A little over 18 years ago, my sister called me up with an extremely strange request. She asked me if I wanted to go watch my six-year-old nephew play T-ball. No, who in their right mind would want to drive an hour to watch six-yea- olds play that? That was the response that was in my head, but what I actually said was “yes,” and that “yes” changed the course of my life.
I was a couple of months sober at that point, with not a pot to piss in and only my parents’ gracious window to throw it out of. Every day, I would say to my sponsor, “When’s it going to get better?” He used to say, “Do your twelve-step job,” and he promised that it would get better. I had no idea what that job was or even what “better” was. But I would go to my twelve-step meetings early, and help set up, and stay late to help clean up. This was not out of nobility or humility. I simply had nothing else to do, and I was so scared that I would start drinking again. If that was my twelve-step job, then I was working overtime.
My nephew was the cutest little kid, just a bundle of joy. That joy, however, used to bring me pain because when you are in the grips of addiction or sometimes just plain old life, that’s what it does. I used to make promises to him that I couldn’t keep, and, God, they were amazingly grandiose. Do my twelve-step job. What the hell was he talking about? Does he even know what he was talking about or was he just repeating something that he had heard? Do you want to watch your nephew play T-ball or do your twelve-step job? Yes, I will go watch him play. Yes, I will borrow my parents’ car, ask them for a few dollars for food, and pray that the directions they gave me didn’t leave out one turn, and do my twelve-step job.
Holy, you know what? He just hit his first home run, and I got to see it. He looked at me, and I was there. I knew I had to do more of this. I wanted to take him to all his firsts. Yes, still grandiose. But there we were at his first Yankee game; he was dressed head to toe in the Yankee gear that we had purchased right before the game. There we were at his first Devils game, his choice, not mine. As he handed me his Twizzlers, which he had just used as a straw with which to drink his hot chocolate, using my hand for his garbage, I remember thinking how lucky can one guy be.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was not the greatest of uncles. I probably did many of those things for myself as much as I did them for him. I guess it was never just about his life. It was more about my life being saved by him. We all need that in life. When the life storm hits, and Lord knows I’ve had many life storms, thankfully, he’s had many firsts that needed attending.
A lot of people right now are caught in the life storm. Heck, most of the country feels like it’s being hit with the effects of the storm. All I can say to whoever is suffering now is, “Go find your nephew.” For a moment, stop thinking about this damn election. Take a break from the politicians. Lord knows they take breaks from us. For a moment, whether your guy won or gal lost, think about what’s important. Yes, I know this is the “most defining time in history,” not us winning World War II, not us landing on the moon, not that Moses guy and not that Jesus guy. Is this where we take our stand on what defines us? Hell no, at least not for me. Find your “nephew,” and one time only, I’ll be politically correct and say, you can find your “niece,” too. Life is so much bigger than elections. I almost forgot that.
As I sit on a plane heading to his wedding, another first, all I can think about is: “But for the grace of a higher power, the twelve steps, my parents, my friends, and saying yes, I could have missed it all.” So, when I see family members and friends this weekend who are really “suffering” from current events all I want to do is say to them, “Suck it up, and grow up.” God, even though I really want to do that, I have to remember how upset I was in 2008, but I had another first then, too, my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. Others’ joy no longer brings me pain, and others’ pain no longer brings me joy. For one weekend, let’s all say “yes” to our T-ball invitations.