Living Out Loud

One Man's Obsession is Another Man's Passion


My Grandfather

It is a hallmark of the men in my family to develop passionate, all-consuming interests. My grandfather was like this. Luckily for humanity, his passion was helping other people. One of the greatest favors you could do for him was let him mow your lawn. Into his 70s and 80s he had a route consisting of his rural church, country cemeteries, widows and shut-ins. Despite being raised in the early part of the 20th century in the south, he didn't care what color you were. If your grass needed cutting, he was your man, free of charge. He also loved deer hunting. During the season (Mid-October to the end of December) he would sometimes live in an unheated cinder block building belonging to his hunting club, several counties away. As he was an older man who wore glasses and didn't hear all that well, he didn't shoot many deer. He just loved the atmosphere of the men gathering before dawn with their dogs and the after action get togethers where stories of the days hunt would play out. A life-long baseball fanatic, he was devoted to the Atlanta Braves. He was the first person I knew to get a satellite dish in his yard, back when they were half the size of a house. During the last weekend of his life, when we knew it was just a matter of hours until his death, I sat with him and watched a Braves game as he happily chatted about their chances in the 2005 season.

My Father

My dad has the same passionate drive and he has had more money than my grandfather ever did. He got interested in photography when I was a kid and he built a darkroom in his house. He decided to be an archer and the next thing you know he had a collection of bows, arrows of all sorts. He even bought me one. I was in the fourth grade. For a while he was interested in World War Two rifles and through the miracle of Ebay, bought weapons from Russia, Poland, France, Japan, Germany, Great Britain and more. He eventually tired of them and contributed them all to the construction of a local war memorial where the artist burned them all and bent the barrels in odd shapes so they could never be used again. He moved on to golf, a sport made for men who like to spend money. He absolutely sucked at it but bought a house on a golf course in Pinehurst, NC just the same. He kept plugging away until his health prevented him from playing any more.


I am so much like them. Someone I knew bought a cockatiel for her her classroom, I decided I like parrots too and within a year had constructed two aviaries and soon had more than 30 rescued birds, big ones like Amazons and African Greys. I bought a bicycle to lose weight. Within months I was going on rides of 100 miles regularly. The following year I pedaled over 10,000 miles. I took my soon to be wife on a camping trip for her birthday the year after we got together. We enjoyed camping so much we decided to go backpacking the following weekend. That was mid-January. Four months later we left to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail (2,189 miles). If I like an author, I have to read all their books. I've been that way my whole life. It doesn't matter if they've written 50 of them. The same with music. In the days when people still bought albums, if I liked an artist, I wanted every album. The Beatles? Got them all. Rolling Stones? Check. Bob Dylan? Check.

My Son

My son has the same gene. He bought a piano for himself at age 40 because he wanted to learn how to play. He developed an interest in art and now that he has an empty nest regularly flies to cities with major art museums to spend the weekends lost in the galleries. He took up cycling and had five bikes within a year. he built a gym at his house because he likes to lift weights but got tired of going to the Y. He decided to get a record player one day and now has an entire wall of his house lined with LPs. 

My Grandson

My oldest grandson is 18. He graduated from high school last year. We are waiting to see what interests he develops as an adult. He is very much his own person, so I'm not expecting a carbon copy of his Dad's passions, but I am expecting passion. It runs in the family.