Anything Mentionable, about my friend Fred, about writing and life

Stories from Tim.

“Of course, I reassured him that his story was far from silly and that the whole purpose of the event was to encourage people to share their own stories just as he had. He hugged me and we thanked each other for sharing. He seemed delighted, pleasantly surprised, actually, that as a society we have finally advanced to the point of being able to share, openly, our stories of pain and suffering related to mental illness.”

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I keep waiting for something similar to happen here. How many of these episodes must we endure?Who will lead our version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Fred Rogers said that it was impossible not to love someone if you knew their story. It’s time we learned the story of our neighbors, no matter how painful that might be.

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Wendell knew he would be dead in a few seconds, but he didn’t pray. He never thought of heaven or hell, or of God, because he knew that what had started to happen in that snow was way beyond God’s ability to do much about. Instead, Wendell remembered feeling amazed by how fast a soldier can die, how easy it could be.

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“I will be proud of you. I am proud of you. I have been proud of you since first we met. I’m deeply touched that you would offer so much of yourself to me, and look forward to knowing all that you would care to share in the future.”

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Two scenes from the Battle of the Bulge; one make-believe, the other too real.

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“It makes us so much stronger and we end up connecting on so many levels,” she said. “People are scared to talk about it. There is still the stigma. It’s still taboo. But I feel if we just talk about it, more people would get help. It would be a start.”

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It was nerve-wracking. In considering whether the Kimbell should buy the painting, I said to myself, “If we don’t buy it and it ends up being Michelangelo, I’ll be haunted by it for the rest of my life. But it will be worse if we buy it and it turns out NOT to be Michelangelo!” We looked at the painting as critically as possibly, and tried to come up with every convincing argument that could be made against the attribution. We could find none.

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“The prayerful listening and counseling that these two men do is one of the most effective instruments for the healing of minds and souls that I know about anywhere in the world,” said nationally known pastor and sociologist Tony Campolo. “What a treasure it is for us to have these men serving so faithfully at work that is essential and, yet, has been left largely undone.”

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“It’s so freeing, to have the freedom to give without needing anything in return. Our connection with God is exactly that. It’s love. That’s it.”

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It sounds almost ridiculous, someone’s overly sanguine fantasy of youth. But I was there. I want to go back to Chet’s if only for a night, only for an hour, hang with my brother and the guys, and feel again what it’s like to be young and without care. But I can’t. I guess that’s what memories are for, memories and the odd sip of Mountain Dew.

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In the run up to the novel’s publication last month, my greatest concern was that readers of I’m Proud of You would find the language and the rawest scenes offensive or off-putting.

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“I was four years old,” Peggy told me. “The only thing I remember was that he was going to be leaving for the war and he came and picked me up and held me. Other than that, I really don’t remember him at all. I remember seeing Saving Private Ryan and I think I had my eyes closed most of the time. The only thing I could think of was that I hoped he died right away and didn’t have to suffer.”

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