Saturday, June 1, 2019

Howie Balaban: How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

A few months ago I used this virtual space to announce my intentions to write a book. For the record, I am doing just that, albeit slowly.

Remembering George
For the purpose of this article, though, I’m focusing on the final straw that gave me that last push.

By the time you read this, it will have been a few days since this site’s co-founder, George Root, was memorialized at one of his favorite spots – the Transit Drive-In. In a simple, touching tribute to the big teddy bear, a decent crowd heard from several people about the kind of person George was. Friends and family were given the chance to speak, and afterwards, the Shenanigans crew here at Niagara’s Watercooler hosted a show in the big guy’s memory.

One of the people gracious enough to sit down and share some stories was George’s brother, Richard. He reiterated to us what he had already told the crowd – George was always in search of the moments. We all know, or at least I hope we all know the moments he’s talking about. They’re the ones that, when they do happen, let us know we are, indeed, alive.

Depending on how old you are as a reader of this piece, some of your best moments may not have happened yet. Or, perhaps your best moments are your best simply because better ones are on their way. That’s ok, since the older we get, the more we find ourselves cherishing the moments that matter most.

Are you a teenager? Have you gathered enough courage to finally ask your crush out on a date? Have you felt the butterflies in you stomach spelling out “please don’t say no” in a well choreographed flight? Has your crush said yes? I’ll bet if this moment has happened, especially if for the first time, it’s something you won’t soon forget.

Are you a 20-something-year-old who recently graduated from college and soon thereafter got called for a job interview? How did it go? Did you knock it out of the park? Did you get a call back? Did you get the job? Are you moving out of your parents’ house? Will you ever forget how awesome that feels? (And, in a way, how downright scary it seems at the same time?)

And what about those of you in relationships, hmm? I’m betting a large segment of you reading this have probably know what it’s like to fall in love, get married, and start a family. Think back to each step along the way. Who said the three magic words first? Who popped the question? What’s the proposal story? If you’re fortunate enough to be a parent, how indescribable was the feeling of holding your child for the first time?

For many of us, these are all moments that matter. They shape our lives. They are what we remember. They are part of the story we tell our family and friends.

This past Thursday, though, I started to wonder what my family and friends would say about me. Specifically, will my kids have enough moments to smile about years from now when they think about me after I’m gone? Will there be enough happy memories to keep any tears to a minimum?
Honestly, I don’t know. Right now, I’d probably say no. My oldest kid will only be turning 13 in a few months. My other two are 10 and 5 and I suppose you could say, since I’m not yet 40, we all still have plenty of life left to live and plenty of moments left to share. Maybe this summer we’ll go somewhere – my kids and my wife and I – and something so incredible or funny or incredibly funny will happen and it will become a story retold for years. Maybe a few of us will go to a game or a movie and something memorable will happen and it will become a bit of an inside joke that lasts forever. Who knows?

For now, I’ll look forward to those big moments as they present themselves. In the meantime, I’ll continue to cherish the little moments.

My near-teenager will argue with me over the color of the grass if he could. But if he needs help, he knows I’ll give it so long as I’m able to do so (unless it’s math). Shortly before I wrote this, he sought me out for help on a speech he needed to write. Years from now, if he’s battling with his adolescent kid, I hope he remembers that I helped out when he needed it. Kind of like how I remember getting help from my dad on various writing projects. (I also remember my younger brother asking for help the following way around age 10: “Dad, I need you to teach me the fine art of bull****.” Was it wrong that he said that at that age? Sure. But it was one of those moments!)

The youngest kid in my house loves to be read to, and we’ve gone through some pretty heavy books for someone her age the past few months. I’m now willing to bet she’s the only one in her grade who knows Bambi had a cousin named Gobo and Gobo’s mom was named Ena. I loved when my parents and grandparents read to me as a child. I may not remember the stories they read, but I do remember it was time well spent. I hope my youngest holds on to that.

As for more moments, there’s potential at the Father-Daughter Dance on June 1. I’ll be there with both of my daughters. My 10-year-old may put me under strict instructions not to dance. My 5-year-old may want to do nothing but dance. We’ll see what happens.

All of this is to say that George’s brother was right. The moments in our lives make our lives. They tell our story. Forget the lawn, or the laundry, or the dirty dishes. (Well, don’t entirely forget them. Certain tasks like those need to be done.) Take the time to make as many moments as possible. Make sure that when they tell your story, there are so many moments in it someone will always be able to hear something about you they hadn’t heard before, and it’ll make them smile.

Howie Balaban is happy to be writing again on a new computer. The one he was using finally gave out. It wouldn’t have qualified as a technological dinosaur, but it certainly could have passed for a woolly mammoth.