Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

I am a man, just a man. I bear the burdens of all other men. I have the flaws of all other men. And yes, I even have some of the assets, skills, and intelligence of all other men. I have seen my grandparents die, and I loved them both. I have watched cancer kill my Dad, and I loved him. I loved my Mother, but we had quarreled over a period of time, and I was not there when she died. I watched my wife die at home of the same disease that killed my father. I loved my wife as only a spouse can over a fifty plus year period. I still speak to her every night as I’m quite certain other spouses speak to their own loved ones who are deceased. Love is love is love, and loss is loss is loss.

There is one loss that I have not experienced, nor do I believe I could ever survive. It’s the loss of a child. Yes, Joan and I lost three children before our first was born. However, these were miscarriages. We never knew our child or even its gender. Our first is now in her fifties and has three of her own. Our second is a year behind her, and he and his spouse have three of their own. Our youngest is also blessed with three. If any of these twelve people died, I know I would soon follow. The spouses? Yeah, they’re great, but they aren’t mine. My children are mine. My grandchildren, strange as it may sound, are mine…and I would die.

Where am I going with this? I’m going where, perhaps, I should have gone a long time ago. We see on television and in the newspapers that this 16-year old was killed walking on the railroad tracks, and we, or at least I, wonder, “What the hell was he doing walking on railroad tracks…oh, well.” And I think little more about it. Then my eldest calls and asks if I saw the news. “Oh, shit,” I think, and she goes on to explain that he was the only child of a young woman I knew very well when she was a student. She goes on to explain that the boy’s uncle and his wife were at dinner with my daughter just a couple of nights before. I knew the uncle, too, as a student. Then it dawns…what are these people going through? What could possibly be said to comfort them? The answer, of course, is nothing. There is nothing you can say to someone who has lost a child. There is no “closure,” oh God, how I hate that word. “Closure” implies to me that something good is going to come of what happened. A child is dead, not just that, but in this case, an only child, and I sincerely doubt there will be another for this family. What will they do? What can they do? How the hell will they get through the rest of their lives together? Will this make their bond stronger or will it turn into a blame game ending in divorce and two more lives destroyed? Pause for a moment and consider this…every time, this young couple sees a train while they’re out driving, every time they hear the mournful whistle of a train as they are going to bed or getting up in the morning, they will probably be reminded of their son’s untimely death. Not a particularly pleasant thought, is it, to have such an obvious reminder of this terrible tragedy.

If this is all too morbid for you taste, tune out now because I’m just getting started. Over 20 years ago, friends of this same eldest daughter lost their first born to SIDS. He was under a year old. I had held that child and then he was gone. I guess I was just trying to be a good Dad when I accompanied my children to the funeral. I remember thinking that I was going to have to be the ‘good’ one, the one who held my family tight as the funeral progressed. Pall bearers carried the tiny white casket to the front of the church. The Mass began. Everything was fine. My kids were weeping and I had my arms around their shoulders in comfort. “Stay strong,” I remember repeating to myself, even though I was fully aware of just how close I was to not staying very strong. Then a soprano in the balcony began to sing Michael Joncas’ On Eagles Wings. That was the end of my ‘stay strong’ period. It’s one of my favorite hymns, and, frankly, I fell apart. When the service ended, it was my kids propping me up as we made our way to the car.

Children who die before adulthood, think of what the parents have actually lost. There will be no pictures of high school or college graduations. There will be no pride of having a son or daughter join the military because it’s something they had always dreamed of doing. For Dads, there will be no walking her down the aisle or the joy of seeing him standing at an altar, watching his life partner walk toward him. There will be no grandchildren to love and to hold…and, of course, to spoil rotten. No, all of those things will be denied, and that means that the word, “closure,” is a nothing word. It connotes nothing to the parents who have lost everything.

Perhaps this is my way of saying that I will never, ever, take the loss of a child quite the same again. Whether it’s because the kid was speeding and he/she survived while others were killed, or because all were killed because the 17-year old had found someone to buy booze and was drunk at the wheel. It just doesn’t matter. It’s a child or children who are lost and cannot be reclaimed. The SIDS death mentioned above was, in its own way, favorable in that the couple went on to have two more kids who are now young adults, but that’s just not always the case. So whether it’s a child shot in a drive-by, or a teenager who overdoses on fentanyl, it’s still a child who is lost to this world, and that’s a burden that you or I never wish to shoulder. To every family who has ever lost a child, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that it took me so many years to understand the depth of your loss.” May the Good Lord find other ways to bring positive blessings into your lives.

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Let’s play a game. Well, it’s not so much of a game as it is I ask questions and you answer them, okay? Some people would say this is foolish, but what do they know? You and I both know that this could be a very interesting game. Of course, there is one slight problem. I am dependent on you being truthful in your answers and you are dependent on my not exposing your answers. This last is probably not so much of a problem since you aren’t going to tell me your answers anyway, right?

Before we begin the game, I’m going to make some unwarranted assumptions about you as a person. The first assumption I’m making is that you’re a reasonably good and honest person. The goodness part comes from the assumption that you haven’t killed anyone during this part of your lifetime – other lifetimes we won’t worry about right now, but for this one, you’re in good shape. The honest part, that’s entirely up to you. You have to make your decision regarding that. The second assumption that I will make is that you believe in some form of Deity. Call it God, Adonai, Allah, or whatever. I have no idea what the little boy on some faraway island, who worships that rock perched on a stone calls that rock, but he does believe; that’s all I’m asking.  My third assumption would be that you have a working knowledge and a feeling that there just might be something like a Heaven and a Hell…like your mother went to Heaven and Hitler went to hell type of thing…we still together on this stuff?

There are many more assumptions that I could make about your relationship with an all-knowing and all-powerful Being. Frankly, I’m a New Testament kind of guy, and therefore, I believe in a loving and merciful God. If not, I guess I’m up to my ass in alligators and I have no idea where the plug is to drain the swamp.

Ah, the game. Okay, let us begin. When you die, this shell you call a body is left behind for others to do with what they will. Question one; When does your ‘soul’ leave your body? Next, what happens to your soul after it leaves your body; part two of this; does it go somewhere on its own or is it escorted. Does your soul go straight to Heaven or Hell or is there a stopping off spot. Let me give you an example here: Picture a huge waiting room in a railroad station or airport…without all of the shops. If we assume that Heaven is above and Hell is below…a highly unwarranted assumption by the way…then you just know that people like Mother Teresa, several of the 20th Century Popes and a few others are a shoo-in for the Heaven express. On the other side are several Saudi Princes, Idi Amin, Genghis Khan, and others which you may feel free to consider. Think of it as their plane or train has no seats and they don’t get an in-flight movie or a free drink. Somewhere in the middle is where you and I remain. We don’t yet know whether we’re bound for Heaven or “The Other Place.” Is this place Purgatory? Who is to say? Let’s just call it a way station on our route to where Washington and Lincoln might reside or where Jack the Ripper and Bonnie and Clyde might have residence.

So, here you are…no, there’s really only one question left, but we’ll get to that. There is a large curtain at one end of the station and people move right along. Each person appears to have an escort on their right side. The escorts aren’t there; then they are. You notice that they are all, well most of them, very similar in appearance. The people who enter don’t come out, but just keep moving in. Only the escorts come out. You get in the line – not much else going on here so this must be the place. As you near the curtain, an escort appears at your right arm. He/She/It – it defies gender specification. The escort smiles but says nothing. As you enter, another escort – definitely a woman, a most attractive woman, asks your name. You politely tell her, and you are told to go to the left. It’s at this time that you first notice all of the others who have come through the curtain are male souls. You don’t know how you know this; you just do [if you are a female reader, reverse the gender; after all, I’m the male writer here]. You board what appears to be an airplane. There is no sound. You just know that the plane is moving; that you are in some kind of seat, and that all around you is peace. If asked to define what you mean, you know that words would fail you. It’s just…there.

Soon, you, too, are ‘there,’ wherever that happens to be. Now you find yourself in another station, this one smaller and more beautifully appointed. A different escort appears at your arm and indicates that you are to follow her; yeah, this, too, is an attractive woman. What you notice more than her beauty is her gentleness. There is a ‘goodness’ about her that makes you feel very much at ease. You sit for a while; then she guides you toward a door. With just a smile and a gesture, she bids you to enter and then she disappears. Inside the room is a chair facing out into nothingness. You sit…and you sit…and you sit. As you do so, the scene before you changes. It varies from day to night; from sunshine to stormy, dark skies. It changes from emptiness to children in a field, to young lovers walking hand in hand though autumn leaves; an elderly couple makes their way along a snowy path; a plane crash, and you try to scream a warning as a man shoots another. This is all more real than a movie. It’s beautiful and it becomes horrific and back to pleasant. A man walks toward you and sits down opposite…you never saw another chair…was it there before?

“You are a decent person,” the man says. “Why are you here?”

Oh, boy, there is the question of all time, ‘Why am I here?’

You have no idea where you are. You have no idea whether you are in a good place or a bad place. This calls into question every part of your life, and your life begins to play before your eyes…the times when you lied; the times when you gave blood for a friend; the times when you cheated on an exam; the time your child made you so mad that you slapped him; the time you lost your job and yes, the time when you received a promotion in your new job; the time you just knew that he/she was the one; the birth of your first child; the loss of your loved one. All of these images are indelibly imprinted on that space before you.

You respond “………………………………………………….”

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Aha, oho, eureka, and all that good ‘stuff;’ here we are back in the time of William “The Bard of Avon” Shakespeare once more. This time we are listening to Puck, that mischievous elf from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as he decries, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” We will not criticize, dramatize, synthesize, or even analyze what he is actually saying [about the lovers], but the pintsized elf makes a damned good point.

It appears that ever since we learned to rise up and walk on two feet – thereby negating the need for Johnson & Johnson band aids for the hands – man has been behaving foolishly throughout history. Take fire for example; you just know that some damned fool was going to cook his hand or foot before he discovered that it was a pretty good thing over which to cook dinner or into which one could toss enemies. We think the smokers of today, who flick their cigarettes out the window and into the forest, thus causing the destruction of tens of thousands of acres, are spawn of the south end of a horse going north; it’s a wonder that earth survived the first fire users. Doesn’t it make you wonder if anyone ever tried to eat a burning stick…oy, oy, oy!

I like to picture the person who invented the wheel, standing at the top of a hill, ready to test this new thing. At the bottom of the hill is his buddy, getting ready to stop it from rolling on forever. The only problem with this is that the wheel is made of stone. It may weigh fifty pounds; it may weigh 500; it doesn’t matter. This mortal at the bottom will receive a very rude awakening when he steps in front of this stone wheel to stop it…clunk. While the steamroller – not Mannheim – would come about several hundreds of Centuries later, we must assume that the mortal at the bottom of the hill was, indeed, a flattened fool and that this was not exactly a “eureka moment” for him.

Who was the first mortal fool who had the idea to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Adventure, no; foolish, yes, but in 1901 Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to successfully ‘barrel’ down the falls and survive. Annie was hoping that this misadventure would bring her fame and fortune…and it did…for a while. However, she died a pauper twenty years later. For those who read Remember Who?, it answers one of your questions.

Walter Camp is considered to be the “Father of American Football.” I think it’s quite possible that if Camp were alive today, he would echo Puck in declaring those who play the game to be fools of the first order. I say this with all love and affection for watching the game on television. Those who declare, “Oh but you don’t get the true feeling for the game if you’re not there!” Thank you very much, but I can probably see the game much better, not to mention the fact that I’m not freezing my ass off or sitting so high in the stands that the players look like ants and that the only way to differentiate the teams is by the colors of the uniforms. While the fools in the NCAA and the NFL are coming to understand the price that players pay, it certainly doesn’t appear that they are willing to make changes to protect these players. America is a violent country and football an exceedingly violent athletic event.

