"Always answer on the first knock. Always."

"Beer and wings, Wednesday at 7:30. Attendance is mandatory, unless you can't make it."  I expect to receive this cryptic message, or a derivation thereof, at some point in time every Tuesday. Twenty other guys receive the same knock at their door, and on any given Wednesday, 10-12 answer by showing up at the appointed place and time. We will squeeze around 3-4 tables to share food, stories, laughter and a couple hours of time.

Time has no agenda, emotion, feelings or concerns, yet it's always here. Here, not there. Time waits on no one. Time doesn't care if you dance; it just sets the beat and keeps itself. I try to surround myself with people who recognize this simple, yet difficult to grasp concept. The implacable drum beat of death plays for us all, whether we realize or accept that is an entirely different matter. 

It was August 2014, and my son, Jack would be leaving soon for his first year at DePauw University. I asked him to join me for a Wednesday night outing, I wanted to spend time with him and thought it could be a good experience...think about the scene from Gran Torino where Clint Eastwood takes the kid to the barbershop to learn how guys talk to each other! Per usual, the cadence of endless conversation and story telling created enough laugher to bring grown men to tears. Jack participated fully, occasionally at my expense. It was a wonderful evening. 

That night, Jack got to spend time with Coach Smith, a legend in many circles; the boy took notes on Chad's lessons about life. Chad Smith is a teacher, some of his lessons are literal and many are best taken figuratively. Spending time with him is irreplaceable; spending time with anyone is irreplaceable. Lessons for all to more seriously consider. Those couple hours were time well spent and won't fade from memory any time soon. Chad has ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease is real, relentless, and unforgiving. 

In December, over his holiday break, Jack accompanied me to a New Year's Eve party at Chad's home. Both, Jack and Chad, own infectious smiles that light a room. I may or may not be unique in noticing such things, but the room lit up as they greeted each other. Chad asked Jack if he'd learned anything during his visit to our Wednesday meeting earlier in the year. Without hesitation, Jack answered: "Always answer on the first knock. Always." Chad smiled. 

The context of the story is irrelevant; the application of the quote and its lesson are not. 

In late January, I met Jack and his buddy Emily at J's Bikes to pick up some helmets. He was planning a mutiny on my Trek Madone. I've always made my kids wear bicycle helmets; never in his 19 years had he been so excited about a helmet! He also needed shoes and cleats compatible with the Look pedals on the Madone. The shop didn't have a pair of shoes that both fit and appealed to his sense of style. Jerry had mentioned he had a pair of used shoes in the back that might work. He liked them at first sight; white, flashy, expensive looking, super light, and they fit. We had a match.
The guys in the shop, all Wednesday Night Door Men, explained with a sense of reverence that these were Chad's shoes. Todd and Joe offered Jack an easy out, or opportunity to decline: "Chad's feet stink, really stink. The shoes likely have an odor to them that will never come out." Unfazed, Jack said it was all good. Later, he would say, "Dad, these are Chad's shoes. "It was as if those stinky old shoes had super powers, he knew it and wasn't letting go.   

I am a better man because I know Chad Smith. I suspect that anybody who spends time with Chad is a better person for it. It is easy to wish our paths had crossed earlier, but I believe things happen when and how they're supposed to happen.

Thanks Coach. Attendance is mandatory and always answer on the first knock. Always.  


  1. Here it is, delivered at 7:05pm on 02.10.2015: "Dawg Leg. 7:30. Tomorrow. Wings and beer. Attendance is mandatory unless you cannot make it."


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