What Made You Like You Are Today?

A woman holding up a sign that says " who am i ?"

I recently had lunch with retiree friends from work.   Some of them I haven’t seen since my retirement in October 2006.   I’m here to tell you there wasn’t a sad one in the bunch!   I commented to one of the fellows sitting beside me that he had lost a lot of weight, and he responded that when he went for his physical last year his doctor told him he had diabetes and needed to go on medication.  He told his doctor, “I’ll see ya in 3 months and then we’ll talk about itâ€.  He said he had always loved peanut butter, so now whenever he has hunger pains he grabs a spoonful of peanut butter and the hunger goes away.  He looked like he had lost 40 lbs.   Hummmm, sounds like a plan to me.

Several days after the luncheon, I had breakfast with some friends from my childhood.  There were 5 of us and only one (Larry’s wife Dee) was not a childhood friend.  We chatted so long that when the waitress rang up our bill, she charged rent on the table.  At times I felt sorry for Dee, but I’ll give her credit, she did a magnificent job of staying engaged in our conversation.  The four of us had a wonderful time recalling our life back in the 40’s & 50’s and marveling at how things were back then as compared to now.   Surprisingly, one of our group (Les) is still an adventurer and does a lot of dangerous things.   The rest of us only do mundane things around the house, sprinkled in with travel here and there.  The five of us finally said our sad farewell  and headed back to life as it is today.  Ah, how great it is to visit the time of long ago when things were simpler, people were kinder, and a RC Cola & Moonpie were all you needed to make it thru the day.   As I remember, Mom would walk out on the porch of our house in Page Camp and yell, “Tommy Joe, Jerry, supper is ready!â€, and we would come running like Olympic sprinters.   I’m sure there were a lot of things I didn’t like back then, but they were forgotten during my many trips around the sun.   I am currently enjoying my 69th summer on this wonderful planet, and I hope to enjoy many more, but I would also like to share those summers with friends I have now and with those from long ago.  I am reminded of the following quote by Katherine Mansfield, “I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.†   With the friends I had breakfast with on that special day, I had to explain nothing.   They knew me when I was a sapling, not the gnarled old tree I am now.

Have you ever wondered what made you like you are today?  The question was posed by the author of an audiobook I was listening to (A Strong West Wind: A Memoir, by Gail Caldwell).   Being the pondering type, I decided to ponder over that.   What things in our life create our core values, make us care what others think, or hurt when others suffer?   What makes us want to do the right thing when we know it won’t be good for us, or lend a helping hand when no hand is ever extended to you?  I have come to the conclusion that it is mostly happenstance.   As we travel through life, we bob & weave, much like a boxer avoiding punches, and we see that by helping others we feel good.   Slowly, but surely, as we continue to do “the right thing†it becomes second nature.  This reminds me of the story my father told me about Grandpa Hale.  It seems the local kids were stealing his melons during the night and so he decided to set out by his garden in a chair and catch them.  After several sleepless nights, he put up a sign by the melon patch that said, “One of the melons in this patch has been poisoned!â€.    The next morning he arose at the crack of dawn, looked out the window to see how many melons had been taken and he noticed something beside the sign he had placed in front of his patch.   Hurriedly, he put on his clothes and walked briskly outside to see what it was.  To his surprise, it was another sign that said, “you now have two poisoned melons in your patch!â€.    In this story, there are no winners because no one gets to eat the melons for fear of getting  poisoned.   I believe that, during our lifetime, we reap what we sow and so far, my crop has come in far better than I ever expected it to.  I arise every morning and look out our bedroom window and tell The Lord how appreciative I am to be around  for another day.  I have more friends and better health than I deserve, and just enough money to enjoy some of life’s pleasures.   I believe Grandpa regretted putting that sign in his garden, and that he wished he had stood watch for one more night.   Surely he would have known the melon thieves, and their discovery would have been punishment enough.   I don’t know how far  he went in school, but he went long enough to learn how to keep people from stealing his stuff.    I learned a lot from that old man.  I doubt I could ever measure up to him, but I keep trying.

I have spent the better part of the last two weeks working on the two hoists down at our pier that hauls our small boat out of the water.  I finally finished  the project and, as expected, lost one of my tools in the water.  I don’t know what it is about me working around water and losing stuff.   After I finished, I took a strong magnet, attached it to a long rope, and went down and tried to locate it.  Our neighbors across the creek were mowing their lawns and starring  at me with puzzled looks.  There I sat, feet dangling over the pier, throwing out a magnet attached to a rope, and slowly pulling it toward me.   This goes on for 30 minutes with no luck.  Finally, I shouted angrily down to King Neptune that it was his to keep, stood up, slowly reeled in the magnet, and walked up the yard to my work shed.   I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the guy standing in the middle of his yard scratching his head.  I can only imagine what he told his wife when he went inside.  As for me, I’m just glad it was a tool that went into the water and not yours truly.   They say that in the south the alcoholic drink of choice is either whisky or beer.  Being a southerner, I headed for the shed and downed a beer (non-alcoholic).   Ah, life is good!

In less than two weeks, Jerilyn and I will be headed to NY to attend her 50th high school reunion (I attended mine last year).  I know quite a few people that have absolutely no interest in reunions of any sort, and I’m always intrigued by that.   There is an old saying that goes, “When I’m at a high school reunion I always feel younger than anyone else looks.†  It makes me feel good to make contact with friends from that life of long ago and to find out what has happened since our last meeting.   Physically we all have changed, but if I look closely, I’ll see the person I knew, ready to expose that 18 year old I knew as a kid.  Sure, there will be few that come to gloat over what they have and what they have accomplished.  The overwhelming majority are there to reconnect with classmates and to have a good time.  While we are in NY,  Jerilyn will have the opportunity to visit with her cousins (Phyllis & Jackie) from California & Connecticut (they are sisters and always a delight to be around).    We will also visit with her sister-in-law (Marion) who is recovering from a recent stroke.  We leave on June 22nd and  return on the 27th.    Later on this summer, we’ll be taking a trip back to my hometown and then on to WVA to visit my cousin (Jesse).  From there we’ll take off to NC and visit Jerilyn’s oldest grandson (Chris) and then on to TN to  visit my grandchildren.   On the way home we will stop and visit two close friends (Dick & Millie) that live in NC.  So, if all goes well, we will get to visit a lot of people that are special to us.   As Madame de Tencin says, “Never refuse any advance of friendship, for if nine out of ten bring you nothing, one alone may repay you.†  A very good philosophy to have about friendships, don’t you think?

Sometimes, I feel as if I’m wading in ignorance.  There are so many things I know absolutely nothing about.  I am currently working on a self-propelled John Deere lawnmower that has refused to disengage the blade whenever I release the handle (a safety feature).  I disconnected the spark plug, turned it over on its side, and proceeded to take it apart, only to find that it will not let me.   I pulled over the “pondering chair†and proceeded to give the matter my utmost attention.  Finally, in desperation, I asked my good friend John (who lives next door) about it and he advised me to, “Just spray it with WD40, leave it overnight  and it should work!â€.   I sprayed it as instructed, but couldn’t resist the temptation to see if it’s ills had been cured.   I hurriedly put it back together and gave a vigorous pull on the rope to start it and the darn rope broke.   Now with me, frustration only serves one purpose;  to make me angry!  Slowly, I raised my eyes to the heavens and mumbled something to the Lord about not being able to catch a break (as if he cares about my breaks).  Nothing to do now but take the pull start apart and put on a new rope, and so I commence doing just that.  After removing the required bolts, I reached in to remove the rope housing unit and, lo and behold, the big circular spring that makes it rewind, flings itself out across the yard.   This is where anger (frustration) becomes very detrimental.   I have this big 10 lb hammer in the shed that is beckoning to me at this point.  Just then, Jerilyn came to the window and called, “Time to come in and get ready.†(we were  going to a show that night).  This means that  John Deere survives another day so it can try to remove the perpetual smile on my face, the one that says life is great!   Some people like to do crossword puzzles, some play Scrabble, and others like Sudoku (numbers puzzle).   I prefer solving real world problems (fixing things), but I have to admit there is a lot of frustrations that accompany that hobby.   I don’t have to take drugs to get high, all I have to do is complete a difficult task.   I probably need to get rid of that 10 lb hammer before I actually use it on something J.

I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer and, if you feel like it, drop me a line.  I would love to hear from you.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux