Friday, July 25, 2008

This guy died today.

I wrote some notes down a few weeks back and this news made me go back to look for them. As I’ve said before, I have an ongoing conversation with you in my head. Only 20% or so of what I think makes its way into these letters to you. I write down notes or send myself emails about what I am thinking, but then I get too lazy to put it on here.

I listen to books on my iPod. For some reason I get a bit sick to my stomach when I read on the bus. It started this year. So I get a book to listen to on my way to and from work. I figure I am saving the planet and getting a little bit smarter all at the same time.

One of the books I listened to recently was Randy Pausch's Last Lecture. He is a guy who is about my age who is dying of pancreatic cancer. His book is taken from a lecture he gave after he knew he was dying. The lecture was given at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon is where my friend Mike went to college. I used to visit him there a lot.

In the lecture, Randy Pausch talks about how to live life and how to die. He provides “life lessons” for his kids, and millions of others who are buying his book and watching his video on the Internet. It is a magnificent way of saying goodbye. And a beautiful gift to his family and friends.

When you are shooting around in basketball, you want to make one last “really good shot” before you leave the court. You can’t go out on a miss. It has to be a shot of substance, like one from the foul line or behind the arc. If Joe is practicing hitting, he needs to hit a nice fly ball, not a grounder, to wrap things up so we can go home.

You can have that last really great shot in life too.

I was thinking about this with Tim Russert. I had just watched the last Meet the Press show the weekend before he died. When I was watching I was thinking that it was one of the best episodes of the show I’d ever seen.

My own personal takeaway from the Last Lecture is that you should go for the “magic” in life with guns ablazin’.

He tells a story about how he painted his room when he was a kid. I think he includes the story for a few reasons, but one of the most important is to say to parents or anyone in authority, “let people try, let them express themselves.” He says in the lecture if your kid wants to paint the walls of their room, let them do it. What is a room anyway. It isn’t like anything is getting broken or anyone is getting hurt.

My first inclination when Joe wanted to put all of the pictures of sports heroes on his walls was, “no way.” I mean, we painted your bedrooms and put up wall paper and stuff. But you know what, it is his room and that is his space. He is expressing himself. Mom was totally into it, and I adjusted my thinking in about 2 seconds.
I know that he got his inspiration from Jake Mintz’s room. I should take a picture of the room and put it here.

Your little brother has run out of room in his room. Two days ago I helped him blaze a new trail. We put a poster of Gilbert Arenas up on his ceiling. I placed it right over his bed so Joe can see it when he opens his eyes in the morning. Joe bought it at the Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend.

With the pictures and the posters and the baseball cards spilling from every nook and cranny, his room - your old room - is a very magical space.

I think we made your life pretty magical too. Mom was the prime mover on that and she inspired me, like she did with Joe’s room, to get with the program and to work hard at it.

Since he wasn’t going to be able to be with them as they grew up, Randy Pausch includes some specific advice for his kids about living life and achieving your dreams. There were a few things he said that I thought were worth putting down on here, but I have forgotten them. Maybe I will relisten to the book.

I have my own stuff I think is important to impart to your brothers. I think I’ll use the new blogs to tell them. I have and am trying to get too. I give your brothers a few how to live life suggestions everyday, as does Mom, but I think writing things down for them to read someday will help reinforce the message.

In fact just the other day I realized that I am entering a new phase with Jack. We are starting to communicate through email. I told him something on my way out the door to go to work, and when waiting for the bus I wrote him an email – which he now uses to keep in touch with friends from camp - with more thoughts on the subject.

The subject was being nice to Joe. I had told him that now that he’s back among us he needs to try and be nicer to his/your younger brother. I said that he should do the opposite of what he normally would do. If he wanted to ignore Joe, he should instead engage him. Ask him how he is doing, what is he up to. I explained it might just freak out Joe enough to make him less annoying to Jack.

When I got to the bus stop, I sent Jack an email and encouraged him to look at this challenge like he is an actor playing the part of the nice, concerned, loving older brother. If he can put it in that context, he might actually grow into the role. It may become natural to him.

We’ll see.

I will look through my notes for some of my life lessons. I did find something I emailed to myself that just says, “speak… listen.” That's a big one for me. I’ll explain that one in another letter.

More soon.

Lot’s of love.

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