Nick


Nick1

Twenty seven years ago today, on a warm and sunny day, my wife called me at work and told me to get my ass home.  She was about to have a baby, our second.  A few hours later, around six o’clock PM if I remember correctly, Nicholas was born. From that point on, the world would be a better place.

Nick was born with a twinkle that has never left his dark eyes, like two stars that glow and shine in defiance of the otherwise black and empty void.  When he smiles, those stars ignite and light up the entire universe. From the beginning, he inherited the warmth and likeability that made my father, Nick’s grandfather, so unique.

From the beginning, he also had to endure the burden of being the most like his old man. It was bad enough that he had to look like me, even worse was that he seemed to think like me, sharing the same interest in sports and music, and the same sense of humor. I always felt proud when people would point to him and say, “He’s just like you.”  So proud that I bought into it, that I believed it.

It turns out that I was wrong.

nick3

Nick is better than me.

It’s taken some time, too long, really, for me to see this.  It should have been obvious.  But that’s me – I can be slow and dimwitted. For too long, because Nick was “just like me,” I projected my own insecurities and weaknesses onto him, bluntly pointing out “mistakes” he was making.  I thought I was questioning decisions he’d made, but it’s really not a question when you insist that you already know the answer. I regret my judgmental nature, and recognize that however much he is or isn’t like me, the journey he is on is his own, and only he alone can chart his course into the great unknown.

Now Nick is a full grown man, and on this, his twenty seventh birthday, I want to celebrate how much he isn’t like me, and how proud he makes me, and how much I love him.

nick2

 

Saturday


Saturdays at the hospital are filled with empty spaces. It begins outside, in the almost empty parking lots, the same parking lots that on weekday mornings are filled to capacity, now populated by only a handful of cars parked close to the entrances to buildings like scattered leaves blown against a doorstop.

Inside, the emptiness fills hallways and corridors that during the week are consumed by wheeled activity, nurses or attendants pushing gurneys or wheelchairs, doctors and surgeons in lab coats with heads buried in clipboards. Rooms are filled with patients, both out and in. On Saturdays, beyond the walls of the emergency ward, there are no out patients.

In late morning the visitors start trickling in, friends and family, mothers and wives, fathers and husbands, siblings and in-laws. A little bit nervous at first, not knowing what to expect, they cling a little bit closer to each other than they normally would as they walk down the halls, bearing gifts, flowers and balloons or books, peeking into each room at the living story lying in each bed, hoping for a spark of recognition, until they reach the room they came for.  As they enter the doorway they suck in their breath and force a smile on their faces, and finally they are standing face to face with their loved one, broken and hurting and healing.  They make nervous small talk and stand in uncomfortable poses next to the bed.  Time ticks on as they talk about shared interests, while husbands or wives grow impatient and glance at their wristwatches or cell phones, thinking about the game they are missing or the lawn that needs mowing, any of the things that they worked so hard all week for. They feel it all slipping away as their spouse drones on and on, telling the patient how good he looks and how much he is missed at home and how easy he’s going to have to take it after he gets out.

Then, in late afternoon and early evening, the visitors are gone, and the patients are left alone.  The flowers and the cards and the books are all put away, and nurses make their rounds, dispensing meds or serving dinner. This is the time for rest, and as the sun descends, weariness and fatigue set in, and sleep comes.

But just before sleep, in the lengthening shadows cast through the windows by the setting sun, their presence is felt, like a cold shiver down the spine.  This is their time, and for the half hour between daylight and night, they move freely and unapologetically.  You can see them, standing behind opened doors in darkening corners, floating on the air pushed through floor vents by furnaces or air conditioners.  You can hear their murmurs between the rhythmic beeping and humming of monitors and machines, the voices of the others, the ones who came here and never left.

Cruz Control


Ted “government shutdown” Cruz has had his comeuppance, enduring possibly the worst two weeks in the history of presidential politics.  Consider the following:

  • Desperate to stop Donald Trump, he paired with John Kasich and made a much publicized deal to unite and pool resources against Trump. In another revealing look into the Republican mind, they decided that only Cruz would campaign in Indiana and Kasich in Pennsylvania.  Apparently, they did the math, and concluded that their odds were better with only one weak candidate running against Trump instead of two.  The whole deal fell apart wen Cruz, in true Cruz fashion, changed his tune and said that there was no deal and that the reason Kasich wasn’t campaigning in Indiana was that he’d dropped out of the race (he hadn’t).
  • Cruz, despite the fact that the convention and a nomination was still two months away, decided it was time to name a running mate, selecting maybe the only person in the country less popular than him, Carly Fiorina. In an abnormally uncomfortable press conference, Fiorina sang a song to Cruz’s young daughters, which would have reminded presidential historians of the time that John Tyler sang to William Henry Harrison’s goldfish had that ever happened. While the move did nothing to generate more votes for Cruz, it was successful in adding yet another genuinely weird and head-scratching moment to an epically weird campaign.
  • At least Cruz was able to take comfort from his friends in congress, except that he has no friends in congress. That became clear when former House Speaker John Boehner ripped Cruz apart, calling him “Lucifer in the Flesh,” instantly angering devil worshipers around the world.  It was a telling indictment of Cruz’s likability that he was able to make not only Lucifer but also John Boehner sympathetic figures.
  • Trump, the presumptive Republican nut job, targeted Cruz’s father in his latest wacko conspiracy theory, implying that Raphael Cruz was involved in the JFK assassination.

At the end of all of this, after getting trounced yesterday in Indiana, Cruz finally did the only thing he could do:  he put his campaign out of its misery, all but ensuring that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.  Let me repeat that, and let it sink in for a moment:

Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.

Donald Trump the reality television star.  Donald Trump the conspiracy enthusiast, who believed President Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent and who apparently believes that Raphael Cruz was involved in the JFK assassination. Donald Trump who believes that Japan and South Korea and other countries should be given nuclear weapons. Donald Trump who not only supports a ban on Muslims but also supports the state sponsored public murder of innocent family members of suspected terrorists.  Donald Trump who said that all illegal immigrants from Mexico are rapists and murderers.  Donald Trump who is not only going to build a great wall that runs the length of the Mexico border but will also get Mexico to pay for it.  Donald Trump who said that women who get abortions should be punished.  Donald Trump who enthusiastically supports state sponsored torture.

Never before in American history has such an ill informed and extreme and dangerous candidate been this close to winning the presidency.  And there is no reason to believe he can’t win.  If there’s one thing we should take away from the primaries, where the other sixteen candidates fell, it’s that Trump should never be under estimated.

We could spend a lot of energy trying to figure out how and why Trump’s gotten this far. That would be an interesting and necessary bit of analysis.  But the more immediate concern has to be making sure he doesn’t get any further.  The stakes – the future of the country, and possibly the world – couldn’t be greater.