Today in My History

2000:  Making a Difference
2001:  Anniversaries
2002:  Whatever Happened to Baby Jane
2003:  I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane
2004:  Sit! Sit Down! Sheila Sit Down!
2005:  Why I'll Never Make a Good Vlogger
2006:   Home Made


IN MY OPINION
1776

Books Read in 2007

Updated 9/04:
"A Good Dog"


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Bill's Retirement
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"Different"
Jihad, the Musical
Dick Cheney was Right!
Ordination of Women Priests
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Ned Turns 40
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Bill's Retirement

 

MAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC

6 September 2007

Walt went off this afternoon to spend some time with his former colleague Bill, whose retirement party we attended on Monday.  Bill is moving to the midwest tomorrow.  He and Walt shared a cubicle for 13 years and he probably was Walt's closest friend at work at the time that Walt retired.

The thing about Bill is that a couple of years ago he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, which has now progressed to where he is in a wheelchair and can no longer work.  His niece and her husband have offered him a place in their home as long as he can continue to live there.

I watched Bill at the retirement dinner and thought many times of Lou Gehrig's farewell address at Yankee Stadium, when he said "...today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth....I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."

In his closing remarks yesterday (see Video of the Day), Bill spoke many times about how grateful he was for all of his friends and how lucky he felt he was.

I have thought often (and perhaps may have written of it before -- after nearly 7 years, I am starting to repeat myself!) of the choices we make in life following a tragedy.  Sometimes when things are the blackest there's a little light that if we follow it takes us to unexpected, sometimes downright wonderful places.

Steve Schalchlin nearly died of AIDS.  As he and Jimmy tell in The Big Voice: God or Merman, he had given up on life until Jimmy in frustration told him to get off his skinny butt and start writing music, to fill the time.  "Write about your hospital experiences, write about your funeral, just write something."  He told him to "take the pain and turn it into melody."  Ten years later Steve is living and relatively healthy.  The songs he wrote when he was "dying" became an award winning musical which had a decent run off Broadway and he's just had his second off-Broadway run with a second musical.  If he had continued to sit and feel sorry for himself, who knows if he would even be alive today.

A lot of people take the pain and turn it into their own kind of melody.  It has been a real inspiration to watch the transformation of Rob Rummel-Hudson from nervous new Dad to the tireless fighter for his "broken" daughter (as he calls her), the lovely Schuyler.  Do they wish she weren't "broken"?  Undoubtedly, but neither Rob nor his wife have sat back feeling sorry for themselves.  And now Rob's soon-to-be published book, Schuyler's Monster will help other parents deal with their "broken" children.

My classic "turn it into melody" example was my former CompuServe boss, Georgia Griffith, about whom I have written before.  Born blind, earning her living as a music teacher and then losing her hearing in her 40s.  She taught herself computers before most people had them, before there was an WorldWide Web.  She supported herself with 7 of the most popular forums on CompuServe.  Georgia always had a smile, always a corny joke, and she refused to think of herself as "disabled."  "I'm handicapped--like in golf," she would tell people.

Another beautiful melody is sung by a friend here in Davis, who had gone through a painful divorce and was just getting her life back in order again when her newborn granddaughter was dropped into her lap.  She saw that the child desperately needed rescuing and she went through all of her savings, all of her retirement, never-ending court battles, but ultimately she was granted permanent custody of the little girl who is now a beautiful young adolescent.  In spite of the years and years of difficulties and trauma, you never saw her without a smile, she continued to find new ways to contribute to the community and she found new ways of having fun (sold her hot single woman sports car for an SUV, for example, and took up camping instead of night clubbing).

Given the choice, I would wish Paul and Dave back in a heartbeat, but if they were still alive, I would never have met Steve, and how enriched (...complicated, frustrating, rewarding....) my life has been for having him in it.  I have always said he was the window that opened when the door shut behind Paul and Dave.  Who knows--without Steve in my life, I might never have started writing this journal.  I definitely would never have collaborated on a song which was, for a few wonderful months, in a well-reviewed show.

We all make choices.  When life hands you lemons, whether through death or physical/health problems, or some other tragedy, we can curl up in a ball and shut out all of life, or we can take the pain and turn it into our own special melody.  We never forget the bad stuff, but instead of being defined by the bad things that happen to us, we are defined by how we've handled those bad things and moved forward.

Whether it's writing a book, or writing a musical or feeding a puppy or saving a child, we need to make our own melody.  Wouldn't it be nice if we all could be like Lou Gehrig and Walt's friend Bill, faced with some really bad stuff and still say "I feel so lucky today."
 


I made a Middle Eastern Lamb Pizza for dinner today.  Oh my was it good.  Recipe is here.
 

PHOTO OF THE DAY

My Middle Eastern style lamb pizza

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