Responding to An Old Sneaker in the Punch Bowl

In this dream, Dear, my wife, had died.  Gathering for the memorial service in a big old stately church (probably in Boston, her hometown) was every single person whose life her love had touched, even unknowingly.  And not just the living.  The dead too.  It was a heck of a turnout.  And I’ll be damned if Trump didn’t show up.

He and his entourage were the only ones with whom Dear had no connection.  She had prayed for the guy, but she knew five year-olds who were more emotionally grounded to be president.  His appearance felt to me like some delusional attempt to buff his image as a president with chops.  Like: “Obama went to Charleston, I’ll go here.”

How I might respond was beyond me.

I fell in love with Dear pretty much the instant we met in 1974.  We have been each other’s best friend ever since.  Whenever I’m asked to say something about her to someone who’s never met her, I say, “If you like me, you’ll love her.”

Some 30 years ago, after we’d been married a dozen years, we separated.  We had lost our way.  The pain of it was enormous.  Yet there was never a word of acrimony between us.  The separation lasted about a year, during which time I became a recovering alcoholic.  When we reunited, we each said we’d walk out in two seconds if we ever again lived as we had.

Today there is hardly a day when we don’t look at each other and say, “We are so lucky.”  There’s also hardly a day when we don’t laugh together many times.

From time to time I’ve daydreamed of walking across the U.S.  I once asked Dear how she felt about me doing it.  Without hesitation she said, “Follow your heart, and bring a cell phone.”  That’s the spirit of her advice on most things.

She is a mother, friend, counselor and spiritual touchstone to all sorts of people, only some of them is she actually related to.  Hardly a thing I write enters the world without passing through the filter of her heart.

So the church was abuzz with the joy of people meeting others who shared the gift of Dear in their life.  Which made Trump an old sneaker in the punch bowl.

What to do?

I couldn’t say nothing.  It wouldn’t be fair to him or everyone else not to acknowledge the harm this sort of thoughtlessness was causing the world in ways a lot more crazy than showing up at Dear’s memorial.  Yet I certainly didn’t want to add anything else unsavory to the party.  So I gave up looking for words and, hearing Dear, followed my heart.  My mouth opened of its own accord and I found myself saying, “I feel that the best way we can honor this moment is to sit in silence until the president has to leave for the next event on his schedule.”

It’s amusing to imagine the news and commentary such an action might spark.

To be sure, silence in response to Trump is lunacy as a general rule.  A man of power without a wit of wisdom is far too dangerous.  But perhaps my dream suggests that our heart might show us exceptions, occasions when the weight of silence can speak as forcefully as any sound in recognition of life’s most important choice: love or fear.


  1. Sally Lonegren said:
    So Beautifully said Steve – both the lovely tribute to Dear and the wise words about our president. Thank you for them!

  2. Laurie Argyle Preisendanz said:
    Wow, so powerful. The funny thing is, I can’t see Trump staying very long in an arena where he is not allowed to say anything. Maybe that is the point?

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth