“The man and woman of character must possess a well-furnished mind. You may be a salesman or a farmer or a housewife, but you have a responsibility to be familiar with the best that has been thought and said”….David Brooks (columnist). I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Brooks, we all need exposure to the good deeds, thoughts, and writings of others. I believe we learn as much from the experiences of others as, perhaps, of our own. As a young lad, I paid close attention to the adults in my life so when adulthood finally arrived, I had a pretty good idea of the man I wanted to be. It turned out to be a combination of things I learned from many people, but they shaped my life in ways that would later only become apparent to me as my core values revealed themselves. I have been an avid reader all my adult life, and I attribute that to those people in my life of long ago. I can travel to almost any place in the world by reading. I have been to the moon with the astronauts, witnessed courtroom dramas thru the novels of John Grisham, and climbed the world’s tallest mountains by reading the stories written by people that live to do that very thing. I stumbled across a quote from American novelist, Helen Yglesias, that caught my attention; “I need to tell stories. I find new friends, new listeners, refine my lies”. Myself, I hope I have never written a lie. After all, Thomas Jefferson said it best; “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”.
I read something recently that goes like this: Memories are like money in a bank. If you make no deposits, you cannot withdraw anything. So, to create a memory bank, you have to constantly do things and store those memories in the bank to be withdrawn later in life and enjoyed all over again. I find that I do that a lot as I’ve grown older. The other day a thought drifted lazily across my mind about a clear, sunny day when I was in the 7th grade (13 years old). Our class was in a little red building just a few hundred feet from the high school (you got into the big building in the 8th grade), and our teacher (Bert Addison) had us outside for PE. He measured off one hundred yards and lined us up (with stopwatch in hand) to see how fast we could dash across the finish line. He timed me at 10 seconds, which in retrospect couldn’t possibly be, because the high school world record in 1954 was 9.4 seconds. The official world record set this year by Asafa Powell is 9.07. Anyway, back to my story, the strange thing about my story is that I can remember it so vividly. I can see old Bert standing at the start line, left foot exactly on the starting line, right hand in the air, dropping quickly to signal us to start, and then shouting our time as we crossed the finish line. None of us kids had tennis shoes so our efforts were hindered by wearing street shoes. Only the boys on the basketball team had tennis shoes (Converse High Tops), and they weren’t allowed to wear them off the basketball court. Bert transitioned to the other side many years ago, but he still bangs around in that memory bank of mine. I’ve had a few complaints about the overcrowded situation, but I haven’t been able to find the door that would let some of those old memories out to pasture. The real problem is that more people and experiences keep shuffling in. As Cyril Connolly so eloquently said; “Our memories are card indexes, consulted, and then put back in disorder by authorities whom we do not control”.
A while back Jerilyn and I attended a CPR course at our church, and we are now certified to administer that procedure. During the class, I asked the young man teaching us what good it did to blow carbon dioxide down someone’s throat and into their lungs? He was unable to answer which was, I thought, a little disturbing. Well, I ran across the answer as given by Marilyn Vos Savant of “Ask Marilyn” fame (in Parade Magazine): “The air we inhale is mostly nitrogen, with only 21% being oxygen, and the air we exhale is still 15% oxygen and 4% carbon dioxide. That’s plenty of oxygen to assist a person who isn’t breathing”. Of course, the new way to do CPR is to eliminate the blowing part and just do 100 compressions a minute until help arrives. Reminds me of a quote by Henri Amiel; “Man becomes man only by his intelligence, but he is man only by his heart”.
I recently needed to replace the rechargeable battery in my portable Garmin GPS. Garmin says there are no serviceable parts in the thing and to send it to them and they will fix it for $400. Well, I paid $175 for it 8 years ago, and I certainly am not paying $400 to get it fixed. I eventually located some instruction on the internet, ordered the battery ($20) and set down, instructions in hand, to take the thing apart. Some little voice in the back of my head whispered that I was heading down a fools path, but I ignored it and continued on, determined to fix that darn thing or else! Everything was going along fine, I was down to the final step, which required me to loosen a screw on the motherboard (the brain of the thing), to get to the battery. They must have inserted that screw using Gorilla Glue! As you probably guessed, I stripped the head and had to resort to breaking the head off the screw to remove the motherboard. Throw in a couple of other problems (broken wires, cable, etc.) caused by my lack of finesse and you can see that, even though I am qualified in CPR, I was not going to breathe life back into that darn thing. As I write this, the poor thing sits out on the workbench in the garage beckoning me to come back and give it another try. What it doesn’t know is I have a spankin’ new one in the mail headed my way. Yeah, I’ll probably give it another try, but it isn’t as imperative as it was a few days ago. There’s an old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness, but somehow, it’s more comfortable to cry in a Corvette than in a Yugo”.
Jerilyn and I recently attended a Christmas party given by our good friend, Joann. We arrived around 7:30 pm and walked into a room full of people, most of whom we haven’t seen since her Christmas party last year. Everybody brought something to snack on, and our host had a lot of food that she prepared (she always does such a good job). There’s Christmas music playing quietly in the background and friends setting around talking, catching up on each other’s lives since the last complete rotation of our planet around the sun. One of the ladies is British and is fun and interesting (I’m always fascinated by her brogue). A lot of teasing, a ton of laughing, and stories of days long gone (if you haven’t guessed yet, we were all kinda old). And before we knew it, the clocked belched out 11 pm. No TV, no telephone, just 3½ hours of good fun with old friends. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a TV show as entertaining as that evening. Jerilyn and I donned our coats, along with the others, collected our dishes, and headed home. That evening took me back to my youth, before TV, when the only nightly entertainment was conversation. I remembered that after our families had supper, my dad gathered with the other miners at the bridge in the middle of our coal camp, setting there for 2-3 hours, talking about things that happened during their shift. That happened every evening, excluding weekends, from Spring until Winter. We kids didn’t hang around much, they seemed to be always mining coal, that’s what they knew, and that’s what they talked about. I can see each one of the miners as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Wonder what it would be like to slip back in time and set at the foot of that old bridge with all of them? None, were nearly as old as I am now (matter of fact, I’m probably their father’s age at the time). As Kahlil Gibran says so eloquently; “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”.
It’s the time of year when leaves fall in our yard like snow falls in Alaska. For the last two weeks, I have dutifully pulled out our lawn vacuum and attempted to keep the grass we planted in the fall visible. When the temperature drops into the teens at night, it is refreshing the next day to see green grass spread out like a beautiful tablecloth ready for a picnic. Winter can be depressing if I fail to maintain a constant vigil on my thoughts. The heart can only hold a certain amount of despair, it then passes by, and cannot enter (what a blessing). I am a firm believer that the time we spend suffering is deducted from our time in purgatory. Jerilyn and I visited a fellow a few days ago that had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer. He was in a room two doors up from her mother, so we decided to stop in for a visit when we left her room. I may have passed him in the hall a time or two, I don’t remember. He appeared to be in his late 80’s, with a very pleasant personality. He said the doctor told him he had 6 months to a year to live, and that he was ready. He said he had lived a good life and had no regrets. He seemed, to me, to be comfortable with his situation and neither expected, nor wanted, pity. His wife, suffering from Alzheimer’s, is brought in several times a day to visit with him. I left there that day so very depressed. What would I do if my life turned that disastrous? Could I face each day with the resolve he displayed to us? Somehow, I think I would fail that test of my religious faith. The problems I have in my life pale in comparison, and I feel ashamed to regard them with such high esteem. I believe that before death, the lines in our face trace the triumphs and tragedies of our life. Cicero said it so well; “As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age; first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death”.
This is a very special time of year for all Christians. We celebrate the birth of Christ, and the life he lived. We know we are not promised a life filled with happiness, but we also know that the possibility of happiness is always nearby because of his love for us. Jerilyn and I wish for all of you a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. We look forward to the New Year and the promise it holds for many wonderful experiences. We are hopeful we can visit many of you in person, as we did this year, and if not, we plan on staying in touch. May the Lord touch your heart in ways never before attempted.
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 this view from, “My Window on The World”. If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you. ………………………Tommy
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere
without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux