There Are Days I Wonder How Far We’ve Really Come

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A friend that I’ve known since the first grade recently responded to a blog I’d written. In the blog, I acknowledged that I had gotten into trouble with my son for allowing Jake, my grandson (age six) to drive the car, sitting in my lap, from our gate to our house without the use of a seatbelt.

In some respects my son, Craig, is very much like his mother regarding organization, structure, accountability and the need to stay the course on any plan of action. Variation is not a concept that comes easily for either. Consequently, when you understand the importance of safety and you teach your children from their earliest memory that “wheels don’t move until everyone has their seatbelt locked in place”, I agree that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Granddad to subsequently say, “We don’t need a seatbelt to get from our gate to the house.”

Once gently redirected for the error of my ways, I understand the need for a “No Exception Policy” regarding seat belts. I get it. I understand it. I applaud it. I was wrong. Either that or I should never have told my son what we had done.

My friend responded to my confession by suggesting: “You could haul the grand kids back and forth from your house to the gate in the back of your pickup. I have fond memories of riding in the bed of my grandfather’s 56 Chevy”. He went on to write, “When my grandson was little, I let him ride in the back from our house to one down the street. I had my eye on him the whole time and we could have walked faster than I drove. It was a distance of about half a block. His Mama said, “Never again!”

I have the same kind of memories associated to riding in the back of my grandfather’s 55 Chevy. We’d stand up and hold on to the head-rack while he drove 50 mph. Obviously our guardian angels were working overtime or we wouldn’t still be here. I’d be horrified for my grandkids to stand up in the back of a pick up truck and hang on for dear life.

My friend wrote back, “Don, We live in a different world than we grew up in. Watch it change daily. Too much of it, I don’t understand.” I immediately identified with his observation. Obviously, his response carried with it the ring of something much broader than building memories with grandchildren. In fact over the past two to three weeks, I’ve thought of his summation many times.

“We live in a different world than we grew up in. Watch it change daily. Too much of it, I don’t understand.” Is that true for you as well? Over this past week, I’ve toyed with the question, “Was the world really different during my childhood years or was it simply my perception that it was different?” I’m not suggesting it was all “smoke and mirrors”, but at some level, I don’t recall a time that our problems haven’t been beyond us.

Fifty years ago, Billy Graham wrote a book entitled World Aflame. Fifty years ago? I didn’t make that up. I was a freshman in college. I still have the book. In the introduction to his book he wrote this:

“At 5:30 A.M. on July 16, 1945, a light brighter than a thousand suns illuminated the desert sands of New Mexico. One scientist who was watching wept. ‘My God,’ he exclaimed, ‘we have created hell.’ From that day on our world has not been the same. We entered a new era of history — perhaps the last era.

It was the next month that the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

Of his book, Billy Graham wrote: “Our world is on fire, and man without God will never be able to control the flames. The demons of hell have been let loose. The fires of passion, greed, hate, and lust are sweeping the world. We seem to be plunging madly toward Armageddon.

“Over and over we ask ourselves, Why? What is the cause? What has happened to our world? Can we do anything about it?

“Not long before he was killed in a plane crash, I visited with Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld in his office at the United Nations. He seemed deeply depressed during our conversation. Looking from his window across New York he said quietly: “I see no hope for permanent world peace. We have tried so hard and we have failed so miserably.” Then he paused a moment, looked at me, and said: “Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth within the next few years, civilization is doomed.”

War and rumors of war – Isn’t the bottom-line always a Spiritual issue? “Hammarskjold got it right, “Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth within the next few years, civilization is doomed.” As a nation we have been involved in a war on terrorism for the past fourteen years. While it is true that oppression and threat seems to come from a multiple of different sources, isn’t it also true that we have swept a lot of dirt under our own rug?

At some level, as a nation, a state and perhaps even as a community, we are a warring people. When others are treated with something other than civility and respect, isn’t that the first step in polarization and coming at odds? A house divided cannot stand. It never has and it never will.

Take the Civil War for example. 625,000 Americans were killed. 625,000 Americans were killed by Americans. In contrast, 405,399 Americans were killed in WWII which ranks the second in American casualties. There were 36,516 in Korea and 58,209 in Vietnam. If casualty counts ultimately matter most, we historically have been our own greatest enemy. Perhaps we still are. It defies explanation.

