A Change Is Gonna Come

TheHourPublishingCo

“It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there, beyond the sky
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will”

— Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come

• • •

There’s an old story about a fork in the road and taking the road less traveled. Well, not a story, really … a poem. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”

In less than 12 days, I’m going to be standing at one of those forks, where “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”

Only I don’t really have a choice of which one to take. It’s going to be decided for me.

Unlike Frost’s masterpiece, at my fork in the road of life, there is somebody I do not yet know and they are going to be pointing me down one of those paths.

Go left? Go right? Go north or south?

I don’t know the answer. Yet I still trudge — “To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on,” said Geoffrey Chaucer, as played by actor Paul Bettany in the movie, “A Knight’s Tale — toward that fork, toward a decision that is out of my hand and will send my life on a tangent that just a year ago seemed rather improbable.

Welcome to Life 101 — where we’re all still trying to pass the class, not realizing the joke is on us and we will never actually matriculate to Life 202 because it simply doesn’t exist on the campus that is our lives.

Here’s the skinny on what’s going down. On Tuesday, April 12, the company that owns the newspaper I work is getting out of the journalism business. It is being purchased by a competing company and while “The Hour” newspaper will live on under this new ownership, changes will be coming.

My department — Sports — is being especially hard hit.

I’ve been laid off before and one of the things I keep telling myself is that on the morning of Wednesday, April 13, the sun is going to come up, regardless of which path I’ll be shown to take.

That’s why I laughed at myself at four o’clock on the morning of this writing, waking from a sound sleep to realize that the news which became all but official earlier in the day kind of hit me.

It was still pitch black out as I realized, “Holy shit, I could be unemployed in 14 days.”

We’ve all been invited to apply for a position in this company — which lets not forget already employees hundreds of others who might be interested in this same position, as well.

On paper, I’ve got as good a shot as any with my experience and abilities. I started in the field of journalism in late summer of 1984 and save for a two-year hiatus where I dipped my toes into the world of education it’s all I’ve ever known.

This August will be my 32nd year as a journalism. This October would have been my 10th anniversary being employed by my current employer.

April 13 will be a brand new day and as of this writing I can’t tell you what it’s going to be like.

Will I get up and go to work?

Or will I sit down at a computer and grow more and more depressed over the prospects of finding a new job in the ever-gloomy field of my chosen profession, which I love today as much as I ever have.

To coin a term from this world, It’s a jump ball.

I’ll apply. I’ll hope to get an interview. I’ll try to knock it out of the park.

Then somebody I’ve never met until that day will show me the way to go.

I started this post with Sam Cooke’s title of his 1964 song. I end it with Frost’s final lines.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence; Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — … “

Well, that’s to be decided, isn’t it.

And come April 13, that will have made all the difference.

Enough Already!

Obama-Cuba-Baseball-Getty-640x480-1

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

On a Tuesday morning, three bombs exploded in the city of Brussels, forever changing the lives of thousands of people and shaking a country to its core.

Belgium, we think of you, we pray for you — and we go on making asses of ourselves in the eyes of the world.

It didn’t take long for those on the right to stand up, point to Cuba and say to our President of these United States of America, “What are you doing there when the world is being bombed?”

I believe he’s trying to make history and made the world a better place in the only way he knows how … by trying.

Soon after, on that God-forsaken social media model called Facebook, I saw somebody from the left calling out George W. Bush for not racing out of a classroom full of children on Sept. 11, 2001, when he found out about planes flying into the World Trade Center in New  York City.

President George Bush hears the news of 9/11 from chief of staff Andrew Card.

President George Bush hears the news of 9/11 from chief of staff Andrew Card.

I vividly remember that moment and still recall the look on President Bush’s face when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, leaned in and whispered in his ear.

Nobody knew exactly what was going on in that moment, but it was perhaps the beginning of the most Presdential few months in Bush’s eight-year history in the oval office.

The fact anybody would dare draw comparisons between 9/11 and March 22 offends me.

The only common denominator is both were terrorist attacks.

Remember when terrorism brought us together?

Now there are people on opposite sides of the aisle who use it to try to divide us further apart.

It embarrasses me as an American and it bothers me greatly as a inhabitant of this planet.

The only thing I like about Facebook is it allows me to keep up with so many of my friends, past and present, and what they’re up to in their daily lives.

