What Do You Dread The Most?

A woman covering her face with both hands.

Well, the heat pumps are finally installed and our home is warm and cozy again.  The new thermostats are programmable and have a lot of features and, as most of you know, I love things like that.  The installation guy gave me the book to read while installing the two heat pumps and air handlers and said he would go over it with me when the installation was complete.  In a little while, I walked into the garage where he was working and informed him that I had read the book, programmed the thermostat and now it was hooked up to my car stereo and I could change the temps as we were driving down the road J.   He looked up at me and said in astonishment “Really?â€.   “Yup!â€, I replied, “I can be in Tennessee and on my way home from visiting my granddaughters, push a few buttons on the car stereo and change the temp here at homeâ€.   He looked puzzled as if trying to remember if the instruction book said that could be done.  Then, to my relief, a broad smile spread across his face and he laughed out loud.  I really do enjoy spreading cheer.

I read an article in our local paper, written by one of their columnist, telling us that he jogs almost every day and that he ran on a day that had ice and snow and fell and broke his arm.  Duh?   I wonder how old you have to be to know when your behavior can become destructive?   I run three days a week, but I know when running is not safe and so I make alternate plans.  Now, I cannot say that at times I do not do foolish things, but I always try to insure those things are not safety related.  The other day I was using a wire brush to remove some rust and one of its strands broke loose from the handle and grazed my right eye (doing no harm).  I always use safety glasses when using my grinding wheel (which includes a wire brush wheel), but I have never used them with a manual wire brush.  From now on, those glasses go on for any type of wire brushing.  I wonder how much older do I need to be to figure that out in advance?

There are times when I focus on the wrong things.  For example, if a meteorite landed in our front yard I would, more than likely, focus on what could have happened had it hit us and not on our good fortune of being missed.  Our brain is responsible for our success, but it can also be responsible for a lot of the misery in our life.  It allows us to look and find value in our friends, or accept them as occasional interests without exploring who they really are at their very core.  I called the hospital in Beckley, WVA the other day to speak to a cousin that was there because of heart and kidney problems.  The fellow at the other end sounded a little like my cousin, albeit a much weaker version, which was in stark contrast to my conversation with him a day earlier.  “Manâ€, says I, “you sound mighty weak, what’s wrong?â€.  “It’s my heartâ€, he says, “ I’m having a bad spell with itâ€.   “Should I hang up and let you get some rest?†says I, and he replied that I should.  I was depressed.   Things had turned much worse than I had envisioned.  I had taken our weekly conversations for granted and it appeared to me those were going to come to an end.  As it turned out, I had failed to do one very basic thing and that was to verify who I was talking to.  My cousin had checked out of the hospital at noon and I was talking to the guy that moved in behind him.  I plan on focusing on the fact that he is alive and doing fairly well and building a stronger bond with him.  That is what my heart is telling me to do!    

Jerilyn fixed some delicious chili for us to eat as we watched the Super Bowl together the other night.  She was pulling for the Colts and I for the Saints.  Both of us expected the Colts to slaughter the Saints, but after the first quarter the Saints took over and won the game.  As older people do, we doze off at times and are usually awakened by noise from the TV.  During one of Jerilyn’s catnaps, a guy playing for the Saints intercepts a pass and scoots 75 yards.  Of course, the fans are going wild and this wakes her up.  She sees this guy flying down the field and players from the other team trying to catch him.  All of a sudden, she starts yelling for him to “go, go, goâ€!   “Wait a minuteâ€, says I, “this guy plays for the Saints and you are pulling for the Coltsâ€.  “I changed my mind.  I’m pulling for the Saintsâ€, says she.  Now, she had taken all of the fun out of it for me, and I sat there, unable to call up any enthusiasm for the remainder of the game (which was near to the end).   I was able to salvage some fun out of the situation by asking her several times, “I forgot, who were you pulling for in that game?â€.   my poor wife lives a hard life!  I checked my email before turning in and a good friend wrote saying that he won $1000 on the game.  A good friend having good fortune always makes me happy!

I received an email from a friend the other day that ask the recipient to answer about 15 question that will reveal things about themselves to others.  One of the questions asked was “What do you dread the most?â€.   His answer was, “that I will outlive my childrenâ€.   I had to stop and think about that for a while.   Normally, we accept that we will die before our children and they will live 25-30 years after we are gone.  Dad has been gone 24 years (Mom 22) and I’m hoping for another 10-15 years.  I think what makes us worry about outliving our children is if they live a health endangered lifestyle (smoking, drinking, drugs, etc), or suffer from a disease.   There is an old saying that “You are only as happy as your saddest childâ€, and I think that is true.  I stopped smoking (pipe) in 1979 and chewing tobacco in 1990.  I know how hard it is to break an addiction.  I often find myself  wondering, why, with all the information available today, we continue our destructive habits.  I have concluded it is because we think that our addiction will not cause us the problems it causes others.  For example, we know that 75% of smokers die from a smoke related disease.  My lifelong buddy and dearest friend had his wife hold a cigarette in his mouth just a few days before passing away.   I watched him suffer for months, enduring chemo for 1½ years.   There is a person that I profoundly dislike.  I could never wish that much pain on her (un-Christian-like, but I don’t wish her much happiness).   Both of my children smoke, perhaps assuming that since both of their parents smoked, it was ok.  If that is our legacy to them, I will always carry that guilt.  

We received some good news from Jerilyn’s oldest son (Dean) the other day.  He works at our local shipyard and has been there for 20 years.  He was recently promoted from Supervisor to Manager, which is a big jump.  He will eventually have several hundred employees reporting to him and have a huge responsibility in submarine construction.   It is always good to hear good news and especially when it is family.  I fully expect that young man to be a Shipyard Director, and maybe,  Vice-President (shipyard) some day.    Just goes to show you, if you go to work every day, work smart and  hard and are kind to others, you will be successful in life.  That’s my theory anyway!      

I received a phone call the other night from Aunt Beulah.  “Tommyâ€, she says, “I cannot believe you are 69 years old! (it was in my previous WOW)â€.   She is 80, only 11 years older than me.   We had a delightful conversation and after it was finished, I hung up with a warm feeling.   When I was 10, and she 21, I thought she was old.  At 10 every adult seems old regardless of their age.  She and Uncle Claude (he died 1½ years ago) were an important part of my childhood, often taking my brother and I to the drive-in movies with them on Saturday night, paying our way and buying us popcorn & cokes.  Uncle Claude was perhaps the best conversationalist I have ever known and had more common sense than most.   Aunt Beulah is the youngest of Grandpa/Grandma Hale’s 6 children and my earliest memories of her involve her going to school to be a beautician.  She was allergic to the chemicals involved in giving perms, so she went back to college and became a school teacher.  She taught my brother in the 3rd grade, but missed teaching me because I was in the 4th grade and in the room next door (in a two room grade school 1-3 & 4-6).   I have always loved this woman.  She is so gentle and kind it would be impossible not to.  I had my driver’s license at age 15 and shortly thereafter I helped teach her how to drive.  She and Uncle Claude owned a new 1955 International pickup truck, and I was teaching her to drive up the old dirt road to Grandpa/Grandma’s.  As we rounded the curve at Alvy Addison’s grocery store, she failed to straighten up in time, and we headed off the road and over the hill, stopping just in time, preventing the destruction of their new truck.  Visibly shaken, we clamored out of the truck and assessed the situation.  It was possible to drive it back on the road, but it was also possible that it would tilt over and roll into the creek below.  “What are we going to do?â€, she inquired nervously.   Well, you should never let a 16 year-old kid make a decision like that.  “I think I can drive it outâ€, says I.  She stood in the road with a dreadful look on her face as I started the engine, and, softly accelerating to keep the wheels from spinning, drove the truck back onto the road.  Me thinks I shall never forget the look of relief on her face.   She will always be a treasure in my life, as was Uncle Claude.  I don’t think I ever played a ball game in high school that he failed to attend.  I can still hear him exhorting me from the sideline, “way to go Joe Thomas†as I did this or that successfully.   He and his brother (Bill) called me by that nickname.   I never asked where they came up with it, it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was they cared.   

Jerilyn & I will be leaving Sunday (2/21) on a bus tour to Florida, returning on Saturday (2/27).  Our trip will take us to Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Amelia Island.  The temps down there should be in the 70’s and certainly a relief from the frigid temps we are having here in Virginia.  Sometimes, I so envy our family in California!   In my next life, if I qualify for one, I will be a Californian.  That reminds me of our talent show when I was a senior in high school.  A girl in our class wrote her own song and the only verse I remember her singing over and over was, “I’m going to Californiaâ€.    I wonder if she did?

I hope you’re enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world.  Thanks for reading my missive.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux