Tag: friends


Every Child is an Artist


                          

💫  “Every child is an artist until they are told they are not.” I read that quote by John Lennon and wasn’t sure that I agreed with it. I yanked back into existence memories of my childhood that had long ago faded away, and I distinctly remember wanting to be an artist, to draw the cartoon characters in my comic books. And I remember the moment of reckoning when I realized I did not possess that special talent: I was on the floor in my bedroom with my drawings of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Yosemite Sam spread everywhere. I never showed my drawings to my brother, parents, or friends. It was easily discernable that they weren’t good 

As a young boy, I had a grand collection of comic books, almost as tall as I was, and I took excellent care of them. My attempts to recreate the characters within and put my own words into their mouths failed dismally. No one had to tell me I was a terrible artist. I knew it, so I abandoned my desire to become one. When I was a kid, adults did not heap praise on a failed effort. If you weren’t good at what you were attempting to do, you would be told, and it wouldn’t be done politely.

Sigmund Freud (the id, ego, & superego) gave us a lot to think about, but it led us down the path to thinking we had to always encourage our children by telling them they were great at whatever they were attempting to do. My mother and father never succumbed to that tenet, and I didn’t with my two children. If my brother or I came home with poor grades, it usually ended up with a whipping. Those same rules applied to my children.

My son and his wife (JoAnn) have three daughters. I remember him telling me when they were three/four years old that they were going to raise them without spankings. I applauded their efforts but secretly believed they would fail. I was wrong. Three wonderful adult granddaughters are what I have now. I am unaware of how they feel about it: was the replacement punishment worse? My dad only spanked me (whipped) twice as a kid, but in its place, he would get mad at us and stay mad for weeks. Mom would whip my brother and me, and that was the punishment. After a good night’s sleep, she was back in love with us again. I was grateful for that. But my father withholding his love from his children for 3-4 weeks, to me, was unconscionable. I promised never to do that to my children.

Neither of my two children have expressed to me their opinion on how their mother (deceased) and I raised them. I don’t know why I would expect them to. I never told my father how much I disliked his punishment for my brother and me. Florence Nightingale said it well, “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.” Flo may be on to something.

💫 I read recently that you form your first permanent memories around age four, and I agree with that. But I believe I can go back earlier. I can recall my mother nursing my brother, who was fifteen months younger than me. That is quite a bit younger than four. Science has yet to figure out how we store memories. The human brain is the least understood part of our body. When things start to go wrong with it, the psychiatrist chosen to correct the problem seems to guess. I have a close family member that needed their help, and it consisted mostly of being doped up all the time and walking around in a haze. The medicine had side effects, and they were required to take other medicines to counteract the side effects.

I believe we need a psychiatrist/psychologist, but we must monitor what they do closely. They will never say you are well, and the bills will just keep on coming. I know I cannot control the involuntary part of my brain, but I’m guilty of believing I can control the conscious part of it. I know I can control what I choose to think about, and if any unwanted thoughts creep in, I can toss them aside. What I can’t control is what I dream about, but I have tried to have only good thoughts before I drop off to sleep. Sometimes that works, and other times it doesn’t. Often, I get up in the middle of the night to follow the obligatory bathroom adventure, go back to bed, and resume the dream I had before waking up. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Here’s my plan; My mother used to sing to my brother and me as youngsters before we dropped off to sleep, and I never had a bad dream when that happened. I am going to attempt to persuade my wife to do the same as an experiment and see if it holds true with her. I’m not sure she will do it because I take much longer to go to sleep now 😊.  John Rockwell said, “There are times in life when nothing happens but in quietness the soul expands.”  That seems like something I should try.          

💫 There are stories I tell myself about myself. You’re probably wondering why I need to do that since I already know the story, but that’s not entirely true. I have to tell myself the story to focus my mind and force it to recall whatever it is I want to remember. True, sometimes things from the past will just pop into my mind, but that’s always at the mercy of something triggering the thought/thoughts. Recall that in the previous paragraph, I told you about my mother singing to my brother and me before we dropped off to sleep. That memory came alive because I forced myself to recall it. As I was telling the story to myself and you, the memories came rolling in. I often tell stories from my past at our dinner table, and I’m quite confident that my wife and our two constant dinner companions (Nancy & Richard), tire of hearing them. My tales from my youth are meant to entertain them, but I must admit, they also entertain me. I try not to repeat my favorite ones, but I’m sure I do. My mind is not as agile as it was, and so family and friends are forced to endure my musings. I doubt my wife and dinner buddies have noticed, but I have an alter ego, and I have given him a name. I will tell you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else. My alter ego is aptly named “Fat Boy.” This fellow is nested as far down inside me as I can stuff him, but he’s always fighting to get out. He puts up his most fierce battles when I’m looking at the dinner menu or gazing out over the dessert table. Buffets bring out the beast in my alter ego, and he enjoys dancing on my shoulder as he encourages me to put some of everything on my plate. Before I go to bed, he sometimes tries to force me to get a handful of the peanut butter-filled pretzels my wife has stored in the drawer beside my coffee container. I’m always aware that “Fat Boy” is fighting for survival, but I also know that his survival is not good for my survival. Like everyone else addicted to calories, I’m looking for the “silver bullet” that will put an untimely end to his existence. Every time I approach our scale to weigh myself, I can hear it screaming, “go away Fat Boy.” Oops, even the scale knows the name of my alter ego! I have to get rid of it and buy one that doesn’t know my alter ego’s name. Stephan Sagmeister said, “Everybody who is honest is interesting.” I sure hope that’s true. If not, I’m a really boring guy 😊.    


A Tribute to My Friend Jerry


Recently, my good friend, Jerry, passed away. I have only known him and his wife (Ruth) for 18 months. Still, during that time, we became best friends, eating dinner together each day in the dining room of our retirement center. He wasn’t tall, perhaps 5’8″ or so, but he made up for the lack of height with brain power and personality.

At our dinner table, we often talked about the game show Jeopardy. One evening, after a good meal and great conversation, he invited us back to their apartment to watch our favorite 7:30 pm game show. Usually, I can answer five or six questions out of the sixty-one asked, but Jerry answered about 35-40 during our visit. As we prepared to leave, I kindly informed him never to invite us back again to watch that show. That brought a big smile to his handsome face.

Jerry was a wealth of knowledge, having traveled the world as a colonel in the US Air Force, and had countless stories to tell, which always made dinner time more enjoyable. A remarkable quality of his was to somehow not make us feel inferior. If there was something on the menu for the night and we did not know what it was, he was the person we asked and always knew the answer. If we couldn’t pronounce the name of a meal, he was our “go-to guy.” We still wish he was with us when we encounter those situations.

The kindness and attention he gave his wife also touched us. Ruth has health issues, which eventually got to the point of him having to feed her. Each day he wheeled her to the dining room in her wheelchair, her hair neatly combed, and her clothes and jewelry always matched. We complimented her on how pretty she looked, and Jerry would describe to us when and where he bought each piece of jewelry. Typically, it was overseas somewhere. That was our opportunity to interact with Ruth.

He and I attended a “New Car” show over in Norfolk (30 minutes away) back in January, and it was a great “guy bonding” experience. He loved cars, as do I, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We made plans to attend a stock car race at our local track (Langley) this past summer but had to cancel because of Ruth’s health issues. I surely regret, looking back, that it didn’t happen. I would have enjoyed that time with my buddy.

Then, on September 15th, he and Ruth failed to show up at our 6 pm dinner. Usually, there are six of us, including our friends Nancy & Richard. We weren’t alarmed because we occasionally had a reason to be absent. We were later told that Jerry was in the hospital with gallstones. Although painful, we knew he would survive and probably weave his experience into an exciting story, which he could do easily when he returned.

