Why Did This Happen To Me?

Three dice sitting on a checkerboard surface.

Were you aware that 25% of our population is under 18 and 13% of us are at least 65 or older?   To our younger people, 10 years seems like a lifetime, to us older citizens, it feels like it was last month.   My son turned 50 in June and if you want to feel really old, have a child that’s 50.  I was 19 when he was born and that wonderful memory of bringing him and his mother home from the hospital at Perrin AFB, Texas (outside Dallas) still lives within me.  The Air Force was paying me a whopping $125/month and money was in short supply in the Hale household.  I was always told that hard times develop character and if that is so, I was off to acquiring a monumental amount of character.   A short 15 months later heralded the arrival of my daughter and our family was complete.  Yeah, if I could hit that rewind button, we would have waited until our mid-twenties to have our children, but even with the hard times life, was good.  I guess my only regret is I went from being a kid to being a husband and then 12 months later a father, a rather shocking change of events.  I tried to pattern my fatherhood after important men in my life, including my own dad, and quite a few of my uncles.  Grandpa Hale probably had the greatest impact, and still does to this day, even though he died on May 31, 1970 when I was 29.  I believe all of us, in some way, were impacted by important people in our lives.  Perhaps, you and I are making lasting impressions on some poor soul and 50 years from now, they will comment on our character (or lack thereof).   My, how I ramble on!  I guess I have reached the age where my idea of  happy hour is taking a nap J.

Have you ever wondered what you would do if your tomorrow was under siege?  This happened recently to two close friends and it gave me reason to pause.  I know I’m guilty of taking tomorrow for granted, as probably are a few of you.   How would having a heart attack, or a stroke, affect my life and how would I react if I knew I would struggle to get back to normalcy, or if I would be required to work day and night to get a semblance of my life back?   Charles Darwin once wrote that, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.†   I choose not to think of how many hours I have wasted doing things like watching TV, that chewed away at my life,  having no meaningful impact.  I know a tragic event would force me to think about those wasted hours and even though I could do nothing to recapture them, it would insure that I spent less time doing banal things.   I remember, as a young boy, how things smelled, or how light struck objects, or how I could lay on my back staring into the sky, watching clouds float aimlessly by.   That happens so seldom now.  It appears that I have lost my sense of wonderment, and for the life of me, I don’t know when that occurred.  What I do know is that in this life, what you get is not always what you deserve.   My close friend that had the stroke asked me, “Why did this happen to me?†  With a feeling of great sadness, I responded, “Tragedy strikes the good and the bad.  You did nothing to deserve this!†  That seemed like such an inadequate answer.  As a 12 year old boy, trying to sleep in the hot nights of summer without air conditioning, and with a gazillion frogs bellowing in the hollows, I would lay there  wondering what life had in store for me.  Fifty seven years later I still have no clue.  I still chase butterflies.

I never had a diary until I was 60 years old.  Writing down my thoughts, and the things that happened in my life, never seemed to be of great importance, however, I am glad I got in the habit of doing it.  Now, when I am unable to recall when something happened in my life, a quick search reveals exactly what happened and the specific date it occurred.   I spent a few dollars for a software application that would allow me to jot down my thoughts quickly and then retrieve them in a flash, even though the thought, or event, was hundreds of days ago.   It is always nice to get something that is capable of repaying more than you gave for it, isn’t it?   You see, I think the world belongs to the young, and they let us old people hold on to one small edge of it.  That is why writing letters is so important.  With a letter, you read it once, maybe twice, all the way thru and then you hold on to it for a while.  Conversations often become boring to the younger set and they grow weary quickly.  I think they look at us as if we were never young and they will never get old.  Every night, the young man in me washes-up and sleeps in an old stranger’s bed.   My wife thinks of me as a manly warrior, but in the scheme of things, I’m just an old guy that hasn’t forgotten the pleasure of walking, or sleeping with the woman of my dreams.

The other morning I walked down to get our daily newspaper out of the container that sets directly under our mailbox.  As I approached, I noticed a big wasp (let’s call him Stinger) flying just in front of the hole that contained the paper.  Stinger drifted into the hole and hovered over my Daily Press as if he were interested in reading the news.  He stayed there a little while, backed out, and then he saw me!   Needless to say, I was prepared to take drastic action, but the little guy didn’t seem at all aggressive so I just stood there and watched.   He floated back into the hole and continued to read.   I’m standing there thinking, “the news must be really important today!â€.   After a few minutes, he floats back out, and ignoring my presence, floats around the box and disappears into the shrubbery.   I must say that when I first observed Stinger, I expected a confrontation of sorts, with him hovering around me, and me swatting back, and one of us having to admit defeat and walk, or fly, away.   I pretty much knew that if it were me fleeing, I was in a lot of trouble.  I have always known that wasps and hornets were dangerous and to avoid them whenever possible, but on that lazy Sunday morning there was an unwritten peace accord.  He got his smack of news and then flew away to let me get mine.  There is an old saying that you should “be good to your enemies because you made themâ€.   I don’t know if that applies to wasps or not, but on that day we coexisted in a peaceful way.

Jerilyn and I attended her 50th high school reunion a couple of weeks ago.  The Pleasantville Panther class of 1960 (Pleasantville, NY) was excited to be together again for the first time in many years.   As a spouse, watching the greetings and interactions of old high school buddies was interesting and, at the same time, amusing.  In 50 years, we change so much, yet think we haven’t,  think the basic person is still there, when in fact, we have changed so much that we would not recognize ourselves in a 1960  home-made video.    Jerilyn and I attended my 50th reunion last year, and I must admit that I was looking for the person I knew in high school, that 18 year old that was so cool back then, and what I got was a mature person that was changed by so many events in life they bore little resemblance to the person I knew.  The Panther class of 1960 made me feel welcome, and made my wife feel like a youngster for the two days we were with them.  Whenever Jerilyn introduced me to a classmate, she would say one of two things:  “She was a cheerleader†(indicating they had more fun than anyone else), or, “he/she was very smart†(meaning they were smarter than she or I).   What impressed me was that she had not one single negative comment about any of them.  I’m thinking there had to be a boy that broke her heart, or a group of girls that excluded her from their group, but no, there were no complaints.  How cool is that!  There were about 185 people in her class, with about 75 showing up, and I would guess about 150 total (including spouses).   People came from California, Florida, Germany and practically every state in the union.  All of them seemed  glad to be home.  Pleasantville has a cool tradition of having the graduates of 50 years ago file down the aisle  before the procession of current graduates.  As the old graduates (with spouses) walked in, the crowd applauded.  We took our seats off to one side and then the current graduates filed in, to wild applause, and took their seats front and center (the ceremonies took place in front of the school).  I noticed they were looking over at us, probably to get a good understanding of what they would look like in 50 years.  At the same time, I was looking at them to see what I looked like 51 years agoJ.  Funny thing, I arrived at their reunion being a “Green Dragon fan†(my school mascot) and left being a “Panther fan†also.    I am always amazed at how many good people there are in my world.

On our return trip home from NY, we passed through many small towns as we travelled down the eastern shore (Rt 13), and it never fails that when we travel through small communities, I wonder what it is like to live there?   Are the people there by choice, or because they have no alternative?  Whenever I go back to my small hometown, I know the people are there because they choose to be there.  They would never choose to be in large populated areas with all the noise and traffic.  They choose to live in an environment where they know almost everyone and life is simple.  I often wonder why I didn’t make that choice.  I guess it doesn’t matter how big a town you live in, your community of friends and activities take place in a small part of that town.  I read once that most people live within a 5 mile radius, meaning most of their activities take place within that space.  Since reading that article, I have tried to enlarge my radius and, for the most part, I have been successful, limited only by Jerilyn and I needing to be close to her, soon to be, 92 year old mother (August 27th).   I am reminded of a quote by George Moore: “A person travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find itâ€.   There is a good chance that defines me.

I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed the view from “My Window on The Worldâ€.  If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you…….Tommy

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux