After five years, it’s clear that Hank is more human than he is canine. His emotional intelligence has matured beyond what I thought was capable.
His ears are propped up and there’s a definite wrinkle on top of his forehead. The nub of a tail on his backside is wagging with medium curiosity. He knows something is up. To channel this energy, he paces around the house with proper steps like Boxers do. He decides that’s insufficient so then he fetches his bone and heaves it into the air only to fetch again—like a whale punting a seal across the ocean. We’re having family over for lunch and the cleaning has got him all worked up.
I decided early in the week that I was going to cater in the food for the family get together on this day. I’ve adopted the title of the resident nutritionist given my skill set. This is tricky to navigate because the family secretly expects a broccoli mash with no butter to be served every time they visit. But, I have more decency than that. I’m also not a fascist.
Normally, I’d invest a half-day into this kind of preparation. Partly to prove that you can eat well without having to wheel barrel yourself out of the exit. And the other part to distract me from worrying about what they’ll think about my front yard.
However, I’m in the midst of a physical preparation that has me following a diet to the number. Therefore, cooking in the kitchen all day with high-calorie but low nutrient dense foods would be harder than enduring an unsuccessful removal of a molar tooth.
I went out to pick up the food and listened to Mike Rowe talk about dirty jobs. It was a good interview but all I remember is how I beautiful his voice was through the speakers. I could listen to him talk about nothing for hours.
Ma and Pa arrived early and I wouldn’t expect anything less. My wife Charlie held the fort down while I was out. I imagine my sister, Sarah, rolling her eyes at the fact that they were headed down the 5 Freeway well before we had expected them.
I arrived with an impressive platter of Mediterranean paninis along with a party sized avocado salad that nobody ate. My brother and his tribe showed up a little bit later, and I wasn’t mad at it. With three young boys under your wing, apparently, it takes more time to do things.
A large reason why I enjoy these get togethers is because they adopt a similar posture to that of traveling to nowhere. A journey instead of a race. Nobody has an angle and it seems like we check the time less during these moments.
Earlier in the day, I had placed two papa-san chairs in our back side driveway. My only interest was that maybe two people would have a conversation here.
After a serviceable lunch, I sat down with my two nephews to watch a documentary series titled Africa. The two Giraffe bulls swinging their long necks at each other put me in a trance. Perhaps David Attenbourgh’s magical ability to create suspense with his paused narrative had an effect on me. My nephews on the other hand, thought it was hilarious.
An afternoon nap would be rude, so I pick myself up and head toward the garage to grab a bottled water. My brother is out on the backside driveway sitting one of the papa-san chairs. I twist open my water bottle, then tear off the soggy wrapping and slam myself down next him.
It’s Sunday. So there’s an undramatic energy to our posture. We both lay back. He rubs his eyes , then swept both hands from the top of his forehead all the way down to his jawbone and finishes that off with an audible breath.
The two youngest nephews are playing a game they made up in front of us in the driveway. It involves a yoga ball they got from my garage and throwing it at each other as hard as possible – it’s only a matter of time before one gets a blow that’s foul play. The youngest, seemingly running for his life from his older brother, gets blasted in the side of the head. The impact heaved him several feet. His knee scraps first. Then his elbow. Luckily, his face avoided the concrete. He laid there for a moment. Looked up at us in a lost confusion; almost like if he was wondering if he should cry or not. Finally, the dry tears came. Papa hugged him and reassured that he was okay. Not more than 10 minutes later, they invented another game.
It’s nearing the end of the year, and so the topic of what-went-well and what’s-on-the-agenda-for-next year came up between my brother and me.
Both of us respect the value of goal setting and chasing your dream – whatever that means. However, I sensed that we both have grown tired of trying to live a dream that no longer serves either of us. We both rattled off past aims, missed targets, and ill-advised objectives that left some deep scars. And the reason why these carried so much weight was because we allowed them to define who we were.
I thought of a time when I truly believed I was going to be a professional basketball player. I wasn’t under the illusion that the NBA was in the picture. The PNBA was more like it.
I thought of a time when I truly believed that my gym was going to be the business that carried me into old-age. I didn’t have a desire to run multiple Anytime Fitness chains. The BodyBuilders Gym in Silverlake, CA was more of what I wanted.
Neither of these dreams panned out. Life is a great mystery and I’m an easily confused man. So, a long while ago, I quit the agony of trying to figure out why these dreams didn’t work. One thing I have kept close – whether more accurate or simply for psychological comfort – is this: I’ve evolved rather than failed.
You could also tease out the fact that some dreams aren’t meant to last forever.
Currently, I’m in a dream where my ideas, words, and influence catch on cultivating a portfolio of work that provides for me. This time around, I’ve entered this dream with some distance. By doing so, I do not become the dream. Instead, I’m trying to exercise the truth that living up to a dream is far less important than what the ambition has to teach me.
Overeating makes you sleepy and doesn’t provide a lively environment so everybody decided to leave once the insulin crash arrived. Hank, just as turned-on as he was when everyone arrived, says goodbye with a few licks. His eyes are blood-shoot and his tongue is hanging a full five inches from his mouth. The kids worked him out.
The next day, I thought about my sister based on the conversation my brother and I had on the back side patio. I asked her, “What do you want to do in five years?”
She said, “Hopefully have my career by then, travel to Cebu, get married and have kids.”
I smiled and texted back, “And what if those things don’t happen?”
“I guess I’ll just see what happens,” was her reply.
Photo: Getty Images