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Archive for September, 2016

The older man II

“I met Him once, you know,” he said to me one day.

A delivery had just been made to the store. It was over 250 pieces, cases really, of this, that, and the other thing. Our job was to price mark the contents. Huh, this was a long time before bar codes and scanners and the stuff they have now. We had to mark the price on everything with stamps and purple ink. You had to cut the cases just so, and if it was soft goods inside, you had to be careful not to cut too deep and all that. I remember one time I was cutting a case of Mueller’s macaroni. It came in cardboard boxes. I was trying to be so darned careful, and my box cutter slipped. Opened my wrist up about an inch and a half. Doggone, those cutters were really sharp. I bled like a stuck pig. Doctor said I just missed the radial artery. Guess that woulda been really bad.

“Met who?” I asked him.

He was pricing the load and I was cutting the cases. It worked well cuz he had the book with all the prices and the price changes. He was really fast, and I had to be just a bit faster to stay ahead of him. We’d talk about all sorts of things while we were working. Wasn’t anyone else around, just the two of us down in the basement. The load came down on a belt and then onto those like roller tables, and one piece would just push the piece ahead of it onto the rollers. Just kept on going. With a big load, sometimes we’d have to put some cases under the roller thing. A 250-piece load meant we had to take some of the pieces off, but that wasn’t too bad.

“Met The Lord,” he answered.

Well, that stopped me…and right in the middle of opening a big case of toilet paper. You cut too deep on one of those and you can ruin a whole lot of paper. Good for me that it was the last cut. I didn’t think I heard him correctly the first time he answered, so I asked again.

“You met who…The Lord…is that what you said?” I repeated.

“Yup…just once though,” he added. “My friend took me.”

Now, I liked this older man – doggoned if I can remember his name though – I liked him because he taught me, a young kid, all about the store business, the retail business if you will. Taught me about how to stock and block shelves. Blocking’s when you bring goods from the back of the shelves to the front so the shelves look well stocked even when they’re not. Taught me how to run a register and how to spot people who were tryin’ to walk out with stuff without paying. Heck, I was sixteen; what’d I know about grownups who stole things. He taught me how to fill out order sheets on certain days and how to tell when something wasn’t going to sell and why it wouldn’t. He really knew the business.

“You care to tell me about that?” I asked him.

“Not certain you’ll believe me,” he said.

“Well, I believe about your friend,” I told him. “And I believe what you said about your ‘friend’ coming to rest on the other side of the bed after you say the Twenty-third Psalm,” I went on. “Why wouldn’t I believe you met The Lord?”

“Probably, because I’m not sure I believed it myself,” he grinned. “I mean, I know it happened because it happened to me, but you might just think I’m crazy when you hear it. By the way, I’m not crazy. My late wife used to say she was gonna have me tested, but we always had a good laugh about that. Come to think of it, I know she woulda wanted to have me tested after that happened…but – and he dragged that word out – she’d been gone for a while when it happened.”

I’d never asked how his wife had died. I knew that it was some kind of accident, but I thought it wouldn’t be very nice of me to bring it up. Might just stir up some memories he didn’t want to remember.

I put my box cutter on top of the toilet paper box, went over and sat down on a couple of cases of green beans and said, “I’m taking a short break, and I want to hear your story. I’ll tell ya afterwards if I believe it or not. C’mon and pull up a case of peaches or something and tell me.”

He looked at me for a minute. Then he closed up the price book, walked a few steps over and sat down. I don’t remember whether it was on a case of peaches or not but he sat and looked right at me.

“Yeah. Okay. You believe me about my friend, so maybe what I’m gonna tell you…maybe you won’t think I’m so crazy after all.”

I just sat there.

“It was about three years after Sarah had passed,” he began. “It was hot for May, more like a day in late August. I’d just finished my prayin’ and saying the Psalm out loud…to no one in particular, just to me…and my friend came to rest. I told you, didn’t I that I said, ‘If you’re from God…”

I quickly nodded my head to indicate that I remembered.

“Well, anyway, this night was a bit different. My ‘friend’ seemed as though my ‘friend’ couldn’t quite get settled. Then I felt a hand reaching and grabbing my own hand…it was weird. Wasn’t like when you shake hands, ya know. It was something different, almost tingly, if you can understand that….”

And again I nodded, this time leaning a little closer.

“Well, anyway, this hand took mine and we sorta started to float right up outta that bed. I was scared stiff, I don’t mind telling ya, but the hand squeezed mine as if to say that things were gonna be fine. I looked back down at the bed and I saw me…I was layin’ there, and it looked like I was sound asleep. I thought to myself, ‘Oh, hell, I’ve died and this must be my soul being taken somewhere.’ I didn’t feel dead. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack or anything like that. Fact of the matter is, it felt kind of peaceful, having my hand in that of something else. We kept floating and floating, going up and up. I don’t remember going through the ceiling or the roof of the house…I just remember the floating and seeing this light of so many colors, I couldn’t even describe them. They were just…well…it was like they were surrounding us…like we were in a bubble of really nice colors. I guess you’d say they were beautiful.”

He had me. I just sat there, absolutely entranced by what he was describing.

He went on. “The colors seemed to get brighter and brighter and the bubble seemed to get bigger and bigger, and then there He was. There was The Lord. I knew it was Him. He looked exactly like I thought He would. He smiled at me for a second, and then He got this funny look on His face. ‘Why are you here?’ He asked me, and I didn’t have an answer, so I just shrugged. ‘You’re not due to be here for some time,’ He said. I felt a squeeze of my hand, and thought that I was in real trouble. The Lord went on, “she must care for you very much to bring you here now.’ That woke me up a bit and asked, ‘Lord, may I ask who she is?’

‘Yes, you may ask,’ He said, ‘but I’m afraid that if she hasn’t told you who she is, it’s not my place to interfere. Let’s just say that she’s part of the overall plan.’

‘Plan?’ I queried.

‘Yes,’ He responded. ‘All things are part of the plan, a plan I’ve created to keep the universe moving.’

‘Am I part of this plan?’ I asked.

‘Most assuredly,’ He smiled.

‘What’s my part in the plan?’ I asked.

He smiled again and said, ‘Now if I told you that, you’d go back and begin trying to live your life in a way that you believe would conform, but that’s not how the plan works. You’ll know when you’ve completed your part in the plan for that’s when I will call on you to come home. This is your home, you know. She made a small error in judgment bringing you here, but she’s young and as I said, she must care for you very deeply. I believe, however,’ and he turned to the being who was holding my hand, ‘that it is time for her to take you back…please.’

“With that, the colors went really bright again. The Lord seemed to fade away, and I felt a slight tug on my hand. We floated. The bubble colors began to fade. I felt myself going down until I saw me sleeping. I could feel me going back into sleeping me. It wasn’t painful or anything like that. I just, well, I just sort of went back into me. I didn’t wake up or anything. I did feel one last gentle squeeze of my hand, and then, then I, I guess I slept through the night. But…I know what happened. I know it just as much as I know you’re sitting there on a couple cases of green beans. I met The Lord. I talked with Him. He said I’m part of a plan, which I guess means that all of us, you, the other people in the store, the customers, everyone is part of His plan. We just don’t know what the plan is, but we know it keeps the universe moving. I tell ya, kid, it was something. Now you got to promise that you won’t tell anyone. I know you well enough, but I’d really like you to promise.”

I promised. Now that I guess he’s gone, I guess his part in the plan is gone too. I mean, I guess he did whatever he was supposed to do for the plan, but it does make me wonder, “What’s my role in this plan?”

Yup, seems strange to me, too.

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The older man

He prayed every night.

He would tell you, “I’m not a religious person, but I am a believer in a higher power.” He’d talk about organized religion and say that he couldn’t accept some guy standing up in a pulpit and telling him what he should or shouldn’t do. He’d say that he thought too many of them were, in his words, “…a bunch of damned hypocrites.”

He really was deeply spiritual, although he could curse like a drunken sailor, drink like a fish, and for all I know, ran around like the biggest whoremonger in town…the only thing I can say for certain is that he sure could curse, because I never did see him drunk or with any woman other than his “bride,” as he always called her.

We talked a lot, me and this older man. I was just a kid. We worked together on the job. I’m not gonna talk about the job because the older man is my main subject here…and he was something.

He told me that he prayed every night.

He told me that he prayed for the souls of those who had died. He said he also prayed for the souls of the living when he thought it was called for. Took him over an hour to pray each evening, he said, but he added that he always felt better for having prayed so hard. “I don’t know who hears me,” he said, “but I’m damn sure someone or something does, and if only one soul gets the blessing I’ve prayed for, it’s been a pretty good evening…truth is, I think all my prayers get answered in some way, shape, or form.”

He let me know that when he prayed, it was to ‘The Lord.’ He said that he believed in the Blessed Trinity, but he still had a few questions about the Holy Ghost. Didn’t go into detail about that, and I never really felt it was my place to question him. After all, I guess I’m entitled to believe what I want just the way he can believe what he wants. We never did talk about what I felt or believed. He was just so interesting once he got started that I hated like the devil to interrupt him.

Though he was something of a strange duck, I never felt any danger about him. He was just ‘the older man;’ heck, I’ve even forgotten his name now. I lost track of him once I left my home town. The store closed when the big box store came into town, and I don’t have a clue as to what happened to the older man or anyone else.

He used to talk about his prayers a lot. He never did it in a way that would say, “I’m gonna impress this youngster,” but he just talked. Told me that when he finished his prayers and lay down to sleep, he’d always recite the Twenty-third Psalm to himself…”and then my friend would arrive,” he told me once.

“What friend?” I asked him the first time.

“Why, my friend from The Lord,” he told me.

“Now this is just a little bit weird,” I thought to myself, but what I actually asked was, “Who do you mean?”

