May 5, 2018

Too Fast


The other night I was struck suddenly by that feeling that parents often talk about:  They're growing up so fast!

Every night for quite some time we go through the same struggle in our house.  We put the boys to bed and they won't go to sleep, especially Ezra.  He comes out of his room time and time again, wants the light on so he can color or play in his room, needs a drink of water, complains that he's "scared", wants me to come and rub his back again and again, and repeatedly asks when I'm going to come to "check on" him.  Elijah is a morning person, and like his mother, will typically just drop off to sleep no matter what after eight in the evening.  But Ezra, like me is a night owl, and it's hard for him to go to sleep (just as it's hard for him to get up in the morning).  The constant harassment drives me crazy!  After a long, stimulating day all I want is to sit down and be still and not go to bed too late.  My youngest son has seemed determined to prevent these things from happening.

But the other night, I was rubbing his back for the umpteenth time, and it hit me--they are growing up so fast.  And I wanted to slow time, just a little bit.  I wanted to savor the age and stage they are right now before it passes.  In too short a time, it will be me pushing the boys to spend time with me and not the other way around.  And not just that. . .they simply won't be like they are right now.  They'll be different as they grow and mature.  If I want to fully appreciate the boys as they are, I have to do it now, because what they are right now won't last.

Right then, I decided, as busy and tired as I am, I would stop fighting with Ezra about his not staying in his room and going to sleep.  I decided I will commit fully to rubbing his back rather than giving him two minutes of distracted pats while I try to read a magazine or browse my phone before rushing away to evening chores. 

Since then something remarkable has happened.  I've found that ten to fifteen minutes of complete and total focus on him at bedtime, settles him right down.  After that unrushed time passes, I'm able to quietly tell him I'm going to go out now and he's fine--even if he's still not sleepy.  There's no continuing harassment after that.  I realize now that my rush to get him to stay in bed and "stop  bothering me" just made him  more unsettled and anxious.  Once I gave him my full, unrushed attention, he was at peace.

I got to have my cake and eat it too.  I have special time with Ezra every night where I can fully appreciate him as he is right now at this precious, quickly evaporating age, and I no longer have to deal with constant harassment and interruptions as I'm winding down my own day.

Mar 4, 2018

Respite

Every parent should have a little respite.  A few days where you can rest until you feel like sleeping and sleep until you feel waking.  A few days where you don't have to worry about making meals, handing out snacks, giving baths, picking up and dropping off, tidying and cleaning, mediating disputes and reprimanding bad behavior.  A few days where you can read a bit, watch a few episodes of your favorite Netflix series, go out to eat, or to a movie,  and have adult conversations without interruptions (at least from your own kids).  Parenting is a wonderful blessing but sometimes you just need a break.

When I first decided to zip down to Florida for a weekend it was mainly to spend some time with my mom, who normally I see maybe once or twice a year.  Since we live so far from her, I'm trying to increase those times. And so Barbara agreed to let me take a quick trip this past weekend.  It would have been too expensive for us all to travel for such a short time so it was just me. An unexpected blessing of this time was the respite from parenting for a weekend and it's something I recommend every parent take at least once a year.  I honestly think you'll be a better parent for it.

The view from the parking lot of mom's apartment complex. Isn't it gorgeous? Hills in Florida!  Who would have thought?

My mother has recently moved from Ocoee to even further outside of Orlando, to the community of Clermont.  My sister and her family live in nearby Groveland.  This was my first time visiting them in their new community and I have to say I was amazed. I had no idea such a beautiful area existed in central Florida.  I grew up in Florida, often drove north to Gainseville, east to Daytona and New Symrna, southwest to Tampa and even on occasion went south to Miami and the Keys.  But somehow I never traveled due west and discovered Florida's best kept secret--what I call the "Wakanda of Florida" of magical paradise hiding in plain sight.  While almost all of Florida is pancake flat,  Clermont and the surrounding area is a land of rolling hills, stunning, expansive vistas, and a multitude of lakes--so many that it feels like you're near the beach.

