Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seasons of love

I started this on Thanksgiving eve...and it's now Saturday night. So this is going to be one of those work-in-process posts...

First and foremost, happy Thanksgiving to you all. Part of the blessings I give thanks for is getting to share my life and my loves (and occasional snarkiness) with each of you. Your responses and comments continue to bless me, well after my writing has been forgotten.

I was leaving my apartment/office to go to my sister's place, to help make broccoli-cheese casserole, cranberry-nut jello cups, and turtle pumpkin cream pie when I got a call from Chris about the attacks in Mumbai. My employer has hundreds of workers in Mumbai, about a dozen of which are members of my client team. Naturally, I called the office, and no one had heard anything about it, so I asked a co-worker to pass word on to one of our team leads.

Sadly to say, when I got home at 10:30 from Sue & Jeff's, there was no note of condolence or caring sent from any of our leadership. (Nice work, folks. ) While working with our Mumbai team can often be an opportunity for growth, they are part of our group - and that should count for something. So I took the time to send out a note to everyone I knew from Mumbai - wishing them well, letting them know they were being thought of and prayed for, and hoping for their safety.

It's thoughts like this - of caring for those we know - that are closest to me this extended weekend. One of the blessings of the week started off with coffee and a sandwich with a dear friend today. Our lives tend in slightly different directions these days, but whether five miles apart or a thousand, we have managed to remain connected in spirit across more than three decades. That, by itself, is an incredible gift. Another friend frequently comments on these ramblings from his new home in Florida. His marriage has endured for 18 years, and he has definitely seen mountain-tops and valley-floors in those years. That is another friendship that endures across time.

I think of my loving friends from Kansas, from Chicago...from seminary, from church, from work, from the community of recovery. They feel close to me, even though our contact is not nearly as much as it was a year or two ago. Our lives are diverging - and yet so much of me is anchored there.

It was funny that we were listening to a Travel Channel program on barbeque across America as we were cooking Wednesday night, and there on the screen was Arthur Bryant's BBQ in Kansas City (the very best), Gates BBQ (where everyone is greeted with "MAYAHHEPYOO?!?! ("May I help you," for those who are uninitiated) and so many other Kansas City BBQ landmarks. I could just imagine Natalie, Eric & Laura, Ed & Becca, Sandy, Cherri, and so many others gathered for a plate of the best - and it transported me 750 miles in seconds....

(To be fair, though, if I was thinking of Natalie, the image would have been at Rosedale's, down on Southwest Trafficway. A lot easier to get to than Bryant's, and brisket that just can't be beat...)

And I can't think of Kansas City without thinking of my dear friend Norma and Stroud's Restaurant ("we choke our own chickens") and so many other adventures. ( I keep trying to get my friend Ted to get to Stroud's when he goes there periodically...perhaps one of these days he'll make it.) Norma and I started school together at St. Paul School of Theology in KCMO back eleven years ago (can you believe it?...) in September 1997. We have had the blessing of sharing in each others' great joy, and great sorrow, and back to joy. What a long, strange trip it's been, sister...

But this isn't just some gastronomic reverie - my mind simply ties beautiful people in disparate places and great food together in a remembrance that is both tantalizing and holy, at the same time. (As someone once said, "My mind is an interesting place to live, I guess...I don't always agree with it, all the time, but it sure is interesting...")

Chris and I have been reflecting a lot about times and places, lately. It was the end of September last year when I was first introduced to him. It was a year ago the beginning of November when he met my family for the first time...and a year ago next week that his house in Springfield sold, and he made the decision to move up here "to pursue a very special relationship," as he said at the time...

My sister wrote this to Chris in her Thanksgiving note to us:
Well, around a year has come 'n' gone. It's been interesting! We are definitely not afraid of change. I just wanted to tell you that I'm so happy for you n Stevie. He was alone for a long time, and he's got a lot to give and I'm so glad he's got you in his life, and vice versa.

I never thought there would be room in my life for "another man", but there is and I'm glad it's you. Welcome again to "the family".
Now there's something to give thanks about...

In fact, all the people to whom I have introduced Chris have all been genuinely glad to meet him and welcoming - which is both a credit to Chris and a tribute to my friends, to be sure. In this day and age, that is still an incredible gift of grace.

Two years ago, I couldn't have imagined meeting anyone I would consider sharing my life with, ever again. I had quite simply given up hope of that happening. People I know in the recovery community would hear me whine about being a solitaire, and say, "Awww, don't worry about it - celibacy is non-fatal, and it's ultimately treatable." However, I had all but accepted that for me, there would be no treatment. I couldn't see how it could possibly happen.

Today, I simply cannot imagine life without this man in my life.

I know that, in the eyes of the probate court, or the emergency-room nurse, or the judge or the clergyman, we are just two people sharing an address.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

So tonight, as I go back to assembling a too-large Christmas tree in a too-small apartment, I'm giving thanks for many, many things - but most of all, for a life-giving love that I believe could only have come from God.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Michael said...

Re you and Chris and the probate judge and the hospital and all those other folks, I remind you of the lyrics of No Matter What They Tell Us:

No matter what they tell us
No matter what they do
No matter what they teach us
What we believe is true

No matter what they call us
However they attack
No matter where they take us
We'll find our own way back

I can't deny what I believe
I can't be what I'm not
I know I'll love forever
I know, no matter what

If only tears were laughter
If only night was day
If only prayers were answered
Then we would hear God say

"No matter what they tell you
No matter what they do
No matter what they teach you
What you believe is true

"And I will keep you safe and strong
And sheltered from the storm
No matter where it's barren
A dream is being born."

No matter who they follow
No matter where they lead
No matter how they judge us
I'll be everyone you need

No matter if the sun don't shine
Or if the skies are blue
No matter what the end is
My life began with you

I can't deny what I believe
I can't be what I'm not
I know, I know
I know this love's forever
That's all that matters now
No matter what

wilsonian said...

What a lovely post, Steve. I'm so happy that you've found what you never though possible.

And seriously... I think it's so cute that your sister still calls you Stevie :)

Black Pete said...

May I add another lyric portion? Bob Franke's Thanksgiving Eve has this chorus:

What can you do with your days but work & hope
Let your dreams bind your work to your play
What can you do with each moment of your life
But love 'til you've loved it away
Love 'til you've loved it away.