Category: MP Rotation
⚽ We Americans, according to research studies, are more likely to watch television than engage in any activity other than sleeping and working. Studies show that what we watch can shape our thinking, political preferences, and even our cognitive ability.
Now, I agree with most of that statement, but I’m a bit surprised that it affects us cognitively. The study goes on to say the evidence suggests that time spent in front of the screen can have negative consequences, particularly when the shows are mostly entertainment. The harm seems to come from the fact that it replaces more enlightening ways of spending time. I think most of us will agree that we spend too much time watching that darn TV. A daily average for my wife and I would be about 3 hours, and truth be known, that’s probably excessive.
My first wife and I got married right after high school in 1959. I went into the US Air Force shortly thereafter and she joined me in 3 months at Lackland AFB, TX. Four months later I transferred to an air base outside Dallas (Perrin,) and we lived there for almost 2 years. During those two years, we were without a TV for almost a year. An Airman I worked with was buying a new TV and offered to sell me his old one on the cheap. It was a black & white with a 12” screen and stood off the floor on thin legs that were about 2 feet long. A small 45 RPM record player came with it and plugged into the back of the TV so you could listen to music thru the speakers. I can clearly remember the first day I came home from work and after eating supper, sitting down with my wife to watch TV. It was like having a movie theater in our home! Every evening we were being entertained, and that felt so good! But, eventually, we became accustomed to being entertained and the smile gradually left our faces. And here I am 60 years later, watching TV without even a hint of a smile. The one thing I know for certain is that TV will dumb-you-down faster than anything else in your life. It requires nothing from you, and in return, never gives you anything substantial in return. So, that begs the question, why don’t I go on a “No TV” sabbatical. I think it is because TV has become ingrained as part of my being, becoming like an extra organ, and we all know you can’t live absent an organ. Maybe I should concentrate on trimming back the amount of time I watch the blasted thing, or better still, apply the routine I use in smoking cigars: watch TV every other day for a few hours. Clearly, as confused as I am, I need to give this some more thought 😊.
⚽ The young people amongst us are less likely to suffer in silence, but almost all of us are social creatures. A lot of us hate to be alone, believing that if we are, we’re anti-social. Solitude is not always good for us, but it can be, and should be, judiciously pursued. Choosing to do things alone can have mental and emotional benefits. Being alone with our thoughts and giving our mind free rein to wander can be exhilarating. It can be simple things, for example, I have an umbrella that I use when I go down the driveway to get the mail when it’s raining. One of its rods had a broken string that kept the fabric tight, and it has been that way for several years. I have often given thought to throwing it away and buying a new one, but I hated to do that just because of one broken string. So, the other day, I sat down with that “broken” umbrella and started thinking of how I could repair it. Sure ‘nuff, during that time of solitude, the answer came to me and now I have a perfectly fine umbrella. Kinda leads me to believe I should do that more often😊. If you want to know my umbrella solution, let me know. It was fairly simple.
⚽ Amish men take about 18,425 steps per day. Amish women take about 14,196. The average American adult takes about 4,000 steps per day. Only 4% of Amish are obese, compared to 31% of the general population.
We have made several trips to the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and, I must admit, we have seen very few overweight Amish people. It is amazing to witness how simple their life seems to be. It reminds me so much of my life as a young boy at 5 years old. We didn’t have electricity, running water, or even a bathroom. I carried drinking water in a bucket from a well about a quarter mile from our house. I lived with my Grandpa and Grandma McCoy, and neither of them had a paying job. Grandma did housework for families located up and down the valley, and Grandpa mostly piddled around the house. I’ll betcha if I had a Fitbit back then I would’ve averaged 20,000 steps a day. On one of our trips to Amish Country, we took a ride in a horse-drawn wagon with an old Amish guy as the guide. We took a tour thru a typical Amish home and in so many ways, with the simplicity I observed inside the home, it reminded me of my childhood. They seem to take pride in the simplicity of their lives but, to me, it’s like having a wealthy family located in a poor neighborhood and the poor people not wanting to be like them. I could see the look of drudgery on the faces of the women & children whose entire day was filled with chores. The only ones that appeared to be content with their lot was the men and boys. I couldn’t quite put it all together, but I suspect that the boys were always up to some sort of mischief and the men probably had a hobby of sorts. I observed that the men interacted with the public more so than the women.