I took a non-stop flight to Orlando after school on Friday, February 23.  Another hidden gem is Frontier Airlines.  Their base prices for tickets are bargain basement cheap (I  spent $130 for a round trip and prices go lower than that) and their flights are non-stop.  Granted they will nickel and dime you if you let them.  They charge for everything--snacks and drinks, checked and carry on luggage, choosing your seat.  But you don't have to pay these upcharges.  Travel with nothing more than a carry-on the size of laptop bag or purse  and "take whatever" seats are available at boarding (that's actually how they word it on their website as they try pressure you into spending $12 to $20 bucks for the privilege of choosing your seat.  You can click on the big green choose seats button or select the small print "No thanks, I'll take whatever").  Not only do you save money but it is so freeing to walk into the airport with but nothing but a single bag slung over your shoulder, skip the lines at check-in, breeze through security and hop on the plane.

Cruising with my sis and her kids.  I think this was on the way to dinner Sunday night.  Vince was right behind me and Mom was in the way-back. Jim and Dawn's oldest son met us at the restaurant.

Of course the highlight of my visit was the time with family.   I spent hours chatting with my mom and siblings.  We had a nice leisurely Sabbath lunch after church at my sister's lakefront home.  On Sunday my brother Vince and brother-in-law Jim went to see Black Panther, and we closed out the weekend Sunday evening with a wonderful meal, all of us together, at Lily's on the Lake, a beautiful lake shore restaurant. 

At Lily's on the Lake, Sunday night, February 25, 2018

But probably one of the most special moments of the weekend for me was after lunch on Sabbath when Dawn offered to take Vince and I out on the lake in their little skiff. The three of us motored out on to the lake, Dawn at the helm, Vince and I sitting back to back on one of the low wooden benches in the boat, wearing the floppy fisherman's hats Dawn gave us.  It was just one of those times when you just know you're making a memory.  It's not too often the three of us are together--just us three like we were when were kids and we shared a bedroom, my bed on one side, Vince on the other and Dawn in the middle.  But on that little boat in the middle of the lake, the warm sunshine on our backs, the conversation easy and pleasant, it was truly special to be together again.  I don't know if they felt it like I did, but for me those 15 or 20 minutes will always be a very special memory to me.  I didn't bring my phone with me to capture the moment (I was worried about losing it if we capsized) and indeed, as is my bad habit, I didn't take many pictures at all during the weekend.  But I have lots of mental snapshots and I will cherish them.

Before I  knew it, it was Monday morning and time to jet back to Ohio. Mom and Dawn took me to the airport, and a few hours later I was back in the hustle and bustle of ordinary life.  My brief respite from my crazy everyday life was over, but I have wonderful, warm memories of a peaceful weekend with the family I grew up with.  I can't wait to go back this summer, this time with my own family in tow!

Jan 4, 2018

Epilogue

So, I've completed another 30 day writing challenge.  I said I wanted more of a challenge and I got one.  It took me over 60 days to complete and only a few of the days were because I just got tired of writing and decided not to.  Many of these entries stretched my creativity, they demanded discipline and a willingness to keep writing even when I didn't feel like it.  A number of prompts required me to do research and that accounted for many of the "skipped" days.  I might not have been posting daily. . .or even writing words daily.  But writing is about a lot more than writing (or typing) words.  Research, planning, thinking, imagining--all of these are a part of writing.  On balance I'm happy with the 29 prompted entries (I combined two prompts).  Some I like better than others; some are better written, but overall I'm satisfied with the work I've done.

And now. . .what comes next?  Last year I planned to continue writing on a daily basis, and while I didn't meet that goal, I did do a lot more writing than I have in a long time.  Last winter and spring I wrote a reboot of the play Point of Impact and we staged the production at the end of April.  Then this past fall, I wrote a new short story called "Walls" as part of my character building for my role of David in Jasmyn Green's stageplay Lie in the Bed You Make.  You'll recall the character of David makes an appearance in "Finding Home" and in my last prompt of the 30-day writing challenge, "The First Day."  In between the story and the play, I managed to post at least once a month on this blog.

