Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lessons Dennis Taught Me

It would have been hard to attend last night's Spring Party without feeling like some turning point had been made from grief to celebration.  I don't think any of my Talking Points were discussed, but that's ok.  We had a good time.

I know that some of these posts are hard to read and I apologize for that.  One of the things about writing every day is that you have to pluck whatever is fresh and for the past five days, this is the only thing I can think about.  For those that were close to Dennis (and there are a lot of you), I hope it is helpful.  For everyone else, thanks for sticking around.

The story of a older man teaching a younger man how to live life is trite, played out, and Hallmarky.  Nevertheless, in a way, we are all teaching each other something about how to live life every day we live it; young or old.  Dennis didn't mind giving tips along the way, always starting his sentence with "You know..."  I'm going to trip down that path of triteness to share some of those tips.

1.  Ignore the people.  Play with the dogs.  As I've mentioned before, Dennis was here two weekends ago for drinks by the fire pit.  He loved our dogs.  We come downstairs to the basement, as I'm explaining the wine I picked out, he bends down, picks up a rawhide from the ground, and puts it in his mouth.  In.  His.  Mouth.  Everyone stopped talking and laughed.  My dog Brodie, quiet up until this point, begins to bark in protest.  Dennis just looks down at him, eyes wide, and offers a mocking growl through the whitened cow-hide gripped in his teeth.  My other dog Baxter begins to bark.  Dennis returns the rawhide to Brodie and peace is restored. 

Drink. In. Hand.
2.  Always Dance.  I can't really remember if Dennis was a good dancer, but I know that at just about every event in which there was a dance floor, he would spend some part of it dancing...with any woman who could keep up.  In a community as small as ours, people normally keep their cards close to their vest.  The dance floor is rarely full, but for those who have spent the past decade taking dance classes to show how great of a relationship they have with their significant other.  In the background of stiff method and structure, Dennis would explode in celebration.  One of my favorite memories of Dennis will be from this year's Evening in the Stacks.  A guest of one of our friends, someone Dennis had never met before, asked if Dennis would like to dance.  He did not blink.  "Yes."  Dennis charged out to the floor, not to do some white guy shoulder shimmy, but a full on spin and twirl and clap and groove dance.  We should all be so brave.

3.  Remember their humanity.  No matter how much Dennis may agree or disagree with someone, he never held them up or down past eye level.  We're all equal.  You can respect someone's successes and be frustrated by their actions, but you always give them a route back to a handshake.  I'll never forget the time he had Allen Dyer on his podcast.  I expected fireworks.  Dennis was going to do justice!  He sent me a text message shortly after the podcast was over, saying "Ok podcast.  Dyer's a pretty good guy after all."  And if you listen to the podcast, you don't hear a polemic looking to embarrass or shame someone (who was kind enough to take time out to be on the podcast), but rather a meeting of humanity around the petty issues of politics.  He saw through the fog.  That doesn't mean he had super-human power to avoid anger or gossipy disdain.  Dennis just knew how to get back to center and treat them like a person when it mattered most.

4.  Drink good wine.  Eat good meat.  Here's one of my favorite quotes from Dennis's Heart Attack Guy Blog: "I still enjoy drinking more than a couple glasses of wine and I have no intention of giving up steak. It is just that now I savor those indulgences a bit more. If I am going to have some wine it is going to be GOOD wine. The same goes for steak. If I am going to have a steak is going to be USDA Prime."  This extended so much further than his culinary habits.  Whatever it is you're doing, do the best available.  Have a day off from work?  Find something fun to do.  Going out to eat?  Don't go somewhere you've been before, unless you know it will be great.  I never saw the man drink a Budweiser.  He would make the bartender read off the tap list every time.

5.  Be Curious.  I said this before, but it really was Dennis's defining characteristic.  I couldn't help but laugh a little at a picture posted in memory of Dennis by Lisa.  It shows an arrangement of ribbons on the pier around Lake Kitt.  About a month ago, Dennis sent me a text asking "What's going on Downtown?"  I responded that I had no idea, but that CA wasn't doing anything.  He said "I think you're wrong" and sent me a picture of the ribbons.  That certainly stirred my interest and I promised him I would find out.  Two weeks ago I was talking with someone from CA and remembered to ask them about the ribbons.  They responded "Looks pretty doesn't it?  It's to keep the geese from sh#tting on our pier."

Dennis would have loved that.  I never had a chance to answer the riddle, but am sure he would have wanted to post about it.  Whenever I see those ribbons, I think of him...and goose sh#t.

Someone last night told me that things are never going to go back to normal.  I think that's probably right.  But we're going to have to figure out a way to make the new normal as rich, fun, and exciting as it was when Dennis was around.  This weekend is Wine in the Woods.  Dennis did not care for Wine in the Woods, but he sure as heck would not stay home when everyone else was outside.  We met at Clyde's Beer Festival, just down the street.

You live in an amazing place with amazing people.  Get out and enjoy it.  Make time for your friends.  Make time for yourself. 

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!  Rock on.