Category: MP Rotation


Baby Names


                                 Baby Names (WoW#56)

⚽  I read recently that the top newborn baby names from 2010 to 2018 were Noah and Emma and in general children are more likely to be given fewer common names today than in the past. The top names came from a total of 18 million male births and 17 million female births. That surprised me because we have been told for years that more females were born each year than males. As a matter of fact, in 2017 there were 166 million women in the United States compared to 159 million men, and the projection is that it will continue to widen.  That reminds me of a cruise my wife and I were on several years ago. We had disembarked on one of the islands in the Caribbean and were on a tour bus.  The lady from that island was giving the tour and informed us that she had two young boys and that on that island there were 13 females for every male.  I remember thinking that was a young man’s paradise, how nice it must be to be the only game in town.  Of course, for the female population, the choice of a mate becomes extremely difficult because he doesn’t have to earn her love and respect.  We know from experience, when men are left to their own devices, they are not prone to the best of conduct.  I suspect there is just too much testosterone flowing thru our body.  An area that suffers for us men is our social skills.  We tend to be loud and boisterous with a tendency to brag about our accomplishments.  Mingle in a few women and we become more civilized.  Thomas K. (“Stonewall”) Jackson, the famous Confederate Civil General, had these rules for conversation:  Be at peace in your speech, speak respectfully of others, try to be no more wise than the people you are speaking to, never be hurtful, nor deceitful, avoid bragging by saying as little about yourself as possible, and always speak late (refrain from dominating the conversation).  Now, that’s seven simple rules of conversation that make a lot of sense and would, perhaps, make us a little humbler. For anyone interested in the Civil War, I just finished “Rebel Yell” by S. C. Gwynne, about Stonewall Jackson during that great struggle.  I gave it 5 stars. I use that high rating sparingly.    

⚽  I have three granddaughters, all living far away, and I don’t get to see them very often.  So, in April 2019, I started sending them a text on Sunday mornings asking them to,” Tell me something I don’t know (TMSIDK)” about themselves.  Within that message to them, I tell them something about myself they don’t know.  All three eagerly accepted my challenge, and each week when they respond, I copy their answers and put it in my journal under their names.  Two of my granddaughters are in their mid-thirties and the other one is in her mid-twenties.  I have been pleasantly surprised at some of their answers, and I’m sure they were surprised at some of mine.  Last week in my TMSIDK (tell me something I don’t know) to them, I said I was 19 years old when their dad was born.  One of them replied, “Goodness, that was young!” Playfully, I wrote her back, “Too young, but not uncommon in the mountains of Virginia.  Of course, without that happening, I know of three wonderful girls that wouldn’t be roaming this wonderful planet” (she and her two sisters).  I’m confident that brought a smile to her face.

This simple little act each Sunday morning allows me to maintain contact with three of the most important people in my life, even though distance limits our physical presence.  I know these three girls love me unconditionally, just as I love them in the same way.  This also allows them to know a little more about their grandfather.  My grandparents never kept in touch after I left home in 1959, but I wish they had.  I always visited them when I went home each year, but they never initiated contact.  If I could roll that ball back up the lane, I would make sure that changed.   Rosa Parks said, “Memories of our lives, of our works and deeds will continue in others.”  I believe this is true.

⚽ There are 7 people on my cellphone plan with Verizon, and recently I noticed a $5 monthly charge on two of those phones that I had not seen before.  So, I signed onto their website and clicked on “Chat” and a lady came on and I explained the problem.  Twenty minutes later, thru some other adjustment, I knocked $54 off my monthly bill.  That made me a happy camper!  She then informed me that they have a new router that will increase my internet speed by 65% and my Wifi by 63%.  Nothing left to do but order that jewel!  Within 2 days, it was sitting on my porch ($318) begging for installation.  I chose to buy it verses rent at $20/month for the rest of my life.  Anyway, I got it installed and checked my internet speed and was very surprised.  The average internet speed in the USA is 25 mbps (megabits per second) and mine was 928.  I was getting very close to jumping out of my chair and dancing a little jig, but there was a disappointing downside to my cheerfulness.  A lot of my Wifi gadgets needed the slower speed (2.4 GHz) to connect to the internet, meaning my security cameras wouldn’t work, neither would the smart plugs I used to control lights within our home.  When I walk into my computer room and tell Amazon’s Alexa to “Turn on Tommy’s lamps”, all my lights come on and the radio starts playing my favorite station on XMRadio.  Now that doesn’t happen because my router is too fast.  You would’ve thought my best friend died.  I was saddened when I realized I would have to turn those things on manually.  I guess it’s sorta like getting in your car and having to manually crank your windows up and down.  I was completely unaware that my life had become so easy and me so spoiled. 

