Not many of us have the opportunity to make a farewell speech.
As most of you know by now, my father Mike had a cancerous tumor, along with his tongue removed in December of 2008. He lived two and a half more years of wonderful life. On May 3 of 2011, he had an exploratory surgery to investigate some recent problems he had been having with his lungs after a prolonged bout of pneumonia in February. The surgery revealed that he had cancer in the lining of his lungs.
He never returned home and for almost all of the time during his month in the hospital he could only mouth words because he was unable to have his speaking valve in. The only time he did was when he told the doctors and my mother that he was refusing treatment because he knew it was his time.
The night before he had his surgery, many of his friends and colleagues from Coldwell-Banker/Doug Arnold Real Estate in Davis, CA visited him at home. They marched to his front door with candles, sang him songs and prayed. While all this happened, I captured it on video. He shared some thoughts with them that I have transcribed because his speech can be tricky to understand since his tongue was removed. I will try to upload the video with subtitles soon, but here is most of what he said. Not quite his last words, but maybe his unintentional “farewell address”. I will share as much as I can about my Dad because he was a fundamentally good man who felt the most important thing a person can do is help others and try to bring joy into other people’s lives. I think that is a pretty great thing to do. Here are his words:
“I can’t tell you what this experience has meant to me. And it changed my life. I hope for several more years, and the last two and a half has been the best ever, and I thank you all for that. The only thing I would ask of you is that you take this feeling of generosity and kindness that you’ve shown me and you use it in the rest of your life, whether it’s with your grandchildren, your children, your mom, your dad, your friends… because you never know. You just never know. So, enjoy every moment! Because it’s special. I mean… [gestures to the air around him] feel this right now! Feel this energy! It’s wonderful. And to think that you have shared this with me. You have taken time out of your life to come over and do this. It’s a wonderful thing, and I thank you for it, and I love you for it. And I say… well, come tomorrow, we’ll just kick ass! [laughter] Remember that… that life is special, and I thank you all, and I love you.
[after some conversation] I’ll be all set in the morning. There you go. I know this is a lot to think about, but I thank you and I love you.”
Not many of us have the opportunity to make a farewell speech.
Perhaps less so than most in this world, but I have seen death.
When I was in 7th Grade some friends and I found the body of a man not far from my house. He had placed a Beretta in his mouth and blown his brains all over the oleanders that lined Mace Boulevard in South Davis. It was the oddest thing. It was disgusting, to be sure, but it was so strange, so out of place. I had the good fortune of growing up in a place and time where this was out of place.
I was at my grandmother Kay’s bedside when she passed away in the hospital. Her emphysematic lungs were simply failing her. Most of her children and their children surrounded her bed. My grandfather Irv, who assumed he would precede her in death, could not quite grasp what was happening thanks to a mild stroke he had 7 years previous. For hours her ragged breathing slowed. When it finally stopped, totally unbidden and unplanned some one started singing “Toora Loora Loora”, one of my Irish grandmother’s favorite songs. I still don’t know who started it. It wasn’t me. When we finished, my grandfather, still gripping her hand, looked up with tears in his eyes and asked, “Is she sleeping?” I don’t think he really understood that she was dead until several days later. He spent most of the next 7 years of his life weeping for her and wishing he could just be with her again, already.
I was also at the hospital bedside of my father, Mike, when he died in June of 2011, as was my mother Kathy, my sister Michelle and my wife Nicole. Dad had a cancerous tumor and his tongue and epiglottis removed two years previous and despite the complications, had been cancer-free until it returned to the lining of his lungs. Being with him while he actually died, this man who was father, hero, friend; was without question the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. This man who would have unthinkingly laid down his own life for mine would not pass without me being there to see him off. That is what love does.
At the end of that year, I was performing in the chorus at San Francisco Opera. One of the productions was Giacomo Puccini’s final opera, “Turandot”. Leah Crocetto performed the part of the devoted slave girl Liu. Leah is an amazing performer, but she is also a dear friend, the little sister I never had. Sharing the stage with her was a joy.