He went on to explain that after he’d finished his prayers and said the Twenty-third Psalm, there was always a movement on the other side of his bed, like someone or something was settling in beside him. “Felt it just as much, and felt just as real as if a live person was layin’ down right next to me,” he told me. As strange as this was, I do have to say that it was also fascinating. “I’d say to whatever it was,” he’d go on, “If you’re from The Lord, then you can stay. If you’re not from “The Lord, then go away.” He said that whatever it was, it just settled in a little bit more. Told me he didn’t dare open his eyes to look because he was afraid of what he might see…or not see.

That was a lot of years ago. I can’t even tell you what brought back the memory of that older man. He wasn’t old. He was just older. Maybe it was the way he talked about prayer or maybe, just maybe it was because I now feel that same presence in my bed at night…just after I recite the Twenty-third Psalm, and just before I go to sleep.

Sure, seems strange to me, too.

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When I asked about one of my high school classmates recently, I was told, “Aw, he drank himself to death some time ago.” I thought to myself, “Well, that makes two from our class that I know of.” It’s not a pretty picture. How many others, I wonder, abused alcohol? We had less than 80 people in our senior class, and while two out of eighty might not sound so bad, you go ahead and do the math as it may concern the teenage and adult population in the United States. Let me save you some trouble…there are more than 12 million alcoholics in the United States.

Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing. As the cliché goes, it’s 20/20. Looking back to my days at Northeastern and at Babson, I can now recall people I knew who always had alcohol on their breath and who would act confused at times. Naïve little me, I guess. Today, I can honestly say that I was really too damned dumb to notice erratic behavior. Perhaps that’s because there were more than a few mornings when I was nursing a hangover. Thankfully, Joan and I came to our senses before things went too far.

Looking at the statistics on alcoholism, I find that three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics. That’s really a staggering number – no pun intended – of people who abuse alcohol. Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol…and that’s not even counting moonshine. In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes. Perhaps this explains why, even on my early morning drive to the gym or whenever Juli and I are out in the car, my eyes are always shifting to what’s going on in the oncoming lane. Sure, I’m going to die, but I’m not eager to have it be at the hands of some drunk I don’t even know! Two other facts that were somewhat surprising…people with a higher education are more likely to drink, and the same is true for people who are considered to be wealthy. I’m not certain what the correlation is, but it seems that if you’re well educated and rich, you’re more likely to be a drunk…for some reason, that just doesn’t compute, but it’s out there.

A friend of mine recently went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told me that he’d finally had enough and that it wanted to quit drinking. His feeling was that he couldn’t do so without help. He indicated that he was shocked when he went to his first meeting because he knew every other person in the room. As I’ve learned over the years, alcoholics are very well versed in how to hide the disease from others. Yes, alcoholism is a disease. It’s not a choice that most people make. It consumes the mind and body of the alcoholic, but it also affects those around him or her. While there are 12 million alcoholics as I’ve said, there are another 50 – 60 million friends and family members who are affected by this debilitating disease.

At this point, time has elapsed since the last paragraph was written. I became angry while writing it, and that’s when objectivity leaves, ergo I’m better off walking away and coming back when I’ve cooled down. My anger stemmed from the fact that I can remember, during my drinking days, of how my family was affected by my drinking. I didn’t like who I was or what I did, but thankfully, those days are long past and there don’t appear to be any residual effects.

Just because you or I may live in a ‘dry’ town doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t easily accessible. There seem to be more “Town Line” liquor stores abutting the dry town lines than there are restaurants or any other type of establishment. No, liquor is a very easy thing to get one’s hands on. Drinking is one of society’s more widespread and accepted forms of addiction, so how do we spot the alcoholic? ‘We’ don’t have to spot someone with an alcohol dependency. Alcoholics know who they are. It’s one of the few self-diagnosable diseases there are. Asking one’s self a few simple questions can provide answers. Do you drink to relax or feel better? Do you hide your drinking or bottles of liquor? Do you drink to the point of blacking out? How often do you drink to this point? Are you unable to stop once you start drinking? Do you drink in dangerous situations, e.g., when you may have to get behind the wheel of your car? Is your tolerance to alcohol increasing? Do you find that you are neglecting things at home, work, or school? Have you tried to quit but find that you are unable to do so? These are just a few of the signs or symptoms that alcohol is no longer your friend but has become your master. I had a boss who, when we went out to lunch, had to have at least two drinks to get him through the afternoon. In addition, he would become upset if I didn’t drink with him. It made for a few awkward situations.

Why am I writing about all of this…again? It’s been done to death, and no one needs to be reminded about the dangers of alcohol. Well, maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we all need to be reminded of it. God only knows we see enough of the results of it on television…cars wrapped around trees or driving the wrong way and killing others just trying to get home. Yeah, we do need to be reminded of it…and on a fairly regular basis. Alcohol dependency is one of those things that for which we do have treatment centers and programs. Let’s make it personal…I used to drink to the point where I wasn’t very pleasant to be around. I used to drink and drive, but I got away with it. I no longer drink and I’m better off because of it. Every so often one friend or another will tell me that they are going to meetings or that they’ve been sober for so many days, weeks, or months. I understand that. I will always understand that. And I will always help anyone who seeks my help to quit. None of us wish to become one of the 100,000 who die each year from alcohol-related accidents.

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The sacrificial lamb

Praise Jesus, we have found the sacrificial lamb!

It now appears that if you are a black man or a white woman with a badge, you are going to get screwed every which way and then some. Police Officer Betty Shelby, the officer who shot Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma has been charged with first degree manslaughter.

Now, I don’t have a problem with these charges. I’ve seen the video several times and yes, it appeared to me that Mr. Crutcher was, in fact, reaching into his car. What for, I don’t know. It could have been a Holy Bible or a Glock .40. We’ll probably never know, but Miss Betty, she done the crime and sure as shootin’ she gonna do the time. A police search of the car failed to find a gun.

Forget that the cops in Baltimore get cleared after the death of Freddie Gray. Forget the fact that the cops in Cleveland were cleared after they shot a 12-year old less than a minute after they arrived on the scene. Forget the fact that an illegal choke hold killed a man in New York but no charges were brought. Forget the fact that Minnesota cop just plain murdered a black man and got away with it. We now have us a case where we can show people that black lives do matter, because we have a white woman police officer who we can prosecute…and the thin blue line stands united. Had she been a male with five or more years on the force, I’m betting no charges would have been filed…and for you, Jim, and Rich and Mike and Jerry, you know damned well that what I’m saying is the truth.

Shelby has admitted that she “…was never so scared in my life” when Crutcher failed to stop as he’d been ordered to do. He kept walking toward his car as is evident on the video. The car windows were open and Shelby thought he was reaching for a gun inside the car. I’m guessing it was one of those split second decisions of “Do I shoot center mass or do I wait for that other hand to appear with who-knows- what might be in it.” Shelby made her decision and she will have to live with it. Even soldiers who have seen combat will tell you that taking the life of another human being is not an easy thing with which to live.

I’m quite certain that, in addition to the manslaughter charges, the US Department of Justice will file a civil rights violation charge against Shelby. Where was the DOJ when it came to civil rights violations of Philandro Castile in Minnesota or Freddie Gray in Baltimore or Laquan McDonald in Chicago as he walked away from the police? We aren’t talking double standard here, folks. We’re talking standards of who you are and what you can get away with if you know how the system works.

Don’t get me wrong because I’m not saying that the charges against Shelby are false or uncalled for. However, if she’s guilty of a crime, then so are Jeronimo Yanez in Minnesota, the two officers in Cleveland, the officer in NY, and the officers in Baltimore. Jason Van Dyke in Chicago is currently being held in the murder of the McDonald. It will be interesting to see how that one turns out. It certainly was not as spectacularly covered as the Shelby shooting in Tulsa.

It seems to me that every time a black person is shot and killed, it’s cause for riots and looting. So far, Oklahoma has been able to keep the lid on and I pray that they continue to do so. We can probably thank Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany, for her calm, yet determined demeanor in part of keeping the peace. However, just look back at the riots in Ferguson (MO) and other communities, and look what’s happening right now in Charlotte (NC). Both black community members and police of all colors are nervous when meeting in strange circumstances.

Who knows what the outcome will be in Tulsa. I can only hope that Shelby does not become the singular sacrificial lamb of a police officer. If that’s the case, it’s merely another example of sexism in America.

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“How’re ya doin’?”

“Terrific, thanks; how about you?”

(No answer, but…) “Well, you’re lookin’ terrific!”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? I told this person I was “terrific,” and he looked at me like I’m some kind of liar. If I was doin’ shitty, I’d tell him, “I’m doin’ shitty,” so what’s the big deal. Does he want me to say that my back hurts like a son-of-a-bitch because all of the lumbar vertebrae are self-fused and they can’t even get a bloody needle in to give me an epidural anymore? That my back is so bad that I now have to use a cane to ensure my balance? That there’s no cartilage in either of my knees and when I walk, I can hear the bones rubbing together? That the doctors tell me I wouldn’t survive the anesthesia required for knee replacements? Is that what he wants?

I’ve stopped telling people how old I am when they ask. “Old enough to know better, but still young enough to learn,” has become my standard mantra. It’s either that or “Old enough to know not to make the mistakes of my youth,” that’s another one I’ve used.

I sometimes think that people ask how old you are so they can feel better about themselves. The one that really gets my goat is some young stud or ‘studdess’ telling me they hope they can do what I do when they’re my age. Screw that; I do what I do because I’m not quite ready to kick the bucket yet, and this exercise shtick is what the doctors say will help to keep me out of the crematorium. Someone asks if I’m feeling all right and follows up with, “You look kind of pale.” I just tell them I’m feeling a bit ‘ashy.’ They never get it, but it gives me a pretty good chuckle…at their expense…you don’t have something nice to say to me, shut the f..k up; I don’t need to hear it…particularly at five in the morning.

I’ve learned that there is a singular advantage to using the cane. People hold doors for me, and even old ladies who can walk without aid will defer to me as I enter the gym. At home, I often leave the cane and walk around unaided. Then I bump into a wall or a piece of furniture and remember that the cane is used for a reason…yep, you’re right…not the brightest bulb on Broadway!

I’ve noticed, in my dotage, that I get more hugs from young women than I used to. I figure they don’t think I’m any threat to them any more. They’re right, of course, but oh lord, does it ever bring back fond memories of yesteryear. Hell, I wasn’t a threat to them even then…married at 22, father of three ten years later…I never had the time or the desire to be a threat.

You see, the way I look at things now is this: I have coronary artery disease, but I’ve survived the first four heart attacks and now have six stents in the arteries around the heart. I had an aneurysm in my abdomen that one of the doctors caught before it burst, but it was purely by accident that he discovered it…whew. I say “whew,” because abdominal aneurysms are the tenth leading cause of death in this country…yeah, I was surprised too. I smoked cigarettes for 51 years and have moderate emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to show for it…but it could be a whole helluva lot worse. I’ve managed to get by with nearly 20 surgeries to my credit, and if it’s all the same to those who care, I’d just as soon not have to go through any more. Although I must admit that Versed, one of the anesthetics being used today, is fantastic because it blocks out your memory and is great on pain…yippee Skippy!

The latest episode in this medical autobiography is the one that I guess I’ve been dreading for years. I was recently diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes. I don’t know how fast this disease progresses, but for someone whose two great loves are reading and writing, this comes as something akin to a good hard kick in the…backside. However, like everything else, this storm can be weathered. There are always books on tape – I can become a better listener than a reader – and my little blog is so filled with errors that it just means Juli will have to add proofreader to her already endless list of things I ask her to do on a daily basis…as I say, the blog will have a few more errors. I’m certain of this because I know exactly where she’ll tell me to go if I ask her to proofread. Since that may well be my ultimate destination, I don’t wish to encourage more people than necessary to tell me to “do it now!”

Well, that about sums it up from this side of the bar stool. Keep those comments coming. It’s always nice to hear what’s going on in the world of reality.

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“Didn’t we?”

“I mean…weren’t we?”

But he couldn’t finish the sentence. It just wouldn’t come to the front of his mind. He knew what he wanted to ask, but he just couldn’t remember the words. It’s not as if it happened on a daily basis. Lately, however, it did seem to be happening a bit more frequently.

“Am I losing my mind?” he wondered to himself, adding, “Maybe I’m just getting old.”

Forgetfulness, memory loss, whatever you wish to call it, has happened to all of us. We misplace our keys, we remember how great a movie was but can’t think of the title, and so on. In my own case, I’m constantly looking for my phone. Of course, that’s easily solved by calling it, which means I’m fine as long as Juli has her phone turned on! While lapses in memory can be extremely frustrating, they are not generally a concern for [us] older adults.

According to the web site, Health Guide, “As we grow older, we experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in brain functions we’ve always taken for granted. It takes longer to learn and recall information. We’re not as quick as we used to be. In fact, we often mistake this slowing of our mental processes for true memory loss. But in most cases, if we give ourselves time, the information will come to mind. Memory loss is not an inevitable part of the aging process. The brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age, so significant memory loss is not an inevitable result of aging. But just as it is with muscle strength, you have to use it or lose it. Your lifestyle, health habits, and daily activities have a huge impact on the health of your brain. Whatever your age, there are many ways you can improve your cognitive skills, prevent memory loss, and protect your grey matter.”

I can’t say whether exercise increases blood flow to the brain, but I find that on those days when I have had a good workout, I feel sharper in my mental functioning. Of course it often happens that I’ll leave my cane somewhere – yes, I now have a cane – and a couple of hours later wonder where I left the damned thing. One day recently, I was talking to someone I’ve known for over 20 years and I completely forgot her name for a few minutes…talk about frightening yourself! These things, I’m told, can be considered a normal part of aging and not dementia-related. Recently, a nurse practitioner came to the house. It’s a part of my health plan that she drops in once a year. During our conversation, I reminded her that in 2015, she had asked me to think about three words. She did this at the beginning of our conversation and approximately an hour later asked me to repeat them. This year, as we were chatting, I asked, “Are you going to ask me to remember apple, penny, and table again?” She was somewhat taken aback, but laughed. “Guess your memory’s okay,” she said.

Let us suppose, however, that my memory or that of our hypothetical man mentioned above is a sign of dementia. How do we know which is which is which. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which may or may not lead to some form of dementia, occurs when someone cannot recall recent events, gets lost or continually misplaces objects. Other signs include personality changes, trouble expressing what one is thinking, and difficulty completing problem solving or complex tasks, such as managing a budget or doing one’s banking. We still may be able to function without assistance but with mild dementia.

Going back to the Health Guide, “The primary difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that the former isn’t disabling. The memory lapses have little impact on your daily performance and ability to do what you want to do. Dementia, on the other hand, is marked by a persistent, disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment, and abstract thinking.”

Now comes the sixty-four dollar question…when is it time to become worried about whether you have dementia or are just getting old? The answer is really quite simple, however, you have to be honest with yourself and with those around you. If you or someone close to you expresses concern about your forgetfulness or your inability to do things that once came naturally to you, it’s time to check with your doctor.

Before I go any further, let me explain something: Dementia is any one of a group of diseases that cause memory loss as well as degeneration of other mental functions. The key word there is ‘disease.’ Health Line notes that “Dementia occurs due to physical changes in the brain and is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. For some people, dementia progresses rapidly, while it takes years to reach an advanced stage for others. The progression of dementia depends greatly on the underlying cause of the dementia. While people will experience the stages of dementia differently, most people with dementia share some of the symptoms.”

I’ve put this piece together because I have a couple of friends with differing forms of dementia. While it’s sad to watch the deterioration, my friends’ families saw things happening early on. In that way they were able to plan for how care would be given and there were no surprises. Please don’t assume that I’m trying to pass myself off as some kind of authority on the subject. It was of sufficient interest to me that I did a bit of research. If you have concerns about a parent or a friend, I invite you to do as I have done, and check out the many authoritative sites that deal with mental health.

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A Third Party choice

I like choice, whether it’s going to lunch where I have a choice of restaurants and the meals they serve, or going into a clothing store and selecting precisely what I want, choice matters a great deal to me. In fact, I took an early retirement rather than work for someone with whom I did not agree. Over the decades, I have chosen to vote for Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Mike Dukakis, Barack Obama, and so on and so forth. In every presidential election there has always been one candidate who, in my mind, personified what I wished to see in a commander-in-chief and leader of the free world. This year, in this election, the two main parties have selected to run people who are the antithesis of my own beliefs. As a consequence, I have turned to a third party as my party of choice in this November’s Presidential election. Please, please, stop reading right now if you have already made a decision between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. From this point onward, I will be outlining the position on the issues of my third party candidate. If you, like me, feel that the Democratic and Republican parties have failed us, read on.

On foreign policy…“The objective of both our foreign policy and our military should be straightforward: To protect us from harm and to allow us to exercise our freedoms. Looking back over the past couple of decades, it is difficult to see how the wars we have waged, the interventions we have conducted, the lives sacrificed, and the trillions of tax dollars we have spent on the other side of the globe have made us safer. If anything, our meddling in the affairs of other nations has made us less safe. Many senior military and foreign policy analysts have concluded that the rise of ISIS can actually be traced back to instability created by our meddling in the affairs of others. This is because the last several administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have used our military resources to pursue undemocratic regime changes, embark on impossible nation-building exercises, and to establish the United States as the policeman of the world. This imperialistic foreign policy makes it easier for ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other violent extremists to recruit new members. We need to build a strong military. But we should not use our military strength to try to solve the world’s problems. Doing so creates new enemies and perpetual war. Besides, we have enough problems to solve right here at home.

“Gary Johnson will move quickly and decisively to cut off the funding on which violent extremist armies depend. He will repair relationships with our allies. And he will only send our brave soldiers to war when clearly authorized by Congress after meaningful, transparent deliberation and debate. The idea that we can defeat terrorism by simply putting more boots on the ground or dropping more bombs ignores the reality that this expensive tactic simply hasn’t worked. In fact, it’s made the situation worse.”

On immigration…”Having served as Governor of a border state, Johnson knows the complex issues associated with immigration reform first hand. Solving immigration problems is not as easy as building a wall or simply offering amnesty. We should appreciate and respect the diversity of immigrants that come to the United States to be productive members of society. But we also need to recognize that everyone who comes here is not so well-intentioned. Johnson [and his vice presidential partner] Bill Weld don’t want to build an expensive and useless wall. The only thing a big wall will do is increase the size of the ladders, the depth of the tunnels, and the width of the divisions between us. Candidates who say they want to militarize the border, build fences, and impose punitive measures on good people, ground their position in popular rhetoric, not practical solutions. Johnson and Weld believe that, instead of appealing to emotions and demonizing immigrants, we should focus on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society. Making it simpler and more efficient to enter the United States legally will provide greater security than a wall by allowing law enforcement to focus on those who threaten our country, not those who want to be a part of it.”

On taxes…”Today’s federal tax code does all the wrong things. It penalizes productivity, savings and investment, while rewarding inefficiency and designating winners and losers according to political whim. For far too long, tax laws have been used not just as a means to collect needed revenues, but as a way for special interests to penalize their competitors while subsidizing themselves. The result is a tax code that is more than 70,000 pages long, enforced by a government agency with almost 100,000 employees. As a result, our tax code has created a nightmare for the average American, while providing shelter for those with the means to manipulate it. Johnson advocates for the elimination of special interest tax loopholes, to get rid of the double-taxation on small businesses, and ultimately, the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn. Such a tax would be structured to ensure that no one’s tax burden for the purchase of basic family necessities would be increased. To the contrary, costs of necessities would likely decrease with the elimination of taxes already included in the price of virtually everything we buy. Many leading economists have long advocated such a shift in the way we are taxed, and Gary Johnson believes the time has come to replace our current tax code, which penalizes the savings, productivity and investment we so desperately need.”

On our criminal justice system…”How is it that the United States, the land of the free, has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world? The answer is simple: Over time, the politicians have “criminalized” far too many aspects of people’s personal lives. The failed War on Drugs is, of course, the greatest example. Well over 100 million Americans have, at one time or another, used marijuana. Yet, today, simple possession and use of marijuana remains a crime — despite the fact that a majority of Americans now favor its legalization. And who is most harmed by the War on Drugs? Minorities, the poor, and anyone else without access to high-priced attorneys. More generally, mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses and other efforts by politicians to be “tough” have removed far too much common-sense discretion from judges and prosecutors. These factors, combined with the simple fact that we have too many unnecessary laws, have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails, too many undeserving individuals saddled with criminal records, and a seriously frayed relationship between law enforcement and those they serve. Fortunately, a growing number of state and local governments are taking steps toward meaningful criminal justice reform. The federal government must do the same, and Gary Johnson is committed to bringing real leadership to this long-overdue effort.”

On the environment…”The environment is a precious gift and must be protected. Governors Johnson and Weld believe strongly that the first responsibility of government is to protect citizens from those who would do them harm, whether it be a foreign aggressor, a criminal — or a bad actor who harms the environment upon which we all depend. We need to stand firm to protect our environment for our future generations, especially those designated areas of protection like our National Parks. Consistent with that responsibility, the proper role of government is to enforce reasonable environmental protections. Governor Johnson did that as Governor, and would do so as President. Johnson believes the Environmental Protection Agency, when focused on its true mission, plays an important role in keeping the environment and citizens safe. Johnson does not, however, believe the government should be engaging in social and economic engineering for the purpose of creating winners and losers in what should be a robust free market. Preventing a polluter from harming our water or air is one thing. Having politicians in Washington, D.C., acting on behalf of high powered lobbyists, determine the future of clean energy innovation is another. In a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded, consumers, innovators, and personal choices will do more to bring about environmental protection and restoration than will government regulations driven by special interests. Too often, when Washington, D.C. gets involved, the winners are those with the political clout to write the rules of the game, and the losers are the people and businesses actually trying to innovate. When it comes to global climate change, Johnson and Weld believe that the politicians in Washington, D.C. are having the wrong debate. Is the climate changing? Probably so. Is man contributing to that change? Probably so. But the critical question is whether the politicians’ efforts to regulate, tax and manipulate the private sector are cost-effective – or effective at all. The debate should be about how we can protect our resources and environment for future generations. Governors Johnson and Weld strongly believe that the federal government should prevent future harm by focusing on regulations that protect us from real harm, rather than needlessly costing American jobs and freedom in order to pursue a political agenda.

On education…”Gary Johnson worked tirelessly as governor to have a more substantive discussion about the best way to provide a good education for our children. He did so while working with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and despite fierce opposition from powerful special interests. Knowing full well that the establishment would resist calls for change, he nevertheless advocated a universally available program for school choice. Competition, he believes, will make our public and private educational institutions better. Most importantly, Governor Johnson believes that state and local governments should have more control over education policy. Decisions that affect our children should be made closer to home, not by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. That is why he believes we should eliminate the federal Department of Education. Common Core and other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools are costly, overly bureaucratic, and actually compromise our ability to provide our children with a good education. Johnson and Weld believe that the key to restoring education excellence in the U.S. lies in innovation, freedom, and flexibility that Washington, D.C. cannot provide.

On abortion…”Johnson’s approach to governing is based on a belief that individuals should be allowed to make their own choices in their personal lives. Abortion is a deeply personal choice. Johnson has the utmost respect for the deeply-held convictions of those on both sides of the abortion issue. It is an intensely personal question, and one that government is ill-equipped to answer. On a personal level, Gary Johnson believes in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. As Governor, he supported efforts to ban late-term abortions. However, Johnson recognizes that the right of a woman to choose is the law of the land, and has been for several decades. That right must be respected and despite his personal aversion to abortion, he believes that such a very personal and individual decision is best left to women and families, not the government. He feels that each woman must be allowed to make decisions about her own health and well-being and that the government should not be in the business of second guessing these difficult decisions. Johnson feels strongly that women seeking to exercise their legal right must not be subjected to prosecution or denied access to health services by politicians in Washington, or anywhere else.

On the national debt…”By 2017, the national debt will be $20 TRILLION. That is not just obscene, it is unsustainable — and arguably the single greatest threat to our national security. Responsibility for the years of deficit spending that has created our debt crisis rests squarely with BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats. The debt doubled under President George W. Bush — and doubled again under President Obama. During that time, both parties enjoyed control of Congress, and the deficit spending just kept piling up. It doesn’t have to be that way, despite what the politicians say. But the idea that we can somehow balance the federal budget without cutting military spending and reforming entitlements is fantasy. What is required is leadership and political courage. As Governor of a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, Gary Johnson stood up to excess spending, vetoed 750 bills and literally thousands of budget line items … and balanced the state’s budget. Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.

On veteran’s rights…”Gary Johnson believes strongly that we have a solemn obligation to honor those who have fought for us, sacrificed for us, and put their lives on the line to defend our great nation. When it comes to fulfilling that obligation, there can be no equivocation. For. Johnson, honoring our veterans begins with a pledge that those serving in the military today will only be asked to go into harm’s way for clear, defined and justified reasons. The men and women of our armed forces signed up and swore an oath to protect and defend the United States – and that is precisely the mission they will have with Gary Johnson as Commander-in-Chief. They will not be sent to risk their lives just because politicians decide to topple a foreign government — with no clear U.S. interest in doing so or plan for what comes next. Our military will not be asked to engage in nation-building or to somehow resolve conflicts on the other side of the globe that have defied resolution for hundreds of years. The men and women of our military will only be asked to protect and defend the United States – and to do so with a firm understanding of the objective. For our veterans who have served and returned to civilian life, many with injuries and emotional scars, Johnson pledges to provide them with the health care, support and transitional assistance they deserve – and rightfully expect. First, Johnson will put health care choices where they belong: With veterans themselves. While there are many dedicated, caring professionals working in VA facilities, the bureaucracy of the VA is more concerned with its own perpetuation than with providing veterans with the care they need. That must be corrected NOW.

“From elder care to PTSD to the specific health challenges of women who have served in uniform, veterans have a wide range of urgent needs. For some, the VA medical system is the best or only option. That system must function efficiently, provide timely care, and meet the standards we would expect for our own family members. For those who need care from private physicians or hospitals, that option must be available. A strong believer in the power of competition and the marketplace, Gary Johnson will bring that power to bear in the provision of care to our veterans. Likewise, as many veterans’ organizations have asked, Johnson will remove outdated federal obstacles to the testing and use of medical cannabis to treat PTSD and other conditions for which it has shown promise. Likewise, Johnson understands the challenges faced by many veterans in their transition to civilian life and careers. The discipline and skills earned from military service are of tremendous value to many employers, but Gov. Johnson believes it is part of our moral contract with those who have served to not only maintain the GI Bill, but to enhance public-private partnerships designed to match veterans’ skills with the career choices they wish to make. Johnson also understands that family support, counseling and other tools for helping veterans deal with their unique challenges are essential. Homelessness, substance abuse, and yes, suicide are all-too frequent among veterans as they re-enter civilian life – and our obligation to support those who have served does not end when they sign their discharge papers. Behind our veterans are spouses, children and parents who have sacrificed much, and Governor Johnson recognizes and appreciates those sacrifices. The men and women of our military give us their best — and deserve no less in return.

On legalizing marijuana…”Legalizing and regulating marijuana will save lives and make our communities safer by eliminating crime and creating an industry that can legitimately participate in America’s economy. The Federal government should not stand in the way of states that choose to legalize marijuana. Governors Johnson and Weld would remove cannabis from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which will allow individual states to make their own decisions about both recreational and medical marijuana — just as they have done for decades with alcohol. Eliminating the Federal government as an obstacle to state legalization decisions is not only constitutionally sound, but would allow much-needed testing of marijuana for medical purposes, as well as regulation that reflects individual states’ values and needs. We need to treat drug abuse as a health issue, not a crime.

“The War on Drugs is an expensive failure. We spend money to police it. We spend money to incarcerate nonviolent offenders. And what do we get in return? A society that kicks our troubled mothers, fathers, and young adults while they’re down, instead of giving them the tools to be healthier and more productive members of society. We can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars by simply changing our approach to drug abuse. That is why Gary Johnson came out as an early proponent on the national stage in 1999 while Governor of New Mexico, and publicly stated his support of marijuana legalization. Johnson and Weld do not support the legalization of other recreational drugs that are currently illegal. It is, however, their belief that drug rehabilitation and harm-reduction programs result in a more productive society than incarceration and arrests for drug use.”

Okay, so Gary Johnson didn’t know where Aleppo was, I’ve had a few brain freezes in my own time. But, there you have it. I don’t consider that I will be wasting my vote. I just want to make a statement. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump have just scared the daylights out of me. I’ve listened to Gary Johnson speak, and I’ve worked with Bill Weld on occasion. Their positions on issues agree with my own and therefore, they have earned my support for their candidacy.

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