Accentuate The Positive

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The list maker has been gone for five days. Thankfully she’s coming back, but who knows when? Her mother surgery’s to correct the faulty pacemaker issue is scheduled for today. Her mother wasn’t dreading the surgery, but she wasn’t looking forward to the recovery process. Consequently, it will be several more days before the General returns home.

 

Interestingly, I recently gave some thought to how the concept of favorable anticipation in contrast to dreading something impacts the present. Isn’t it true? I’ve got an example of something that transpired recently, but I was only peripherally involved. Since the story isn’t mine to tell, I’ll let it go. But had the scenario played itself out the way I was told to expect, I was dreading my involvement in the process. When the game plan changed to be more favorable, it lightened the emotional stress I was experiencing.

 

The point I’m attempting to make is that the circumstances that loomed before me, impacted my level of contentment or sense of peace associated to the present. I suspect the same is true for you. You can be on top of the world one minute and something transpires that alters your frame of reference and immediately your focus shifts.

 

Several years ago, friends were planning their 75th wedding anniversary celebration and the wife told her husband if he died before the party, she’d kill him. Fortunately, the party subsequently fell into place as scheduled and both parties were present. It was a fun time for a host of their family members and friends.

 

I also had the sense that anticipation of the upcoming event was a catalyst that promoted a lot of satisfaction for both the husband and wife. Seriously, the privilege of celebrating a 75th wedding anniversary doesn’t come around often. It was something they looked forward to celebrating. Their record garnered respect and admiration from many.

 

In contrast, reportedly a flamboyant, Bible thumping minister from Oklahoma (Correction – I meant California) I don’t know where that came from. The man was from California has the reputation of being the most often married man. They say seven is the perfect number. “No”, in case you’re wondering, seven isn’t the number of times he said, “I do”. Seven years is the length of his longest marriage. I have the sense that his wife must have been a saint. His shortest marriage was nineteen days. Did I mention he was married 29 times?

 

Can you imagine the difficulty associated to chronicling his family tree? He had 29 wives, 19 children, 40 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. At the time of his death, no one showed up to claim his body. By default, county authorities in San Bernardino County made his final arrangements. Reportedly, they were planning on cremation.

 

Sorry, I got off track. The concept of looking forward to something adds an extra dimension of joy to one’s life. What about the contrast of dreading an experience that is to take place? Dread of something anticipated has the ability to spoil the present.

 

Consequently, the ability to keep a positive attitude and live in the present is an antidote to the emotional stress associated to dread. Give yourself a break. If you are living under the umbrella of dread, close the umbrella and walk in the sunshine. The only real task that matters is to enjoy every minute of today. Let the issues associated to tomorrow go undone until tomorrow gets here.

 

Many years ago I was dealing with some heath issues that were potentially debilitating. Initially, the thought of what could be eradicated the joy of what was my reality for that day. Consequently, I reformatted my concept of long-range planning. I redefined it as giving myself permission not to look beyond one week out.

 

Call it baby steps if you want to, but it proved to be an avenue that freed me from the sense of dread. Don’t borrow trouble and don’t let anticipated inconveniences of circumstances over which you have no control steal you joy or your ability to take delight in the day.

 

I figure my little brother in Oklahoma will probably not opt to repost this blog. If he has read this far, he is probably wondering: “What is your point?” I’m not sure I have a good answer. However, in the list maker’s absence, I’m making a list.

 

My list for the day includes:

  • Schedule the General’s car for an oil change at the dealership this week
  • Straighten up the closet by grouping my suits together, sports coats together, dress slacks together, etc. [As a side note, before the General left town she said: “You used to be neat. You are no longer neat. Being “not neat” is not acceptable.]
  • Change the filter in the fish pond

 

I could add four or five other things that need to get done to my list, but adding them will simply be overwhelming and fill me with a sense of dread. Dread spoils the day, so I’m going to stick with the baby steps.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

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Sometimes it is really difficult to make sense of the kinds of carnage we orchestrate for ourselves under the concept of getting even. How strong and compelling is the quest for revenge? Obviously, Friday’s news of a medical doctor toting an assault rifle hidden under his lab coat into a New York City hospital and opening fire on seven people defies explanation. Even more difficult to understand is the belief that the doctor perpetrating the crime didn’t know any of his victims. The former colleague that he was gunning for reportedly was not at the hospital.

 

Of course, the eleven-second melee at a Little Rock nightclub yesterday morning that injured 28 people (2 critically) is now thought to be gang related. Initial reports of the mass shooting suggested it was not a premeditated run of the mill dispute. Maybe it was simply the power of suggestion. The promotional video of the rapper showed a man pointing a gun at a camera. So who pulled the trigger? No one knows, but it is thought there were multiple people because the volley of gunfire came so fast. Reportedly, city officials are moving quickly to shut the club down. Will they be successful is quelling the violence? The shooting capped a violent week in Little Rock. In the previous nine days, Little Rock police responded to a dozen drive-by shootings.

 

On a far less dramatic scale, the people that I know who live with a short fuse on relational conflict aren’t likely to go packing heat to resolve the problem. They simply eliminate the source of contention from their lives by choosing to cut familial ties and eliminate friendships altogether. At face value, some would argue that they are right? Give it some thought before you agree.

 

Nothing is sadder to me than tossing the people who have been important in your life aside because of unresolved conflict or a perceived glitch in the relationship. I see it all the time. We have become a society of throwaway people. That is how we most often deal with conflict.

 

Family members and friends you should most love get eliminated because relationship building and maintenance is hard work. They get tossed out of your life simply because of a disagreement or dispute. It happens in families all of the time. For that matter, even long term friendships can be dislodged by a failure to not always march to the beat of the same drum or a perceived glitch that someone has been slighted or treated unfairly. Somehow when it comes to conflict resolution most folks come up shy on social skills training, conflict resolution, Christian values and understanding the importance of relationships for the long haul.

 

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I threw in the concept of Christian values. Maybe I’m wrong, but even folks who should know better don’t. Most of us intuitively think we are exempt from the Scriptural mandate: “Love your enemies…do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” [Matthew 5:44].

 

Reportedly, a soldier was astonished when he heard General Robert E. Lee speaking favorably of a fellow officer. The soldier remarked: “General, the man you speak so highly of is one of your worst enemies. He never misses an opportunity to slander you.” General Lee replied: “Yes, I know, but I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me.”

 

President Abraham Lincoln is often identified as a role model in leadership. After being elected President, he chose his three most prominent rivals to serve in his cabinet. Choosing to set aside differences and build on strengths always supports the greater good.

 

Perhaps there was a method to his madness. I’ve heard it said: “Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.” In the process of doing so, fences get mended and enemies become friends.

 

We were created for connection. Yet, as a society we justify our disconnections by saying it is in our best interests. We don’t always get it right. Consequently, “we” and “they” lose out.

 

We’ve probably all heard the adage: “Let sleeping dogs lie”. Perhaps, that’s as good a place as any to start. Believe it or not, the concept is Biblical. “He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears” [Proverbs 26:17].

 

You know, when you hit the reset button on your computer, it provides an opportunity for a fresh start without going back through the quagmire of sorting out what went wrong that caused the computer glitch. Certainly open and honest communication is important in the context of relationships, but we often make hitting the reset button impossible because we want to rehash old hash and that seldom has a favorable outcome.

 

Why not embrace the concept of building on strengths? Let sleeping dogs lie. Move forward with embracing the best someone has to offer while providing the best you can offer.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

Hump Day – The Toughest Day In The Workweek

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“Hump day” – Isn’t that what folks endearingly refer to as Wednesday? Of course, in the traditional sense of the expression, the term has to with being past the halfway point in the workweek. From there it is a downhill slide to the coming weekend. Of course, Wednesday is also seen as the toughest day in the workweek.

 

I’ve known folks who lived for the weekends. They detested their job, but held on to it as if locked to a ball and chain because the money was good. Their income was enough to financially live comfortably and still have some left over for whatever met their fancy.

