Letters to Loved Ones

A frog holding a heart in his hands.

I recently started a project that I have been thinking about for a while.  My ex-wife passed away almost two years ago and I have observed the impact it had on my two adult children.  So, I have decided to write a letter to each family member that will be read after I transition to the other side.   The first one is to my wife, next will be my son, my daughter, and then my three grandchildren.  I have already written three of them and I must say it is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I guess those letters would be considered love letters, for in them I tell each one how much they were loved by me.  I’m guessing you would assume that I tell them that while I’m living, and I have.  But, I wanted to give them something tangible to hold on to after I’m gone.  At the ripe old age of 75, I’m pretty sure I won’t be around too much longer.  Physically, I’m in good health, don’t take any prescription medication and have very few physical ills, but I am aware the end is not that far away.  By the time I finished my first letter tears were streaming down my face.  I knew the next time those words were read I would be gone.  The letters will be sealed in an envelope and placed in our safe deposit box.  The love I have for my family will be in print and will survive long after I’m gone.“The lips know only shallow tunes. The heart is where great symphonies are born.†Calvin Miller

Smileycons! I read an article the other day in Time Magazine titled, “How Long Will I Live?â€.  Women should start at age 89 & men start with age 86 to calculate their lifespan: 

  1.  Laid back attitude? Yes, add 5 years to your age (86,89); No, take away 5 years.  Ok, I’m 91 now.
  2. Do you have a family member that lived to at least 95?  If yes, add 10 years. If no, subtract nothing.  I’m still sitting here with a score of 91.
  3. Do you exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes?  If yes, add 5 years.  No, subtract 5 years.  Now I’m up to 96!
  4. Do you regularly challenge your brain with interesting or challenging tasks? Yes, add 5 years & No, do nothing.  I’m up to 101 years, wow!
  5. Do you maintain a healthy diet?  If No, subtract 5 years & Yes, do nothing.  Thanks to my wife, I do not have to subtract anything.
  6. Do you smoke?  If Yes, take off 15 years & if No, subtract nothing.  Since I smoke a cigar every other day, I had to take away 15 years and so, here I sit sadly, at where I started (age 86). 

The picture is clear and simple for me:  All I need to do to live a much longer life is to stop smoking, yet I find myself unwilling to do so.  I’m guessing that when I’m standing in front of Saint Peter, he will look down from his perch, wag his finger and say, “Why didn’t you follow the warning signs and stop smoking?â€.  My feeble reply will be, “I didn’t think it would happen to me.â€.    I can just see a smile spread across his face as he responds; “And how did that work out for ya?â€.

Some of the hardest things in life involve doing what is, simply, the right thing to do.  I’m guessing this quote sums up my attitude: “”It’s like, at the end, there’s this surprise quiz: Am I proud of me? I gave my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth what I paid?”

 – Richard Bach

Smileycons! At times I seem obsessed with taking the hand extension tool hanging on the rack above my workbench, getting my hand cart and heading for the yard to pick up sticks, pine cones, gumballs, and whatever else litters our front & back yard.  Most of the time I have my iPod plugged in and I’m listening to an audiobook, other times, I’m thinking about something that’s happening in my life that needs my attention.  I started wondering why I clean our yard so often? Most of the time it doesn’t really need it.  After giving it some serious thought I have concluded (without any psychological training whatsoever) that, perhaps, this is a safe zone for me.  It seems to be a part of my life’s structure that provides me a place, at times, to be alone with my thoughts or to travel to another place & time via audiobooks.  I do know that I enjoy that time, and while doing so, I also feel that I’m being productive in a small way.  I guess some of you are thinking that my life could be somewhat dull, but it is in fact just the opposite.  If you were to ask me the last time I was bored my answer would be that it was probably as a kid.  For some reason, finding something interesting to do has never been a problem for me.  Writing this missive is the most obvious example.  Daniel Boorstin said it best: “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it’s the illusion of knowledgeâ€.   Whoa, wait a minute, maybe I don’t really know why I’m out in the yard picking up debris!