After a few days in the hospital, they sent him to our Health Care unit on campus with medicine to get rid of an infection, after which he would return to the hospital. They would then perform an operation to remove the gallstones. Jerry called me and requested I bring him a pair of my “Fat Boy Pants.” I often kid that my wife calls me “Fat Boy” when I overeat (she doesn’t). He said he couldn’t stand anything tight on his stomach, so we took him a pair of my largest. We sat by his bedside, talked for about 15 minutes, and left, easily discerning that he wasn’t up for company. I had absolutely no idea that would be my final words with him.

Upon hearing of his request for larger pants, our friends Nancy & Richard went to the store, bought him a new pair, and sat them inside his door, not wanting to awaken him. A few days later, we went back to visit again, and there was a note on his door that said he only wanted the family to visit. That was our first sign that he was much sicker than we thought. Before long, he was back in the hospital in critical condition, insisting that only family could visit.

Eventually, to our surprise, we received word that he was under Hospice Care. Then, upon accidentally meeting his daughter during a walk around the retirement compound, we were told that Jerry was in palliative care. His doctor said the end was near. A few days later, he passed away. We were heartbroken. Grief sets on my shoulders like it is an old friend. Occasionally, I knock it off with a clenched fist, but it always clambers back in place.

I have a picture of my good friend sitting in a prominent place in my den, so I see him each time I walk by. It sits beside a picture of my son, who passed away in 2018. It will be there until I stop grieving, maybe even longer. I’m dismayed with him for not allowing us to visit during that painful part of his journey. His daughter said he didn’t want anyone to see him in his condition. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my friend. I hope to do better with my friends when it’s my turn. But who knows, maybe I’ll do the same thing. I hope not.

Jerry, old buddy, if you’re listening, Amy still has a shot at being the Jeopardy champion for 2022 😊. The Gang misses you and Ruth. Oh, by the way, can you tell me how to say this item on the menu?… your friend, Tommy.     


Slow To Anger


🎡 I have always been slow to anger, and that is a trait we should all aspire to have. I have concluded that anger is addictive, and the more we allow it to the surface, the more addictive it becomes. Some refuse to express disagreement unless angered, and then it spills out like dirty water from a stopped-up rain drain. I’m probably one of those people, and I dislike myself. My new friend (Jerry) has the unique ability to express disagreement without being angry. It stays inside and, like water, with me, slowly raises to a boil. Then, the dam bursts, and everything gets swept away by the steam roiling from my nose and ears. Usually, when that happens, my wife has a shocked look and heads to the room farthest from where I am. Eventually, I realize how badly I’ve behaved and try to calm down. My goal is to be the person who can manage anger, refuse to let it damage relationships, and realize that, even though anger can be a great motivator, it can be very destructive. I am reminded of this quote by John Lennon: “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” That probably applies to me when I’m in a state of anger 😊.

🎡 A few weeks ago, my wife and I drove out to western Tennessee to attend my oldest great-granddaughter’s high school graduation ceremonies. It had been three years since our last visit because of Covid-19, and I was concerned that my driving skills had eroded (I was 78 years old on our last trip). Fortunately, as we drove almost 2,200 miles, I noticed no decline. As I continue my progression towards ninety, that will certainly occur. I hope my wife, or I notice the decline before it compromises our safety. My plan is to buy a vehicle that drives itself within a few years, removing the possibility of me making a crucial mistake that could harm us or someone else. My wife is reluctant to take the chance, but tests show they are much safer (7 times) than cars driven by humans, and that should be even more true as time progresses. I remember driving down one of our local streets back when I was in my thirties, and the car in front of me was just creeping along. And as I passed him, I could tell he was in his eighties, just tall enough to see the road through the steering wheel. I remember thinking that he was too old to be driving. Now, I’m getting close to being that guy 😊. Of course, all of us don’t age at the same rate. Many of us are fortunate enough to keep our sight, hearing, and flexibility; others are not so fortunate. I am blessed by not spending one night in a hospital. I know that can change, but I also need to be aware of it as a blessing. Socrates said so eloquently, “The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.” I do not want to be evil.

