Saturday Morning in Nashville

I’m in Nashville. It’s Saturday morning.

Well, it’s Saturday morning one week ago. I usually write these blogs one week in advance. On Saturdays. If it was 1986, I’d be watching cartoons. Garfield or Heathcliffe or Transformers. That sort of thing. But it’s 2020. So I’m almost 40 and I write blogs. I’d probably rather be six and watching cartoons.

I kid. I’m glad to be an adult and writing is good for me. These blogs are good for me. I hope they’re good for you, too. Back to Nashville.

The plane landed last Thursday. It was snowing. Talk about your bad luck. A snowstorm in Nashville in February? Pretend I’m Rodney Dangerfield when you read the next sentence in this paragraph. Take my climate change, please!

Zing.

Anyway.

I met some friends from Minnesota in Nashville. They’d planned a weekend getaway to celebrate being forty. Or being on the cusp of forty. I’m on the cusp. I’ve got a few more months of youth and beauty before these boyish good looks start to fade. There was also an academic conference in Nashville last weekend. So I killed a couple of birds with the same stone. Saw my best friends from high school, schmoozed with some brilliant literacy scholars from around the country, and enjoyed that Tennessee snow.

I wrote about being overwhelmed in last Saturday’s blog. Here’s a good piece of advice: It is good to shake up your routine when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Do something different. Kick off the rust. Flying to Nashville for a few days was doing something out of my routine. Sometimes breaking your routine is voluntary. Sometimes it isn’t.

***

I don’t really want to write this next thing.

My nephew passed away last week. He was twenty. I got the call from my aunt a few days before the Nashville getaway. In the middle of a busy week of running here and there.

My aunt raised my nephew. She is something of a mother to me. My aunt is a beautiful, kind, and caring woman. Endlessly generous with her love. I wrote about her in my book Determined Weeds. She’s very important to me. The news that she lost my nephew was devastating. The news that he was gone was devastating.

Here’s something I hate about living 1,000 miles from my home. I couldn’t drive over to Polly’s house and hug her and cry. Instead, I wept on the drive home from the gas station. And I held onto my emotions during the flight out to Nashville. And I called my aunt on Saturday morning in Nashville. Well, last Saturday morning. And I heard her voice and I started to cry. Walking through Vanderbilt’s campus and crying. I looked like a lunatic. I’ve got so much love for my aunt. My nephew, too.

I don’t really want to write anything about him, because who am I to write anything about him? We really weren’t very close. But he was family. It usually takes me years to process loss. So there’s really nothing for me to write or say right now. Just feel. There’s a heaviness with me as I take a moment between conference sessions to knock out this blog. I can’t pretend there isn’t.

My aunt broke the news about my mom dying to me. She told me about my stepfather, too. I can’t tell you the number of times she’s hugged me as I wept. I have such love for her. And I hate to see her in pain. That’s all.

Sometimes breaking from your routine is voluntary. And sometimes it isn’t.

***

A few days away from home. Held some heavy emotions. Got some work done. I saw my best friends from high school. Hung out with some smart people. Worried about being away from my wife and my boys. I hate leaving them. I love coming home to them. It was good to get outside of my head for a moment. Head to the south. Walk through a Nashville blizzard. Drink some craft beer. Work on a paper in a Starbucks, surrounded by Vanderbilt students. It was hard to feel the loss of my nephew. To feel my aunt’s pain.

Adulthood is complicated, man. It sure ain’t watching Saturday morning cartoons. Garfield or Heathcliffe or Transformers. Nothing complex there. Just cats and robots.

But you keep moving, I guess. I ended Determined Weeds, a eulogy for my mother, by forgiving her for the ways she hurt me. I wrote that I would move forward, safe in the knowledge that we have been made as we are to contribute to the design of an infinite universe, running wild with powerful life. It’s kind of a poetic sentence. But I wrote the rest of the book to get to the place where I could say something like that and feel like it made sense.

Running wild with powerful life, contributing to an infinite universe. I do think that’s what I’m up to, even if the line sounds corny. I think all of us are probably up to something like that.

And that, my friends, was my Saturday morning in Nashville. Well, last Saturday.

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