Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

"Real" life

On my way home from work today, I read this article in GQ, titled Boom. It was one of the more moving things I had read in awhile. I swear, the article wasn't shmaltzy, though it had pretty "heart-tuggy" passages. It was just raw, real and honest...and that's what was moving about it.

This passage in particular (the last bit of the piece):

"Shane always told me, 'If anything ever happens to me out there, you better fight till you're blue in the face,'" she says. Because if something ever happened to Shane, that meant something went wrong—something that shouldn't have gone wrong and shouldn't go wrong again—and usually it takes a judge and a jury to get that point across with any authority. "I want to be able to sit down with Blaine twenty years from now and tell him something really bad happened one night," she says, "but here are all the good things that came out of it. Here are the safety rules that changed, here are the regulations that changed."

But what does she tell him now? What does she tell a 3-year-old boy who'd just figured out that Daddy was gone when his truck was gone and Daddy was home when his truck was home, but now Daddy's truck is home and Daddy's not? What does she tell him when Blaine is playing with a toy John Deere and slips and bumps his arm and he's not really hurt but he's crying and he wants his Daddy? What does she tell him then?

She tells him the only thing she can think of. "Just raise your arm up toward the sky," she says, "and let Daddy kiss it."

And because Blaine is only 3, he believes her. So he raises his arm and says, "Thank you, Daddy," and sniffes away the last of his tears.

And, I was just sitting in my seat and I was just moved. Slightly teary, but most just the way you perk up in your office chair just as your body loses its grogginess for the day.

And walking out of the terminal, I just wondered why. And this is what I thought.

It was just so real. It was honest. It wasn't manufactured, it was just a moment that really caught its own essence. It was like reality TV, except not on TV and actually reality.

And then I realized how sometimes we just want moments to be special, because we want them to mean something. Or mean something more...something that trancends the very moment that we're experiencing. There are times that we're deliberate about moments, we either make them happen or really focus on the fact that they happened.

But that moment, described in that article, was different. It was precisely real. Precisely real. Not just, "in the moment". It was REAL life.

As much as I like powerful, meaningful moments, it doesn't have to be like that. There's something about moments just as they are, that can be wonderful. They can be amusing, charming, emotional, funny or uncomfortable...just as they're supposed to be. And that they deliver exactly that breed of emotion - the real moment they're supposed to - makes them amazing in retrospect.

Those moments, though, are elusive...because it takes everything about the moment to be real, from the people to the context. It's like being silent with someone you love, in an elevator. The time that passes - all of 15 seconds - is almost naked and so binding...because those 15 seconds are exactly what they are supposed to be.

That begets the question, in my mind, what does it take to be real?