EVEN FOR A MINUTE
This time last year I was finishing up a book tour with Steve Young to promote his autobiography, which, by the way, just came out in paperback.
As soon as the tour ended, I disappeared to write Tiger Woods’s biography. It’s been a l-o-n-g year. And it’s not over yet. A couple weeks ago I received a text message from my mother, saying she missed hearing from me. That’s when it dawned on me that I forgot to call her on her birthday. Her birthday was in early October!
It’s embarrassing to admit that. But when I enter the writing stage of a book project my life becomes my subject’s life, whether it’s a phony Indian tribe that built the world’s largest casino; a nurse who fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to save her home from an eminent domain taking; or a gritty child with severe separation anxiety who became a Hall of Fame quarterback.
This time around my subject is the greatest golfer who ever lived. But the drill is the same – total immersion. My wife knows all about this. She’s the one who usually reminds me to call my family members on their birthdays. This year she thought it was best not to remind me. In a relationship there is no greater gift than to be understood.
It also helps when the person you’re married to is as busy as you are. Last week I had to be in New York City on my wife’s birthday for a meeting with my writing partner. After teaching school that morning, she was coming into the city to celebrate by doing an overnight with a girlfriend.
Hoping our paths might cross, I ran down 46th street, across Madison Avenue, and up Vanderbilt, zig-zagging past bundled-up pedestrians. Darting into Grand Central Station, I checked the board. My train was leaving in 12 minutes. With any luck, her train would pull in before mine pulled out.
I shot her a text: “Meet me at the clock.”
“OK,” she texted back, confirming she was very close.
But ten minutes later she still hadn’t arrived. Her train got delayed in Harlem and she was still a few minutes away. Meantime, a couple standing next to me by the clock was kissing while taking a selfie. Not helpful.
I ran for my train, slipping on board just as the doors closed behind me. We pulled out as she pulled in. Moments later I got a text from her: “Wish I could have seen you, even for a minute.”
Getting a text like that from a woman you’re chasing is actually better than a kiss. Words last longer.
Speaking of words, I spent yesterday teaching a workshop on writing and ethics to my students at the Institute for Writing and Mass Media at Southern Virginia University. Then I boarded yet another train – this one in Charlottesville – and headed for home. I barely sat down when my 21-year-old son texted to ask if I could help him deliver pies later this week in Fairfield County. Here’s the background.
My son sells home-baked pies at Thanksgiving and Christmas. He makes his crusts from scratch and uses natural ingredients – pumpkins from our garden, apples from a nearby orchard. His specialties are chocolate pecan and apple raspberry with crumb topping. He’s been doing this since he was thirteen. The pies cost between $22 and $30 depending on type.
All of my son’s customers are in Connecticut. But this week a guy from out of state ordered four Thanksgiving pies. The order came with unusual instructions: “Give them to folks who need some holiday cheer.”
When my son told me who placed the order I wasn’t surprised. This guy – a friend of mine who has been very successful entrepreneur – is always finding ways to quietly help people in need of a lift. He was basically paying my son $100 to spread the love.
“This is a great opportunity for you to play Daddy Warbucks,” I told my son.
But he was way ahead of me. He had already identified some single-mothers as the recipients.
I was texting back and forth with my son about all of this while I was simultaneously reading a New York Times story about the endless wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media. Rather than dwell on that, I thought to myself, how cool is this? My kid is baking specialty pies as a way to earn extra money to pay for his law school applications. Some guy who lives too far away to receive a pie says I’ll buy four, but give them to someone else. And some overwhelmed single mothers are going to end up with an unexpected gift to share with their children later this week.