What’s Best in Life?

By Ed Thompson

My favorite line from Y Chromosome Theater comes from The Dino Di Laurentis classic, Conan the Barbarian starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones. It’s the scene after the warlords have won another great victory, and after much drinking, the question is asked, “What is best in life?” Conan of Cimeria answered, “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!” Had I been born in Iron Age Europe in the cold Norselands of my ancestors, an answer like that might stir the warm places of my heart. But, I am a mid-Twentieth Century man, in his mid-forties living in the early Twenty-first and I ask…

“What is best in life?”

Listening to a child laughing as they are tickled and wrestled and otherwise roughhoused to exhaustion and hearing them say, “Again!”

Having a child fall asleep in my arms, warm, safe, and secure.

Looking down at the face of that sleeping child and seeing a very large black board with only a small bit of writing and a huge blank space on which to write the new and emerging story of their life.

“What is best in life?”

Having a friend with whom I have not seen in years yet at our next meeting, talking and laughing as if I had had just left their house only the day before.

Always leaving an open door to a relationship that has soured and hoping one day, hearts can be mended, old wounds dressed, and a stronger connection can emerge.

After having known and loved a person for a very long time, attending their funeral and weeping with grief for the loss, yet at the same time, weeping with joy for having had them in my life at all.

“What is best in life?”

Sitting on my front porch on a sunny, summer day listening to a ballgame on the radio and hearing the announcer describe a perfectly turned six-four-three double play.

Sitting in the stands at the ball bark on a similar sunny, summer day with a cold drink, bag of nuts, and watching with my own eyes, a perfectly turned six-four-three double play.

Remembering a warm summer night many years ago and being the three on a perfectly turned six-four-three double play.

“What is best in life?”

Loving a job so much that I can’t wait to get up and go to work in the morning.

Writing a script and having the client approve it without changes.

Standing in front of an AKG 414 and nailing the first take.

“What is best in life?”

Kissing the woman who would be my wife for the first time while standing together on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River on a rainy April night in 1997.

Kissing my brand new wife after the priest says, “You may kiss the bride.”

Kissing my wife each time thereafter and still feeling like I’m back on that bluff back in ‘97.

“What is best in life?”

Roller coasters. Flying in the gunner’s position of a Confederate Air Force B-29. Turning a loop in the open cockpit of 1934 Stearman biplane.

“What is best in life?”

Waiting nearly a year to watch the season premier of 24. Watching the season premier of 24. Not being able to wait until next week after having watched the season premier of 24.

“What is best in life?”

Growing a full beard and seeing how much gray there is. Knowing that every single gray hair is earned. Hoping that one day, when it all turns gray, I can start a second career playing Santa Claus.

“What is best in life?”

Not knowing something and being able to say, “I don’t know.” Being able to learn something new. Teaching someone something they didn’t know.

“What is best in life?”

Things that are beyond my control like a power blackout that extinguishes all the man-made light making me able to see by moonlight alone. Seeing the moons of Jupiter for the very first time. Watching the Persied meteor shower with my mother when I was 14.

“What is best in life?”

Having a cigar where the first puff after it’s lit is good, but not as good as the last puff before I put it in the ashtray. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Cashews.

“What is best in life?”

A prayer. An answered prayer. A prayer when sometimes the answer is, no.

“What is best in life?”

Listening to Jessica by the Allman Brothers Band on the car stereo at full volume while driving 75 miles an hour on Interstate 80. Listening to White Christmas by Bing Crosby on an AM radio. Listening to Jesus Loves Me being sung by a six year old girl who’s unaware you’re even there.

“What is best in life?”

Living in a country where I am free to be what God made me to be. Voting. Knowing there is some young man or woman who is willing to wear a uniform and leave their family so they can to protect my family here at home.

“What is best in life?”

Life itself. God bless you and keep you. Merry Christmas.

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