The thing that I find both perplexing and disheartening about the Civil War is that we did it to ourselves. I can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone could have justified the methodology. All across our nation, towns and communities were filled with churches. It was true in the North. It was true in the South. The family of faith, the people of God, choosing “ a might makes right” methodology for conflict resolution rather than His to resolve conflict and settle differences is very sad.

There are days when I wonder how far we’ve really come.  I don’t sense a lot that falls under the auspices of unconditional love.  That, too, is sad indeed.

All My Best

Don

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Did I Have The Capacity To Do It Differently?

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Did I have the capacity to do it differently? Obviously if anyone was in the doghouse, it was not the three four legged animals currently in our home. The General has a Yorkie and Colby and Samson, my daughter’s two Labs, are temporarily staying with us at “Camp Gram” while Andrea and Kevin are on vacation. Trust me, regardless of their behavior; none of the real dogs could do it wrong. Where does the General find such unconditional love for the canine brigade? I don’t have the patience.

Whatever I’ve been doing hasn’t set well with the General. I know its true that she talks to the dogs during the day while I’m at work because I hear her talking to the dogs when I’m at home. I’m not suggesting a mental health diagnosis, but I do think “dog people” operate from a very different perspective than the one I use to negotiate life. So who is healthier? I’ll let you be the judge.

When I got home from work yesterday afternoon, I opted to apply the hot moist compress the doctor had ordered for my eye. Actually, he ordered them four times a day. I’ve basically followed that regime. I could get side tracked and tell you more than you want to know about my eyes, but let me regain my focus and get back to the dogs. I reclined in the recliner with the moist hot cloth over my eye. The next thing I know, this 100 pound yellow Lab is playfully licking me in the face.

I bet you can imagine how that went over. The sensation of dog slobber on my face abruptly brought me upright in the recliner. I wanted no part of that! Did I mention the General thought it was funny? Actually, even she agreed with me. She gently redirected the dog and tossed him a tennis ball to chase. Since it was the General to the rescue, I opted not to remind her that we don’t throw the ball in the house. She should have known better, but I opted to let sleeping dogs lie.

After putting medication in or on my eye, the General asked what I was going to do next? Why not toss something totally unthought-of in her direction? I responded that I was going to take the door handle off the front door and go to Home Depot for a replacement.   Over the period of way too long, the door has increasing become difficult to open from the outside. In its current state, it was impossible to open from the outside.

I was a little frustrated with the door handle. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m the one with the borderline mental health diagnosis. Okay, I get it. You don’t think “borderline” needs to modify your assessment. You are entitled to your opinion and of course, I will insist on retaining mine.

You would be frustrated as well. I bought a new door handle three years ago. The previous handle lasted ten years before the inside mechanism on the latch totally stopped working. I remembered thinking at the time that the door handles should last longer than ten years. It may be magical thinking, but I’m of the opinion they should last as long as the house.

One of the challenges of getting the old handle off was finding a Phillips screwdriver that perfectly fit the different sizes of screws holding everything in place. I’m not joking. I’ve had the experience of using a Phillips screwdriver and obliterating the head of the screw where turning it was impossible. Surely I’m not the only inept “do-it-yourself” homeowner that’s messed that up. It took longer than I anticipated, but I managed to get everything loose.

I decided to take the current handle with me to Home Depot. I had to find one identical to the one I removed because the elongated handle also went through the door at the base of the handle. I had to ensure the next one would fit. While I was attempting to analyze what piece of the mechanism had malfunctioned, it occurred to me that all I really needed was a replacement part. Why spend another $145 for a new door handle? It was probably magical thinking, but at least I could ask.

Miracle of miracles, finding the needed part was a simple process. Can you believe it? Instead of spending $145 as I anticipated, I spent $7 and the mechanism worked perfectly.   Did I mention that replacing/repairing the inoperable door handle gained me favor with the General? Things were looking up.

That was before I walked into the back yard. Murphy doesn’t live next door. He lives where I live. The fountain in the pond wasn’t working. I also needed to clean the filter. I had that thought earlier when I fed the fish, but the fountain was working okay. I went over and turned the switch off. Sometimes, it works when you turn it back on. This time it didn’t.

Okay, so was the pump the problem or was it electrical? I’m a novice at this. It could have gone either way. As part of my due diligence process, I opened the cover to the hot tub. I could tell from looking at the darkened control panel that it also did not have power. I pressed the on buttons anyway. Okay, so the problem was bigger than I knew how to handle.

