It was a day like any other in America, perhaps a bit more promising. A too-young mother-to-be was watching television, a comedy, and smoking a cigarette. It was the late 1960's, turbulent, war-time...and the young woman escaped like so many others into a TV world of simple, slapstick comedy. Goofball characters brought to life by great comedians, the writing often tinged with sly political undercurrents, but to most Americans, simply a reprieve from the news. The show was called Laugh-In, and laugh she did. So hard in fact that she went into labor and at 2 o'clock in the morning the very next day, a new life began.
A few short years later, on a crisp autumn morning, the young mother was reading the newspaper, the comics to be exact. As she was reading, she was laughing. And the boy was listening, watching, and wondering. He reached out and tugged at her jeans, gazed up at his mother, and asked, "What are you laughing at?" She looked down at the boy and responded, "Oh honey, you wouldn't understand?" and returned to her reading. The boy paused, stomped one foot, glared at his mother, and very nearly growled, "I can't wait 'til I can read!"
And that morning proved to be prophetic for the boy could not wait...for anything it seemed. He read voraciously and studied as if his life depended on it. He was enthralled by all things academic, especially words and language and politics. But his passion did not stop there. He practiced his chosen sport almost addictively, four or five hours a day. He loved to laugh, so much so that it was often impossible for him to stop until his eyes were filled with tears. He cared for his family, and friends, and animals. He believed, and trusted, and forgave, and believed again. He was being raised Catholic and that suited him fine because he loved Mass. As strange as this may sound, even as a boy, he experienced the Mass, felt it, the oneness, the stillness. Faith was effortless for this boy, and eventually for the young man he would become. Faith is easy, when you are young.
And so this life began. He believed in his family, in God, and in the American experiment. He believed in his youth and in his dreams, and that life and the world were fair and that justice prevailed if only you worked to secure it.
He was a lovely young man. Looking at him now it is almost hard to believe that I grew to despise him so very much. His trusting and naive nature left us open, laid bare to predators, liars, and eventually, a violence he could never have imagined. But as I write him, revisiting his passion, excitement, innocence, and wonder...I can't help but forgive him, embrace him, and recall that he is in so many ways the best part of who I was...who I am. The boy, the man...born of laughter.