• Splish Splash I Was Taking A Bath (6/13/2019) -   In May 1958, Bobby Darin’s single “Splish Splash “was released.  I was 17 years old and had just finished my junior year in high school.  I played basketball and football for our school and had done well, and I was sitting on top of the world. My younger brother and I lived with Mom […]

      In May 1958, Bobby Darin’s single “Splish Splash “was released.  I was 17 years old and had just finished my junior year in high school.  I played basketball and football for our school and had done well, and I was sitting on top of the world. My younger brother and I lived with Mom & Dad in an apartment above a restaurant that my mother managed, and I had a job that summer working at the Chrysler dealership about 15 miles away. 

    Dad was a boss at a coal mine not too far away and, with some additional jingle in my pockets from my job, things were looking up.  I was allowed to use the family car, a 1955 Ford Fairlane, on the weekends for dating, but I had a curfew and had to be home by 1 am.  Invariably, I would not get home before 3am and, therefore, had to devise a plan to fool my mother. 

    I didn’t have to worry too much about Dad because he slept like a log, but Mom was not a heavy sleeper and I had to come up with something.  So, I would quietly park the car behind the restaurant, get out after removing my shoes and lightly tread the squeaky stairs that took me to our upstairs apartment. 

    Slipping down the hallway to my parents’ room, I went over to their clock on the night table, set it back to 12:45am, sneaked back down the stairs, put my shoes on, and made plenty of noise as I entered our home.  Mom would wake up, glance at the clock, roll over and go back to sleep.  I would patiently wait in my bedroom until I could hear her snoring lightly, then I would enter their bedroom, reset the clock and go to bed.  My mother never knew of my deception and for some unknown reason I never felt guilty.  I do know that I should have.  My mother trusted me explicitly and was an easy target. I discovered at an early age how easy it was to take advantage of those that love you.

    Flash forward twenty years and I have two teenagers of my own attempting to do the same thing to their parents.  When I discovered their violations of the curfew, I would fuss and fume, secretly knowing that I had done far worse when I was their age.  All parents sooner or later understand that trying to control their teenage children is a losing game.  The best they can hope for is that their children don’t get hurt, nor hurt anyone else.

    An old proverb goes, “If you go only once round the room, you are wiser than he who sits still”.  I have never been guilty of sitting still, but I still feel guilty for deceiving my mother.  I never told her of my deceit for I knew she would have been devastated.  Sometimes adult kids enjoy telling their parents how they deceived them as children.  That is never a good thing to do.  I have met many that would deceive; but none that want to be.

    All the energy mankind uses in one year is produced by the Sun in two minutes.  How in the world is that possible?   Scientist have always told us that unless the Earth was positioned exactly where it is, life on this wonderful planet would not exist.  We know that must be true because all the other planets in our solar system doesn’t support living things, or so we are told.  I suspect that all the energy the sun produces is, somehow, filtered by our atmosphere and we only receive a fraction of what it slings in our direction.  It has existed for about 4½ billion years, has burned half of the hydrogen in its core and is expected to live on for another 5 billion years at which time it will swell up, swallow the Earth and eventually die off into a small white dwarf.  I’m not sure that I believe the “swallow up” part, but the rest of it seems feasible. 

    The one thing that I’m sure of is that every morning after struggling out of bed and raising the window shades, I always grab a smile when I see its rays shining into our bedroom.  There are places in our wonderful country where the sun shines practically every day.  I have often thought of moving to one of those places, but I would have to leave family behind so I have chosen to remain on the coast of Virginia.

    “Is there anything more soothing than the quiet whir of a lawnmower on a summer afternoon.”

    A few days ago, my wife and I discovered that a shower in our home that is seldom used wasn’t working.  It was time for me to don my plumber’s clothing and attempt the repair.  I had previously replaced a cartridge in the Moen’s faucet in another bathroom so I felt confident that I could repair this one as well.  The only difference was that the other one was in the sink and this one was in the shower stall. 

    So, I jumped on my PC and headed over to YouTube and sure ‘nuff, there’s a video telling me exactly what to do.  I watched it a couple of times to ensure I knew every step to follow.  With the instructions etched into my brain, I headed out to the garage to turn off the water to our home, and proceeded to take the thing apart.  Everything’s going fine until I removed the key that held the cartridge in place within the faucet.  All of a sudden, that thing shot out of the faucet, landed on the shower floor, and plenty of water followed, covering me from head to toe. I am glad my wife wasn’t there to witness the event for I looked like a drowned rat!  It was then that I realized that I should’ve turned the water faucet on to relieve the pressure before taking it apart. I finally got it back together, and it is working fine now, but my wife noticed how wet I was as I was putting away the tools and asked me what happened?  I sheepishly responded that it was just a little water and that I would dry out soon.  Most men refrain from admitting they made a mistake. 

    Kathleen Norris said, “If we do not always see our own mistakes and omissions, we can always see those of our neighbors.”   Sad but so true!     

    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.

  • Friendships Are Necessary For A Good Life (8/15/2019) - Recently, my wife and I paid a visit to our former church pastor (Jim) and his wife (Phyllis), both who are dealing with cancer. He retired to devote his energy to fighting that terrible disease, and it has taken its toll on his health. He briefly walked us thru the treatments he was taking and the current status of his health. Then, we moved on to other things, and I could tell he did not want us to spend our visit just talking about his health. He has lost a lot of weight and has very little energy, but he tried gallantly to be a good host. .....

    Recently, my wife and I paid a visit to our former church pastor (Jim) and his wife (Phyllis), both who are dealing with cancer. He retired to devote his energy to fighting that terrible disease, and it has taken its toll on his health. He briefly walked us thru the treatments he was taking and the current status of his health. Then, we moved on to other things, and I could tell he did not want us to spend our visit just talking about his health. He has lost a lot of weight and has very little energy, but he tried gallantly to be a good host.
    Occasionally, you meet someone who has a natural talent for talking, never at a loss for words, and confident in carrying a conversation squarely on their own shoulders. It is always a delight for me to meet someone like that. Oftentimes, it is a struggle to keep a friendly conversation moving along, but with someone like Pastor Jim, that is never a problem. He possess a sincerity in his eyes that few have and you never doubt what he tells you. We left their home that afternoon feeling that we had brought a little happiness into a home that was, perhaps, filled with the struggle of fighting a fierce battle. A temporary distraction of sorts, something we all need in stressful situations. I have given thought to why God would let that happen to someone that has devoted their life to serving him? I concluded that he never promised that we would be free of life’s problems, just that he would be there to help us thru those tribulations. Seth Godin said, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from”. Seth, sometimes that bar is a little too high.

    A professor did a small experiment with his students.
    First, he asked them to read a paragraph about a certain subject and timed how long it took them to finish reading it. The paragraph was deliberately written poorly.
    Then he presented a second paragraph on the same subject, one written well, and asked them to do the same. When they finished, he asked them to compare the amount of information in both paragraphs and the time it took them to read each.

    This experiment taught his students that it can take up to twice as long to read a badly written text that includes the same amount of information.
    Looking back on my high school and college English classes, I realized that my teachers were trying to convey that same idea to me. I remember all of them stressing how important it was to express yourself, in writing and speech, in a manner grammatically correct and simple.
    I read a lot, and I’m constantly having to look up words the authors use that I’m not familiar with. I don’t mind doing that occasionally, but I become somewhat annoyed if I must do it often. Here’s a good example: “Senescence comes with aches and pains, but it’s also a time to look back on your life.”
    That word is defined as the aging process, or a cell’s loss of the ability to divide. So why not use “aging”?
    A year ago, my PhD Candidate granddaughter sent me a thesis paper she had written on E-cigarettes. I expected to see a lot of scientific terms and words I did not know, and I was correct in that assumption. Her paper was written for a scientific community, and I knew that going in. I struggled thru and learned a lot, but it was hard reading. What I enjoyed the most was how well she presented her thoughts on the subject. That is one of the hardest things for me to do with my writings. Kelly Johnson, a lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works in the 60s, is credited with saying, “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. I believe that should be the goal of every writer. I hope I have succeeded in doing that.

    I would like to take you on a trip with me back to 1951 when I was a young lad 10 years old. The Artrup family, friends of our family in the coal camp I lived in, asked me to go with them to spend the weekend at a relative’s home about 3 hours away. Mom said “Yes”, and Dad said “No”. As with most families of that era, Dad’s word was final. He always wanted my brother and me in our own beds when darkness descended into our little corner of the world. I headed off to my bedroom and sat on the floor on the far side of my bed so no one could see me, and the tears started to flow. I desperately tried to stifle the sound because boys my age weren’t supposed to cry, but my heart was broken. Mom opened the door and came over to me, getting down on her knees and holding my face in her hands, she gently said, “I will talk to your Dad and see if I can change his mind.” Begrudgingly, he said “Yes”, but whenever he changed his mind about anything for my brother and me, it always had a big “BUT” added and it always included extra chores.
    I cannot remember the chores he added, but early the next morning (Saturday) I was in the car with the Artrup family, and we were off to visit their dad’s sister. I lost track of time but eventually we pulled over to the side of the road and all of us got out (5 kids in the back seat). Mr. Artrup locked his car, and we started following a trail down the hill. There was not a home to be seen anywhere, but we kept walking for what seemed like several miles and finally I saw a big house with several barns and a large plot of land fenced in as a corral. In the barns were several horses. I loved to be around horses, and as soon as we got settled in, all 5 of us kids headed for the barns. I fondly remember Mr. Artrup’s sister placing each of us on the gentlest horse she had and walking along, holding the bridle, as we imagined ourselves as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Johnny Mack Brown, or the Durango Kid. What a great memory!
    The nearest highway was several miles away, and I have no idea how far away the closest house was to theirs. I don’t believe I have ever felt the remoteness that I felt that weekend. It was as if we were the only ones on the face of the earth. There were no other homes, nor cars, nor stores, the only thing available for our existence was within the confines of their homestead.
    We left there late Sunday afternoon and drove home. All of us kids were sad that the weekend had ended. I told my Mother when we got home what a great time I had and she said, “Maybe you can go again sometime”. Sadly, that never happened. Within a few months, Mr. Artrup had a heart attack in the mines and passed away before my father (his boss) could do anything to help him. Since the homes in the coal camp were for active workers and their families, his family had to move away. I often wonder what happened to their kids (JC, Peggy, Joe, Brenda). Peggy was my 9-year-old brother’s girlfriend. She was bigger than he and was always beatin’ him up. I always smile when I think about them playing together and how she always won their arguments, one way or the other ??.
    I go back home every summer, and I always drive up to where that coal camp existed. Every board and nail have been removed, and the landscape has been changed, but I see it all so clearly. I see a 10-year-old boy with no idea what the rest of his life will entail. I want to reach out and tell him about the pitfalls he will encounter in the life ahead, but I know that kid’s only worry is about how many crawdads he would find under the rocks in the nearby stream so he could do some fishin’.

    Our trip is over now, so you can go back to whatever you were doing when I invited you along. I hope you enjoyed reading my story as much as I enjoyed remembering it.
    Salvador Dali said, “There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction”. I have some days like that, and I’ll bet you do too ??.