12 August 2019

NOTE FROM NORM: The sum total of one’s life

The sum total of one’s life has to be incalculable.

At least that is the hope I think we each have as we contemplate the life we have built with our time on this planet.

As I prepare to celebrate my 70th birthday on Saturday, August 17th I am once again reminded of that in a season of reflection and contemplation.

My blessings are beyond measure.  I have a loving wife, two children who are beginning their own families with partners they love and who love them immeasurably.

My good fortune has been built upon the foundation of the remarkable country I was born into and the parents who raised, nurtured and supported me throughout their lives.

I’m a brother surrounded by siblings who have raised me up, smothered me with love and compassion, and whose pride in me is matched completely by my pride in being their brother.

Each step we take in this life brings us somewhere.  And, rarely do we stop long enough to appreciate the value of each of those steps.

These days I do.

The idea of being a 70-year-old man – a husband – a father – and soon to be a grandfather – seemed as remote to me during my days in high school or in college as the idea that one day I would be a Mayor and a United States Senator.

Or that I would spend 16 years in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office – travel the world – be involved in some of the nation’s most challenging, impactful and sobering events in politics, foreign affairs and public policy.

Yet, in the blink of an eye I am here – soon to be 70.

Growing up, that seemed really old!

But today I lead the government relations practice at one on the largest and most prestigious law firms in the world; Chair the Republican Jewish Coalition and strive every day to strengthen the U.S. Israel alliance- and continue to Country and my Party at the highest levels, hoping to help build a stronger, more vibrant America for all.

I hope that somewhere along the way my deeds and accomplishments have done more to benefit the people I was elected to serve, the friends I have accumulated along the way and the family I cherish than any shortcomings I have had in my life.

I lost children and I have lost elections.

There is no comparison between the two.

The lost elections I moved on from to carry on for another day.

The children have remained in my heart and my soul from the moment I held them in my arms to the moment I returned them to G-d.

I look out in the world today and I see so many who travelled a path with me who have moved on or continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

My wife, Laurie,  and her sisters who have expanded the legacy of Dorothy Lundstrum with Lundstrum Performing Arts in North Minneapolis.

They have transformed something beautiful into something everlasting and in doing so given hope and promise to aspiring artists for generations to come.

My son and daughter, Jake and Sarah, who continue to make their parents proud by their accomplishments, contribute to their community, make a difference with their work and uphold their obligation to create a better world for the next generation of Americans.

I am surrounded by friends who I can’t remember not having known.

My brother-in-law, Billy Ellis, whose passion for everything – including being Billy – has never left me anything but grateful for his presence in my life.

Fifty years ago, we celebrated together my twentieth birthday at Yasgur’s farm, at a  music event called Woodstock.

Lifelong friendships are a great blessing.

And, there are those in public service who I see doing remarkable things every single day.

I consider it a matter of pride that there are so many of them I cannot list on this post without it going on into next week!

I see the return of old friends to public service, like Sheriff Bob Fletcher, and I’m reminded that you can teach old dogs’ new tricks.

Bob is doing things today in the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department that reflect the wisdom of growing older, growing humbler, life lessons, personal loss and the gratitude of being given the responsibility of public leadership again.

There are people like my friend, Erich Mische, the Executive Director of a non-profit called Spare Key who is planning to walk 70 miles to celebrate my birthday at the Xcel Energy Center August 16th-17th.

I think he’s insane.

The man who successfully led my first Mayoral campaign , and who together has navigated with me changing political and life currents- and the blessing is that we are still linked together today.

I’m grateful for the passion for what he does and hope you will consider supporting his walk and more importantly, families who need our help by making a donation at www.helpmebounce.org between now and my birthday on Saturday, August 17th.

I do not feel old- but I do feel mortal.

Up until my lung surgery 3 weeks ago I still had a lot of  bounce in my stride.

My golf game and pickle ball games are on the upswing. My travels over the last few months to Casablanca, Tbilisi , Jerusalem, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi-and Washington DC every week-hardly dented my endurance. And I’m coming back strong.

But admittedly, my  battle with the beast that is cancer has taken its toll. After every seemingly  knockout punch my team at Mayo has thrown-multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation- the beast roars back.

The arrows in the quiver are getting a little thin.  This week I start on immunotherapy at Mayo. I’m hoping it’s more than just a Hail Mary( even good Jewish boys can embrace a successful Hail Mary!). But the bottom line is I’m keeping the faith and confident we can tame the beast.

The dawning of another Minnesota summer into the beauty of its fall has never been anything I have for granted.

In my travel of 70 turns around the sun I have seen glory in every season of my life.

I will celebrate my 70th birthday at my cabin surrounded by families and friends.

I will find time to fish.  To maybe play some golf.  Laugh.  Hold my wife’s hand and sink back into our lives and be grateful for every single moment I have lived in the past.

And, grateful to G-d for each moment I have in my future.

The seasons come and they go.

I am a man content with my life at 70 -appreciative and humbled by  the  abundance  of blessings I have experienced in my life- and hopeful that there are still seasons to come.