My grandparents, Roger Federer, Shakespeare and Darwin come to dinner
Jesus is on lots of people’s lists. And Adolf Hitler.
I don’t think I’d want to sit down for a whole dinner with Jesus —that would be intense! Plus, I’d have to clean my oven first. As for Adolf Hitler, I wouldn’t waste five seconds of my time with him.
I would like to have dinner with my birth grandparents, though.
My father was put up for a adoption at the age of four months. He was born at the beginning of the Great Depression to a single mother. She tried hard to keep my father, but—she was a single woman at the beginning of the Great Depression. Working mothers were frowned on then, and single working mothers were shunned for sure.
She had come over from England to do domestic work. That was not a high income occupation anyway, and at that time there was no social network in place. She just couldn’t manage it financially. She put an ad in the newspaper. I don’t know what the exact wording of the ad was, but it would have been something like: “Baby boy available to loving home.” Imagine.
Because of the informal adoption, we always knew who our birth grandmother was. She sent gifts at Christmas, and we exchanged letters. Unfortunately, both my father and his birth mother died before I got to an age to be curious enough to ask, “So, who was the guy?” I have no idea who my birth grandfather was. I’d like to know. I’d like to sit down across a dining table from both of them and hear their story. I’d like to hear how it felt to leave England behind and to land at Pier 21 full of fear and hope for a new life at the same time. I’d like to know what she thought of her first Canadian winter. I’d like to hear how she and my grandfather met and how they spent their time together. Did they go for long walks? Have tea? Go skating, maybe?” Did they love each other? Or was she young and taken advantage of? And what’s his story? So many questions.
I’d like to have dinner with Roger Federer, too.
Roger Federer has a singular ability to own his outstanding tennis talent fully and to talk about how well he played without sounding boastful. I don’t know how he does it. He somehow manages to balance perfectly knowledge of his competence with humility. He has been the best tennis player around for a long time, and in my opinion, is the best ever. I would like to spend some time with someone who is uncompromisingly good at what he does and is uncompromisingly human at the same time. How inspirational that would be.
How about Shakespeare?
Let’s assume that there really was a William Shakespeare—and it’s just so much more fun to believe there was—wouldn’t it be a hoot to have dinner with him? We could spend the time making up new words and exploring new turns of phrase. Anyone who penned both tragedies and comedies that have survived for hundreds of years would be certain to be an entertaining dinner companion.
And Charles Darwin
I’d like to have dinner with Darwin and tell him, “It’s OK. You were right, and it’s OK.” Darwin’s theories came to light at a time when religious organizations weren’t enthusiastic about accepting them. (We’ve moved on, haven’t we? Please tell me we have.) I wish Darwin could come back now and do a world tour with his mind at ease. I’d like to take him to sit with me in my church pew and say, “See? It’s good. Now we have both.”
How about you? Who is on your list?