In Act III of the opera, Liu is forced, under duress, by the cold and heartless Turandot, to reveal the true name of her beloved Prince Calaf. “Love,” she answers. She then sings an astonishingly beautiful duo of arias before committing suicide to protect the Prince’s identity and therefore his life. The second half of this monologue, “Tu che di gel di sinta…” (sung here by Leah herself) was the last music Puccini ever wrote. But before this, she sings the music from the above video clip:
Such love that I held it secret and never confessed it to him. So great that these tortures are sweet to me, because I endure them for him, and because, through my silence … I give him to you, Princess, and I lose everything, even an impossible hope. So tie me! Torture me! Torment and suffering I will endure! They are the supreme offering of my love.
Every night, Leah would sing this from the heart and with tremendous skill and artistry. And each night I would hear the delicate strains of this music and I had the sensation of leaving the opera stage and I was in the hospital room with my father. Before he was put on a substantial palliative morphine drip, we each got to spend a few precious moments alone with him. This music took me straight back to that time with him.
Late morning light filtering in through the curtains. My hands in his rough but gentle hands, hands that had worked so hard for me, for us. But what this music conjured most for me was the overwhelming, incalculable ungovernable, unmeasurable, unending LOVE that was in his eyes. When I think of the moment now, I don’t know how I was able to bare it. But his eyes held the answer to the question. This is why we do what we do, so that we can share of ourselves with the ones we hold dear. He couldn’t really talk, but he could mouth words. “I love you, Adam. I love you. I love you. Don’t worry. I love you.” I never wanted to let go of his hands. I kissed his forehead, felt the stubble on his cheek, knew that soon, these sensations would forever be memories. I wanted to crawl in the hospital bed with him and hold on and never let go. But the love, dear God, the love was everywhere in the room, palpable, buoying, enervating, sustaining…the light was suffused with its transmuting grace. How do you let go of a love like this? You don’t you can’t you mustn’t you needn’t.
These were my thoughts as Leah sang this aria. Not his death, but the last, glorious, agonizing, necessary moments with my best friend. It was all I could do each night to keep from completely breaking down. But I also know that Leah has lost her father, and I could hear it in her voice. This understanding has bonded us over the years.
Hearing this music makes me weep thinking of it, but it gives me hope and fills me with love. It doesn’t make me despair. I look in the mirror each morning and see my father’s face smiling back at me. This is why we don’t hold back, why we risk pain, why we love all the way, so that when we end our days, we are surrounded by smiling, tearful faces and loving, grasping hands holding on to us but eventually letting us go on.
Death comes, but love never dies.
The rain I expect to greet me as I emerge from the Columbus Circle Subway station has stopped and the air is clear and cool and the ground is slick and reflects the many lights on the Time-Warner Center and surrounding buildings. The Manhattan night is full of noise and buzzes with electric expectation. I make my way across the street and as I do, Ella Fitzgerald’s cover of “Sunshine of Your Love” comes on my iPod. An apt soundtrack to the thrum of the upper reaches of Midtown and Lincoln Center’s environs.
I have been auditioning all day, from the Upper East side at Di Capo Opera’s basement to Liederkranz’s rarified salon to Ripley-Greer Studios near Penn Station up to NOLA Studios in the Upper West Side right next to the Colbert Report studio, up to Riverside Church and back over to First Church in the Upper East Side…I have been an Operatic Ping-Pong ball all day. It is a Friday night in November. I have no auditions for three days. Manhattan awaits my pleasure.
I am going to O’Neall’s near Lincoln Center to meet my dear friend Virdell and drink and catch up. Virdell is a friend from freshman year at San Jose State’s Markham Hall Dormitory (which luckily has been demolished, thus destroying all incriminating evidence) and one of the first people that encouraged me to switch my major from Journalism to Voice. He now lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan. I look forward to seeing him.
I step in to O’Neall’s, a typical chophouse with a long, mahogany and brass bar. I order my standard Rye & Soda and wait for Virdell. I am early, so I pass the time by people watching. The only other people at the bar are a man and woman, whom I assume to be husband and wife or long-time partners, because they are acting far too relaxed and comfortable to be on a date.
The man turns slightly toward me and I recognize him. He is actor Kene Holliday from “Matlock”. I was never really into the show, but I certainly remember him. Manhattan is crazy that way; you see actors and musicians that you recognize and you play it cool because you don’t want people to think you’re a tourist. Well, tonight I didn’t care.
