Do you believe in destiny? How about fate? Destiny sounds hopeful and wishful, while fate smacks of disappointment. If you're tracing life’s trajectory, try drawing a direct line to the moment when your destiny was determined. Not easy, is it? Now do fate; look for the exact moment when fate reared its ugly head. Destiny and fate are two sides of the same coin.
One may also argue there’s no rhyme or reason for the way things turn out. Just throw your hands up and let the cards fall where they may. Well, I say f#ck that. I believe in destiny. The subject of fate — we’ll save that for another day. Today is about destiny.
After graduating from Cornell, my peers launched their careers in vibrant cities across the country — Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, New York. Me, on the other hand: I moved into my grandmother’s screened-in porch and slept on a beat-up Lazy Boy reeking of cigars. While most 20-somethings explored brewpubs and ballparks and queued up for concerts and Sunday brunch, I chauffeured my grandmother to Wegmans and took long, meandering walks down by the railroad tracks along the lake.
Eventually, I settled in Ithaca, opened a bustling little sandwich shop, got bored, sold it, then turned an abandoned downtown restaurant into a hopping Pacific-Caribbean eatery. One afternoon while prepping for the dinner rush I looked up and saw a young, stunning bombshell of a girl walk into the dining room. At that very moment the overhead lights flickered, stereo speakers sputtered and blew out, the floor started to sway, and (I swear) the entire city block had a power outage and went dark.
“Who is THAT?” I asked Jessica (the waitress). She was filling salad dressings and hadn't noticed the earthquake trembling beneath my feet. She turned to me and said (rather bruskly), “That’ s my sister. Don’t touch her.”
Thirty years later I am standing on my patio staring at an IPhone propped up on the picnic table. I haven't had a real haircut in twelve months. Emily is turning 52 and our daughter Bella has arranged for thirty-five of her closest friends and relatives to crowdsource a surprise Tribute video. The prompt is something simple like “think of something nice to say about Emily.”
After twenty-five years of a happy marriage and raising four active, healthy (and some might add smart, considerate, ambitious) children in Colorado, the prospect of encapsulating (in three minutes or less) Emily’s natural beauty, instinctual bravery, her oodles of emotional intelligence, street smarts and fashion tastes, her extreme generosity of spirit, to artfully communicate all of her virtues and accolades — in a selfie-video, with a desperate need for a hair cut — well, that is a damn-near impossible task.
The day Emily walked into my restaurant and shook my very foundations, the arc of destiny bent toward a life fulfilled and enriched with the glow of shared laughter and joy, redemption and loss, happiness and love.
What is that saying — a picture is worth a thousand words? Hold my beer.
Happy #52 Emily. Here’s to a very good year!