Still the best birthday gift I’ve ever received….my littlest brother and best friend….
Up until the age of 17, there were two things that my father said to me constantly. They’ve been stuck in my head for the past three weeks now. I can’t help but be grateful to him for putting these thoughts in my head.
I’m not going to lie. I’m stressed. For the first time in a very long time. The best part of all is that I that I’m half in awe of the situation and half-amused. I feel like I’m watching myself be stressed out, and I’m analyzing the whole situation. So, yesterday when I was angry, I spent half the day thinking about why I let myself slip into that state. And today, when I ended up in pain, I thought to myself how my physical state was making up for the fact that I was truly enjoying the students in my classroom.
The first thing my father used to say was: “What did the little train say?” And I know I must have been completely annoyed by this as a teenager, and he’d make me say it. “I think I can, I think I can.”
I think that’s where I get my over-confidence (?) as described by some from. I think that I can do almost anything. Well, I think I can do almost anything that I want to do.
The second thing? He would tease constantly, “Don’t be a weenie.”
I have a deep fear of weakness. I really do. And today, I laughed driving home. Really hard. For the simple reason that halfway through my workday, the extent of what I have to do in the next two weeks registered in my poor, unorganized brain. My back tightened up in a way it hasn’t in at least a year. I feared that driving home from work was going to be a complete, painful catastrophe.
And for some reason, as I got into my car, the words that came into my head were: “Don’t be a weenie.” I laughed so hard that I couldn’t help but getting myself home by sheer will.
I’ve been thinking about that in the past week. I say often that I get through things by sheer will. And I have realized that it comes from these two phrases. Failure was not an option, and it was deeply rooted in a positive state of mind.
I received a text message today from my young brother who is a senior in high school. He was preparing for a debate in his U.S. Government class tomorrow.
“I told [my teacher] that if I had to be a Republican, I would just mock myself.”
I couldn’t help but laugh because sometimes when I talk to him, I want to apologize to my parents. Not for him, but for me. And I would except for the fact that I’m sure they were as tickled by my opinions as I am in my brother’s.
He went on to describe the entire project. They were supposed to write bills that they would present to Congress. He described his classmates’ bills: vegetarianism for all, handguns for all, and other similar mandates. I had to nod because he is in the same grade as my students, and I’m sure the bills would be similar if I gave the assignment.
A tiered tax plan that would, in essence, raise taxes for the richest Americans. He had an added provision that the added tax revenue could not be used for the military. His argument? A historical look at taxes starting with Reagan. In his words: “I’m just going to talk about how Reagan ruined everything.”
It made me think of a conversation we had in the car about a month ago. “Don’t tell, but I think our parents made me a hippie.”
“Umm,” I replied. “I think they know, and I think that’s what they were trying to do.”
“Oh, and I think they were trying to make you a Socialist.”
In the last two days, I’ve spent about 15 hours in the sun, helping my brother and sister-in-law tear up their front and back yards. I completely appreciate their vision so I was happy to help.
I think we ended the day with all 1500 square feet of the grass in their back yard torn up and put into trash bags. There was dirt everywhere. Every. Where. My feet, which were covered by socks and shoes, were caked in dirt. My face, my arms, my eyelids. It was pretty intense. I’m not going to lie, though. I thoroughly enjoy playing in the dirt. Plus, I think I probably got one of the best ab workouts of my life. I can tell by how incredibly sore I am. Well, not just there, but my arms, legs, and back as well.
I’m writing this part as the “before” of this before and after story that I said I would send to HGTV when they’re done.
Part II of the Extreme Home Makeover coming up…..
There are really eighty million reasons I love them, but this really made me smile tonight. They adopted this little guy:
If that weren’t reason enough to love them, they narrowed down the name choices to “Draco” or “Tehachapi”. Personally, I would choose Tehachapi, but I don’t think I get a vote. As a side note, it’s sad that there are 7 of us, living in 3 different homes, 4 dogs, and none of them live with me. Boo.
I was driving to my parents’ house this afternoon, and a song came on the radio. It was warm out, and I couldn’t help but sing along in the car. It made me think about my father and all of the things I’ve received from him. Primarily among them:
- An absolute love and enjoyment for music. His music. My music. I learned to love music because I wanted to like everything he did.
- An insatiable desire to leave the world a little better place that I found it. I’ve watched him my entire life make the world better, and I’ve wanted to do exactly the same in my own way.
- A love for sports. He’s a diehard Los Angeles everything fan. He’s quiet about it though, but he always knows what’s going on. He knows scores and stats and players names. He made me love the Top Deck at Dodger Stadium. He made me fall in love with the third baseline.
- Technology, technology, technology. My father loves gadgets. He’s always up on technology. Usually before me.
- A love of writing. When I was four and five years old, he would have me dictate letters to my cousin to him. He would write them out, and I would re-copy them so they would be in my own handwriting. He worked on fiction when I was younger, and he made me believe that I could write.
- News. News. News. I have a habit of watching the news because of him. But I also think I studied journalism because he would always talk about the integrity of journalism and what a great profession it was.
- Politics. He made me politically active at a very young age. I took it so seriously because it was important to him. For some odd reason, I would consider myself a “Kennedy Democrat” because of what I learned from him. I went through a phase where I read all of his Kennedy biographies, somewhere around the age of 13.
I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have a father like I do. He has always treated me like I could take over the universe, and that has translated into a confidence that has served me well for all of my life. He has taught me extreme compassion. He has taught me how to stand up for myself and to speak my mind.
I listened to President Obama’s little public service message about spending time with your kids, and I remember how my dad would come home tired from work and still take me to the park or play board games with me.
There is nothing in the world that compares to feeling that loved. And I know, each and every day, how incredibly lucky I am to have a father like him.
My brother is probably one of the biggest Laker fans around. He lives and dies with them as I do the Dodgers. That’s not to say he isn’t a Dodger fan or I’m not a Laker fan, but our devotions are just slightly more intense for one sport over the other.
That’s not to say that basketball doesn’t make me cry as baseball does because it does. Last night seeing Kobe with Derek Fisher after the game brought tears to my eyes. Actually, I always cry when Los Angeles teams are in the final round of whatever playoffs they are in.
But back to my brother. Sports are just a small testament to the brother-sister bond that we have. When I told my mom this evening that he and I would likely be going to the parade together on Wednesday morning, she asked whether I remembered the first Laker championship parade I went to.
Boy, do I.
I was six years old. It was 1988. It was an intense series and a pretty hot June if I remember correctly. My brother and I were thoroughly excited because our dad was so excited. We jumped up and down on the couch right alongside him. And I cried then. Yup, at six years old, I cried. The funny thing was I didn’t cry then because the Lakers had won, even though I knew it was a big deal for my father. Nope. I cried because Isiah Thomas cried. I remember the image of him after the Pistons loss to this day. I remember my dad asking me why I was crying, and I said that it was sad that the other team had lost. I don’t think he got it. And looking back I laugh because Sunday night, I would have liked nothing more than Kobe Bryan to elbow Dwight Howard somewhere, anywhere. (Sorry, I’m not a violent person, I promise.)
My parents bought us our first championship shirts in 1988. They were purple. And they had the silk-screened signatures of all the players on them.
And they took us out to city hall, and believe it or not, I do remember Pat Riley on the steps. I remember Magic Johnson. It was a good day. And it was the start of something very interesting.
Over the years my attention to the Lakers has waxed and waned. It tapered off in elementary school and was revived in high school by this kid, Kobe Bryant. Along the way, I loved Eddie Jones. My brother–Nick Van Exel. I lived through the Del Harris years. I watched the signing of Shaq. I watched year after painful year until Phil Jackson arrived, and finally again, we found ourselves in the championship circle of the NBA Finals.
2000. That was an amazing year. That was one of those years that was comparable to my 1997 year with the Dodgers. Every single game. We watched them all. In my speech at high school graduation, I made reference to the game the night before (which they had lost). I opened that speech with a reference to the sadness I felt not only because I was leaving high school but because the Lakers had lost.
A few days later, championship in hands, we made our way downtown again. This time it was my mom and all three of my brothers. We stood in the now converted parking lot across Staples Center and listened to these speeches and watched Travis Knight dance up there.
It’s amazing to me the joy that sports has signified in my life. Not only because of the teams that I have followed and the players that I have gotten to know, but because of the people I watch them with.
So, yes, I told my mom. I do remember the first parade I went to. It was 21 years ago.
And for a second that made me feel old. But once that subsided I realized how much being a fan of Los Angeles teams has been part of the very amazing relationship I have with my brother. On Wednesday, we will yet again, be out there. And yet again, we will be in totally different places in our lives, but still sharing that first moment together.