A Good Week

IMG_9384.jpg

I really didn’t think the General needed me to accompany her to her eye doctor’s appointment on Thursday morning. Of course, she had a different mindset. I’m not sure what she was expecting, but the doctor had referred to it as surgery, so she wanted to ensure she had a driver. Obviously, at some level she was terrified by the thought. Seriously, if my driving is as bad as she regularly indicates, the fact that she’d ride with me just to have me there for support is somewhat amusing.

 

Of course, I maintain that I’m a great driver with an impeccable driving record. I’ll even sign a release for you to check my driving record to substantiate that I’m telling the truth if you doubt the accuracy of my self-assessment. The fact that some people choose to bargain with God whenever they ride with me simply indicates that they’ve been misled by the denigrating references the General regularly makes concerning my driving. Whatever happened to the concept: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but isn’t it true that most people find what they are looking to find?  If you begin your day with the perception that most of the people you’ll encounter in the course of a day will be pleasant and personable, you’ll probably have a delightful experience.

 

On the other-hand, if you anticipate that during the course of the day you’ll be dealing with Attila the Hun, it probably will prove to be anything other than a relaxing day.  Of his reign, Atilla said of himself: “There, where I have passed, the grass will never grow gain.”

 

Personally, I’d much prefer to share time with someone like Johnny Appleseed than a powerful barbarian ruler that prided himself on being more effective than Roundup. You know the slogan: “Where There Is A Weed – There Is A Way”. The Roundup folks are pretty confident “Weeds. They’re low-down, stubborn little rascals. And we understand them like no other. So if you have a weed control problem, you can bet we have a weed control product for it. One that’ll get you back to kicking back and enjoying your great outdoors”.

 

Actually, last week the General thought she was going for the laser procedure.  Her regular eye-doctor had made the referral. I was out of town so our daughter volunteered to be the chauffer to ensure her mother got home safely.  Andrea is a sweet kid, but she said to me of the experience: “Dad – You owe me!”

 

Despite the perceived implication, she wasn’t making a critical comment concerning her mom.  My owing her had to do with the length of time she and her mother were in the doctor’s office. From Andrea’s perspective the ordeal proved to be too much! Would you believe they were in the doctor’s office for two hours?  There were several tests that needed to be run, but most of that time she and her mother were playing the waiting game in the doctor’s cozy and very crowded reception area.

 

I wouldn’t describe Andrea as having germaphobia, but she has some of the characteristics.  She routinely steers clear of crowded waiting rooms.  She’s certainly not going to pick up a magazine in a doctor’s office. After all, everyone who comes through the door has the potential to make a monthly magazine a lethal weapon. Okay, so maybe Andrea is a little more imaginative than the situation merits.  However, I fully understand her disdain for the waiting game. I don’t’ like it either. I guess it is “like father-like daughter”.  The waiting game certainly isn’t a pathway I want to travel.

 

The General’s appointment was scheduled for 10:45. We arrived before 10:30.  The General checked in and was told by the receptionist that they weren’t expecting her. They didn’t have her on the schedule. She subsequently apologized to the General and said, “You were right. You were scheduled for this morning. Bear with us, we will work you in.”

 

It was about that time that I saw the sign. It read:

 

I

T I S

A G O O D

W E E K T O H A V E

A G O O D W E E K

 

Actually, I thought the sign was cleverly done.  At least that was my first impression.  As one hour turned into the next, I thought the signage represented false advertisement. It definitely represented false hope.

 

At 11:00 a.m. an older couple came in for their appointment. I say they were older, we probably were older than they were.  I overheard the man at the reception desk saying: “We are early, but I thought I’d go ahead and fill out the paperwork for my wife”.  I had the thought: “How bad is her vision?”  Seriously, filling out doctor’s forms at the doctor’s office doesn’t fall into the category of spousal obligations. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least, I hadn’t been asked to do that?  Actually, the General had filled out all of the forms the previous week.

 

The receptionist said to the man: “Your wife’s appointment isn’t until 2:00 o’clock. Why don’t the two of you go to lunch and come back? He declined and said: “It’s okay, we’ll just stay.”  Are you kidding me? I’d have made a run toward the door.

 

Actually, I found myself feeling sorry for the man. It was only 11:00 a.m. and they were hanging around for a 2:00 appointment. I looked around the crowded waiting room. There were thirteen people waiting.  By the time we left, the only folks waiting behind us were the man and his wife. The General’s procedure took ten minutes at most. When we left I had the thought: “It is a good week to have a good week. Don’t mess it up by spending three hours in a crowded germ infested waiting room. Okay, so I am my daughter’s father.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Catching A Few ZZZs

images.png

You know it’s a good day when your computer crashes just as you are finishing the last sentence before posting your blog. What else could I have expected on a Friday- the 13th?  “Unbelievable” is the thought that came to mind this morning.  My blog was later than usual because I slept in this morning, but I didn’t anticipate it would be mid-day before I got back to this by using another computer.

 

Seriously, I was “dog tired” when I went to bed last night. I’m not sure where the term “dog tired” comes from, but trust me I know the feeling.  I really needed to sleep.  I recognize that a person’s sleeping patterns change over time. Reportedly age groups that require more sleep are children and adolescents.  Try explaining that to a fourteen-year-old and you might as well be climbing Mount Everest.  If you need help drawing the parallel, I was subtly suggesting it is impossible.

 

I have a friend that already has his plans in place and reservations made to travel to Ecuador for Christmas this year.  He isn’t going on a sightseeing tour.  He has two goals in mind. Both relate to climbing active volcanoes. One has an elevation of nineteen thousand feet and the other twenty thousand feet.  He assured me that if the active volcanos were spewing out lava he would put the plan on hold. He didn’t mention a contingency plan if he is near the top when the flow of lava begins. I guess there are risks associated to most lofty goals (pardon the pun).

 

When it comes to sleep, I can manage one sleepless night pretty well. Add three consecutive nights with little sleep together and I have difficulty managing.  Even old people need 7-9 hour of sleep a night. I generally cut it close. I function well (my assessment and not necessarily one the General would make) on six hours of uninterrupted sleep.

 

On Monday night, I awakened at 2:00 a.m. and I’m not sure I went back to sleep. I was giving thought to something my younger brother had posted on Facebook the evening before. His writing served as a catalyst for my remembering our childhood years.  It was a feel-good reflection of memories even if it occurred when I should be catching a few winks.

 

It was late when I arrived in Winston Salem, NC on Tuesday night. I had reservations at the Marriott Hotel. The room was comfortable and it was my intent to catch up on lost sleep. Before going to bed, I did some work on my computer. The computer desk was connected to the wall so it wasn’t moveable.  It took me a few seconds to figure out where to turn on the desk lamp.  I had never seen one like it.  It was a very narrow rectangular tube-like device. The on/off switch was not located on the base of the lamp. I subsequently located a very small square button located toward the tip of the tube.  When I pressed it, the lamp came on.

 

I was surprised by the amount of light the lamp illuminated in the room.  Around 11:00 a.m., I pressed the small rectangular button to turn the lamp off and nothing happened. Seriously, how many times can your repeat the same exercise before giving up and determining it isn’t going to work? So what do you do when it is bedtime and your room is illuminated like the Las Vegas strip?  I dismissed the thought of calling the front desk. Seriously, there was probably no one from maintenance still on duty.  In addition, the clerk would probably ask if I needed someone to tuck me in after turning off my light?

 

You are thinking I overlooked the obvious. Why not just unplug the lamp?  Trust me, I crawled under the desk on all fours looking for a way to do that very thing. There was no access to where the chord from the lamp was plugged into an electrical outlet.

 

Strange isn’t it. I can sit in a conference room in the light of day and embarrassingly fall to sleep in front of other people. Put me in a setting where I should be sleeping and I cannot go to sleep with the light on. Consequently, in terms of a good night’s sleep, it didn’t happen.  I was a walking zombie on Wednesday.

 

Did I mention it was very late when my plane got back to Austin on Wednesday night? When I changed planes in St. Louis, I was the last person to board on the flight home. In fact everyone else had already boarded by the time I got to the gate. What were the chances that my luggage was going to make it to the flight?  You guess is as good as mine, but I didn’t anticipate it would be in Austin at the same time I arrived.  I was right.

 

The next hurdle was trying to remember where I parked. I parked in the “G” lot.  I didn’t even know they had a “G” lot until Tuesday.  I remembered thinking the “G” stood for “Georgetown”.  Georgetown is about forty miles from the airport.  The shuttle stop wasn’t marked, but I remember I was in row G-9 or G-10. I remembered the shuttle driver telling us to write the number down. He didn’t have any cards to handout for a reminder.  I quickly emailed the number to myself.

 

As I waited to get on the shuttle to ride to the “G” lot, I looked for the email and couldn’t find it. It was after midnight.  For that matter, “looking and finding” set the tone for the night. Initially, after arriving in the “G” lot, I couldn’t locate my truck either. I walked in the direction I remembered parking and my truck was not there.  So was I remembering where I parked the day before or was I remembering where I parked the week before? After awhile things run together in your head. I did eventually find my truck. It was at the end of the row in “G-10”.

