Would the Boy You Were Be Proud of the Man You Are?

A young boy is sitting against the wall

The last WOW I sent out was on April 19th and this one was to go out in May but a lot has happened in the interim.  Starting in April, we made a trip to NY to visit Jerilyn’s sister-in-law (Marion), then in May my youngest granddaughter (Chelsea) graduated from high school.  Jerilyn’s mother (Gladys) passed away on the last day of May and Marion passed away in July while we were  out west on a National Parks tour.  We visited my family in Southwest Virginia at the end of June when we went back for my 1959 basketball team reunion (we went to state that year).  At the beginning of August we went to a memorial service for Marion in NY and on August 27th hurricane Irene roared into town and wreaked havoc.  We have spent the days since then cleaning up debris in our yard.  The first day of cleanup I lost 3 lbs.   The second day I lost 2 lbs.  There is nothing I know as silent as the sound of growing old.  After about 4 hours of work, I have to rest for a few minutes then each ½ hour thereafter.  When hurricane Isabelle came thru in 2003 (I was 62), I worked non-stop for days cleaning up the mischief it left.  After seeing the flooding Irene caused up north, I know we are blessed.

Everything below this paragraph was written in early May.  Needless to say, the lean-to on the shed has been abandoned for other priorities.  The sadness of Jerilyn’s mother and sister-in-law passing away has cast a shadow over our lives that will stay for a long time.   We were on our way home from TN when we got word that Gladys had passed away and would be joining her beloved husband Henry (her prayers were finally answered).  Seven weeks later, we received word that Marion had passed away and was on her way to join Jerilyn’s brother, Wayne, in heaven.  We visited her in the hospital in April & June and knew that she was a very sick person, but still, the news was unexpected and depressing.  She was near and dear to our hearts and thoughts of her will fill our hearts for years to come.  It seems that someone we love has died every year for the past five years.  Someone long ago said; “There may be the accident of birth, there is no accident of deathâ€.  I believe that is true and is all a part of God’s plan.

Laurence Peter’s ask the question; “Would the boy you were be proud of the man you are?â€Â  After some deliberation, I concluded that he would be proud, not necessarily about what I have accomplished, but instead the kind of person I have become.  I can name any number of people that have accomplished more, but I can think of few that have more friends and more fun.  I remember the adults in my youth, and I can distinctly recall that some of them were not fun to be around.  But then again, their life was harder than mine and they had more reason to be unhappy.  Like everyone else, I have my faults, but the feedback I get from my friends is they enjoy my company.  My experience has been that people stay away if you aren’t fun to be around.  So yes, I think the boy I was would be proud of the guy I am.  I know my mother was because she told me so shortly before she dashed off to be with Dad in heaven.  OK, mom was a little prejudiced, but I believed her anyway J.

I recently started building a lean-to on the back of our shed.  I calculated the dimensions and then determined how much of my yard maintenance equipment I could place in their new home.  My best guess was: 2 riding mowers, 2 push mowers, one yard vacuum and 2 bicycles.  I then started calculating how much lumber I needed to get the job done, and what I would use for the floor.  All of this carpenter stuff reminded me of my maternal grandfather (Lonnie McCoy).  He was an excellent carpenter and always amazed me with the way he could cut angles without making a single mistake.  He never had to do anything over again.  I always have to redo things, and I’m constantly trying to make something fit that won’t fit.  I remember being about 5 years old as I watched him pour concrete to make about 8 steps down the side of a bank and then form a wall of concrete to hold back any dirt that might try to wash over those steps.  They led to a porch entrance of the house below.  A couple of years ago, while visiting my folks back where I was raised, Jerilyn and I stopped at that home and I got out of the car and walked over, and sure ‘nuff, those steps were still there 65 years later, looking as good as ever.  I could see my grandfather’s hands smoothing the concrete as he puffed on a cigarette and warning me about trying to put any kind of mark on his work.  Standing there on that bright summer day, staring down at his handiwork, I attempted to think of how many days had passed since that time and how much my life had changed.  As I turned to walk away, there was sadness in my heart for all that I have lost during my journey thru life from that long ago day.  Yet, I know I have a lot to be thankful for! I have many good friends and lots of wonderful relatives, and people like you that enjoy reading my ruminations.  Who knows, maybe grandpa McCoy is making steps over on the other side and warning his son (KD) not to make any marks on his work.

Jerilyn and I attended Sunrise Service Easter morning, arising at 5:30 am and rushing thru our morning ritual to get to the service by 6:15 am.  The outside temp was a very nice 68°, and our minister’s sermon was very enlightening.  Afterwards, all of us filed back into the church for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes.  The people we sat with at breakfast were fun and interesting, one being our assistant pastor and her family.  As a retired guy, I sometimes forget how much fun it is to be around people and listen to their ideas and concerns.  Jerilyn and I left church that morning with a sense of renewal in our faith and in the link we have with all that share our faith in the rebirth of Christ and the forgiveness of our sins.  As I sat, eating my breakfast, a young 15 year old boy sat across from me eating his breakfast beside his dad, with his head bent down as if he wanted to ignore everyone around him.  My attempts to make him feel more at ease around strangers fell harmlessly on the floor, and he staunchly refused to be lured into conversation.  Then, I noticed the cross on a chain lying on his chest.  I glanced around the table and observed that no one else had one, including myself.  I remarked to him that he had a beautiful cross and that he was the only one in our group that thought to wear one on this very special day.   A big smile swept across his face, and he became instantly more sociable.  No longer did his face tilt downward toward his plate as good conversation swirled around him.  I hope he left church that day knowing that even strangers were interested in him, and that he could make friends just as easily as talking about a cross he wore and someone noticed. 

I was 15 years old in 1956 when Elvis Presley’s first #1 record was on the airwaves.  “Heart Break Hotel†had converted all my teenage friends to a new type of music called Rock & Roll.  My mother looked at me one day as I turned the volume up on the radio, smiled as she said; “Tommy Joe, Elvis is just a flash in the panâ€.  That was one of the few times, to my knowledge, she was wrong about anything (maybe some of the times she whipped me were wrong J).  Of course, Elvis later became known as “The King†and had fans all over the world.  There are a lot of wonderful singers in the world today, (Cher, Dion, Barbara?), but I still enjoy listening to Elvis.  Music is such a vital part of my life.  As I write this missive, there is music in the background, sometimes it’s easy listening or gospel, but most of the time its country (very seldom Rock and never Rap).  Yet, I know people that seldom listen, and a few that never listen, to music.  To them quiet is more important.  I think, probably, that quiet should be given more credit than it receives.  If a psychiatrist analyzed those who preferred continual music to no music at all, they would in all likelihood  conclude that music listeners are easily bored and in constant need of some form of energy surrounding them.  I definitely prefer listening to, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dogâ€, to sorting thru the shopworn thoughts that bounce around inside my head.  I think Charles Darwin said it best; “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a weekâ€. 

I recently read about the American man’s change in weight and height within the last 300 years, and was surprised to learn that the average adult man in 1850 stood 5’7â€, weighing in at 146 pounds, with a life expectancy of 45.  In the 1980’s, a typical man in his early 30’s was 5’10†tall, weighed 174 pounds, and was likely to pass his 75th birthday.  There are a lot of discussions as to why the big change, and they mostly revolve around the improvement in healthcare and nutrition.  Jerilyn’s mother would have been 93 in August, and even though her health had declined significantly the past year she was doing quite well otherwise.  I think we are living longer, but not healthier, because of over-nutrition (those DQ Blizzards will be the downfall of me yet).  As Albert Schweitzer said so eloquently; “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memoryâ€.

When my younger brother (Jerry) and I were small boys, Mom would often fry chicken for supper.  Grandpa & Grandma Hale raised chickens and we would come home with fryers after eating Sunday dinner at their place.  My brother, upon learning that liver was my favorite part, would always ask for it first.  In our home, asking first was mighty important, sorta like taking a number at the local DMV.  He got the livers for perhaps 5 meals in a row.  His secret was finding out what Mom was cooking hours in advance, and then asking her for the livers before the chicken was served.  I can still see the wicked look in his eyes as he munched on those livers as if they were delivered to his plate by dispensation from the Pope.  One day I let mom know how unhappy I was that Jerry was getting those livers every time.  “Tommy Joeâ€, she said, “Jerry’s favorite piece of chicken is a drumstick, he just doesn’t want you to have the livers and you know our rule (first come, first served)â€.  Now, let’s fast forward to our next meal with chicken; Jerry sat across the table from me licking his lips over the liver, and I slowly reach into the chicken plate and take both drumsticks.  He continues licking his lips but the smile is slowly fading from his face and appearing on mine.   I glanced over at Mom and detected a suppressed smile.  I never again had to share livers with my brother, but know this much, if he were alive today he could have all he wanted from my plate.  Jerilyn and I often stop at KFC’s to eat, and I never eat a liver without thinking of him.  That story happened 60 years ago, and I wonder why I remember it now? 

 John Tierney wrote; “When I look in the mirror, I worry that I am merely fidgeting until I dieâ€.  I try not to fidget.  I think fidgeting is for people that can’t make up their mind, and I have gotten pretty good at doing that over the years.  As most of you can attest, I have opinions on just about everything.  For instance, I think Congress and the President are fidgeting over fixing the budget, over bringing our troops back home, improving the economy, and finding jobs for the unemployed.  I agree this is a restless time, but our political leaders need to step forward and do what is best for our country.  If they don’t, the one thing they can be sure of is that I will not fidget while in the ballot box.  Our country is really struggling right now and everyone needs to be pulling on the harness to get our problems resolved.  I remember seeing a sign in my boss’s office in the 70’s and it said; “If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problemâ€.   At the time, I couldn’t see how I was part of the problem but as I have gotten older, it makes sense.  See, I thought that if I did my job well, I was doing my part to make the company successful.  What I really should have been doing, in addition to my assigned duties, was helping devise meaningful improvements.  So, I say to my representatives and my President, get busy or be prepared to find a new job come Election Day.

Thanks for reading my monthly missive.  It has taken me a long time to prepare this one, but I hope to get better at jotting down my thoughts to share with you.  I hope everything is fine in your corner of the world, wherever that may be, and that you will find the opportunity to share some of your life with me.

Until next time


To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux