Mānaʻō Monday – November 20, 2010 – Meditations on my 40th Birthday

Twenty-four years ago today, November 20, 1986, I turned 40. I did not know it then, but I was at the beginning of a new life – a redeemed life with a chance to start over in a tiny little town in Arizona – actually in Navajo Land – Dinétah to be more accurate.

Today I am 64, living in a moderate-sized Hawaiian village called Kapahi – considered part of Kapa‘a on the island of Kaua‘i. In 1986, I thought I had five years left to live. Obviously, not that it is 2010, I was very, very wrong about that. Being wrong is something I’ve exceled at most of my life, but once in a while I get it right, too. This poem is one of those instances. I suspect I will still feel like that on November 20, 2026 when I am 80 – something I’m not so sure that I want to see. For now, I am thinking only of some threshold that’s a bit closer – Retirement. I want to retire like Teddy did. To see what I mean, please continue reading.


Meditations on my 40th Birthday

I can still remember how it started,
back on Franklin Street, at home.
We marched around the room to Sousa’s tunes.
Music made the time alive,
and I was in the band.

It was easy to catch the beat,
back at home on Franklin Street.
I had a record player in my room.
My Teddy Bear could talk and fly,
although he could not stand.

He was fearless in the dark
and knew he never would miss the mark
when it was time to cast the monsters out.
He knew the secret words to say
to make them understand.

Everything was just pretend
and so no one said it had to end.
Now, after all these years, I think I see
how all of that was shaping me
as if it had been planned.

After forty years, now, I can say
life is just a tune you play.
I’ll bet Old Teddy Bear would be surprised
to learn that he’s as old as I —
and leader of the band.

And yet , somehow, I feel he always knew,
the way all good Teddies do,
SomeOne else was writing all the songs —
making all the music right,
helping Teddy stand.

Looking back, along the corridor,
I should have seen the truth before:
Every blessed song we sang or played
was just the same old Song again.
My God! that Song is grand!

I heard it played again the other day, then
played once more in a different way,
with softer accents, longer trills, and then
I knew I didn’t have to be
alone in this strange land.

The music of millions crashed in my
ears and no one was marching. We
danced, and oh! how we danced! Some,
with feline grace, whirled, capering
across the growing horizon, touching
even moon and stars.

Ballets, and tangos, and waltzes,
reels, jigs, and congas —
everyone, every one, dancing for joy, and yet
the music was all the same.
Each dance and dancer formed from
that single Song. What a SONG!

Behind me, many marched on.
Before me, the music and the dancers
beckoned me through the door. Doubtfully,
I looked at my feet, and felt left out.
But beneath them, I saw the threshold.
I was at the door, so I marched right in.

Marching isn’t dancing. I turned to escape.
Standing smack in the way was SomeOne’s
beat up, fuzziless Teddy Bear.
Standing. Grinning. Then dancing.
It was hilarious. It was joy.
Come to think of it, it was Heaven.

When I awoke, I thought I could hear
SomeOne calling out, “Come near!
I Am Lord of All That Dance,
The Was, The Is, The Evermore.
The Maker of The Band.”

I’m learning to dance, praise God, as planned!



Teddy – Retired

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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