Nicklas Lidstrom retired from the Detroit Red Wings this week. He is one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Certainly, one of the greatest defensemen to ever don a sweater and lace up skates.
When he retired, they recounted his accolades by the page. From his time hoisting a Gold Medal for Sweden to hoisting four Stanley Cups for Detroit, Nick has meant an awful lot to a lot of people around the world.
As I listened to people speak about him after his press conference, I found it so interesting and heart-warming that many, while gushing over his list of awards and personal accomplishments, couldn’t say enough about his character and his personality: classy, loyal, hard-working, consistent, detailed, selfless…
THAT list went on and on, too.
A friend and I were out to breakfast this past weekend when we met a waitress in a little cafe who absolutely wowed. She was genuinely welcoming and engaged. We were talking about how people make breakfast potatoes in her home state down south the way our mothers used to. You slice up leftover baked potatoes and fry them up with butter and onions. Too many restaurants promise such heavenly delights, only to serve up frozen stringy hash browns with no flavor instead.
Her personality, her smile, her “being”…was as warm as that summer morning. She went back in the kitchen and asked the chef to make those special potatoes for us. We never asked her to do that. Didn’t know her. Had never been there before. In three minutes we felt like her favorite old friends that she was having over for her mom’s potatoes.
We won’t forget her.
It’s summertime in Detroit. We have arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now pitching for the Tigers. Justin Verlander is entering his prime and already he has two no-hitters to his credit. At times he is literally remarkable. Fans go online to buy up the game bases BEFORE the games he is scheduled to pitch in because they anticipate another historic outing.
I was thinking the other day that, even if you are the best hitter or pitcher in your league…in your generation…in the history of the game…how much time is that? Ten years? Fifteen? I found myself wondering what will his legacy be outside of those white chalk lines. Like any one of us, when he is done with his job, how will he be remembered?
Fame is fleeting. Rocket-powered fastballs slow. Golden arms tire. Phenomenal pitchers start getting their pitches hit later in their careers and, one day, teams stop calling for their services.
Even the best defensemen in the history of hockey will feel twinges and facets of their supreme talents starting to soften. Their once-sinewy bodies just don’t heal up quite as quickly after a long season like they did at 20, at 25, at 30….
I guess my point is that few things last. We suffer these losses, all of us, and, at some point, we have to realize that it happens to everyone in some form or fashion. We all end up losing the parts of our lives that were not intended to last forever.
The good news is that, the characteristics that DON’T fade…The parts about us that DON’T succumb to age and time and injury…are the ones people will most measure us by after a lifetime anyway.
We can all strive for glory, sure. For fame and for riches and for promotions and impressive titles bestowed upon us.
But for those who love us and for the people we love, it’s never going to matter much what we did or what jobs we held. They want us to be happy regardless of what we choose to pursue. They want us to be good people. Willing, interested, reliable, loving…. They don’t care if we’re a teacher in Wisconsin, a builder in Florida, a policeman in Texas, a welder in Pennsylvania. We know better than to imagine those bitties too important in the grand scheme of things.
For me, well….I’m just hoping that, by the end of my life, some will manage to say, “She was a good egg.”
Simple as that.
I look at the qualities that I wish to be measured by one day, maybe every day. I find that they are not ruined or left unattainable because of any of the things I struggle with. Not my brain injury, not my weight, not my meager income. Not where I grew up or what my parents did or did not do. Not what any of my exes did or what school I went to or what I wear or how I look. Not even my addiction to Michigan football or my many Showtime series.
Regardless of these, I tell myself….In spite of these, I remind myself….No matter these, I propel myself….
I can be a good person. I can be kind. I can be thoughtful. I can be warm and loving and classy and courteous and loyal and helpful and hard-working. I can be someone who tries to understand. Who is not a complete downer all the time to be with. Who doesn’t constantly lament all the awful wrongs cast unfairly upon her by the fates of the world. Blah blah blah.
I can be a good egg.
I can be a willing listener. I can be willing to try and help. Not even brain injury has the power to overcome these. To wipe out these. To ruin these.
Some of the great things my journey has taught me are that we don’t have to be rich to be generous. We don’t have to have a lot to give away to be giving. We don’t have to have our brains working perfectly to be thoughtful, to be smart, to be mindful…We don’t have to have famous jobs, or even jobs at all, to be hard-working and productive and memorable. Just ask Kathy at the Golden Grille in Paw Paw about her mama’s breakfast potatoes.
Memorable. Fabulously, gloriously memorable.
Off the top of my head, right now, I can recall the man who wouldn’t take any money for diagnosing the nail in my tire yesterday and who directed me to an inexpensive tire repair shop, a hidden gem, not too far for me to drive. I can think of the kind souls at work who sometimes give me my coffee for free even when they don’t know that’s my last dollar I’m laying on the counter. I think of the people at the corner gas station who, when my dad was struggling to take care of my mom many years ago, sometimes gave him a few dollars when he would forget to bring money or forget, later, to come back to repay them. I think of the neighbor who took the time to take apart the weed whacker I couldn’t start and got it going for me. I think of the vet who got right down on the floor and spoke German to my German Shepherds. I think of the boss who subtly and quietly creates situations I can succeed in despite my injury. I think of my brother taking time out from his uber-busy life to go and explain eye exams to six-year-olds so that they won’t be so scared if they have to get glasses. I think about the people who have made me homemade soup when I was sick or dropped off bags of cough syrup and aspirin and goodies. I think of the man who allowed me to pay him the rest of my car’s repair bill after he gave me the car back and after I realized he had done extra work on it for me that I didn’t realize I needed and that he didn’t charge me for. I think of the woman who patiently taught me to play the piano using crazy strategies and made-up words and out-of-the-box ways to plunk out My Country Tis Of Thee. I think about the woman who bought me an outfit I couldn’t afford so that I would look nice for my father’s funeral. Or the one that sent me a winter coat when I didn’t have one.
Memorable. Wonderfully, beautifully memorable. The kind of people who crawl into your heart and fill it with a warmth that never leaves.
I will admit that, after all these years, there are jobs and positions that some of my friends do or did that I cannot recall. I should know but I don’t. Maybe it’s my brain injury. Maybe it’s menopause hiding around the corner. Maybe it’s simply that I don’t measure them by those parameters.
But I can tell you they are kind. I can tell you they are thoughtful and funny and generous and helpful and loyal and classy. I can tell you a hundred things each one has done to make me laugh, to help me out, to support me, to think of me. I can tell you the many, many instances when they have reached out, helped out, given, gotten their hands dirty for people they love and, often, for those they don’t even know. Examples, small and large, too many to count, when they made better the lives of those around them.
They are good eggs. They set a standard that I will spend my life trying to reach up to.
As much as I believe anything, I believe that we, with few exceptions, have the power to be good eggs. To be simply decent. To be reliable. To be helpful. To be empathetic. To be good friends, good neighbors, good souls. I surround myself with those people who inspire my own sense of right and decent. They are the memorable. And too, they will remember. In my life and yours.
Some will remember the things that brain injury now keeps from us. Some will remember what age will take. Some will remember after we have gone, enough to tell those who are sure to follow.
It’s up to us today what they will remember tomorrow.
Our choice. Our power. Our priority.
For me, hopefully one day they’ll say, “Yeah, that Kara, she was a good egg.”