I looked at the exterior electrical box and pressed the reset button. The orange light went off, but I still didn’t have power. I went inside the house to look at the breaker boxes in the garage. From looking at the boxes, I didn’t see any breaker that was tripped, but I thought I’d find the one assigned to the hot tub. Fortunately both boxes had a listing of breakers with an associated number.

It sounds simple. The list was easily identifiable. The hot tub was assigned to #22 and #23. Great! Where were the numbers? What good does the number do if there aren’t any numbers identified on the panel? Okay, maybe I’m developmentally delayed or visually impaired. It turned out to be a visual problem. The numbers were imbedded in the panel. I’m not sure how I missed them when I first looked. I’m sure it was associated with the lighting in the garage. It couldn’t be my failing eyesight.

It’s a long story. I won’t provide you all the details, but before the evening was over, I had the hot tub working and the filter and pump cleaned and operating. I was on a roll and think of the money I saved. Did I mention the General was in a really good mood?

In the midst of all the projects, I grilled New York strips. They came out perfectly. I also grilled corn on the cob and a smorgasbord of other vegetables. It was a meal fit for a king.

It was a delightful evening. Why mess that up by going to my home office and working on my blog? Maybe I can do it differently. In addition, I went to bed at 10:30 for the second consecutive night. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

All My Best!

Don

Is dog tired an oxymoron?

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Last night the Honorary General and our son determined to tag-team to manage the “old man”. Actually, they don’t really refer to me as the “old man.” Craig was raised to be more respectful and the Honorary General is content to subtly mention that my hair is getting thin on top. At any rate, I saw through their efforts to unite their voice when the Honorary General handed me the telephone as she told Craig, “Maybe he will listen to you. He doesn’t listen to me”.

I may be hearing impaired, but I do listen to the Honorary General. Even she knows that I listen to her. I can’t believe she’d make such an outrageous accusation. How many times do I hear, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times?” I wish she would make up her mind. It can’t be both ways.

So why was I in trouble this time? The Honorary General discovered me working on my blog at 12:30 a.m. yesterday morning. I knew she wasn’t pleased, but she saved the speech until I got home from work yesterday: “You don’t get enough sleep. What time did you go to bed last night?” Why did she ask, if she already knew the answer? I was busted. “ You were dressed for work by 5:30. Don’t you realize that you’re ruining your health and for what?” She may have asked, “And for what?” more than once just to call attention to her thoughtful posture on the subject.

Did I mention when she’s in one of those “let me help you fix what’s wrong with you” frames of mind, she likes to ask questions and then answer them. It’s like a one-person conversation that goes on and on. Actually she paid me the highest of compliments. She said, “You’re ruining your health because you don’t get enough sleep. You don’t get enough sleep because you are spending too much time carefully crafting thoughtful words that folks find both entertaining and meaningful.” If you think for a minute that I have accurately recalled our conversation, you’re wrong. For one thing, we didn’t have a conversation. She asked the questions. She answered the questions. She was on a roll.

“You are ruining your health….”. Hey, I’m taking medication for an eye infection. I look like the General hit me in the face with a sledge hammer, but I’m not falling to pieces and I’m not ruining my health. In addition, I like to attempt to carefully craft my words. Who knows, one day I may get it right. Only time will tell.

At any rate, the Honorary General and Craig “lovingly” (Did I say that right?) put me on notice that I need to get more sleep. “Okay, Okay. I’ve got it”. I am not going to stay up half the night writing this blog.

From the advice they’ve both hurled my direction, you’d think they don’t give me credit to have the good sense to get out of the rain. While there may be therapeutic value in splashing through a gentle rain, I at least know that indoors is the safest place to be in an electrical storm. Our home is located in a strategic spot to be the target for a highly charged environment. We’ve replaced at least three Apple airports that got knocked out in an electrical storm. Who would have thought? Of course, we had only been in our home about a year when the chimney was struck by lightening. The chimney is located on one side of the house and the electric hot water heater is located on the other side. Both were figuratively “fried” with the lightening strike. In addition, computers, televisions and telephones all bit the dust in a very wet and electrical environment.

At any rate, I decided to go with their plan and be restful. Did I mention the plan was short lived? The next thing I know, I’m hearing the question: “Do you want to go outside and throw the ball to the dogs?” It was a loaded question. There was only one acceptable answer and I was already in enough trouble with the General that I went outside to play ball with the dogs.

I started to protest and say I was “dog tired”, but I think that is an oxymoron. The two labs camping out at our house sleep all day long. Did I mention they sleep all day long on the floor? So why do I give up my Tempur-Pedic foam fitting mattress so the dogs can sleep in our bed at night? It makes no sense to me.

After all, if folks are concerned about my erratic sleep patterns and their perception that it is ruining my health, “What better way to ensure a good night’s sleep?” I like the way the Tempur folks express it: “TEMPUR® material responds to your body’s unique shape, weight, and temperature, automatically adapting to support your body. So whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach (or change positions during the night) the mattress conforms to you. You get the exact support and comfort your body needs”.

According to the clock on my computer, it is now 10:27 p.m. on Thursday night. I’ll post this in the morning. I’m headed to the other side of the house for a night of tossing and turning because I’m not sleeping in my own bed. No wonder I’m tired. J

All My Best!

Don

It Shouldn’t Hurt To Be A Child

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The Honorary General and I are blessed to have two children. Craig was born in 1971 and Andrea arrived a day after New Year’s Day in 1981. For a number of years we periodically told Craig (tongue-in-cheek) that he was the reason he didn’t have siblings. Actually nothing could have been farther from the truth. We relished the role as parents. Besides that, Craig was a delightful kid who was easy to love. His sense of humor often caught me by surprise. You never knew what he would say. His was a quick wit.   By the time he was three, he had moved into the low maintenance category and we thought about his need for a brother.

Apparently there is more to it than saying, “Hocus Pocus”. For a period of time we explored the possibility of adopting through Catholic Charities. Craig was four at the time and we thought he was entitled to a brother. Since we hadn’t come up with one on our own, adoption seemed like an appropriate alternative. After looking at all the variables, we basically ruled adoption out due to the expense, but it was a careful consideration. I know that the General and I would have made great adoptive parents. We didn’t have to share DNA to have the capacity to love another child.

The years went by and before we knew it, we had an only child who was half grown. Did I mention that a ten year old requires a lot less effort than an infant? Why after a decade, would any parent in their right mind start from scratch and go through the formula, 2:30 a.m. feedings and diaper routine again?   Actually, I can’t take credit for fulfilling the diaper routine. Whenever a task activates my gag reflex, I opt out. That was non-negotiable.

To say that Andrea was a surprise package is an understatement. I loved her from the moment I heard the “rabbit died.” The news was a little inconvenient, but never for a moment was she anything other than a loved child. Of course, I loved her prenatally thinking she was my second son. When she arrived on the scene about fifteen minutes after we got to the hospital with a head full of black hair, I thought there had been a mix-up in the delivery room. Then it occurred to me, I was in the delivery room. She was ours.

It is incredible how a parent’s ability to love a child expands. When Craig was our only child, I loved him with 110% of everything I had to offer. I’m not sure where the capacity came from, but I loved Andrea with 110% of everything I had to offer. Parenting is an amazing journey. What opportunity and fulfillment!

Of course, after forty-four years of working with children from hard places, I understand the generational cycle of abuse and neglect has a way of replicating the brokenness of a child’s spirit in a repetition of the same kind of subsequent treatment with their own children.

Several years ago, ABC devoted an episode of Primetime to a staged incident entitled “What Would You Do?”   Unbeknown to customers in a large department store that the episode was staged to chronicle their responses, their reactions were noted as they observed what appeared to be overt favoritism a mother demonstrated with one of her two children.

The mother was very attentive and praiseworthy of one child while ignoring or being overtly critical of the other child. Reactions of shoppers were “raw, pained and infuriated.” I have a dear friend who grew up in an environment of emotional abuse. Her mother made no secret of being emotionally detached and overly critical of her daughter while being consistently interactive and doting with her son. I find it puzzling! How could a parent who has the capacity to love one child, disdain and resent another?

Could the same be true of grandparents? I was surrounded by love and support from both sets of my grandparents. They each had the unique knack of making each of their grandchildren feel loved and supported.

A friend recently shared with me that her mother was the middle child of three children. Her mother had an older sister and a younger brother. The disparity in treatment of the three children by their grandparents was a stark contrast to the concept that grandparents intuitively love their grandchildren.

The depression years were tough years for many. The family was impoverished and at times barely had their needs met. Her mother remembers a Christmas that proved painful and disappointing. At the time the family was living in a house with openings for windows, but no glass to turn the north wind. In an effort to warm the house, the openings were covered with toe-sacks or something similar to burlap.