 

Fortunately, I’m a stranger to that. I’ve had the good fortune to really enjoy my work. Unfortunately, a high percentage of the workforce cannot truthfully say that. Some researchers say that as many as 40% of the workforce live without the concept of job satisfaction. No wonder they live for the weekend!

 

Evidence can be found around every corner. People in traffic honk their horns, angrily cut in and out in front of other cars, engage in conflict both at the office and at home, populate bars until closing time and eventually show back up at work again on Monday to start the work week all over again. It is a treadmill they hate, but they can’t free themselves from the financial security.

 

I think Forbes sorted it out accurately when they asserted: “If you hate your job, you hate your life.” If you are one of the 40% who are miserable at work, that statement should give you pause for concern. “If you hate your job, you hate your life.”

 

If Forbes is right, is the converse also true? Is it logical to suggest that: “If you love your job, you love your life?” From my vantage point, that assertion is irrefutably true. My life is good. So is my work. I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy and I think a lot of that has to do with job satisfaction. That’s not to say I am always on top of the world with a sense of elation.

 

Yesterday and last night was one of those atypical kinds of melancholy experiences for me. Truthfully, I think it had something to do with dreading “Hump Day” – Wednesday. By the way, this is the day that weighed heavily on my mind last night. I wouldn’t describe it as panic attack, but it was closely akin to an undercurrent of I’m not sure what? Perhaps restlessness is the best way I know to describe it. I found it a little unsettling.

 

Okay, so what was the source of yesterday’s meltdown? I’m overstating my response, but I’m also opting to be more transparent than I’m usually willing to acknowledge. I was bothered with thoughts of hump day, but there were also other contributing factors.

 

For example, for the past couple of days, I’ve sorted through files and focused on getting rid of a lot of stuff in my office that no one else is going to want or need.  Seriously, I’ve held on to files that I’ve never looked at since initially filing them away.

 

I had binders upon binders of minimum standards, work related policies and procedures (most of which I’ve written), stacks upon stacks of proposed legislation with highlights and notes written in the margin. The list goes on and on and none of that stuff was any longer worth the paper it is written on.

 

Best practice is always a work in progress and that means that 98% of what I was holding on to was dated and no longer relevant. I picked up a copy of minimum standards (all 300 plus pages of them) and noticed paper clips on almost every page with highlighting and notations in the margins. I had used the document to flag my memory in providing staff training related to changes in minimum standards. Other than the intrinsic value that it represented related to thought and effort in time, the document was no longer of value. It was already dated.

 

At any rate, yesterday morning I loaded up a cart with all the manuals and dated materials I’d gleaned from my office. I was on my way to the dumpster to be done away with it. When I got to the dumpster behind our office building, it was filled to over-flowing. There wasn’t room for even one binder. I looked across the street to one of our other office buildings and thought: “What about over there?”

 

As I crossed the busy street pushing the cart loaded with manuals, publications and notebooks of standards and old files, it felt awkward. Fortunately, when I made it to the dumpster, the dumpster was mostly empty. I had plenty of room.

 

So for what seemed like an inordinate length of time, I tossed manuals and notebooks into the dumpster. When I was done, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was short lived. It was then that the thought hit me like a ton of bricks: “I had just tossed a paper trail of decades of my work into the dumpster”. Worthless? Yeah – probably, but the visual impact of seeing it strewn in squalor was unsettling.

 

So is that what Solomon meant when he wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…

 

The unsettling experienced of last night had something to do with the fact that I was dreading Wednesday – hump day. Wednesday, May 31, 2017 represents a big hurdle for me. It is the toughest hump day I’ve ever faced, but this morning I have the peace and confidence of knowing “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”.

 

Unlike the indentured servant who is eventually freed from his ball and chain, I prefer to think of myself as a hummingbird or butterfly opting to seek nectar in a different location. Isn’t that one of the advantages of retirement? Today I walk away from a job that has been a mainstay of support in lots of different dimensions. I will miss it greatly, but I’m excited about what lies around the next unseen corner. After all, there is a time for everything.

 

All My Best!

