Sometimes I don’t give the Dude enough credit. He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s kind. He’s also a teen, and like many teens, his world view tends to be a fairly small universe of which he is the unwavering center. This is the very definition of being a teen, so I don’t fault him for it. I just stand to the side and judge him from my position of mature superiority. That is the very definition of being a parent, at least from a teen’s point of view.
He came home from school unhappy. This is his general state of late. Junior year is kicking his butt. Above average is the new below average and he’s feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of competition and the amount of work school piles on his plate. It is also the height of contract negotiations for the MLB, a.k.a. the mercenary sock hop. The Dude believes that one should stay with your team forever, unless you suck, or play for someone other than the Red Sox.
He dumped his backpack on the floor like a sack of rocks, then slumped onto the couch, one arm dramatically thrown over his head. This is my cue that I am allowed to approach.
“Today was the worst.” I am wise enough to refrain from asking if it is truly worse than yesterday’s worst day ever. “I have two test tomorrow, Jacoby Ellsbury is going to the Yankees, and Nelson Mandela died.”
Back up. How did Nelson Mandela get tossed in there? The anti-apartheid movement was the backdrop of my college years. What did the Dude know of Madiba? “It is a sad day,” I said. “It’s amazing what one human can accomplish, and endure, within one lifetime.”
“Yeah,” the Dude agreed. “He was super chill.”
I couldn’t help but snicker a little. “Super chill?” I’d heard Mandela called many things. Super chill was a new one. When I graduated from college, I took my world politics very seriously. Tiananmen, the Polish Revolution, the fall of the Wall, Live Aid–the 80’s and early 90’s were good for the politically idealistic. We didn’t say Lech Walesa was totes awesome.
“I saw this video where he was dancing. Just dancing. Like, I’m the greatest dude in the universe, and I’ve been in jail and everything, but right now I’m with all of these people and I’m gonna dance.” He might have even said “Imma dance.”
And I realized that even with all of my factual knowledge, the memory of events, and the ghost of youthful arrogance, the Dude grasped something elemental about the man. Great men speak out, they move mountains and carve words of wisdom on our souls. But when the time comes, they also dance. After all, what is freedom if we don’t allow ourselves to be free?
I am lucky. I have never had to fight for basic rights. I can come to this blog each day and joke about how my husband doesn’t know how to put his dishes in the dishwasher. I have a dishwasher. Heck, I have dirty dishes. So today, I won’t complain.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Dance” by Sameer Walzade © 2013 Creative Commons