When the bartender returns, I order another Rye & Soda and tell him that whatever the couple at the end of the bar orders next will be on me.
I look down at the other end of the bar for more people watching and start to zone out as the people out on the street pass by the front window in a steady stream. I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn expecting to see Virdell. Now, you have to understand, Virdell and I ALWAYS joke with each other. I had already planned to pretend I didn’t know him when he came in, and begin to say, “Listen, Sir, please stop bothering…” but it’s Kene Holliday, looking very confused.
“I’m sorry…hey, what’s going on here?”
“Oh, uh, Mr. Holliday, I uh, no, I thought you were someone else.”
“Wait, you know my name, but you bought me a drink because you thought I was someone else? What the…”
Then, a hand on my shoulder from behind. Jesus, here it comes. I am going to get thrown out of a bar in NYC.
“Percival! I told you not to leave the facility without me or one of the other counselors!” admonishes Virdell, without even missing a beat.
“I, uh, well,” I stammer.
Kene Holliday looks fed up as he asks Virdell, “Do you know this man?”
“Sir, “Virdell purs in his fake-ass, high-tone Concierge voice, “Percival is utterly harmless but a bit of a nuisance when unaccompanied in public. Percival! Apologize to this gentleman!”
I have now regained my composure and try to regain the upper hand with VIrdell. “Uh, yes. I’m sorry, Mr. Kene Holliday from Television’s ‘Matlock’”
Virdell’s eyes go wide for an instant then return to normal the grabs my arm, rather hard, and says, “Percival! This man is OBVIOUSLY not who you say he is. This is why you can’t be left alone!” and turns to Kene Holliday and says, “Sir, I am sorry. You have a good evening,” and with that, Virdell drags me out the door.
I am laughing so hard I fear I might collapse.
“ADAM! Is that really Kene Holliday? I thought that n——a had OD’d on crack cocaine!”
And with that, Virdell begins to laugh uncontrollably and we lurch toward another bar and the pavement shimmers beneath our feet with lights like reflected stars and the night is ours, ripe for the picking, like a gigantic, juicy apple.
Me and Virdell, Markham Hall Dormitory, San Jose State University, 1994
It’s a hot June day on Broadway in Sacramento, but it isn’t as hot as it will be in about a month or two. My father Mike, my friend Jake Lonnerdahl and I are waiting in line to by tickets to the new Tom Hanks movie “Big” at the Tower Theater.
The Tower Theater
The Tower Theater has loomed large in my life. It was here that I saw “Ghostbusters”, “Casablanca”, “To Kill A Mockingbird” and many other films for the first time. It is a relic of a bygone era. Sacramento has had some amazing theaters, The Crest, the sadly-demolished Alhambra and the Tower. They are bridges to our past, reminders of how our parents and grandparents lived. Going to the Crest or the Tower was like going back in time.
When the movie began at 5 it was still bright out, but as we exit, dusk is upon us. I’m excited because dad has promised to take us to Gunther’s on Franklin Boulevard for some homemade Ice Cream, but instead of walking to the parking lot, he gestures for us to cross the street. We can’t leave here without a visit to Tower Records.
When Tower Records opened in 1960 at it’s original location on Watt Avenue, Russ Solomon named his store after his father’s Tower Drugstore that was in the same building as the Tower Theater. As a kid my dad would take me to Sam’s Hof Brau for a Knockwurst and a draft Hires Root Beer and we would always visit the original Tower next door after we finished eating. Solomon also opened a Tower across the street from the Tower Theater and that’s where we headed now.
Tower Records was a wonderland for a music lover. The had the most thorough selection of any record store I had been to. Over the years, I would buy musc here that would shape the course of my life: “James Brown Live at the Apollo”, the first “Three Tenors” CD, Run DMC’s “Raising Hell“…the list goes on and on. When I go to college in San Jose I will spend hours at the Campbell and Los Altos Towers hunting down Minor Threat or Carlo Bergonzi or MC Solaar. But on this day, I see a display for Living Colour’s debut album “Vivid”. I heard the first single, “Cult of Personality” on MTV earlier in the month, and I decide to buy the cassette. This album will go on to be the soundtrack of my summer and fall. I listen to it constantly. Songs like “Funny Vibe”, “Broken Hearts”, and their cover of the Talking Heads’ “Memories Can’t Wait” become my personal anthems. One track that especially stokes a fire is the last track of the first side, “Open Letter to a Landlord” and as I think of Tower Records now after its bankruptcy and closing, the lyric rings true:
Now you can tear a building down, but you can’t erase a memory.
The Tower Theater is thankfully still there. The original on Watt Avenue is now a Goodwill. The Tower across from the theater is a different record store. These places, like so much of the topography of our youth is altered or gone. This is our fate. It is not a new fate. Mutability spares no one, but these memories are real; they are tangible things. I cherish them. These memories link me to my father, to my beginnings, to the crucible in which I was formed. These memories matter.
These memories also matter to others. Actor/Writer Colin Hanks grew up in Sacramento and Tower Records was also a place of discovery and wonder for him. He has been hard at work on a documentary titled “All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records”. Please visit his Kickstarter page for more information and please support him in his effort to keep these memories alive.
Everything is quiet. Everyone’s gone to sleep. I’m wide awake, but memories…these memories can’t wait…
I first met Sarah in fifth grade. Sarah had Down Syndrome and big glasses and long, strawberry blond hair. She seemed eternally happy, at least to me. I wasn’t sure of her exact age, but I assumed she was within 3 or so years give or take of me. She was the only person at my school that had Down Syndrome.
At recess, my friends and I would occasionally play a game on one of the Apollo Lander-shaped jungle gyms. The rules were simple: You can’t touch the redwood bark-covered ground and you must avoid getting tagged by the person that is “it”. If you are tagged or touch the ground, you are “it”. If you are the designated tagger and YOU touch the ground, you have to then curl up your right arm and keep it tight against your chest and push your tongue between your lower lip and your lower teeth. This, in no uncertain terms, was a cruel, inaccurate imitation of Sarah. Now, my group of friends was not any crueler than any other 11 year-old kids, but this we did gleefully. My friend Andy was very funny when he did it. If it had been a wholly original creation, devoid of impersonation or ridicule, it was humorous in a juvenile way. But it was not devoid of ridicule. Even though we never in a million years would have made fun of Sarah to her face, we cowardly did so when we thought she wasn’t around. I never felt right about this, but I never said we should stop, either.
Early in 6 Grade, several of us were asked if we would volunteer to go next door to the Intermediate Special Needs Class and help one of the students in that class with their coursework twice a week. I immediately volunteered. As someone that has always rooted for the underdog, I knew immediately that I must do this. I was also motivated by the extreme guilt I felt for my part in making fun of Sarah, even if she herself didn’t know about it. To me, that didn’t matter. The students of the “Special Class” were not complete outcasts from the rest of the school, but they were definitely on the outside looking in. The “special kids” had attention problems, severe learning disabilities, extreme physical disabilities, but Sarah was the most different outwardly and practically than anyone else in school. As we entered the room, I headed straight toward her. She was sitting on the floor, bent over a book.
“Hi.” I croaked.
At the mention of my name, I had to immediately fight back tears and the urge to run. I had never really spoken to her, but she knew my name. Had she heard or seen the laughs we had at her expense? She knew my name. This was not what I was expecting.
“Can I read with you?” I asked.
“Yes! Do you want to read to me or do you want me to read to you?”
I have never in my life had to resist so violently the urge to cry. As I write this now, my eyes are welling up with emotion. I felt like a monster. I sat down next to her and said, “You read a page and then I’ll read a page.”
“I like your face,” she said. “You have a nice smile!”
“Thank you Sarah,” I said. “I think you’re pretty.”
So here it was. In that moment, on a patchwork quilt in the corner of a room in the D Building of Pioneer Elementary School in Davis, California, I said something because I meant it. I genuinely thought she was pretty. Big eyes, smiling, utterly lacking guile. And this isn’t because she had Down Syndrome. What I was learning this day was that she was kind not out of stupid ignorance but because she was a good person. But as soon as I said it, fear took hold of me. What if she thought I was just saying that to say it? Had I just made things worse? Maybe I really was a monster. This was my first lesson in how utterly you can wound a person in a well-intentioned but thoughtlessly executed attempt to show someone you care for them.
Sarah blushed and hit my hand. She smiled, said, “No.” and then started reading.
My friend Andy, who was so funny in his impersonation of her, sat on the other side of the room with his partner, staring at me, jaws gaping. Then he smiled at me.
We kept going over to the Special Needs class for the next few weeks, but were encouraged to help different kids each time. Neither Andy nor myself ever made fun of Sarah ever again, and we did not tolerate it amongst our friends. I would see Sarah at recess and say hello and try to include her in some games, which she always politely declined. But she would sometimes hug me fiercely and it hurt because I felt so unworthy of such a show of affection. I felt like I could never purge myself of the stain of my treachery. I had known it was wrong to make fun of anyone, especially someone that was at a disadvantage. My parents had drummed this into my consciousness from the beginning. I was glad that Sarah had never heard or seen our shameful behavior and I was glad that I no longer engaged in it or tolerated it, but I still felt a sense of tarnished ill ease.
In the spring of 6th grade, I was playing wiffleball with some neighborhood friends and one of them, a boy who is now a man I am friends with as an adult and for whom I have a deep affection, was antagonizing me. He and I had a history of confrontation and childhood rivalry. He was aggressive, but likeable, not unlike many young boys. He took advantage of my agreeable nature often, and then, it bothered me. As I look back on it now, I see it for what it was; boys figuring out who they are and who they will be as men. Even though this boy would sometimes tease and taunt me, he has since grown up to become a good man and husband who I care for and am proud to call a friend. But on this day, he was teasing me. I was an easy mark. I was always the tallest kid and I had the heart of a teddy bear.
Amongst his teasing, he began to say, “You love Sarah!”
“You love Sarah! You should marry her! Have you kissed her yet?”
With this, several things happened, and very quickly.
A little piece of my heart broke off and the part of my mind that was a normal, caring, fun-loving 11-year-old boy snapped off. I punched him in the face as hard as was possible. As he fell to the ground, I sat on his chest and just started pummeling him. I was screaming. Like an animal. At least, that’s what I was told later.
Inside me lies a rage. Purple, incandescent, white-hot, and stupidly brutal. As a child, the only thing that would set this rage off was the perception of inequality. It usually manifested when I didn’t get my own way, but over time, I tamed this rage and could keep it locked in its cage where it couldn’t hurt others or myself. But the cage had a weakness. This weakness arose when the helpless or disadvantaged were being hurt or threatened. It rarely happened, but when it did, I would have the experience of a jailer unlocking a cage so that a beast could unleash itself for good. It was very Hulk.
But, this day, it was much more complicated.
My jailer was unleashing the Beast on a boy who was, yes, being casually cruel, but it was an excuse. This poor kid was taunting me, but it was the accuracy of his taunt that had set me off. I did love Sarah. I didn’t want Sarah to be my girlfriend or anything like that, but in getting to know Sarah even in the limited way I did, I had come to love her. Love. Genuine love. And instead of being true to myself and simply saying, “Yeah, so what?” and facing my guilt at having been a party to her mockery, I snapped. The poor kid on the ground getting pummeled by me was not the real target. His words had been my words thrown back at me and I wanted nothing less than to destroy myself. I was disgusted by myself and I was making it worse by taking it out on this poor kid.
My friends finally got me off of him and I immediately slumped to the ground in a puddle of tears. The only thing I remember before my mother guided me to my room in our house was the look on the faces of my friends; they looked like they were gazing upon a car accident, or a tornado’s damage or a war zone. They looked genuinely frightened.
I apologize to my friend. We made up, and then got in more fights down the road. But nothing ever like that again. My other friends that were there were very sympathetic.
“He totally had that coming! “ they would say, or, “you were just sticking up for Sarah,” and I would respond by saying, “Shut up,” because I knew they were wrong. I had acted violently because of guilt and because what I was doing to others outside of myself was what I felt I deserved for myself. I have been guilty of this in varying degrees since, but, ever since that day, I have been aware of it. I try to tame that beast by feeding it smiles, affection, love, and kindness. It’s still there, but it now comes out mostly to help, to build, not to destroy. But I must give it due deference and cautious respect.