Don

A Tribute To Mother

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I have a friend whose mother recently went to be with the Lord. I thought of him first thing this morning and remember he and his family in prayer. I know that today will be a difficult day for him. He mentioned to me recently in an email that he still has his mother’s telephone number programmed on speed dial in his phone. For whatever reason, he can’t bring himself to delete the entry and he regularly finds the longing of his heart is to reach out to her in conversation.

 

No sooner had I read his message than I found myself both smiling and teary eyed all at the same time. In case anyone wants to know, my folks’ phone numbers (home and cell) are still listed in my outlook phone directory including their physical address. At least every two or three weeks, I drive by their former home in Henly and utter a prayer of thanksgiving that we were privileged to have them as neighbors.

 

Initially seeing their home on a regular basis tugged at my heartstrings. Eventually, when a permanent tenant took ownership of the property and began to invest sweat equity in dramatically improving the landscape, I felt at peace with the fact that it was now someone else’s home.

 

Their home in Henly was truthfully the most comfortable home in which my parents ever lived. We were privileged to take a leadership role in selection of everything associated to the home including granite counter tops. Dad wasn’t sure all of that was justified, but I convinced him it was an absolute necessity for subsequent resale. Dad was really proud of their home and grateful to live in Henly. He agreed with me that Henly is the edge of heaven. By the time it was home for them, I’m not sure Mother was cognitively in a place that she had that same sense of contentment, but she did like having us near.

 

It’s weird. At least a dozen-to-two-dozen times over the past several years, I’ve considered deleting their contact information from my outlook contacts, but I can’t opt to select delete. I just can’t do it.  I simply tell myself that it isn’t hurting anything to leave the contact information listed.

 

Initially following my mother’s placement in a facility for Alzheimer’s just prior to my dad’s death, I struggled with the triggers or daily reminders that kept them vividly a part of my everyday world. For example, the Tupperware container that Mother kept her coffee filters in found its way to our pantry. Each time I made coffee, it was like sitting down to share a cup of coffee with them only they weren’t there. Their absence hurt my heart but their memory was like a spring of water that made the coffee taste better. I guess you could call that a Catch-22 kind of experience.

 

The grief process is neither quickly nor easily resolved. It is simply that, a process and you have to look to God on a daily basis to fill the void and move the focus from loss to gratitude for the time-shared.

 

Subsequently, selecting a Keurig Coffee maker eliminated our need for coffee filters. Consequently, my morning confusion of sharing coffee is no longer an issue for me. What I’ve discovered with the passing of a lot of time is that both my Mom and Dad are still very much a part of my world. I live with a sense of incredible gratitude for the memories and for the support, encouragement and love they freely provided.

 

I also know that while my experience is similar to many others, it is also an alien concept to many more. Broken is the only way that we come and I have friends who don’t have the same memories of familial support, encouragement and love that flood my soul on a regular basis.

 

I said of my Mother at her funeral that her life was a sermon. She glorified God in her approach to living. What I know of God’s love, I learned first from her. I will forever eternally be grateful.

 

One of the things I deeply value about my mother was the importance she placed on relationships. She loved deeply and she loved lastingly. Sometimes along the way she threw in a truckload of forgiveness to negotiate the uphill climb of continuing to love people, but she role-modeled living as God would have her live.

 

She also loved children. She not only was the world’s best grandmother, but she had the ability to shower that “grandmotherly-kind of love” on children whenever they were in her presence. It didn’t’ matter who they were. She intuitively always managed to connect with them and was an advocate to support their well-being. She had no reservation in gently re-directing parents (Perhaps at times, not so gently) if she thought improvement was needed in the opportunities and privileges children were permitted.

 

Mother always created an “environment of home” to family and friends. She was spirited, fun to be around, and always predictably dependable in providing encouragement and support.

 

It was ten years ago, this mother’s day weekend that mother was placed in a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer’s care to ensure her safety and provide for her care. She went to be with the Lord three and a half years later. Mother’s illness stole from her the cognitive ability to live relationally or to exercise any independence related to having her basic needs met. But that impairment was time limited. She is no longer bound by the limitations of her humanity.  She is at home in the presence of God.

