Shoes Walk Back Time

Getting older continually brings along unexpected challenges.

The other day I found myself waiting for a red light. Looking to my left I spotted an old friend looking back my way – a pair of black and white checkered Vans tennis shoes propped up on the truck’s dashboard. It was, as the saying goes, Deja Vue all over again.

I first owned a pair checkered Vans in 1982, the same year the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High hit theaters. One of the key characters, a fun, life-loving surfer name Jeff Spicoli, sported a pair, forever elevating the shoes into pop culture.

Fast forward 37 years and here the shoes again staring me in the face. And now for the third time around the fashion universe.

As an adult, you learn to appreciate you can – or should – only wear a fashion once in your lifetime. The theory is in life you grow and evolve into a new person over time. But on a more honest level, many of us would look ridiculous in the clothes we wore in our younger days. I’m sorry but I am not going back to the over-the-top mullet located a few feet north of my first pair of checkered Van’s.

But at what point, or how many times, can a fashion come around before you can hop back on the train? Or, maybe, more importantly, should you?

Recently the women’s fashion world welcomed back the high-waisted jean from the ’80s along with the smattering of the abrasive acid wash finish. Looking at them brings back happy memories from when my wife and I were younger and pretty much making up life day by day. More ahead of us than behind us, so to speak.

But today, looking at returning fashions is like watching reruns of my life. Florescent colors, shoulder pads, and geometric patterns seem to be escaping from the dark corners of closets and back onto streets and runways. And at this rate, I almost feel as if the fashion world if following a predictable dotted line back through time.

I loved my black and white checkered Vans. As a skater, a pair of Vans was a staple in my closet. Long wearing gum soles, tough canvas tops, and no-nonsense design made these a favorite. That and they were from a mystical land called California.

But where do we draw the line? My closet still contains four pair of Vans, two lace, one slip, and another model designed for, ahem, their older clientele featuring lavish padding an elevated and squishy sole for comfort.

But I ache for my black and white Vans. Maybe they represented my youth as tie-die did for my older cousins wore in the sixties. Maybe they remind me of a carefree time when if I carried enough change for a burger and didn’t stay out too late, life would be fine. After all, summers were all about skating, hanging with friends, and more skating.

Maybe just one more pair for old times’ sake?

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Father’s Day Never Ends

In a strange turn of events, I am learning to be a father all over again.

No, there is not an unexpected addition coming to our current empty-nesting stage of life. Rather, unexpectedly, the change is coming from inside of me. What I’m learning is once your kids bloom and leave the nest, the tools in your parenting toolbox find themselves being reshuffled.

My wife and I have two wonderful young adults. Both honest, hard-working, kind-hearted, and are genuinely concerned about those around them. And with their independence comes us searching through the parenting toolbox for assistance, using familiar tools but in different ways.

I remember Day One with each of them. While I didn’t know what to do, friends assured me my instincts would bubble up and I’d be fine. If that didn’t work, there were millions of books in print to help me become an uber-parent. I soon owned a library.

Today, however, is a new world. As suddenly as children came into our lives, they are gone from beneath the protection of riding out storms beneath the safety of our wings and nest. And the role as a parent, or my case as a father, are now noticeably different.

The rules of life have not changed – honestly, caring for others, and knowing your happiness is self-selected choice remain universal. But as a parent, migrating from instruction to coaching is increasingly important. Not every challenge in their lives requires input or action on my part. And that, if anything, is a difficult instinct to suppress as a parent.

Recently our daughter found herself on the front end of a life-changing medical condition. And while we are blessed to be able to help her on both medical and emotional support fronts, the real battle is being waged inside of her mind. And increasingly we realizing this a moment in life where the outcome of her internal struggle will be shaped by more of what is inside of her than anything we can do or say. For the best outcome, she needs to be in charge.

Now, nearly 6-months into this chapter, we’ve met a new person, one suddenly mature, able to look forward without being unsettled by fear, and genuinely interested in helping others with a similar condition. She is truly a remarkable person and one I am proud to call my daughter.

And our son, who seems to have a denizen gene sewn into his soul, is possibly one of the most caring and kind people I’ve ever met. With his mother’s heart and itch to wander and explore all the world offers, he makes me proud to know he calls me dad.

When I thought of parenting, I pictured the window from infant to teenager. What I’m learning is there is a whole different spectrum ahead, one as demanding of change on me as it was on them as children. And for that, I thank God for the opportunity to be a father and this rewarding journey.

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Magic Discovered In Small Town

Apalachicola, Florida is either in the middle of nowhere or the center of the universe depending on who is doing the talking.

“There is magic in this town,” says the man, his gravel-voice resonating inside the four walls of the 100-year old brick building.

“I don’t know why, but it keeps calling me back.”

I’m standing inside a small room filled with tools, spare bicycle parts, and a man who can’t get the tiny panhandle fishing town out of his heart. With a population of an average family short of 2,300, making a living with a bike shop could be considered a long shot. For many, their regular work transportation is rhythmically bumping up against the wooden docks a few hundred yards to the east.

Apalachicola is one of those special places in the world where you can sit in a wooden chair eating oysters confidently knowing they were recently in the water you are staring across.

My new friend’s soul is as colorful as a tie-dye t-shirt. As a wanderer, he biked across the country several times, both east to west and north to south. He also paddled a canoe along the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific coastline. One of those trips included a stop in Apalachicola.

I look around the room and ask the obvious, wondering about how he came to learn to work on bikes.

“When I was about nine or ten my dad bought me a starter set of Craftsman tools, probably more than anything else to keep me out of his.”

A smile as warm as a humid bay breeze washes through his voice.

“I’d take my bike apart trying to figure out how it worked. After I put the thing back together my dad would then take it to the local bike shop to get it running again.”

One small toolbox led to a life that included working on yachts in the Caribbean, taking mechanical jobs in Alaska, and learning to fix about anything that could break. An artist with his tools, so to say.

But in a remarkable twist, the gift led him to create art from spare bicycle parts laying around his shop in a town that captured his heart.

The ground around the storm-worn red brick building is populated with animated sculptures, some whimsical, others as curious as to the materials used to create them. A giant sphere, much like an oversized rubber band ball, sits in the sun, created with thousands of recycled bicycle tubes. Nearby a large hexagon shape, one similar to found playgrounds years ago, is built from old bicycle rims.

His modest ego, as flat as the panhandle itself, points to a framed paper certificate on the wall.

“Yeah, the city even once gave me an award for the art out there,” he says.

A room fan hums in the background as I read the proclamation.

And it is then I realize he is unknowingly a part of the magic in the small town. And he is finally home.

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Marsh Provides New Reflection

Hindsight is a remarkable thing – a moment of clarity that can only come from a different point of view.

This came to me while riding my bike along a wooded marsh trail along the east coast. But the reference was not to choices in life, but rather how differently my eyes interpreted my surroundings backtracking along the same trail. Even though I was in the same state, same town, and even the same GPS coordinates, my perceptions of my surroundings dramatically changed.

On one stretch, crossing a wooden bridge through a lush green marsh, a sun-bleached and decaying cypress tree lay fallen half in the water. As I approached, the silhouette gave the appearance of a bony skeletal hand reaching upwards out of the water. The light pouring from behind added an element of harsh starkness catapulting the image from all other surroundings. My bike wheels came to a stop to admire emotive Mother Nature-created sculpture.

Ten minutes later, backtracking the same trail, the arresting image didn’t even catch my attention. Instead this time the sculpture faded into the background of trees draping Spanish Moss down into the grass below, colorful finches darting around branches, and long reeds of grass slowing dancing in unison in the coastal breeze.

Pausing again I found myself realizing I had been there before – not the stretch of trail, but when reflecting on moments in life and seeing items and events in different ways.

Hindsight is not always about being right or wrong, but more about having the clarity to see the same objects or events from a different perspective.

I have crossed this figurative bridge many times in my life. Evolving goals, values, and behaviors become fluid as we mature. As a teenager, an attention-getting car with a big V-8 motor and loud tailpipes consumed my brain time. But today, a car that starts each day is safer than average in an accident, and I don’t need to worry about how much gas it consumes represents my current values.

In life, I have seen the same arch of life play out. My younger self thought to have the right house, in the right neighborhood, and the right clothes were the image a successful adult would project. But I was wrong. Today I realize a successful adult lives a life of loving and respectful family and friends, does not fall trap to the material game of who-dies-with-the-most-toys-when-they- die game, and can find time to read a good book now and then.

Along the way – or my trail of life – the sun moved across my shoulders and allowing me to view the world from a different point of view. Not right or wrong, but simply different. Today I see the world through a different set of eyes – as different as backtracking across the wooden bridge through the coastal marsh.

Truth is life is an evolving experiment. And while we are naturally encouraged to always be moving forward, a little backtracking can prove both rewarding and revealing.

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