Author: Tommy

My Life’s New Chapter

   Well, this past week has been a busy one. We are still doing things that will make the move to our new, “cottage”, easier. We will spend three nights in a small apartment the retirement home provides us, while the movers spend two days packing our stuff and then 2 days unpacking it. The one thing I know for sure: Our life will change radically. I know that some of you reading this have already made the change and are perfectly comfortable with it. I know because I have been in your home and witnessed the contentment on your face. But I’m confident you had apprehensions when the process started. So many things to let go, so many memories brushed aside, like the pollen collecting on our sidewalk.

   My wife and I have gone from not eating out at all since March 2020, to eating out every day (dinner at the retirement community). I asked her the other day how it felt to know she would never have to cook another meal. She smiled, said nothing, but I could sense some sadness in her eyes. Sorta like me, knowing I’ll never mow another lawn, pick up pinecones and gumballs, or sit in front of my workshop after a hard day’s work and smoke my favorite cigar. Our new home is a “smoke free” campus and ‘cuffs await anyone that fractures that rule. I think the sadness comes from knowing that they are “last” things we’ll do. Sadness comes in all forms, and some are much more impactful than others. We just have to know the difference. I wrote a missive on August 16, 2013, titled, “Remember Your First?”, and it’s about things like, first kiss, first sex, first time driving a car, etc. So, here I am now, writing about “Last”. Amusing and sad. If you would like to read it, then click here.

   When all is said and done, we should be sleeping in our new cottage on April 22nd? That’s when the newest chapter of our lives begins. When we sit down in the cavernous dining room to eat our dinner, I bring up the calculator on my smartphone and total up the calories for my meal (each item has it listed), and my selection is based on not allowing my total calorie count slide past 600. Maybe a little, but not by much 😊. So far, I have been able to keep my weight in check, but the fight has just started and there’s a lot of rounds left. We’ll see who won the fight in a year. I read an article online written by a woman who weighs over 400 lbs (here) and I felt so badly for her. With so much good food available, it is so easy to gain weight. Sometimes, I think it is like David fighting Goliath, without the slingshot. Anyway, the fight continues. I am determined that my family doesn’t have to hire six of the strongest men from the local gym to carry me out of the church 😊.

   My youngest great-granddaughter (Taylor-15) sent me a text the other day and said she wanted to write some missives for my website. I was delighted to tell her I would love for her to do that. I also informed her that 99% of my readers are adults and that she should write with that in mind. Who knows, maybe I have a budding writer in the family. I suggested she spend some time observing her grandmother (JoAnn) writing her missives for my website, and reading some of mine, to get an idea of what I post there. Hopefully, she will have something posted soon. I’ll keep you updated. Since September 2017, I have had 161,000 visitors to my website. Hopefully, a lot of them will read her missives.

   JoAnn has a new missive titled,” Let’s Play Fetch” about cats here, and I have rotated some of my “WoWs from The Past” if you are interested.

   Wherever you are on this wonderful planet, I hope life is as good for you as it is for me. I know I am blessed and I’m sure you feel the same. If you have the time, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you…. Tommy    

Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.  — Tennessee Williams,

Rainbow Chasers

In 1935, a young couple in Armonk made a vow to chase rainbows together for the rest of their lives. Sixty years later, with many rainbows in their possession, they continue the chase.

Contrary to popular belief, not all rainbows have a pot of gold, but they contain other treasures. The first two pots were, undoubtedly, your two children, followed by two pots for your grandchildren.

Some other pots contained a sense of humor, the spirit of competition, loyalty, kindness, devotion, and that trait so hard to find, “trustworthiness”. 

I have only known this couple for a short time.

I wish it were longer.

I hope to find their secret for making a long-term relationship work so well, when so many forces are at work to destroy it.

There are many people that profess to know exactly what makes love survive.

They will give you a laundry list of things that have to exist for it to endure.

Yet, they cannot stay married for 20 years.

So, where do we go to answer the age-old question of, “How does love endure?”

I say, travel north to a home atop a hill in Armonk, New York, and talk to a couple that is living the answer.

22,000 days of chasing rainbows together makes them expert “rainbow chasers”.

It is my belief that at the end of your journey on this earth; we are judged by the way we conduct our lives and by the promises we made and kept.

I only wish that I could make a promise and keep it for 60 years. I have known no one else that has done so.

It is too late for me to do so now, but I know a couple on a hill in Armonk… 

Tommy Hale …written to his fiancé’s parents in 1995 as they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  They are both now deceased.

Brain Change

⌘ What would you do if you could walk into a store and purchase a new brain? What if you could transfer all, or just part, of your current knowledge to that “new brain”? You could select your IQ and the personality you wanted, and even select the amount of compassion and caring you desire to have in your new “noggin”. It would be more resistant to age and disease (Alzheimer’s) and be entirely compatible with all bodily functions. Just like everything else for sale, you could purchase various upgrades (a quicker brain, allowing you to have instant recall–think Jeopardy) or you could have any language of choice embedded. For even more money you could add a secondary language. Pay a little more and you could have up to 5 of them.

Then, you could choose to be an expert in any field you desire for more money, saving years and lots of money on an education. Oh, did I mention a calendar is included free? You would never have to keep a physical record of appointments, meetings, family get-togethers, etc. There would be a little section of your frontal lobe set aside for those things, and you could move them in and out at will. 

Lastly, you could have them include the blueprint on how to treat the opposite sex, but that would be really costly. In my opinion, that should be the basis for the “New Brain”, the very first thing embedded, a necessary awareness needed by everyone. It would be analogous to selling a car without a motor. 

Now we get down to the nitty gritty of the question: would we do it? Would we purchase a new brain, with all the enhancements mentioned above, if we could? Although inviting, I’m inclined to think I wouldn’t do it. All those things would certainly have improved my life and made it more enjoyable, but it wouldn’t/couldn’t make me the person I am today. Would my family and friends love that new person as much as they love the person I am now? Should I risk it? Could I be confident that God would be okay with it if I became a better disciple? 

I have to give it some more thought. I know this could not happen in my lifetime, but it will probably arrive at some future date–maybe for my great-great grandchildren.   

Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering it will be happier.

” Maybe it will include a “New Brain.” 😊

⌘ I keep a journal of my daily activities and I have done that since the mid-90s. No, I don’t have a physical journal, I have an electronic version and I enjoy it immensely. Anytime I want to find out when something occurred, I activate my trusty journal and within seconds, there it is, telling me what I want to know. It’s amazing how often it corrects my memory, but its most important purpose is to reconnect me to the person I was back then. The first entry for the day tells me the weather and the temperature for that date, then what I was doing and thinking. How cool is that! Often it will include names of people in my life and my interaction with them. So many of my family and friends have moved on, or passed away, and new ones have stepped in to take their places and help me make a life that is enjoyable and purposeful. All of them helped shape me.

That begs the question: how important is it to recall your past, and how does it possibly help? For me, that’s easily answered. It gives me a lot of pleasure to look back on my past. The other day, as my wife and I resumed our efforts to downsize and get ready for our move to a retirement community in late March, we ran across a box filled with my Mother’s collection of newspaper articles about my sports accomplishments in high school and suddenly memories that were archived long ago come flooding back: I could see the bright lights over the football field that all three local high schools (Garden, Grundy, Hurley) shared for Friday night games. Our “Home” bleachers were always filled, and I knew every single person sitting there. Many of the fathers paced up and down the rope line that separated the fans from the players, urging us to do great things. There was tremendous excitement everywhere. Our cheerleaders, who were decked out in green and white (our school colors–go Garden Green Dragons) and were some of the prettiest and smartest in our school, were located just down the line from the players’ bench. They could effortlessly whip our fans into a frenzy! The year was 1958 and I, a 17-year-old senior, was having the time of my life. 

Now, as an 80-year-old man staring down at Mom’s collection, there was a blast of silence. Where had all the time between those years and now gone? Had I lived, a rewarding life filled with happiness and caring, or had I selfishly wasted too many days? Was I guilty of always waiting for tomorrow, or had I made each day count? Looking back through my journal helps me decide. When I come across a day without an entry, I’m always disappointed. To me, that now is a wasted day. If I failed to make an entry, I’m always suspicious that it wasn’t noteworthy. 

What happens to my journal after I transition over to the other side in a few years? Hopefully, my daughter and three granddaughters will one day take a glance. Maybe 75 years from now, my three great-grandchildren will want to read what I have written. I have 178 missives on my website, and they will survive for many years. You know the old saying: once you put something on the web, it stays there forever. 😊 Well, I’m not sure about the “forever” thing. Winston Churchill said, “You make a living by what you earn; you make a life by what you give.”

I hope I have done that sufficiently. The Bard gave me pause when he wrote: “I wasted time and now time waste me” –Richard II. Sadly, I’m inclined to believe that’s true. 