Still, while last year might be deemed successful in terms of a couple new pieces of writing, this year it's time to step things up.  I really want to make writing a truly daily discipline. I want to make writing such a consistent and integral part of my daily life that there will  not be a need for another 30 day writing challenge November.  That said, I don't plan on a post a day here on this blog.  I'm still looking to maintain one to four posts a month on  the blog as my standard.  My main focus will be on a new book that I've been wanting to write for. . .well, the last 23 years or so.  I've been talking about it for years and now it's time to do it.  My goal for this year is to work daily on a book about my life-changing ten months as a student missionary on Chuuk.  It's a story that needs to be told and I'm not putting off telling it any longer.

And for all you other would-be authors out there, I challenge you.  Let this be your year too!  Let's do this.

I took this photo overlooking Chuuk Lagoon, I believe in early 1995. Let the adventure begin!




Jan 2, 2018

The First Day

This final work of fiction in my thirty day writing challenge is a call back to my first prompt "Last Sentence" and also references "Finding Home." Feel free to check out these stories for further context!
Photo Credit: Steve at the What Do I Know blog. Great blog by the way.  This guy is nothing if not prolific!

Don't ever let anyone tell you God doesn't have a sense of humor.  He had taken the wheel. Literally.  I mean the steering wheel was gone.  The steering column remained, a blunt stake just inches from my chest.

I had never lost consciousness but in the quietness after the chaos of the crash, it felt like I was just coming around. There was the hiss of steam, the steady sound of something dripping somewhere, the vague creak of twisted metal. The passenger side door had been pushed in so far, my right shoulder now leaned on it. There was the smell of fuel and oil. In a moment of panic I wondered if the car might explode and that motivated me to begin to try to get out.  I wasn't sure how bad my injuries were.  I knew they must be terrible, but I felt only a general achiness and soreness which I chalked up to shock.  I anticipated shooting pain as I began to try extricate myself from the drivers seat, but when I began to move no new pain emerged.

 I unbuckled my seat belt and tried the door. It unlatched but wouldn't open more than an inch or two.  The window was a web of shattered glass still in it's frame. The windshield was gone though, and I determined to climb out that way.  Carefully I climbed up over the wheel-less steering column and the glass covered dashboard and gingerly pulled myself through the windshield.  The only new pain I felt was the sharp sting of broken glass puncturing my hands. A few moments later I was standing among the rocks and weeds of the ravine looking at the crushed remains of my car.  I could not believe I had survived, and indeed was able to stand.  This was the sort of wreck where best case scenario, I would have been trapped inside both legs broken waiting for the Jaws of Life to pry me free.  Instead, I stood apparently unharmed.  I couldn't explain it.  My guardian angel surely must have earned his pay today.

An 18-wheeler thundered by on the highway above me.  The ravine was easily twenty yards deep and while passing cars would surely have seen the broken guardrail they might not have realized that an accident had just happened if they couldn't see my car in the darkened ravine. I shuddered at the realization that if I had been trapped in the car I might have had to wait for quite some time until an alert driver noticed what had happened--or until the wreck exploded into a fiery ball with me inside.  I laughed in amazement. I couldn't help it. I was free!

You don't know happiness until you've inexplicably escaped certain death.  All the things that had caused me anguish before were now nothing.  Lauryn and I were struggling to put a damaged marriage back together.  On the drive I'd begun to doubt we could do it--we had both done so much to break things.  But now? Now all I could think of was getting home to her.  Financial worries, the impending trial, the future--the future!  I had a future! That alone was reason to celebrate.  As I scrabbled up the ravine towards the roadside I rejoiced in the movements of my straining muscles, the firmness in my unbroken bones.  I reveled in the stinging pain in my glass-cut hands and the general soreness all over my body. I was alive and nothing--and everything--mattered!

At last I reached the top of the ravine.  With a twinge of regret I realized that I'd left my phone in the wreck.  So much for calling the police. Or Lauryn.  How I longed to hear her voice! But no matter, I'd flag someone down. If that didn't work, I'd just start walking to the next exit. Anything was possible.
I perched on an undamaged portion of the guardrail to wait for the next car to come along.  Lauryn had given us a second chance.  Now God had given me one too. The autumn air was crisp and clean.  The crumpled wreckage of the car was barely visible in ravine below.  The silver dust of moonlight settled coldly on the night.

