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Gary Horton: Slow down, free advice ahead

Posted: May 11, 2010 1:58 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain't nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill,
But since we're on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride.

- James Taylor

What a week! Breathtaking stock market dives. Smallish oil spills gone big-time bad. Tiger missing the cut, and Phoenix taking it big time to the evil Spurs. If you get caught up in hustle-bustle news and events - well, there's hardly a moment to catch your breath and just enjoy the ride.

But the Saturday before Mother's Day, my wife Carrie and I did exactly that. Everything in Oxnard seemed beautiful that day. Well, everything save the name "Oxnard" itself.

Motoring north on Harbor Boulevard, a golden sunset wrestled blue sky over glimmering wetlands near McGrath State Beach. Blue above, gold to the west and a refreshing westerly breeze swaying roadside palms. Perfection on the SoCal coast.

We'd come from a long, lingering lunch with Carrie's parents at Brophy Brothers, a retro-like seafood restaurant in Ventura Harbor.

Carrie's folks loved the old-fashioned, East Coast fried seafood that reminded them of the seafood places from their youth. We just sat and talked, ate and spent a slow afternoon sharing memories.

We don't slow down like that enough. The sad fact is, this was the first time I've sat down for quiet time with my in-laws for many months.

At my 53 years, let alone their 75, life is going by pretty fast. Each new day we wake we're drawing from a diminishing deck. It's best to play each day's card to the fullest, as the deck of life is just too short to waste. Saturday, we finally slowed down enough to enjoy the living itself.

Later this month, our second son, Chris, crescendos through the life milestones all parents cherish, and I don't mind sharing them here.

Chris married Trish last May. One short year later, he's graduating Cornell with a master's in landscape architecture, just bought a new farm home with Trish and landed his first post-college job. Wife, degree, house, job - even a new dog - in one quick year.

That's a lot of living crammed into 365 days.

I don't think Chris had time to fret the stock news like I do - or worry too much about sports like Carrie does. Engaged living is like that. You get focused on what's real and in front of you.

A side note and that promised advice: Back when Chris was at Hart High School, he had to gather referral letters from the school's college counselor for his college applications. Chris handed the counselor six or seven letters to sign.

When the counselor got to Chris' Cornell application, she rudely scoffed, "You're wasting my time." So much for motivation. Well, some kids won't be held down, and at this month's end, the boy who was wasting that counselor's time walks out of Cornell with a master's degree firmly in hand.

Parents, be careful. Never let a shortsighted authority-type set low sights for your kids. Better to aim high and maybe miss than to never have tried at all. Fight for the best education you can get. That's free advice, regardless of your political affiliation.

Back in Oxnard, Carrie and I made our way to downtown Ventura, meeting our first son, Jon, to engage in the father/son rite of passage known as assembling the son's first barbecue unit. Jon got started on it a few weeks back, but then hit a roadblock when the specified screws were too big for the specified holes.

Drills and drill guns would be required to show that barbecue who was boss. Myriads of sheet metal covered Jon's patio floor when we arrived, and the task was surely tougher than it should have been, had the parts all fit from right out of the box.

Friends, here's more valuable advice. If you're buying a barbecue anytime soon, just pony up and pay the store the $50 assembly fee. You'll save that much in scratched furniture and sheet metal flesh wounds.

But father and son persevered, passing screwdriver back and forth like a surgical team amid high-stakes surgery. By dinnertime, that pile of sheet metal had rose to the stature of full-fledged barbecue, gracing Jon's deck. He turned the knob and - whoosh! Fire in the burner and father/son bonding complete. These slow, personal moments are good times.

The secret to our Saturday was in the slow cooking. Just sharing time. Carrie is fortunate that her folks are healthy, vibrant and still around to hang with.

My own mom and dad passed away two decades ago. Had they been around, I would have loved to buy them some of that old-timey fried seafood, and share with them the adventures and accomplishments of their grandson, Chris. But I can't do that now.

As my deck of days slowly draws down, I've come to savor more and more the simple passing of time with friends who matter most.
That would be another good piece of advice worth sharing.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesday in The Signal.

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