⌘ As I mentioned above, we are moving into a retirement community in about 40 days and have to downsize from 3,400 square feet to 1765 square feet. Both of us have been “collecting stuff” for 60 years. Admittedly, a lot of it should have been discarded many years ago, but some of it will be hard to let go. I think it will be easier for me to toss things than my wife, but it will be stressful for both of us. Our retirement community coordinator has assured us that the firm they recommended will do everything (pack, move, unpack) and all we have to do is sit back and watch. She says her company will pay 40% of the cost. We will live in one of 32 cottages located around the perimeter of the center’s compound and will be next door to a couple who attend our church. Our friends have assured us the move will be gratifying. 

I downloaded a piece of software (Room Arranger) on my PC that allows me to draw the dimensions of our cottage’s floor plan and, after measuring the size of each piece of furniture, place it with confidence in each room, rearranging it at will to see how we like the placement. The hardest part was drawing the floor plan to specifications. I have completed placing the furniture in all the rooms, and with my wife’s approval, we know exactly where everything will go. 😊    

I know I will no longer be cutting the grass, getting up gumballs and pinecones, or putting down fertilizer and grass seed. My wife will no longer need to keep up with her yard/gardening chores, or cook, because they furnish us one meal a day (dinner), and we eat mostly cereal/toast/oatmeal for breakfast, and sandwiches for lunch. Our life will differ vastly from what it is now, and I think we are ready for the change. There will be more time for reading, writing, taking long walks, and weightlifting. Of course, travel will be high on our priority list after restrictions are lifted, and we will be glad to visit our far-flung family and friends. I think the biggest aggravation for me during the battle with COVID-19 has been the inability to see all the people we love. But I know that those people who have to work face a totally different set of problems and mine pale in comparison. Kinda makes me feel like I shouldn’t complain. 

Albert Camus said, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Now that’s a thought I want to hold on to.

Our Day Trip

⌘ My wife and I haven’t been out of town for almost 15 months and we have been planning a day trip somewhere for quite a while. Of course, I know I can come up with the plan, but she determines when it will happen. 😊  Her schedule is a lot more complicated than mine, so I always to defer to her and that works fine.

Well, to my surprise, she informed me we would take our trip in a few days, so we made plans and waited. It arrived with abundant sunshine and, as I rolled out of bed, there was an illegal smile pasted boldly on my face. I put on my robe and trotted quickly down the hall to start my coffee and turn on Einstein (my PC). 

I immediately went to Google Maps and searched for a destination on the DelMarVA peninsula (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia). Our plan was to drive 90 miles, visit several interesting places, then find a place to eat a takeout lunch (Hardee’s/McDonalds) in the truck. 

We planned on visiting Smith Beach and Silver Beach, both of them near Exmore, Virginia (my wife likes to walk on the beach and find shark teeth). With my cup full of coffee and a thermos lying in wait with more of it, we climbed aboard our truck and headed off, looking forward to our trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. This engineering phenomenon is 15 miles long and takes us out into the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and allows us to ride across the water alongside tankers of all sizes headed out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s like taking a boat ride with no boat. During the 15-mile ride we went through two underwater tunnels and encountered very little traffic. I set my speed control to 55 mph and leaned back, with our radio blaring out Hank Williams, Charlie Pride, and other well-known country artists, and just watched the beautiful scenery in front of us. Within a couple of years, I expect we will have an autonomous vehicle (self-driving), and that trip will be even more amazing. 

The two beaches (Smith & Silver) turned out to be a disappointment. Neither had a beach you could walk on and cottages on the waterfront blocked visitor entry to any portion of the beach. We had our takeout lunch in our truck at the Hardee’s in Exmore, Virginia, watching the traffic swishing by on Route 13 as we talked about nondescript things. 

After finishing what turned out to be a pretty decent lunch, I started up Blue Bullet (my name for our truck) and we headed home. As we traveled across the bay, a feeling of contentment spread across my thoughts. The expected excitement of “getting out of town” delivered the serenity I was hoping for. I looked over at the woman I love to see if she had arrived at that place, but sadly I could not discern if that happened. I believe she enjoyed the trip but being unable to walk the beaches disappointed her and took some fun away. 

We have made plans for another trip next month, as we try to enrich our life by visiting places we enjoyed before this dreadful pandemic entered our lives. Our state (Virginia) has moved on to vaccinate everyone in the “1b” classification, which includes us (age 75+). With some luck, I’m hoping we can get it by the end of this month, or early February. 

Thomas Jefferson said it well: “I find the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” I’m gonna be working the phone to make it happen. 😊

⌘ A few days ago I noticed that both headlight lenses on our 2013 Prius were cloudy, which made driving at night extremely difficult, so I headed off to the auto parts store to buy something to remove it. I read an advertisement online about a special pad you could buy for $40 that, upon rubbing the headlight lens several times, would magically make the cloudiness disappear. I kinda felt uncomfortable with that, so there I was, standing in the auto parts store asking the attendant to tell me what to get to accomplish the task. A very personable young man led me over to the location and selected the one he uses for such a task. There were perhaps seven items that promised to be exemplary in doing what I needed, ranging in price from $5 to $25. The one he recommended (Raintree) was $7.75, so I followed him back to the register, paid for the item, and headed home. 

After getting back to the house, I sat in the truck and read the instructions, which were pretty simple: 

1. Make sure both lenses are clean.

2. Dampen a cloth, squirt some of the creamy liquid in the bottle onto the cloth and apply in a circular motion.

3. Wash clean.

Boy, was I surprised!  90% of the cloudiness disappeared. I dried them and repeated the process to see if I could get to 100%. After looking closely, I decided it was 95% effective. Now, the plan is to see how long it stays away before returning. I know it will return, but now I know an easier way to remove it. And now so do you, but I want you to keep it a secret. Benjamin Franklin said that “three men can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Naw, I don’t believe that,… you and I can keep this secret. 😊 

⌘ I recently purchased a Kardia Personal EKG device for $85, which is about as big as your index finger. It is powered by a coin size battery and gives you an EKG reading any time you want it. All you have to do is download the app to your phone, connect it via Bluetooth, and it’s ready to take a reading. Mine sits beside my blood pressure monitor and now, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I take my blood pressure, then place two fingers on each pad of the EKG device and in 30 seconds it has a reading, showing the graph as it progresses. It then quickly analyzes the results and tells you if there is a problem. It also gives you the option of sending it to one of their doctors for a detailed report (for a fee of course 😊). You also can key in your blood pressure to enhance the results. 

I’m not sure how reliable this device is, and I certainly wouldn’t use it to replace anything my doctor wanted to do, but I think its primary purpose is to alert you when something isn’t right and needs to be looked at by your family physician or a specialist, and keeping a history of your readings, which could be very helpful. 

One morning it told me I had an-Fib (arterial fibrillation), which was discerning. I looked at the chart and I couldn’t tell anything (because of my lack of medical training), and I didn’t feel any different, so I waited until the next day to take another reading and it was back to normal. But I suspect it is a good thing to have that in the device’s history file. 

As I have gotten older, I have included things I believe will help me keep track of my health better than just asking myself how I feel. We all have often heard the phrase “silent killer” used for blood pressure and other maladies. I’m thinking the thrice-weekly BP & EKG thingy will pay dividends. It only takes a few minutes to accomplish those tasks. 

An old Spanish Proverb says, “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” My thoughts exactly! 

You’ve Got Mail

⌘   I recently installed a sensor in our mailbox that alerts us when the mailman arrives.  We need this device because he is totally unreliable, and we never know when he will deliver our mail.  Our mailbox sits about 80 feet away at the end of our driveway, which means we often make many unnecessarily long trips to check for mail that hasn’t arrived.  Now, that’s not a great distance to walk, but it’s bothersome when the weather is extremely hot or cold, or after dark in the winter.  I connected the sensor via Wi-Fi to the Alexa “Show” that I set up for my wife in the kitchen, and when the mailman arrives, it proudly announces, “The mail has arrived, you have mail”!  That delights her to no end.  It always surprises me about how little it takes for me to make her happy.  She is completely unaware that I instructed Alexa to do that through the app on my phone.  I’m toying with having it say, “Jerilyn, you have mail; send Tommy down to get it.” 😊  When she was notified last night, the temp outside was 33°.  As I raised the garage door and headed down the driveway, I knew the mail was there and that I wasn’t making a useless trip.  Come to think of it, I’m surprised at how little it takes to make me happy. 😊  An old German proverb says that “when a man is happy, he does not hear the clock strike.”  Yup, I agree!

