Half Full/Mark Wilcox

As I age, one of the things I’m most grateful for is that I don’t care about stupid things as much as I used to. No, I’m not talking about professional wrestling. I remember as a college student and well into my 20s having conversations with friends that went well into the night about issues such as “Do dogs have souls?” “If there’s such a thing as ghosts, why are they wearing clothes?” and, of course, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it still make a sound.”

These days I could care less about such philosophical quandaries. I mean, how do I know if Adam and Eve had belly buttons, I’m too worried about getting enough fiber.

Watching the end of the British Open Golf Championship a couple of weeks ago, brought that old tree falling in the forest saying back to mind.

After he had birdied 18, to take what would be an insurmountable three stroke lead, Phil Mickelson walked off the green and immediately into the arms of his wife Amy and their three children. The genuine love and emotion of that family easily traveled from ancient Scotland into my not so ancient living room in West Houghton.

It was at that point that falling trees came to mind. But I paraphrased it into something like “If you have a personal triumph, and there’s no family around to share it, is it really a triumph?”

I bring this up because at that moment just off the 18th green in Muirfield, I knew exactly how Phil Mickelson felt. It’s important to know the British Open is a tournament Mickelson had been chasing for about 20 years, without a victory or much success at all. As a matter of fact he had given up hope of ever winning it. Yet there he was with Amy, Amanda, Sophia and Evan all sharing in his victory.

So how do I know what he was feeling? It just so happens earlier this year I finally caught something that I had been chasing even longer than Phil chased the Claret Jug. After nearly three decades of hoping … I got to play Tevye.

I first heard of “Fiddler on the Roof” when my Aunt Ida went to New York to visit her sons Jim and Wayne in New York City. They took her to a Broadway play, and upon her return she gave me the Playbill. There was a picture of Zero Mostel as Tevye. A few years later I saw my first-ever “real” play. “Fiddler on the Roof” as produced by Players de Noc in Escanaba. It was then I was “bitten by the acting bug.” And right then and there, I became determined to play Tevye some day. Even though I was a chubby little red-headed goober from Rock, I knew I was destined to play Tevye. My first shot came about 12 years later, in my middle twenties with a theatre degree from NMU under my belt. I auditioned for the role with the Dickinson County Community Theatre. The competition was intense between me and another guy, more age appropriate. We went through three call backs and in the end I lost out. About ten years later the chance came again when the Calumet Players held auditions. My schedule wouldn’t allow it. Cut to January of this year and I’m probably about 10 to 15 years older than what Tevye should be. But I heard Michigan Tech was doing “Fiddler” but I hadn’t heard about auditions. I went on line and learned the final night of auditions was that evening and if I ever was going to sing “If I were a Rich Man” anywhere outside of my shower, this was it.

Playing Tevye was everything I had dreamed it would be and then some. I’ll save the details for another time. But what completed the experience was wondering into the Rozsa Center Lobby, which was now empty save for my wife Maryann and our son Marshall. They had waited. Turns out they were as eager to share that moment as I was. Then came the group hug and kinship with Phil, Amy and the bunch. And the answer to my newly formed question. “If you have a personal triumph and there’s no family to share it. Is it really a triumph?” Simply put … the answer is “No.”