I want to think that it’s admirable for a group of people to elect to live such a simple life, however, I find it hard to accept because they expect their children to live the same way and if they choose a more modern path, they are banned for life. I have a hard time understanding how you abandon a child you love under any circumstances. Why not allow them to live their life and come home to visit when they want? That’s always been the proper way to raise children. I’ll have to give it some more thought. Maybe one day I’ll figure out their logic.
“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.” — Helen Keller
I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives. Until next time, be well….Tommy.
⚽ I read recently that forty of the fifty tallest mountains on earth are in Pakistan. I had absolutely no idea of that fact, showing just how little, I know about our planet’s geography. But, thinking back to my childhood, I can easily understand why I’m so clueless in that area. I was in the fourth grade, Ms. Nichols was my teacher, the Geography book was large with pictures, and I would prop it up on my desk, lay my head down on my hands and go to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, she was a wonderful teacher, caring deeply about her students, but she couldn’t watch everyone all the time and I knew that. I got a lot of sleep in class that year and I’m guessing that’s why my geographical knowledge is deficient. Ms. Nichols was the first person to tell me that I was a good athlete and that I would do well in high school athletics. She was the first adult to be interested in teaching me about things I knew nothing about. I believe most adults are unaware that children want to be taught, to be made aware of things they have no idea even exist. And I’ll bet that all of you had that special teacher that was interested in teaching so that you could absorb what they wanted you to know. Just think of how hard it must be to teach a fifth grader mathematics, or history, and keep their attention. She taught me in grades 4 -6 in our little country 2-room school. Upon completion of the 6th grade I left for our local high school (grades 7–12), about 4 miles away and lost track of her, only seeing her occasionally. Looking back on how special she was, I hope she had a good, fruitful life. Within the last few years I have contacted her daughter, and we have become good friends. I doubt that she knows how many lives her mom touched in positive ways. Her many students owe her a debt of gratitude. Sadly, we only become aware of that as we grow older. I wonder if teachers can intuit a student’s appreciation. After all, it is the teachers we remember when we recall our educational experiences. Quite a few of my high school classmates went on to become teachers and I must admit, teachers make very good friends. I remember being on a cruise ship leaving Alaska and in the dining room, next to our table, was a table of perhaps 20 teachers on vacation. That was the happiest table in the room with laughter emanating constantly. What great fun it was to be close enough to enjoy their enthusiasm for life. So, my suggestion is, if you’re looking for a friend, go out and find a teacher, you won’t regret it.
⚽About six weeks ago I had some “floaters” appear in my right eye so off I go to see my optometrist. He splatters a few eyedrops into it and, using his complex equipment, tells me he thinks they will go away, but I should come back to see him before the end of the year. So, just a few days before the end of 2019 I walked into his office for my appointment, he plops a few more eyedrops in the offending eye, makes his exam and says everything looked great and that he will see me at my scheduled appointment next October. As I prepared to depart, he inquired as to what I was doing to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. “Well doc”, says I, “At my age, my wife and I don’t celebrate the coming of the new year as much as we celebrate being here to see it happen”.
Probably, regardless of our age, we should celebrate in that manner. Instead of writing down a list of 5 or 10 things we want to accomplish in the new year, we should just be thankful we are here to juggle the things life throws at us for another year. I must admit that I enjoy looking back over the past year at the twist and turns my life took. Invariably, there are moments of sheer joy but there are also times of incredible stress and sadness.
My Mother was, perhaps, the best person I knew that handled stress easily. If the problem was money, she would calmly say, “Tommy Joe, it’s only money, we still have our health to be thankful for. God will provide for us”. I was a teenager at the time, and I quite clearly remember thinking, “Mom, we’re almost destitute, are you sure God has the time to worry about us?” If the sadness was because someone dear to us had passed away, her response was always, “they’re in a better place”. That response never helped me much, but she was put to the test when Dad passed away. During that time, she seemed more worried about my brother and I than herself. She passed away 18 months later, leaving my brother, and I devastated.
I know that the arrival of a new year is celebrated around the world, and I want to be part of that if possible.