⌘ A few weeks ago, while I was installing our Christmas decorations outside, I discovered that I needed to convert a three-pronged electrical plug into a two-pronged one to fit the timer I was installing.  I had to do a lot of searching in my workshop and garage to find one.  I had an enormous smile on my face as I went back to the workshop with that little device firmly in my grip.  To my dismay, I saw the very thing I was searching for inches away from where I was working.  The smile vanished immediately, and in its place was a feeling of utter stupidity.  I try not to feel that way often, but sometimes it is appropriate.  I just want to make sure it does not happen when the consequences are more severe, such as when I’m driving or using one of my power tools.  You would think that at my age I would be more observant, more mindful of possible bad outcomes, but doing dumb things can happen at any age.  The most we can hope for is that those occurrences are rare.  A good friend told me long ago that if I made no mistakes, that meant I wasn’t doing anything.  Maybe that is true, but it still doesn’t make me feel better.     

⌘ A friend called my wife and informed her that the pine straw in his yard was ready to be taken away.  That happens once a year, so I dutifully get in the truck with my bonus grandson (Brandon) and head over to his house to rake.  Two hours later, Brandon and I are collecting the many piles of pine straw on a large tarp, dragging it to the truck, and tossing it into the bed.  His job is to tamp it down, and mine is to do the tossing.  Soon we are heading back to the house with a tremendous load of straw and hoping Jerilyn has lunch ready for two famished guys.  Luckily, she did, and after lunch we headed back to collect the rest of the straw.  We finished the job around 3:30 p.m., after which I sat down in my favorite chair in front of my workshop and tried to summon enough energy to put away the tools and say goodbye to Brandon as he prepared to head home (20 miles away).  As he walked down the driveway towards his car, it was easy to tell that all this work had little effect on his energy level.  Yeah, I know, he’s 26 and I’m old, but it still made me feel bad that all that work had no effect on him at all.  I tried to remember if all that work would have tired me at age 26, and I concluded that I couldn’t project back that far. 

Fulton J. Sheen said, “One becomes more interested in a job after the first impulse to drop it has been overcome.”  I’m gonna try to remember that. 😊  

⌘ My wife had a pacemaker installed last month.  Her heartrate was dreadfully low (48, normal is 70), but what concerned us most was that her heart would stop for several seconds in between beats.  The doctor had her wear a heart monitor for two days and then downloaded the data and found out that in one instance her heart paused for 8 seconds and in others it paused for 5 seconds.  He said that they didn’t worry about 3 second pauses, but 5 raised concern and 8 could be critical.  He called on a Friday night after reviewing the data and wanted her to go to the emergency room for admission to the hospital.  He wanted her to be monitored over the weekend until he could schedule the surgery for the implant.  Much to my dismay, she stayed home and waited for the surgery.  That was an anxious weekend for us, and on Monday we waited patiently for her doctor to call.  We finally called instead, and they told us the surgery would be on Wednesday morning.  There were a lot of prayers for us to make it to surgery without something going dreadfully wrong. 

The day for the surgery eventually arrived, and it delighted us, as it went without incident.  They whisked her into surgery and an hour later she was back in her room and doing well.  Almost a month has passed and everything looks fine.  Her pacemaker will not allow her heartrate to drop below 60 (70 is normal).  I connected the base to the internet, and it sits on the floor beside our bed, collecting information as she sleeps.  The battery in her pacemaker should last 8–12 years, and the race is on to see who lasts the longest.  I’m puttin’ my money on my wife. 😊

An old German proverb says, “Nowhere are there more hiding places than in the heart.”  I am confident that is so.

⌘ What name do you use when you talk to yourself?  You know, like when you talk out loud to yourself.  When that happens to me, I call myself “Joe Thomas.”  That was the moniker hung on me by two of my favorite uncles (Uncle Claude and his brother, Bill), who twisted my name (Tommy Joe), into “Joe Thomas.”  It has been over 60 years now, but I can still see them patrolling the sidelines of our high school Friday night football games, extolling me to stop the other team or score a touchdown.  Both of them transitioned to the other side many years ago, but they were the first two adults, other than my mother, to have confidence in me.  I was a pretty decent football player and scored a lot of points in both my junior and senior years, thanks to a quarterback who had a lot of confidence in me to catch his passes.  I was the left end on defense and prided myself on stopping anyone from running wide on that side of the field. 

On Saturday morning, my two uncles would come by our house to talk about the game the previous night.  They were so proud of me; it was, “Joe Thomas, you did this, or you did that” and I would listen to them like any proud teenager when being praised.  They instilled confidence in me that remains to this day, and for that I’m thankful.  So yeah, when I’m wondering out loud, I call myself “Joe Thomas” and now you know why.  Just in case you’re wondering…  I’m just saying…😊