What A Wonderful Life!

֎ “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” …Collette

I used that quote in a “WoW” that I wrote way back in August of 2007 entitled, “A Place to Be Alone”.  That was true then, and it remains true to this very day.  I am guilty of not recognizing the wonderful life I enjoy, or if I do so in prayer, as soon as I’m finished, I immediately sweep it from my mind and move on to other matters. I am reminded of an interview a TV reporter had with Senator John McCain about his terminal brain cancer.  I surmised from Senator McCain’s interview that he had experienced a wonderful life, had no regrets, and was ready to accept death and meet his maker in the afterlife.  I sorta assume that most of us expect life will be filled with fun things to do, especially after working hard on a daily basis and missing very few days at work.  Sadly, as we grow older we find that life is full of highs and lows and that sometimes the lows can be life threatening.  And, as we all have experienced, it doesn’t have to be something that happens to us, but to those we love deeply.  Watching all the tragedy that the evening news produces on a daily basis makes me sad, but when tragedy strikes home, the sadness transitions to heartbreak.  Like you, when tragedy strikes, I constantly strive to keep a positive outlook.  That fails me when I fall asleep at night, when all my worst fears run rampant like a spooked herd of cattle in the 50’s westerns of long ago.  I am relieved to get out of bed the next morning so I can put those fears behind and start a, new, positive day.  That’s when I want the tranquility of heart that resides there when I am awake.   Hank Green said, “I deal with stress in two ways because there are two kinds of stress. There’s stress that you can take care of, and there’s stress that you can’t. The first one, I take care of it as fast as possible, because putting it off always makes it worse. Things that I can’t fix? I think about the fact that I can’t fix them. I think about why I can’t fix them and I come to terms with the fact that this is a problem that I’m not going to overcome and that the world is not a wish granting factory.”  I agree with old Hank, and I want to thank him for clarifying how stress should be handled.

֎ Recently, my wife and I took my oldest granddaughter (Robin) and her family out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants (Piccadilly’s), a cafeteria we frequent often.  We enjoy the vast selection of food they offer and the fact that all their food is made onsite, including their delicious selection of desserts.  Robin was in from Tennessee to visit her dad (my son Rusty) and enjoy the many local entertainment venues in our area (Bush Gardens, Water Country, Harbor Fest, etc.).  I have 3 adorable Great Grandchildren by Robin and David (ages 14, 12 & 3), and it’s always a pleasure to be around them.  As I sat at the table, chewing away on my delicious food, listening to the chatter of a vibrant, energetic young family, a wonderful wave of contentment swept over me. I would like to think that when I was a young man with a young family, I had the same effect on my grandparents.  I spent many hours in my grandparent’s presence as a youngster, and always visited them when I became an adult.  I returned home each year from hundreds of miles away just to accomplish that task.  They always seemed delighted to see us, but I never sensed that they enjoyed the energy we brought.  When my granddaughter and her family headed back home, after a week or so, the energy they left behind stayed with us for a while and we rode that wave as long as possible.  “Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over.”  ………F. Scott Fitzgerald

֎ As most of you know, my son passed away on June 16th and then my brother’s wife (Patty) passed away on Monday, July 2nd.  Somehow, I still get out of bed each morning, raise the window shade, and watch the sunlight bounce off the floor and surround the many teddy bears in our bedroom, seemingly, bringing them all to life.  I slowly shuffle down the hallway to the coffee pot and push the button that starts my daily brew.  I continue to do the things that I have done every day for years, but they don’t seem to bring the excitement that each new day brought before. I live with the hope that as time passes the sorrow will become less and that one day, when I think of them, the hurt will be gone and all the good memories will come flooding back.  There are times when I think that God has taken a wrecking ball to my life.  Lately, for every minute I’ve laughed, I’ve cried a dozen or more. A storm seems to be following me searching for thunder.  Until a lot of time passes, I will be plodding along, looking for the gems of happiness that each day usually presents to us all.  A lot of good, caring people still surround me and will insure that I don’t go too far down the “black hole” of depression.  I always thought that “black holes” were things way out in space.  What I have discovered is that they exist right here on earth and any of us can get sucked in if we’re not careful.

֎  “Goodnight Miss Calabash, wherever you are” …. Jimmy Durante

I used to watch the Jimmy Durante Show back in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s and he always signed off wishing Miss Calabash a goodnight.  To the best of my knowledge he never told his viewers who she was and why she was important to him.  I think all of us have a Miss Calabash in our lives, someone that’s important to us, and no one else knows why.  I believe, that for Jimmy, it was someone that was special when he was a young man and they had grown apart and lost tract of each other, or maybe she passed over to the other side and he was letting her know that he was thinking of her.  Yes, I’m guessing we all have a Miss Calabash in our history, maybe more than one.

֎ I was listening to an audiobook a while back by Julie Andrews (Home: A Memoir of My Early Years), and she was describing being taught to sing as a young girl. Her mother listened to Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and many other classical composers.  I listen to Jackson, Paisley and Jones (Alan, Brad & George) and that doesn’t seem nearly as impressive.  There are times that I believe that I have missed out on so much by not listening to the music of great composers and reading books written by world renown authors. But, then again, I am a man of simple taste, feasting on fried chicken, hamburgers and French fries.  That spills over into my taste for music and books- John Grisham & Nicholas Sparks come to mind.  I do admire people that read the finest of books and listen to classical music, and I consider them to be more intellectual. But I somehow doubt they read more than I do or listen to more music.  I guess it’s sorta like comparing a high school athlete to a professional athlete.  They’re playing the same game but the pro plays at a much higher level.  I’m of the opinion that it matters little what songs bounce around in your head, or what books you read, as long as they satisfy that inner need to be entertained or learn something new.  Andre’ Gide said, “I am no good except when alone.  In a group it’s not so much the others that bore and annoy me; it’s myself.”

֎ My wife and I took her oldest son and his wife out to dinner the other day to celebrate his 50th birthday.  The meal was delicious (steak for me) and the conversation abundantly fun.  It is always entertaining to watch the interaction of my wife with her two sons.  They are decidedly different personalities and you would never guess they were raised by the same parents.  The oldest son is more outgoing and easily engaged in conversation, while the youngest is quiet and reserved.  I have found that I always enjoy the company of both.  It has always been clear to me that good conversation is better than any movie I’ll ever watch, or any show that’s playing on the TV.  I spend time on the phone and texting, but I much prefer sitting down next to someone and having a face-to-face conversation.  As we travel thru life and get older, we lose people we love for many reasons.  We should never regret that we didn’t spend enough time in their presence.  J.K. Rowling’s said it very plainly, “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  Let’s all pledge to start making better choices 😊.