I am not prone to joining in on the group mourning phenomenon that accompanies many celebrity deaths, but upon hearing the news of Robin Williams’ demise yesterday, I was surprised by the depth of emotion I felt. Almost instantly, I saw a flash of my father Mike, in our family room circa 1981, literally rolling on the floor laughing as we watched Robin Williams & Jonathan Winters riff on “Mork & Mindy.” I then thought of the two times I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Williams.

The first time was in the early 2000s on Baker Beach, near his then-home in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood. I was walking along the beach and a dog ran up to me with a tennis ball in his mouth. I love dogs, so I started petting him and he slobbered all over my madras shorts. The dog’s owner came over and apologized profusely. It was then I realized it was Robin Williams. 

"It’s actually an improvement, with those shorts," he said, deadpan.

For the next ten minutes, he asked me about my life; where I was from, what I did. I told him I sang Opera professionally. His face lit up.

"I’m a performer, too!"

Feeling bold, I asked him, “Been in anything good?”

"Fuck off," he said with a smile on his face. He shook my hand and told me to keep doing what I loved.

I didn’t ask for an autograph. I didn’t tell him that one of my dad’s best friends was screenwriter James V. Hart, writer of “Hook.” I didn’t want to ruin the moment.

I then saw him one more time. My wife’s cousin got married in Vancouver in August of 2005. We were at her wedding reception at the Fairmont and I was standing in the lobby when he walked out of an elevator. I found out later he was filming the film “RV.” I am sure he was very tired; filming a motion picture is a grind. But on top of that, there was a sallow sadness that cloaked him. It was palpable. It alarmed me. I knew he had struggles with clinical depression, but as someone who has only been situationally depressed, I didn’t truly grasp what that was like. I had been ready to say something clever like, “Can’t really get good sourdough here, can you?” but everything about his body language read, “Not Open For Business” so I kept my quip to myself. It is sad that he decided to end his own life. But I also think that he probably struggled his whole life, and 63 years is a pretty admirable fight.

I texted my dad’s friend Jim, the writer of “Hook” yesterday and wrote, “Long may Peter Pan run.”

He responded, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”

Indeed.

Adam Flowers - All Of Me - Master Mix
65 plays

"All Of Me" by John Legend, with adapted lyrics by Adam Flowers 

What would I do without you by my side?

You see through my walls to what’s hidden inside. 

You’ve got my head spinning, no kidding, You don’t let me down

I love what’s going on in your beautiful mind

I’m on your magical, musical ride

And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I feel so right

10 years gone by but it’s like that first night. 

We’re crazy; the end’s nowhere in sight 

'Cause all of me

Loves all of you

Love your curves and all your edges

All your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me

I’ll give my all to you

You’re my end and my beginning

Even when I lose I’m winning

'Cause I give you all of me

And you give me all of you

How many times have I fallen down?

But you pick me up off of the ground

The world is beating us down, but we stay up for all the ins & the outs 

You’re my goddess; you’re my muse

My concerto; my rhythm and blues

I can’t stop singing, love’s bringing my heart and soul for you

10 years gone by but it’s like that first night. 

We’re crazy, the end’s nowhere in sight 

'Cause all of me

Loves all of you

Love your curves and all your edges

All your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me

I’ll give my all to you

You’re my end and my beginning

Even when I lose I’m winning

'Cause I give you all of me

And you give me all of you

Give me all of you

Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts

Risking it all, though it’s hard

'Cause all of me

Loves all of you

Love your curves and all your edges

All your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me

I’ll give my all to you

You’re my end and my beginning

Even when I lose I’m winning

'Cause I give you all of me

And you give me all of you

I give you all of me

And you give me all of you.

I love you, Nicole. Marrying you was the best decision I’ve ever made and each day with you is a gift I will treasure with all of my heart. Thank you for loving me.

          July 17, 2004

The Privilege of Kindness

         The virtue I treasure more than any other is loving-kindness. I do not always embody this virtue in my daily life, but when I am at my best, it is because I’ve tried to imbue all of my decisions with kindness & love. This seems like a no-brainer. When you are thoughtful & kind, your interpersonal relationships are made less thorny, your outlook on life lightens, & the way tends to smoothen out.  

         Wait a minute. That isn’t true. Kindness does not make your life easier. Often, it makes it more difficult. In a world where everyone is looking out for himself or herself, kindness is often exploited. The Kind are seen as weak. The greedy & aggressive disregard & take advantage of kindness. 

        You know what, this is also completely untrue. The world is not peopled by “The Good” & “The Bad.” Nothing about our world is binary, not even the things we’ve been taught to think are binary, like gender, morality, etc. Sometimes, I am kind. Someone may see this behavior & think, “Gee, Adam is a nice person. He is Good.”   Complete garbage. Every choice I make, I handle well, poorly, or a mixture of the two. I do things everyday that are objectively unkind, selfish, & decidedly NOT loving. What are we even talking about when we say “loving-kindness?” Why is it not always the clear choice? 

              In 2008, my father Mike Flowers was diagnosed with throat cancer. In December of that year, he had surgery to remove the tumor that also resulted in the loss of his tongue & epiglottis. Needless to say, it was a very sad & difficult time for my father & our family.   After spending over a month at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, my father finally returned home to the house he shared with my mother Kathy. He began chemo & radiation. Because he no longer had a tongue & could no longer swallow, his life had been completely upended. His speech was greatly hindered. He could no longer drink or eat food. He received his nourishment from a feeding tube that attached to a quarter-sized port in his abdomen. He had been selling Real Estate in my hometown of Davis at the time of his surgery. Imagine what the ramifications of having your tongue removed are for someone in sales. It is drastic for anyone, but extreme for a salesman. Not only do you need to clearly & effectively communicate with your client, such an extreme physical disability makes many people extremely uncomfortable. In short, it was an existential upheaval. Not to mention the fact that there was no guarantee that the cancer was totally gone. 

           I will spare you the suspense. On June 1st of 2011, my wonderful father died after a stint in the hospital when the cancer returned to the lining of his lungs. It was the worst thing that had happened to me to date, because I was blessed with a wonderful man for a father.  

              What does this have to do with loving-kindness? Between the time my father had his cancer surgery & his death, an amazing thing happened. Between his return home from the hospital in February of 2008 & his return to the hospital in May of 2011 (the day Osama Bin Laden was killed) my father lived almost an entire second lifetime. His situation allowed him, no, forced him to really focus on what was important to him. Instead of focusing on what was taken from him, he chose to focus on what he still had. Whenever he came into contact with someone, he immediately disarmed their apprehension/pity/revulsion with good humor, grace &, yes, kindness. He even kept selling houses. Think of that. Imagine using a Real Estate agent without a tongue. I only say this because for many people, that would be unacceptable. He figured out a way to talk & be understood. His good cheer (which was a decision on his part, not something that just happened) put people at ease & made it ok for them, for us, to abandon our pity, sorrow or ill ease. 

             I asked him bluntly & often how he did this. To me, it was nothing short of miraculous.  

             ”If you can show someone that they matter & that you are paying attention to them & who they are, anything is possible. All I want is to make people feel that joy is possible & that they MATTER.” 

              I could write a book about all the instances of my father’s loving-kindness & how it concretely transformed the lives of not just his friends & colleagues in Davis, California, but people he had never met. Every Saturday he got in the habit of writing a blog post on CaringBridge.org to keep friends & family apprised of his health. People spread the word. Soon, hundreds of people that my father never met were avid readers of his thoughts & observations. Upon his death, i received innumerable messages of consolation from people he had never even met. One colleague of mine, told me that reading my father’s blog had “literally transformed” the choices she made in parenting her young son. His message was simple: show people that they count through word & deed & do your damnedest to show people not only that they are loved but that they are WORTHY of that love. 

          One element to all this that completely changed my life was what my father said about how kindness was a privilege.  

          “The more comfortable & safe you are, the easier it is to be kind. Love can’t stop just because it isn’t returned or doesn’t come easily.” 

           I have spent my whole life being told that one must be kind. That love is all that matters. But, what the hell does that really mean? What I began to glean from the time I spent with my father during what we sometimes referred to as “The Bonus” was that most people most of the time are not being unkind because they want to hurt you, but because they are hurt. Sure, there are always sociopaths, psychopaths, & people with extreme mental illness who are working at a severe disadvantage. But then there are the rest of us, with our phobias, fears, challenges, poor mental health, lack of food, lack of work, stress, PTSD, survivor’s guilt, substance abuse, poor bodily health…are you beginning to catch my drift? My dad felt that, despite his “setback”, he, as a heterosexual white man in a North American college town, had the luxury of having loving-kindness loaded into his chamber when he stepped out the door. Make no mistake, he believed with all his heart that loving-kindness, even in the face of extreme obstacles, was always best, but he decided not to forget the obstacles to kindness that others faced & be even more loving in the face of someone’s perceived failings.

