⚽ I read recently that forty of the fifty tallest mountains on earth are in Pakistan. I had absolutely no idea of that fact, showing just how little, I know about our planet’s geography. But, thinking back to my childhood, I can easily understand why I’m so clueless in that area. I was in the fourth grade, Ms. Nichols was my teacher, the Geography book was large with pictures, and I would prop it up on my desk, lay my head down on my hands and go to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, she was a wonderful teacher, caring deeply about her students, but she couldn’t watch everyone all the time and I knew that. I got a lot of sleep in class that year and I’m guessing that’s why my geographical knowledge is deficient. Ms. Nichols was the first person to tell me that I was a good athlete and that I would do well in high school athletics. She was the first adult to be interested in teaching me about things I knew nothing about. I believe most adults are unaware that children want to be taught, to be made aware of things they have no idea even exist. And I’ll bet that all of you had that special teacher that was interested in teaching so that you could absorb what they wanted you to know. Just think of how hard it must be to teach a fifth grader mathematics, or history, and keep their attention. She taught me in grades 4 -6 in our little country 2-room school. Upon completion of the 6th grade I left for our local high school (grades 7–12), about 4 miles away and lost track of her, only seeing her occasionally. Looking back on how special she was, I hope she had a good, fruitful life. Within the last few years I have contacted her daughter, and we have become good friends. I doubt that she knows how many lives her mom touched in positive ways. Her many students owe her a debt of gratitude. Sadly, we only become aware of that as we grow older. I wonder if teachers can intuit a student’s appreciation. After all, it is the teachers we remember when we recall our educational experiences. Quite a few of my high school classmates went on to become teachers and I must admit, teachers make very good friends. I remember being on a cruise ship leaving Alaska and in the dining room, next to our table, was a table of perhaps 20 teachers on vacation. That was the happiest table in the room with laughter emanating constantly. What great fun it was to be close enough to enjoy their enthusiasm for life. So, my suggestion is, if you’re looking for a friend, go out and find a teacher, you won’t regret it.
⚽About six weeks ago I had some “floaters” appear in my right eye so off I go to see my optometrist. He splatters a few eyedrops into it and, using his complex equipment, tells me he thinks they will go away, but I should come back to see him before the end of the year. So, just a few days before the end of 2019 I walked into his office for my appointment, he plops a few more eyedrops in the offending eye, makes his exam and says everything looked great and that he will see me at my scheduled appointment next October. As I prepared to depart, he inquired as to what I was doing to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. “Well doc”, says I, “At my age, my wife and I don’t celebrate the coming of the new year as much as we celebrate being here to see it happen”.
Probably, regardless of our age, we should celebrate in that manner. Instead of writing down a list of 5 or 10 things we want to accomplish in the new year, we should just be thankful we are here to juggle the things life throws at us for another year. I must admit that I enjoy looking back over the past year at the twist and turns my life took. Invariably, there are moments of sheer joy but there are also times of incredible stress and sadness.
My Mother was, perhaps, the best person I knew that handled stress easily. If the problem was money, she would calmly say, “Tommy Joe, it’s only money, we still have our health to be thankful for. God will provide for us”. I was a teenager at the time, and I quite clearly remember thinking, “Mom, we’re almost destitute, are you sure God has the time to worry about us?” If the sadness was because someone dear to us had passed away, her response was always, “they’re in a better place”. That response never helped me much, but she was put to the test when Dad passed away. During that time, she seemed more worried about my brother and I than herself. She passed away 18 months later, leaving my brother, and I devastated.
I know that the arrival of a new year is celebrated around the world, and I want to be part of that if possible.
⚽ I have spent a lot of time recently, collecting the many leaves that fall from our trees and it is a worrisome job. I use my blower to dislodge the ones hiding behind the many shrubs that surround our home, and then I use my Craftsman yard vac to shred then into a thousand pieces before dumping them in a large compost pile my neighbor, Cal, uses for his garden in the Spring. As I have gotten older, the effort has become greater, but I keep doing it because I know the activity it requires is good for me. I think it is important, as we age, to maintain a certain amount of physical activity and gathering up those errant leaves provides me that opportunity.
I have often wondered if I didn’t have that activity, would I remember Fall? Yes, just like you, I enjoy the wonderful kaleidoscopes of colors it presents each year. Spring brings us colors also, but it’s not the trees so much as the flowers. Although, I must admit I enjoy seeing the verdant greens that come forth each time Winter fades, and warmer weather arrives. It has been said that, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. Well, sometimes I feel like I don’t know where I’m going and I’m willing to take just about any road that will get me to that place in life where I don’t have to rake leaves, cut grass, repair everything that breaks down and feel completely exhausted when the sun descends below the horizon. Some may think that only happens after you transition to the other side, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want it to happen while I’m on the green side of the grass. David Thoreau said, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it, and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” I kinda think that’s not entirely true.
⚽I ran across this quote the other day and thought it interesting, “We are rarely proud when we are alone”. I’m inclined to agree with that thought, by whoever wrote it. I have been alone at times in my life, and I believe you can have someone around, but if they are disinterested in you, then you are alone. I remember playing four years of high school football, and doing quite well in that endeavor, but the person I wanted to impress the most was my mother, and she only attended one game. Dad was always there, but he would be drinking and embarrassed my brother and I in front of our classmates. I loved him dearly, but I hated for my friends to see him “high”. Anyway, no matter the success I had as an athlete, my mother wasn’t there to enjoy it with me, so I had a hard time being proud. I remember being single after my ex-wife and I divorced and doing things without someone with me. I would go to a movie without someone there to enjoy it with and I felt the emptiness that comes with being alone in this world with no one to share life’s adventures. Make no mistake, life is filled with wonderful moments if we choose to acknowledge them, but when we are alone, the colors of life are not quite so deep, the air is not quite as refreshing, and our accomplishments not quite as joyous. Some wise person once said, “When we want to ignore something, we don’t look too hard into the sunlight”. I avoided looking into the sunlight a lot as a younger person, but I find myself gazing into it often as I have gotten older 😊.
Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me. I know you will return their love abundantly. That is my intent as well.