart rate, but man. That whole day I occasionally stopped and just let out a sigh — one of those sighs that says everything from what-if to thank-God to whew.

Parents often talk about being flooded with panic and fear when they lose track of their kid at the store. But, face it, when you lose your kid at the store you'll find your kid, 999,999 times out of 1,000,000. This, on the other hand, is the leading cause of accidental death among children between 1 and 4 years old, and the third leading cause of death among children period.

So now my watch occasionally fogs up, and I allow myself to stop and let out a sigh. Whew.


But not just "Whew." Action as well: we got Greta and Clara into a safety swimming course. It doesn't teach anything about recreational or competitive swimming — just how to be in the water and not drown.

Greta is now 3, almost 4. Clara is 16 months. I watched yesterday as a woman held Clara over the deep pool water and let go. Plop, she just dropped right in, but instead of flailing, or sinking straight to the bottom, this little baby who still can't speak a word calmly held her breath, floated to the top, rested her head back on the water with her face out, and breathed, while occasionally uttering a miserable moan. (Miserable, but alive and well.) She can do this fully clothed.

Clara can float till someone gets her; Greta is learning to flip over and swim to safety. How nice to know that a very real source of death, injury, and sorrow is no longer the threat it once was to our girls.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

a universal principle of sport and art?

Here's a video that perfectly expresses why people who like the Spurs like the Spurs. The main thing is that they play basketball: no hotdogging, no showoffy grandstanding — the American cult of the individual, elsewhere threatening to capsize sports, is replaced here by the American values of teamwork and patience.

At one point, a person says watching the Spurs is "like listening to Mozart." I think the person meant it in the sense of a gentle, perfectly working machine that's endlessly pleasing. But there's something more there. It's like listening to Mozart because in fact Mozart often withholds the resolution to a phrase, and then withholds it again, then again, then again, and then boom! it lands. Just watch play after play here, where, instead of just going for a basket, the player passes it, then instead of going for a basket, that player passes. Pass after pass after pass, until the shot is inevitable. What makes for great music makes for great basketball as well.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

my response to 40 questions

Some time ago, a fellow by the name of Thomas Swan posted a list of 40 questions for atheists and agnostics to ask Christians. The goal was to get beyond the simple thinking and name-calling that happens from both sides and instead get people of faith to dig in a bit and give solid reason for their belief. (The goal was also to get those people to question their own faith if they hadn't ever done so.)

Here are my answers to the 40 questions, submitted to Mr. Swan and you, and anyone else, to consider.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Friday, May 2, 2014

composer hopkins

Did you know that Sir Anthony Hopkins is also a composer? Here's a waltz he composed several decades ago, performed by the entertaining showboat André Rieu and his orchestra, with Hopkins himself in the audience.

I'm glad to say that I know first-hand what a great experience it is to sit in an audience and hear your own music coming from a symphony orchestra. I'd like to hear more from this composer, too: it's likely that he'll be known in future years mainly for pieces like this, while his acting will be forgotten. Weird to think it, but that's how history goes.