Tag Archives: family


Christmas morning and the house is quiet. The silver utensils and china from last night’s dinner are stacked beside the sink, as are the wine glasses and pots and pans. Our youngest son was quiet kind and cleaned the hand washed items so my wife and I could collapse after days of preparation and cooking. It’s a big effort, but worth every ounce of work.

I can’t think of many things more satisfying that having your family gathered around a big table for a celebratory meal. Sharing food in a communal setting is unique to our species. Sometimes our dogs and cats may leap upon the table to eat, but they’re not interested in sharing. Once the side of beef is in the pup’s mouth, woe be the man that tries to take it.

We bless the food, give thanks and recall those that are no longer with us. My blessings these days are largely secular. I leave out any references to specific gods or goddesses and direct my prayer to a general recognition of the divine, something that’s difficult for me to define, but that does seem to be there. I feel it at the shoreline and in the mountains. Like a Taoist, I see it in the uninterrupted flow of rivers. The interconnectedness of all things. In the miracle of life and the phenomenal complexity of the universe.

I don’t sense it on interstates.

As we sat close together, we shared stories from Christmases past. Humorous stories where no one was spared the opportunity to laugh at themselves. We passed food to one another and justly complimented the cooks.

Humans also use meals to impress. My wife and I had a whirlwind romance, but one of the first things I did was take her to dinner. The first meal was a favorite burger joint, but once I knew she was “the one,” I closed the deal with a fancy dinner at a Memphis restaurant known as the Four Flames. Despite some roughness around the edges, I wanted her to know I did have some level of refinement. I had promise.

Christmas Eve dinner was a celebration of love. We love being together and are now blessed with grandchildren around the table. Little Beatrice preferred the fancy water glasses with gold trim over plastic models, and who could be surprised. She’s my grandchild after all. My grandmother instilled in me the belief that the silver, crystal and Haviland china were necessary parts of the big meal ritual. It’s a way of telling your guests they’re a big deal at the big meal, so I like to bring out the ancient passed down pieces to show the importance of the event.

They’re remnants of my great-grandfather’s time. He was a prominent cotton broker that rose from humble beginnings in the 19th century South to a brief period of prominence in the early 20th century. It nearly all fell apart when the Bolsheviks seized his cotton in port and during the Depression, but he was always wise with money and fared better than most.

I’ve kept those pieces, as well as his mahogany Boston cane furniture, as a connection to my family’s past. I love old things, and fully recognize they came from a period when craftsmanship mattered. We properly built things to last.

Now another year is nearly over and what have I done? I give thanks to John Lennon’s lyric for always making me reflect on my personal balance sheet of good deeds vs. bad during the year. I conclude I didn’t do nearly enough, although I did take major steps toward living more simply. I was generous but will endeavor to give more and much more precisely in 2023.

And then, before you know it, we’ll hopefully be preparing for another year end celebration. Once again, I’ll decorate our little cottage for the grandchildren and look forward to welcoming everyone for the next feast.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” —Mother Teresa


I never wanted a job. Jobs always struck me a type of prison, being beholden to a hierarchy, always chasing money and inevitably, more things. But I got one and never escaped. As I entered the business world in the 1980’s, the Depeche Mode song Everything Counts constantly played in my brain.

The grabbing hands grab all they can
All for themselves, after all
The grabbing hands grab all they can
All for themselves, after all

It’s a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

I married young, had children and needed a steady income to support my family, so off to work I went taking my place amongst the corporate toadies in a sick, sick world.

What I really wanted to be was a surfer. I spent a lot of time on beaches in college and instantly fell in love with what I perceived as a life way. Man in nature, seeking zen like bliss as the mighty ocean carried you with its great power to shore.

For me, surfing was never about conquering the ocean or the wave. It was about finding unity with it.

In those days, I imagined living in my Japhy Ryder hut near the beach. Futon, small table and a wall of books. I’d also be a poet. I’d have an old record player and all sorts of albums. Miles Davis, old tiki and surf tunes. Depeche. An old Volvo wagon with a surf rack. A beautiful, carefree girlfriend with mocha colored skin and sparkling, loving eyes. She could never imagine life with me and the ocean. Waina, mushrooms, sex. An adequate, simple life, uncomplicated by the ceaseless demands of an otherwise sick society.

To make ends meet, I’d rent chairs and umbrellas on the beach and hopefully sell some poems. One day I’d be a widely published writer signing books filled with nature poems for throngs of adoring fans, mostly women, of course. It was all mapped out, at least in my hopelessly romantic brain.

But as John Lennon said, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. I suppose you could say I made a choice for a different life, and that is true. But I was always bound to responsibility, especially to the people I love, so I gave up the dream, cut my hair, got a suit and opted for decades of corporate torture.

I had a brief period in the 1990’s where I started an outdoor oriented venture. I was heavy into backpacking and Edward Abbey in those days and was fortunate to spend a of time hiking and backpacking in the Appalachians. Likely the best years of my adult life. The plan was to lead corporate types on backpacking trips in an effort to help them recapture their souls. Unfortunately, the money was poor for so many nights lying on the dirt, so I kicked the idea to the curb. I also came to believe that most corporate types were beyond redemption. They might have a few days of loving nature, but they’d almost all go back to their drudgery.

But unlike me, they’d like it. The wealth building. Gradually buying bigger houses and joining exclusive country clubs. There’d be second homes. And almost always at the expense of the natural world and on the backs of employees that make a fraction of what they made. You just can’t build financial wealth without hurting something in the process. It’s not possible.

So I went back to my own corporate life and ushered in the most depressing years of my life. Business issues forced us out of East Tennessee and its lush mountains and back to the place of my birth in the Upper Mississippi Delta. Memphis. A place known for its high murder rate, terrible infant mortality rate, failing schools and racial tension. I made more money than at any period in my life doing tech work and was ceaselessly unhappy.

My wife decided it was time for an intervention and invited my aunt, a medical doctor and a personal hero of mine, to our home to confront me. The solution was pills. It was abnormal for me to not be happy living in a highly violent city with no mountains, desert or beach. I should be happy in this concrete hell hawking technology and paying taxes. The suburbs were magnificent! All I needed were some pills to dull my senses and beat back the normal tendency of my brain which was me this place sucks and to get out.

After that, I decided to keep my feelings to myself and use writing as an outlet. I joined a writers group and took some courses in creative writing at UCLA. It was a much needed salve and outlet for my frustration and provided me with a way to cope. Truth be told, I’m not very good at it. At least not good enough to sell books. I got A’s at UCLA, but a man has to know his limitations.

Last week, I returned to the beach with my family and grandchildren. The weather was poor, but that meant the surf was high. All the old memories came flooding back as I watched the warm, green Florida surf pound the beach. I was 20 again. My blonde hair had returned and was down to my shoulders. I’d just caught a glassy left and sailed through the tube like a missile, eventually riding the white water back to the sugary beach. The powerful Florida sun blazed across my back tanning my skin to a deep, dark brown. And yes, this is a fantasy, because there are rarely “tubes” in Florida. It’s just 3-4 foot choppy surf that might keep you up on the board for a few brief seconds and last week, the water was brown thanks to the storms and prodigious amount of Sargassum seaweed. It’s not great for postcards but is great for marine life, especially young sea turtles.

As I day dreamed, my charming three year old grandson woke me and took my hand. As he guided me to the water he said,

“Hey Pop, let’s play!”

At that moment, everything felt as if it had come full circle. Perhaps all that corporate suffering had lead me to this point, because it’s doubtful I would have had my children and this special moment outside of that path.

Everything was ok. Ua ola loko i ke aloha (loves gives life within)