About two or three years ago, I saw Sarah outside a café on a visit to Davis. She was sitting at a table by herself and I was about to go over and say hello. I hadn’t seen her since the last day of 6th grade. As I walked over to her, her brother and parents sat down next to her and her amazing smile lit upon her face and I felt tears begin to well in my eyes and turned on my heals and walked in the other direction.
Some things we deal with better than others.
Dear Mr. Ebert,
My name is Adam Flowers. In November of 2008, my father was diagnosed with throat cancer and in December of that year had a tumor removed that also resulted in the removal of his tongue, epiglottis and a permanent tracheotomy and gastric tube. For the next two years he was cancer free and lived a whole other lifetime of experiences and adventures until the cancer returned to the lining of his lungs and he died in June of 2011. I could write at extensive length about this fundamentally decent man, but my purpose is to pass on a note. It is a note from him to you.
My father found his new voice in his CaringBridge.org blog that began as a means to update his friends and family on his recovery from surgery, but continued as a weekly missive from him. He touched on a broad range of topics: some seemingly mundane, some deeply profound, but always from the heart. I have been attempting to write about my father’s experience with cancer and I find myself time and again returning to his words. In re-reading one of his entries, I came across an entry that dealt with you and your wife’s appearance on “CBS Sunday Morning”, one of his favorite shows. I don’t think he ever expected you to read it, and this effort of mine may fail to reach you, and that is just fine. But, if this does somehow make it to you, I hope it conveys how much your story meant to him. He had found someone that could understand things he’d experienced that the rest of us could only hope to empathize with.
Here are his words, unedited and uncorrected. His typing skills were not the best, but considering that when he started the blog, he was still hunting and pecking, he did alright.
“January 2, 2011
Sunday Morning, Coming Down,
Rain in the Valley, snow in the Sierra, we have plenty of it right now. All through the night it has been one of those heavy, solid downpours that just doesn’t let up. I don’t have the current statistics in front of me, but we must be in good shape for our annual rainfall for the coming dog days of summer. The snow pack has been good in the mountains, so I sense that we’re going to be with more than adequate reserves as we approach the hot months here on the left coast. Wherever you all may be, my wish is for you to have enough of that all-important H2O, especially if you are in that demanding heat of Texas. It can be brutal along about the third week of
August. Yes, just in time for the beginning of 2-a-days, as I recall. Is that by divine design, or a result of a consensus of every coach that ever stepped out under those Friday Night Lights? Amazing coincidence, don’t you think?
My purpose in talking with you all this morning is to share an episode on CBS’s ” Sunday Morning ” that came through my digital recorder this am. As I mentioned before, I feel this is broadcast TV at its best. A thoughtful, contemporary, intelligent look at the world we live in, that gives a nod to people, institutions, art, and music all around the world. There are usually 4 or 5 segments, with a regular short or two that are presented each Sunday morning. Today one of the features was about Roger Ebert, the movie critic from Chicago. While he has always been an interesting and intelligent observer of the world of cinema, this was about his battle with cancer and the loss of his lower jaw, his tongue, and his voice—-no speech-at-all. After 40 + years of movie reviews, TV and radio shows, he was left with only his mind, his wit, his typing fingers, and his loving wife who has helped him wage this battle, and come back from the brink of despair. After being in a position of utter frustration and anger, his wife helped him see the value in living each day as best he could. They found a new ” voice ” for him through a company in Scotland that went back through thousands of recorded words he had spoken over the years, and digitally created an entirely new, yet familiar voice for him to use with his laptop. They are perfecting it as the piece was filmed, and all parties were so excited about the results. Most of us don’t think about the ability of communication until there is a threat that might remove it from our daily skill-set. Then look out, buster, all kind of things begin to happen. I’m so grateful most of you will never know that sense of loss and frustration. My personal situation is much milder than Roger Ebert’s challenges. His appearance is much more compromised than mine. I just have a small hole in my neck for my trach, and a little ” turkey twaddle ” under my chin, as a left-over from radiation treatments, and my raspy, Barry White-Donald Duck voice that still intrigues the grand kids and all of their friends. All together, not so bad, by comparison to what many folks have gone through as a result of their battles. I’m quite thankful for my life and all that it is, even with its drawbacks. I got to see the TCU Horned Frogs dispatch Wisconsin last night, didn’t I? Brought in another New Year with those folks that I love—-these are wonderful things to experience. I just won’t be able to do a perfect karaoke interpretation of “Louie, Louie ” anymore. Of course I couldn’t before my surgery, but that is beside the point. The point is what Mr. Roger Ebert and his wife have accomplished, saved, produced, and sustained with their lives, such as they are. Amazing effort to overcome some agonizingly difficult circumstances brought them back to world of the living, working, and loving so that they still fulfilled their potential, and entertained us, to boot. One doesn’t have to look far when you are feeling down in the dumps, feeling put upon, feeling singled out, or ” poor me, poor me ” to find someone else who may be in more dire straights. Nope, it can always be worse, and it will be for someone.
Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Ebert for sharing your story with us, with me, this ” Sunday Morning “. Your courage, wit, and willingness to put yourself out in front of the world is inspiring. I wish I could TiVo/e-mail/e-fax/ it directly to your TV, iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, iPad, or Beta Max so you could see what I’m talking about. It is well worth the effort.
Better go check on Kathy and ” The Girls “, Bella & Mia before they begin to worry about me. Of course, I’m right here in the office, not far from all of the other wings in the cottage. Not hard to figure out where I am. Just listen for the little click-click of my keyboard—-slow, but not so sure. Bless the backspace key…
While we know the New Year will not be perfect, I hope you can make it the best possible. The idea, I believe, is to always keep trying. The effort may be as productive as the result itself. How ‘bout those Frogs? They put me in a Purple Haze! Now, if we can just get the Highlanders and the Blue Devils in next year’s high school championship game, all will be right with the world. Oh yes, don’t forget, pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training before you know it. Let’s play two!!!
Until we meet again,
Adam FlowersNote: A friend of mine who knows Mr. Ebert made sure he read it & Mr Evert was kind enough to give me a kind response before he passed away on April 4, 2013. — Adam
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Mancini at his best.
Ain’t got no home. Ain’t got no shoes. Ain’t got no money. Ain’t got no class. Ain’t got no skirts. Ain’t got no sweater. Ain’t got no perfume. Ain’t got no beer. Ain’t got no man…
I was asked the other day why I cared so much about Civil Rights and Gender Equality issues, specifically the issues faced by Black Women in the U.S. Here is my complex yet basic reason for this concern. I offer it without agenda and without the need for acceptance or a pat on the back. My reasons are my own, and first and foremost, I seek justice and freedom for Women of Color and any group that feels beset by our society not only because it is right, but because it benefits me as a white man. You see, I don’t want to benefit at the expense of other people. That exacts its price from me as well as the person that suffers as a result of my position. While that price is more philosophical and spiritual and is not comparable, it is nonetheless real and destructive.
I am a son. I am a brother. I am a husband. I am a lover. I am a cousin. I am an Uncle. I am a friend. I am a colleague. I am all these things to various women in my life. I love these women and want them to live full, safe lives and have at least the same opportunities, rights, and protections as I have. This, to me, is basic. This goes beyond laws and rights. This speaks to manners, daily interactions, and respect. As fellow humans, they are worthy of my respect. I have not always manifested this respect. As a man, I could pass an entire day and never have to reflect on the myriad challenges that a woman has to face from the moment she wakes up to the time she falls asleep that I simply don’t even need to think about. This is my privilege as a man, specifically a white man, and it is a privilege that’s worth money, opportunity, safety, and, most crucially, time. Most of us men are never encouraged to think of this and take it into consideration when we interact with women. Why should we? Our culture, our global culture has taught us that men have more value, white men the most. That is simply a fact.
I have had the great honor to be friend, colleague, associate, acquaintance, neighbor, family member, lover, mentor, student, teacher, and protege of many Women of Color during the course of my life. I have not always understood or appreciated these women to the fullest, but my time in their orbits has made me who I am and shaped the course of my life. I do not claim to understand the intricacies of their personal experiences, but I try my best to empathize with their challenges and appreciate them as people.