Smileycons! I recently bought a weather vane at our local hardware store and I got it at a really good price.  I arrived at their store, with their sales advertisement grasped firmly in my hand, showing the price of the item to be $80.  I located the weather vane (in a box) and the price tag said $48.  Trying unsuccessfully to stifle a grin that was starting to emerge, I quickly, and gleefully, placed it in my cart.  This place is a man’s store with tools everywhere, any tool that you could imagine was in this place.  Needless to say, I was there for a good hour just roaming up and down the aisles looking for things I might need that I wasn’t aware that I needed.  On some level, that doesn’t make much sense does it?   I got the weather vane home and decided that in two days I would begin to piece the thing together.  I allowed myself several hours to complete the task because putting things together has always been a challenge for me.  Looking at the diagrams showing how things fit isn’t always clear to me.   I have been known to take the diagram to my wife and say; “Can you make out how this goes togetherâ€?   Let me tell you, that is a humbling experience.  Fortunately, I have a next door neighbor (John) that can understand those things like a professional.  So if my wife is unable to help I trudge next door for expert advice.   As it turns out, I am able to decipher this diagram and, thus, begin to assemble the 50 pieces of metal into one unit.  I finally got all the bolts firmly ensconced and placed the rotating fan and tail fin on top of the 8-foot-tall structure.  A strong puff of wind arrives, the blades start turning unexpectedly, and hit my arm and hand creating two nasty little gashes.  I moved the vane to the desired place in the yard, and we can now proudly tell the direction of the wind and how strongly it blows.  I’m thinking it will come in handy this winter when the wind chill is so important to us, especially in our backyard. This quote kinda sums it up: “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at allâ€. …..Sam Ewing

 I just finished a book written by professor Michael Droit entitled; “A History of The English Languageâ€.  I listened to the audiobook during my daily 5-mile walk.  I must admit the book was boring at times, but I should also admit that I learned a lot about the origin of our language.  For example, did you know that English is the only global language?  Or, that China has mandated that English be taught in their schools?  Professor Droit asked this question at some point in his lecture; “What is the one English word spoken in all 6000 languages in the worldâ€?  Before he gave the answer, I stopped my iPod and thought about his question.  Possible answers that entered my mind were; yes, no, stop, etc.  Then, unexpectedly, the work “okay†popped up and I knew right away there was an excellent chance that was the right answer.  Turns out it was!  There is an online test that can be taken after finishing the book but I opted not to take it.  I didn’t want to kill the celebration that was bouncing around in my head.   

Smileycons! The other day I pulled an old Rubber Maid toolbox from my shed that I bought a month ago at a flea market for $15.  As I recall, it was a bright sun drenched day and the flea market was beside the highway we were travelling on, but on the opposite side of our 4 lane road.  My wife loves to break up our trip by perusing thru antique shops and roadside flea markets, so I found a place to turn around, and drove back to its location.   Normally, I stay in the car and read something, or listen to one of my many audiobooks.  As a matter of fact, I’m probably the only person you know that would tell you that half of what he knows was learned from listening to audiobooks.  Yes, I am aware that is a sad statement to make.  I am currently listening to book 467 (A Sense of The World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts).  Anyway, back to the flea market thing. This time I got out of the car and strolled by the different venders looking for who knows what, and I walked by this old toolbox setting in front of this guy’s table and, out of curiosity, I start rummaging thru it.  I picked up a small tool and asked how much he wanted for it and he said; “$5, but you can have the whole box for $15â€.  I reached for my wallet so fast that I almost broke the index finger on my left hand.  I guess that as I’ve gotten older little things make me happy.   Now, back to pulling the toolbox out of the shed.  As I took each tool out of that old box and examined it carefully, I cleaned it and placed it in a pile with its next of kin (screwdriver, wrench, etc.).  I’m settn’ there thinking I hit the mother lode with that $15 purchase.  There were tools in that box I didn’t know existed.  I removed the grime on each as I took it out of the box, then I cleaned the box with a degreaser and brought that old Rubber Maid back to life.   That toolbox now sits proudly in my shed waiting for me to tenderly open it’s lid and begin using the wonderful contents inside.   Some unknown person once said, “Don’t frown, you will never know who will fall in love with your smile.† I seem to be smiling a lot lately.  I hope that wherever you are on this beautiful planet your day is going well.  Thanks for reading my missive……Tommy