The Longest Journey

The Big Five Oh

Some days are harder to write about than others. Today, as I sit in room 1263, I’m not sure where to start and I have already started and deleted hundreds of words several times, so I’m going to turn off my internal editor (I know, my internal editor should keep his day job) and write about yesterday. Maybe my difficulties stem from the fact that today I turn 50 and 50 year-old men are supposed to have gained some wisdom along the way. I don’t know if I am any wiser than I was when I was 25, but I do know that I have been right about my one guiding principle in life: Don’t wait.

Life isn’t a straight line. Life isn’t a line at all. Life is a series of experiences that you either allow or avoid. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Timothy Leary here, but I might go a little Henry David Thoreau.) Most people I know live life waiting for the right moment instead of living life in the moment.

When I was much younger I met a young lady. I told her, “I want to grow old with you.” We had no income, we were both still in school, and we had no idea what the future held for us other than we knew we wanted to be together. We bought an engagement ring for $125 and on our wedding day we went to a supermarket and bought flowers to decorate the church. We lived day-to-day and never had much, but we survived. Yesterday, after our son got his third spinal shot of his chemo cycle and had to lay flat for four hours, we went out for dinner. We walked around Capitol Hill holding hands because long ago my wife told me she wanted us to be one of those old couples who still held hands, we are. We shared dinner at the Rhein Haus and then got two slices of pie à la mode at the pie shop on the corner. We laughed, we came close to crying a few times, and we talked about the future. Our plans for the future are to grow old together.

Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with two friends, Andrea and Justin. They are a young married couple who were both students of mine long ago. Even though my college told me while I was training to become a teacher that I shouldn’t smile at my students until Halloween and legislators believe that good teaching can be boiled down to test scores, I realized long ago that teaching is a relational occupation. I know that what my students remember from my classes isn’t intellectual but emotional. Of course students have learned a few things along the way, but what they remember is almost always an experience they had in my class. Justin said he remembered me drawing a picture of my heart on the board and dividing it up into sections for my wife, my kids, and then drawing a little dot and saying, “That’s the part for my students.” Of course my students know that I do love them and this was my way of letting them know where they stood in the hierarchy of love. (Yes, love is the right word because if you don’t love people you shouldn’t be teaching English. You can teach math though.) When lunch was over and I was heading back to the Oncology unit, Andrea handed me a bag of gifts. It was so generous and loving that I am still flummoxed. (If you want to see what a kind and loving person Andrea is you can visit her blog: http://www.handandtheheart.com)

And then there was last night, Dylan spent most of his day drugged up to avoid nausea. Around 9 PM, I heard Dylan call quietly for me. I sat up and saw he was reaching out his hand to me. “What’s up, bud?” I asked. He held my hand and said, “I love you.” He said a few other things too and I said, “There’s no place I’d rather be right now.” Sure, I wish none of this cancer stuff happened, but this cancer stuff has opened a world of love that I didn’t know was there.

So what have I learned in my 50 years? People are good. Life is short. Don’t wait.

Categories: The Longest Journey

20 replies »

  1. Oh, Eekhoff. Thanks for the reminder to be in the moment and for sharing yours. Happy sunny Saturday morning and fifty years to you. gk

  2. I get the internal editor thing. After reading your post last night I wrote several responses and deleted them all because I just couldn’t seem to find the right combination of words to express what I was feeling as I read it. When I squish it all down, what’s important is your love for family, living in the moment and cherishing a hand held whether it’s Cheryl’s or Dylan’s or Emma’s. It sucks that it sometimes takes an experience like this to make you realize how infinitely special family and friends are. It also makes me aware that I have been working alongside your family for several years now and never had any idea what a treasure you all are. Dylan will stay strong because of the nightly poetry readings, walks, and excellent care he receives. I hope you feel that even though all of us reading your words are not there physically, you know that most of us are there spiritually holding Dylan’s hand and walking the halls with you both, keeping our eyes forward but living in the now. Be grateful that on your 50th that you have a family that can still hold hands.

  3. Geez… I hoped tears would come less frequently and I’m a decade older than you Jon! It’s a flood up here and you are helping. You are a wonderful man and it’s a priviledge to read your heart on the page. Thank you And your beloved family.

  4. Happy birthday – (Pisces rule BTW)
    Love is not “A” powerful thing, it is “THE” powerful thing. So happy your family is experiencing it in abundance. ❤️
    Still praying and sending healing thoughts to Dylan. Thank you so much for continuing to share the journey.

  5. Love you and your family, Jon. You have always had the ability to make me laugh…and now cry… But the tears have evolved from the first tears shed after hearing the news of that sweet little first grader of mine fighting cancer to the complex uplifting tears of witnessing your family fighting this together with such strength. Happy birthday, and God bless, my friend.

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