Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New Year, New Blog Post

Of course, it won't last long, but I'm going to try to write a post a day, either on this blog or my other one, From Beirut to Jupiter. http://frombeiruttojupiter.blogspot.com

I'm not doing it for readers or revenue. I'm only doing it for myself, for the exercise of writing, so I can revisit the books I've started but never finished. Or something like that. I turn forty in a week, something that doesn't seem real to me. Except for a few more aches and pains and maybe something resembling cynicism, I don't feel that old. I know a lot more than I did ten years ago, but I think collective knowledge has gotten a lot less. So that's something. Or nothing.

When I turned thirty, there was no social media to distract me, just this blog and my other one under a different name. The Reds had won a World Series only sixteen seasons earlier, not twenty-six, which seems more respectable. We were in the midst of a disastrous presidency that has been forgotten in the last decade as we head towards one that will make Bush seem like George Washington or Abe Lincoln. I had yet to visit or live in Beirut then, and though I'd been working in the Mideast field for a few years, I had not yet developed a real expertise in the area. I went to protests as if they actually did anything, not yet understanding they were a waste of time. It's funny how naive you are at thirty. I suppose I will say the same thing about forty in another decade.

The Reds were in the midst of being dreadful back then, dreadful in a different way than they are now. I always had hope, though, not like now when I can only muster fleeting moments of "maybe they'll surprise us." At least the Storen signing was something. How many wins did that disaster of a pen cost us last year? Has to be ten. The difference between horrendous and respectable, anyway.

I have mentioned that Chris is sick and is on the liver transplant list. He was in the hospital for a week at the beginning of last month, as the toxins had built up in his brain to dangerous levels. It was only then that I really started to think about what death is and the utter devastation I will feel if he doesn't make it through the transplant. I've never really known anybody who died before, aside from two grandfathers when I was barely old enough to grasp the finality of it all, meaning college aged. I just didn't get it. Of course, I was sad when they died, but it was in a different way. Maybe because they were both so sudden and unexpected. I had a grandmother who passed, too, but she was older and I was away and I really didn't get that, either. I guess death just didn't seem real.

I was drawn to war when I learned what it was. Rather, peace. I was drawn to the end of wars, studied international relations in college, stayed in Europe a year, went to all the war museums and memorials and that kind of thing and just couldn't believe that it could even happen, like it was all just a movie. Sure, we had some civil war battlefields in Ohio, but they were just fields now, the blood long dried and forgotten, so when we went to the American Cemetery in Luxembourg and saw Patton's grave, it was really my first contact with something war related. My father had been a Marine but the only war he saw was what he started in his own home.  I ended up joining the US Army when its stated mission was as a peacekeeping force, not an invasion force. The Clinton years were a fabulous time for peace on he surface. You had the fall of the Berlin Wall and the USSR at the start of the decade and the Irish peace accords near the end, and though there were some spectacular failures in the middle (Rwanda being the worst,) for the most part the Clinton administration had taken some giant steps towards a more peaceful world. I suppose Death took a holiday somewhere in that decade. Even with my personal losses I never felt his full effects.

But the nineties ended and a violent decade began. I started working with Arab activists and I was introduced to Death. Like everyone I meet, I forgot his name and had to pretend like I knew it every time he was around. I have met many people who had suffered from his cruel hand. I saw the scars of war both physical and mental when I lived in Beirut and they remind you that history isn't something in the past but it is living, we are living it now, when even the word now is then and we can't know what will happen in the next second. Most likely we will forget it, but every now and then one second changes everything.

One second. One sip of beer and I was talking to the obnoxious guy next to me at the bar and nearly five years later he is in my living room that is also his. I lock the door because Death could be roaming the neighborhood and I finally understand that he is devastation. I made it nearly four decades before I remembered his name after hospital machines whispered it. I sat in that room every night in desperate angst only to come home to an empty house. That's when it was the worst.

And you know what I longed for in those nights, other than Chris's healthy return? Baseball. It was a genuine, desperate longing and a soul crushing absence. Baseball can be a crutch, a pill, a healer. But it just wasn't there.

Winter is the cousin of Death.

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