Anyway, I got back on the phone with Verizon to try to solve my problem and, as it turns out, they can help me fix it.  I’m waiting on a new router as I write this missive that should get me back to my old spoiled self and allow me to also keep my Richard Petty internet speed.

Update:  I received my new router and installed it as directed, but the same problems persisted.  I eventually resolved the problem myself, and now everything works as intended.  I felt awesome because three of their “experts” were unable to resolve the problem and the “Old Guy” did.  Life still gives me pleasures!

An old Proverb says, “Everyone is wise until he speaks”.  Regrettably, that applies to me.

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.  I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well…. Tommy.


Kindness


⚽  In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” (1869) Prince Myshkin, thought it was 10 times as hard to die when death was certain: Put a soldier in front of a cannon, and he could still hope for the best; give him a definite sentence of death, and he’d fall apart. Sure enough, when another character, young Ippolit, learns that he’s dying of consumption (TB), he falls into mortal despair and seeks to hurry his end.  Eventually, he recognizes that a life shortened is not a life without meaning.

How hard it is to know you only have a limited time to live.  We tend to think that life is endless until we are told that it is not. My son had pancreatic cancer and was told he had 8-9 months left and lived only 5 more weeks.  I can recite many more end-of-life situations for people I cared about.  None of those people were in a condition to live a meaningful life after their diagnosis.  I guess, if you have many years to live, that possibility exists.  But, if the time is short, you mostly try to figure out how to say “Goodbye”.  If you are religious, you resign yourself humbly to “If it’s God’s will”, but if you’re not, I don’t know how that gets handled.  

Then, there are us older folks who know the end isn’t too far away yet have the possibility of living longer.  I think we are the ones in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” that seek the “life with meaning”.  We try to be more understanding of faults we perceive in others, to be more financially supportive and to “lend a hand” when needed.  But I must admit I see that in the younger folks as well.  My oldest granddaughter has three children at home, a husband that’s gone for long periods of time on his job, and yet, finds it within her heart to take in two small children that needs a family.  How wonderful is that!  I have a friend down the lane from us that, during summer, takes his riding mower up and down the street cutting the grass for anyone unable to do so.  You don’t have to look far to discover acts of pure, sweet kindness from people of all ages.  And really, in the end, we should ask ourselves; have we lived a kind and generous life, have we helped others while attempting to better ourselves? Katherine Mansfield (British writer) said, ‘If you wish to live, first you have to attend your own funeral”.  My interpretation of that quote is that I need to understand that someday my life will end, and only then can I live a fruitful and interesting life.  I wish that I’d realized that much, much sooner!

⚽ During a Sunday morning service a few weeks ago, our pastor told us that during the time of Jesus, salt was a highly valued trade item, and was considered a form of currency by many people.  I recall my mother saying that someone we knew was “the salt of the earth”.  I knew it was a term of respect but had absolutely no idea of why salt was used in that context.  One of the many reasons I enjoy going to church on Sunday is because Pastor Jeff always ensures that we leave church service a little smarter than when we got up that morning. 

Salt has come a long way since then and we use it in a lot of different ways, but not as currency.  As a matter of fact, doctors today encourage us to avoid the ingestion of salt because of its ill effects on our body.  As we all know, it is almost impossible to avoid salt (sodium) in our food since it is included in just about all of it. 

I remember as an 18-year-old in 1959, going thru basic training at Lackland AFB, in San Antonio, during July & August.  Our uniforms were designed for winter and summer and all buttons had to be closed.  The temps ranged from 99° to 103° during the day, dropping into the 80s at night.  Since we sweated a lot, we were required to take a salt pill before each meal to replace the salt lost during the day. Turned out to be a very bad idea and I’m confident they no longer follow that practice.  Most of us also thought they included something to diminish our sex drive but could never prove it.  If they were, it never worked on me😊.

⚽  Tracy Lawrence, one of my favorite country music artists, has a song that includes the lyrics, “Every time I make my mark someone paints the wall”.  Probably, we all have experienced that problem.  My wife and I booked a cruise to Cuba last October and within a few months our President canceled all travel to Cuba.  We re-booked for a cruise to Mexico with my granddaughter and her husband and my wife’s colonoscopy revealed she had colon cancer.  So again, we canceled.  I could cite numerous examples of making “marks on the wall” and them getting painted over.  I guess it’s mostly my age, but I seem to complain a lot lately.  I try not to, but if I’m not careful, I slip back into that well-worn groove.  If someone were to ask me what a typical day is for this old codger, it would go something like this:

Each morning I arise at 7am, put on my clothes, including my Fitbit, and head down the hall to turn on my computer.  I walk into the kitchen and turn on my coffee pot, drink a tablespoon of Extra Light Olive Oil (morning & evening), and return to my desk.  I do my daily eye exercises (2 minutes) and within an hour eat breakfast, normally a bowl of mixed cereal.  Around 9am my wife and I do our daily exercise routine (15 minutes) standing in the kitchen.  On Mon/Wed/Fri we walk 3 miles on 3 possible trails near us.  Our goal is to walk 10,000 steps daily and we exceed that often.  My Fitbit tells me that in the last 12 months I have taken 2.3 million steps.  One day each week I do weight-resistant exercises on a machine I have upstairs. After lunch I go outside for 3-4 hours of yardwork and repairing/cleaning things.  My only vice is smoking a cigar every other day.  I asked my doc about it and he said, “At your age I’m not gonna worry about it”.  That made my wife furious.  I normally smoke it sitting in my favorite chair in front of my workshop, while listening to an audiobook, or talking to someone on the phone.  At 7:30pm my wife and I have dinner in front of the TV while watching Jeopardy and the evening news(recorded).  The TV is off at 10:30pm and we head to the kitchen to do dishes and then to bed by midnight.  The only drug I take is a weak “statin” for my cholesterol.  I spend a fair amount of time each week maintaining my website (www.tommyhale.net) and writing the missives that I post on it.  I can cite from memory the 50 US states by population, the 25 largest cities by population, the 25 largest countries by population and all 45 US presidents.  I do this twice weekly and the reasoning behind it is that it’s my test to determine if my memory is deteriorating.  I know so many people with dementia.  I try to learn something new every day.  I do believe the adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”.  I guess I could also add, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well…. Tommy.


Growing Your Vocabulary


⚽ It is well known that writers make grammatical “mistakes”.  It happens to us all, regardless of our efforts not to.  For centuries, we have searched for a gender neutral missing third-person pronoun. that could be used in place of he or she when gender is unknown or irrelevant.  Grammarians have always insisted that it is plural, but more and more it has become accepted to use “they” as a substitute for the singular he/she.  Personally, I have used it in that way for several years, knowing it was plural, but ignoring my college English teacher’s admonishment against doing so.  I believe that most of us can find instances in our life where we ignored accepted practices and discovered later that what we did previously had become outdated.  For example, most people believe that it is better to read a book than listen to an audiobook, but today it is a fact that more people listen to audiobooks.  In the past, most people kept up with what was happening in the world by reading newspapers and today most people get their news online.  Now, most of us file our taxes electronically, whereas in the past we used paper forms and struggled with tax codes.  Yup, times have changed, and we need to change with it.  I now feel comfortable using “they”.  Times have changed!     

⚽ “Now that I’m old, my teachers are the young”… Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. His work was initially published in England before it was published in America.  He died in 1963 at age 88, and he was known for his depiction of rural life.  How odd it is that back then (‘40s &’50s) he thought adults could learn from the young, because I grew up during that time and adults, in my experience, paid little heed to the young.  I’m not saying we weren’t loved, but that we had very little influence on adults.  I do think the current generation of adults are influenced by the young.  We have high school students lobbying for gun control laws, Greta Thunberg (age 15) of Sweden is lobbying in behalf of climate control All Over the World and as I watch the evening news, I see young people trying to make their voices heard everywhere.  The Democrats currently have a relatively young gay man (Pete Buttigieg, age 38) running for their party’s presidential nomination.  John F. Kennedy was our youngest president at age 43. You must be at least 35 years of age to run for that office.

So, yeah, I think young people influence us, and in more ways than we think.  While in my twenties I cursed often, influenced by coworkers, but believing I could avoid those words at home around my two young children.  Well, it eventually happened at home and seeing the bewildered look on my 6-year-old daughter’s face, convinced me to change my ways.  I never had that kind of influence on my dad 😊.  An old Swedish Proverb says, “Being young is a fault that improves daily”. 