I don’t always succeed in this. I am a man, a flawed man. I fail. I fall short. But I am always eager to learn, to beg for patience, to let go. I also understand that, on some occasions, my input, presence, words, perspective, and assistance are not welcome or relevant. This is the way it is. Everything is not for me to understand or be a part of.
I do not see these women as fetishes, as Mammy-figures, as monoliths. They are people. They are women. They are people I admire, respect, enjoy, emulate. They are people I love. I also understand that my feelings about them are simply that, my feelings. These women don’t need my approval. What I write here is simply a personal explanation; it confers nothing. I simply feel the need to express it. These women don’t need anything from me.
On a more basic level, I am simply trying to put into practice how my parents raised me to live. If someone is being mistreated, say something—DO something about it; on the micro- and the macro-levels. Everyone has a story. Each story is different. All stories have common threads. In short, be kind to everyone.
This declaration I write tonight doesn’t mean I have reached some socio-political Nirvana. I am always learning, always trying to grow, always trying to correct personal failings. This is simply an appreciation for the women of color in my life, specifically Black women. Women have it rough, my friends. They still do. Black women have it veryrough, to put it mildy. This makes me want to do whatever I can in whatever pathetic way I can to mitigate that difficulty, even if the best thing I can do is to shut the hell up and get the hell out of the way.
My mother Kathy and father Mike taught me to be kind to everyone I meet. They taught me to respect everyone. They taught me to help others. They taught me to love. Love all.
I will keep trying my best to live up to this legacy. I will do it because it is right. I will do it because it makes me happy. I will do it because it is my duty and obligation as a human being.
That’s it. For whatever it is worth, that’s how I feel.
I got my hair. I got my head. I got my brains. I got my ears. I got my eyes. I got my nose. I got my mouth. I got my smile. I got my tongue. I got my chin. I got my neck. I got my boobs. I got my heart. I got my soul. I got my back. I got my sex. I got my arms. I got my hands. I got my fingers. Got my legs. I got my feet. I got my toes. I got my liver. Got my blood. I’ve got life! I’ve got my freedom! I’ve got the life and I’m gonna keep it! I’ve got the life and nobody’s gonna take it away. I’ve got the life!
“Remember how New Year’s Day always brought that awkwardness of writing the new date ? 1958, 1964, 1975, 1988, 1990, then 2000—-they all took some getting used to before the familiarity, the comfort of their appearance was second nature to us. At first, it seemed as if it would never be the right date, but, sooner than later, repetition brought acceptance. So here we are at 2011, still plugging away, discovering some new astonishing things, while attempting to manage some of the age-old issues that cloud our lives. Same old s—-, just in surround sound, HD, and 3D. Ah, the wonders of technology…
By SOS, I simply refer to the on-going challenges that everyday life throws at us—-the timing belt that needs to be replaced, the increase in health insurance premiums, the continuing economic woes, the lousy situation of existing college football and the BCS bowl structure. See, just things that irritate us, cost us a little more, but things we have to manage, can manage, and will manage. How thankful am I to be able work my way through these bumps in the road. Still enough food on the table ( or in my case, Ensure Plus in the pantry ), the warmth of the heater during last night’s 29 degree temps, four walls keeping the winter wet and cold at bay, the relative freedom of choices in my life. After a wonderful Christmas with my precious family and dear friends, I’m especially grateful for my many blessings. May you all have similar feelings in your own hearts, as we prepare to face the coming year. Even with some bad mixed in with the good, being here to have another shot at a new calendar year, is a wonderful thing indeed. Come rain or shine today, TCU will be playing in the Rose Bowl at 2:00 pm, California time. Along with some black-eyed-pea, Hoppin’ John soup, I’ll enjoy the afternoon here at the cozy cottage. Just wish my dad and I could watch the game together since his Horned Frogs have much to prove. Should be a doozy—-Go Frogs! …May God bless you all with good health, dear family and friends, as you go forth into 2011. While there may be more of the same, there will surely be something new, something wonderful. Be sure to keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open—-you just might be surprised what happens.”
- My father Mike Flowers, writing on his last New Year’s Eve. As he would say, “Never resist a generous impulse.” I hope that 2013 will be a great year for all of us!