⚽ I have spent a lot of time recently, collecting the many leaves that fall from our trees and it is a worrisome job. I use my blower to dislodge the ones hiding behind the many shrubs that surround our home, and then I use my Craftsman yard vac to shred then into a thousand pieces before dumping them in a large compost pile my neighbor, Cal, uses for his garden in the Spring. As I have gotten older, the effort has become greater, but I keep doing it because I know the activity it requires is good for me. I think it is important, as we age, to maintain a certain amount of physical activity and gathering up those errant leaves provides me that opportunity.
I have often wondered if I didn’t have that activity, would I remember Fall? Yes, just like you, I enjoy the wonderful kaleidoscopes of colors it presents each year. Spring brings us colors also, but it’s not the trees so much as the flowers. Although, I must admit I enjoy seeing the verdant greens that come forth each time Winter fades, and warmer weather arrives. It has been said that, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. Well, sometimes I feel like I don’t know where I’m going and I’m willing to take just about any road that will get me to that place in life where I don’t have to rake leaves, cut grass, repair everything that breaks down and feel completely exhausted when the sun descends below the horizon. Some may think that only happens after you transition to the other side, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want it to happen while I’m on the green side of the grass. David Thoreau said, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it, and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” I kinda think that’s not entirely true.
⚽I ran across this quote the other day and thought it interesting, “We are rarely proud when we are alone”. I’m inclined to agree with that thought, by whoever wrote it. I have been alone at times in my life, and I believe you can have someone around, but if they are disinterested in you, then you are alone. I remember playing four years of high school football, and doing quite well in that endeavor, but the person I wanted to impress the most was my mother, and she only attended one game. Dad was always there, but he would be drinking and embarrassed my brother and I in front of our classmates. I loved him dearly, but I hated for my friends to see him “high”. Anyway, no matter the success I had as an athlete, my mother wasn’t there to enjoy it with me, so I had a hard time being proud. I remember being single after my ex-wife and I divorced and doing things without someone with me. I would go to a movie without someone there to enjoy it with and I felt the emptiness that comes with being alone in this world with no one to share life’s adventures. Make no mistake, life is filled with wonderful moments if we choose to acknowledge them, but when we are alone, the colors of life are not quite so deep, the air is not quite as refreshing, and our accomplishments not quite as joyous. Some wise person once said, “When we want to ignore something, we don’t look too hard into the sunlight”. I avoided looking into the sunlight a lot as a younger person, but I find myself gazing into it often as I have gotten older 😊.
Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me. I know you will return their love abundantly. That is my intent as well.
֎ “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 😊.
I read the other day that April 11, 1954 was the most boring day since 1900. It was determined to be so because on that day nothing significant happened. That is to say, there wasn’t anything to write about; no famous person was born/died, no war started, no pile-up on the interstate, not a single noteworthy thing happened. The US population at that time was about 165 million, so to accept that nothing unusual happened on that day seems a little farfetched. I was roaming this planet as a 13-year-old on that date, but for the life of me I cannot remember anything about it. I had a lot of boring days at that age so that easily explains why it didn’t stand out. I do remember that during that month President Eisenhower authorized the creation of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado. Somewhere around that time Roger Bannister (England) ran a single mile in less than 4 minutes. It was also during that timeframe that I began to realize that girls were more than playmates. That was the age that I started believing that girls brought more to the plate than us guys. Young boys have a tendency to shove others around, young girls encourage them to act better, to care about others and to stop their destructive habits. I think I fell in love with just about every young female around me during that time. In about two weeks my romantic delusion was over and I moved on to being madly in love with the next young lady. Ah, April 11, 1954 may have been a most boring day for many, but for me, I suspect I was madly in love.
I have a small workout area setup in the poolroom upstairs and for the longest time I was up there working out every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday for an hour. Then as I got older that schedule started to slide and eventually I stopped. I don’t know why I’d let something drop out of my life that was so responsible for much of my good health. Well, I recently noticed some decline in my body strength so I decided it was time for me to restart my strength training. The first couple of sessions were kinda hard for me. I would wake up in the morning sore all over and wondering how much more my sad old body could take. But then a magical thing happened, I’m upstairs working out and meeting all my exercise repetition goals and all of a sudden, I’m feeling really strong and healthy again. I have loud country music blaring from my iPod, my muscles are pumped, and everything was right with the world. Each time I meet a repetition goal, I’m fist pumping the air like I just hit a home run, or ran a touchdown. I think I have started reversing the feelings I had before, that I was getting old, my body was losing a lot of its abilities, and there was little I could do about it. A lot of my vigor for life has returned and I feel good about the future. I’m just glad I realized the potential for improving the aging process before it was too late. But, with all that said, I believe Albert Einstein said it best: “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”
Jerilyn and I attended a seminar the other day on aging. Being a little “long in the tooth”, I felt it may enlighten me on what to expect as I get older. I was surprised when the guest speaker informed us that we are at age 70, personality wise, what we were at age 20. So, if I’m a grumpy old man now then, perhaps, I was a grumpy young man. I don’t know if I’m entirely comfortable with that statement. I’m of the opinion that if you had a life filled with a constant stream of problems, you could be much less of a man than you were at age 20. Of course, on average, her statement in all likelihood is true. She also criticized the popularly accepted notion that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. She proudly proclaimed that you can learn as easily at age 70 as any age before that. That made me feel pretty good. I had previously devised a method to determine when my mind starts to slip: I learned to say the alphabet backwards, count backwards from 100, list the 20 most populous states and their population, and list all 44 presidents and the years they served. The theory being that if at any time doing these things it becomes a challenge; I would know my brain cells were departing for a better place to thrive. Ursula Le Guin said it aptly: “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
Jerilyn and I took a bus tour a while back with a bunch of senior citizens (55 in fact). We travelled down to Myrtle Beach to watch some shows, eat a lot of food, enjoy good company, and walk on the beach. The bus seated 55 people so it was standing room only. Unfortunately, two sets of the seats faced each other and had a table between them, so the tour director needed 4 volunteers to ride in the seats that faced backwards to the direction we were travelling. We volunteered to be part of that group, thinking it can’t be that bad? Well, it was! What we didn’t think about was that four people would be sitting across from each other just a few short feet apart. And that, my dear friends, was the problem. There wasn’t much space under that table and four aging legs and feet were jockeying for space for 9½ hours on the way down and on the way back home. Two ladies, about our age, sat across from us and one (Dot) was unusually quiet. Trying to make her more comfortable, I leaned across the table and said softly to her, “Dot, I have allocated you 500 words for this trip and you have used them all up, so you can’t say anything else until we arrive in Myrtle Beach”. She looked kinda puzzled and said to me, “I don’t understand, what do you mean?”. Looking straight into her eyes I said, “You’ve been too talkative, I can’t get a word in edgewise and I’m tired of it.” A big smile spread over her face and she instantly became a part of our effort to make this bus trip as interesting as it could be. By the time we arrived back home, a lot of interesting conversation was had by all, and a dull bus rolling down the highway was a thing of the past. See, all it took was a little effort to bring forth a lot of interesting banter. Aldous Huxley said: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” I think I disagree with that statement a little, good conversation ranks pretty high in my estimation.
We have a bird bath in our front yard that was in need of maintenance. It’s a heavy, stately looking structure, setting atop a nice pedestal, but badly in need of having mildew and flaking paint removed. I placed it into my cart and wheeled it around to my “Man Cave” for the needed repair work. After a lot of scraping, washing and grinding, I had it ready for a new coat of primer and then the finishing coat of yellow paint. As all this was taking place, I was listening to my iPod and a book on tape that I downloaded entitled, “A History of US: The First Americans, by Joy Hakim”. I normally listen to an audiobook while doing something simple and refurbishing this birdbath was the perfect time. This is my 459th book on tape, so you can tell that I have a lot of simple tasks. The really odd tale here is that I can recall exactly what I was doing when a particular part of a book was being read. I know this because, on occasion, I have checked out the same book twice and when a certain conversation was described, I recalled precisely what I was doing when that was read. Of course, I have no idea why that useless piece of trivia was stored in some distant place in my mind to be recalled for no apparent reason. Makes me wonder what else is in there that’s not needed and who, exactly, is in charge of storing those things. Certainly not me, I did not give any instructions as to wanting to remember those things. Anyway, back to the bird bath thing. That task was completed over a two-day period and it proudly sits in our front yard beckoning the chickadees, bluebirds, titmouse, blue jays, woodpeckers, etc., to fly in and take a sip of our fresh water. If they should happen to fly over our house to the other side, we have yet another birdbath and plenty of food for them to eat.
