Category: 2018


An Old Guy & His Dog


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 


What A Wonderful Life!


֎ “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 😊.

 

 

 


The Saddest Day of My Life!


The saddest day of my life happened on June 16, 2018.  That is the day my son, Rusty, passed away.  He turned 58 on the 13th and died three days later, surrounded by his three daughters, his sister, and me.  He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (stage4) on April 23rd, living less than two months after the diagnosis.  I have always known that if I lived long enough people that I loved and cherished would die, but I never expected to lose one of my children.  The sun that shines in my world is not quite as bright; the music not as comforting and my thoughts are no longer entertaining and fun.  I’m hoping that will change as time goes by, but I’m not giving any odds on that happening anytime soon.  I know several people that have lost a child within the past year and I thought I knew how much they were suffering.  Come to find out, I had no idea of the grief they endured.  The day before my son died I was sitting in the hospital room with him and his sister and this is what I said to him, “I want to talk to you about an idea I have.  Whomever passes first, you or me, will try to contact the other from Heaven by leaving a sign in the dew or frost on our truck window.”  After telling him what the sign should be, he kinda smiled and said, “I don’t think God will allow us to do that.”  I replied that, “if he doesn’t, then we can’t but if he does, then we should do it.”  He agreed we should try.  So, I’m guessing that I will spend the rest of my life happily looking for that sign.  If I don’t get it, I will still believe my son is in Heaven but if I do, then I will know for sure.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., said of his wife passing away at age 88, “O Cosmos-Now lettest thou thy ganglion dissolve in peace”.  Amen!   If love can be measured in tears, then my son knows he is dearly loved. Good bye son, give Mom & Dad my love, and say hi to your Mother too…. Dad


Raining Cats & Dogs!


֎  On a recent Sunday, my daughter(Debby) and I were at my son’s house (Rusty), sitting out under the canopy on his driveway and chatting about the past week’s events.  All of a sudden, a storm hit and it rained “cats & dogs” (an old southern term meaning a downpour).  The rain was so hard we could barely hear each other talk.  Slowly, the water began to gather around our feet and his Pomeranian dog(Grace) jumped up into my lap to escape getting wet.  As the thunder boomed off in the distance my mind wandered back to when I was a kid.  The house I lived in with Mom, Dad, and brother Jerry, had a tin roof and whenever it rained at night, the constant pitter patter echoed down to our bedroom and lulled us to sleep. After graduating from high school in 1959, I moved away and all our homes had asphalt roofs, so the lullaby of rain on the roof disappeared.  My wife and I replaced our roof in 2009 and I wanted to replace it with aluminum and bring back the sounds that rain generated during our quiet moments.  But, alas, my wife was against it, and we had our asphalt shingles replaced with the same type, just a different color and style.  As I sat there with my two children (their mother passed away in 2014) and watched the rain pour down, I was content to be isolated with them for about 45 minutes, where no one else would enter and none of us could leave.  We were stranded on an island for that brief period of time and nothing could interrupt us, except the pounding of liquid on the metal canopy that protected us from a drenching.  It reminded me of the many hours the three of us sat and talked in the living room of our small house when they were youngsters. The TV was right there in front of us, but we never turned it on.  We just sat and talked for hours.  My son and I still do that a lot, but not so much with my daughter.  She seems to be caught-up doing other things.  I don’t really know who’s to blame for this but Shakespeare said it quite eloquently, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

֎ “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” – Sir Francis Bacon

I ran across this quote the other day and found it very interesting.  Sometimes, thoughts are expressed so clearly it causes one to pause.  I’m sure that I have always felt that those among us that are well read are more knowledgeable and better prepared to face life’s difficulties than those of us that would rather watch TV or be lying on the beach.  As far as the “conference” thing, I have often heard that, “Those who can, do, and those that can’t, hold a conference”.   As far as writing making a man exact… I’m not so sure.  For me, writing certainly allows me to precisely align my thoughts, but I’m not sure it goes a long way in making me more exact.  In other words, having my thoughts aligned doesn’t insure that my process is as thorough as it should be, just that they are in order.  I do compliment Mr. Bacon for causing me to pause and reflect upon his thoughts.