I get to share in the joys of their newborn children and I get to mourn with them when their parents pass away. I get to laugh with them and cry with them, grow with them and die with them.

In between, I have to put up with bullshit made-for-the-web forms that try to say something factual to prove their point of view — yet if you actually fact-check it you find out it’s simply wrong.

Look no further than the Superior Court situation as Exhibit A, if I may so approach the proverbial bench.

Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan — who once joined forces to create “Stealers Wheel” — summed up this present-day political climate back in 1972 when they sang, “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you.”

It’s how many of us feel right now. Democrats. Republicans. Independents.

Those to the far left and the far right are making us all look bad.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are both an embarrassment to themselves and the entire political process. Hillary Clinton and Larry David — excuse me, Bernie Sanders — come with their sets of  baggage.

All these people, these brilliant minds, in the United States of America and these four are the best we have to offer?

Nah, these are the people we deserve because Karma is a bitch folks.

It’s time to quit blaming other people. It’s time to stop hammering the wedge between us.

It’s time to take a good, long look in the mirror and decide what we really want for our children and our children’s children.

Because if we don’t, this road isn’t leading to the next three bombs going off in some random city.

It’s heading to a place that’s going to be much worse.

Schuy-writing That Will Tug At Your Heart

Schuyler Arakawa continues to fight for her life in a Miami hospital (Photo courtesy of the Schuy Is The Limit facebook page).

Schuyler Arakawa continues to fight for her life in a Miami hospital (Photo courtesy of the Schuy Is The Limit facebook page).

To know Schuyler Arakawa is to love her. That’s what everybody who knows her will tell you.

I don’t know Schuyler — I’ve never even met her — but it feels like I do, thus I’m rooting for her 100 percent.

This story begins with a quick biography of who Schuyler is and what makes her special: She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s adventurous. She’s a great daughter, a great sister, a great friend.

Schuyler Arakawa shows off her 100 watt smile. (Photo courtesy of Schuy is the Limit Facebook page).

Schuyler Arakawa shows off her 100 watt smile. (Photo courtesy of Schuy is the Limit Facebook page).

She is from Tampa, Florida, and came to Connecticut to thrive at Yale University.

My connection to Schuyler is just a needle in the haystack of life. The daughter of a friend, one I had the pleasure of writing about during her four year high school career in Stamford — who is now a senior softball player at Yale — is a personal friend of hers.

And that’s how Schuyler Arakawa’s story came to me.

Last month, Schuyler — who was on a post-grad fellowship in the South American country of Peru, helping to build homes and teaching — and a group of friends took a weekend trip to Colombia.

Out of nowhere, tragedy struck from above.

According to a report from WFTS in Tampa, “During a day of river rafting and swimming, a large boulder came crashing down from 30 feet above the water and landed right on top of Schuyler’s head.  Her friends rushed to her aid, pulling her out of the water and getting her to the hospital.”

There she was, more than 1,500 miles away from home and family, near death, being held in the arms of God and hope with no guarantees of ever seeing another tomorrow.

Her family quickly flew to Colombia to be at her side. They got her moved to Miami, where she has remained ever since, in a medically induced coma, fighting for her life from deep within as her family and friends keep praying for a miracle that will bring Schuyler back to them.

Schuyler’s reach in life extended beyond Tampa and beyond Yale. She has friends all over this world and together, as the news reach them, they rose up in concern.

To help keep everybody on the same page, Schuyler’s mother — herself an absolute pillar of strength for her family — has started a Facebook page called “Schuy Is The Limit” to keep everybody updated on her daughter’s progress.

If you’re a Facebook user, you can follow the “Schuy Is The Limit” site by clicking here.

The great thing about “Schuy Is The Limit” is that it just doesn’t update Schuyler’s condition in medical jargon, but it also chronicles the family’s journey through this trying time with so many stories of hope and passion.

The tragedy alone is enough to care about Schuyler and offer the family prayers and positive thoughts.

But to hear first-hand about the emotions that everybody close to Schuyler is going through, to hear about all the mini-miracles that seem to be pointing in the right direction, and to hear all about the positivity coming courtesy of mankind, well, it’s extending a beacon hope out from a single Miami hospital room.

The family’s main focus is on Schuyler, of course, but by bringing their daughter’s story to the friends and family members who know her so well, it’s also changing the world of others who maybe missed out on what makes Schuyler Arakawa so great in the first place.

Every time the family posts the latest Schuyler update, I’m sure to read to it and send my thoughts and prayers her way.

And Schuyler’s story is also a reminder that everything can change in a moment, so you should never hold back in living life to the fullest.

Get well soon, Schuyler. The world awaits your return.

• • •

The family has started a gofundme page to help off-set the costs associated with this tragedy. You can find that here: https://www.gofundme.com/ztq2n4r8

A stranger’s death brings forth an emotional memory from the past

Wilbur L. Watson (1944-2016)

Wilbur L. Watson (1944-2016)

A man named Wilbur L. Watson passed away last week back in my home state of Maine, succumbing to life after what was described as “an extended illness.”

As I read Mr. Watson’s obituary, passed on to me and others through a Facebook friend’s post, I learned he had been employed at the Bangor International Airport for 32 years and he enjoyed both photography and NASCAR racing.

That was far more than I ever knew about him.

He was 71 years old.

My own path through this world crossed with Mr. Watson’s just once. To be honest, it was a day that changed both of our lives — his in a major way; mine in a far more minor fashion.

But it was a day I’ll never forget and it all came rushing back to me when I learned the news of his death.

Wilbur, I learned a long, long time ago, was the birth father of somebody who was very close to me back then. He had been only 20 years old when she was born, and life being what it is, she was raised by her mother and by another man, who adopted her, and gave her his name.

She grew up in a close and loving family more than 500 miles from the place Wilbur Watson called home.

That alone, I suppose, shows you how life is funny and sad at the same time.

It’s sad that a birth parent can go far too long without holding a loved one in their arms, or to look their eyes and try to find the words, “I’m sorry,” and someday “I love you.”

But it’s also funny how certain roads can lead back to the past, to moments where wrongs are righted and the future can be so vastly different than what once was.

So there was I was, perhaps 30 years or so ago, driving down a road with somebody at my side, somebody who was just about to meet her birth father for the first time.

Together, we were driving to Wilbur Watson’s home.

Looking back on it, I can’t imagine what the nerves were doing inside her as each mile brought her closer to the past and her future.

I can’t imagine what was going through his mind as he sat inside his home, looking at the clock, knowing with each passing minute that his past was finally going to become his present.

All I knew for sure was I was along for the ride — for moral support, for emotional support, for whatever role I would be needed.

So much is foggy now, the circumference of that day slipping away from the memory banks, but I remember vividly the first time they saw each other.

He stood looking at her. She stood looking at him. That pause, so brief, so awkward — what were they thinking as they saw each other?

But what could they do but embrace and cry? Father and daughter, hugging each other and holding each other for the first time in a long time.

I was blind-sided by what came next.

I remember feeling the emotion rise up inside me just by bearing witness to that moment in time. It was that which surprised me most, I suppose.

I never expected my own eyes to fight back the tears of seeing this reunion, but the emotion of the moment was simply too much. I looked away, I remember that. I looked at the floor, I remember that. I remember feeling the first few tears escape down my cheeks.

I remember thinking, “I shouldn’t be here” for such a touching and emotional moment in two people’s lives — a moment that should be shared alone.

Yet there I was — not quite the fly on the wall, not quite the elephant in the room — seeing a family renewed.

All these years later, I am glad I was there. Not just for her, but to see such a hopeful moment come to life in front of my very eyes.

Over the decades since, I’ve grown apart from my Maine roots, losing touch with family and friends except through the miracle of Facebook and my rare sojourns back home.

I don’t really know how the father-daughter relationship grew going forward — though she is listed in his obituary as his daughter and she is also Facebook friends with his other children, as well.

I can only hope from that moment sprung a new branch of her family tree and I hope it made her life a little better going forward.

I sent her a note through Facebook, telling her I never forgot that day when she met Wilbur for the first time. She replied to me, saying she too remember it like yesterday, and, she added, she never really thanked me for being so supportive back then.

Needless to say, she didn’t have to.

Bearing witness to that moment perhaps still reminds me there is hope for tomorrow in everybody’s lives.I think that’s why I’ve never forgotten that day.

Rest in peace, Wilbur Watson. Though we only met just once, I’ll never forget you.