Nowhere is a person viewed to be more a fool of the first order than when he or she decides to run for a political office that will take him or her to Washington, D.C. for the performance of her or his duties. Time and time and time again, politicians publically demonstrate the truth of the hypothesis that those who want the job the most are those who are most unqualified for it. After Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrated to 60 Minutes Charlie Rose the drone delivery program the company is working on, he went on to explain all of the complexities involved with FAA regulations among other issues. The next day, Massachusetts’ junior Senator Edward Markey spoke to the media explaining that the program could not hope to happen for years because of FAA regulations. Excuse me, Senator, but Mr. Bezos explained all of that on 60 Minutes. It’s just another case of a politician who would prefer to use his head for a cork for his butt rather than use it for intelligent analysis.

It was back in 1969  when Lawrence Peter and Raymond Hull first introduced the Peter Principle which, when defined, states, “The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence. … “ Following 40 plus years of employment in higher education, I can state without fear of contradiction that nothing could be closer to the truth. Friends who have worked in law, accounting, engineering, town governments, etc, ad infinitum have regaled various and sundry other friends with tales of remarkable stupidity…the classic being, “We never have time or money to do it right the first time, but we always find the time and the additional funds to do it over.”

Scientists constantly question whether or not there is intelligent life “out there.” Frankly, I have to agree with those who believe that there is, somewhere, in some galaxy, a life form that so far exceeds the intelligence they have already seen on this land of milk and honey that they believe we are beyond redemption; that we are neither trainable or educable and, therefore, decline at all costs our dreary attempts to contact them. Perhaps they echo Puck and say, “What fools these mortals be!”

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It’s no longer enjoyable to give or receive Christmas presents.

Like you, I think, I’m not crazy about Christmas promotions that begin sometime in late September. Also like you, I recognize that need for merchants to sell goods, make a profit, even create jobs to help keep the economy growing, but I truly believe pushing some of this crap that you never see advertised at any other time of year is just plain tacky, tacky, tacky. For example, when else do you find ‘Clapper’ ads being pushed so hard, or the plush animals with all of their pockets? Want to drink fizzy flavored water, buy the stream dream or whatever the hell they’re calling it this year? I must admit that Chia Pets don’t appear to be big this year, but energizer bunnies are getting another shot in the arm.

This year, Christmas ads are vying with health care promotions; thus, it would appear making it unnecessary for writers to develop scripts too complicated. While there may be rules and regulations regarding how many minutes of advertising can be crammed into an hour of programming, I get the gut feeling that those rules are suspended between Halloween and the Super Bowl.

The one market that has yet to be tapped by the advertising agencies or the manufacturers is the over 70 group. Since some are saying the, “Seventy is the new fifty,” there must be a Christmas market there somewhere.  You can’t really sell them a “year’s supply of…” anything because while you’re preaching youth to these folks, the fact of the matter is they could go anytime…and they know it. Since so many seniors are computer literate, selling board games (a) isn’t particularly profitable and (b) can easily be found as an “app” somewhere. Pushing a Nook or a Kindle also becomes a complex issue when dealing with seniors, most of whom will tell you they “…like the smell of paper and ink” that a book gives them, and what do you say in a thirty-second spot to counter that one. Gift cards are great but for how much? Is the degree of importance measured by the amount of a Walmart card? Not only is it a gift card – which shows just how little you think of me” – but to what store…”you know I never shop there” – which means you’re just going to regift the card anyway. Understand something very, very clearly: When you are searching for a gift for a senior citizen, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that you will screw up!

