In the Galasso family, we have a birthday tradition. When we are all gathered together for the birthday meal, we go around the table, and each person relates his or her favorite memory of the birthday person. When I was with Emily last Sunday, she wouldn’t let me leave until she had told me her favorite memory of me. I had almost forgotten this ritual, and I’m so glad she didn’t. Today would have been Jim’s 51st birthday. We would be celebrating our combined 100th birthday. (We went to a couple’s 100th birthday party once…huge affair with fireworks and everything!) Well, in Thich Nhat Hahn’s words, it is another Continuation Day. Jim continues in all kinds of ways on this earth. Ripples of his deeds, his attitude, his progeny, his molecules and other whatnot are still around.
So here is a favorite memory of Jim that came to me on my birthday this past Sunday. Steve and I were at the Ravinia music festival in Chicago. We had what they call “lawn seats”, which means we were picnicking on the grounds around the pavilion where we could hear the music on the loudspeakers and see the band (Lyle Lovett and his Large Band) on the jumbo screen. In other words, the cheap seats. It’s a great family set up. People bring their kids, their food, their lawn chairs and everyone picnics in their own style. Right in front of us was a family with 2 daughters and a newborn son. I watched the father lie down flat on their picnic blanket and place his little squirming boy on top of his chest. His daughters were hovering around touching the baby, but it was clear that Dad was not giving up his position of baby bed. I looked long at them. I thought of how obvious it was that the father was enjoying having a son, although he might have been just as proud and affectionate with his infant daughters. And, of course, I thought of Jim. With little infant Josh on his huge barrel chest, he looked just like that. Happy, comfortable, proud, protective.
Why is that one of my favorites? Because I loved seeing him take deep pleasure in his life, in things that wholly involved him. In these moments there is suffering, there is sacrifice, there is emotion and responsibility and joy. He didn’t often have words to articulate all that was stirred up in him, but he would look up at me with a tear in his eye, and I’d know what he felt. I think that was when he was closest to touching the water, to experiencing the ultimate dimension of reality.
So now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite memory of Jim?