I had this weird dream, where Caroline Rhea was living in this large house, filled with the friendliest, lovingest cats and dogs ever. They'd follow you around, and rub your leg with their faces until you reached down, or sat down for petting and sharing of love. It was adorable.
For whatever reason, it made me think of the late Michael Blate. He lived in an enormous house in Florida with many animals. There was an African grey parrot, two adorable goofy golden labs, a Pembroke welsh corgi (who bossed the bigger dogs around), a flock of geese (really watch-geese, if you ask me), and cats who roamed the territory. He'd have these prayer meetings at his house on Thursday nights, followed by a brief meditation and a Vedanta philosophy discussion, which I'd actively take part in.
I think I was either in middle school or high school, and Michael was the head of his family, which had his wife Gail, their daughter Laurie, Laurie's husband (whose name escapes me; he was usually at work when we came around, so I never saw much of him), and their son Kasey.
He never made me feel like because my thinking was coming from the mouth of a young kid, that it was any less valid or reasoned out. He would carefully listen to what I had to say before shooting back with his own ideas, and then listening to my rebuttal. It was never a case of "I need to be right," but "I share a mutual respect for you, and see the spark in your soul too; I recognise that by ignoring the bodies we wear, and recognising your mind." It was strange that someone who did so much reading, lived so long, and had spoken to so many people about so many things, was actually interested in what this kid had to say, and deeply respected my opinions.
To be fair, I had done just as much reading about Hinduism as Michael had. I'd read a pretty respectable chunk of the Hindu scriptures in my spare time, because I wanted to. I was surrounded by the stuff (dad is a priest; you're bound to pick up something, if you're paying attention), and we had friends who would give us excellent translations of the scriptures into English. I'd also spent a lot of time thinking about philosophical questions, and where one should walk towards. It was an odd time of my life.
When he died, I never quite processed my grief, because it had been years since I'd seen him when it happened. He moved to North Carolina, to this enormous stretch of land, with his family, animals, etc. So when it actually happened, I didn't really feel too terribly much about it. It's odd that I think of him now, when I've got this transition period going on with so many things in my life. People are coming and going, I'm moving (podcast spaces, that is; not my address, or god forbid, New York), I've got all kinds of other things going on. I haven't thought of him in a very long time, and if I'm strictly honest, I do miss him. He was a good man.
Him and his family were (and I assume still are) vegan. They're the quintessential healthy, happy, vegans. They eat excellent food, with lots of vegetables, and go about their lives quietly and contentedly. I don't recall their ever preaching at me or my sister when we came over to eat and play with Kasey. They introduced me to kale, which I love to this day.
It's 5:00 in the morning, and if I didn't set down my thoughts, I'd have lost them. Wherever you are, Michael, I miss you. You had a good impact on my life, because you respected me even though I was this know-it-all kid, who'd read way too many books for his own good. I raise my theoretical glass of water to you!