Connecting The Dots

, Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected....
Anne Patchett
What Now

I've connected a lot of dots since my days at The University of Kansas. I’ve strung together a lot of one-day-at-a-time decisions until I’m sitting here now in a small and picturesque Minnesota town where I live with a girl I met in college, the 2 daughters we share and the golden retriever we all adore. It looks so natural in retrospect but looking forward, especially at a young age, the future is such a big question mark.

In a lot of ways I’ve hardly changed; hardly stepped beyond Mount Oread. It’s on those grounds that I built the very foundation of my life, exploring my values and learning how to become a husband and father and dog lover and photographer and mountaineer. My decisions may have taken me hundreds of geographical miles, but with each small step it seems I’ve merely waltzed around the room with the man I was already becoming by age 20.


On Thursday, the day after the girls finished their junior and freshman years of high school, we loaded up the Chevy and hit Memory Lane for a road trip back “home.” It’s been 11 years since I’ve been back and 25 since I began my adult life in Kansas. Like my own values, I found the campus to be the same at its core with a string of improvements keeping it fresh and current.

During our visit, Margaret and I pointed out the various places we lived, the chapel where we wed, and the sidewalks we strolled. The stories flowed freely and could hardly wait to be told; there’s the building I climbed, the roof I accessed, the ledge I stood on. There’s where we first kissed and the building where we studied, the room where we spent our wedding night. With each story we told, hundreds more went untold as the spring waters of recollection came flooding in from a past that was getting so distant I wondered if it was even real anymore.

We went further back and further forward in time by visiting Kansas City also. There’s where mom went to high school. That was our first apartment, where the neighbor had a golden retriever puppy. There’s our first house. There’s where you were born. There’s a park where we played endlessly. There’s my brother’s grave.

The trail was easy to follow - high school graduation, college, wedding, children, graduate school - and yet looking forward I never would have dreamed the details would play out this way. Sure I loved to climb up the walls to the ceiling in my dorm hallways, but how could I predict that I’d come back to Lawrence and buy some climbing shoes at the Sunflower shop in preparation for a rock climbing trip to Colorado at age 43? Sure I loved Buddy the golden retriever puppy when I was at a crossroads looking for my first real job at 23, but how could I predict having my own Marco 20 years later. How could I predict the people I’d carry forward with me? Or the one’s I’d leave behind?



Looking forward it’s anybody’s guess what the future will hold, but looking back, with few exceptions, the thread is there all along.

3 comments:

  1. dmarks said...

    My family migrated from Kansas to Winona... with some stops along the way. But I was not born yet when my folks were in Kansas.

  2. Michael said...

    Very touching post.

    I do a lot of thinking along these lines, too. How the heck did I get here? Where does this highway go to? This is not my beautiful house!

  3. Melinda said...

    Tom,

    This is so beautiful. You are such a wonderful writer, photographer....person! I feel privileged to have had you as a friend during my own years at KU, and I enjoy any chance I get to continue that friendship.

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