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I am a teacher, musician, writer, son, brother, uncle, friend and a few other things. My enemies may call me a nudge, a pain, a problem and perhaps many other things. By just looking at my titles so far, I have room for one more-dreamer. What are my qualifications?
I was a dreamer as far back as I can remember. I remember many times just sitting down somewhere just to look at the horizon in the morning or very late afternoon. In doing so, I remember very well some sort of planning that was taking place in my head. What am I going to do today? What do I intend to accomplish? In the afternoon, I often wondered if I accomplished my goal. If not, what was I going to do tomorrow?
White collar workers report to an office and get busy working. We casual collar workers, dreamers, have our own office. It is wherever we choose it to be. In my early days, it was on my bed in my bedroom where I was able to look out of my window. In the winter when the leaves fell off the trees, I was able to see a blinking red light at night. It was at the top of a water tower at the nearby naval hospital. Much like the speaker in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," I, too, began to speak to an object that could not respond to me. To me, I was imagining that it was God communicating with me. I was thirsty, not for water, but for more information. What was the message that I was being told? What are you trying to tell me? I need to know.
I spent many a night just looking out of that window. I was being called to somewhere, but I did not know what. I was faithful. I reported to my window every chance I got. I said my prayers there. The light was telling me something. Langston Hughes once asked, "What happens to a dream deferred?" I needed to find out.
The tower was eventually demolished in 1995. Shortly before it was all gone, I drove by one day to see my silent friend. There wasn't much left. At first, I thought that it was going to be replaced. After a while, I saw that it wasn't. The tower was gone. What about the message? Whatever man destroys, God can create. He can send messages in any form He chooses. I mourned the loss of the tower, but the message could never be destroyed. Since I discovered my tower, I became a musician, a teacher, and a writer. Briefly, I was also an athlete. I dreamed about things and actually did them. Whatever I wanted to do, I did. I would let nothing stop me. I did not care what others thought. My actions were legal and legit.
In my later years, I found something that man could never destroy. It was sundown. Man can destroy and create billions of towers, but he can never touch a sunset. A sunset is probably the biggest show God could ever give us. I have always held to the notion is that God is talking to me and I have to find the correct conduit. I still look to the towers. They are not God, of course, but He could use them if He so desires. No, there has to be something else.
I found it. It was not so much the towers, but what was behind the towers. I was looking at the sunset. It was God talking to me through the sunset. A sunset is a way of ending the day and for preparing our eyelids for rest. I watched the miracle in front of me one day. I watched a blue sky turn pink, purple and finally dark blue. Normally, one cannot look directly at the sun, but, during this process, it becomes a watchable, orange ball in the sky. For me, it is truly a sight to behold.
I remember 1987. A few months after my sister died, the first death in my immediate family, I decided to take up the invitation of my best friend Bob and visit him and his family in California. He always dreamed of becoming a super successful lawyer and made his dream come true.
The flight out there was nice. My flight departed Kennedy Airport here in New York and landed in Sacramento some six hours later. Actually, my plane landed in San Francisco and I took a smaller flight to Sacramento. Once there, we had a nice week of fun. We even celebrated his birthday on the 4th of July. It was one of the really best vacations I ever had.
One day, we decided to take a ride to Lake Tahoe. It was also a nice place. It was like an Atlantic City but on the West Coast. Sure, I gambled a quarter or two, but it was awesome. In fact, I have never been that high up on a mountain in my recollection. It was a winding road that seemed to have no end. Eventually, we made it to our destination. From outside, you could hear the slot machines inside just devouring the currency being fed to them-quarters, half dollars, silver dollars and even dollar bills. Once in a while, you would hear bells meaning that a slot machine was so full that it threw up and the player won a jackpot. I was never willing to do more than gamble with quarters. I thought that I would try $100 slots one day, but not on this trip. I needed all the money I had. After all, I worked in a Catholic grammar school and the pay could not compare to my public school counterparts.
After a few hours of gambling and dining, we headed back to his home. The ride was much quicker and very enjoyable. It was gradually getting dark. I don't even remember the time to be quite honest. We chatted and enjoyed the ride home. Along the way, I saw the most beautiful sunset at-where else-Lake Tahoe. There was no way on Earth that a human could create the colors I saw. It was a combination of a blueish pink hue sprinkled on a nearly purple sky. The trees held their stance and the water looked quite calm. It looked like the perfect place to lie on the banks, but one would not do so for fear of upsetting the beautiful delicate balance at the lake. I wish digital cameras existed back then as it would have made describing what I saw so easy to prove.
When we got back to his house, I went to sleep with that sundown firmly entrenched in my mind. I still could not remember seeing it before. I mean the sky is there and it covers the Earth. Why haven't I seen that in New York? Despite having fun with my high school buddy and trying to distance my emotions from my sister's funeral, I am sure that my answers would be found in that part called the horizon.
After the week in Sacramento, I was back home. I called Bob and his wife to thank them for having me there. It was great and it added a bit more to my viewing of the horizon. I now had a mission: to find a similar horizon in New York.
Five years before, I had completed my teacher preparation and earned my Masters degree. I decided to return to the campus and sit at one of my favorite solitary spots on the planet. It was the football field grandstand. It faced west and allowed me a nice view of the city skyline. There were no other buildings blocking the view and I could tell every recognizable building in the skyline. The easiest, of course, was the view of the Twin Towers. Obviously, this was fourteen years before they were destroyed in the terror attacks upon America. I purposely got there before the actual sundown was to begin. My dinner at the spot consisted of my two buttered bagels and a can of Sprite. Again, the only camera I had was the one in my mind.
When the sun started its dip, I started talking silently to myself. I wondered why I was there. Yes, I went there, but I was drawn to be there. I was called there for a reason. "God, why am I here?" I then realized why I was there. Why was it my favorite spot? It was where I used to sit in order to recoup. When I had rough undergraduate days, I would go there and sit, usually for hours, and put together my game plan in my head. I would sit and ask myself what I wanted to accomplish in life. God and I were chatting again only this time, I was listening to Him.
I set out to not change the world, but to get a piece of it for myself. I already had my Bachelor and Masters degrees at this point. All I wanted to do is just get a nice sampling of life. I wanted more degrees. I wanted an athletic medal. I wanted to be famous. I wanted gold. I just wanted to achieve and achieve until I was tired of achieving whatever pleased me. I focused on the city skyline as it was completely encased in darkness. I was able to see the city lights in the distance. I saw the Unisphere at Flushing Meadow and much more. I briefly looked back to make sure that my car was still there. It was. More than getting mugged, I was more afraid of critters like snakes and raccoons disturbing my peace. It was time to go home. I gathered my garbage, stood up and thanked God for our chat. I finally found my best replacement for the missing towers at home.
Now, I am a much older man. I went back for more schooling much to the dismay of a now ex-friend of mine. After I declined his invitation to hang out and go to a movie, I politely informed him that I preferred to stay home and study. He became rather irate and questioned my need to return to college. In his mind, he felt that I don't need to go to college so much. He did not understand that it was MY desire. I did not give a bat's patooty as to whether he liked it or not. He is the same fool who feels that teaching is easy and that anyone can teach. Yes, I was dealing with a moron who lacked the brain power that God granted a chicken. That was the last I ever saw of him and have no need to ever see him again. I learned that my action was an excellent thing. I pushed negativity away from me and embraced that which will help me. I learned about true friendship. That comes from those who like to pull you up, not tear you down. I found my real and best friends.
I also learned something else about goals. They can change, evolve and even be replaced by other goals. I could have five goals today like I may have had five goals twenty years ago. However, they could be five different goals. Some of my goals may be simple while others are far more complicated. Some will be done sooner while others will require some time. No matter how they are looked at, they are MY goals. They drive me to improve myself. Thank you, God.
There is a popular song written by Sammy Fain with lyrics by Irving Kahal back in 1937. Although it is basically a love song, I have adapted its title for my own use in life. No one can stop me from dreaming. I want to do much more. I have goals and more dreams. I want to now retire somewhat comfortably. I worked hard. I studied and studied. I avoided trouble. I am hoping that when God calls me home one day, I can show him my resume full of life achievements. For now, I will continue working on my dreams.
One thing that I won't do is let my dreams die. I don't want my dreams deferred. After all, as that popular Fain-Kahal song says in its title, "I can dream. Can't I"?