֎  My wife retrieved a bottle of weed killer from the storage cabinet and encouraged me to get out the water hose, attach the bottle, and spray the weeds that were taking over a large part of our yard. Of course, it is necessary to cover all exposed skin, wear safety glasses, and protect any flowers & shrubs from any overspray.  The sun was shining robustly and the temp was around 80°, making all the clothing I had on a little discomforting.  Eventually, the task was accomplished, the water hose was stored, and the contaminated clothing exchanged for some things much more comfortable. After lunch, I walked outside to get another chore underway, and I was certain I could hear weeds groaning in pain as they commenced the process of wilting away.  In the back of my mind, I was worried that some of the poison will attach itself to various shrubs/flowers my wife planted.   I had that happen before and it is not a good experience.  There is an old African Proverb that says, “If you want peace in the house, do what your wife wants.”

֎  Recently, as my wife and I were headed outside to do some chores, she started to say something and I interrupted, completing her sentence for her.  She commenced to complete her thought and it wasn’t close to my summation of her thought.  She quickly commented, “You thought you could read my mind didn’t ya?”  I responded that, “My life would be so much simpler if I could”.  I think, perhaps, most of us guys feel the same way.  When The Lord made man I imagine he said, “Now what can I do improve this human when I make a woman?”  He started his work and made many improvements including: adding a dash more caring, taking out a lot of aggression, adding more kindness, removing a desire to bully, adding a greater ability to love, and finally, a double dash of humility and faithfulness.   For a reason known only to Him, he made her smaller in stature, making her vulnerable to physical abuse.  Fortunately, we have laws in our country (USA) that punish men that choose to abuse women.  Regrettably, there are many countries that treat women as second class citizens, or as indentured servants. I doubt that I’ll see that change in my lifetime, but I can always hope!  An old Talugu Proverb says, “When three women join together, the stars come out in broad daylight”.  I absolutely believe that to be true!

֎ “Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.” – Edna Ferber

I must say that I agree with that quote.  I think a lot of us enjoy too much of some things and what immediately comes to mind is a Dairy Queen Blizzard.  Perhaps, her meaning went much deeper than that simple example, but it you never know what’s important to someone.  I also think that I drink too much coffee, smoke too many cigars, and wash the truck too often.  My biggest “too much” has to be sitting in front of the computer.  Some people probably play too much golf or eat out too many times each week.  As you see, this list could go on and on but I’ll put it to rest by saying that I think most of us tend to overdo the things we really enjoy.  As long as what we’re doing is not destructive, unhealthy, or annoying to others, we should, within reason, do those things as often as we want.  When I read the quote above, I just started writing my thoughts to see where it would take me and, sure ‘nuff, the next thing I knew I’m standing on the stump preachin’ like there’s no tomorrow 😊.  It brings to mind a quote by Melanie Benjamin, “When you write things down, they sometimes take you places you hadn’t planned.”  Yup, that hit me smack-dab between the eyes!

 


I Sure Hope Stupidity Isn’t Contagious !


֎  The other day as I changed into my yard working clothes, I donned my wireless earbuds and attached my iPod to my belt so I could listen to my current book on tape, “The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath”.  Instead of securing the iPod to my belt, I decided to just attach it to the part that extends past the latch.  Then out the door I go, headed toward the shed to startup my yard vacuum and complete the compacting of the remaining leaves left over from our bitter winter months.  I’m a couple of hours into the book, busily sucking in leaves destined for destruction when suddenly, my earbuds went silent!  I thought that perhaps I had accidentally mashed the “Pause” button on my headset so I pushed the button to resume the narration and nothing happened.  I looked down at my belt to retrieve the iPod and it was missing!  Quickly glancing around and not finding it the realization swept over me that it had fallen off my belt and been sucked into the yardvac.  Unavoidably, it was now broken into a million pieces.  Sometimes I forget what stupidity feels like, but then something like this happens and I quickly remember.  As it spread across my body, I could only stand there and let it work its magic.  At my age I thought I had used up all my “stupid moments”, but alas, I can discard that idea. Shortly after it happened I told my wife about it, half-way expecting some type of criticism, but she smiled softly and let it pass.  I guess she could see the shame in my face.  Reminds me of the quote by Chanakya, “Books are as useful to a stupid person as a mirror is useful to a blind person.”

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

֎ I believe Carl has hit upon something with that quote. As a younger man I felt as though I had an inexhaustible supply of days left, and I spent a lot of them unwisely. I guess I still do. I watch way too much TV and, truth be known, I spend too much time setting at my desk staring at the computer. I think we have to be careful about what we consider wasteful. Time spent doing things you enjoy are a plus and should be pursued at every opportunity.

A good example of this is my wife’s iron went on the fritz the other day and she asked me to take a look at it to see if it could be fixed. I said I would, so off to my workshop I headed with the dread of taking this thing apart and, probably, never getting it fully reassembled. It didn’t take me long to spot the problem and before long I handed it to her and said that I thought it was ready for use. Was that time well spent? I think so. My wife was pleased to have her old trusty iron back, and I enjoyed the look on her face as I handed it to her. It seems that one of my many quests in this life is to see the expression on her face that says, “I love you”. Any amount of time I spend doing that is never time not well spent.

֎ Well, today (4/26/18) I awoke with a big smile on my face. As it happens, I get to help a very important person in my life celebrate her 79th birthday.  I have known Mary since I was sixteen.  I started dating her sister (Mae) and would see her each time I went to their house.  She was a high school senior, and I was a sophomore.  Mary eventually married my mother’s brother (KD, and we became even closer.  She has been part of my life for 61 years, and I treasure her as a close friend. Sadly, she has developed Alzheimer’s, as did her sister & dad, and is in the thick of the battle, but she still has a hearty laugh and is pleasant to talk to.  So, it is with pleasure in my heart that I visit with her today and help her celebrate 79 spins around the sun on this wonderful planet. “Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends.” …Czech Proverb

😊  I read an article the other day about the dirtiest things you can touch in a hotel/motel room:  1.  Remote control for the TV; 2. Bed comforter; 3. Lamp light switch.  Since we travel often, I felt that was something we should be aware of.  The article went on to say that the employees that clean your room have about 30 minutes to do so because they have 10-12 rooms to clean daily.  Furthermore, there are hundreds of people who slept there before we arrived and each one of them left something for us to transfer to our bodies.  Kinda makes me want to sleep in the car.  I’m fairly certain my wife will have handi-wipes available to sanitize our room in the future.  Whenever we eat out we always strive to sanitize our hands after touching door handles and the menu.  In all probability, most of the germs are already present on our bodies, but there is always the possibility they aren’t.  I still believe in the old saying by Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

֎ My old friend from high school (Hubert) passed away on Friday (4/27) and he will be missed.  He valiantly fought cancer for two years and what amazed me was his ability to retain his sense of humor.  He often had a smile on his face and spoke of the afterlife as if he were ready for it. When we t visited him in November he said to me, “Tommy, I never sang in our church choir because I couldn’t carry a note, but when I get to heaven I will sing like an angel.”  His family is devastated but are relieved the battle is over and he is without pain.

Willie Nelson has a song about death that says, “It’s not something you get over, it’s something you get thru, when life is over it lives in someone new.”  My message to Hubert, “Sing away old friend, I’ll be listening”.

 

֎ The last few days have been kinda stressful because I have been working on our efforts to downsize and move to a retirement community.  We anticipate it will be a year or two before we move, but that’s a good thing in that it allows us to use that time to give things away, sell things, and haul things to the trash dump.  Most of what I was surveying were old electronic items that went all the way back to the early 1980’s.  Although I wasn’t aware of it, seems I never throw anything away.  I would pick up an item and instantly I could remember using it.  I guess the point I’m getting at is that I would be hard put to justify the time I spend on all things electronic.  It has been said there is a fine line between a hobby and an addiction.  I believe it is an addiction when you do that thing you enjoy so much while other things await your attention and are ignored.  To me, it is important to stay active doing a variety of things that are necessary and, hopefully, also interesting.  Leonardo da Vinci said so wisely, “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”

I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed the view from “My window on The World”.  If you get a chance, drop me a line.

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” …Phyllis Theroux