Category: WoW- Misc

A Tribute to My Friend Jerry

Recently, my good friend, Jerry, passed away. I have only known him and his wife (Ruth) for 18 months. Still, during that time, we became best friends, eating dinner together each day in the dining room of our retirement center. He wasn’t tall, perhaps 5’8″ or so, but he made up for the lack of height with brain power and personality.

At our dinner table, we often talked about the game show Jeopardy. One evening, after a good meal and great conversation, he invited us back to their apartment to watch our favorite 7:30 pm game show. Usually, I can answer five or six questions out of the sixty-one asked, but Jerry answered about 35-40 during our visit. As we prepared to leave, I kindly informed him never to invite us back again to watch that show. That brought a big smile to his handsome face.

Jerry was a wealth of knowledge, having traveled the world as a colonel in the US Air Force, and had countless stories to tell, which always made dinner time more enjoyable. A remarkable quality of his was to somehow not make us feel inferior. If there was something on the menu for the night and we did not know what it was, he was the person we asked and always knew the answer. If we couldn’t pronounce the name of a meal, he was our “go-to guy.” We still wish he was with us when we encounter those situations.

The kindness and attention he gave his wife also touched us. Ruth has health issues, which eventually got to the point of him having to feed her. Each day he wheeled her to the dining room in her wheelchair, her hair neatly combed, and her clothes and jewelry always matched. We complimented her on how pretty she looked, and Jerry would describe to us when and where he bought each piece of jewelry. Typically, it was overseas somewhere. That was our opportunity to interact with Ruth.

He and I attended a “New Car” show over in Norfolk (30 minutes away) back in January, and it was a great “guy bonding” experience. He loved cars, as do I, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We made plans to attend a stock car race at our local track (Langley) this past summer but had to cancel because of Ruth’s health issues. I surely regret, looking back, that it didn’t happen. I would have enjoyed that time with my buddy.

Then, on September 15th, he and Ruth failed to show up at our 6 pm dinner. Usually, there are six of us, including our friends Nancy & Richard. We weren’t alarmed because we occasionally had a reason to be absent. We were later told that Jerry was in the hospital with gallstones. Although painful, we knew he would survive and probably weave his experience into an exciting story, which he could do easily when he returned.

After a few days in the hospital, they sent him to our Health Care unit on campus with medicine to get rid of an infection, after which he would return to the hospital. They would then perform an operation to remove the gallstones. Jerry called me and requested I bring him a pair of my “Fat Boy Pants.” I often kid that my wife calls me “Fat Boy” when I overeat (she doesn’t). He said he couldn’t stand anything tight on his stomach, so we took him a pair of my largest. We sat by his bedside, talked for about 15 minutes, and left, easily discerning that he wasn’t up for company. I had absolutely no idea that would be my final words with him.

Upon hearing of his request for larger pants, our friends Nancy & Richard went to the store, bought him a new pair, and sat them inside his door, not wanting to awaken him. A few days later, we went back to visit again, and there was a note on his door that said he only wanted the family to visit. That was our first sign that he was much sicker than we thought. Before long, he was back in the hospital in critical condition, insisting that only family could visit.

Eventually, to our surprise, we received word that he was under Hospice Care. Then, upon accidentally meeting his daughter during a walk around the retirement compound, we were told that Jerry was in palliative care. His doctor said the end was near. A few days later, he passed away. We were heartbroken. Grief sets on my shoulders like it is an old friend. Occasionally, I knock it off with a clenched fist, but it always clambers back in place.

I have a picture of my good friend sitting in a prominent place in my den, so I see him each time I walk by. It sits beside a picture of my son, who passed away in 2018. It will be there until I stop grieving, maybe even longer. I’m dismayed with him for not allowing us to visit during that painful part of his journey. His daughter said he didn’t want anyone to see him in his condition. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my friend. I hope to do better with my friends when it’s my turn. But who knows, maybe I’ll do the same thing. I hope not.

Jerry, old buddy, if you’re listening, Amy still has a shot at being the Jeopardy champion for 2022 😊. The Gang misses you and Ruth. Oh, by the way, can you tell me how to say this item on the menu?… your friend, Tommy.     

Slow To Anger

🎡 I have always been slow to anger, and that is a trait we should all aspire to have. I have concluded that anger is addictive, and the more we allow it to the surface, the more addictive it becomes. Some refuse to express disagreement unless angered, and then it spills out like dirty water from a stopped-up rain drain. I’m probably one of those people, and I dislike myself. My new friend (Jerry) has the unique ability to express disagreement without being angry. It stays inside and, like water, with me, slowly raises to a boil. Then, the dam bursts, and everything gets swept away by the steam roiling from my nose and ears. Usually, when that happens, my wife has a shocked look and heads to the room farthest from where I am. Eventually, I realize how badly I’ve behaved and try to calm down. My goal is to be the person who can manage anger, refuse to let it damage relationships, and realize that, even though anger can be a great motivator, it can be very destructive. I am reminded of this quote by John Lennon: “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” That probably applies to me when I’m in a state of anger 😊.

🎡 A few weeks ago, my wife and I drove out to western Tennessee to attend my oldest great-granddaughter’s high school graduation ceremonies. It had been three years since our last visit because of Covid-19, and I was concerned that my driving skills had eroded (I was 78 years old on our last trip). Fortunately, as we drove almost 2,200 miles, I noticed no decline. As I continue my progression towards ninety, that will certainly occur. I hope my wife, or I notice the decline before it compromises our safety. My plan is to buy a vehicle that drives itself within a few years, removing the possibility of me making a crucial mistake that could harm us or someone else. My wife is reluctant to take the chance, but tests show they are much safer (7 times) than cars driven by humans, and that should be even more true as time progresses. I remember driving down one of our local streets back when I was in my thirties, and the car in front of me was just creeping along. And as I passed him, I could tell he was in his eighties, just tall enough to see the road through the steering wheel. I remember thinking that he was too old to be driving. Now, I’m getting close to being that guy 😊. Of course, all of us don’t age at the same rate. Many of us are fortunate enough to keep our sight, hearing, and flexibility; others are not so fortunate. I am blessed by not spending one night in a hospital. I know that can change, but I also need to be aware of it as a blessing. Socrates said so eloquently, “The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.” I do not want to be evil.

🎡 Our friends (Richard & Nancy) recently gave us a box full of CDs. There are approximately one hundred of them, and I have been slowly going through the box, listening to each CD, and then copying it to my music library if it was one that I enjoyed. They recently needed to downsize their collection of “stuff” because they moved into our retirement center, hence my reason for having their music collection. I predict I will keep about a third of their collection and give the rest to our local thrift store for someone else to enjoy. I entertained the thought of how many of my CDs they would keep if I put them all in a box? The vast majority of my music is Country, and I have yet to find a single Country album in their collection, so I’m guessing they would not keep many. This confirms my conclusion that none of us pick our friends based on musical taste. I have a few friends that enjoy Country music, and we often attend concerts together.

Back in the nineties, someone gave my wife and me free tickets to a “Soul” concert at the local Coliseum. I was miserable for the entire show, not seeing one act that I enjoyed. People that like that type of music would probably avoid hillbilly music. I do not want to be critical of “Soul” music; it’s just not something I enjoy. I enjoy many types of music, but Soul and Rap have failed to capture my attention. I’m inclined to think it’s a generational thing. “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ~ William Shakespeare. Yeah, that’s probably me 😊.

🎡 I have a new friend in our retirement community (Mary/Mike) that recently celebrated her birthday with her twin brother. They were born and raised in Canada. Her brother is wealthy, so he had a private plane fly down from Canada to Virginia, get her and her husband, and fly them back to Canada for a big celebration. A chauffeured car picked them up at the airport and whisked them off to a hotel. They stayed in the hotel’s best room and had plenty of fun. As Mary told us her story, I could sense the pride she had in her brother, that he had succeeded far past their expectations. Our H.S. class of 1959 had a member that far exceeded our expectations. Jimmy is living the good life, and not one member of our class begrudges his success. He has been kind to us, his classmates, by hosting our reunions at his home and in the pavilion on his golf course, never charging us a cent. The odd thing is that we have classmates who became doctors, teachers, and school principals, and yet, Jimmy is perhaps the most revered among us. He was a good friend in high school, and I remember taking him to pick up a brand-new school bus when he became a school bus driver. I think he was making about $250/month, which was a lot back then. I should not have been surprised by his success; he was always looking for ways to make money as a youngster.

I believe the point I’m trying to make is that people that have reached the top tier in society still care about others, still want to be treated as ordinary people, and are willing to go out of their way to be kind to others, especially those they care about. We all have seen influential people in the media being obstinate. Here, we have an example of two powerful people that are kind and generous to a fault. I believe this is true: “If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.” …Shane Koyczan      

I believe both Jimmy, & Mary’s brother, do not need a better mirror.  

Will You Remember Me?

🎡 “Have I done anything to make people remember that I ever lived?” Old Able uttered that line to a lawyer friend upon his inquiry on whether Abe intended to commit suicide. He intended to convey to his friend that he did not want to leave this world without having done something to be remembered by. Of course, we know how that turned out. I would guess that many of us consider George Washington the best president we’ve had, and Abe would be number two. Perhaps some people in the deep south would disagree, but historians in 2021 ranked the top three presidents: 1. Abraham Lincoln (897 points), 2. George Washington (851), and 3. Franklin Roosevelt (841). The bottom four: Donald Trump, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and last was James Buchanan. The only president with his coffin draped with a Confederate flag was John Tyler.

Sorry, I veered off course, but the idea I was exploring is that most of us want to be remembered for something meaningful instead of only being memories in the minds of those who loved us. In my defense, I spent a lot of time earning a living, raising two kids, and ensuring the people I loved had what they needed and some of what they wanted. I wonder if Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, and all the other great people in our past could become famous now? Of course, they could! There will be things that need to be invented or accomplished until the end of time. Most of us have done unique things in our lifetime, just not anything that would make us famous. 

During our time on this precious planet, I think our goal should always be to strive to do what is right, be generous and kind to others, and see the joys often hidden away in small pockets.

 A few days ago, my daughter fell down the stairs of her townhouse and broke several bones, including her pelvis. As she and I discussed her injuries in the hospital, she said to me, “Daddy, you know I have been blessed in this tragedy!” The blank look on my face revealed that I didn’t understand what she meant. She continued, “You realize that I could have broken my neck and been paralyzed from the neck down to my toes?” She had seen what I had failed to see: she was suffering from wounds that would heal, but it could have been from injuries that remain forever, like paralysis. 

Most of us will indeed cross “The Bridge of Tears” without accomplishing anything that will make people remember we ever lived. Scientists have discovered that our minds are active for about four minutes after we stop breathing. They think we will remember our lives and reconcile whether we did anything worth remembering during that time. I’m more inclined to believe that I’ll be thinking about the loved ones I’m leaving behind, especially the ones that need me. I believe in what Robert A. Heinlein said, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” I have found that to be profoundly true.

🎡 Many of us know aggressively friendly people. Some say the average person can have about 150 friends at once (I don’t 😊), and friends are defined as people you are comfortable around. My wife is one of those people. Several of our friends (Mary Webb, Mary Beth, & Jane S) are also. 

In her book “Aggressively Friendly,” Robin Dunbar says we have around fifteen close friends, people you go out to dinner with or are everyday social companions. Within that group, five are your most intimate friends. These are people who will give you emotional, physical, and financial help in your time of need. These friends typically share many traits you have in common, i.e., musical taste, love of sports, political opinions, worldviews, and a sense of humor.

When you meet new people, you get to know them, and then you figure out which circle they belong in or decide if you want them as a friend at all. Some say that it takes about 45 hours of being present in another person’s company to move from acquaintance to friend. To move from casual friend to meaningful friend takes another 50 hours, and then to an intimate friend takes another one hundred hours. 

We devote 8 ½ hours per month to our five closest friends and about 2 hours to the next ten in our fifteen-person circle. We give less than twenty minutes each month to the rest of our 135 friends. 

Since moving into our retirement community, my wife and I have made many friends, but I seriously doubt we have 150. And I was unaware of the process quoted above. It all makes sense, but do we really go through something similar when choosing our friends? We all know, of course, that none of that applies to family. The family has a “free pass” in being part of our life. I do have family members that I’m closer to than others. Still, they are all welcomed as members of my family circle. 

Zelda Fitzgerald said, “Nobody has measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” I have room for 150 friends in my heart, but I doubt anywhere close to that many people want me as a friend 😊.

🎡 At the top of the list, the most commonly used word is “the.” Others like “and,” “that,” and “but” are scattered thru the rest of the list. The most written noun is “time,” verb,” be,” and the adjective is “good.” 

I seldom think of how much I use those words. Each day, as I prepare to scribble my thoughts, I try carefully to articulate them in a fashion that chases boredom into another room, afraid to emerge until I’m finished. To aid me in that endeavor, I use several pieces of software, and my most trusted proofreader is my wife. As she and I were exiting the side garage door, headed to the dining room in our retirement village, our next-door neighbor (Jack) stopped me and said that he enjoyed my missives and wondered how I took the mundane and made it enjoyable. He remarked that I was a talented writer. My good friend is unaware that I get a lot of help. I wrote my first thoughts on a blog website way back in 1998. I am not sure what it was about, but I have written for 24 years. My website ( has my missives back to 2007. My original intent was to write for my family. Still, it has grown into much more than that, and I have readers scattered worldwide. For an old hillbilly from Grundy (VA), that makes me feel good. As a high school literature student in Ms. Simpson’s class, I remember trying to express my thoughts on paper. The best grade I could get was a “B.” She was always trying to motivate me to do better. She and my mother were good friends, so I knew she was sincere in her attempts to get me to do better. Several of her students are published, authors. She loved Shakespeare and insisted that we all take turns reading a page from his plays. I distinctly remember my fears growing as the reading responsibility moved student by student in my direction. My fear of speaking in public chased me for many years until my position in the company I worked for forced me to teach a class every week for several months. Slowly, I came to realize that overcoming that fear only required repetition. I later learned that the fear would return if you go a long period without doing it. Like anything else you do well, you have to do it often. 

Mary Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” That is what we all should strive to be….Tommy

What’s Behind The Curtain?

🎡My wife and I have made a lot of new friends recently. Last year, we moved to a retirement center with about 450 of us old people strolling around a vast compound. We have been here for ten months, which has given us plenty of time to create friendships. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I realized one day that what I know about someone is only what they want me to know, and the same is true for them. They only know about me the information I give them. They have absolutely no idea of what goes on “behind the curtain.” I have friends who are caretakers of their spouses who require their attention 24 hours every day (I read recently that one in five people are caregivers). I know people that are fighting cancer, have eyesight problems, and like me, deal with the difficulties of getting old. Sadly, the health of caregivers fails to get the attention it needs.

After dinner the other night, I sat down beside a woman in the lounge that is 101 years old. She looks terrific to be that age, but she complained she was bored most of the time. Her day comprises watching TV, eating, and sleeping. I know she is always waiting outside the large room set aside for nightly entertainment (which happens several times weekly). A few weeks ago they had a seventeen-year-old boy singing songs by Frank Sinatra and other well-known singers from many years ago. He made a splash with the women, stopping to sing to them personally. When he stopped to sing to my wife, she had the biggest ole smile on her face. I love watching her smile, it always warms my heart ❤️. There is also a room used for movies and most of them are at least 20+ years old. One night “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock was on. I watched that movie while in high school in the late 1950s 😊, but for many of us, we don’t remember, so it doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, back to only knowing what people want you to know about them. Very few people know I grieve almost daily about losing my only son three years ago, or that I worry about losing my only remaining child because of her health problems. Many of us have secrets we hold close to the vest, seldom letting them see the light of day. A friend told me recently that she was ready to pass over to the other side. I was shocked, not understanding that her life at this stage was so unfulfilling. I think the disbelief was because she seemed happy, appeared in good health, had an interesting personality, and a caring attitude. The fear is if it could happen to her, could it happen to me?

I know that I have to look for happiness in the smallest places. A cup of Starbucks coffee raises my spirits, taking a trip back to my hometown (Grundy, VA) always makes me feel happy for weeks. Flying my drone in the common area behind our cottage makes me smile. Taking my truck to the carwash, then vacuuming the inside, brightens my day (I enjoy seeing my truck looking good). Attending the little resident get-togethers we have in the gazebo outback always brightens my day. Having dinner with our friends Jerry & Ruth helps make the day better. For some unknown reason, he always makes me smile. I think everybody needs a friend like him. Throw in our friends Nancy & Richard, and you have a recipe for a beautiful conversation.

There are so many places to look for happiness. We all, as kids, had Easter Egg hunts and as adults, we need to have Happiness” hunts. It’s not a challenging game to play, and the rules are simple; find something to do, someone to talk to, someplace to go. Life cannot get any simpler than that 😊.

Havelock Ellis famously said, “The promised land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.” Sad, but true.

⚾ I was recently encouraged to add chess as another hobby to enjoy as a pastime endeavor. Never mind that I haven’t played that challenging game in 50 years. As I recall, the year was 1972 and my young family of four were headed to Alabama on vacation to watch the NASCAR race at the new Talladega Superspeedway, and then on to a small town outside Dallas, TX, where my 12-year-old son was born. During that trip, I taught him the game of chess, and within six months, he was soundly thrashing his dad. He eventually became a chess whiz on his high school chess team, winning many tournaments. I have not played chess since then. Currently, my record is one win and three losses. I’m hoping to get better. The good thing about the game is that it makes me think hard. I haven’t had to do that in a long time, so I’m guessing it’s good for me.

I think the following quote applies to my situation: “Hope is the only good that is common to all men; those who have nothing else possess hope still.” ~ Thales. That probably describes me pretty well 😊!

⚾Joan Didion said, “You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”  I gave that some thought, trying to determine what she was talking about, and concluded that it’s about picking fights carefully. I’m certainly guilty of failing to do that very thing. Or, she may mean not walking away from important things to pursue. Our church constantly needs financial support, and they ask for money often. Sometimes, I get annoyed that they aren’t monitoring their spending carefully. Still, it is a worthwhile cause, and we put aside our grumblings and help. It is difficult to ignore our preconceived notions about how an organization should be managed, or how our family and friends should make the same decisions we would make. I have concluded that you most likely aren’t doing much of anything if you don’t make mistakes. That may be overly simplistic, but there is a kernel of truth there. If I dared to look back over the mistakes I’ve made in my lifetime, depression would set in, and I would stay there for days. Joan is right. Pick your battles carefully and only engage when the stakes are high.

🎡 Winter is almost over, spring is just around the corner, and I’m relieved that in a few short weeks, flowers will bloom, the grass will turn green, and the temps will start warming up. My spirits always rise just a bit when that happens. I no longer take the seasons for granted because I’m more aware there aren’t an endless number of seasons left for me. That critical fact makes them more meaningful and enjoyable. Aside from that, the upcoming spring/summer allows us to resume our travels. Covid cases in our town dropped from 1,000 weekly to 30 this past week. Our retirement community no longer requires us to wear a mask in most places, making life much easier. It is so much more enjoyable to hold a conversation when you can see the entirety of a person’s face.

Are we getting to where we can treat Covid as an endemic instead of a pandemic? From all I have read and been told, that is a possibility. What a joy it will be to get back to a semblance of normal, but we have to be careful. We thought the same thing last summer and then everything changed for the worse, and we went back to face mask mandates and a booster shot. Heaven forbid that happens again! My wife and I have been fortunate during this fearful and depressing time. So far, neither of us has been exposed to that dreadful and deadly virus. We feel blessed, and we love the life we live, even as the restrictions of the past two years required us to shelter in place. We will wear a mask when we have to enter an airport, people from all over the world come and go, or when we are in an area with high transmission rates. I think that is mostly places where the vaccination rate is low. We also will also wear one when we are around friends and family that are immunocompromised. Somehow, we will get through this terrible time, but I do regret that at our age we have to give up so much of the measured time we have left to stroll around on this beautiful planet.

That brings to mind a Tom Waits quote, “All that you’ve loved is all you own.” This pandemic has reinforced Tom’s sage advice.         ….Tommy

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