An Old Man & His Dog

A man and his dog pose for the camera.

ÖŽ   Recently, I was sitting on a park bench in the middle of a shopping mall when an old guy walked up with his Golden Retriever and sat down on a bench in the middle of the square.  Within a few minutes, a young woman came over and started talking to the man and petting his dog.  As soon as she left, another came and the process continued for the entire 45 minutes I sat on my bench waiting for my wife to return from her shopping endeavors.  It’s not a big leap to assume this guy does this every single day. Loneliness can become overwhelming.  I have two close friends that are homebound and their constant complaint is that of being alone.  Probably, all of us can name a few people that have been excluded from normal activities because of health problems.  That is especially prevalent as we get older and our bodies start to forsake us.  It is easy to criticize those with failing health; didn’t eat healthy, didn’t exercise, drank too much, smoked, overweight, etc.  Murray Kempton said, “A critic is someone who comes onto the battlefield after the battles are over and shoots the woundedâ€.  Sounds a lot like I was being critical of the old man in the shopping mall.  I need to do better!

ÖŽ I read an article the other day by Jacob Mikanowski about the most prominent language spoken on our wonderful planet.  To my surprise it was English.  Over 400 million people speak it as their first language and more than one billion use it as their secondary tongue. It is an official language in 59 countries and no language in history has been used by so many people or spanned a greater portion of our globe.  It is the language in the worlds of education, international commerce, global business, internet, & science.  Mandarin (Chinese) and Spanish have more native speakers but English has the greatest number of non-native speakers in the world.  I think what makes that so important is the more our neighbors speak the same language the greater the possibility of peace and harmony in the world.  I’m not advocating the elimination of other languages, just that we should all be able to communicate.  An increasing number of parents in South Korea have their children undergo a form of surgery that snips a thin band of tissue under the tongue, believing it will make their children speak English better.  Supposedly, it enables the child to pronounce the English retroflex consonant easier, a sound considered to be particularly difficult for Koreans (there is no evidence to suggest that it improves that ability).  English retroflex is using the tip of the tongue rolled backwards. I think if I were a young man with a young family I would insist that my children learn another language, and I would attempt to do the same along with them.  And since I’m on a roll, I would insist they learn to play a musical instrument, attend church, and keep their eye on the possibility of going to college after finishing high school.  Sadly, my enlightenment came a little too late, but Thaddeus Golas said, “Enlightenment doesn’t care how you get there.† That makes me feel better.

ÖŽ  My wife and I went out to eat with two friends (Rick & Colly) that were celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary.  We were told that we were the only ones to remember their special day.  After dinner at their favorite restaurant (Red Lobster), we went back to their house and watched a DVD of their wedding way back in 1994.  It was heartwarming to jump back in time and see how we all looked back then and enjoy again watching them get married.  I was reminded of how beautiful my wife was as a younger woman (she still is).  There were around 75 people at their wedding and 24 years later only two people let them know they remembered it.  There must be some logic there that escapes me.  Maybe, the only commitment is to attend, not to remember.

ÖŽ A few days ago, my wife and I walked a local trail with our daughter-in-law (Rachel) and as we walked and talked, we passed under a very large tree.  All of a sudden, we heard branches snapping as a rather large branch plunged to the ground, landing about within inches of us.  Had it landed on anyone we would not be on the green side of the grass now.  We continued our walk as the possibility of the tragedy we just avoided started to sink in.  I know that I am guilty of taking too many things for granted, but when things like this happen, you become acutely aware that our blessings are tenuous and can be reversed at any time.  I can think of four times in my life when there was a distinct possibility that death was imminent, but I was saved by the Grace of God.  Now the number is five.  Kahlil Gibran said, “They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.† I have been on this planet 28, 311 days and, sadly, a lot of those days were sold for gold.  Truth is a hard apple to throw and even harder to catch.

ÖŽ   A few evenings ago, I attempted to walk down the steps from the kitchen into the garage.  It was late and the garage was mostly dark, and thinking I was on the last step, I stepped for the garage floor from the 2nd to last step.  I was holding a ceramic bowl we use to put kitchen scraps into the compost bucket.  As I went crashing down the aisle leading to the garage door, holding the bowl aloft so it will not get broken, I banged my left knee on the concrete floor, winding up in a heap halfway down the aisle.  I kinda know that at my age you do not get a free pass on a fall like that.  The skin on my knee was burning from the scraping action but other than that, everything seemed to be ok.  I clamored to my feet and walked around in the garage and all appeared well.  As the week progresses, I can tell that all is not well in the land of the brave and free.  I can still walk fairly well, but the knee is swollen, stiff, and a little painful at times.  I put an ice pack on it for 20 minutes, took an Aleve, and things improved a lot.  I will follow that regimen for a few days and see if things continue to improve.  My suspicion is that I will wind up in a doctor’s office somewhere, and he will tell me they need to amputate at least two toes on both feet, remove some skin from my nose and use it to cover the big hole they have to drill in my knee.  I will have to sign a pledge that I will never again walk in the dark unless I am holding the arm of someone half my age.  I will also be asked to sit daily for 30 minutes in front of a concrete wall, reinforced by time and silence, and think about what I need to do to prevent falls in the future.  As I look outside, it appears the sky has the blues.  It may be because I have the blues.  I almost escaped that fall without any damage, but then, almost doesn’t mean anything because almost doesn’t matter.

There’s an old maxim that goes, “Happy people rarely correct their faultsâ€.  I’m thinking that I will correct some things because I’m not that happy right now!