The 10 Biggest Things That Ever Happened to Me

The 10 Biggest Things That Ever Happened to Me December 5, 2007

In response to a meme going around asking about the 10 biggest things that ever happened to you:

1. Born the first time

Midnight, March 21, 1958. I actually remember it, which I know makes me sound like a nut so never mind. (But I do. I remember the doctor and the two nurses, with their white masks on — I particularly remember the huge blue-green eyes of one of the nurses — and the green tile in the delivery room, and this little stainless-steel pan of warm water they washed me in, and this bright light I couldn’t stop starting at because I thought it was the most riveting fellow life-form in the room.)

2. Dad’s gone

I was eight years old when, out of the blue, my dad told my 12-year-old sister and me that he and our mom were getting divorced, and that the next day he’d be moving out of our house forever. Bummer. I liked having a dad.

3. Mom’s really gone

About two years after my dad removed himself from our premises — in other words, two years into my sister and I living alone with our mom: when I was ten years old — our mom disappeared. It was a Saturday afternoon; our mom left to pick up a few things from the grocery store; our mom didn’t return. Bummer. I liked having a mom.

4. Dad’s back

The day following the insanely disorienting disappearance of my mom, our dad moved back into our house to live with my sister and me. Great! We had a dad again! He was accompanied by his new wife. So we had a mom again, too! Except she was really, really bad at … well, not hating kids and pets, for one.

5. Mom’s back

After two years remaining as gone as gone gets, my (real) mom suddenly reentered our lives, when I twelve. One afternoon after I’d returned home from a Little League game, my father said, “Your mother called.” And instantly, right there in the hallway, my legs gave out beneath me. On my way down to the floor, I thought, “Oh, wow. So this is how it feel when your legs give out.”

6. Sis is gone

My sister so disliked our stepmother that when she was 15 she moved out of our house to go live with another family in our neighborhood. Bummer. I loved having a sister.

8. I’m gone, too

In the summer between my junior and senior years of high school I, too, moved out of our house, to end up living in an apartment building occupied mostly by coke dealers and prostitutes in East Oakland, CA. Fun! Only different!

9. I do!

At 23, I had no zero qualms about answering “I do” when the (gay!) pastor we’d hired to officiate at our wedding asked me The Big Question. Catherine and I got married in the Shakespeare Garden of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. You’re not supposed to just do that in the park, but at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning no one cared.

10. Born again

One second I couldn’t have been less of a Christian; the next I am (at 38-years-old) down on my knees, deeply shaken by the sudden, Massively Imprinted knowledge that the figure known to history as Jesus Christ really was God come to earth as a man. So. That … settled that.

And there we have it. Ten!

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  • Nice list! Well, not all of it was nice. But good choices, anyway.

    I only got an iPod for the first time a year ago. These things are great.

    If you want some recommendations for podcasts (or even want to know what a podcast is…'cause I didn't know until recently!) let me know and I'll recommend some.

    I'm also jealous about getting married in Shakespeare Garden, being an actor and a huge fan of the Bard and all. Not that I'm married or even involved with a lady, so maybe I don't have to be jealous forever.

  • JP in Bako

    Thanks John for sharing the "life story" gives a whole new meaning to "Amazing Grace" how cool – and I think I-pods are great wish I could figure out how to make it work 🙂

  • Barbara

    And just when I was feeling sorry for myself…

    I don't have an IPod though.

  • Morse: Clearly, you need to ask God to bring you a woman. (Everyone: this is a joke. He's an atheist.)

    JP: Yeah, you would THINK that if God was going to go through all the trouble to save you, he could throw in a little electonics knowledge. But. No.

    Barbara: Cool. So you've got good reason to KEEP feeling sorry for yourself. Something to be grateful for!!

  • I felt the same way a few weeks ago when I purchased my Shuffle. Yeah, I went for the baby iPod, but seriously, it serves its purpose. I'm almost more excited about the fact that I can now play iTunes on my computer at work, since we can't receive internet radio. Amazing little things, those iPods.

  • Sabina

    John, I think your wife is totally awesome!

  • ElleBee: They really are. I'm just amazed. I can wait to have all the fun with it I know I'm going to have between now and two weeks from now, when I'm totally deaf.

    Sabina: She really is. She's a freak of awesominity.

  • Hey, if god brought me a woman that would be a great start in getting me to believe in him. 😉

  • Angela

    Just came over from the litany of responses to the Santa blog.

    Yea! Testimony and an iPod. Non-controversial. Whew!

    Now I can log off and get on with my evening. 🙂

  • Oh, I'm sorry, but that's not the way it works. What you have to DO is think that what I wrote was that I love my new EVIL-Pod, and that I've given myself over to the Devil's music.

    You should know by now: No one sleeps around here. Vigilance never rests.

  • Sam Adams

    John, surely you know that iPods are manufactured by Apple which, of course, really stands for the fruit from the knowledge of Good and Evil tree. I was saving for a Zune until I was told Bill Gates is the anti-Christ.

    As far as the blog, that was great. Bet many others can relate to those "Mom's gone" and "Dad's gone" experiences too. Kind of shows that blunt kick in the gut parents can aim at their children.

