SHARED SORROW IS HALF SORROW

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Early yesterday afternoon while flying home from Washington, I initially struggled somewhere between being fully alert and drifting off to sleep. I subsequently found that sleep didn’t come or couldn’t come. There were extenuating circumstances, but I also had a lot to think about. Consequently, fully awake eventually won the struggle. I didn’t want to waste the experiences previously shared over the past couple of days by failing to reflect on them and search for nuggets of truth too valuable to dismiss by not searching for the lessons to be remembered.

 

Of course, as I sat at the gate waiting for my departing flight, I had fantasized that it would be good to sleep through the first leg of the flight (i.e.:  from Washington to Dallas/Fort Worth). Three hours is a long flight and I was tired. I won’t say I had burned the candle at both ends, but it had been a very full two days. I was intent on making the best of it. Sometimes to do that, you have to color outside the lines and at times abdicate to the wishes or needs of others in the group.

 

Friday night I was up way past my bedtime. It wasn’t just for me, but it was for me. I just reread that last sentence and I think it is incongruent, but at the same time it accurately portrays reality. Consequently, I will say it again. “It wasn’t just for me, but it was for me.”

 

Sometimes you do things because you know it is important to someone else, even if that someone else doesn’t know that it is important until after they’ve had the experience. Okay, so now you think I’m talking nonsense. Let me explain it this way: “Would I have ventured out on my own at that time of night? The answer is most assuredly not, yet “count me in” was my vote”.

 

Actually, I guess the “count me in” was self-evident because I was the one who posed the question. I guess that is short for saying the late night excursion was my idea. I thought it was a good one, but sometimes timing is everything and it was late. My judgment may have been flawed, but my gut told me it was the right thing to do. Sometimes my intuitive default button highlights this reality: “The only place we have is here and the only time we have is now.” Can you argue with either of those assertions?

 

I didn’t go to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (AKA – The Wall) three months ago when I in Washington. Going to The Wall is something I normally do when I am in D.C., but time got away from me and I didn’t make my customary visit.

 

Maybe it is only my imagination, but stopping by The Wall is tantamount for me to “emotionally checking in for old time’s sake”. I think I can make that assertion because it has been a very long, long time.

 

My stopping by The Wall is also a tangible way to remind myself that the issue is still important. I’m not ready to let go! There is still a small cross in front of Ronnie’s name indicating that he’s still missing. I want the symbol changed to a diamond to indicate his death has been confirmed. Of course, the other possible symbol is a circle around the cross to indicate the person has been accounted for and returned alive. To date, the third option has never been used on any name etched in the granite stone.

 

There were only five of us in the late Friday night group excursion, but one of us had never been to the Wall. He had never been to Washington before. What better time than late night to visit The Wall for the first time?

 

In the cloak of darkness the number of names on The Wall doesn’t look as ominous and overpowering as it does during the daytime. It takes more effort to see the names because the row of soft lights emerging from the base of the walkway doesn’t illuminate the names. Unless you read by braille, you’ll never find the panel your looking for or the name of your loved one without a flashlight or candle.

 

Like a horse heading toward the barn, I can operate like a bat in the darkness to locate Ronnie’s name. His name is on the same panel as the family member of two of the people I was with Friday night. Of course, my niece was also there, so we had Ronnie’s name covered.

 

Yet the real reason my gut told me that Friday night was the time and place for visiting The Wall had no relationship to the four of us. It was for the fifth person in our group that I thought it was important that we go. He had never been to The Wall before. No doubt he would have gone while he was still in Washington, but selfishly, I didn’t want him to locate his uncle’s name without being with people he knew. He didn’t know us well, but we had met the day before and we four had an awareness of what it feels like the first time you see a loved one’s name chiseled into that granite wall. No one should have that experience in the presence of strangers. It was a wise man that asserted: “Shared joy is double joy and shared sorrow is half sorrow”.

 

Consequently it proved to be a long night. At the same time, it was a meaningful and memorable night. I was grateful that we went. My gut instinct was right. The downside was it proved to be a very short night. It was also a long flight home.

 

Over the three hours of the first leg of my flight, I was lost mostly in thought. I was tired, but obviously not nearly as tired as the passenger in Row 27, Seat D on the plane on which I was a passenger. As I mentioned earlier, there were extenuating circumstances. I had the experience (I almost said misfortune) of being the passenger assigned to Row 27, Seat E. I was the guy in the middle seat. A lady sat to my right. She was assigned to Row 27, Seat F.

 

The seating arrangement was awkward. The man seated to my left (Row 27 – Seat D) was a large man. He would have been far more comfortable had he been assigned to Seats D&F, but it was a full flight and there was no extra space.

 

At some point, I looked to my right and the lady next to me on my right had her head propped against the aircraft. She was sound asleep. The guy to my left was also sound asleep. He, too, was leaning to the right. Thankfully, it wasn’t his head, but his right shoulder was propped and positioned against mine. I’m not making this up. We were tight. Awkward? – Yes / Comfortable? – No. There was nowhere for me to move. He was invading my space and his weight was pushing against me.   He on the other hand, was sleeping soundly. Did I mention his nap lasted for three consecutive hours?

 

At some point, the lyrics to the song, “Lean on Me” began to roll around in my head. You probably remember the song:

 

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain

We all have sorrow

But if we are wise

We know that there’s always tomorrow

 

Lean on me, when you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on

For it won’t be long

‘Til I’m gonna need

Somebody to lean on…”

 

The sound of the lyrics to “Lean On Me” rolling around in my head were like a healing balm. The wise man who said: “Shared joy is double joy and shared sorrow is half sorrow” also said: “Two are better than one”. He also made reference to the fact that: “A chord of three strands is not easily broken.” That thought should serve to plant the lyrics to “Lean On Me” in each of heads more often.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Case # 1973

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I didn’t anticipate that I’d be surprised by anything I heard at the POW/MIA League of Families meeting yesterday. Of course, I knew and anticipated there would be a special report by the League Archival Research Committee regarding a report on Case #1973. The committee had invested a full year of their time laboriously working on that lone investigation.

 

The team included the blended skillset of highly qualified professionals that was second to none. The team was composed of a former military officer and historian, a Vietnamese Linguist, an Imagery Analyst, and an F-4 Pilot. All four men are now private citizens who volunteer their time to take on the task of using their professional expertise to determine what heretofore has not been determined.

 

In case you missed it, the investigative “Archival Research Committee” receive no financial remuneration for their efforts. They are volunteers who live with the belief that no one serving their country in the military should be left behind. Consequently, their mission is to establish a basis that could subsequently lead to the return of those left behind.

 

The committee took full advantage of everything technologically possible as a resource in their finding of facts. In addition they had access to many Vietnamese publications and records, topographic imagery with date lines and the ability to capture before and after imagery.  The details are many. I mention these things just to highlight that when it comes to investigative techniques and thoroughness, the team investigating Case #1973 was at the top of the leaderboard. They represented the best and they were passionate about the mission before them.

 

No stone was left unturned and they painstakingly went down a lot of trails that proved to be dead ends. They were undeterred by the need to backtrack and go a different direction. They charted flight patterns, air speeds, projected time frames, possible target areas and a host of other variables.

 

The F-4 pilot personally invested over 360 hours in the past 12 months attempting to look at pictures of physical evidence previously collected at the thought-to-be potential crash site. A picture may worth a thousand words, but there were at least a thousand questions as to whether or not the pictures from long ago represented parts that came off of an A-6 Intruder aircraft. It was not a simple process.

 

Interestingly, the pictures were taken in 1992 by U.S. military personal at the first identified crash site for (Case #1973). In addition, a host of witnesses were interviewed. Many gave conflicting reports regarding the timeline when a plane crashed in their area. Some said it was time line in which my brother’s plane was lost. Others identified an earlier time. What appeared to be parts off of an aircraft were collected and taken back for analysis.

 

The subsequent investigative report from 1992 was sent to my niece in a brown manila envelope. She was a college student at the time and the Investigative Crash Site Investigation Report provided graphic details of the horrors of war indicating reports of strewn body parts.

 

In 1992, after years of silence with no information, suddenly as a family we were confronted with an abundance of information that brought with it questions regarding the credibility of investigation team’s conclusions.  Trust me, no one wanted information more than our family. I wrote back and said that we were grateful for any information regarding Ron. For years it had been a daily prayer of our family to know what happened. Without doubt, that is a characteristic of every MIA family. However, I respectfully requested an explanation of how they reached their conclusions.

 

I highlighted the contents of their report back to them. Since the report indicated airplane parts that were not consistent with Ron’s plane, I simply wanted some kind of justification regarding their conclusion. Almost immediately, they responded in writing that they had made a mistake. They, too, agreed that since the aircraft pieces were from “another type of aircraft”, the conclusion that it was Ron’s plane didn’t seem justified.

 

Initially this year’s investigative team looking with fresh eyes at the first potentially identified crash site pictures and descriptions of evidence, attempted to make sense of it as well.  For one thing, there was a picture of a fragment of a tire. Was it consistent with what you’d expect of an A-6 aircraft? According to one of the tire dimensions recorded in U.S. documents, it appeared not so.

 

The record indicated that a tire located and photographed was 50 inches in diameter with a width of 22 inches. That is a really big tire. Think about it. Could it be from a B-52 aircraft?” I’d almost say “yes”, but how would I know? Extensive investigative research and numerous telephone calls and emails to tire manufacturers revealed that there was not an aircraft tire with those dimensions for any kind of plane manufactured anywhere at anytime.

 

I can’t recall the number of venders that manufactured tires for aircraft during that era, but the investigative team contacted all of them. So what was the explanation? Could it be that the person documenting the dimensions of the tire in 1992 inverted the numbers? Instead of being a tire with a 50-inch diameter and a width of 22 inches, could it have been 20-inches in diameter with a width of 5.5 inches. Maybe? If so, it could have been a tire for an A-6 Intruder.

 

I’ve only touched the surface of the Archival Research Committee’s report. Their investigative report is twenty-five pages in length. They matched three pieces of evidence that conclusively were consistent with an A-6 aircraft. They also determined that the downing of this aircraft wash highly celebrated by the Vietnamese. It was publicized as the 700th plane shot down.   There is even a picture of the plane in a museum in Vietnam with several Vietnamese standing on it. Evidence suggests that the plane went down in a heavily populated area with lots of Vietnamese directives concerning the downing of the plane.

 

 

There was really only one piece of disturbing evidence. That was the surprise that I found unsettling.  I’ve now had almost 24-hours to think about it.  Rather than highlight that, let me simple say that I’ve given myself permission to focus on what I know to be true rather than what I fear to be true. How’s that for making a healthy choice?

 

 

What I know to be true is that four men comprising the Archival Research Committee and working as volunteers invested a year of their life attempting to honor my brother by orchestrating a scenario to bring him home. I am so amazingly grateful. While by their admission, they can’t say with complete accuracy “this undeniably marks the spot, put the ‘X’ here”, the information is now light years ahead of what we’ve historically known.

 

 

I don’t have the words to adequately express my gratitude to the Archival Research Team, but I’ll never forget the investment of that team’s time and the passion with which they worked to help orchestrate my brother’s return. Yesterday was a good day.

 

All My Best!

Don

Settling For Nothing Other Than The Fullest Possible Accounting

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“Hello My Name is Don…” Isn’t that something similar to the verbiage used by a lot of self-help groups to start their meetings? If so, let me begin my blog with that level of transparency. “Hello my name is Don”. Now that I’ve said it and identified myself by name, maybe I’ve got the hard part out of the way. Isn’t that the first step?

 

I can’t honestly tell you that I perceived I needed any help before I joined the group. My attitude is upbeat and positive about 98% of the time. Even when it’s not, I generally manage to turn the corner and focus on strengths rather than deficits. The need for support is not why I joined the group. Yet, because of the group, I find an extra something that I don’t have the words to cognitively define. What is it? You tell me.

 

Yet, I would hasten to say what is true for me is also true for the vast majority of other group members. The group doesn’t meet weekly. They don’t even meet monthly. Is it possible that you could become emotionally attached to a group that meets only one time a year?

 

Some of the members are seasoned and experienced and they obviously are tied to the cause. For them, the three-day annual meeting is non-negotiable. They will be in attendance come rain or shine. Yet strangely, even for a first timer, before the first day is over, the person experiences an extra something that unexplainably becomes a driving force that cements them to the cause.

 

Last night, I asked a young man if he, too, was from Kentucky? He looked at me like I had mistaken him for someone else and answered, “No, I’m from Florida.” When I had met him earlier in the day, he was seated next to someone I knew from Kentucky. I just naturally assumed they were related. It obviously was a wrong assumption.

 

So I asked, “How many meetings have you attended?” He responded: “This is my first meeting.” He voluntarily hastened to say, “I’ve enjoyed being here. I’ve met some nice people. This is something I think I want to do going forward”. Like I said, it is unexplainable, but already the brief taste he experienced had whet his appetite for more.

 

So if he wasn’t with the lady from Kentucky, with whom had he come? He must have read the question on my mind, because he said: “This is my first time here. I came by myself. I only have an older brother and he wasn’t interested in coming. My uncle is MIA and apart from my brother and I, my uncle has no other living relatives”.

 

Did I mention the meeting isn’t about the individuals who meet? Folks aren’t looking for a venue to fill a void or meet a deficit in their lives. It isn’t that kind of self-help group. Yet, in the process of meeting, they too, make the same discovery that I’ve made. They, too, find an “extra something” that tugs at their heartstrings and they sign on emotionally to advocate for a full accounting for their loved one. It is the only tangible way of actively doing something when there is so little that can be done. Did I mention that doing something is better than doing nothing?

 

Last night I attended the 48th Annual Dinner of the League of Families in Washington, D.C. It predictably included the Presentation Of Colors, the singing of the National Anthem, the Missing Man Table with a vacant chair for each branch of the military and a host of other things done symbolically to craft a story to which every person in the audience could relate. It was a visually powerful representation. So was the small sampling of pictures of the 1,600 + men and women still missing from Vietnam.

 

For me, the highlight of the evening was the verbal presentation made by Gen. Paul J. Selva, 10th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nations second highest-ranking military officer. First of all, erase from your mind the concept that to be a General you have to be someone almost as old as God and bring with you a written script that those in attendance automatically fear will take forever to get through.

 

He wasn’t like that at all. Before he fully articulated his first sentence, he had my attention. I found myself hanging on to every word. His script wasn’t stuffy. In fact, I’m not even sure he had a script. His words, his demeanor, his eye contact with those in attendance, the way he postured himself and his voice tone clearly communicated the authenticity that he was speaking from his heart.

 

In the process his communication style was undeniably heart-to-heart. He shared three real life stories that had impacted his life and the POW/MIA cause. Since I am relying on memory and I don’t have the details clearly framed in my head, I’ll not attempt to recount the three stories he shared. I will simply reference one.

 

He shared the importance that Phil and Karen found undeniable in hoping one day the crash site of their family member would be located. I mean, after all, how hard could it be with today’s technology and access to a really good map? They refused to be dissuaded by reports that the plane went down in a very remote area of Laos. They refused to give up on fostering the hope that the crash site could and would be located. When it appeared no one was going to take action to fulfill that dream, they decided to take efforts into their own hands.

 

Purchasing the hiking gear necessary, they decided to travel to Laos and personally engage in the search themselves. Would you believe it, the hiking boots weren’t even needed. They personally located the crash site.  Soon excavation of that site will begin.  Without Phil and Karen’s resolve to refuse to settle for anything less than a full accounting, none of that likely would ever happen.

 

Perhaps General Selva captured the essence of “that something extra” I can’t define when he talked about the importance of honoring those who gave everything by settling for nothing short of the fullest possible accounting. Actually, that’s got to be the catalyst that prompts an “extra something” that undeniably makes a difference in a member’s life. I am blessed to me a member of the group.

 

All My Best!

Don

UP, UP AND AWAY

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My early morning flight to Washington, D.C. yesterday morning was on American Airlines.   Seldom do I fly anything other than Southwest Airlines. For one thing, I don’t like the added cost of paying to check luggage. For another, the last couple of years all of my flights on SWA have been TSA pre-approved. Why switch carriers and potentially mess that up?

 

Okay, so I have “STUPID” tattooed on my forehead. I was flying American yesterday morning and whether rightfully or wrongfully, I was operating on the notion that American Airlines operates pretty much like SWA. I opted to check-in for my flight exactly 24 hours prior to the posted departure time. Guess what? Can you believe this? With American Airlines you have the privilege of picking your seat before you board the plane. You make your seat selection at the time of check-in. Who knows, maybe you have the option to do so at the time of making your reservation. That seems to make sense to me, but somehow earlier I had failed to make that discovery.

 

Why not? I clicked on the link for seat selection. The obvious downside to having the privilege of selecting your seating is that it comes at a price. When I checked on seat availability, everything in the standard fare was already preselected. Are you kidding me? There was not one available seat that didn’t come at an extra charge of $17 to $34 dollars. The same was true for both legs of the flight.

 

Advertising something about extra legroom in the cabin or preferential seating choice and I’d say it closely resembles a scam. There were at least four available middle seats priced at $17. I didn’t want a middle seat even if they were giving them away. How many airlines have you flown on where the seating on one side of the aisle didn’t closely resemble the seating on the other side of the aisle? I bet your answer is none of them unless you were flying on Air Force One or some other private carrier.

 

I don’t remember the name of the airline, but when the General and I flew out of Rome, Italy several years ago, even at the airline terminal before we entered through security, there was an “UP Charge” for selecting our seats.   It seems like it was in the neighborhood of something over $100 a seat. Of course, you could pay the money upfront and be guaranteed that you and your traveling companion would be seated next to each other.

 

I’m a practical man. When had just spent 18 days together on a cruise.  If we needed to be separated by a couple or three rows to get a seat on the plane, it shouldn’t be the end of the world. The General would have opted to pay the $200 rather than take the chance that we wouldn’t be seated together. My thought process was closely akin to “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” The way I saw it, we were guaranteed some seat with the tickets we’d already purchased. Why not take our chances and avoid the additional charge? Like I said, the General saw it differently.

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you won’t be surprised to know that I opted to take our chances. I guess that means I’d be better at playing poker than the General. I was willing to call their bluff. By the way, I hate table games, so I’m not at risk for a game of poker.

 

The way I saw it, if you had an airline ticket, the airline was obligated to provide you a seat. After all, how would you adhere to the “fasten your seatbelt” requirement if you didn’t have a seat? That time it paid off to call their bluff, our seats turned out to be next to each other and we weren’t out the additional $200.

 

Okay, so I had a flashback to that experience when I was looking on Monday at seating availability for yesterday’s flight. There was not one available seat on the flight that didn’t come with the caveat of requiring more money.

 

So I checked in without making a seat selection. After checking in, I had to select how I wanted my boarding pass. I opted to print it. Of course the boarding pass indicated the assigned seat might not actually be your assigned seat. You’d think that disclaimer would have given me an indication that the boarding pass wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on?

 

Like I said, the airport was really busy yesterday morning. Thankfully, with boarding pass in hand, I headed for the TSA Pre-Approved line to get through Security. It, too, was busy, but it moved quickly. When the agent attempted twice to scan the bar code on my boarding pass without success, he told me I needed to go back to the airline counter to get another boarding pass. The bar code on my boarding pass was not working.

 

It was then that some level of panic set in. From my perspective, I was cutting it pretty close on time. In addition, I was attempting to get through Security at the SWA end of the terminal and the American Airlines counter was at the other end of the terminal. You may have already figured this out, with me I don’t have to look for things to worry about. In addition to my backpack and carry-on suitcase, I had my bi-pap machine. Medical equipment or medical devices are not supposed to count as a carry-on, but did the folks at American know that? Only time would tell.

 

I subsequently breathed a sigh of relief. It all turned out okay, except that I had to check my suitcase once I got to the gate before boarding the plane. Well, at least I didn’t have to pay extra for the assigned seat which coincidentally was the same seat assignment that had been reflected on the earlier boarding pass. As it turned out, I didn’t have to pay to check my luggage either. They were doing it complimentary from the gate.

 

That leaves me the dilemma of my return flight? Will I opt to pay for checking my baggage at the airline counter or will I take my chances and get it checked free at the gate? It sounds like the kind of question that has an easy answer. I’ll let you figure it out.

 

All My Best!

Don

The O K Corral Isn’t O K

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Despite my unintended efforts yesterday that seemed destined to sabotage a beautiful day, intermittently the kindness of others was enough to boost my spirits and set me in a healthy place emotionally. Abraham may have set out not knowing where he was going, but he managed somehow to become the father of the Israelite nation despite a blunder or two on his part. Seriously he could have jeopardized the whole shooting match. It pays to have God watching over you and being involved in the process.

 

Please don’t judge me as being sacrilegious, but yesterday’s prayer: “God, help me figure this out” didn’t get me a lot closer to proficiency in learning the use of Office 365. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming God. At this point, I’m not even sure Office 365 isn’t the work of other forces. I am also quite sure that I really didn’t pray: “God help me figure this out.” That was a strategic error on my part. I labored under the illusion that I could figure it out on my own. How’s that for the joke of the day? I could have used the outside help.

 

Day-before-yesterday I thought I was closer to having Office 365 figured out. Yesterday it was two steps backwards. I would say at this point that if I have things saved in the cloud, only God knows where to find them. I am fairly certain that I’ll never see them again. In fact, I’m not sure I want to see them again. Yep, it was that kind of day around the “O K Corral”.

 

Speaking of the “O K Corral”, it didn’t help my attitude any when I went out to my truck yesterday morning and noticed that the “O K Corral” around my house is no longer “O K”. I’m stretching the truth a bit here, but half of one side of my yard fence is bent over. O K, so maybe “half” is a substantial exaggeration, but large four legged animals don’t stop at much. That includes what once was an attractive fence. So do I say calf-rope (pardon the pun) and pay to have the whole thing taken down and something substantially stronger installed in its place?

 

I don’t yet know the answer to my own question. I’m still thinking. The current fencing around our home was selected because it went with the look that we wanted for the house. Using oilfield pipe with a three or four-inch diameter welded together to fashion a rail fence is going to look very different. I started to say “aesthetically awful”, but decided not to in the fear that you might have a fence like that. In addition, I’d have to rob a bank to pay for the materials and the labor to build that kind of fence. That sets up another scenario of a shoot-out at the O K Corral or Wells Fargo.

 

So why wouldn’t I just have the fence refurbished? It was only about a year ago that I had similar damage done to the fencing on the other side of my yard. I opted to have that damage repaired. Seriously, the damage was only about three hundred dollars, but it is frustrating. Of course, my frustration hasn’t risen to the place that I’m contemplating a real shoot-out at the “Not So O K Corral” around my home. However, I have heard the expression: “They shoot horses don’t they?”

 

Of course, shooting horses had some relationship to putting a horse out of its misery. It hasn’t really been that long ago that it was customary and merciful to shoot a horse with a broken leg. Veterinary medicine has improved a lot in recent years.

 

Besides that, not much good comes from a shoot-out. The famous gunfight that ensued at the O K Corral in Tombstone, Arizona lasted all of 30 seconds. The year was 1881, but the memory lives on. Reportedly only around 30 shots were fired. According to one source: “Though it’s still debated who fired the first shot, most reports say that the shootout began when Virgil Earp pulled out his revolver and shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest, while Doc Holliday fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury’s chest. Though Wyatt Earp wounded Frank McLaury with a shot in the stomach, Frank managed to get off a few shots before collapsing, as did Billy Clanton. When the dust cleared, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead, and Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded. Ike Clanton and Claiborne had run for the hills”.

 

I will leave it up to you to figure out who the good guys were. I’m going to side with the country song on this one as far as shooting horses is concerned: “Son, Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.” Consequently, the horses are safe. It’s not that they were intentionally destructive. It isn’t there fault that they previously looked at my shiny tough Ford truck and gnawed on the paint. Shucks, only a drug store cowboy would worry about something like that. A real buckaroo would write it off as good luck and a badge of being rugged. After all, it is just a truck. Did I mention that I had my truck fixed?

 

Let me mosey on to the kindness of others that reframed the day for me yesterday. It was noon before I got to the Post Office. No sooner had I parked my truck than I realized I didn’t have my post office key with me. I started to back out and just go back home, but I was also mailing books to my cousin with whom I reconnected day-before-yesterday. Consequently, I gave it a second thought and went on into the post office.

 

Mercifully, there wasn’t much of a wait. The young man behind the counter asked: “How’s your day going?” I responded: “It would be much better if I hadn’t forgotten my key to the post office box.” He asked: “What’s your box number and do your have your diver’s license”. Miracle of miracles, I actually remembered the box number and I had my driver’s license. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask for that kind of help.

 

I told him up front that I was mailing books. He asked: “Do you want to ensure them?” I laughed and said: “I wrote them so they can’t be worth much”. A kind lady overhearing the conversation interjected: “If you wrote them, then they are worth a lot.” Her kindness boosted my spirits greatly. I thanked her for her kindness and told her I also write a daily blog. She asked for the blog address and promised to check-it out.

 

My neighbors insisted Sunday that they take me to dinner last night. That too, proved to be most enjoyable. It helped erase away some of the afternoon frustration associated to Office 365.

 

When I got home following dinner, I opened an email. It was from my cousin’s daughter that I had reconnected with months ago through ancestry.com. She sent me a note: “I don’t know if you’ve seen this picture of your mother or not, but I found it on ancestry.com”. It was a class picture taken at the school in Forestburg. The picture identifies the students by row. My mother is on the first row in the center. I don’t know how old she was at the time. The picture didn’t identify the grade level. But seeing it was a “feel good” moment for me.

 

All is well in my world even if the O K Corral isn’t so O K. The owner is and that’s all that really matters.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Somewhere In Time

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Several months ago, a match on ancestory.com paired me with the daughter of a paternal cousin that I had not seen in several years. My dad’s family was a small family and for a portion of our lives we grew up as neighbors. I guess you could say in our early years, we lived in the family compound or at least on the same street. Our house number was 512; my grandparents were at 514 and my uncle’s house was 516. Wow! That was a long, long time ago.

 

My uncle and his family subsequently moved to Lubbock. Actually, during the course of his life, he and his family lived in lots of different places. He was a builder and worked primarily building commercial real estate. I remember when Johnny Cash and June Carpenter released their country hit: “If I Were A Carpenter.” It was a good sound, but I remember my uncle wasn’t a fan.

 

Of course, I can understand why. The lyrics of the song carried the connotation that there was something less than honorable about being a carpenter. What other explanation could you construe from: “If I were a carpenter and your were a lady, would you marry me anyway? Would you have my baby?”   If that wasn’t enough, add: “If I worked my hands in wood, would you still loved me?” I can see how a person whose trade was that of a carpenter would be a little miffed at the lyrics. It does sound somewhat denigrating.

 

Late yesterday afternoon I received a Facebook request from my uncle’s daughter. At least, I thought it was my uncle’s daughter. The three-word name on the invitation to be Facebook friends included the name “Rebecca”. I immediately accepted the invitation and with a smile on my face responded: “That’s not really your name. Your name is ‘Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane’.

 

As it turned out, the invitation wasn’t from my cousin “Becky”, but from her second oldest daughter. It was her oldest daughter that I had connected with through Ancestry.com. Annette laughingly responded to the name I had tossed back in her direction: “That’s not my name. That is the name you always call my mother.” She also mentioned that her sister had told her about my daily blog and she thought she’d enjoy reading it. Okay, so that, too, was music to my ears.

 

The name “Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane” took me back in time. I don’t remember the year, but I was traveling with my uncle and his family to see my grandparents who, too, had moved away at the beginning of my high school years. It is strange the things you remember.

 

We stopped for lunch or dinner at a café in Jacksboro, Tx. I think it was lunch, but I don’t really remember. You know the kind of café I’m talking about. They have all but disappeared from the landscape of places to eat. There was a large jukebox in the restaurant and each table had a device where you could select a song for a dime or three for a quarter. You sorted through the available songs by simply “turning the page” so to speak of the selection play list.

 

That was back in the day when “country music” was the only venue of music I listened to if I had a choice. I grew up listening to country music. None of us had a musical bone in our body and we had absolutely no musical ability. The one thing we shared was enjoyment from listening to music.

 

I am a sucker for a sale. I always have been. Three songs for a quarter in the jukebox seemed like a bargain to me. Why not? One of the three songs I selected was a song sung by Eddie Arnold. I had never heard the song before and I have never heard it since, but the title of the song has stuck with me well over half a century. The title of the song was   “ Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane”.

 

From that day forward, I have always called my cousin by that name. I guess you could say it has a musical ring to it, but as I recall, it wasn’t the kind of song you latch on to and can’t let go. However, the title of the song stuck with me.

 

Before the day ended yesterday, I had also become a Facebook friend with my cousin, Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane. I treasure the contact. The simple memory of family times together during our growing up years and times shared together at my grandparents home in Forestburg fill me with a sense of delight. I miss those times. They were good times, but they are forever captured in the resources of my mind.

 

It is nice to have the renewed connection with Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane.

 

All My Best!

Don

Father’s Day 2017

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Father’s Day 2017 was a good day for me. For starters, it was a Sunday.  I had gotten home late the evening before from a wedding in Houston, but invested the time to jot down a few things I wanted included in my Father’s Day message before I went to bed.  I purposefully didn’t set the alarm.  I figured my body would tell me when it was time to get up. The night before I had exercised the same logic and I had slept for over nine hours. I don’t remember anytime in the last forever that I’ve slept that long, but it felt good to be able to sleep.

 

Sunday morning, I checked my watch for accuracy. I had been retired from my day job for just over 17 days.  This was the beginning of day eighteen.  Already, I had made tremendous progress in learning to relax and simply giving myself permission not have to come up with the right answer for every problem presenting itself for resolution. Empathy comes easily for me, but there are limits on what I can control. Truth be told, that has always been the case. I have absolutley no control over anything that ultimately really matters.

 

The remaining church work is more therapeutic than anything else. It has provided me a lifeline over the past forever because it routinely forces me to focus on things that matter most as a balance to some of the other priorities that have consumed my time. Yesterday’s message focused on two things: God’s love and my Dad’s love. I highlighted my discovery of how they blended in to one and the same. The thoughts shared came easily for me and when my time was done, I sensed the message was well received. 

 

We’ve all heard the expression: “Like father/like son”. More often than not, that plays itself out the way Jim Croce describes it in his song: “The Cats In The Cradle”:

 

“A child arrived just the other day,

Came to the world in the usual way,

But there were planes to catch

And bills to pay, he learned to walk while I was away

He was talking before I knew it and as he grew

He said I’m going to be like you Dad,

You know I’m going to be like you.

 

And the cat’s in the cradle, and the silver spoon,

Little Boy Blue, and the Man in the Moon,

When you coming home son, I don’t know when

We’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a good time then…

 

My son turned 10 just the other day,

Said thanks for the ball now c’mon let’s play

Will you teach me to throw, I said not today,

I’ve got a lot to do, he said that’s ok

And he walked away and he smiled and he said

You know I’m going to be like you, Dad,

You know I’m going to be like you…

 

He came from college just the other day,

So much like a man I just had to say,

I’m proud of you, won’t you sit for a while

He shook his head and said with a smile,

What I’m feeling like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys

See you later can I have them please…

 

I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away

I called him up just the other day

I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind

He said I’d love to Dad, if I could find the time

You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu

But it’s sure nice talking you Dad, it’s been real nice talking to you.

 

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me

He’d grown up just like me, my boy was just like me.

 

And the cat’s in the cradle, and the silver spoon,

Little Boy Blue, and the Man in the Moon,

When you coming home son, I don’t know when

We’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a good time then”.

 

 

Of course, I threw in some other antidotes including one author’s confession that when his children were very young, he focused on all the wrong things.  Patrick Morley shared in his book, “Man in the Mirror” that when his children were toddlers, he was always uptight about the new scratches that showed up almost daily on their coffee table. He writes, “This was a real point of contention with my wife, who could care less about such matters. My blood boiled when I spotted a new nick in the luster of the smooth-grained wood. Finally, Patsy couldn’t take it anymore and said, ‘You leave my children alone! I’ll not have you ruining a million-dollar child over a $300 table!”

 

That at least gives you something to think about. In the interim, while I’m thinking, my grandchildren aren’t going to eat in my truck. For that matter neither is their Gram.

Following the service, a thoughtful church member shared with me as she made her way out the door: “Don, that was one of your best sermons.”  I couldn’t take credit for any of it. I simply had the privilege of writing it down as the thoughts crossed my mind. I had the sense that I had honored both God and my Dad with the morning message. I don’t always have that kind of affirmation, but yesterday it felt right.

 

All was well in my world. Following church, I opted to make hospital visits.  I smiled later in the day when the husband of one of the patients I visited in ICU sent out an email blast providing an update on his wife’s medical progress to the 55 people who are blind copied on the distribution list.  He signed off with the funny notion: “…reporting live for (name of the patient) news network…we now return you to your normally scheduled programming…

 

Ps. I did smuggle Pastor Don in today while the staff wasn’t looking to lead us in prayer – but don’t tell the hospital administration- I might get sent to detention or have to wash dishes in the cafeteria or something and they only use paper plates everyone throws away so that could get a bit tricky…”

 

Reading his notation not only put a smile on his face, but also affirmed for me how blessed I am to have the privilege to be involved in the lives of others.  That experience greatly enriches my life well beyond my deserving.

 

Andrea and Kevin had invited me for a Father’s Day meal later in the day. It turned out to be an exceptional meal, but then again, that is their signature trademark. There were a couple of things about our evening discussion that gave me pause for concern.  Crediting it as a God thing, they mentioned a conversation they had shared with someone the day before.  By happenstance or as they inferred Divine providence, they had a meaningful conversation with a volunteer at Austin Pets Alive.  Simply referencing a dog shelter gave me pause for concern, but the conversation moved on and I didn’t ask.  Besides that, if they opted for a third dog, I really didn’t have a say in the matter. After all, Andrea’s brother has four dogs.  Crazy isn’t it?

 

Later in the evening Andrea asked if I’d like to watch a show about a talking dog. She had mentioned the series to me before. I think it is “Downward Dog”.  The mention of a dog show brought back my earlier concern.  So before we watched the talking dog on television, I wanted to make sure we were on a level playing field and that there was no misunderstanding.

 

I said: “Tell me more about your visit to Austin Pets Alive”. So it really was none of my concern, but on the outside chance that they were shopping for Gram a new dog, I wanted to make it clear that was not an option. I am even more adamant about that than I am about my grandkids not eating in my truck.  Neither is going to happen in my lifetime.

 

As it turns out, Austin Pets Alive is one of the non-profit charitable organizations that Kevin regularly supports. They were onsite at the invitation of the organization. It had nothing to do with Gram or a new dog.


Like I said, “Mine was a perfect Father’s Day.”

 

All My Best!

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Don