Tag: grammar


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


Growing Your Vocabulary


⚽ 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! 😊    


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