    I'd have to throw in a Dog-gone experience too. Miss my Rhodesian Ridgeback who was my running partner in the Idaho wilderness.

  • Arnette

    I just got my daughter a little IPod for Christmas…now I gotta go get ME one. Your list looks a little bit like mine would…I'm going to make me a list now. Hadn't really thought about significant things since the MOST devastating one happened in '04 and my oldest daughter died…now I just try to serve God and glean whatever's passing for happiness for me outta the universe. And raise the daughter I have left. That's prolly enough anyway.

  • Uh. Yeah. I would say that's plenty, Arnette. I'm so terribly sorry to hear about your daughter. That's so painful.

  • Hey Shore,

    It's been a while since I've read your blog. Its interesting how you mention getting an iPod as a significant thing. Even more interesting is that you mention it might not be on the top of your list. Funny how, at the teenage, getting an iPod is no big a deal for more than a week and would definitely not make this list. Funny how we forget such things when we're born in a society laden with technology and counter-culture and disregard them. However, what you say is important: It shows the transition from an analog to digital, cultural deterministic society. It indeed should come as news to us that technologies have enhance, convenienced our lives so much that we do not think about them as important – yet that we don't is amusing.

    Confusing, I know…back to the overall topic. Quite a few interesting things have happened. Suffice to say you've experienced alot of things in some 30-odd years most people wouldn't in lifetimes. What joy! Afterall, there is no high in life, if there are no lows which make you look forward to them.

    Oh how I ramble on. For the record: I havent gotten an iPod or a music player at that since the mini i got as a gift (which apparently messed up due to temperature fluxes).

  • I don't have an iPod yet. My 21 yr old son has a Zune, and I kinda like that.

    I'd have never guessed you were into 50 cent though LOL.

    I'm almost afraid to put together as list such as the one you've done. It's not that I don't have any memorable experiences, it's just that some of them I'd rather forget.

  • Tabish: Actually, I'm 49. I'll be 50 in March. Good to hear from you again.

    Stef: I'm a huge fan of a great deal of rap/hip-hop. I'm a dull fellow; so pretty much if I have a good, strong beat, I'm set. I like the raw energy of rap.

    I know you know this, but trying to forget stuff from your past is like trying to forget you have feet. In the end, it's what you're walking on anyway.

  • John– true. So true. I'm just not ready to write about it on my blog.

  • Yeah. I mean, of course. It's not like you see me going into a lot of DETAIL, or anything.

    I'm comfortable with all that kind of stuff, because, frankly, I've spent my entire life doing about NOTHING but specifically and consciously dealing with my past. It was clear, from square one, that if I didn't learn to steer that car, it'd run me down flat. And it has. And it will again, I'm sure. But … I dodge better now.

  • samwrites2

    Wow, great metaphor. This was really helpful to me. Lot of us out here are little more than roadkill needing resurrection. Your example provides an unthought of tool to chart important life events and then deal with any still running over us.

    Thanks, John.

  • Taryn

    Great list…makes me grateful for my mildly dysfunctional family. And the Ipod…I refuse to get one. Why pay money for the brand when you can get a cheaper MP3 player that holds more songs? Just my thinking.

  • a 50 year old listening to 50 cent on an Ipod?

    Shouldnt this post be renamed something like umm.. midlife crisis?

    PS… sorry about the dysfuntional childhood…

    Seems like it all turned out ok. 🙂

  • But … I’ve been loving rap since … I don’t know … 1980, at least. Isn’t a midlife crisis when you CHANGE the way you do things? (Actually, I just co-wrote a whole BOOK on men in midlife. So it’s funny that’s even come up at all….)

    Taryn: My iPod was (as you probably know from the post) a gift. So that, of course, makes it … perfect. And I DO like the interface and utter user-friendliness of the thing. Apple really has that down.

  • Cheryl

    John, I ALWAYS look forward to your emails and stories. For those of us who come from broken homes as well, I can only find inspiration from your stories and strengthen my belief that God is my ultimate father and the true father who never leaves us. May you be blessed even more by our Heavenly Father.

  • Hey John – Enjoy your I-Pod. And, thanks for the glimpse into where you came from. Rough. No wonder you're so damn funny. Surivival technique, for sure.

    My parents may have been messed up… but, they were at least always there. Sure, I often wished they'd divorce or disappear when I was a kid… but even then I realized, (and even moreso now) I was lucky to have them both.

    I hope you get Cat somehting nice too. At least do her a favor, and refrain from singing out loud, even if you think you do sound just like 50 cent when you can't hear yourself. 😉


  • John, wonderful post as always. Very candid childhood too of which I could identify almost all of them especially mom-dad divorce bit, but make that THREE times (they used up the quorum when I was 17). I dont have an iPod but I have an MP4. Works wonderful. Plays movie while waiting for the teenager milling about at the mall.

    Say hi to Cat. She sounds so wonderful;-)

  • Reading through the comments, I saw Cat's Proverbs 31 moment, where her husband arose, praised her, and called her blessed.

    Man, I hope someday to hear *my* husband refer to me as a "freak of awesominity."

