I was at the pub I manage last Tuesday morning, during the day time , which is SO not my style. I agreed to meet the computer guys to do an upgrade of our server, which got me out of bed by 9 for the first time since forever.
While I was there, the UPS guy came (we don't actually open till 4 on Tuesdays) and our cleaning guy caught him putting a door tag on the locked door; he let him in to deliver the package because I was at the pub.
It happened to be addressed to me. I saw the return address was from an old friend, and I was immediately glad I was at the pub to accept it, in an odd turn of events. He is retired now, suffered a stroke a few years back, but he's active, fully recovered and pursuing a post-retirement career.
I suspected his package was a response to a picture, a charred remnant of a photo I had sent him through another friend a few weeks back.
Last December 20, just before I left for NY to visit the folks, I watched the Patriots at my friends' house, Jack and Veek, ex-New Englanders, like me. We watched the Pats beat the Bills, as we have done so many times.
We are long past exchanging Christmas presents, so instead I jokingly gave them a "house warming present" though it had been 15 years or so since they had moved in.
The framed photo, barely recognizable now, was of a player we love and respect, Pats DLB Tedy Bruschi sacking Donovan McNabb in Super Bowl 39. It was to be added to the Boston sports shrine that the family room at the Newton's had become.
Five days later, all was lost, all was changed. The Fire came. At 3 in the morning on Christmas Day, fire tore through the house. It flipped the bird at Christmas and sneered at the holiday, destroying everything, destroying the shrine, and turning the lives of 4 dear friends and their dogs upside down.
After examining the destruction the day after Christmas my buddy Jack made an ironic discovery and sent me a tattered remnant of the newest addition to the shrine, a charred fragment, replete with visble autograph, that somehow made it through the blaze. I marveled at how this "old man," this "stroke victim," this fighter among fighters could have survived the blaze.
So I reached out to a friend, a friend who knows him well. A friend whose Mom and Dad had both suffered strokes too, and who this fighter helped marshal the resources and the gumption to fight back from paralysis, back from bed-ridden, back from the brink, to life. I shared the story of The Fire, and the Pats fans who had survived it.
Connections. Links. Webs.
Last Tuesday, this stalwart warrior, this fighter, this "retiree" reached out and sent a part of his mended heart to help other good people fighting back from the brink. He made a simple gesture, added a stroke of the pen, and in so doing forever touched the hearts of four people wondering what life has in store for them.
What a man, what a mensch . I hope he knows how he has lifted the hearts of four fans and their friend back here in Austin. I hope he knows the power of a selfless gesture, of an outstretched hand, and an open heart to help beleaguered spirits heal and see the good that surrounds them, near and far.
Tedy Bruschi may have "retired" from the Patriots, but he will always be The Defender, the Survivor, the Team Captain to me. We will all survive The Fire, and flourish, with a little help from our friends.