I went to a web site today to update some personal information. Not the name, rank, serial number sort of thing mind you, just a small portion to bring people I went to school with forty years ago up to date. “What’s your story?” the web page patiently asked.
What’s my story, indeed?
A flood of possibilities immediately presented itself, from the mundane to the miraculous; the silly to the sublime; the artistic to the awful. All of them at once, and at once none of them.
I was reminded of the Peanuts cartoon where Lucy ‘read’ a bedtime story to younger brother Linus. “A man was born. He lived. He died. The end” “A fascinating account,” replied the young Linus. “It really makes you feel like you knew him.” I can relate to this, all but the ‘he died’ part. Haven’t done that yet. Bright and well read constant reader that you are, you will have already deduced that from the fact that I am indeed writing this, recognizing as you do the absurdity of that happening if I were already departed from this plain.
Then the Travis Tritt song came to mind: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” But this is not without its difficulties. I mean, not to put to fine a point on it, what specifically is the story to which I am alleged to be sticking.
Oh, I’ve taken half hearted stabs at telling my story now and then, mostly because I think I probably know me better than you do, nor am I of the delusion that you really give a fig. In all likelihood you’re reading this with the hope that maybe this time I’ll actually say something of value. I hope you’re not too disappointed.
I wrote a book, you see. Well, three of them, actually. The first is a very tongue in cheek autobiography of my life in the summers of 1963 and 1964. It was the year we lived on Front Street and our back yard ran squarely into Greenbrook Park. It was the two summers bookending fifth grade and before we moved to Florida. Later I wrote a book about a happy time in my life much, much later. That was from summer, 1999 to summer, 2001. The third covered the year from summer 2001 to summer, 2002, and it was probably the most painful time of my life. These stories have been written down. Only the first one will ever be published…someday. And maybe the second. The third was therapeutic and cathartic. I will probably delete it one day.
Funny – it seems the most vivid chapters in my life story seem to center around summers.
I wonder why that is? I don’t particularly favor summer over any other season. If pressed to choose, I would pick autumn first followed by spring. At least I think I would, based on nearly sixty years of accumulated knowledge about myself, but we humans are so seldom objective sources of information about anything, least of all ourselves. I, flawed being that I am, am no less.
A brief history of my time on Planet Earth, by David J. (not Lee) Roth, Jr.
I was born on the first day of nineteen hundred fifty three, the second person in our county to accomplish such a feat that year.
In the summer of my eleventh year, I started the sixth grade in Miami, Florida.
In the summer of my fourteenth year I started high school.
In the summer of my twenty second year I started college.
In the summer of my twenty-third year, I got married, a union that would produce two daughters – the best work I have ever done.
I would repeat the next to last one twice more in the summers of successive years, and once, the most recent time, in the autumn of my fifty-first year.
I endured middle school, survived high school, excelled at college, and made a total disaster of marriage. Marriages. Only the Autumn one is what anyone might even remotely call a success, and that’s really due more to the angel of a woman who tolerates my moods, encourages my enterprises, makes my coffee, plays with my cat, and loves me in a way I had given up hope of ever being loved.
I’ve endured heath problems, been healed by the God who found me when I was thirteen, and survived two strokes. It would seem that in spite of my years of running from Him, He still has some use for me.
And now, in the summer of my fifty-eighth year, I am making plans to see people I haven’t seen since that hot summer day forty years ago. People I promised I’d never forget, but did. I hope they’ll forgive me.
Because you see, when all is said and done, perhaps Lucy’s story is my story. Filled with successes and failures, achievements and flops, accolades and disappointments, a landscape potted with more holes that a block of aged Swiss cheese, this is my story.
A man was born. He lived, such that it was. He has yet to die. Not quite the end.