We never know what life has in store and that’s as it should be. Sometimes we can get a glimpse of what’s in store based on our actions. If I drive my car at a high speed constantly, I can expect to be involved in an accident sooner or later. I drink 2½ cups of coffee every morning and I kinda suspect somewhere along life’s path that will come back to haunt me. I have read reports saying that an exact amount of coffee is good for you, and then other reports say there are things in coffee that are bad. So, a lot of decisions we make in life give us a cue as to what may lie ahead for us. I have always had a tendency to believe that God charted our path, but I’m beginning to think that he leaves a lot of it up to us. Jerilyn and I have several people in our lives that are suffering health wise, and we suffer right along with them because they are such an important part of who we are. Granted, suffering is sometimes caused by our genes, but I suspect most of it is lifestyle and the effects of lifestyle choices normally rear their ugly head after you turn 40. My philosophy is “good health is a gimme until age 40 then you have to work for it”. All of that said, however, does not relieve us from worrying about those we love.
All of you know the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. We know that because it is in the New Testament, but did you know that it was said by Confucius 500 years before it was written in the bible? So, the belief that mankind should treat others kindly goes back a very long way (2500 years?). With all the violence in our world today, it gives us pause to consider if we have lost that core part of us called conscience. Sometimes I think we wake up each morning ready for the day’s activities, but our conscience continues to sleep and we are very careful not to awaken it, or it will try to prevent us from doing something we want so very badly to do. H.L. Mencken said, “Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends”. The other day I went to our local home improvement store to purchase some chemicals to put on our yard. I calculated in my mind (bad move) the total cost to be around $90, but upon checking out the bill, minus a 10% senior discount came to $65. I knew my conscience was still asleep, so I was very careful not to awaken it. I paid the bill, headed for the truck with my purchases, and regrettably had a very large smile on my face (sorta like the cat that ate the canary). Here’s the dilemma, am I only responsible for insuring I’m not overcharged and is it their responsibility to insure they are paid correctly? I have put my conscience on Lunesta (prescription sleep aid) since it appears to be overactive J.
A good friend called me the other day and said “Tommy, let’s make plans to do some freshwater fishing this month.” I responded to my friend (John) that it had been more than 40 years since I last did some freshwater fishin’. As young boys, my brother and I used to go with Dad, Uncle Claude & Uncle Bill to the Cherokee Lake and fish all day. The last time we went I was about twelve years old. All three of the grownups were on one side of the lake and Jerry and I were on the other side when a big fish grabbed my bait and took off running. As I pulled furiously on the pole, the fish came up out of the water, jumping about 10 feet into the air, and then making a big splash as it re-entered. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see all three men scrambling excitedly to get over to our side of the lake and help me catch “Bubba”. Uncle Bill exclaimed loudly, as he ran at full speed, “Hang on Joe-Thomas, we’re coming!” (That was their nickname for me-where they got it from I’ll never know. As much as I loved my two uncles they could have called me anything). Anyway, back to the fish, just as they got to me and reached for the pole to help pull it in, the line went limp. Bubba had broken the line and dived for the bottom of the lake. We all exchanged stories on how big that fish appeared to be and by the time we left that day, Bubba was perhaps the biggest fish ever seen in that lake. Of course, when we got home that ole fish story spread all over our little coal camp, and I became a celebrity for a little while. But, hey, a twelve year old kid will take a little fame whenever he can get it. Needless to say, that is the fishing story I pull out when I’m with people that like to do that sort of thing. Dad, Uncle Claude & Bill are no longer here to cast their line into that wonderful lake and tell long winded stories as they fish, at least on this side of heaven, but memories of them still bounce around in my head. As I’ve gotten older, my skin has wrinkled, begun to spot, and moles are showing up without invitation, but I still recall those precious moments of my youth and all the wonderful people that were members of the cast.
Jerilyn and I watched my favorite movie the other night, “Cool Hand Luke”, starring Paul Newman & George Kennedy. It was filmed in 1967 and has always been my favorite. Jerilyn has a little trouble understanding why, of all the good movies we’ve seen, this is my choice of “best”. For those of you that haven’t seen it, Paul Newman’s character (Luke) gets thrown in prison in Alabama for getting drunk late one night and taking a hacksaw to all the parking meters in his small town. He winds up on an Alabama chain gang, working on roads during the heat of summer. He is constantly in trouble with his guards and tries to escape every chance he gets, which only gets him into more trouble. Anyway, the thing I like about “Cool Hand Luke” is that he never quits, no matter how hard things get, he keeps trying. To me, that’s the way life is, if you get knocked down, you get back up and try again. Although at times, it seems as if you are tilting at windmills (fighting unwinnable battles). It has been 40 years since I last watched that movie, and as I watched it again, I knew exactly why I liked it so much. I would venture a guess that most of you have a favorite movie. If you get the opportunity, let me know what it is.
Most of my adult life I worked in an office that was located in the interior of a large building (6 stories). I would arrive at at 7:00 am and leave at 5:00 pm. There were no windows so I never knew what the weather was like outside, similar to living in a cave, but with modern equipment and conveniences. It is hard to describe how it feels to lose contact with the outside world for 10 hours daily, 5 days a week for 43 years. My company paid me well for the work I performed, but paid me absolutely nothing for what I was denied. Now that I’m retired I get to set by the window and watch the clouds float by, as if being pushed by an invisible hand. I watch squirrels scurry up and down the trees in our backyard, playfully chasing each other in a game of tag, or I watch birds of all stripes hurrying from birdfeeder to birdbath and back again. I see hummingbirds float, as if in zero gravity, while they suck the sweet sugar water prepared by my wife just for them. I look intently as a neighbor’s cat strolls into the backyard looking for mischief and hides in the azalea bushes. Sometimes a raccoon will hustle by, and for a while, two possums lived under our shed. Occasionally a snake can be spotted in our yard, one time in our garage (that was a thrill!). The view from my window on the world allows me to watch a thunderstorm roll in as it disgorges rain so hard the animals frantically head for cover and the water in our creek has a million tiny swirls created by all the raindrops. Those are some of the things I gave up to work in a cavernous building under artificial lights for most of my life. For all those years, my primary purpose was to provide a decent living for my family, totally unaware of what I was missing in life. In the hoosegow, prisoners are allowed outside in the daylight for one hour each day, to look up and see the sun and the beautiful blue sky. Looking back, I am saddened by how much I missed and by how little I knew about how much I missed. All of this brings to mind a quote by E.B. White, “People are, if anything, more touchy about being thought silly than they are about being thought unjust”. This could all be silly thinking on my part, I hope so! I wonder, when we get to the end of life, do we worry about things left undone?
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere
without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux