Columns 2007

New Beginnings

I think it is probably appropriate on many levels that my column should first appear as part of the Daily News on the Fourth of July.  After all, this holiday celebrates the new beginnings of our country and my appearance here celebrates my new beginnings with this paper.

Ok, I’ll grant you that’s somewhat of a stretch.  But stay with me here. I’m writing this while on the East Coast, the temperature is higher than a moose’s shoulder and the humidity is something most Alaskans can only dream about.  There is every chance I’m delirious and don’t know it.

There are a lot of new beginnings happening in my life right now and I guess that’s why the Fourth holds even more meaning than usual for me this year.  I came East for two reasons. One was the marriage of my cousin’s son. The other was the birth of my godchild’s first baby, Rhodes.

While each in its own way is a new beginning, in both these cases there is a little something extra that makes them particularly special starts. In the case of the wedding, my cousin’s son married a Chinese/Vietnamese woman on the beach with a pony tailed Internet licensed minister after first having a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Not exactly your traditional Italian Catholic wedding with little bags of candied almonds at every table.  My cousin, father of the groom, showed up in a three-piece suit, slogging manfully through the sand in shoes more suitable for a business meeting than an Ocean City beach.. My brother, on the other hand, showed up in khaki shorts, flapping Hawaiian shirt and sandals. He took the beach wedding theme seriously.

In heaven, our parents and grandparents looked down on this scene with, I’m guessing, mixed emotions.  On the one hand, I’m sure my mother was taking note of the day and time her son showed up at a family wedding looking like a surf bum so that when he eventually joins her, she’ll have something to discuss with him.  On the other hand, our immigrant grandparents were probably looking down at the scene, shaking their heads in wonder and muttering, “Only in America….” And that’s a good thing because this is part of why they came here – to give their families new beginnings that shook off the cobwebs of the fully circumscribed world into which they’d been born.

After the wedding, I headed further south to see my new great-godchild.  He is, of course, as beautiful as babies get and his mother is as good as mothers get.  His father, unfortunately, is missing all this because he is in Iraq.  So our new mommy sends him pictures, writes long e-mails, and fills him in whenever he can call about all the wonders of their first child, his son Rhodes.  Their new beginning together will be slightly delayed while he continues the tradition of service to our country that started this whole grand experiment of a democratic republic over two hundred years ago.

So there we were, Rhodes’ mommy, grandmom and great-godmother, fussing over him as though he were the boy king, trying our best to make it all seem ok for now and in the future, beating down the fears that came late at night before we fell asleep.

I don’t support this war. I resent the lives of our men and women being sacrificed to it.  And yet I am so proud of Emily’s husband Greg for serving.  Those two seemingly disparate ideas are held together by one thread.  It’s not about his serving in this war. It’s about the fact that he is willing to serve in any war. It’s about his sense of honor and duty to his country. It’s about his courage in following through on the promise made on that July 4th over two hundred years ago by others who willingly put their lives and fortunes on the line so that we can live so free today.

I’m not sure I’ll fully exhale again until I know that Greg is back and is holding his new baby for the first time and smiling into his wife’s eyes in joy at what she has given him.  I do know that I will always be proud of the code he has chosen to live by.

And I think our Founding Fathers would be proud of the children their country has produced. Happy fourth of July.