Social Norms

And the story's only mine to live and die with. The answer's only mine to come across.

          --Different Days, Jason Isbell

The Tour de Fat is one of those social creations illustrative of the 21st century. It brings like-minded enthusiasts together in sort of a costumed bicycle parade. It’s been described as a rolling carnival of creativity.

It’s exactly the kind of event that appeals to my son and his wife – third year medical residents in Denver. Surrounded by the like-minded, emotionally and demographically.

I spent Labor Day weekend with them, my first extended time there since the Bright Line.

It’s been said you succeed as a parent, if your child turned out better than you. My son’s the third consecutive generation of our family from a broken home. The marriages of his great grandparents, grandparents and parents failed.

‘Failed’ may be too strong, maybe ‘did not succeed because we all lacked the knowledge and wherewithal to understand the forces at play.’

Or maybe that’s just spin and denial.

He helped me decipher and interpret his great-grandfather’s death certificate for this book I’m writing. He’s filled them out before. I had to let that sink in. He’s already seen more death up close and personal, than I ever will in my lifetime.

Over dinner, they reflected on their days in an acronym-laden patois in which they are fluent. They help each other debrief and diagnose, infused with a steady current of mutual love and respect.

He and I went grocery shopping and I was rocketed back in time and space to similar supermarket visits when he was in college in Lawrence. Only this time more fresh salmon, fewer ramen noodles.

We go to check out and I reached instinctively for my wallet. He reached for his, pulled out his Safeway Club Card, racked up some instant additional savings and paid for his own damn groceries, thank you very much.

My son has a much deeper grasp on what I call the ways of the world than me at that age. He possesses a blended view of the physical, the human and the cognitive. He brings this to his life, his learning and his work.

I juxtapose the generations from which he sprang.

Concentric circles expanding outward. Each succeeding generation seems deeper, smarter, more aware, more imaginative and empathetic than the previous one. At a much earlier age.

My son is as comfortable with the concept and application of technology as I am with the concept and application of, say, turning on a terrestrial radio, as my father is with fetching a newspaper from the driveway.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket, punched, swiped and in an instant, we were

surrounded by the music of his favorite artist. His Jason Isbell is my Fleetwood Mac. My father’s Tennessee Ernie Ford.

I think that’s right. I think this is the way it’s supposed to be. His Tour de Fat. My disco. My father’s sock hop.

This life he leads in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. Rocky Mountains to the west. High Plains to the east. A mile above sea level in the Five Points neighborhood. A young physician who loves his wife, his family, his dog, Jason Isbell and the Kansas City Royals.

He saves lives, grills salmon, fills out death certificates, climbs mountains and adheres vigilantly to the Eighth Commandment of the Tour de Fat:

Keep the day true with thy good juju.