⚽ My wife and I went to her post-op (post operation) visit with her surgeon two weeks after her operation on January 21st to reattach her colon & small intestine.  I asked him at what point could we feel safe about the reattachment not leaking and he replied, “Very rarely at this stage does that happen, I would say once in a blue moon”.  I know that a “Blue Moon” is two full moons within one month and it only happens every 2-3 years (It happens again on October 31). That made us feel a lot better because the elephant in the room was whether this could go south quickly and without any advance notice?   Later, while pondering his “Blue Moon” statement, I wondered about other colloquialisms.  As a kid, I was told, “You can wait until the cows come home”, meaning wait until it happens and that may take a while.  If Mom wanted to get something done quickly, she would tell me to “juice it up a little”.  She would also admonish me when I was in trouble, “You’re in a pickle now”.  That normally meant she was going to tell Dad of my offense when he got home from the coal mines and he was going to give me a “whuppin”.  I recall one time that my brother and I got into some mischief and she waited until we all sat down at the supper table and told him.   He firmly informed us that after we finished our meal, he would take us to the bathroom for a whipping (that’s always where the dastardly deed was done).  We ate every morsel of food on the table and that amused my father so much that he broke out in laughter and the lashing was avoided.  He was never very good at whipping my brother and I, seems he just didn’t have the heart to do it.  I can only recall him doing that twice in my life and I deserved both. 

To clear up the “Supper” thing; in the mountains of Virginia when I was a youth, we ate breakfast, dinner (lunch) and supper (dinner).  We carried our groceries in a “poke” (bag) and bought bottles of “pop” (sodas).  If you were afraid to fight another kid, you “chickened out”.  I kinda miss hearing those old expressions, but when I go back home every summer, those words are like music to my ears, reminding me of the kid I was all those long years ago, and how much I love the people that still use them.  If I had to draw a picture of my hometown, it would have to be drawn on my heart.    

⚽ Students are over 4 times more likely to drop out of school if they are unable to read proficiently by the 3rd grade.  I ran across that fact a few days ago and was dumfounded.  I know that by the time I was in the 3rd grade I had a stack of comic books that were waist high.  Our little two room grade school didn’t have a library, so the only reading material available were comic books.  If I came across something I couldn’t pronounce, or understand, I went running to my mother with my index finger firmly glued to the offending word.  By age 9 (1950), I felt I had mastered the art of reading😊.  I recall that in one comic book the person was watching TV, and I wondered “what in the heck is a TV”?  I also remember reading Dick Tracy in the Sunday Comics and being amazed when he would talk to someone far away by speaking into his watch.  It took about seventy years for that to happen.  With all the opportunities to read now, it’s inconceivable that our young children cannot read well.  I do believe the ability to read is a cornerstone for success in life.   I have only known three people that were illiterate.  One was very successful, one lived comfortably, and the other one depended on her husband for her livelihood.  I believe it is important to stress the importance of an education to our young people. Likely, today’s environment demands a college education to live a fulfilling life, but it is not impossible to make a good living minus a college degree.  It just makes it infinitely harder to accomplish.  

How do we help our young people get their education without incurring a mountain of debt?  Well, immediately after WWII, we allowed all ex-servicemen to attend 4 years of college under the GI Bill for free.  That investment in America’s future paid dividends, so why can’t we do something similar now?  Allow each high school graduate the opportunity to get 4 years of college for 2 years of community service in their chosen field immediately afterwards.  Failing to do so would require repayment of the cost of their education.  Also, if the student dropped out of college before completion, they would have to repay their educational cost to that point.  I’m confident the law would have to be more complex than what I’ve described, but smarter people could surely come up with a viable plan. 

Alice James said, “I wonder whether if I’d had an education I should have been more or less a fool than I am,”.  You know, I sometimes wonder that same thing! 😊    


We’re almost done!


