When I was 10 years old, and this is true, I wrote a love letter to Olivia Newton John. I don’t remember what message I hoped to convey but I had just seen Grease and connected with her non-conformist, outsider-does-good theme. She didn’t write back. It’s possible she was embarrassed by my profession of love. It’s possible my mother intercepted the letter and it never reached her. I’ll never know.
It’s a memory that safely slept in the recesses of my subconscious until it was Frankensteined back to life by last night’s live TV performance of Grease. It was awful. Unwatchable. Yet, I had to hide my tears from Hannah until I feigned disinterest and left the room to “watch the Pro Bowl” (equally unwatchable).
Back to that in a minute. This year, I reluctantly attended the 20th year reunion of my class of Brooklyn District Attorneys. We enlisted in 1995. It was my first job out of law school, along with 50 other red-shirt lawyers. We spent 5 years together fighting injustice, prosecuting evildoers, consoling crime victims, and standing for truth, justice, and the American Way. Every day was war, and every night was furlough. We were a platoon fighting our way out of a foxhole. Eventually we graduated back to civilian life, trying to measure up to our glory days, but never, ever forgetting the good fight. I count these people as among the very best people I have ever met. So why was I reluctant to see them again? Simple. I always assumed they thought they were better than me. But, really, it was I who thought they were better than me. It’s easier to blame others for our own insecurities. I moved on. Made new friends. Achieved various successes as a lawyer. My days as a prosecutor are way back in the deepest corner of the rear view mirror. But, I forgot – – objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear. And so I went. And it took all of 1 minute for the warmth of our camaraderie to drown my insecurities. I re-connected with people I forgot how much I loved. The depth of my affection was overwhelming.
That reminds me of my recent 25th year high school reunion. Sort of. 4 classmates showed up (and I wasn’t one of them). I heard about it. All 4 spoke. 2 disparagingly of our high school experience. I actually attended an ad hoc reunion last month at a rock concert in which 5 of my classmates coincidently happen to show up. When I saw them walk in, I was ready to slip out. Why? Simple. I always assumed they thought they were better than me. That wasn’t my flaw; It was that I cared one way or the other. It’s an insecurity that literally shaped my adult existence. And, I hated them for it. Which was well and good because they hated me right back. Or did they? You wouldn’t know from our reunion. They were warm and friendly. Decent and honorable guys. One joined my family at a Jets’ tailgate the following Sunday. Could I have been wrong all these years?
That reminds me of two former girlfriends (both read this blog). We dated on and off for years. There were times I assumed I would marry these women. Unfortunately, those times were not while we were dating. You see, while we were dating, I just assumed they thought they were better than me. And, they were. I know that now. I didn’t know it then so I treated them otherwise. But they taught me, more than anyone else, who I am, and how to love (myself and others). It led to spectacular outcomes. For me and them.
That reminds me of my grownup friends. The people I see every week. Whose birthdays I celebrate. Who sit at the dais of my children’s rites of passage. They are a stark contrast to my childhood friends. My lawyer friends. We don’t always see eye to eye. We argue. Over major and petty things. But these are the people I will call first if a neighbor tries to murder me. Or if my children need anything. And, I know they will be there.
That reminds me of a lawyer against whom I am currently adverse. He’s a jerk. He’s obnoxious, arrogant, loud, and simply a terrible lawyer. I wonder how he would describe me?
That reminds me of my father. I wish he were alive. I didn’t appreciate him when he was around. He wouldn’t recognize the man I have become. I need 30 more minutes with him.
I have travelled a very long road since my cousin Alisa took an insecure, immature, obnoxious 10 year old to a Boston movie theatre 35 years ago to watch Grease. It has not been a smooth road. Many dangerous and unanticipated curves. I have loved and hated. I have been loved and hated. I have regrets. 4 major. 10,000 minor.
Watching this awful production of a beloved movie reminded me, not of the journey, but how far I have come. I wouldn’t trade any part of my life or change a single thing. I have done far more good than bad. I have helped far more than I have hurt. And, with the steady collaboration of my wife, I made 4 children who amaze me every day with their bottomless capacity for love and compassion.
What do you say now, Olivia?
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