Day 80 - A Quick Trip Back to Finish Day 51 - Walking The Road Less Traveled, Even When We Don't Want To

Posting this on day 80, but had written it way back on Day 51. For some reason this entry really had me stuck, which is why it's been 29 days since I've posted anything. This thing's been sitting in limbo waiting for... something, some small bit of inspiration, who knows! 

So, while the country burns and weeps and every political leader shoves their thumbs deep up their asses while the president pretends he's Hitler in the final bunker days... let me see if I can't finish this thing finally, as I'd begun writing it the night Amanda and Joel called together their vast pool of parents to discuss what to do in light of, well, everything. Let me explain (wavy flashback effect):

Day 51 - My daughter Amanda is marrying a good man, Joel, this year. A cool wedding had been planned in a unique venue in western Mass. Of course, the road ahead has recently gotten a bit hazy.

Before we continue on this, I think we should back up even farther - or further - as an explanation.

Since I was a kid (yes, that far back) I've had an affinity for the Robert Frost Poem, "The Road Not Taken," which ends with the lines 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Or, to quote singer Larry Norman's paraphrase:
Two roads diverged in the middle of my life
I heard a wise man say
And I took the one less traveled by
And that's made the difference, every night and every day
In either case, these words have been a creed I've lived by, not letting myself fall into the trap of "It's always been this way, or done this way, or looked this way." Striving just be what you are and go where life takes you. I think the old phrase is Be True to Yourself.

All very romantic, but I had no choice in the matter, to be honest. From a young age what I expected life would deliver, even on a small, seemingly insignificant scale, would end up changing in some way. Minor, like junior high being called "middle school" the year before I moved up; or slightly major like missing my eighth grade graduation (no sure how big a hoo-ha the event was back then, definitely not as obnoxious as it is now, but still) having had a minor breakdown because of stress around a lot of crap in my life at the time - but that's a tale for another time (I never have been able to articulate well my own thoughts on that subject, not that I've ever tried). Really, I was just one of those kids who marched to a different drummer and people looked at funny, not sure which metaphorical pill I'd end up swallowing, red or blue. dark side or light. Eventually, I allowed myself to be swept up in the current of everyone else, moving more easily downstream until college when I was able to get on shore and catch my breath, figure out who I was.

There is a point to all this.The wider, more traveled road would be glimpsed briefly as the runaway train that was my early life veered off onto other, narrower paths, at least emotionally but sometimes literally. There have been plenty of moments where I merged back onto the wider road and I lived a "normal life" like a gabillion others before me, jumping from high school to college to marriage and kids. Perhaps because I'd met someone and wanted to settle into that rhythm and finally feel normal for a change. White picket fence, music swelling as the camera lifts and we pan away from the scene as credits roll. A narrow window of time from my current vantage and I see it now as such a gift - three amazing adult children have come out of this time. At some point, God said, OK, there, I gave you "normal" but remember, "normal" comes with other baggage and your old wine skins are about to break (if you'll pardon the Biblical reference). 

And they did, eventually leading to divorce and life rebooting in ways I couldn't have imagined.

In the aftermath, I can walk along the road less traveled and be less whiny about it all. But here's the thing: life is not one road or the other. It is not supposed to be lived the same the way as the person beside you or before you or wherever. The best path to take is whatever path you're on. Some days, or years, it will be a wide, well maintained highway with lots of people doing what you're doing, rest stops and unhealthy food and bright-tiled bathrooms and stores where you can buy more unhealthy food for the trip. 
Other times you will veer off a maintenance road and smash through underbrush because you heard from a friend's uncle that there's an interesting person who sells painted turtles out of his house and you don't really want a turtle but you want to see it for some bizarre, unknowable reason. The visit to the man's house was odd and overall uneventful; he was a little twitchy but told you a story about his time in Iraq when he was almost shot by a local not because of anything military but because there was a massive spider on his shoulder and the local was trying to save him, or so he said, and this turtle-painting man's house smelled like wet cardboard and where was I...? 
You stay on this lesser path for years afterward. The road remains brushy and full of bumps and an occasional interesting character or two, then eventually is peppered with neighborhoods leading off into more narrow roads. At some point you find yourself on the highway again, yelling and beeping and celebrating with the world, but now a different, more interesting person than when you'd last been up here. So are some of the people you reunite with, before talking to a couple at a rest stop who mentions someone looking to hire a year-long manager for a lighthouse a thousand miles northeast and you decide "why not?" and veer off to find out what that might be like.
On and on.

In so so many ways this is how my wife Linda lived her life. Aside from daughter Amanda - you remember Amanda, this blog entry is about her, and in fact the above rambling paragraph (the big one not the 3-word one) was written in part to her  - Linda is the closet person to a real life Forrest Gump I've met in this life. Her life to this point would make an interesting, at times terrifying, but always inspiring book. Someday maybe we'll write it together (provided Yosemite doesn't erupt and the asteroid doesn't hit). Anyway, to borrow a little more from Alice's Restaurant, let's get back to Amanda, once we come back around on the gee-tar....

With the class of 2020 finding that the closest they'll come to their dreamed of moment called graduation is a video from John Krasinski or a zoom ceremony like what my niece and nephew and their friends did just the other day (which was amazing, by the way), they are learning how to be joyful and celebrate in new and unique ways instead of what was once expected and taken for granted in our society for the past hundred years.

The "won't ever get to experience..." aspect of all this, of course, is happening to everyone with this virus and quarantine, even when we look at everything else we haven't had to suffer through - droughts, famine, being bombed every night by crazy Nazis flying overhead (so far), or so many other illnesses of the past which thrived before modern medicine came along (think Polio). This is a time of change and a resetting of what we should be expecting for our future.

The other night Linda and I met online with Amanda and Joel, his Moms and Amanda's mom and stepdad. The issue at hand is one I'm sure is being discussed by many other families this year: What do we do about the wedding this September? What will the world be like? Would it be safe to have 150 people gathered together for a weekend? Not according to the experts, but really, no one knows, and there's the question of the money going to be spent and possibly lost. And the venue itself, which has effectively closed until further notice.

Many images Amanda had formed in her mind are having to be reconsidered. Perhaps a small, intimate wedding with just immediate family, a few close friends. Then later, one year, five, have a big bash. Is even this going to work? Will this delay cause a delay in their marriage itself? This last worry, it seems, is pretty unanimous that: no, it won't. But the dream, the expectation of being walked down the aisle, everyone seeing the beautiful dress, the dancing, it's all, like everything else, on hold.
Amanda is like me in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that her life's been a series of off-road trips, sometimes by choice, other times not. She's both embraced and cursed this existence. In this particular case, she really wanted to get back on the highway and do a quasi-traditional wedding. But the entire world has been pushed off the road and into the Brambles of Less-Traveled for a time. Maybe a long time. Life isn't going to devolve into some Mad Max scenario, but evolve into something new and interesting. It won't be what's always been. For us off-roaders, it'll be like having enjoyed a little-known band until they are discovered by the masses and we shout, "I liked them before it was fashionable!" 

And the one time(!) we try to be like everyone else, God laughs and gives us a shove into unknown waters. because here is where we thrive. All of us, though most are uncomfortable with this so they stay in the middle lane - until they can't. We've all gotten complacent with our expectations, and if 2020 has taught humanity anything, it's that uppercase-L Life is nothing if not a series of surprises. Or at least it should be. It's far, far more interesting this way.

However this turns out, Amanda and Joel will be married, perhaps with just a few of us surrounding them. I will get to dance with her, maybe then, maybe later.  In any event, come what may, I look forward to off-roading with my daughters and sons and our ever-expanding family for a long time to come.

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