Last year, while on my backpacking trip in Europe, I posted occasional blogs with the intention of highlighting certain adventures and letting all my peeps know I was alive and well (and tan even!), without having to send out individual e-mails. Internet cafés are expensive.
What I didn’t realize until after I returned was that I had a secret reader, who was following along like so many Metro ticket stubs at the bottom of my backpack, observing my every move. He said he was living vicariously through the blog versions of me and my meanderings.
This, it would seem, was creepy. Only it wasn’t, because the reader was Doug, Kelsi’s dad and my long-time dad-away-from-dad.
“Hey,” he said, when he came to visit in January, “why didn’t you have a link on your blog where people could contribute money to your cause?” (I’d gone without a plan and come home when I ran out of money). “Yeah,” he said, “I would have paid to keep you over there so I could keep reading about it.”
“Damn!” I said. “Now you tell me.”
I thought it was an excellent idea, if a long shot. And I also thought it cool that he’d been reading. Having an audience is nice. During that same conversation, he asked why I’d stopped writing and suggested that I might want to continue posting entries even though I was home from my trip—some people were (believe it or not) interested, he offered.
‘Hmm,’ I thought.
‘Hmmm’ turned into a post about cleaning bird shit off the neighbor’s house.
Doug’s been reading my entries and feeding back ever since. So it didn’t surprise me when he mentioned my blog while I drove him, Kelsi, and myself to Gordon Biersch last Friday night. Kelsi made a joke about the vulnerability of living with a blogger. “Hey!” she said, forefinger pointed straight at my ear from the passenger’s seat, “and don’t you write about this in your blog!”
“Yeah, don’t you write about us,” Doug joined in, a smile smiling through in his voice.
I told them I thought their optings-out funny because I’ve had the opposite request also, like when my friend Dave Marquez mildly chastised me for not writing about a group Trivial Pursuit match we’d both participated in, which he found plenty worthy of a blog post. I’d responded with something like a shrug at the time. I thought one post about the event (his, on his “Diary of a Poor Sport” blog) was probably sufficient.
Similarly, I told them, my Dad once hinted none-too-subtly that his then-recent hip replacement surgery would make for fun-filled reading.
The drive to the restaurant was short, so the conversation pretty much ended there.
We had to stand and wait a while for a table, and when our magic blinker finally buzzed and blinked, signaling the readiness of our table (I love that moment...I always feel like I won something), we were sat just the perfect distance from Quasimodal Quartet, the jazz band we’d come there to see.
QQ features a few former members of San José State’s English Department (which is why I knew of the group), and the assembled listeners included a sprinkling of acquaintances—fellow book nerds and wordy folk.
Let me repeat here that these people were acquaintances.
After we’d been sitting there a little while, one band member (who was sitting out that particular night) approached the table.
“Hey Kisa, howya doin’?” he asked.
“Oh hey, Vince. Just fine. Have you met my roommate, Kelsi? Kelsi, Vince, Vince, Kelsi.”
“Oh, so you’re the roommate,” Vince said, referring to the fact that I’d mentioned Kelsi to him in some previous context. Each presented a hand for the shaking.
“Nice to meet you,” they jinxed.
I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but I suspect Doug misinterpreted Vince’s seeming familiarity with Kelsi for the mark of a man who’d read all about her.
Doug placed a hand on Kelsi’s shoulder and said, “yeah, she’s the one in the blog,” his eyes sparkling the sparkle those of any proud father would.
I’m not sure Vince heard him, because he didn’t reply specifically except to nod and turn to Doug.
“And this is Doug,” I said. “He’s Kelsi’s dad, out visiting from Phoenix.”
Doug extended his hand while smiling, his other hand touching his own chest apologetically: “I’m not in the blog yet,” he said, “but, hey, you never know.” He laughed, demurring.
Vince gave another frozen-smiled nod, this one a little more apprehensive than the last.
He had absolutely no idea what Doug was talking about.
I stifled my laughter while Vince and I chatted for a few minutes, then turned to Doug when he walked away.
“He doesn’t read my blog, Doug. I’m not sure he even knows what that is.”
“Ah, well,” he shrugged it off, and we went on taking in the jazz.
Doug’s presumptions were working on this main level:
1) Everyone who has ever met me is reading my writing religiously,
and this sub-level:
1a) Each die-hard reader is interested in and following the stories of the action’s principle players.
I was touched by this, his vote of confidence. He was doing his job as my dad-away-from-dad in that moment: the encouraging, the proud, the one who says, "That's my girl."
There are plenty of people who—despite their friendship and/or family relation—find it difficult to be supportive, for myriad different reasons.
“Nay. Nay,” they say.
And then there are people who are just always, always on your side, rooting in your corner.
I had the extreme good fortune to be raised in an immediate family that doubles as a cheer squad. “My name is [insert first and last name here] and there’s nobody in the world better than me,” is a phrase my family members often make each other utter when they sense self-doubt or sadness on the horizon.
We say this with tongues most definitely in cheek, but the sentiment behind the forced, Anthony Robbins-like self-talk remains true. Nobody in our family feels bad about himself or herself on another’s watch.
What a beautiful thing.
With this kind of background, I was naturally affected by Doug’s idea that others should be as consistently supportive and interested in my writing as he’s been. It was a nice, familiar feeling that made me all-over-again grateful for the swell folk that have become my chosen family…the family I’ve assembled to complement the one into which I was born.
Life has been good to me. People have been good to me.
So, I offer this as minimum payment on my Debt of Gratitude:
Thank you, Doug, for all to read.