This morning, I went for a short walk with my dog. I don’t normally take morning walks because we live in West Florida. Here in this part of the world we have two seasons: Scorching Biblical Hell, and November.
Normally, if you were to go for a walk on a summer morning, you would dehydrate before you made it back home. They would find you lying in the dirt road, face down, with your last will and testament typed on your phone as a text message.
So it is officially autumn. The air is no longer quite so humid, it now has a little bite to it. I carry a mug of coffee in my hand while I wait for my dog to make pee-pee.
I wave to my neighbors who are sitting on porches. We have thirty-second conversations when I pass. Mostly about the weather.
A few kids are hiking to the bus stop, wearing backpacks that are bigger than General Electric washing machines. I give a few high-fives, which I understand kids don’t do anymore.
When I was coming along, all we had were high-fives, low-fives, and hand-cranked Victrolas. We also had the the behind-the-back-five, but that was extremely rare and only reserved for winning baseball games, or immediately following successful pranks involving explosive fireworks.
It’s a different world nowadays. High-fives aren’t as popular as they used to be. Tyler, a kid who lives on my street informs me that high-fives are “lame.” Nobody does them, he says. Everyone does the “fist bump” instead. Which I recently learned how to do.
A fist bump goes like this: Two individuals punch each other on the fist.
Tyler explains that this bumping transaction is not finished until directly after the bump when you open your hand, palm down, fingers splayed, and you make an explosion noise with your mouth.
“This is the boom part,” Tyler points out. “Always make it go boom.”
Always make it go boom. Check.
When I was a kid, I remember explaining the concept of a high-five to our elderly church usher, Mister Wayne, who was old enough to remember voting for Abraham Lincoln.
I slapped Mister Wayne’s hand. He slapped mine. After that, whenever I entered the church he’d present his hand and say, “Gimme some skin, fella!”
I pass the bus stop where the children all stand. I give four fist bumps. Then I continue walking. The sun is rising behind the trees and it’s beautiful.
I stop at a trail not far from my house. It’s an old trail, sandy, cutting through the forest. Not many people know about it. Soon, my dog and I are hiking alone in a quiet heaven.
This has been a big month for me. A lot has happened within the span of the last several days.
This past month, on the day after my late father’s birthday, I stood inside a book publisher’s building, surrounded by people who treated me like I mattered. I got to hold the first copy of a book I wrote about my father. I got to smell the pages.
Three days later, on the anniversary of my father’s death, I was sitting in a hotel room, eating a room-service chicken sandwich, watching the Atlanta Braves clinch the pennant. After the game, my wife and I jumped up and down holding each other because I love baseball.
I know that might seem like a silly thing to do—especially if you’re not into this sport. But it was huge for me. I was crying and everything.
My father was a baseball fanatic. On his final year, when September rolled around, it was almost definite that the Braves were going to go to the World Series.
But on the morning of my father’s self-inflicted death, the bottom fell out. Not only did my father die, but so did baseball. I don’t mean figuratively, I mean literally. The commissioner of baseball got on national TV and announced that the World Series had been cancelled due to a strike.
For the first time in ninety years there would be no Series. I lost interest in baseball altogether for a while. I lost interest in life too. I was so miserable for those following years that I had fantasies of going to sleep and never waking up.
I don’t mean that I wanted to die, I didn’t. What I mean is that nobody tells you what a full-time job being sad can be. It will exhaust you faster than manual labor.
For a long time I wanted a reason to smile. I wanted to laugh, or cheer for something important. But it took me decades to relearn this skill. I’m better at it now, and getting better every day. And now that I can finally do it again, all I want is to see other people do it too.
So with all my heart I hope you have a good day, and an even better life. I hope you enjoy this autumn. I hope you take a walk. And I hope you relearn to do things you’ve forgotten. Like smiling. I hope the Braves go all the way this season. And I hope you know that you’re loved.
I’d better go now, but before I leave you…
Give me a fist bump.
Now make it go boom.