🎡 A few days ago, my wife and I moved some items from our garage floor into the attic. The items were seasonal, and they were just in the way as we walked in and out. I have always insisted that she stay off the ladder that pulls down from the ceiling because I’m afraid she will fall. At our age, ladders are always dangerous, so we avoid them whenever we can. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older.
If someone needs to be on the ladder, it’s going to be me. I had just placed an item in the attic and was backing down when she mistakenly came up to hand me an object. I stepped on her hand and heard a crunch. I looked down and was horrified! I’m thinking that I broke every bone in her hand. She let out a scream as I quickly raised my foot.
Suddenly, my concern turned to anger, and I started fussing at her for being on the ladder. I have asked her several times not to climb it without me in a position to catch her if she should fall. My anger continued for several minutes until I realized how seriously I hurt her. My anger immediately turned into concern and regret. Now, I have added insult to injury, as she stands there holding her hand, nearly in tears.
Fortunately, no bones were broken, but she bruises easily, and her hand now sports a large black and blue spot. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of that secret place within me I don’t like. The place that rears its ugly head and tries to shift blame from me to others. I work hard to keep it locked away, but it watches for any opportunity to break free. When it escapes and unleashes its wrath, I’m left with guilt for weeks, wondering how I will contain that monster for good. That character flaw may be a trait a lot of us have. I have seen it in others, but believed I had conquered it in myself. It turns out the demon is alive and well.
Sigmund Freud said, “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” That’s something I need to do more often.
🎡 I have been taking a yoga class for about three months, and I must admit that it has been good for me. Our instructor (Rose) is a delightful person and well versed in her craft. She appears to be in her fifties and is as limber as one of those large blow-up plastic characters you see beside the road, weaving all over the place. Her balance seems perfect, and she can sit on the floor and touch her toes as easily as a frog can jump from one Lily pad to another. She sits in the Lotus position comfortably and, apparently, could stay there for hours.
I’m telling you some things she can do because those are my goals as well. I know she does those things many days each week. That is a beautiful, healthy place to be in your life. As I attempt to sit in the Lotus position (legs folded in front), within a few minutes, my body aches, and I strongly need to open my legs and stretch them briskly. About 50 minutes later, she has us lay on our back, hands by our side, and listen to her as she instructs us to close our eyes and relax for a few minutes. I have dozed during that time. Before yoga, I could never imagine that I would be capable of lying on the floor and sleeping. Because of yoga, I am more flexible, have virtually no hip pain, and my balance is much better. I remember telling my wife, “Real men don’t do yoga.” Thankfully, I now know better than to utter those unkind words. Rose informed me that yoga was originally intended for men only. The father of modern yoga was from India and died in 1989. It would be a challenge to say his name: Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Without health, there is no happiness. An attention to health, then, should take the place of every other object.” Wise word from old Thomas.
🎡 Recently, I invited my friend Ken to our home to have a jamming session. I have been playing the guitar for about 25 years (woefully inadequate), and this was my very first “Jam session.” Our wives joined us halfway through the two-hour session and politely praised our effort. He and I are about the same age and have a similar love of playing the guitar. He plays much better than I, plus he sings. Both of us enjoy “Country” music, so mainly three chords and some nasal singing get us through most of the selected songs. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I hope we will do it again soon.
I read an article several years ago that said the best time to learn to play a musical instrument is between seven and seventeen. I started in my mid-fifties, so I was a little behind the curve on that effort. My wife and I attended a show in our retirement community the other night that featured a three-piece band (guitar, bass, & drums), playing Roy Orbison, Johnny Rivers, and Carl Perkins songs. About seventy-five gray heads bobbled around, and the songs from the 60s & 70s filled the room with joy. The guitar player was the lead singer. He did an excellent job imitating Roy Orbison as I watched his fingers moving impressively up and down the guitar’s neck. Now, he wasn’t ready for the big time, but he was very entertaining. Roy Orbison wore sunglasses, and the singer gleefully informed us that Roy’s eyes weren’t bad. Well, I looked it up online, and here is what I found: plagued by poor eyesight his entire life, Orbison left his regular glasses on a plane before his show started but had a pair of dark glasses with him as he wasn’t able to see without them, Roy kept wearing the dark glasses purely to navigate his life, and it eventually became his trademark.
The singer in the show we attended probably assumed that older people do not know how to fact-check? Ah, heck, he’s probably at some other retirement community spreading incorrect information about Roy, who passed away in 1988.
🎡 I took my wife to Kroger’s grocery store after we completed our regular 2-mile walk last Friday. I let her out at the door and went to park the Prius. As I got out of the car and headed for the Starbucks inside, a young woman ahead of me got out of her car and headed inside as well. The temps were in the low 40s, and the wind made it feel colder. This young lady had on a pair of cutoff jeans and a tight short-sleeve shirt that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Throw in that she was very attractive, and you have a head-jerker that could cause whiplash. I was worried that she would turn around to see me watching her stroll towards the door. I know she dressed to attract the gaze of younger men, but when you go fishing, you never know the type, nor size, of the fish that will bite your bait. She seemed totally unaware that every man in the parking lot was looking her way. She had to be cold. I was, and I had on a scarf, jacket, and hat. She may wear what she wants, but she needs to understand it will attract stares. I mentioned it to my wife as we left the parking lot heading home, and she had seen the young woman in the store and noticed she was thinly dressed. As warmer weather approaches, I’m confident we will see the young people among us shed their clothes. That young lady will then be less noticeable. I guess that if you want to be noticed, you need to be among the first 😊.
Orson Welles famously said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Well, this is where I stop my story.
As a little girl in the 1960s and 70s, I would best describe my life as humble. My favorite television show back then was The Brady Bunch. I can accurately say that our family life was the exact opposite of the Brady family. I lived in a very rural setting for the first 11 years of my life. I could not imagine a big, modern brick home with an upstairs and wall to wall carpet. I had seen nothing close to that with my own eyes. Not to mention the beautiful modern clothes that the Brady sisters wore daily. I could only assume that the show was based on a fairy tale. Looking back, I think it was healthier for me to not know what I was missing and remain content in my world.
Being a mother of three daughters myself, I can understand how my mama must have felt when it came to the needs of her 2 little girls. She rarely had the money for anything brand new for us to wear. Usually, new clothes were bought once a year, at the beginning of the new school year. And yes, these outfits lasted the entire school year. That being said, many times did my mama buy a dress that was too long so it could grow with me. She would hem it and let it out and re-hem as needed. The same with pants. I did not mind the dresses being hemmed so much, but it was much more noticeable on the pants. I hated that and felt some embarrassment wearing them.
I remember one pair of new pants that I had in third grade. They were lime green, my favorite color, and stretch polyester. Very much in style at that time. They fit well and were extremely comfortable. One day after school, I boarded the school bus and when I sat down, I sat in someone’s used bubble gum. It horrified me. I tried and tried to remove the gum, but it was stuck to the weave of that polyester material like glue. That gum and polyester had become one! I remember telling my mama. Her reaction was that they are brand new pants and still must do me for the rest of the school year. Yes, that meant I had to wear them anyway. Gum spot and all. And I did. Many times, until I either outgrew them, or I wore them out. I admit, I felt embarrassed each time. I never forgot that gum was there. I did however learn a valuable lesson, to look before I sit down!
I guess some would think my mother was mean for making me wear those lime green pants with a gum stain, and I probably felt it was unfair every time I wore them. But now, after raising my own children, and struggling to clothe them, I am a lot more understanding of my mother’s choices.
I remember in the summer; new clothes were even more rare. It did not really matter if we wore clothes from the previous Summer, my sister and I spent 95% of our time playing at home on our spacious 11 acres. No one cared if our shorts were too short or too tight. Or that I was wearing my big sister’s hand-me-downs. But sometimes we just needed Summer clothes. I remember a couple Summers when the Salvation Army moved into a vacant warehouse downtown. They filled the immense space with racks and racks of clothes. There were hundreds of items.
Now my mother had a lot of pride. She did not mind wearing a hand-me-down, but she did not want anyone to know it was a hand-me-down. She would walk down the street where the warehouse was located and check out every customer in the store across the street, in the warehouse, walking down that street, to check if she saw anyone she knew. When she felt sure the coast was clear, she would say “Come on!” We knew to run as fast as we could up the ramp and through the doors of the warehouse.
I can still remember the smell of that Salvation Army warehouse. It was a mixture of mothballs, and a musty old house smell. It was dark because they did not have electricity for lights. It made it difficult to look through the racks of clothes. My mama always went into a smaller room where children’s clothes were piled up in bins. She was never interested in the hanging clothes. I assume they were all adult. Usually, she might find one item for either me or my sister. I remember vaguely a pair of shorts.
Shoes were a whole other problem growing up. And you guessed it, we would buy them with extra room in the toes so my feet could grow into them. I would stuff tissue paper in the toe until then. When I was in elementary school, there were several charities that would treat needy children to a new pair of shoes once a year. They chose me about 3 times for this. I felt embarrassed at first, but once I got those new shoes in my hands, it melted away.
I do not remember my Dad ever voicing an opinion on these charities or Mama’s thrifting. I wonder now if he was even aware. I can see where maybe he would not have been okay with it all. And my mama was superb at keeping things a secret. Not meaning any harm, but just to keep the boat steady. I can look back now, 50 years later, and see the many things that Mama did to make things “work”. The sacrifices she often made, just so me or my sister could have more of what she thought we deserved. Whether it was school clothes and Christmas gifts being put on layaway or ducking into the old Salvation Army thrift store.
Later in life, thrift stores became popular. My mama thoroughly enjoyed that. I took after her and have always loved thrift shopping. Not always so much for need anymore, but for the fun of it. Finding a huge bargain is fun! And now in 2020, you are just downright wasteful if you do not re-use items to avoid them being thrown into a dump somewhere. I think my mother would be in her element if she were alive today. Thanks for all the school clothes Mama.
I remarked to my wife recently that I was going to start wearing bow-ties. She rolled her eyes around in their sockets and said determinedly, “No, you don’t want to do that”. I meekly asked why and she responded, “It’ll make your double chin more prominent”. End of discussion. She knows exactly what to say to get me to agree with her. Of course, that allows me to whip-out one of my favorite expressions, “I have no control over my life!” As she walks away, I detect a slight grin and I know she’s thinking, “That’s the way it should be”. Like most men, when rebuffed by their wife, I mused that I really didn’t want to do it that badly anyway. I learned a long time ago that I should pick carefully the battles I wanted to fight. That bodes well for all of us, avoiding arguments over small, inconsequential things. In 1996, my ex-wife and I were in the midst of finalizing our divorce and we, along with our lawyers, were negotiating the distribution of the furniture she and I owned. We were sitting at the table arguing over a shop vacuum used in the garage. Finally, her lawyer said to me, “Mr. Hale, how much is that thing worth?” I responded, “about $25”. “Do you realize that you are paying us (the lawyers) $125/hour?” I immediately gave the Shop Vac to my ex-wife.
That lesson has stayed with me. I’m passing it on to you for free. But heck, you probably already knew that.
Baltasar Gracian said it eloquently, “There is no greater panacea for every kind of folly than common sense.”
A good friend of ours (Louise) was told recently that her cancer had returned, and she needed to start chemo again. Long ago I fondly nicknamed her “Chatty” because she would call and ask for my wife just because she wanted to chat. She and her husband (Don) have traveled with us to many places (England, France, Spain, Portugal, Bermuda, etc.) and we have always enjoyed their company. A few years ago, she started the yearly tradition of inviting us to their home in January for brunch. It became one of our favorite things to do, good food and good conversation with old friends, how could it get any better? It couldn’t. But it could get worse and it did. The news that she needed to start chemo again saddened us, not because we feel she can’t win this battle, but because we regret having to see our dear friend struggle so much. It has been said that your five best friends are about the same age as you are and probably have the same eating habits. I don’t know if that’s 100% true, but it is, in my opinion, pretty darn close. My five best friends enjoy eating out at least once a week, going to church on Sunday, going out to a good movie, watching live entertainment and engaging in good conversation. My 5 best friends enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs, I hope. And, as you have probably figured out by now, Don & Louise are two of my five best friends. My friend has been fighting this battle for some time now and she shows no signs of defeat, nor pessimism. I may not be one of her top five friends but I am one of her most loyal supporters. She knows that she can always count on my wife and I to be there for her. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.” Being told that our friend’s cancer has returned has certainly bruised our hearts.
I just finished listening to a lecture in which the speaker cautioned everyone to be aware of the fallacy that we are products of our genes and our age. Although, I don’t think we can ignore those two parts of our makeup, I agree that we, perhaps, place too much emphasis on them. Lifestyle, in my opinion, determines about 75% of our health. The most important players in our life, according to me, is our weight, the amount of sleep we get each night and the amount of exercise we get each day.
The more we are overweight the greater risks we have for health problems as we get older. And, we have been told by health professionals all of our life, that we need to get at least seven hours of rest per night. I have been overweight about 15 pounds for most of my life, but I have always averaged seven hours of sleep per night and exercised daily. So, I am doing two thirds of what I should do for a long, healthy life. The biggest factor in my weight is eating out. As long as we eat at home my wife insures that I eat healthy and that my portions are reasonable. When we go out to eat, I determine what I eat, my wife really frowns when I order French fries, and the restaurant determines the portion. Unfortunately, American restaurants are prone to server extremely large portions, and I am determined to eat it all. I have recently devised a strategy, wherein I automatically divide the portion into two equal halves, eat one half and take the other home. It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out 😊. I will let you know the results in a few months.
“He who is not very strong in memory should not meddle with lying.”…. Michel de Montaigne
That’s why I always try to be truthful.
👀 I read that the five most commonly used words in the English language are (in order of frequency): the, of, to, and, a”.
To see if that was true for me I analyzed this missive and found that I used “I” 52 times, “to” 40 times, “that” 36 times, “and” 33 times, “of & the” 32 times. I was certainly surprised to see how many times I used those words and it made me realize that I wasn’t striving to make my writing more interesting and entertaining. I do remember my Freshman year in college that my English teacher encouraged her class to write with originality. There were 25 students in her class and only two of us passed. I think that was when I first believed that I could express myself in writing. As with so many things in life, I became complacent with my writing and fell short of insuring that it remained fresh and interesting. Visitors to my website (www.tommyhale.net) continue to increase and are approaching 50,000 visitors in 18 months. Perhaps, that contributed to my complacency?
Alice James said, “All loss is gain. Since I have become so near-sighted I see no dust or squalor and therefore conceive of myself as living in splendor.” That certainly puts a positive spin on things!
A close friend needed help with her new cellphone recently and asked me to show her how to use it. In a few days she showed up at our home and I read the instructions and attempted to enlighten her in its usage. That meeting did not go well , and she left frustrated and ready to dance the jig of disgust. As an old hand at dealing with all things electronic, I know they come with built-in problems. I have also learned that frustration will not resolve the conflict. We had a second meeting a few days afterwards at her home. In about an hour all her problems were resolved and I left feeling a small sense of triumph. I know that helping others makes me feel better about myself and my place in my circle of friends.
“Help others get ahead. You will always stand taller with someone else on your shoulders.” – Bob Moawad