CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are people whose acts you simply don't want to follow. Their light soaks up all the shine.
Back around Christmas, my friend Ginger Hamilton and I went to Third Eye Cabaret at the Charleston Cellar at 8 Capitol St. Third Eye performances, held each Thursday night, feature a combination of live local talent -- musicians, songwriters and spoken-word. On the night we were there, a few poets got up and performed, the last of them being a former West Virginian (now a California professor) named Joe Limer.
Limer talked fast and with passion, in bursts of such perfectly worded prose that my slow yet appreciative brain kept wishing for a rewind button.
If I'd been one of the writers scheduled to speak after Limer, I'd have sneaked out the back door while he was on stage. I know what it's like to try and follow acts like his. I've been there many times.
Most recently, it's been following after the woman, Kim DeMorato, who held my position at my job before me. She's been a tough act to follow. Kim is an efficient machine of a worker, with her color-coding and organizing ways. She was able to do -- with time to spare -- a job that has since been split into two. Coming along after her leaves me feeling incompetent on a regular basis.
I say all this because I recognize what it's like to be the small, dull firework that bursts too soon after the sky-lighting purple. And because I feel sorry for any man who comes into my life, because I had a father who set the bar mighty high.
Growing up, I assumed all dads were like mine. I thought they all had breakfast and dinner at the table with their wife and kids, that they rousted them from bed early on Saturday mornings to go for walks in the woods or along the train tracks, that they played games and built treehouses and that sort of thing.
Recently, as I was driving a group of teenage girls, they started talking about their dads. The conversation was both heartbreaking and infuriating, and left me wanting to call my own father to say thanks.
When one of the girls said she saw her dad only a few times a year, even though he lives less than a mile away, I asked if he'd always been that way.
"No," she said. "Dad loved us when we were little and cute, but he doesn't know what to do with us now, so he doesn't do anything at all. He doesn't even try."