🎡 Our friends (Richard & Nancy) recently gave us a box full of CDs. There are approximately one hundred of them, and I have been slowly going through the box, listening to each CD, and then copying it to my music library if it was one that I enjoyed. They recently needed to downsize their collection of “stuff” because they moved into our retirement center, hence my reason for having their music collection. I predict I will keep about a third of their collection and give the rest to our local thrift store for someone else to enjoy. I entertained the thought of how many of my CDs they would keep if I put them all in a box? The vast majority of my music is Country, and I have yet to find a single Country album in their collection, so I’m guessing they would not keep many. This confirms my conclusion that none of us pick our friends based on musical taste. I have a few friends that enjoy Country music, and we often attend concerts together.

Back in the nineties, someone gave my wife and me free tickets to a “Soul” concert at the local Coliseum. I was miserable for the entire show, not seeing one act that I enjoyed. People that like that type of music would probably avoid hillbilly music. I do not want to be critical of “Soul” music; it’s just not something I enjoy. I enjoy many types of music, but Soul and Rap have failed to capture my attention. I’m inclined to think it’s a generational thing. “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ~ William Shakespeare. Yeah, that’s probably me 😊.

🎡 I have a new friend in our retirement community (Mary/Mike) that recently celebrated her birthday with her twin brother. They were born and raised in Canada. Her brother is wealthy, so he had a private plane fly down from Canada to Virginia, get her and her husband, and fly them back to Canada for a big celebration. A chauffeured car picked them up at the airport and whisked them off to a hotel. They stayed in the hotel’s best room and had plenty of fun. As Mary told us her story, I could sense the pride she had in her brother, that he had succeeded far past their expectations. Our H.S. class of 1959 had a member that far exceeded our expectations. Jimmy is living the good life, and not one member of our class begrudges his success. He has been kind to us, his classmates, by hosting our reunions at his home and in the pavilion on his golf course, never charging us a cent. The odd thing is that we have classmates who became doctors, teachers, and school principals, and yet, Jimmy is perhaps the most revered among us. He was a good friend in high school, and I remember taking him to pick up a brand-new school bus when he became a school bus driver. I think he was making about $250/month, which was a lot back then. I should not have been surprised by his success; he was always looking for ways to make money as a youngster.

I believe the point I’m trying to make is that people that have reached the top tier in society still care about others, still want to be treated as ordinary people, and are willing to go out of their way to be kind to others, especially those they care about. We all have seen influential people in the media being obstinate. Here, we have an example of two powerful people that are kind and generous to a fault. I believe this is true: “If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.” …Shane Koyczan      

I believe both Jimmy, & Mary’s brother, do not need a better mirror.  


Will You Remember Me?


🎡 “Have I done anything to make people remember that I ever lived?” Old Able uttered that line to a lawyer friend upon his inquiry on whether Abe intended to commit suicide. He intended to convey to his friend that he did not want to leave this world without having done something to be remembered by. Of course, we know how that turned out. I would guess that many of us consider George Washington the best president we’ve had, and Abe would be number two. Perhaps some people in the deep south would disagree, but historians in 2021 ranked the top three presidents: 1. Abraham Lincoln (897 points), 2. George Washington (851), and 3. Franklin Roosevelt (841). The bottom four: Donald Trump, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and last was James Buchanan. The only president with his coffin draped with a Confederate flag was John Tyler.

Sorry, I veered off course, but the idea I was exploring is that most of us want to be remembered for something meaningful instead of only being memories in the minds of those who loved us. In my defense, I spent a lot of time earning a living, raising two kids, and ensuring the people I loved had what they needed and some of what they wanted. I wonder if Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, and all the other great people in our past could become famous now? Of course, they could! There will be things that need to be invented or accomplished until the end of time. Most of us have done unique things in our lifetime, just not anything that would make us famous. 

During our time on this precious planet, I think our goal should always be to strive to do what is right, be generous and kind to others, and see the joys often hidden away in small pockets.

 A few days ago, my daughter fell down the stairs of her townhouse and broke several bones, including her pelvis. As she and I discussed her injuries in the hospital, she said to me, “Daddy, you know I have been blessed in this tragedy!” The blank look on my face revealed that I didn’t understand what she meant. She continued, “You realize that I could have broken my neck and been paralyzed from the neck down to my toes?” She had seen what I had failed to see: she was suffering from wounds that would heal, but it could have been from injuries that remain forever, like paralysis. 

Most of us will indeed cross “The Bridge of Tears” without accomplishing anything that will make people remember we ever lived. Scientists have discovered that our minds are active for about four minutes after we stop breathing. They think we will remember our lives and reconcile whether we did anything worth remembering during that time. I’m more inclined to believe that I’ll be thinking about the loved ones I’m leaving behind, especially the ones that need me. I believe in what Robert A. Heinlein said, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” I have found that to be profoundly true.

🎡 Many of us know aggressively friendly people. Some say the average person can have about 150 friends at once (I don’t 😊), and friends are defined as people you are comfortable around. My wife is one of those people. Several of our friends (Mary Webb, Mary Beth, & Jane S) are also. 

In her book “Aggressively Friendly,” Robin Dunbar says we have around fifteen close friends, people you go out to dinner with or are everyday social companions. Within that group, five are your most intimate friends. These are people who will give you emotional, physical, and financial help in your time of need. These friends typically share many traits you have in common, i.e., musical taste, love of sports, political opinions, worldviews, and a sense of humor.

When you meet new people, you get to know them, and then you figure out which circle they belong in or decide if you want them as a friend at all. Some say that it takes about 45 hours of being present in another person’s company to move from acquaintance to friend. To move from casual friend to meaningful friend takes another 50 hours, and then to an intimate friend takes another one hundred hours. 

We devote 8 ½ hours per month to our five closest friends and about 2 hours to the next ten in our fifteen-person circle. We give less than twenty minutes each month to the rest of our 135 friends. 

Since moving into our retirement community, my wife and I have made many friends, but I seriously doubt we have 150. And I was unaware of the process quoted above. It all makes sense, but do we really go through something similar when choosing our friends? We all know, of course, that none of that applies to family. The family has a “free pass” in being part of our life. I do have family members that I’m closer to than others. Still, they are all welcomed as members of my family circle. 

Zelda Fitzgerald said, “Nobody has measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” I have room for 150 friends in my heart, but I doubt anywhere close to that many people want me as a friend 😊.

🎡 At the top of the list, the most commonly used word is “the.” Others like “and,” “that,” and “but” are scattered thru the rest of the list. The most written noun is “time,” verb,” be,” and the adjective is “good.” 

I seldom think of how much I use those words. Each day, as I prepare to scribble my thoughts, I try carefully to articulate them in a fashion that chases boredom into another room, afraid to emerge until I’m finished. To aid me in that endeavor, I use several pieces of software, and my most trusted proofreader is my wife. As she and I were exiting the side garage door, headed to the dining room in our retirement village, our next-door neighbor (Jack) stopped me and said that he enjoyed my missives and wondered how I took the mundane and made it enjoyable. He remarked that I was a talented writer. My good friend is unaware that I get a lot of help. I wrote my first thoughts on a blog website way back in 1998. I am not sure what it was about, but I have written for 24 years. My website (www.tommyhale.com) has my missives back to 2007. My original intent was to write for my family. Still, it has grown into much more than that, and I have readers scattered worldwide. For an old hillbilly from Grundy (VA), that makes me feel good. As a high school literature student in Ms. Simpson’s class, I remember trying to express my thoughts on paper. The best grade I could get was a “B.” She was always trying to motivate me to do better. She and my mother were good friends, so I knew she was sincere in her attempts to get me to do better. Several of her students are published, authors. She loved Shakespeare and insisted that we all take turns reading a page from his plays. I distinctly remember my fears growing as the reading responsibility moved student by student in my direction. My fear of speaking in public chased me for many years until my position in the company I worked for forced me to teach a class every week for several months. Slowly, I came to realize that overcoming that fear only required repetition. I later learned that the fear would return if you go a long period without doing it. Like anything else you do well, you have to do it often. 

Mary Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” That is what we all should strive to be….Tommy


Lets Go Get An Egg…by Larry


This story is from the Spring of 1961 at Hiwassee Junior College in Madisonville, Tennessee.