 

As long as I have the wonderful gift of memory, I can return again and again to the treasured recollection of days gone by. I can remember with gratitude the love and influence that helped me navigate my formative years and continues to provide strength and resourcefulness as I meet the needs of this day.

 

So what where the last three and a half years of her life about? The lessons to be learned weren’t for Mother. She had already mastered the lessons for life. They were for us.

  • Was it simply for us to be content in whatever circumstances came our way? Throughout Mother’s illness she never seemed unhappy or discontent. Was it a message that we, too, needed to be content?
  • Was it the need for us to learn to live with a higher dependency on Him?
  • Was it a reminder that faith is a journey – the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen?

I suspect the answer has something to do with the need for me to learn more in all three of the mentioned categories.  I don’t always get it right and I’m a slow learner, but what a legacy I’ve been given.  I am grateful.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

Play Ball

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Sunday night the General told me about a telephone conversation with our son earlier in the day. She had asked him for some information about a friend who has been ill. Instead of answering her question, he replied: “I am my father’s son. All I know is enough to be concerned. I don’t have any of the details.” Of course, when the General told me about their conversation, I waited for her to add the magic tagline. How does it go? “You’ve got your father to thank for all of your problems.” She had shared something similar with our daughter.
Of course, in the General’s defense, she was making reference to Andrea’s health rather than character when she made that comment. I probably should have clarified that earlier since I’ve referenced the allegation in one of my blogs, but sometimes full disclosure of all the facts can get in the way of a perfectly good story. On the other hand, it may have been my daughter who failed to fully disclose why her mother had said what she said without providing me the benefit of the full story. That, too, might be said to further substantiate that she is her father’s daughter.
I spent last night at my son’s home. During our conversation after dinner, he shared with me another story that clearly highlights the fact that, he too, is a chip off the old block. Of course, I doubt that he recognized the similarities when he was sharing his experience. He really is his father’s son. Before I share the example he provided, let me say in my opinion Craig is an incredible parent. He is never to busy to give priority to investing his time in any and every activity involving his children. That is one of the characteristics that both he and Becky provide their children.
He shared with me that the previous weekend something happened at Jake’s baseball game that he found really upsetting. It was so upsetting for him that he had difficulty sleeping that night. As background, he told me that Jake runs really fast. He said, “Dad you won’t believe it, but he runs like the wind. Most kids don’t, he does.”
At any rate, Jake had hit the ball past second base into left field. As he made his way past first base, the centerfielder had advanced toward second base and was standing near with the ball in hand. Perhaps he was mostly lost in thought with what to do with it. Jake tagged second base and ran past almost as if running was second nature to him. He obviously then had the thought, “What I’m I doing?  I should have stopped at second.” He immediately backtracked, the centerfielder threw the ball to second baseman and Jake was tagged out with the second baseman’s glove to Jake’s chest.
Jake started crying. So was he crying because he was tagged too hard in the chest or was it the disappointment that he was tagged out?  Perhaps it was a combination. Craig immediately made his way to the field to check on Jake. His words were the customary words that most father’s come up with because they’re not thinking. “You’re alright. That doesn’t hurt.” Actually, I’m not sure what he initially said, but I’m trying to flesh out this story.
Actually, Craig did comfort and reassure Jake that it would be okay. Craig also suspected that the tears were mostly from the disappointment of being tagged out. Did I mention that Jake comes from a family where “winner takes all” is the philosophy of competitive sports. Competitive anything for that matter is the game of the day. Okay, so I’m probably overstating the case, but winning is important.
Craig provided Jake wise counsel, “If you find that you’ve overrun second base, keep running . Force the other team to make a play”. Craig said to me, “Dad, Jake runs really fast. Besides that, the ability to throw the ball from one base to the other isn’t the skill set of every player. It could be worth the effort.”
At some point before the game was over or before they left to the ballpark, a man initiated a conversation with Craig that left him horrified. The other man wanted to know, “Did I hear you say you’d make your son run if he overran second base again?” Almost without pausing, the man indicated any kind of negative sanction toward a player was out of line.
Of course, Craig couldn’t have agreed more. He thanked the man for initiating the conversation. He said, “No, what I told him was the next time he overran a base was for him to keep running rather than go back. Make the other team have to make a play.”
Craig said, “Dad, I was horrified that anyone would think I’d provide any kind of punishment for one of my kids for a glitch in their performance while playing a sport . He said, “ I recognize that there is always ‘one of those parents’, but I am not that parent. Sports are supposed to be fun and I do my best to encourage that atmosphere with my own kids. From day one all I’ve asked of my kids is that they have fun and that they play hard and in that order.
He said, “I was so upset that anyone thought I was capable of rendering out punishment to my son for his performance on the ballfield that I had difficultly sleeping that night. It wasn’t true, but what if someone else had overheard my conversation and drawn the same conclusion as the man who confronted me?  I found it very disturbing.
Like I said, “Craig is his father’s son”. I would have had the same reaction and on more than one occasion my sleeplessness is associated to similar kinds of “what would people think” thoughts. At any rate, because it bothered him, Craig sent the baseball coach an email the following day explaining what had happened and what he really had verbalized to Jake.
The coach had not overheard the conversation and assumed that no one else had found it bothersome either. He did affirm for Craig that his advice was sound. “Yes, tell him to keep running. I would agree with your strategy, if you over run it, just keep going because Jake is going to win 100% of foot races with a guy wearing a glove”.
Did I mention that I am proud that Craig is his father’s son?
All My Best!
Don

Down Memory Lane

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Based on the number of missed telephone calls and subsequent messages I receive, I spend way too much of my time in meetings. One day last week, I missed a call from an old (maybe long-term) friend is better terminology. He and I were at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene together. At any rate, when I called him back, I could tell from the tone of his voice that something was wrong. “Are you okay?” was the first question out of my mouth. He responded: “I’m doing better.”

 

Immediately my anxiety went up a couple of notches. He and I have been friends for the past 50 years and although we don’t have contact often, he continues to be an important person in the circle of those I hold dear. I immediately replied: “What do you mean you’re doing better?” He said: “I had surgery twenty days ago.”

 

I don’t know what came over me. Perhaps if you knew the kind of banter the two of us have shared across the years, you’d understand. I don’t know where the thought came from, but I announced boldly, “Well, if you’ve had surgery, I certainly hope it was cosmetic!” He managed a faint laugh and said, “It was”.

 

I was greatly relieved. He went on to tell me he had opted for gastric bypass surgery. It wasn’t because he wanted to look nineteen years old again. It had more to do with the advantages associated with lightening up. When he told me what he now weighs, I almost asked for his doctor’s name. It wouldn’t hurt me to lighten up either.

 

As we visited by telephone and relived some of the times from long ago, his voice tone changed into a more upbeat and hopeful sound. I started to tell him that talking to me was good medicine. We only talked ten or fifteen minutes, but his spirit was lighter. I could tell from the sound of his voice.

 

My friend retired from banking several years ago and now lives in an apartment adjacent to the home in which he grew up. It is located in a small town between Houston and Galveston. He mentioned that he has been working part time for a cruise line out of Galveston. He said, “I’ve met some really neat people and I like the work.” He also threw in the concept that the employee discount made his random cruises more affordable.

 

Before we terminated our conversation, I told him I’d be praying for him and that he needed to get well soon. As a side note, I said: “I can’t give you the time off to die. You are important to me and most of my memories of you are good.” He immediately asked for clarification. He wanted to know: “What do you mean by most?”

 

I was ready for his question and had an immediate answer. “Remember back, the year was 1981. As I recall, you suggested that the new car I wanted was a 1981 Oldsmobile 98 diesel”. You and your dad had just purchased one and all you had to share about it was praise. It was my first luxury car. Even to this day, I remember the fender skirts and the smell of that leather interior. It was a really nice car, but it proved not to be dependable transportation to get one from point A to point B. I had the car for nine months and the car was in the shop nine weeks during that time.  It is difficult to have a rebuttal for facts. He laughed and said: “Oh how well I remember.”

 

As luck would have it, I missed another telephone call from my friend again yesterday. Once again, I was in a meeting. At any rate, he has been on my mind this week. In addition to remember praying for him, I thought back to the first luxury car he purchased. It was not the 1981 Oldsmobile 98 diesel he purchased before I bought mine. He was sporting luxury on wheels long before I ever dreamed that I would one day drive a nice car. BTW – Let there be NO mistake. The 1981 Olds 98 diesel was not a nice car.

 

Treva and I were living in San Angelo at the time. My friend came from Houston for a weekend visit. You’ll never guess what he was driving. It was unbelievable! He was driving a brand new 1971 Lincoln Continental Marc IV. Interestingly, it was about the same shade of the green as the 1971 four-door (very married looking) Bonneville Pontiac I was driving. The Lincoln Marc IV carried with it a successful persona in a class all unto its own.

 

My friend thought he had pulled a fast one over on his dad. He failed to mention to him that he had bought another car. Although he went home almost every weekend, he never drove his new car. He drove the old one. I don’t know how many months later, his dad broached the subject. He asked, “Aren’t you ever going to drive the Lincoln home?” It took a while for the dots to connect in my friend’s head. His car insurance that was affixed to his dad’s policy and the auto insurance bill reflected the addition of the Lincoln. His dad had known for months that he had a new car.

 

This past week, I also thought about the green colored large glass terrarium with a very small neck opening that my friend brought as a gift to Treva and I when he came to visit us in San Angelo. I also remember that we got planted some kind of ivy that actually thrived inside it. How we got it planted, I don’t remember, but I do remember the gift. The terrarium was a good look.

 

When I returned his call yesterday afternoon, I could tell immediately that he wasn’t well. In fact, he was at an all time low. I think more than anything, he just needed to talk. He had talked to another friend earlier. That friend had cautioned him that he needed to let go of the anger he was experiencing. After all, it was his responsibility as a Christian to be forgiving.”
Wow! What was all that about? His closest neighbor, for whom he is the landlord, had accidently but carelessly run over his dog and killed it in his driveway. When we talked, his voice broke as though he was going to break into tears and from the denigrating things he shared about his neighbor’s ineptness, he was really angry. He had not yet gotten to the place where unconditional love was on his horizon. He was also mad with his friend that asked: “What kind of Christian are you? You are supposed to be forgiving”. He counseled him to be forgiving and he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I could feel his pain through the sound of his voice.

 

I’m not even a dog person, but I found myself hurting for him. Instead of telling him to immediately flip the switch and forgive his neighbor and let go of his anger, I took a different tactic. After all, this had just happened. I said simply: “It is okay to be angry for now. Eventually, you’ll need to let go of the anger and be forgiving because it will be detrimental to your health if you don’t. But you don’t have to worry about doing that today. Today, as you grieve the loss of your dog, it is okay to be angry.

 

He told me about the neighbor. Like I said, he wasn’t being overly charitable in his assessment. He said, she is a teacher and she just got into trouble at school. She does dumb stuff. A child stomped on the foot of another student. She intervened and asked the student how he would feel if that happened to him. She then went and brought the injured student back and asked him to stomp on the foot of the student who hurt him. Another teacher witnessed the ordeal. Consequently it didn’t play out well for the teacher attempting to teach the life lesson. Apparently forgiveness was not on her radar screen either.

 

Hopefully my friend will have a better day today. He is scheduled for a follow-up doctor’s appointment. Hopefully, he’ll get some level of encouragement that he is on track for getting better. In addition, I’m also praying he’ll find the ability to distance himself from some of his anger. That can’t play well for his recovery process. An angry spirit never plays well for the person who harbors it.

 

All My Best!

Don

The Old Home Place

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What would it be like to spend one’s golden years living in the home where you grew up? I have a couple of friends who have the good fortune to “live in and on the old home place”, so to speak and walk the acreage that previously had been walked by their father and perhaps, his father-before-him. My two friends are not acquainted and they live miles apart, but in many respects they share the same kind of pilgrimage. Both have the good fortune to have returned to the family farm/ranch and literally reestablished the ties to their roots.

 

The land has to look differently from the vantage point of mature adulthood than it did when you were still a wet behind the ears little kid and saw unexplored adventure around every boulder or unexplored parcel of land. What would it be like, not only to re-explore it in adulthood, but to have the sense that “this land is mine?”

 

Think about what that would be like. I’ve often wondered when I’ve visited in a place that has stood the test of time, “If wall’s could talk, what stories would they tell?” If at the age of 69 or 70, you are surrounded by the walls of your childhood, you don’t have to guess about the stories. For the most part, you’ve lived through them. Those stories were instrumental in fabricating the many dimensions of who you are. Sure, they don’t represent the totality of all that you’ve experienced and embraced, but they are substantive in your grounding and the totality of your existence. They represent a place with a special name. It is a place called “home”.

 

Thomas Wolfe wrote a book entitled: “You Can’t Go Home Again”. For him that was true. Thomas couldn’t go home again and the reason was of his own doing. I’ve always heard that a man shouldn’t burn bridges. Thomas Wolfe apparently failed to learn or remember that lesson. He wrote down the stories that most people tried to forget and subsequently published them in a book. I don’t recall if the book made the bestseller list, but it put Thomas Wolfe on everyone’s list whose stories were shared in his book. It was not a pretty picture. Of course, neither were their stories.

 

There is something about the concept of family secrets that become public record that can negate one’s sense of welcome in returning home. That is particularly true if you are the blabbermouth that didn’t know when things were better left unsaid. My mother would have expressed it like this: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.

 

I think I have read all of Pat Conroy’s books. The books are a good read, but they are a little too autobiographical for likings of his siblings. The same was true for his parents during their lifetime. The upside of Conroy’s becoming a famous author was diminished in the shattering of relationships in his family of origin. At the end of the day, you still have to look at yourself in the mirror. If you’ve offended the people in your life that should be most important, the price of admission to become a famous writer overshadowed prudent judgment.

 

Because Thomas Wolfe chose to write stories thought to be secret and make them public, they were subsequently impossible to either hide from or forget. “Oh yeah, Thomas Wolfe burned lots of bridges”.

 

Neither of my friends who now make their home in what previously was their childhood home made that kind of mistake. Perhaps they both longed for the good old days or for the sense of comfort of finally being home again. Consequently, they both longed for the familiarity of what once had been.  Like I said, both of my friends grew up on a farm/ranch environment and were seasoned to honor the land, their heritage and the people with whom they shared life.

 

Both of my friends are not strangers to the concept of hard work. Like I said, they grew up in a ranch and farm environment and they didn’t shy away from the household chores that covered acres and acres of land. In the midst of their golden years, they still maintain that same resolve. If there is work to be done, they do it.

 

On Tuesday, I talked to the wife of one of my former roommates in college. He is one of my friends who has now returned to the place that goes back as far as he can remember. He and his wife are going to be in the Austin area the next three or four days and we’re looking forward to reconnecting after all these years. I can hardly wait.

 

My friend’s wife said of her husband. “He is now retired, but he really isn’t retired. He’s got to get back home by Monday to plant hay next week. He also leases the land for cattle to graze. He has some chores related to that. He also still preaches when provided opportunity. He stays busy. He goes to church every time the doors are open and he never misses a community meeting.  He stays really busy.  She then added as a caveat, “If he is underfoot, I usually tell someone to stop by and take him fishing.”

 

It has been at least forty-six years since we’ve last seen each other. At some level, I don’t know what to expect. I think of him as he looked forty-six years ago. He isn’t going to look the same now as he looked then. Of course, I tell myself that I do, but I don’t. I don’t look anything like I looked forty-six years ago. I guess that you could say that I’ve grown up and out. Of course, if you say that, you may be on shaky ground. I’m not sure what that means, but it could be a subtle threat. Probably not, but maybe? Be careful not to burn bridges.

 

All My Best!

Don