 

It was 1:30 a.m. when I got home. Consequently, by last night I was dog-tired with good reason. I suggested we go to bed at 9:00 p.m.  I didn’t awaken until 7:00 this morning. I guess I am now at risk of being known as sleeping like a baby. I really don’t need ten hours of uninterrupted sleep.

 

All My Best!

Don

“ooh-eee”  – It Is Purple

IMG_9376.JPG

They say first impressions are lasting impressions.  Of course, I’ve been to the Raleigh–Durham International Airport (RDU) many times. When Craig and Becky were stationed at Camp Lejeune, the General and I often flew to RDU and then traveled by rental car to Camp Lejeune.  When I arrived at the National Car Rental location at RDU on Tuesday evening, the premium car I had reserved was not immediately available on the lot. You could have fooled me. I had no idea what I had reserved.  They could have given me anything.

 

The agent was apologetic and said, “It wouldn’t take long.” While I was waiting for the car I reserved (even though I didn’t remember what it was) to be delivered, he graciously said: “Actually, look around. You can take any of the cars on the lot instead of the premium car you reserved if you see something you like.  Seriously, it was tempting.  My eyes immediately locked onto a Jeep with a removable top. Wouldn’t that be fun?

 

Actually, four or five years ago, the kids and their families, along with the General and I, rented an “away from home” lodge located in the Smokey Mountains for a week. It had three stories and an amazing view from every floor.  I can’t remember, but I think we flew into Charlotte and drove from there.  Kevin and Andrea rented the same kind of Jeep at the Charlotte airport when they arrived that I was seeing at RDU. If I remember correctly, they took the top off once they got to the lodge. I am not remembering that it went back on nearly as easily as it came off.  Trust me that would be just my luck.

 

I remember being a little envious of the Jeep they were driving. The Jeep looked a lot more adventuresome than the four-door sedan we had rented. “Four-door sedan” can be used synonymously for both BORING and “middle aged married”. It isn’t always an adventuresome ride.

 

So the National Car rental agent had tossed an invitation in my direction that was almost too good to pass up. “If you see something you like, you can take it instead of the car you reserved.”  The Jeep looked like fun!  It was really tempting. Why not?  Well for starters, I couldn’t make the color work for me. The Jeep was painted a dark purple.

 

I said to the agent: “I’m really tempted to take the jeep. It looks like fun, but I can’t make the color work for me.  I added: “Only secure men drive a purple jeep!  I’m just not sure I’m that secure”.  He replied: “I am that secure and I’d take it over everything else on the lot.”

 

Okay, so what kind of first impression would I make if I drove to a children’s home campus for a site visit in a purple Jeep with the top missing?  I was tossing that question around in my head when the premium car I had reserved arrived. It was a Nissan Maxima.  It was a nice car.

 

I mentioned to the driver that I was considering the Jeep. He, too, was at least fifty years younger than me and immediately said, “Hands down, I would take the Jeep. I would take it over the Maxima.”  He went on to say: “It isn’t going to rain. The weather is really nice. We could take the top off for you.” That seemed like a clincher to me. Maybe I was secure enough to drive a purple Jeep after all. Perhaps I should take it?

 

I didn’t want to make an impulsive decision.  It boiled down to first impressions – vs – fun. Which was more important?  Crazy isn’t it, some of the things that come to mind? The year was 1958.  Sheb Wooley was at the top of the charts with his song  “Purple People Eater”.  How could anyone forget it?  In addition, the rhythm and tempo sticks in your head. It is still rolling around in mine. Don’t you remember?

 

Well, I saw the thing comin’ out of the sky   It had the one long horn, one big eye   I commenced to shakin’ and I said “ooh-eee”   It looks like a purple eater to me   It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater  (One-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater)   A one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater   Sure looks strange to me (one eye?)”

 

Okay, how could I say “No”?  I asked: “If you take the top off, will you store it here until I return?” Disappointingly, they said they would have to load the top in the back of the Jeep. That meant “you know who” would be responsible for putting it back on. Thanks but no thanks!  That was a deal breaker.  I didn’t want to take that risk. If they had offered to store it, I would have driven into the sunset with the radio blaring while slapping my knee to keep time with the music.  You’re probably thinking: “I’m weird”.  That may be, but I also have fun!

 

When I arrived at the children’s home yesterday morning, I caught an image of my hair in the rear view mirror as I was getting out of the four-door sedan.  I looked like the wild man from Gadera.  I might as well have driven the purple jeep.  I looked like Bozo the clown. My hair was frizzy. How did that happen? I tried to skimp on the hair gel I’ve been using. My daughter thinks it makes me look like a former Governor of Texas. She doesn’t think it looks natural. In addition, you know what they say? “Never trust a man whose hair doesn’t blow in the wind.”