For all the young people that read this, I say to you, this is some of what you will be doing when you get old, and if you are fortunate, you will enjoy it as much as I do……Tommy
I recently had lunch with retiree friends from work. Some of them I haven’t seen since my retirement in October 2006. I’m here to tell you there wasn’t a sad one in the bunch! I commented to one of the fellows sitting beside me that he had lost a lot of weight, and he responded that when he went for his physical last year his doctor told him he had diabetes and needed to go on medication. He told his doctor, “I’ll seeya in 3 months and then we’ll talk about it”. He said he had always loved peanut butter, so now whenever he has hunger pains he grabs a spoonful of peanut butter and the hunger goes away. He looked like he had lost 40 lbs. Hummmm, sounds like a plan to me.
Several days after the luncheon, I had breakfast with some friends from my childhood. There were 5 of us and only one (Larry’s wife Dee) was not a childhood friend. We chatted so long that when the waitress rang up our bill, she charged rent on the table. At times I felt sorry for Dee, but I’ll give her credit, she did a magnificent job of staying engaged in our conversation. The four of us had a wonderful time recalling our life back in the 40’s & 50’s and marveling at how things were back then as compared to now. Surprisingly, one of our group (Les) is still an adventurer and does a lot of dangerous things. The rest of us only do mundane things around the house, sprinkled in with travel here and there. The five of us finally said our sad farewell and headed back to life as it is today. Ah, how great it is to visit the time of long ago when things were simpler, people were kinder, and a RC Cola & Moonpie were all you needed to make it thru the day. As I remember, Mom would walk out on the porch of our house in Page Camp and yell, “Tommy Joe, Jerry, supper is ready!”, and we would come running like Olympic sprinters. I’m sure there were a lot of things I didn’t like back then, but they were forgotten during my many trips around the sun. I am currently enjoying my 69th summer on this wonderful planet, and I hope to enjoy many more, but I would also like to share those summers with friends I have now and with those from long ago. I am reminded of the following quote by Katherine Mansfield, “I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.” With the friends I had breakfast with on that special day, I had to explain nothing. They knew me when I was a sapling, not the gnarled old tree I am now.
Have you ever wondered what made you like you are today? The question was posed by the author of an audiobook I was listening to (A Strong West Wind: A Memoir, by Gail Caldwell). Being the pondering type, I decided to ponder over that. What things in our life create our core values, make us care what others think, or hurt when others suffer? What makes us want to do the right thing when we know it won’t be good for us, or lend a helping hand when no hand is ever extended to you? I have come to the conclusion that it is mostly happenstance. As we travel through life, we bob & weave, much like a boxer avoiding punches, and we see that by helping others we feel good. Slowly, but surely, as we continue to do “the right thing” it becomes second nature. This reminds me of the story my father told me about Grandpa Hale. It seems the local kids were stealing his melons during the night and so he decided to set out by his garden in a chair and catch them. After several sleepless nights, he put up a sign by the melon patch that said, “One of the melons in this patch has been poisoned!”. The next morning he arose at the crack of dawn, looked out the window to see how many melons had been taken and he noticed something beside the sign he had placed in front of his patch. Hurriedly, he put on his clothes and walked briskly outside to see what it was. To his surprise, it was another sign that said, “you now have two poisoned melons in your patch!”. In this story, there are no winners because no one gets to eat the melons for fear of getting poisoned. I believe that, during our lifetime, we reap what we sow and so far, my crop has come in far better than I ever expected it to. I arise every morning and look out our bedroom window and tell The Lord how appreciative I am to be around for another day. I have more friends and better health than I deserve, and just enough money to enjoy some of life’s pleasures. I believe Grandpa regretted putting that sign in his garden, and that he wished he had stood watch for one more night. Surely he would have known the melon thieves, and their discovery would have been punishment enough. I don’t know how far he went in school, but he went long enough to learn how to keep people from stealing his stuff. I learned a lot from that old man. I doubt I could ever measure up to him, but I keep trying.
I have spent the better part of the last two weeks working on the two hoists down at our pier that hauls our small boat out of the water. I finally finished the project and, as expected, lost one of my tools in the water. I don’t know what it is about me working around water and losing stuff. After I finished, I took a strong magnet, attached it to a long rope, and went down and tried to locate it. Our neighbors across the creek were mowing their lawns and starring at me with puzzled looks. There I sat, feet dangling over the pier, throwing out a magnet attached to a rope, and slowly pulling it toward me. This goes on for 30 minutes with no luck. Finally, I shouted angrily down to King Neptune that it was his to keep, stood up, slowly reeled in the magnet, and walked up the yard to my work shed. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the guy standing in the middle of his yard scratching his head. I can only imagine what he told his wife when he went inside. As for me, I’m just glad it was a tool that went into the water and not yours truly. They say that in the south the alcoholic drink of choice is either whisky or beer. Being a southerner, I headed for the shed and downed a beer (non-alcoholic). Ah, life is good!
In less than two weeks, Jerilyn and I will be headed to NY to attend her 50th high school reunion (I attended mine last year). I know quite a few people that have absolutely no interest in reunions of any sort, and I’m always intrigued by that. There is an old saying that goes, “When I’m at a high school reunion I always feel younger than anyone else looks.” It makes me feel good to make contact with friends from that life of long ago and to find out what has happened since our last meeting. Physically we all have changed, but if I look closely, I’ll see the person I knew, ready to expose that 18 year old I knew as a kid. Sure, there will be few that come to gloat over what they have and what they have accomplished. The overwhelming majority are there to reconnect with classmates and to have a good time. While we are in NY, Jerilyn will have the opportunity to visit with her cousins (Phyllis & Jackie) from California & Connecticut (they are sisters and always a delight to be around). We will also visit with her sister-in-law (Marion) who is recovering from a recent stroke. We leave on June 22nd and return on the 27th. Later on this summer, we’ll be taking a trip back to my hometown and then on to WVA to visit my cousin (Jesse). From there we’ll take off to NC and visit Jerilyn’s oldest grandson (Chris) and then on to TN to visit my grandchildren. On the way home we will stop and visit two close friends (Dick & Millie) that live in NC. So, if all goes well, we will get to visit a lot of people that are special to us. As Madame de Tencin says, “Never refuse any advance of friendship, for if nine out of ten bring you nothing, one alone may repay you.” A very good philosophy to have about friendships, don’t you think?
Sometimes, I feel as if I’m wading in ignorance. There are so many things I know absolutely nothing about. I am currently working on a self-propelled John Deere lawnmower that has refused to disengage the blade whenever I release the handle (a safety feature). I disconnected the spark plug, turned it over on its side, and proceeded to take it apart, only to find that it will not let me. I pulled over the “pondering chair” and proceeded to give the matter my utmost attention. Finally, in desperation, I asked my good friend John (who lives next door) about it and he advised me to, “Just spray it with WD40, leave it overnight and it should work!”. I sprayed it as instructed, but couldn’t resist the temptation to see if it’s ills had been cured. I hurriedly put it back together and gave a vigorous pull on the rope to start it and the darn rope broke. Now with me, frustration only serves one purpose; to make me angry! Slowly, I raised my eyes to the heavens and mumbled something to the Lord about not being able to catch a break (as if he cares about my breaks). Nothing to do now but take the pull start apart and put on a new rope, and so I commence doing just that. After removing the required bolts, I reached in to remove the rope housing unit and, lo and behold, the big circular spring that makes it rewind, flings itself out across the yard. This is where anger (frustration) becomes very detrimental. I have this big 10 lb hammer in the shed that is beckoning to me at this point. Just then, Jerilyn came to the window and called, “Time to come in and get ready.” (we were going to a show that night). This means that John Deere survives another day so it can try to remove the perpetual smile on my face, the one that says life is great! Some people like to do crossword puzzles, some play Scrabble, and others like Sudoku (numbers puzzle). I prefer solving real world problems (fixing things), but I have to admit there is a lot of frustrations that accompany that hobby. I don’t have to take drugs to get high, all I have to do is complete a difficult task. I probably need to get rid of that 10 lb hammer before I actually use it on something J.
I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer and, if you feel like it, drop me a line. I would love to hear from you.
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere
without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux