A New Year’s Toast: to Endings
’Scuse me …
Clink, clink, clink.
Sorry to interrupt … I just …
Thanks … sorry … thank you …
I know we’re all enjoying this marvelous party -- and, by the way, thanks, Doug, for inviting me, and thanks, Sherri, for hosting. This thing has been a gas.
But it is getting late, and so, before we all drag ourselves into the too-bright light of the emerging dawn, I thought I would take just a minute to -- hey, Melissa, I see you rolling your eyes over there.
Okay, let me get to it.
I don’t need to tell you that the past year was, how can I put this? Well, to borrow a metaphor from the world of parties, last year had a bad case of the dry heaves. I hope nobody here will end up with a literal case of the same.
The point is, I think all of us look forward to this year being over with.
So, why not celebrate endings?
Who hasn’t looked forward to ending something? A relationship? Dinner with the in-laws? A performance evaluation in your boss’s office?
In college journalism textbooks, they devote a lot of space to the lead paragraph -- how to begin a piece, what techniques to use to grab the reader and pull him into the article.
What they don’t much talk about is how to end the darn thing. Maybe that is because, despite the outlines, the drafts, and the plans we make for our stories, the ending is rarely fully known.
Forgive me for getting a little philosophical. It must be the Champagne. Or maybe the scotch. The wine? Hmmm, maybe I’m the one who needs to be on guard for those dry heaves.
I can see the thoughts going through Marion’s head: Come on, already, enough with the meta. You’re right. Thanks.
Wow, talk about the meta. Here I am conversing about a thought I think someone is having about me.
Anyway, where was I?
Oh, yeah. Getting philosophical and endings. What I am saying is that you may have a dim sense of how things will end, you may have a strong sense of the ending. But more often than not, you are surprised.
DESPITE THE PLANS we painstakingly develop and the schedules and to-do lists we concoct to achieve those plans, we are inevitably tripped up by a patch of black ice. That is, things come along that we can’t foresee.
Sometimes, it’s falling in love. Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Sometimes, it’s falling out of love. That really wasn’t supposed to happen.
Sometimes, it is an accident on a ski slope. Or an unexpected visit from a friend. Or a piano falling on your head from a fourth-story window. (Hey, it happens in cartoons all the time.)
Whatever it is, the unforeseen makes the ending unknowable. Sometimes, the ending hits you, bam, like a baseball bat to the skull. Other times, it sneaks up on you quietly and unnoticed, like a bug up your leg. And then there are those times that you see it coming. You know it has to be this way, you feel the ending approach, yet when it comes, you still can’t quite believe it.
I like to think that a good ending is like the last chord in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” It lingers beyond its moment, reverberating, causing you to pause, to reflect, to feel a feeling you perhaps can’t identify.
But I am turning philosophical again. And I see Lou over there snickering and Judy shushing him. Hey, Judester, it’s okay. You guys helped keep this party goin’ -- y’all have license to do anything you want.
I know I have gone on awhile.
So let me wrap this baby up.
Before I do -- see, I told ya you shouldn’t have let me have that last drink -- I just want to ask a couple of people out there to stand up. My wife, Jessica, and my son, Sam.
Go ahead, stand up. Through all these years, you guys, well, I scarcely have words. Sam, you have taught me so much … about independence, about perseverance, about finding one’s direction, and, of course, about how to make Chinese fried rice. Jessica, no one, and I mean no one, could possibly fill your shoes (and I think you know the shoes I’m talking about). You have been an inspiration, a comfort, and, maybe most of all, the greatest good sport a guy could ask for.
One final thing. Thanks to my long- suffering family members and friends for their help -- often given unwittingly, I should acknowledge -- their tolerance, and their humor. Especially my mom. Keep sending those pies, Ma.
And thanks to all of you, those who are here now, those who are not. Those I know, those I don’t. Thanks for letting me hang around with you.
And now, a toast.
In the words of T.S. Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
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