Jan 1, 2018

The Privy (or the Unfortunate Case of Levi Duffey)

Prompt: You are at a cemetery reading gravestones.  Write about one of the people you find.

July 18, 1849

Father and I have quarreled extensively over the placement of our privy and I have at last decided to take the matter in hand.

We have never related well. Perhaps it is because of my circumstances in becoming a part of this family.  The death of my parents when I was thirteen years of age and then being adopted into the Yeo family after protracted legal proceedings have always led me to believe that I do not really belong.  And after fighting so hard for the Duffey inheritance it seems certain to  me that my father was more concerned with monetary gain than the son that came with it. After many years residing across the Ohio River in Covington we moved here to Harveysburg, Ohio this past two months to avoid the dreaded cholera which is even now consuming Cincinnati and the surrounding regions like a savage beast. The poisnous miasma of the congested city for the fresh atmosphere of the farmland is a more than advantageous trade and all should be well. But for this struggle over the privy all would be quite satisfactory.

Father is insistent on being the patriarach of the family and his orders are to be followed without question. I am 28 years old though and fully in my own manhood now however and I see no reason that my perfectly reasonable thoughts on the matter shouldn't also be considered. In short, I felt it was most practical to place the privy near the run.  The ground is easily managed and disposal of the waste will require little effort. Also, because it is further from the main house we will not be plagued with the noxious odors that will emanate from it once it has seen heavy use. It is very clear to me that this is the better location for the privy.  Father feels otherwise. He would prefer to have the privy near the oak tree adjacent to the house for convenience of use.  This despite the laborious work that will be required to dig through the rocky soil on this part of the property and the lack of ease in waste disposal.  Most likely a deep pit would need be dug and this would require many more man-hours that would be better employed elsewhere.

We have had sharp words on the matter.  The old man even dared to quote scripture at me reminding me of my duty to honor my father.  I shall be damned if I allow father to use the Holy Writ to manipulate me into doing his bidding. My siblings all looked on in silence.  I would have expected them to come to my aid, but they were all cowed by father's wrath.  I alone resisted him.  At last it came to some physical struggle, and I regret the manner in which I was forced to handle him.  But he left me no choice.  Having established my primacy, I ordered Joshua and Bernard to assist me in the immediate construction of the privy at the site I had chosen before Father had recovered sufficiently to oppose me once again. But once recovered he gave no further interference. It gave me some momentary sadness to see him so thoroughly defeated, but only momentary.  I was right and it had to be done.

And so the work is done.  The privy sits just adjacent to Jonah's Run as planned.  I sit here now breathing in the clear fresh air free of the unpleasant odors that would surely have accompanied the recent business of the family at the privy had I not prevailed.  I enjoy a cold cup of water from the stream and rejoice in my spirit, knowing that all is well.

Levi Duffey  son of Joshua & Ally Yeo, Died July 25, 1849 at age of 28


Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee
              --Exodus 20:12


So, I came up with this story after making a quick stop at the historic Jonah's Run Baptist church in Harveysburg, Ohio.  The church and accompanying cemetery are right on Route 73, which we take going to and from Barbara's mother's house.  I've noticed the church for years now and always wanted to stop off and look around the beautiful old building.  In this case, it was the easiest cemetery for me to visit.  I was able to pull into the parking lot, take about two minutes to take some snaps of some of the tombstones and be on my way.

Historic Jonah's Run Baptist Church where many members of the Yeo family are buried. Remarkably this church is still in use today.

Right away I noticed a string of deaths of adult children of Joshua and Ally Yeo in 1849.  I found that rather unusual.  I knew that infant mortality was high in those days but for a bunch of adults to die in quick succession like that seemed odd to me.  I took to Google to do some research.  I found very little information about the Yeo family other than some evidence of some sort of  a legal dispute with the  James & Jacob Douglas in Kentucky in 1834 (see p.96, Folder 29 in the records of the Warren County, Kentucky Equity Court Cases file archived by Western Kentucky University) .  I suspected that the cause of death was some sort of epidemic and sure enough, further research revealed that the Midwest had been devastated by a horrific cholera epidemic in 1849 and 1850.  Cincinnati and other small towns in Ohio were ravaged by the disease.  Compounding the problem was the fact that no one correctly understood what caused the disease.  The prevailing belief was that cholera was an airborne disease spread through "miasma".  People fled the cities in droves to escape the disease, not understanding that they were bringing the disease with them.  Cholera is caused by drinking water contaminated by human fecal matter. Because people often literally pooped where they drank, the disease spread with ease. You can read more about the epidemic here and here.

With this information, I had everything I needed for a story.  Of course, the story of the conflict between Levi Duffey and his adoptive father is entirely made up.  I don't have any information on them or their relationship and certainly no specific details on how cholera swept through the Yeo family claiming four young adults in the space of five months.  But a story requires conflict so I created one.  And the sad results of my fictional conflict, in addition to Levi's own demise?


Mary Yeo daugher of Joshua & Ally Yeo: Died August 8, 1849 at age of 26


Flavilla Yeo daughter of Joshua & Ally Yeo: Died Oct. 5, 1849 at age of 25


Joshua Yeo son of Joshua & Ally Yeo : Died Nov 30, 1849 at age of 18

Dec 31, 2017

The Eleventh Annual Inspiration List: 2017

This past year has been short on heroes.  But I still managed to find four people who have inspired and encouraged me.  Two of my heroes have been inspiring me for quite a few years now; recognition is long over due. The other two have made their mark this year. They are three men and one woman.  One is a missionary doctor, another a pastor, and still another a young man who was just recently sworn in to the U.S. military but has been a soldier for years, and finally a Jill of All Trades and Mistress of the them all!  One hero I've known since high school though we've never been close, and another hero I've known casually for a few years. Another I've known since he was in fifth grade. And one I've had the pleasure of working closely with this year.  This quartet makes me want be cool, love, and live more on this incredible journey called life.

A few other notes of interest.  First, I've nominated people more than once as my heroes before.  Joy Lacorte,  Keisha Paez, Virleshay Gayatin, & Anastasia Bailey all share that honor.  But this is the second time I've nominated the same person for two consecutive years. El-Ryck becomes the first male to join the Twice Nominated Club after making the list last year.  As long as I find new ways you inspire me, you can make this list multiple years!  Also in other "repeat" news:  For the third year in a row a member of the same remarkable family makes the list.  Three generations of heroism in one family! I don't know what they're doing over there in the Green family but whatever it is, it's being done right.  And here's the kicker.  There will be a fourth hero from this extraordinary clan, setting a new record for individual nominations from the same family (right now they are tied with the Paez tribe; Carol, Keisha, and Natalia were all nominated). But for reasons that I'll explain next year that nomination has to wait.  So stay tuned for the 12th Annual Inspirations in December 2018!

In the meantime here are this year's heroes and inspirations:

Dr. James Appel
Jasmyn Green
El-Ryck Kendrick
Pastor Bob McGhee

Jasmyn Green
I'm inspired by her calm spirit

"One thing about me is I try not stress."  So began a Facebook post by Jasmyn earlier this year. No big deal right?  We all try not to stress.  But as I've gotten to know Jasmyn over this past year I've found that she is remarkably successful at living up to that aspiration.  Her life is the definition of the full plate--it seems like she's got at least two different theater projects that she's involved in at any given time; she works full time at two jobs, does a bang-up job as the youth ministries leader at our church, and she may be working on writing a new play.  And she manages to do all this with her trademark calm spirit, good humor, and patient demeanor.  It's not to say that she doesn't ever get stressed.  She does on occasion.  Three hours before curtain of our debut performance of her play Lie in the Bed You Make was one of the few times I've ever seen Jasmyn sweat.  But far more than most she maintains an even keel, come what may.   The good news for me in aspiring to her zen-like approach to life is that I have access to the same One she credits for her ability to live mostly stress-free.  "That's what I have God for," she says, "He takes care of all my problems and then some!  Don't like stress? Try Him--you might be surprised how freeing life will be."

Dr. James Appel

I'm inspired by his life less ordinary

I can't say for sure, but I have this feeling that James doesn't see his life as one of sacrifice.  Most people would look at his work as a missionary surgeon in Tchad and think, "Wow what a hero.  Look at what he and his family have given up to serve the less fortunate."  But it's not the noble dedication  to going without Western comforts and family close at hand that inspire me about James. You see, I've lived life like James has and I can tell you there is nothing like it in the world. You feel so fully alive and the work, while difficult,  is so deeply rewarding.  James and his family inspire me because they remind me that it's still possible to live extraordinarily in the service of God and others. Right now circumstances don't allow me to live on the other side of the world but I hope that if and when the opportunity does arise, I'll have the courage to take the leap again. In the meantime, I want to bring as much of  that mindset of extraordinary service and love to every day of my life right now.


Bob McGhee
I'm inspired by his commitment to loving people

We called him Bobby Love. So much so that I kind of forgot his actual last name for awhile. Pastor Bob picked up that nickname some years ago when my sister-in-law and her husband visited his church, and as many people do, decided to slip out ahead of the communion service. He followed them out the door imploring them to stay, saying "I love you guys."  We thought it was funny, and a bit extreme and so he was christened him Bobby Love.  But we were wrong.  While his attempt to let those visitors know they were loved may have backfired, he couldn't be faulted for trying.  More importantly, I've learned that while Pastor Bob can be funny there's nothing funny about the compassion he has for others.  And while he might be extreme and offend the doctrinal purists who view "too much love"  with suspicion, I think Pastor Bob understands what following Christ is ultimately all about.  During his farewell Sabbath at Worthington Adventist Church, someone recounted how concerned Pastor Bob was about the people that most folks neglect but that he'd built relationships with over the years.  "Who will look after them after I leave?" he had asked.  That's when I got it.  Faith is great.  Hope is amazing.  But the greatest of these is love.  Pastor Bob understands that.  I never told Pastor Bob the nickname I had for him, but I like to think he'd wear Bobby Love with pride.

El-Ryck Kendrick
I'm inspired by his journey

I wouldn't say he started at the bottom, but he is definitely on his way to the top.  I am so immensely proud of El-Ryck.  I've known this young man since he was a loud fifth grader with a hot temper and whether he has known it or not he has always been a blessing in my life.  During fifth and sixth grade we butted heads over his classroom behavior and academic performance, but he taught me patience and despite my being hard on him, I grew to love this guy.  In seventh grade  he was one of the first students to run with me in the Buckeye Classic 10K.  He amazed himself with his ability to run 6.2 miles; so much so he did it again the next year.  In the eighth grade he made his mark as a powerful speaker and actor. He was the star of the school Christmas play and blew the audience away with his final monologue.  At the beginning of each school year throughout high school he would volunteer to come in and help  me set up my classroom before school started.  I always appreciated his help with the heavy lifting and fellowship over lunch from Sonic when the work was done.  And now El-Ryck has decided to join the United States Army.  For years, I've had El-Ryck's back; now he has all of ours.  El-Ryck has always had a sense of honor, courage, and service so it's no surprise to me that he's chosen to serve our country.  El-Ryck's journey so far has been nothing less than inspiring.  I can't wait to see where he'll go next.

Dec 28, 2017

Young Sean

Prompt: You read about yourself in your brother/sister, boyfriend/girlfriend's diary.  What did you read?

It took me a minute to figure out how to approach this.  In the end I settled on a nice weekend I spent with a dear friend in Chicago just weeks before I met Barbara.  Ours had been a tumultuous friendship and that weekend felt like coming into a comforting calm.  I still consider her a friend 22 years later, and I'm grateful for the growth I experienced through knowing her.  While I don't know if she saw me as having "grown up" from the Young Sean she knew, I chose to write about this weekend from her perspective because it had the narrative structure I needed. And because I'd like to think she felt the same way about the weekend that I did.  The biggest liberty I took was with the conversation snippet which I created.  We may or may  not have had a similar conversation. I've chosen not to use her name and I've changed the one name that I used in the story besides my own.  But if she reads this, she'll know right away that I'm talking about her.  I hope she remembers that September weekend of walking Chicago as fondly as I do and as I've imagined she did. 


Well, Sean has just left and I must say it was an absolutely lovely weekend.  I hadn't seen him in over a year though we did write intermittently while he was away. We talked on the phone a few times when he got back earlier this summer and I invited him to come out to see me in Chicago.  I was really looking forward to seeing him, but wasn't quite sure what to expect.  He's been a very dear friend since I met him in fall his freshman ad (and my senior) year of college.  But as I've written about ad nauseam in these pages, our friendship has been fraught.  A lot of ups and downs I guess you could say.  And when I last saw him, things were, I guess kind of tense. I think he was angry with me, and me, well I was trying to be patient (and probably not succeeding very well).  There's always been this weird sexual tension in our friendship.  Sometimes I've felt  it. More often he felt it. On a few occasions we both felt it at the same time and then things were always interesting.

He was so young. . .that's the thing that attracted me to him and also annoyed me about him.  Every now and then I'd call him "Young Sean" which he might have found insulting.  I only said it a few times, but he has no idea how often I called him that in my mind.

But this is all old news.  Back to this weekend.  He got here Friday night  around 8 and it was so good to see him. He looked the same, for the most part. Maybe a little thinner (which is insane because he's already the skinniest guy I've ever known.  Makes Todd look like Heavy D by comparison).  But other than that, the same neatly trimmed goatee, same big, intelligent eyes, same full lips.  Still very good-looking.  But there was something different about him, though I couldn't say what.  I hugged him for a long time and it felt so good just to be with him again.

We ate, went for a walk, looked at pictures from his mission experience, and  talked late into the night. It was like old times--the best of the old times. From the first day I met him as a bright eyed freshman in the student center at the university campus, I found he was incredibly easy to talk to.  He listened but he also had a lot to say, and not just talking about himself.  He was available emotionally in a way that I hadn't found in very many of the the guys I'd dated.  That hasn't changed, but something else has. Friday night I couldn't put my finger on it.

Saturday we slept late, had brunch at a great place near my apartment, and set out on a walk.  That's mostly what we did this weekend. Walked. In my neighborhood, downtown, and along Lake Michigan.  We walked all over Chicago, hand in hand, and talked. It was just so comfortable. And that was the first thing I realized.  That after all the hot and cold, the euphoria and aggravation, the attraction and annoyance, the passion and tension, we were finally comfortable.  It was, in a way, what I'd always wanted, what I'd hoped our friendship would be like and it was truly beautiful to finally get there after all we'd been through.  I don't think he knew it at the time, but I think it's what he always wanted too.  I think he knows it now though.

The second thing I realized was that the heat had cooled on his end if you will. I'll admit it stung a little, but only a little. Though I took his hand, leaned on his shoulder as we walked I no longer felt that tremble of boyish desire.  He seemed content, which was not something I think he'd ever been before.

Late Sunday afternoon we ended up walking along Lake Michigan with the sun low in the west, flashing through the canyons of downtown Chicago on our left, and the light glinting on the lake to our right.  He said he felt like he was done with the chase, a chase he'd been on since he was in middle school.  Always there had been a girl he'd wanted and if there wasn't one, he was looking for one.

"You were one of those girls," he said.

"I know," I replied.

"But I'm at a point in my life where I feel like I'm just happy with myself. I don't need the chase anymore. My focus in going back to school is on my classes, my work at the Behavioral Science department, and my friendships.  I've spent enough time wishing, wanting, hoping, praying. Now my plan is to live and be happy."

"You said friendships.  Does that include me?"

"Of course it includes you.  Always you."  And he looked at me with those beautiful, soft brown eyes and smiled this open-hearted smile. He was completely at peace.  And that's what when I knew.  My young Sean wasn't so young any more.  He had grown up.  This young'un had arrived at the beginning of his journey as a man.

 It made me really happy.

So earlier this evening he got in his Honda to go back to school.  As I watched him drive away, the sounds of Seal's "Bring it On" emanating in a muffled melody from his car, I realized something else.

We would always be friends but it would never again be like it was.  It left me a little sad, but also really proud. I didn't foresee that we might grow apart too, but in that moment I realized that was certain to happen.  In fact, it already had.

I will miss the boy, but always care for, and be happy for, the man.