A few weeks ago I had to have an upper rear tooth removed.  It received a root canal and a cap many years ago and finally its lifetime of use expired.  I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair, and he walks in, gives me a shot of Novocain and says; “I’ll be back in 10 minutes”.  As numbness slowly crawls all over my face, I sit there wondering just how painful this is going to be and finally conclude that if the shot works, there should be no pain.  But, I also know that whether it works or not is entirely dependent on the skill of the dentist.  This guy says he does 30 extractions a day so I’m guessing he is pretty good.  In about 10 minutes, he walks back in with his assistant and starts to work, using a pair of vice-grips in my mouth.  At first, it sounded like someone breaking up rocks, but he assured me everything was ok.  Then it felt like the roots of the tooth had expanded into my lower chest cavity and my lungs and heart were trying to come out with them.  “We’re almost done!” he exclaims with a big smile, as he removes the offensive tooth and its root.  Quickly, they insert gauze into the crater left by the tooth to stem the flow of blood and encourage clotting.  “Well”, says he, “that wasn’t too bad was it?”  Well, no, if you’re the person standing there with this humongous tool, and it has done absolutely nothing to harm you.  As I get up to leave he pats me on the back and says with enthusiasm; “Have a good day!”  If you’ve ever had a tooth pulled, you know that’s not going to happen.  As Joseph Barbera once said; “Faced with the choice of enduring a bad toothache or going to the dentist, we generally tried to ride out the bad tooth.”

My left hip has started bothering me as of late.  I suspect it is arthritis, but that diagnosis has not been proven yet.  We have stopped running our local trail and started using our bicycles on our local streets.  That seems to help, but I’m still hoping to get over this thing and get back to running (which I love).  I would settle for being able to walk the trail if that’s necessary.  I suspect that we settle for a lot in life.  I have a friend that has settled for looking after his wife who has a disease that mandates a wheelchair for the rest of her life.  He does it willingly and without complaint.  I’m not sure that I could do that, although I would like to think I could.  I have a cousin that has lost a leg and the possibility remains that he may lose the other one.  I talk to him on a weekly basis and his courage is remarkable.   I have a 2nd cousin that needs a kidney and recently rushed to the hospital thinking one was waiting for him.  Upon arrival, he was told it wasn’t a good match, and he returned home somewhat despondent.  He has been doing nightly dialysis for a couple of years now.  I don’t think he has settled for it always being that way.  I guess the point I’m making here is there are some things in life we have to accept and then, some things can get better, and we can get on with our life.  I’m hoping my hip problem is one of those things.  While important to me, my problem pales in comparison to those that others face.  R. Fuller once said; “The one common experience of all humanity is the challenge of problems.”  Sadly, that seems to be all too true.

I ran across a quote the other day that intrigued me: “Believe those who are seeking the truth.  Doubt those who find it.”

That was written by French author Andre Gide, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947.  It appears the author does not believe that the truth can ever be found and if someone says they have, then they are untruthful.  In my lifetime I have discovered many truths.  For example;  Mom and Dad will love you no matter how badly you behave;  if you drive too fast, or drink too much the end results are always bad;  if you eat a lot and exercise very little, misery is just around the corner.  Now, I’m sure that Andre  was referring to truths deeper than my examples, but nevertheless, all those things are important.  Mom & Dad used to complain because I didn’t call home often enough, and now I haven’t talked to them in almost 25 years.  Fast driving can end a good life in a heartbeat, as well as can alcohol.  That overeating thing has plagued me all my life.  That little sucker follows me around like a Blue-Tick hound follows a coon scent.  For some reason, I think God made us as imperfect beings to see how we handle it.  Whatever our character flaw(s), it’s important to constantly strive to overcome them, else it will overcome us and as we age, we will pay the price.  But, as Andrew Jackson so famously said: “ One man with courage makes a majority.”  I prefer to think that I have the courage to overcome my shortcomings so that puts me in the majority J.

We recently decided to dig a well and install a sprinkler system in our yard.  The guy we contracted to do the job has done reasonably well, but as Jerilyn has watched them systematically destroy years of hard work, she has gotten really stressed out.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this woman is a brilliant butterfly in a black & white world, but she can be tough when she gets upset.  Our contractor’s 30 something son (Skippy-who we nicknamed Zippy) gets under her skin the most.  His favorite line to her starts with; “Ma’am, you just don’t understand….” and then he continues with the rest of the statement.  She has done reasonably well in controlling her frustration, but she watches them intently as they plow thru the yard and into her flower gardens and wild area.  We now have a large fake rock to cover the well pump and necessary accessories, but she is not happy about the well location since it is directly in front of the front porch.  I have no doubt she will think of some way to camouflage it.  The well driller had to try four locations before finding a place to drill the necessary 125 feet to hit water.  We have been assured that our well water will not contain the dreaded iron that stains everything it touches, or salt that kills the shrubs.  If it does, I will be a very unhappy camper!

