I’d Rather Die Than Stop Living

Sambhaji’s elementary school had a feast before Thanksgiving. Parents were invited to eat in the cafeteria with their child’s class.

When Sambhaji got home that afternoon he told me I wasn’t the only dad who couldn’t make it – an attempt at comforting both of us I think. “Drew’s dad was there,” he said. “He said he knows you…can I play at Drew’s house?”

After a confusing few minutes of back and forth I figured out that Drew’s dad knew me but I didn’t know him. Sambhaji knitted his eyebrows at me and then slouched off disappointed and confused.

Sambhaji’s six now and guided through the most confusing parts of life by Penelope, who’s collected much wisdom in her eight years of living. She counseled her little brother in the next room while I rinsed his thermos and put away his lunch box.

Drew’s dad knows your dad because your dad is famous…he was famous…once…a long long long time ago…before I was born…but now he helps children.”

My worst fear as a teenager was that I’d never change, never really live. I watched the teacher played by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society demand that his students suck all the marrow out of life and something said “amen” inside of me.

And I watched my grandmother, my dad’s mom, cling to sameness and refuse to live. She suffered a stroke when I was small and, for decades afterward, never left her living room – “living” the same day again and again until she and her television moved to a nursing home where they continued to spend day after identical day together for several more years.

I’d rather die than stop living.

Penelope’s version of my story is too simplistic to be totally completely true. I was, for instance, never all that famous. And, also, I didn’t trade my fifteen minutes for helping children. But at the heart of her retelling is a truth about my life I’m glad she sees: I’ve changed. I’ve lived.

I don’t think today the way I did when I was nineteen. I don’t care today about the things that demanded so much of my attention when I was in my twenties.

My priorities, lifestyle, beliefs, work…they’ve all evolved. I’m not the same person reliving the same day again and again. I’m alive. And living things grow, reach upward, move outward.

I was mostly a musician before Penelope was born. A long long long time ago. And today I mostly help children.

I turn forty this month. Unafraid. Still changing. Living.