 

When I walked into the building at the children’s home, I was startled to see a sign welcoming me. There was even a picture of me on the sign. It was my first visit to the agency and I had never met the staff.  Trust me, the welcoming sign made a good first impression. These people had the knack for making one feel welcomed.  If they were startled by the “clown” look I was wearing, they managed to camouflage it well. They were very gracious and kind.

 

My “friends” at TSA at RDU on my flight home last night were also welcoming.  As luck would have it, my boarding pass was a TSA pre-check. I was wearing shoes with socks this time, but I didn’t need to take them off. Also, there was absolutely no line. I walked through with every confidence I was home free. For starters, I checked my luggage. I wasn’t going through Tuesday’s experience again.

 

I had barely gotten to the screened-in side of the walk through monitor when an alarm went off. I was a little startled. The TSA agent asked, “Do you have electronics in your backpack?  I affirmed that I did. I then asked: “Should I have taken them out?”  He said, “No, the alarm was for a random check. We just need to look more closely at your electronics”.

 

He unzipped the backpack and asked: “Is there anything sharp in the backpack?  Do I look stupid or what? Of course there was nothing sharp in my backpack. Was that a trick question?

 

He said, “I don’t want to injury my hand by reaching inside”. By this time we were sanding next to a desk in the monitoring area.  He laid the MacBook Pro and the iPad next to my iPhone. He then took a hand held device with a pad on the end and started swiping it over all three of my electronics. He picked them up and ran the pad around the edges of each. He then put the pad in some kind of machine.

 

You never know if you don’t ask.  Consequently, after he told me “everything was all clear”, I asked: “What were you looking to find?” He answered: “Explosives”.  It obviously is beyond my pay grade because I haven’t yet connected the dots. If the only way you can ascertain that electronics are potentially explosive is to swab them and put the sample in a machine, why don’t they do that for everyone?  Don’t get me wrong. I felt special to be singled out by a random alarm. The friendly folks at “TSA” are always so affirming.  Okay, so that was mostly tongue-in-cheek.

 

I have had the palms of my hands swabbed by those guys with a similar looking device many times. Reportedly, that too was as a result of a random alarm. In case you are wondering, it had no relationship to the fact that I sometimes look like Bozo the Clown. The wild hair has got to go.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

The Long Line

Unknown-5 2.jpeg

It really wasn’t a big deal. At least I told myself that it wasn’t.  It certainly didn’t carry the class distinction associated with the gap between First Class and Coach. Of course, I’ve never flown First Class, so my frame of reference is simply from observing the extra wide seats as I’ve walked through on my way back to coach. That coupled with a quick glimpse of folks being catered to by overly attentive flight attendants before the curtain was closed dividing the front small portion of the plane from the folks squeezed six seats in a row rather than four.

 

Invariably, when I make it on a plane I find myself seated next to someone for whom the extra wide seats in first class are designed. Unfortunately, they are flying coach.  I guess you could call it champagne taste on a beer pocketbook and before you know it we are as snug as a bug in a rug. What other choice do we have? The only time I’ve found that particularly bothersome was when the guy encroaching on my space fell asleep and his head was subsequently leaning against my shoulder. Seriously I hadn’t known him that long and I didn’t know him that well! It was definitively not the sound of Paul Anka singing “Put your head on my shoulder” that was rolling around in my head. Truth be told, it was the sound of “Hit The Road Jack and Don’t You Come Back No More, No More” that flooded my thought processes.

 

Lest I digress, I was surprised when my boarding pass on yesterday’s two-leg flight to Raleigh Durham wasn’t marked TSA pre-approved.  I realize that beggars can’t be choosers, but for the past two or three years only once or twice have I not had a TSA pre-check boarding pass. I realize that I could put forth a little cash upfront and ensure I always fell in that category, but I’m pretty frugal. At the same time, I was startled to find that I didn’t fall into the favored category. After all, I fly often.

 

When I travel for the Washington based organization where I serve, I’m really on a self-imposed tight budget. Unlike the Federal government, available resources are fairly limited.  In fact, Raleigh as my destination indicated I’m a careful shopper.  It would have been thirty minutes closer to my intended final destination had I flown to Charlotte, but I saved about $250 by opting to fly to Raleigh. Either way I had a drive before me. What’s another hour on the road?

