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Wednesday
Jun182008

The Answers at the Back of the Book

I was never good at Science.  

I was too impatient for the Scientific Method.  Why ask more questions than you have to?  Why test your theory when you can just guess?  In 7th Grade Earth Science, I answered correctly that the crusty end result of my final Lab Practical, lying there in the ceramic bowl was sodium chloride.  Salt.

"How did you arrive at your conclusion?" asked Mr. A. 

"I followed the first few steps, and then did this," I replied, wetting my index finger with my tongue, digging into the still warm dish, and then tasting it.  "See?  Salt!"

"What do you think your'e doing?!?"  Mr. A. shouted.  "What if that wan't salt?  It could have killed you."

"This is 7th grade," I answered confidently.  "You're not going to let us play with something that's gonna kill us."

Logic.  But the wrong kind.  I got a 50.  Right answer.  Wrong proof.

I wasn't too hot at Algebra, either. 

Again, the "logic" gene that I could apply to situations and debate was tone deaf to facts and figures.  Why trace back the steps of your equation when you could turn to the answers in the back of the book and find out that x=2?

"You can't start with the answer and work your way back from it," Miss F. used to say.  "That's not how Algebra works."

It's not.  It's not how life works, either.

russert_slide9.jpgBut today, I saw the answer that I want to have at the end of my life's book.  It was delivered in a eulogy on national television, about a man of my faith, of my avocation, whom I met once, and whose death affected me not as a child who knows one day he will lose his father... but as a father, tapped on the shoulder for the first time with the notion that someday he will leave his children. 

This answer, it turns out, was delivered in the shortest of all the tributes given today; and by the ONE person amid Brokaw, Cuomo, Barnicle, and Shriver who actually needed an introduction. 

Her name is Betsy Fischer.  And this is what she said.

Almost every morning for the last 10 years, Tim would call at exactly 9:00 a.m. and say, "Hey, Bets, what do you know?"  What I wouldn't give for that phone call tomorrow morning.

I'd happily suspend all talk of news, politics, and Washington gossip and I'd tell [you] some thing that I've
come to know since last Friday afternoon.

I'd say there is a nation mourning the loss of a great man ... and a trusted friend. 

And after you heard my morning rundown, you'd say this is all part of life.  We have to move forward, lean on each other, and cherish all the good times and live every day to its fullest.  But, live it with honor and integrity, and always reach down to help someone else up.  You'd say take these incredible lessons of life that I leave with each of you and live them as you remember me. 

And I'd believe every word because ... you have never once steered me wrong.

That is the answer that I want at the end of my life's book.  And this, too, is a book that you can't work backwards from.

I've got some work to do.

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