    Really. I'm not being facetious. I really do want to hear those words proclaimed about me on the World Wide Web someday.

    But…do I have to buy him an iPod to be, in his opinion, a freak of awesominity? 'Cause we were trying to go low-budget for Christmas this year…

  • AWESOMINITY…I love that word. That is my new favorite word.

    What I like the most about your list is that you know that as you grow in your knowledge and understanding of the Lord your list will change and grow longer. Everyday is full of new meaning and purpose in the life of a true believer.

    Another great post!

    BTW, I have 4 teens with 3 ipods & 1 zune. Is that kinda like the battle between good & evil? I guess it is just because I have 4 teens with more teens to follow.

  • Ann: I'm sorry, but the rule is that if you want your husband to love you as much as you'd like him to, you have to buy him things. That's just … the way it is.

    Hey, man. I didn't write the rules. I just live with them. (har. your comment cracked me up.)

    (You might care to see this piece I wrote a little while back. Or not. But it's here:… )

    4given: How sweet! But, I mean … no. My list will grow longer I suppose–but it won't change. Chronological-wise, them first 10 will of course stay forever.

    Is your every day really full of new meaning and purpose? Cool! I pretty much have the same purpose every day: Don't get arrested, and try not to die. If, at the end of the day, I'm not incarcerated or dead, I figure I'm ahead of the game.

    But I jest.

    Well, kind of.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind words.

    Wait. Four teens with 4 teens a'comin? So your life DOES have new meaning and purpose every day!! Man. Every MOMENT, I would think.

  • Hanie: Thank you. I will tell Cat you said “hi.”

    Cheryl: Thanks! I sure appreciate this very kind thought.

    Sam: “Humor as survival technique.” That’s such an interesting notion. I think it’s more like humor as a survival MODE, you know? But of course I know what you’re saying. And of course it’s true.

    Get Cat something nice? Why? She got me something nice. We all know it’s better to give than to receive. I think the TRULY loving thing for me to do is to allow her to buy me something else that’s great. Don’t you agree?

  • I'm sorry; I don't know that album.

  • Ross

    You listening to Fitty Cent. That's just funny. You must be ribbed for that, but all in good fun.

    You've been down with rap since '80. So you must have been listened to Run DMC, Grand Master Flash, Sugar Hill Gang, and possibly a few others, but there wasn't much more than that that a 23 year old white dude from No. Cal could have been listening to.

    My question is, how do you tolerate modern rap with it's cheesy rhymes or lack of rhyme altogether as compared to the former rap artists who actually told a tale with a beat that rhymed. And somehow they were able to do it without mention of booty, hoes, Ak-47's, etc.

  • Yeah, yeah: all those guys you mentioned.

    I was just thinking: the first record I ever bought was James Brown's "Make It Funky."

    Anyway, as to today's rap. I mean, if I had a kid, I'd be seriously talking to them about rap: what it is, where it comes from, why it is what it is, what's good about it; what's not.

    But, you know: For myself, I'm good with it. It's just about SONGS with me (and everyone else, of course). I don't like or dislike any GENRE of music. I like SONGS in every genre. I think 95% of rap is crap. I think 95% of indie rock is crap. I think 95% — no, wait, make that 99.99% — of "smooth jazz" is crap. I think 95% of movies are crap. 95% of TV shows are crap.

    Bottom line is that good art is about as rare as rare gets.

    I really, REALLY like Ella Fitzgerald. Verve has a three-disc set of Ella singing Duke Ellington that I think I'd grab in a fire.

    You know: Quality is quality. Sometimes it's Joni Mitchell nailing something. Sometimes is Coltrane or Gillespie or Miles. I'm a huge George Clinton fan. I'm huge on the Dixie Chicks. I LOVE Macy Gray. There's a Hindu-chant singer guy named Krishna Das I think a LOT of. I'm crazy massive on Bob Marley.

    Anyway. It's all about individual songs, of course.

  • Chris

    What? One fine song?? How about something from In Da Word?

  • Yeah. But man, are those roses sweet.

    Fun! It was fun thinking/chatting with you about that stuff. Thanks.

  • Ross

    Good answer…couldn’t agree more that most art is total crap with a few roses here and there.

  • Me

    Wow. o_O that sure beats my list!!!

  • Koans

    “Massively Imprinted knowledge that the figure known to history as Jesus Christ really was God come to earth as a man” ??

    Perhaps the Trinity is more an invention of the Catholic Church than an evolution from knowledge to higher understanding.

    Perhaps Jesus evolved to the level of a Christ as a result of his efforts which began as a man.

    Perhaps Christ refers to the highest level of consciousness a man can achieve on this earthly plane.

    There was a splintering among followers of Jesus’s teaching over this very issue into those that still believed that there is only 1 God and those that believe there are 3. (the Trinity)

    We have had a 1000 years of bloodshed between Muslims and some sects of Christianity as a result.

    Maybe God is not religious and finds religion irrelevant. Maybe a mans level of consciousness is the relevant attribute. Maybe consciousness is a result of making continuous efforts during ones waking state rather than a free gift requiring no effort.

    Just some stray thoughts on what I see as more real and less real.