 

Okay, so I’ve been pampered by the handful of TSA pre-check boarding passes that have come my way over the past couple of years. It was different yesterday and I was astounded at the length of the line.  It is now apparent that the class system between the haves and have nots has now escalated by adding another tier.  The fast track is now a new service know as “CLEAR”.  The last time I flew, I saw a “CLEAR” representative attempting to solicit participants to sign-up for the CLEAR Expedited Security Program.

 

I haven’t researched it, but I wondered if it was a private for profit entity attempting to orchestrate a piece of the pie by carving out their own niche.  Privatizing seems to be the wave of the future.

 

As I slowly made my way through the long line of folks for whom no special favors were being allowed yesterday, I mentally went through the checklist of rules to follow. I remembered that everything had to be out of your pockets in order to go through the full-body scanner.  Why paper would pose a problem, I don’t know, but I do remember they were indignant the last time I did that with my boarding pass in my pocket.  Seriously? What kind of threat does that pose?

 

In TSA pre-check you don’t have to remove your electronics from your backpack.   They just simply go through the scanner inside the backpack on the conveyer belt.  You also don’t have to remove you toiletries that are carefully placed in a quart size clear plastic baggie. Everything changes when you fall into the luck of the draw in the regular mass of people attempting to get through screening.

 

I don’t remember the last time I had to take off my shoes to go through screening. That isn’t a requirement for TSA pre-check and I’m fairly certain the same is true for CLEAR. Under the auspices of total transparency, I was opting to embrace the casual look yesterday. It was hot in Austin and it will be hot outside in North Carolina.  Consequently cargo shorts, an ironed sport-shirt and Keene sandals were the look of the day.  Oops – You know what that means don’t you? That meant that I was going to have to walk through the screening process barefooted.  Yuck!

 

The two people in front of me were directed to go through the walk through monitor and by-pass the full body scanner. I was told to stand and wait for the scanner.  Oh No!  I forget to take off my belt.  I quickly removed it and took one step out of line to put it on the conveyer belt. When I stepped back into line, the person behind me said: “You can’t do that! You’re not going to cut in this line”! I graciously explained that the two of us were standing in the same line in the same places when I took one step over and put my belt on the scanner.  I was not cutting in line.

 

I made it through the full body scanner barefooted and with flying colors. It was like Bob Barker saying: “Come One Down” on the Price is Right. I didn’t’ have any paper in my pockets. So when I cleared that hurdle, why was the TSA person taking my luggage off of the conveyer belt rather than letting it go through so I could retrieve it?  It was a good question, but one that I couldn’t ask because there were two other people waiting to ask the same question and retrieve their possessions.

 

Finally when it was my turn, the question for me was: “Do you have any sharp objects in your luggage?” I didn’t think the General would have put a butcher knife in my luggage to ensure she would have an extended period of peace and quiet. The agent then started unzipping my suit bag.  It was my bi-pap machine that was causing the problem.  I put it inside my luggage rather than carrying it on externally because you aren’t supposed to have more than two carry-ons and I wasn’t going anywhere without my backpack. My backpack contains my computer. You wouldn’t be reading this now if I had.

 

I was mostly speechless as the agent hurriedly rummaged through my luggage, took the bi-pap machine out of it’s bag, returned the bag inside my luggage and took both the luggage and the bi-pap machine to run them again through the scanner.

 

I had packed the machine last week in exactly the same way when I flew from Austin to Denver.  It was packed the same way when I flew out of Denver. It wasn’t an issue then, but it was an issue now.  TSA pre-check folks fair better than the masses in getting through the TSA line-up and jumping through all of the hoops.

 

I was a little miffed when I had to reopen my luggage, take out the bi-pap machine case and put it all back in my luggage before I headed to my gate.  I also didn’t like the smirk on the TSA employee’s face who saved the day by making me jump through those hoops.

 

Seriously I question the efficacy of the entire process!  If my packing the bi-pap machine inside my luggage posed a threat, it was no greater than the threat it posed last week. Last week it wasn’t an issue. This week it was a different story. I wanted to take one of the sandals I had replaced on my bare feet off and beat the guy over the head, but that would not have been very nice. It also would have ensured I would not have made yesterday’s fight. Maybe it is time I fork over the cash it takes to get a free walk in the park, so to speak and always be TSA pre-checked approved. Did I mention the system appears to me to provide some with preferential treatment while more carefully scrutinizing the masses?

 

All My Best!

Don

The Gift Of Childhood

sc005217f901.jpg

It was only by happenstance that I saw my younger brother’s posting on Facebook last night.  I seldom scroll through postings to see what I’ve missed. I’m glad I didn’t miss this one. The words my brother shared proved to be the catalyst for much reflection. I am tempted to say that melancholy is contagious, but I’m not sure melancholy is the genre that best describes his heartfelt confession. He writes:

 

Tonight, my mind takes me back to the fifties and sixties on the south side of Odessa. A video is playing in my head. I miss my folks and my family, as well as good friends. It was a simple time. Right was right and wrong was wrong. We didn’t have much, but we were so blessed with each other.  If I could go back for just a week, I’d leave right now”.