 

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”- Arthur Schopenhauer.  How true that is.  I have known quite a few people with talent but very few geniuses (exceptional intellectual ability).   I know, perhaps, two or three people that come close.   Those people know they are smarter than average and are more than willing to let others use their abilities to resolve problems in their lives.  In other words, they share the genius they surely know they inherited from someone else.  I think most of us will agree there is nothing more disagreeable than an arrogant smart person.  Wait a minute, maybe an arrogant idiot is more disagreeable!  As a kid growing up in a coal camp, the smartest person I knew was the camp superintendent, and he could not read nor write.   When I did chores for him, he would reach into his pocket, fetch some change, extend his hand with palm open and tell me to take 50¢.   How many of us today knows someone that’s illiterate?   I have known two people in my life that were.  Today, that is unthinkable with the educational opportunities available to every American, there is really no excuse to be uneducated.  I believe the really important thing, no matter our smartness, is how much common sense we have and how well we use it.  So, if  I can’t qualify in the genius area, do I have any talent?  Alas, I fall far short in that area also.  I’ve been practicing guitar and taking lessons for well over a year and Jerilyn puts on her earmuffs whenever she sees me headed for the thing.   I am an utter failure at making things grow and carpentry might as well be some foreign language.  I guess I do all those things because I have fun trying.

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” – W. H. Auden.  I reflected on this quote a bit, and I must say that I agree with it.  I have people in my life that lift me up.  I always valued their relationship, but I was unaware of exactly why I valued them so much until I ran across that quote.  I’ll bet you have people in your life that fit that description.  Some radiate with happiness and a positive attitude while others never see anything good in life and something is always wrong.  I am sure that all my readers are the radiate type.  I have a childhood friend that passed away recently (so long, Les) and by all accounts, he was wonderful Christian and a thoroughly good human being.  A couple of years ago he came by unexpectedly for a visit.  He and I sat out on the park bench in our backyard and gazed down the creek as we talked of old times.  I had not seen Les since 1959, and at that time he was a mere 16 years old.  Here two old friends sat reminiscing, at the ripe old age of 65 & 67.   I was impressed at what a nice guy he turned out to be, full of energy, enthusiasm and a strong desire to enjoy life.  His life was taken instantly by a massive heart attack.  I strongly suspect that Les was an integral part in a lot of peoples lives and will be sorely missed.  My memory of our conversation on that park bench is that there was a lot of laughter, just the way old Les used to make me laugh as a kid.  I sure hope I make my friends laugh, and I strongly suspect Les is doing the same in Heaven.

I hope you have enjoyed this missive and that wherever your corner of the world may be, you enjoy the life you have so diligently carved for yourself.  If you have the time, I would enjoy hearing from you, and I close with a quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing”.  I hope I have accomplished both

……Tommy

 

 

Would the boy you were be proud of the man you are?


The last WOW I sent out was on April 19th and this one was to go out in May but a lot has happened in the interim.  Starting in April, we made a trip to NY to visit Jerilyn’s sister-in-law (Marion), then in May my youngest granddaughter (Chelsea) graduated from high school.  Jerilyn’s mother (Gladys) passed away on the last day of May and Marion passed away in July while we were  out west on a National Parks tour.  We visited my family in Southwest Virginia at the end of June when we went back for my 1959 basketball team reunion (we went to state that year).  At the beginning of August we went to a memorial service for Marion in NY and on August 27th hurricane Irene roared into town and wreaked havoc.  We have spent the days since then cleaning up debris in our yard.  The first day of cleanup I lost 3 lbs.   The second day I lost 2 lbs.  There is nothing I know as silent as the sound of growing old.  After about 4 hours of work, I have to rest for a few minutes then each ½ hour thereafter.  When hurricane Isabelle came thru in 2003 (I was 62), I worked non-stop for days cleaning up the mischief it left.  After seeing the flooding Irene caused up north, I know we are blessed.

 

Everything below this paragraph was written in early May.  Needless to say, the lean-to on the shed has been abandoned for other priorities.  The sadness of Jerilyn’s mother and sister-in-law passing away has cast a shadow over our lives that will stay for a long time.   We were on our way home from TN when we got word that Gladys had passed away and would be joining her beloved husband Henry (her prayers were finally answered).  Seven weeks later, we received word that Marion had passed away and was on her way to join Jerilyn’s brother, Wayne, in heaven.  We visited her in the hospital in April & June and knew that she was a very sick person, but still, the news was unexpected and depressing.  She was near and dear to our hearts and thoughts of her will fill our hearts for years to come.  It seems that someone we love has died every year for the past five years.  Someone long ago said; “There may be the accident of birth, there is no accident of death”.  I believe that is true and is all a part of God’s plan.

Laurence Peter’s ask the question; “Would the boy you were be proud of the man you are?”  After some deliberation, I concluded that he would be proud, not necessarily about what I have accomplished, but instead the kind of person I have become.  I can name any number of people that have accomplished more, but I can think of few that have more friends and more fun.  I remember the adults in my youth, and I can distinctly recall that some of them were not fun to be around.  But then again, their life was harder than mine and they had more reason to be unhappy.  Like everyone else, I have my faults, but the feedback I get from my friends is they enjoy my company.  My experience has been that people stay away if you aren’t fun to be around.  So yes, I think the boy I was would be proud of the guy I am.  I know my mother was because she told me so shortly before she dashed off to be with Dad in heaven.  OK, mom was a little prejudiced, but I believed her anyway J.

I recently started building a lean-to on the back of our shed.  I calculated the dimensions and then determined how much of my yard maintenance equipment I could place in their new home.  My best guess was: 2 riding mowers, 2 push mowers, one yard vacuum and 2 bicycles.  I then started calculating how much lumber I needed to get the job done, and what I would use for the floor.  All of this carpenter stuff reminded me of my maternal grandfather (Lonnie McCoy).  He was an excellent carpenter and always amazed me with the way he could cut angles without making a single mistake.  He never had to do anything over again.  I always have to redo things, and I’m constantly trying to make something fit that won’t fit.  I remember being about 5 years old as I watched him pour concrete to make about 8 steps down the side of a bank and then form a wall of concrete to hold back any dirt that might try to wash over those steps.  They led to a porch entrance of the house below.  A couple of years ago, while visiting my folks back where I was raised, Jerilyn and I stopped at that home and I got out of the car and walked over, and sure ‘nuff, those steps were still there 65 years later, looking as good as ever.  I could see my grandfather’s hands smoothing the concrete as he puffed on a cigarette and warning me about trying to put any kind of mark on his work.  Standing there on that bright summer day, staring down at his handiwork, I attempted to think of how many days had passed since that time and how much my life had changed.  As I turned to walk away, there was sadness in my heart for all that I have lost during my journey thru life from that long ago day.  Yet, I know I have a lot to be thankful for! I have many good friends and lots of wonderful relatives, and people like you that enjoy reading my ruminations.  Who knows, maybe grandpa McCoy is making steps over on the other side and warning his son (KD) not to make any marks on his work.  

Jerilyn and I attended Sunrise Service Easter morning, arising at 5:30 am and rushing thru our morning ritual to get to the service by 6:15 am.  The outside temp was a very nice 68°, and our minister’s sermon was very enlightening.  Afterwards, all of us filed back into the church for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes.  The people we sat with at breakfast were fun and interesting, one being our assistant pastor and her family.  As a retired guy, I sometimes forget how much fun it is to be around people and listen to their ideas and concerns.  Jerilyn and I left church that morning with a sense of renewal in our faith and in the link we have with all that share our faith in the rebirth of Christ and the forgiveness of our sins.  As I sat, eating my breakfast, a young 15 year old boy sat across from me eating his breakfast beside his dad, with his head bent down as if he wanted to ignore everyone around him.  My attempts to make him feel more at ease around strangers fell harmlessly on the floor, and he staunchly refused to be lured into conversation.  Then, I noticed the cross on a chain lying on his chest.  I glanced around the table and observed that no one else had one, including myself.  I remarked to him that he had a beautiful cross and that he was the only one in our group that thought to wear one on this very special day.   A big smile swept across his face, and he became instantly more sociable.  No longer did his face tilt downward toward his plate as good conversation swirled around him.  I hope he left church that day knowing that even strangers were interested in him, and that he could make friends just as easily as talking about a cross he wore and someone noticed.        

 I was 15 years old in 1956 when Elvis Presley’s first #1 record was on the airwaves.  “Heart Break Hotel” had converted all my teenage friends to a new type of music called Rock & Roll.  My mother looked at me one day as I turned the volume up on the radio, smiled as she said; “Tommy Joe, Elvis is just a flash in the pan”.  That was one of the few times, to my knowledge, she was wrong about anything (maybe some of the times she whipped me were wrong J).  Of course, Elvis later became known as “The King” and had fans all over the world.  There are a lot of wonderful singers in the world today, (Cher, Dion, Barbara?), but I still enjoy listening to Elvis.  Music is such a vital part of my life.  As I write this missive, there is music in the background, sometimes it’s easy listening or gospel, but most of the time its country (very seldom Rock and never Rap).  Yet, I know people that seldom listen, and a few that never listen, to music.  To them quiet is more important.  I think, probably, that quiet should be given more credit than it receives.  If a psychiatrist analyzed those who preferred continual music to no music at all, they would in all likelihood  conclude that music listeners are easily bored and in constant need of some form of energy surrounding them.  I definitely prefer listening to, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog”, to sorting thru the shopworn thoughts that bounce around inside my head.  I think Charles Darwin said it best; “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week”. 

 I recently read about the American man’s change in weight and height within the last 300 years, and was surprised to learn that the average adult man in 1850 stood 5’7”, weighing in at 146 pounds, with a life expectancy of 45.  In the 1980’s, a typical man in his early 30’s was 5’10” tall, weighed 174 pounds, and was likely to pass his 75th birthday.  There are a lot of discussions as to why the big change, and they mostly revolve around the improvement in healthcare and nutrition.  Jerilyn’s mother would have been 93 in August, and even though her health had declined significantly the past year she was doing quite well otherwise.  I think we are living longer, but not healthier, because of over-nutrition (those DQ Blizzards will be the downfall of me yet).  As Albert Schweitzer said so eloquently; “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory”.

When my younger brother (Jerry) and I were small boys, Mom would often fry chicken for supper.  Grandpa & Grandma Hale raised chickens and we would come home with fryers after eating Sunday dinner at their place.  My brother, upon learning that liver was my favorite part, would always ask for it first.  In our home, asking first was mighty important, sorta like taking a number at the local DMV.  He got the livers for perhaps 5 meals in a row.  His secret was finding out what Mom was cooking hours in advance, and then asking her for the livers before the chicken was served.  I can still see the wicked look in his eyes as he munched on those livers as if they were delivered to his plate by dispensation from the Pope.  One day I let mom know how unhappy I was that Jerry was getting those livers every time.  “Tommy Joe”, she said, “Jerry’s favorite piece of chicken is a drumstick, he just doesn’t want you to have the livers and you know our rule (first come, first served)”.  Now, let’s fast forward to our next meal with chicken; Jerry sat across the table from me licking his lips over the liver, and I slowly reach into the chicken plate and take both drumsticks.  He continues licking his lips but the smile is slowly fading from his face and appearing on mine.   I glanced over at Mom and detected a suppressed smile.  I never again had to share livers with my brother, but know this much, if he were alive today he could have all he wanted from my plate.  Jerilyn and I often stop at KFC’s to eat, and I never eat a liver without thinking of him.  That story happened 60 years ago, and I wonder why I remember it now? 

 John Tierney wrote; “When I look in the mirror, I worry that I am merely fidgeting until I die”.  I try not to fidget.  I think fidgeting is for people that can’t make up their mind, and I have gotten pretty good at doing that over the years.  As most of you can attest, I have opinions on just about everything.  For instance, I think Congress and the President are fidgeting over fixing the budget, over bringing our troops back home, improving the economy, and finding jobs for the unemployed.  I agree this is a restless time, but our political leaders need to step forward and do what is best for our country.  If they don’t, the one thing they can be sure of is that I will not fidget while in the ballot box.  Our country is really struggling right now and everyone needs to be pulling on the harness to get our problems resolved.  I remember seeing a sign in my boss’s office in the 70’s and it said; “If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.   At the time, I couldn’t see how I was part of the problem but as I have gotten older, it makes sense.  See, I thought that if I did my job well, I was doing my part to make the company successful.  What I really should have been doing, in addition to my assigned duties, was helping devise meaningful improvements.  So, I say to my representatives and my President, get busy or be prepared to find a new job come Election Day.

Thanks for reading my monthly missive.  It has taken me a long time to prepare this one, but I hope to get better at jotting down my thoughts to share with you.  I hope everything is fine in your corner of the world, wherever that may be, and that you will find the opportunity to share some of your life with me.

Until next time

…………………………………………Tommy  

 

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux