An Old Guy & His Dog
֎ Recently, I was sitting on a park bench in the middle of a shopping mall when an old guy walked up with his Golden Retriever and sat down on a bench in the middle of the square. Within a few minutes, a young woman came over and started talking to the man and petting his dog. As soon as she left, another came and the process continued for the entire 45 minutes I sat on my bench waiting for my wife to return from her shopping endeavors. It’s not a big leap to assume this guy does this every single day. Loneliness can become overwhelming. I have two close friends that are homebound and their constant complaint is that of being alone. Probably, all of us can name a few people that have been excluded from normal activities because of health problems. That is especially prevalent as we get older and our bodies start to forsake us. It is easy to criticize those with failing health; didn’t eat healthy, didn’t exercise, drank too much, smoked, overweight, etc. Murray Kempton said, “A critic is someone who comes onto the battlefield after the battles are over and shoots the wounded”. Sounds a lot like I was being critical of the old man in the shopping mall. I need to do better!
֎ I read an article the other day by Jacob Mikanowski about the most prominent language spoken on our wonderful planet. To my surprise it was English. Over 400 million people speak it as their first language and more than one billion use it as their secondary tongue. It is an official language in 59 countries and no language in history has been used by so many people or spanned a greater portion of our globe. It is the language in the worlds of education, international commerce, global business, internet, & science. Mandarin (Chinese) and Spanish have more native speakers but English has the greatest number of non-native speakers in the world. I think what makes that so important is the more our neighbors speak the same language the greater the possibility of peace and harmony in the world. I’m not advocating the elimination of other languages, just that we should all be able to communicate. An increasing number of parents in South Korea have their children undergo a form of surgery that snips a thin band of tissue under the tongue, believing it will make their children speak English better. Supposedly, it enables the child to pronounce the English retroflex consonant easier, a sound considered to be particularly difficult for Koreans (there is no evidence to suggest that it improves that ability). English retroflex is using the tip of the tongue rolled backwards. I think if I were a young man with a young family I would insist that my children learn another language, and I would attempt to do the same along with them. And since I’m on a roll, I would insist they learn to play a musical instrument, attend church, and keep their eye on the possibility of going to college after finishing high school. Sadly, my enlightenment came a little too late, but Thaddeus Golas said, “Enlightenment doesn’t care how you get there.” That makes me feel better.
֎ My wife and I went out to eat with two friends (Rick & Colly) that were celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary. We were told that we were the only ones to remember their special day. After dinner at their favorite restaurant (Red Lobster), we went back to their house and watched a DVD of their wedding way back in 1994. It was heartwarming to jump back in time and see how we all looked back then and enjoy again watching them get married. I was reminded of how beautiful my wife was as a younger woman (she still is). There were around 75 people at their wedding and 24 years later only two people let them know they remembered it. There must be some logic there that escapes me. Maybe, the only commitment is to attend, not to remember.
֎ A few days ago, my wife and I walked a local trail with our daughter-in-law (Rachel) and as we walked and talked, we passed under a very large tree. All of a sudden, we heard branches snapping as a rather large branch plunged to the ground, landing about within inches of us. Had it landed on anyone we would not be on the green side of the grass now. We continued our walk as the possibility of the tragedy we just avoided started to sink in. I know that I am guilty of taking too many things for granted, but when things like this happen, you become acutely aware that our blessings are tenuous and can be reversed at any time. I can think of four times in my life when there was a distinct possibility that death was imminent, but I was saved by the Grace of God. Now the number is five. Kahlil Gibran said, “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.” I have been on this planet 28, 311 days and, sadly, a lot of those days were sold for gold. Truth is a hard apple to throw and even harder to catch.
֎ A few evenings ago, I attempted to walk down the steps from the kitchen into the garage. It was late and the garage was mostly dark, and thinking I was on the last step, I stepped for the garage floor from the 2nd to last step. I was holding a ceramic bowl we use to put kitchen scraps into the compost bucket. As I went crashing down the aisle leading to the garage door, holding the bowl aloft so it will not get broken, I banged my left knee on the concrete floor, winding up in a heap halfway down the aisle. I kinda know that at my age you do not get a free pass on a fall like that. The skin on my knee was burning from the scraping action but other than that, everything seemed to be ok. I clamored to my feet and walked around in the garage and all appeared well. As the week progresses, I can tell that all is not well in the land of the brave and free. I can still walk fairly well, but the knee is swollen, stiff, and a little painful at times. I put an ice pack on it for 20 minutes, took an Aleve, and things improved a lot. I will follow that regimen for a few days and see if things continue to improve. My suspicion is that I will wind up in a doctor’s office somewhere, and he will tell me they need to amputate at least two toes on both feet, remove some skin from my nose and use it to cover the big hole they have to drill in my knee. I will have to sign a pledge that I will never again walk in the dark unless I am holding the arm of someone half my age. I will also be asked to sit daily for 30 minutes in front of a concrete wall, reinforced by time and silence, and think about what I need to do to prevent falls in the future. As I look outside, it appears the sky has the blues. It may be because I have the blues. I almost escaped that fall without any damage, but then, almost doesn’t mean anything because almost doesn’t matter.
There’s an old maxim that goes, “Happy people rarely correct their faults”. I’m thinking that I will correct some things because I’m not that happy right now!