 

Fortunately, it isn’t often that I awaken in the middle of the night and have difficulty going back to sleep. Last night was different. I awakened thinking about what Larry had written. I wondered what prompted him to write: “I miss my folks and my family…If I could go back for just a week, I’d leave right now.”

 

I fully understand what Larry meant, but I would have expressed it differently.  He really doesn’t miss his folks because they are with him everyday of his life.  Memory is a treasured gift and their influence and love continue to be a driving force in both of our lives.  He misses having access to them in the same way we did when we were younger.

 

Apparently the video that was playing in Larry’s head was passed over to mine. I may have picked up right where he left off. Life seemed a lot simpler in the midst of childhood than the way it plays itself out in adulthood.

 

I can envision us wearing our railroad train pajamas, sitting on the sofa and watching cartoons on a Saturday morning.  Of course, the television was a black and white picture. It was long before the days of colored television.  The year was 1953. I was six years old.  I remember it like it was yesterday. That was the year that KMID-TV brought television to the Permian Basin.

 

Not everyone in West Texas thought that was a good idea. There were churches that didn’t see it as favorable. They thought we were inviting the devil into our homes. Fortunately, we didn’t go to one of those churches.

 

Seriously, Gunsmoke was worth the watch!  In fact, I have a friend that is approaching retirement age and he watches reruns of Gunsmoke on a daily basis. Perhaps he is still a child at heart.  I haven’t asked if he wears his railroad train pajamas when he watches the reruns.

 

The family automobile when I was a first grader was a new 1953 Chevrolet.  I remember going to the dealership when my parents picked it out. Actually, my brothers were there as well.  My parents could have left us with my grandparents next door, but they opted to take us along.

 

The first order of business once they got the car was to have seat covers made and installed. Somehow that seemed strange to me. The seats that came with the car looked perfectly fine to me. Apparently, having seat covers installed was the first step in making a vehicle road worthy. Mother had the task of picking out the upholstery. I went with her to the upholstery shop. I don’t remember if Ronnie and Larry were with us or not. The car was light blue. It was family transportation for the next three years until Dad bought another Chevrolet. I was with him when he bought that one as well. We all were.

 

Of course, by the time I was nine years old, I had a different mindset related to the family’s mode of transportation. Why not step it up a notch?  One of the teachers at Rusk Elementary had a new 1956 Buick convertible. I am remembering it as a pink and gray. The color combination sound awful now, but it looked great at the time. It certainly looked a lot better than the green and white 1956 Chevy my folks picked out at Broncho Chevrolet.

 

We lived on a street full of kids and someone was always at the house. However, we mostly played outside. It was a good time to be alive. In the evening when weather permitted, folks set outside in lawn chairs. The lawn chairs were on the front porch or on the lawn. Neighbors would walk across the street or come next door to visit.

 

My paternal grandparents lived next door to us. On the other side of them were my uncle, aunt and their two cousins. There was always a flurry of activity. Granny often made homemade rolls and when she did, she made enough for all three families.

 

They were good times. They were fun times.  On the maternal side, my mother was one of six siblings. They were always close as a family.  Consequently our world was filled with aunts and uncles and lots of cousins. Family time was always significant and special.

 

I thought about the large cluster of family members and friends who filled our lives during those formative years. We were fortunate that most were still with us for the duration of our childhood years.

 

Melancholy isn’t the right word to describe the reflection on memories from long ago. Melancholy carries with it the concept of sadness.  What would have been sad would have been the absence of their presence and influence when we most needed them.  The folks who showed up in our formative years and poured meaning and purpose in our lives, are still with us.  They are inside my heart and head the same way they have always been.  They are no longer accessible the way they once were, but I have no hard feelings.

 

All My Best!

Don

FREEDOM

images-12.jpeg

“Freedom Is Not Free” – Those four words are engraved into one wall at the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. This past week as the Nation celebrated Independence Day, the costs associated to freedom have not been lost on many that paused to reflect on all that we’ve been given.

 

Most often when we think of the 4thof July celebration, we think about the American Revolution and the Nation’s Declaration of Independence from England.  Several months ago, I listened to Bill O’Reilly’s book entitled, “Killing England”.  I found it thoughtfully informative.

 

Freedom is not free – The price tag associated to freedom continues to be associated to war efforts that keep our flag waving and our sense of freedom intact. That has always been the case. Things like patriotism generally surface when we think about freedom.

 

However, freedom is a much broader topic than the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”  Consequently, I want to talk about freedom from a different context than patriotism. We frequently make independent decisions that impact our lives. Some of the decisions we make impact others. We don’t live in a vacuum. The choices we make not only impact our lives, but they impact the lives of those we touch.

 

I seldom think of the word freedom that the sound of “Me and Bobby McGee” doesn’t intuitively roll around in my head. You remember it don’t you? It begins: “Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin’ for the trains  Feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans  Bobby thumbed a diesel down just before it rained  Took us all the way to New Orleans…”

 

I’ve always found one of the lines in the song troublesome. What did Kristofferson mean when he wrote: “Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose”? It always seems to carry a profound philosophical connotation, but I’ve never quite connected the dots to figure it out.

 

As it turns out the phrase was intentional. Kristofferson says of the line: “For some reason, I thought of La Strada, this Fellini film, and a scene where Anthony Quinn is going around on this motorcycle and Giulietta Masina is the feeble-minded girl with him, playing the trombone. He got to the point where he couldn’t put up with her anymore and left her by the side of the road while she was sleeping. Later in the film, he sees this woman hanging out the wash and singing the melody that the girl used to play on the trombone. He asks, ‘Where did you hear that song?’ And she tells him it was this little girl who had showed up in town and nobody knew where she was from, and later she died. That night, Quinn goes to a bar and gets in a fight. He’s drunk and ends up howling at the stars on the beach. To me, that was the feeling at the end of ‘Bobby McGee.’ The two-edged sword that freedom is. He was free when he leftthe girl, but it destroyed him. That’s where the line ‘Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose’ came from”.

 

Freedom irresponsibly used has the potential to negatively impact our lives and those with whom we share life. I mentioned in a recent blog the conversation I shared with a woman who told me her son was incarcerated. Though she expressed hope he’d be “on the straight and narrow” when he is released, she also expressed concern that a criminal record carried with it the potential to ruin his future.

 

I learned a long time ago that when your children are doing well, you are doing well. When your children aren’t doing well, you aren’t doing well. I’ve thought about the lady and our conversation several times since Friday.  How would you feel if your child had forfeited the privileges associated with freedom by making a foolish decision?  I sense it would weigh heavily upon you for the remainder of your days or at least until freedom was restored and your son or daughter once again enjoyed freedom.

 

Sometimes the news can tug at your heartstrings and roll around in your head for an extended period. Can you imagine what it would be like to be the parent of one of the soccer players on the Wild Boar Soccer team in Thailand?  Worse yet, can you imagine what it would be like to be one of the players?  For starters the soccer team and their coach disappeared on June 23. It was nine days before their whereabouts were located. They were located in a cave system that is a local tourist attraction in Thailand.

 

Hearing the news that they had been found seemed immediately like a happy ending to a would-be tragic story. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t over. The problem is, the cave system filled up with water following heavy rains. The boys and their coach are stranded 2.5 miles into the cave. They were found huddled together on a small incline, surrounded by water in a pitch-black chamber.

 

As of last report, divers have dramatically rescued five of the thirteen boys. The process for getting them out is extremely risky. Reportedly, today’s weather has offered rescuers a break. The boys range from ages 11-16 and their coach is 25.

 

I suspect that those thirteen individuals will have a profoundly different appreciation and understanding of freedom than mine once they are out of harms way.  Their circumstances and rescue operations to free them from captivity has garnered world-wide attention.

 

Figuratively speaking, at one level I have no personal frame of reference to what it means to live without freedom. Does that mean I always get my way and everything always goes perfectly according to my plan? “Absolutely” is a one-word response that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It really is true that opposites attract. Consequently, life shared with others is a give-and-take approach.  It is not one-sided. In the process, you forfeit personal freedom for the well-being of another.

 

Yet, it was God who first made the observation that it is not good for man to be alone.  The reality is we are all hardwired to connect.  We sometimes mistakenly think of that concept in terms of marriage. While it is true of marriage, the principal is really broader than that. It has more to do with a person’s lifestyle and their innate need for a sense of community. People need people. People also need God.

 

Research is undisputable in highlighting the importance of relationships.  There are things in life far more important than a healthy diet and exercise.  At the top of the list is the importance of relationships. Like I said, “People need people”. I can’t imagine that I’d survive life without that, but many people try. Whether it is of their choosing or simply by happenstance, alienation and fractured relationships take their toll on a person’s life.

 

Freedom is a gift, but with it comes responsibility. If freedom becomes just a name “for nothing else to lose”, we may need to rethink our approach.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

All My Best!

Don

Father Of The Bride

Unknown-20.jpeg

Last night didn’t fall out exactly the way I intended. Saturday nights are generally reserved for last minute sermon preparation and finishing touches. Somehow that seemed out of sync with having a houseful of company.  Early in the evening,  I inconspicuously gravitated to my study only to discover the sermon draft I had worked on earlier in the day was gone.

 

Seriously, how could that be?   With my luck, I had the thought that I would find it this afternoon. Of course, it will be a moot issue by then. Seriously, the real surprise is that I didn’t find it last night. For that matter, I haven’t yet found it today.  Actually, I am no longer looking. Initially, I was only joking with myself with thoughts of finding it today, but I didn’t seriously think it was unrecoverable. Okay, so I am a very slow learner and that’s using the term “learner” very loosely.

 

Craig and his family returned from San Antonio late afternoon yesterday.  They had a great time at Fiesta Texas and other favorite tourist attractions in San Antonio over the past two and a half days. Reportedly, their visit to the Alamo was their favorite.  The General sent a text message to alert Andrea and Kevin that Craig and company were here and to invite them over at their leisure. There was not a reply to the text message.

 

I’m not sure who was first to make the discovery, but almost simultaneously we all looked at our cell phones to discover that we had no cell phone service.  All of us have phones procured through AT&T.  AT&T was not batting a thousand yesterday.  The phones were all virtually worthless.  Nothing was working.

 

The General suggested I drive over to Andrea’s and invite them in person. Craig chimed in that one of the kids might want to go with me. Immediately, William volunteered. He wanted to ride in the car.

 

It felt a little awkward unlocking the gate at Andrea and Kevin’s home and driving down their driveway unannounced.  Actually, I did so honking the horn three short honks as we drove toward the house.  It was the best way I knew to ring the doorbell before we actually arrived. As I turned out, they were good with it.

 

When William and I returned home, preparations were being made for dinner. After dinner Jake asked if I’d take him for a ride in the car. It is interesting that both boys like the Miata. Initially, they were not favorable. They joked me that it was a toy car. Of course, Craig was providing the lead in that banter. He joked that when I got too old to drive, they could put the Miata in the back of their truck and drive me around. I failed to see the humor. They’ve obviously changed their minds since that time. Of course, Jake would like for me to rev-the-engine. I can tell you. That kid is going to keep things interesting. He reminds me off myself.

 

Jake and I had just returned home when Andrea and Kevin made it over.  Andrea suggested a movie.  I’m sure my body language suggested I was going to be occupied elsewhere. Seriously, I need to rehash my notes and I didn’t have time.

 

Okay, so Andrea is her father’s daughter. “Dad, you’ve got to watch the movie with us.  It’s Craig’s family’s last night. It wouldn’t be the same without you. You are the life of the party.”

 

The General recommended that we watch: “Father of the Bride” starring Steve Martin. It was unbelievable that Craig’s family had never seen it.  How old is that movie?  Andrea immediately orchestrated support from her nephews and niece by saying: “The movie will remind you of Granddad”.

 

It had been so long since we’d seen the movie that I had forgotten most of it.  To say that there were some tender moments in the movie is a fair reflection.  Steve Martin who played the father of the bride, was really funny. He was also really frugal. Of course, the most feel-good characteristic was the loving relationship the father-of-the bride shared with his daughter.

 

I guess it is a right of passage for every father of the bride, but the thoughts that ran through his head when the minister asked: “Who presents this woman in marriage” is universal. In fact, the father of the bride recites them: “Who presents this woman? This woman? But she’s not a woman. She’s just a kid. And she’s leaving us. I realized at that moment that I was never going to come home again and see Annie at the top of the stairs. Never going to see her again at our breakfast table in her nightgown and socks. I suddenly realized what was happening. Annie was all grown up and was leaving us, and something inside began to hurt”.

 

Several times during the movie, I sensed Andrea was looking at me when the father-of-the-bride did something really ridiculous or shared a tender moment.  Andrea and I have more than our share of memories associated to both kinds – ridiculous and tender.  I can be ridiculous and I can sensitive and caring.  The two go together like love and marriage.

 

So we were altogether last night – six adults, three children and three dogs. The evening turned out to be very enjoyable. Even though my sermon notes are currently nonexistent, I’ll be okay. The time invested in family trumps the need for notes.  The concepts are filed away in my head.

 

Interestingly, Andrea and Kevin got married at our church in Henly. The reception following the wedding took place in our backyard. There were a lot of similarities to their wedding and Father of the Bride and a lot of joys associated to the memories.

 

All My Best!

Don