“Some memories just won’t let go at all. Every time I hear or see a chicken, I think not necessarily of eggs, even though I am pretty fond of them: fried, boiled, poached, scrambled, deviled, pickled, dyed – it doesn’t make any difference.” Grundy Coach Frank Spraker said this as well, so I’m in good company.

Also, I have several dozen egg and chicken jokes that I’ve gathered from the barnyard of my life if you’ll eggscuse the eggsaggeration.

Of course, everyone has an answer for why the chicken crossed the road – to get to the other side or to prove to the possum that it can be done (probably the most popular).

But why did the chicken cross the playground…? To get to the other slide…! You knew this, I bet!

Or why did the chicken only go halfway across the road? She wanted to lay it on the line.
He-he-he. Cluck! Cluck!

If you’re not eggsasperated yet, let me cut to the chase and tell you about an incident during the Spring Quarter at Hiwassee in 1961. One of the guys (John was his first name, and I think his last name was Townsend…no way of checking since I’m sure that John dropped out of school to get a job).
John lived in the room right next to Willard Owens and myself, and he was BIG on breakfast. Nearly every morning, he would knock on our door shortly after daylight and say:
“Let’s go get an egg boys! Let’s go get an egg!”

For at least a month or two, both Willard and myself were awakened at the crack of dawn by Rooster John with about three lusty crows of, “Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg!”

And really, it was starting to get a little tiresome. Especially those nights when we’d played Rook or Hearts ’til after midnight, or even those rare occasions we studied ’til midnight or later.

So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Willard told me what he’d done one night after John had left our room about midnight to go to his room next door. Willard told me he had conspired with John’s roommate to change his alarm clock setting from seven o’clock to one o’clock. John’s roommate told Willard that John always just pushed the “set” button before getting in bed since he “always” got up at the same time…. seven o’clock…

“And he’s always wanting breakfast at the ‘Crack of dawn’!” Denny, his roommate, said.

Willard and I were dozing off with our clothes on when we heard the faint sound of John’s alarm clock coming through the concrete walls. A short while later, we were ready (but made a show of primping) when John and his roommate came by, and John cackled…
“Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg boys!”
And across the Hiwassee campus we went.

Rooster John is in search of an egg & all the fixins. Meanwhile, the three others were intent on pulling off a prank.

Out the back door . . . across the parking lot . . . past the Library . . . past the old gym . . . and right up to the front door of the dining hall . . . and not a soul in sight!

But that didn’t stop Rooster John from placing his face against the glass when we arrived at the silent and closed Dining Hall shortly after 1:00 in the coolish March air.

John was searching up and down the dining hall for any kind of movement.
“Hey, John! What does that clock on the wall say?” Willard asked with a muffled chuckle.

“Dang boys!” John said, “Somebody’s clock is lyin’…
And there ain’t no sausage fryin’. Let’s go back to bed!”

So, back across the still silent campus we went – kind of afraid to mention to John that it was all a joke. (Perhaps on us more than John.)
All of us slept in that morning, and several weeks passed before Rooster John knocked on our door with:
“Let’s Go Get An Egg Boys!”

John dropped out of school after that semester, and rumor had it that he returned home to Townsend, Tennessee, to take a full-time job serving breakfast all day long at a Waffle House. Shucks! He may have even been the originator of that chain of my eateries… Waffle & Egg.

O, what I wouldn’t give to go back and make that walk and hear those six words just one more time:
“Let’s Go Get An Egg Boys!”
And hear Willard say one more time:
“Good night Roomy!”

But Hiwassee has closed its doors. Hard to believe with all of the new buildings and modernization. Just thinking that we only had one phone in Bruner Hall at the time & it was a Rotary on the wall on the 2nd Floor. It was rarely used, for we were too busy playing games and pranks.

And the roads are paved now also, but no school at the road’s end.
Back then, it was two miles from town along a dusty dirt road & when we got to school, we took a winding path up through a cemetery.

I know several Harman boys that really enjoyed our time there. We thought those days would never end.


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