Growing Your Vocabulary
February 12, 2020
⚽ It is well known that writers make grammatical “mistakes”. It happens to us all, regardless of our efforts not to. For centuries, we have searched for a gender neutral missing third-person pronoun. that could be used in place of he or she when gender is unknown or irrelevant. Grammarians have always insisted that it is plural, but more and more it has become accepted to use “they” as a substitute for the singular he/she. Personally, I have used it in that way for several years, knowing it was plural, but ignoring my college English teacher’s admonishment against doing so. I believe that most of us can find instances in our life where we ignored accepted practices and discovered later that what we did previously had become outdated. For example, most people believe that it is better to read a book than listen to an audiobook, but today it is a fact that more people listen to audiobooks. In the past, most people kept up with what was happening in the world by reading newspapers and today most people get their news online. Now, most of us file our taxes electronically, whereas in the past we used paper forms and struggled with tax codes. Yup, times have changed, and we need to change with it. I now feel comfortable using “they”. Times have changed!
⚽ “Now that I’m old, my teachers are the young”… Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. His work was initially published in England before it was published in America. He died in 1963 at age 88, and he was known for his depiction of rural life. How odd it is that back then (‘40s &’50s) he thought adults could learn from the young, because I grew up during that time and adults, in my experience, paid little heed to the young. I’m not saying we weren’t loved, but that we had very little influence on adults. I do think the current generation of adults are influenced by the young. We have high school students lobbying for gun control laws, Greta Thunberg (age 15) of Sweden is lobbying in behalf of climate control All Over the World and as I watch the evening news, I see young people trying to make their voices heard everywhere. The Democrats currently have a relatively young gay man (Pete Buttigieg, age 38) running for their party’s presidential nomination. John F. Kennedy was our youngest president at age 43. You must be at least 35 years of age to run for that office.
So, yeah, I think young people influence us, and in more ways than we think. While in my twenties I cursed often, influenced by coworkers, but believing I could avoid those words at home around my two young children. Well, it eventually happened at home and seeing the bewildered look on my 6-year-old daughter’s face, convinced me to change my ways. I never had that kind of influence on my dad 😊. An old Swedish Proverb says, “Being young is a fault that improves daily”.
⚽ My wife and I went to her post-op (post operation) visit with her surgeon two weeks after her operation on January 21st to reattach her colon & small intestine. I asked him at what point could we feel safe about the reattachment not leaking and he replied, “Very rarely at this stage does that happen, I would say once in a blue moon”. I know that a “Blue Moon” is two full moons within one month and it only happens every 2-3 years (It happens again on October 31). That made us feel a lot better because the elephant in the room was whether this could go south quickly and without any advance notice? Later, while pondering his “Blue Moon” statement, I wondered about other colloquialisms. As a kid, I was told, “You can wait until the cows come home”, meaning wait until it happens and that may take a while. If Mom wanted to get something done quickly, she would tell me to “juice it up a little”. She would also admonish me when I was in trouble, “You’re in a pickle now”. That normally meant she was going to tell Dad of my offense when he got home from the coal mines and he was going to give me a “whuppin”. I recall one time that my brother and I got into some mischief and she waited until we all sat down at the supper table and told him. He firmly informed us that after we finished our meal, he would take us to the bathroom for a whipping (that’s always where the dastardly deed was done). We ate every morsel of food on the table and that amused my father so much that he broke out in laughter and the lashing was avoided. He was never very good at whipping my brother and I, seems he just didn’t have the heart to do it. I can only recall him doing that twice in my life and I deserved both.
To clear up the “Supper” thing; in the mountains of Virginia when I was a youth, we ate breakfast, dinner (lunch) and supper (dinner). We carried our groceries in a “poke” (bag) and bought bottles of “pop” (sodas). If you were afraid to fight another kid, you “chickened out”. I kinda miss hearing those old expressions, but when I go back home every summer, those words are like music to my ears, reminding me of the kid I was all those long years ago, and how much I love the people that still use them. If I had to draw a picture of my hometown, it would have to be drawn on my heart.
⚽ Students are over 4 times more likely to drop out of school if they are unable to read proficiently by the 3rd grade. I ran across that fact a few days ago and was dumfounded. I know that by the time I was in the 3rd grade I had a stack of comic books that were waist high. Our little two room grade school didn’t have a library, so the only reading material available were comic books. If I came across something I couldn’t pronounce, or understand, I went running to my mother with my index finger firmly glued to the offending word. By age 9 (1950), I felt I had mastered the art of reading😊. I recall that in one comic book the person was watching TV, and I wondered “what in the heck is a TV”? I also remember reading Dick Tracy in the Sunday Comics and being amazed when he would talk to someone far away by speaking into his watch. It took about seventy years for that to happen. With all the opportunities to read now, it’s inconceivable that our young children cannot read well. I do believe the ability to read is a cornerstone for success in life. I have only known three people that were illiterate. One was very successful, one lived comfortably, and the other one depended on her husband for her livelihood. I believe it is important to stress the importance of an education to our young people. Likely, today’s environment demands a college education to live a fulfilling life, but it is not impossible to make a good living minus a college degree. It just makes it infinitely harder to accomplish.
How do we help our young people get their education without incurring a mountain of debt? Well, immediately after WWII, we allowed all ex-servicemen to attend 4 years of college under the GI Bill for free. That investment in America’s future paid dividends, so why can’t we do something similar now? Allow each high school graduate the opportunity to get 4 years of college for 2 years of community service in their chosen field immediately afterwards. Failing to do so would require repayment of the cost of their education. Also, if the student dropped out of college before completion, they would have to repay their educational cost to that point. I’m confident the law would have to be more complex than what I’ve described, but smarter people could surely come up with a viable plan.
Alice James said, “I wonder whether if I’d had an education I should have been more or less a fool than I am,”. You know, I sometimes wonder that same thing! 😊