The other day, as I was celebrating the birthday of an old friend, and reflecting on my recent 80th birthday, I was thinking about my life at the start of each decade, and it was an interesting journey.
As I mentally walked through my life, I could see my development and the changes I made. I was also aware of the struggles I was experiencing at the start of each decade, and I could see how they affected me and how I resolved them.
The most startling observation I made was that my life really started being a positive experience after I met my wife in 1992. Up to that point, it seemed to be a fruitless struggle just to get from one day to the other. Margaret Mitchell famously said, “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
I am living proof of the veracity of that statement. When I met my wife at the start of my 5th decade on this planet, everything changed, and my life ceased having so much turmoil. I can say that not for one moment of my life, since our relationship started, have I not felt loved by her. From the very beginning she made me feel special, and that was something I wasn’t used to. I think I was unaware of how much depth a caring person could add to my life.
So, here I sit, starting my 8th decade and browsing around in the many rooms of my mind, peeping in to see what was happening during time long past, finding joy in some, and sadness in others, hoping I have been a positive influence on those I met along the way, knowing that you are in one of those “happy” rooms.
Possibly, there are people that think of me negatively, but that comes with life. I have tried to keep that to a bare minimum. I believe there are only a few, but you can never be sure of how someone perceives your actions. As Summer stares at us, letting us know that hot, sunny days, and hurricanes are here, we can now get out and socialize with our friends and neighbors, take trips that were set aside during the pandemic, and just enjoy life. As Helen Keller so wisely said, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, then alone in the light”.
⌘ Rumi (Persian poet born 1207) said, “Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” I believe that and I want to use it in my life. Some say that gratefulness can increase our sense of happiness, decrease our perception of pain and depression, and increase our appreciation of the accomplishments of others.
I never realized that gratitude could be so impactful in my life. Surely, it wonders in and out of all our lives, but it is fleeting and never stays long. It now appears that it should be a part of our being and influence us daily. So, I have developed a plan to ensure that it stays with me: write or make mental notes (bad idea) of the things I am grateful for, and nothing should be too small to be on that list. I also think I should start writing thank-you notes for kindness’ shown to me by others. I know, it seems like a lot of effort, but on closer examination it’s not, and I would feel better knowing that I expressed my gratefulness in ways other than words, which can flow so effortlessly.
How often do we say, “I love you”, or “thank you”, without putting in the effort to really showing it? I’ll be the first to raise my hand. We recently spent four nights with my cousin Harold & his wife Willis back in my hometown. I’m gonna sit down and write them a letter, expressing our gratitude for their kindness. Sure, we expressed our gratitude before we left, but I need to take the extra step of writing it down and sending it to them. No, I don’t think an email suffices, that’s so easily done, requiring very little effort. I’m gonna write a note to those fine people, put a stamp on it and put it in the mail. Then, they will know that we really mean it! Or maybe they know anyway and I’m just being paranoid 😊. I’m counting on what Rumi said about wearing gratitude like a cloak.
⌘ I recently ran across an old pair of my eyeglasses that were worn by me about five years ago. They differ totally from what I wear, being gold rimmed versus black rims today. I gently placed them on my face and could tell they were close to the strength of my current glasses, so I wore them to see if anyone would detect the change. A couple of days went by and no one noticed. I’m a little confused, these look nothing like what I normally wear and they’re a little old-fashioned (circa 2009), yet no one has noticed. Slowly, it’s sinking in that all the extra time and money used in selecting just the right frames is not money well spent. All the wasted time in front of the optometrist’s mirror, trying on countless frames, and wondering which one looks the best. Kinda wish I hadn’t done that now. After nine days into the experiment, someone finally noticed, and I was so relieved.
So, what lesson have I learned from this brief experiment? Well, that other people aren’t as aware of what I wear as I think, and maybe I’m not as important as I want to be? There’s a good possibility that if someone used that experiment on me, I would fail as well. I’ll probably never try that again, it’s so disappointing to find out that few of us notice such things. I’m refusing to travel down the road where only fools and horses survive.
Mary Oliver said, “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Turns out, I’m not the only one that needs to pay attention 😊.
⌘ My wife and I sold our beautiful home and moved into a retirement community on April 24th, and we are slowly getting used to our new place. It is much smaller than we are used to, but it is a necessary change. We always knew this day would come, and as we approached the age of 80, we knew it was the right thing to do. Our goal was to be in an environment where our children wouldn’t have to look after us as old age soaked into our creaky old bones and our health declined. That’s where we are now, in a place that allows us to go from Independent Living (our cottage) to Assisted Living (they help you do things), then on to Health Care (they do everything), or the Mental Unit (dementia). They furnish us one meal daily, usually dinner in the dining room, and send someone to clean our cottage every two weeks. Everyone here appears to be at least 70 and a lot of them are using walkers & wheelchairs. We are fighting the idea that will happen to us, but no one knows what lies in store, so we just take it one day at a time. The one thing you discover is that old folks are nice, we have yet to meet anyone that’s not. I think it’s because at our age, most of our friends have transitioned to the other side and we need replacements 😊. We have met some extraordinary people, and that has made our transition to the retirement community much easier.
So, what’s it like to make your final move, the one you make before “buying the farm”? Well, it’s kinda sad, but inevitable. We’re hoping for at least ten more years of good health, but you never know. We make daily exercise plans to keep everything working, try to eat right and get enough sleep, and see how it all turns out. We can still make trips to visit those we love, and travel for entertainment, but we can see far enough down that road to see the sign that says, “Dead End”. Hopefully, that’s when our family picks up the slack and comes to visit us 😊. As Frank Bruni said, “It’s all about aging, writ vivid and large.”
A few weeks ago, while we were back home visiting, we stopped, as we always do, at the cemetery my mother and father are in, as well as a lot of my family. They are in a crypt about 10 feet up, and as I stood there talking to them, I made the comment as I prepared to leave that I would probably join them before too much longer. As I walked away with tears in my eyes, I heard mom’s voice saying, “You’ve got longer than you think!” Boy, do I hope she’s right!
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
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.
⌘ 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.
…. Author unknown.
My son started school this week. It’s going to be strange and new for a while.
And I wish you would sort of treat him gently. You see, up to now, he’s been King of the Roost. He’s been boss of the backyard. I have always been around to repair his wounds and to soothe his feelings. But now… things are going to be different.
This morning, he’s going to walk down the front steps, wave his hand and start on his great adventure, one that will probably include wars, tragedy, and sorrow.
To live his life in the world he has to live in will require faith, love, and courage. So, World, I wish you would sort of take him by his young hand and teach him the things he will have to know.
Teach him… but gently if you can. He will have to learn, I know, that not all men are just, that not all men are true.
Teach him that for every scoundrel, there is a hero… that for every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader… that for every enemy, there is a friend. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick.
Teach him the wonders of books. Give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on the green hill.
Teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.
Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone else tells him they are wrong.
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is getting on the bandwagon.
Teach him to listen to all men, but to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him to close his ears on a howling mob, and to stand and fight if he’s right.
Teach him that the word, “American” ends with, “I Can.”
Teach him gently, World, but don’t coddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
This is a big order, World, but see what you can do. He’s such a nice little fellow.