             This, to me, is the key. The empathy required is monumental & extremely difficult. To overcome these obstacles that we have had thrown in our way, some of us daily, is extremely difficult.   So, if you, like me, are privileged enough to not fear for your existential safety & health most of the time, to not suffer from debilitating health issues, to not feel victimized de facto or de jure; then make loving-kindness & empathy & awareness your watch-words. The only way others will join you in this great kindness is if you are patient, gracious, & kind.  My father’s favorite saying was “Never resist a generous impulse.” That impulse is the result of privilege. It is a complex privilege woven together by circumstance & choice. Together, we can make it a reality for everyone, not just those of us who usually have something to smile about.

http://youtu.be/4EPO3nLwQ00

(this YouTube has captions that only work on a desktop or laptop—AF)

It is a hot June day in Davis, CA & I am with my friend Ian & his little sister Erin at Manor Public Pool. In just three days school will be out for summer & we will be done with Junior High. High School looms just over the horizon of summer & excitement suffuses our every waking moment. Through the chain link fence I see Barbara Armstrong ride up to the bike racks & park her bike. My heart races. Barbara is beautiful. 

Barbara parks her bike, enters the pool area through the women’s locker room & finds a spot on the grass to spread her towel. I am about to wave to her, but I stop myself. I want to watch her for just a few unconscious, unguarded moments when she is simply herself & not a Girl Aware That Boys Are Watching. Barbara is wearing a modest but flattering one-piece and the sun has made her milk chocolate skin a little darker. She dives into the pool gracefully & gets out almost immediately & as she does my pulse quickens, it becomes difficult to swallow & I sit up on my towel. My pal Ian notices this.  He tells me to go talk to her. I think that this is a bad idea. I turn onto my stomach & close my eyes.

Not a minute later, I feel water dripping on my back. I turn over and look up almost directly into the sun & for a moment I am blinded. Then the sun is eclipse by Barbara’s bushy hair and smiling face. Her lips are full, impossibly so, but when she smiles, her lips disappear almost completely and her smile is the kind of smile that makes you want to do what ever you can to make it happen as often as possible. As I found out later, smiles didn’t always come easily to sweet Barbara. But right now, in this moment in the first summer of the last decade of a millennium, she was smiling, & at me, at that.

"Hey."

"Hey, Barbara. Wanna join us?"

"Sure."

I first noticed Barbara, really noticed her, when she sat in front of me in Biology class at the beginning of our 9th grade at Holmes Jr. High. Barbara had an older brother, Brian, whom I had met at summer camp 5 years earlier. She had a confidence born of being the little sister to a rambunctious, tough older brother. Sink or swim. 

One day, we were doing a lab and our table was kind of in the corner. I could smell her baby powdery anti-perspirant & see the faint outlines of her bra under her shirt. I was, in short, noticing many of the things a boy in the full-blown throes of puberty would notice. But her laugh, the full-throated laugh of a woman, was enough to give any stupid boy pause. It was down-right intimidating & spoke of powerful forces that a mere boy could not hope to contend with.

In the spring of that year, I was in the Spring Play, which was a melodrama, & Barbara was on the stage crew. I would watch her when she wasn’t looking. One day, I noticed she was looking at me. When I saw her, she didn’t look away, but held my gaze and smiled. My heart flipped.

I umpired Little League baseball that year and one day she was riding her bike through the fields & caught me on a break between games. We talked amiably. She then, almost so casually that I didn’t notice, invited me to our mutual friend Alexis’ birthday party. Of course, I said yes.

So here we were at the pool. School would be out at the end of the week & Alexis’ party next week. The sun was hot and there was music in the air. Over the PA system, Faith No More’s “Epic” played. Barbara said she liked it. I liked it, too. We sat there in pleasant silence & all of a sudden I realized Ian & Erin had slipped off into the pool and the water beaded on Barbara’s bare thighs like crystal teardrops & her bathing suit strained slightly to contain her generous proportions & I was barely keeping it together. We passed what seemed like an hour but was probably 5 minutes like this. Ian & Erin returned to tell me that their mom was there to pick us up.

"See you at school tomorrow, Adam," she said and lit up my world with that amazing smile.

The last day of school came & went. My friend Steve & I were dropped off for Alexis’ party by his mother. Steve was going out with Karen, Alexis’ best friend, & we soon realized he & I were the only boys there. This was fine by me, as long as Barbara showed up. Which she did.

We listened to music, ate pizza, & then a game of hide & seek was proposed. The birthday girl was it. So we split off to hide.

I was frantically searching for somewhere to hide when I heard a “Psst!”

Under the truck in Alexis’ driveway was Barbara. She pulled on my ankle and motioned for me to join her.

"Good spot," I said.

"Be quiet!"

Our bodies are lying next to each other like exhausted lovers. Our breath, fast. I don’t think I have ever been this intimate with anyone in my life, other than the appropriate, non-sexual stuff that comes with family. 

Our faces are very close. I can see where she’s plucked her eyebrows. Her eyes are searching my face. 

"Your foot is sticking out. Move closer!" she says.

I move closer. Her chest is pressed against mine and I immediately begin, as Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson said, to “think of slippery eels and cool thoughts.” I can smell her Dentine and i move closer & her lips lightly brush mine &

"GOTCHA! Found you guys! Which one is it?" 

Alexis finds us & we are never alone again for the rest of the party & Barbara leaves town for a few weeks & weeks turn into years & Barbara & I will never find ourselves in such close proximity ever again.

We are amicable friends who talk in class or in the hallways, but our moment, while unspoken, is passed & we both know it.

We lose touch after high school & one day, in 2009, I find out that Barbara, who had been living and teaching in Alabama, has committed suicide. The news hits me like a tidal wave. Sweet, Barbara. Gone.

But, to me, she will ever be that beautiful young woman who eclipsed my sun & shone her radiant smile, making my life that much the brighter.

This post was originally written on Facebook in February of 2009.

-Adam, 2 January 2014

Tonight I had a very overwhelming experience.

I had the deep honor and exciting thrill to see and hear my beautiful and talented wife Nicole perform the role of the Mother in Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” in honor of The Epiphany (the last of the 12 Days of Christmas). This in and of itself is overwhelming because Nicole sings and acts the role so damn well; she captures the spirit and frustration of a poor mother desperately trying to take care of her crippled son. It is such a humbling joy to watch her perform, especially on a night like tonight, when she was firing on all cylinders.

Added to that is the fact that “Amahl” always hits me square in the bread basket. It is an emotional piece and is my favorite Menotti opera. The story is very poignant and deals with a young shepherd boy who is crippled and his impoverished mother. It takes place near Bethlehem on the night before the Three Kings find the Christ child. Amahl is a good-natured and imaginative boy who is a constant source of worry and exasperation for his mother. She is worried they will have to beg from door to door, and Amahl says if they have to beg, he will do his best to be a good beggar. That is usually when the tears try to make an appearance. 

The Magi ask to stay the night and Amahl’s mother warns that she has nothing to offer them. They have come bearing frankincense, myrrh and gold for the new infant king they seek and ask her if she knows of this child. She responds by saying that she knows a child deserving of those things - her son. While the Kings are asleep, the Mother sings this tortured aria:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diZ36MMdtMA

She is then caught stealing a few pieces of the gold and is threatened by the Kings’ servant. Amahl tries to defend his mother. One of the kings tells the mother to keep the gold because the King they seek will not build his kingdom with gold but with love. She then does something remarkable. She says, “Take back your gold. For such a King I have waited all my life and, if I weren’t poor, I would give a precious gift of my own to such a child.” The tears start to flow, but then, the water works start when Amahl says, “Here, Mother, they can give him my crutch, he might need it.” And in that instant, he is able to walk. I know this may seem corny to some of you, but Amahl’s gesture is essentially that of a poor, handicapped child willing to give his most treasured and needed tool, his crutch, to a stranger. It is more than most of us would ever even conceive of giving. It is an act of pure, guileless and unconscious love.

Then, the Magi propose that Amahl accompany them to give the crutch to the Christ child himself. Amahl and his mother sing a beautiful duet, “I will miss you very much…” and by then I am a blubbering mess. 

Whenever I hear the final duet between Amahl and his mother, I can’t help but think of my own mother. Here I am, a grown man, but when I hear this duet I can’t help but think of myself as a young boy at the front door and my mother saying: “Don’t forget to wear your hat!”
me: “I shall always wear my hat.”
together: “So, my darling goodbye! I shall miss you very much.”
her: “Wash your ears.”
me: “Yes, I promise.”
her: “Don’t tell lies.”
me: “No, I promise.”
together: “I shall miss you very much.”
me: “Feed my bird.”
her: “Yes, I promise.”
me: “Watch the cat.”
her: “Yes I promise.”
together: “I shall miss you very much.”

It is as if I am at the door, ready to leave my childhood; to leave a life spent everyday in the care of my parents to adulthood, never to return. My mother has done so much for me and sacrificed so much to give me the life I have, and now, as my family faces it’s gravest crisis, this is placed in sharp relief. It is also doubly poignant because my mother had polio when she was five years old and it killed the deltoid muscle in her left shoulder and since she has been unable to lift her left arm above her waist. She has adapted and never once complained about this. As a young child I used to say, “Mom, try REALLY hard and maybe you can lift it!” But she couldn’t. One day, she was doing these exercises with a rope and pulley to lift her left arm by pulling on a rope with her right. I heard her call from the other room, “Adam, come here!” I ran in to see her with her left hand holding onto the rope and pulled up above her head. She had tears in her eyes.
"Look, Adam! You were right! I CAN raise it above my head!" It was a powerful moment.

So in some ways, I see “The Mother” as my own mother, but I see Amahl as my mother, too. The moment when he walks reminds me of that moment with the pulley in the hallway. And now, when my wonderful mother’s life has been turned upside-down by my father’s cancer, the combination of my wonderful wife singing music that has such powerful associations for me just simply washed my barriers away and I was trying my best not to sob audibly. I was completely overwhelmed. And proud. And saddened. And hopeful. And lost. And grateful.

The last month has been overwhelming. So many memories of my youth and the life of my family have come rushing back to me and I vow not to let those memories die. We each do little things, make seemingly innocuous and inconsequential decisions every day; but all those things add up to form a Whole Life. Those little things have deep and sacred meaning. We must guard them; we must hold them close to our hearts. We must keep them alive by remembering and passing them along.

Tonight I was blessed beyond measure and far beyond anything I deserve. I just hope when the time comes, I will, without thinking, give up my crutch to anyone who needs it and smile as I do it.

Every year, we return.

Another calendar has emptied itself of days and we find ourselves here on Ho’olauae Street where Aiea meets Pearl City, in the heights overlooking Pearl Harbor. We do not find ourselves here by mistake.

Most of us, excepting those who are blood or family of choice and live here, have found that there is no other place we could possibly be as we end one year and begin another. This place, imperfect but so full of love, is where we migrate against whatever barriers the preceding year has thrown against us. You see, every year, we return. Our hearts require this of us.

We return because for many of us this is our home. The home of our youth. The crucible in which we were formed. For some, like me, it is a home of the heart. Since my family no longer lives in my hometown back in California, it is one of the few places left that are conjured when the word “home” is mentioned. Every year we return from near and far to talk story, to share a laugh, to lick wounds, to cry, to regroup, to drink, to sing, to laugh.

This place is magical. But it is only magical because all of us here, right now, as the page is turned and a new chapter begins, all of us make it so. Our love for one another and for those lost and those far away and those yet unmet makes this objectively unremarkable place the center of the world at this precise moment. This now.

Below us lie the lights of Honolulu and of Waikiki and of Pearl Harbor…we see it all from our perch in the heights balanced between the mountains and the sea in the most remote place on Earth. Fireworks launch from Aloha Tower and Magic Island and Waikiki and Pearl Harbor and thousands of homes carpeting the land stretched out before us like coruscating jewels and illegal fire lanterns march higher and higher in the night sky like a staircase of flames. This is the place to which I have always been able to return, no matter what trials have befallen me in the previous 364 days. This place, full of song, drink, food, hugs, kisses, laughter, tears…full of life.

The fireworks boom and sparkle and the champagne is poured and we sing to old times gone…and in our hearts and in our smiles and in our embrace we silently but steadfastly affirm to go forth and LOVE. And if we forget this pledge, which we will, we won’t stay off-course for long.

For, you see, every year, we return.

Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison

In September of 1989 I was assigned a project in my 9th Grade Geography class.  Over the course of the semester, each student was assigned a country and along with our regular coursework, we had assignments focusing on that one country. By the end of the semester, all the assignments organized together were basically a 50-page research paper. My country that semester was the Republic of South Africa. 

During that same time period, my sister loaned me Bob Marley’s “Legend” album and I would listen to it will working on my homework.  ”Redemption Song” always struck me as poignant, especially when I was working on my South Africa project. I knew of South Africa and apartheid, but not the details. Not the context. Not the history. As I learned, I became obsessed with the country, its people and its flaws. As I learned of the ANC, I became fascinated by the story of Nelson Mandela.

I finished my paper in January of 1990, just as F.W. de Klerk was preparing to release Mandela from prison. On February 11, the day of his release, I was in Chico, CA visiting my sister who was attending Chico State University. We watched the news coverage of his release; none of us had seen any photos of him since he had been imprisoned 27 years earlier. The anticipation was electric. A good thing was happening. Good things rarely seem to happen on that scale.

I also remember being, oddly enough, at my sister’s home in Stockton, CA the day Mandela was sworn in as President of the Republic of South Africa in May of 1994. I watched the whole ceremony on TV, and I couldn’t help but think back to that evening in September of 1989 when I first began reading his amazing story, and here, just four years later, the impossible was happening. But as Nelson Mandela himself said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Rest, now, Madiba. 

AMANDLA!

NGAWETHU!

http://youtu.be/OLJSz-wzOHI

http://youtu.be/Ncwee9IAu8I

The Christmas Forest.

HAPPY SONG by Otis Redding
My nephew Evan and I are playing catch with his football out in front of the house. It is a warm foothill October afternoon on the edge of the great Central Valley. As we run digs, drags, slants, outs, and other new football plays he has learned, a neighbor kid, only about 4 years old, peeks his head out of his garage.
"Hi, Evan!" he shouts.
"Hey!" Then to me, "I don’t know his name."
"Evan, I made you a present!"
Even jogs over to the driveway where the boy gives him what looks like a bunch of construction paper haphazardly glued together.
"I made it for you! It’s a Transformer."
"You made this for me? Wow, thanks!"
And with that the little boy disappears into his garage.
Evan appraises the gift.
"So, this is supposed to be a Transformer, huh? I don’t know…hey, wait, I see it!"
Evan looks truly impressed.
"See, here, this is an arm. This is the jetpack. Oh! Here is the wing…Uncle Adam, this kid is GOOD. He’s only four years old! Can you believe it? HE MADE THIS!"
For the rest of our time playing catch, Evan will occasionally say something like, “Four years old…can you believe it?” or, “I’m telling you, he’s got it.”
About twenty minutes later, Evan and I are emptying the garbage for his mother, my sister. He pauses.
"Uncle Adam, do you think that maybe it’s just a bunch of paper and maybe he just said it was a Transformer?”
I look at him. The world seems to stop. Hold its breath. This moment becomes impossibly heavy. Before I can answer, his face lights up.
"No, I can see it. That kid is good.”
And it is then that my heart expands and I want to take this beautiful, funny boy into my arms and will that he never change, that he always look at the world the way he does right now. But this is so unfair. So false. But this moment is true. And it is so very good.

HAPPY SONG by Otis Redding

My nephew Evan and I are playing catch with his football out in front of the house. It is a warm foothill October afternoon on the edge of the great Central Valley. As we run digs, drags, slants, outs, and other new football plays he has learned, a neighbor kid, only about 4 years old, peeks his head out of his garage.

"Hi, Evan!" he shouts.

"Hey!" Then to me, "I don’t know his name."

"Evan, I made you a present!"

Even jogs over to the driveway where the boy gives him what looks like a bunch of construction paper haphazardly glued together.

"I made it for you! It’s a Transformer."

"You made this for me? Wow, thanks!"

And with that the little boy disappears into his garage.

Evan appraises the gift.

"So, this is supposed to be a Transformer, huh? I don’t know…hey, wait, I see it!"

Evan looks truly impressed.

"See, here, this is an arm. This is the jetpack. Oh! Here is the wing…Uncle Adam, this kid is GOOD. He’s only four years old! Can you believe it? HE MADE THIS!"

For the rest of our time playing catch, Evan will occasionally say something like, “Four years old…can you believe it?” or, “I’m telling you, he’s got it.”

About twenty minutes later, Evan and I are emptying the garbage for his mother, my sister. He pauses.

"Uncle Adam, do you think that maybe it’s just a bunch of paper and maybe he just said it was a Transformer?”

I look at him. The world seems to stop. Hold its breath. This moment becomes impossibly heavy. Before I can answer, his face lights up.

"No, I can see it. That kid is good.”

And it is then that my heart expands and I want to take this beautiful, funny boy into my arms and will that he never change, that he always look at the world the way he does right now. But this is so unfair. So false. But this moment is true. And it is so very good.