On Christmas Eve, grandparents came to the house and took the oldest child with them. My friend’s mother and her younger brother were not welcome to go along. As the day wore own, the two children left at home expressed questions or hopes related to something from Santa on Christmas morning. Their mother responded, “Santa won’t be coming this year. Our windows are covered with toe-sacks and Santa doesn’t know you live here. He can’t see inside.

The two small children thought, that can’t be true. Santa can find us. They awakened the next morning without evidence of even a morsel of candy. There was nothing. The mother had been right. Santa didn’t find them that year.

Later on Christmas afternoon, the grandparents returned the oldest child home. They had showered her with Christmas gifts. She had them in her possession, but the grandparents brought nothing for the other two children.

The story brought tears to my eyes. I am convinced that it shouldn’t hurt to be a child. So what impact did the incident clearly remembered over decades of living have on my friend’s mother? She resolved that one day she would be the world’s best grandmother. She would be inclusive with every child whose life touched hers.

That plays itself out in a multiple of different ways. For example, if she sends a birthday card with money to a grandchild on her birthday, she sends a card and a lesser amount of money to each of the birthday child’s siblings. When their birthday rolls around, they get the larger amount and the other sibling gets the lesser amount. Over the course of a year, it evens itself out.

Hearing the story of my friend’s mother both saddened me and challenged me. No child should be neglected and excluded. I come into contact with children frequently. Why not go out of my way to interact and help kids feel special? A kid can’t have too many people that care for them. Obviously, there are many who don’t have the capacity to be loving. Consequently, that makes it doubly important for those of us who can to pick up the slack. It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.

All My Best!

Don

First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions

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Do you remember the first time you met you husband or wife’s parents? Actually, I knew my wife’s parents long before I knew the Honorary General was going to be my wife. Consequently, when it was time to ask for her hand in marriage, it was mostly a non-event. After all, who wouldn’t want me as a son-in-law? I know what you’re thinking. The number of people you could identify would make the line of folks waiting to purchase the latest and greatest Apple product seem like small potatoes.

At any rate, Kevin and Andrea, my son-in-law and daughter, were at the house Tuesday night and mentioned their travel plans to Dallas later today. They are driving from Austin to Dallas after Kevin gets finished with what he anticipates will be a very long business day. Today is the day his monthly publications of “Home Mag” go to press. There really is no way to short circuit the process.

Of course, I’ve known for a month that they were driving to Dallas to catch a plane as they make their way to St. Lucia Island in the Caribbean. What I didn’t know is that they are timing their departure from Austin to arrive at the DFW Airport around 3:30 a.m. They are not traveling to Dallas to spend the night in a hotel. They simply plan to go directly to the airport.

Is that crazy or what? Who in their right mind drives when one normally should be sleeping? When the Honorary General and I were young, we did crazy things like driving all night to go visit our parents, but we were young and didn’t know any better. Kevin and Andrea cannot plead a “youthful pursuit” as rationale for planning their travel agenda. They are both old enough to know better. They have both been out of their twenties long enough that one would anticipate better judgment.

Besides that, how am I supposed to sleep while I know they are on the road well past the middle of the night? Actually, the question is irrational because we won’t be sleeping soundly anyway. We will be providing care for Colby and Samson, their labs who are indoor dogs despite the fact that shed a pillowcase full of hair everyday. Forgive me! That was an irrational statement. I’ve never put their shed hair in a pillow case.

At any rate, while the kids were sharing their plans, Opal, the Honorary General’s mother, said, “That reminds me of the first time E.L. met my parents. We were going to visit on a Sunday and waited until very late on Saturday night or early Sunday morning to leave”.

“We were about seven miles from their home as we drove into Salt Gap, TX. I told E.L. to turn left when he reached one of the three buildings I could see in the distance. Instead, he turned left immediately. Apparently he was asleep at the wheel and hearing me say, ‘Turn left’, he did so without the advantage of listening to the rest of my instructions”.

Hearing the story Treva’s mom shared isn’t the first time I’ve suspected the Honorary General is a second-generation commander-in-chief. Can you imagine being awakened from a sound sleep (even if you are driving) with the mandate to “Turn left?” It had to be startling. When we lived in Midland, it was considered inappropriate and out of place to make a “left turn.” Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

At any rate, hearing “Turn left” without processing the rest of the “order” (I mean sentence) Treva’s dad did as he was instructed. He turned left. The car safely landed in a culvert, but it didn’t take a lot of effort to recognize it was going to take assistance to get the car out of the culvert. So what did they do?

If you guessed they, “Used the pay phone on the corner to call the parents” or “Their Triple AAA membership”, you’d be wrong. There were no phones on corner and nowhere really to turn for assistance at that time of early morning.

The good news/bad news is that they only had to walk seven miles to get to her parent’s home. In case you are wondering where Salt Gap, Texas is located, it is on Farm Road 503 and 504 near Salt Creek. It is located half a mile from the Concho County line on the western edge of McCulloch Country.

Salt Gap, Texas is no longer the thriving community it once represented. In its “heyday” it hosted a population of 60 residents. It had a post office from 1905 to 1913 and then again from1924 to after 1930. During the mid-1930s Salt Gap comprised a school, a gin, a gristmill, and two stores. As late as 2000, the population was around twenty-five residents.

If first impressions are lasting impressions, how awkward would it be to meet your future in-laws under such a grand (or not so grand) entry into town? The following morning after the late night arrivers got some sleep, the future father-in-law said, “Lets go into town and get your car.” He summoned his sons along with Treva’s dad and off they went in their car to fetch the stranded vehicle.

Treva’s mom didn’t have an answer to how they actually got the car out of the culvert. Reportedly, they never talked about it. I can only imagine.

All My Best!

Don

One Eyed Jacks

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“One Eyed Jacks” was a western movie released in 1961. It was the only movie ever directed by Marlon Brando. I never saw the movie and fifty-four years later still have no interest in seeing the movie. What I want most is the ability to see. I went to bed last night thinking about the expression, “One Eyed Jacks”.

My daughter and son-in-law came over last night. Andrea took one look at me and expressed concern. “Dad you look awful! What happened?” I told her the Honorary General punched me in the face. She ignored the comment. She knew it wasn’t true. Stepping back, she then asked, “Is that contagious?” My son-in-law agreed. He too said, “I looked awful”. He asked if I saw the movie “Rocky?” I didn’t see that movie either. He told me I looked like “Rocky”.

Actually, I really didn’t know how awful I looked. I knew that my left eyelid was significantly swollen when I went to work yesterday morning. When we were in Washington D.C. two weeks ago, I sought treatment for an eye & sinus infection. I found an urgent care center less than a mile from our hotel and I was off and running. I was prescribed an antibiotic and eye drops. I took them both for seven days. How did I know that less than two weeks later, I’d be dealing with an exaggerated manifestation of the same issue?

Of course, last night as if I needed gentle re-direction, everyone in the house including the Honorary General’s mother told me not to go to work today. Instead, they thought it essential that I see an eye doctor. I stoically announced that I’d make a decision this morning. I love it when I’m in control.

I found it interesting that I got absolutely no credit for being ahead of the game. When I got to the office yesterday morning, I called Whiteglove requesting a medical practitioner come to my office. The plan was brilliant. Okay, so I am a party of one that thinks so. At least I didn’t have to deal with traffic or miss work.

The Honorary General maintains I only have two eyes. Why allow anyone other than an eye specialist to provide treatment? I assured the General and everyone else in hearing that the two antibiotics prescribed for my eye would resolve the problem. At least the prescribing practitioner thought so. I have to acknowledge I was a little anxious when she said, “Let’s start with this. I think it will take care of the problem. If you’re not significantly better in three days, you need to do something else.”

It was a little unsettling when she said, “If you experience pain or blurred vision, you need to go immediately to the emergency room”. She obviously doesn’t get it. Despite the fact that I have two different health insurance policies, I have no intent to going to the emergency room if I can walk into a doctor’s office.

While I was in college, I worked as an orderly in the emergency room of a hospital in Abilene. I was amazed at the number of patients needing routine medical care that opted to come to the emergency room. In my eyes (limited as though they may be), I don’t plan to go to the emergency room. I will come up with a better plan.

So today is a new day. Did I mention that I am not going into the office today? My left eye is swollen completely shut. I look as though I might be a contender for an actor’s role in a horror film. In addition, the right eye is now bothering me.

Prudent judgment would dictate seeing an eye doctor. I plan to make my way to the eye doctor’s office this morning. I’m not calling ahead for an appointment because I don’t plan to wait a week. How could they tell me, “No”. One look in my direction and they’ll understand the need.

Hope to be seeing clearly and looking a little more normal soon.

All My Best (which right now isn’t very good)

Don

It Really Was A Surprise Party

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Two and a half months ago when the Honorary General started planning a surprise birthday party for her mother’s 87th birthday, I thought it was magical thinking. Add to that the logistics of making it happen over a long 4th of July weekend and it had all the elements of failure. There were simply too many possibilities for something to go wrong for me to actually expect the event would take place.

Some folks might be inclined to think there were too many in-laws in the mix for me to actually hope the party would come to fruition. While it is true I have a repertoire of funny stories I could marginally embellish and get honorable mention at an Amateur Comedy Club regarding the General’s family, the shoe could just as easily fit on the other foot. They, too, have a plethora of funny (or not so funny) stories they could share about me and poke fun in my direction. The bottom line, after 47 years there are no secrets concerning the best or the worst.

So what could go wrong? For one thing, her mother’s older sister had been in and out of the hospital in the last several weeks. She, too, lives in Odessa and the General’s mother willingly gives priority to being available with any perceived need for support. Who could fault her for that? That kind of family commitment endears the General’s mother to me rather than pushes me away.

Then of course, there is her mother’s cat. Any number of things could go haywire with the cat and the Honorary General’s mother would cancel the trip at a moment’s notice. She is really fond of her cat. The cat could get sick or the provision of “cat-care” could fall through and so would the surprise birthday plans. She would drop the surprise party plans like a lead balloon, particularly since she didn’t know there was a party. There is nothing like being an 87-year-old cat lady.

Did I mention that I am not a cat person? In my limited experience, it is my belief that cats are passive aggressive creatures. Invariably, whenever I visit anyone owning a cat, the cat winds up in my lap. That is not because I’m coaxing attention from the cat by calling, “Here kitty, kitty. Here, kitty, kitty”. I’m sure that cats don’t really smother babies, but I couldn’t detest them more if they did (Okay, that falls under the category of over-statement and exaggeration).   It defies explanation, but I just don’t share an affinity for cats.

You’re probably wondering how we coaxed the General’s mother out of West Texas for a family visit? We let her know the General’s sister was coming from Florida for the weekend. The General made no reference to her sister’s husband, son, daughter-in-law or two grandchildren. That was part of the surprise.

As it unfolded, it was a joyful surprise for the General’s mother. She was very pleased.

Despite my occasional tongue-in-cheek remarks about the General’s family, I really like sharing time with her siblings and their spouses. The only “wild card” related to the family gathering was wondering how my grandchildren would relate to the grandchildren of the General’s brother and sister. Because Craig and his family have been on one coast or the other for the past forever, my grandchildren had no familiarity with their second cousins. In addition, the General’s nephew was also in the military. He, too, was somewhere other than near extended family for the past fifteen plus years. In addition, his wife is from the Philippines and it took six years to orchestrate getting his wife and their two children legally into the country. They, too, had no familiarity with their second cousins. In essence, the birthday party was going to include a sizable gathering of related strangers.

One of the General’s brother’s grandsons celebrated his ninth birthday on Saturday as well. While they were at our home on Saturday, I engaged him in conversation, I asked him, “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the past nine years.” He looked quizzically at me like I was nuts. Maybe he was right.

When he didn’t answer my question, I turned to his four year old cousin who was also the General’s brother’s grandson and asked, “What is the most important thing you’ve learned?” Without giving it a moment’s thought he smiled at me and said, “Be kind to one another.”

I was blown away. What an awesome response! Even more amazing, how did he know that? I say this “tongue-in-cheek, “Both of his parents are attorneys. Be kind to one another is not intuitively what I would have expected from a four year old. Add the attorney-client-privilege dimension and it would have been the last thing I would have expected to hear.” Amazing isn’t it?

The party was a huge success. My daughter and her husband hosted the group on Saturday night. The time shared could not have been more favorable. And for the record, it took about fifteen minutes for the second cousins (my grandchildren and those of her siblings) to warm up to each other. From that moment on, the sense of connection and family fun was non-stop.

The last four days have been a marathon. Hopefully one pleasantly remembered by all. In case you’re wondering, I’m ready to go back to the office. I’m hearing the sound-track of Willie Nelson in my head, “Call it a night, the party’s over. All good things must come to an end.”

All My Best,

Don