It is 11:25 pm in Grand Forks, North Dakota. My folks are in town. Got here today, from Texas. I turn 30 in just over half an hour. Lame as it may seem to spend that time writing to a few friends and perfects strangers, I am writing to myself, mostly. Most of my writing is a confessional exercise, a form of vain, public therapy posing as public admonition and unpious piety.
Everyone is asleep. My Dad and I went to the movies tonight. We both love the theatre and cinema, but there’s no time to tell you about those regrets. The money we didn’t have to do that more often when I was growing up. We went on a whim, to give my sons time to prepare things at home for my birthday. They’ve inherited a very festive and joyful attitude about birthdays from my wife. So we went to see Argo. A great movie, sure, but a review would be a waste of what took place.
Best part of the film was when my Dad couldn’t hold it anymore and had to get up to go to the bathroom after the big plane scene. Too much Dr. Pepper. I stayed for the final 10 minutes. And chuckled with some embarrassment as he crossed the five seats to our left. As he was halfway down the steps, I realized that he would have to walk in front of the screen to the only exit across the floor in a very shallow projection room. He got to the bottom and turned right. I knew he’d do it. He did. Walked in front of the filled-to-capacity theatre with his bald head projecting on to the bottom of the screen. He didn’t duck or look ashamed. Going to pee like an oblivious gansta. My father made the whole thing very real to me in a way I can’t describe or quite comprehend, but it made me laugh, in and out of sync with the movie, and tear up and know that I’d never forget that moment as long as I live.
A perfect way to end my 20’s. Something like redemption, I think.
There is some pain in my fingers as the clock reaches 11:36. But there is also an intense, almost suffocating amount of joy. The kind that feels exactly the same as pressure building in the chest that comes from intense anxiety, but is really light filling up the darkness, in disguise.
I’m not sure what else I want to write. There is much to confess and be ashamed of. I’ve never understood the whole idea of no regrets. But the real miracle is that in the midst of all that stuff — all the things I cannot even disclose to myself yet — in the middle of it all, there has been the constant, total presence of Grace.
I feel like I’m sliding into 30, just lucky to be alive and have anyone willing to accompany me. Even myself. It’s a petty marker, but it marks serious things. Life not lived. Friends made and not cherished. Duties left untended. Absence. Denial. Getting drunk to feel sober.
While these words may seem dark, they conceal an incredible, unbelievable reality. I don’t what it is. I’m brimming with it. Ideas are slow. Words fill the space where the thing I can’t quite explain should be.
If you’re still reading, if I’m still alive enough to speak and hear myself, if you have not dismissed this as pure folly, then know this: there is nothing I have the right to claim or ask for. But the gifts have been immense and weight heavy. Healing has brought woundedness and those wounds have bred joy. True joy.
I don’t know what Aristotle or Jesus really mean by beatitude or happiness. It seems too foreign sometimes. But I do know that close to me, all around me, there is a beautiful thing going on. I hate using that word ‘beauty’ and won’t say ‘love’ again. They’re cheap substitutes for what it is I’m getting at. Where I was, am, and, si Dios quiere, will be going.
I didn’t learn my lesson, but I think I passed the test. At least this one. I’ve failed enough to know that. 20 has been a decade of life I won’t soon forget, but, with eleven minutes left, I think I’ve reached my starting point. I’ve come to grips with being 20 no more.
Thank God. Thank you all. Thank you.
Done editing, it’s 11:57.