I sort of came to an agreement with my three kids years ago, after they were married and had children of their own…I won’t give to them and they don’t give to me. I will give only to the grandchildren and because I have no idea what they like – our ages being as separated as they are – I give money. Obviously, it can never be enough but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. If I have a rough year, they have a rough Christmas…my answer to their downturned-little-mouths is a very silent, “tough shit; get over it!”  I say that the agreement to give or not with the children versus grandchildren only, because the kids will sometimes try, but then, they don’t know my tastes, nor do they know that I really don’t need anything. I’d rather they put what money they spend on me into reducing their mortgage or buying something extra, like a good steak, for their refrigerator…”I don’t friggin’ need anything.” That’s not to say I have everything I want. Sure, I’d love the winter home in Boca or the Grand Caymans. The jet to get me there and back would also be nice, but who the hell is kidding whom. At my age, I like my bed at home; I don’t like flying anymore; and Boca in the winter is just as bad as it is in the summer – it’s God’s waiting room and who wanted to be reminded?

When Joan was alive, I would give a gift in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was her favorite charity. If you asked her why, she wouldn’t have been able to give you a good reason, but she loved what they were doing. She may have seen a story on television or something that impressed her. To me she would give a gift in my name to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to help benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. I have lost so many friends and family to that insidious disease that anything that can be done to find a cure makes me happy.

Christmas is a great Holiday. It’s also a great Holy Day. Sure, scholars can prove six ways to Sunday that Christ was not born on December 25th. I don’t care; that’s the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christian’s Lord and Savior. My rabbi next door and my Jewish friends at the gym all wish me a Merry Christmas and, tomorrow being the first day, I will wish them a Happy Chanukah. Our faiths may differ but I’d like to believe we all have faith. My prayers may be a bit longer around the Christmas Holiday, but that’s not to say that my faith is weaker throughout the rest of the year. It seems at Christmas I just like to spend a little more time talking to the Big Boss. Gifts don’t seem as important as prayers that He somehow help to unscrew this screwed up world.

My gift to myself is to watch White Christmas and a few other movies on that day. It’s a day when I cry some because Joan is no longer here to celebrate with me; and I cry some because I have a wonderful woman with whom to celebrate the holiday. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes right down to it. I pray that you feel lucky too.

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Can you imagine what it must be like to be a turkey this week? Figure it out; last month, the house where you live was filled to capacity. I mean, man, it was at the point of being really overcrowded, so much so that you even considered going to the farmer and letting him know if things didn’t clear up pretty soon, you were going to move. He must have heard your thoughts because over the past couple of weeks, the population has really shrunk.

When you got a peek outside one day recently, you were pretty damned happy you didn’t say anything to the farmer, not the way he and his buddies were handling those who, you guess, must have complained. I mean, it was bad enough that they picked them up by the legs and stuck their heads into a funnel, but when they brought them out without heads and let ‘em run around ‘til they dropped from exhaustion, that was just plain nasty.  And how about those others who got plopped into the boiling water and had their feathers plucked until they were nothing but skin and bones…can you imagine what they must have said to the farmer?

It’s really a pretty good thing that you didn’t complain. The coop – that’s what you and your friends call this place – is looking so empty you can see from one end to the other without seeing anyone you know; it’s actually kind of spooky, and all, especially with that Thanksgiving thing they all talk about coming up later in the week. You wonder if you’ll get some kind of special meal for that day. The way the farmer talks, it’s gonna be a big day for him.

Ah, here comes the farmer now. Wonder what he’s looking for; maybe it should be, “I wonder who he’s looking for?” It doesn’t matter to you; you’ve got plenty of room to move around in n…ow! Herbie, the farmer’s son, he’s got his hands all over you, and here comes the farmer. What the heck is he doing? Hey , he shouldn’t be grabbing your breast like that; doesn’t he know you’re not that kind of girl. I mean, you do have a pretty big breast, but I probably shouldn’t be telling you that. Uh-oh, they’re putting you in some kind of cage…now into the back of some kind of truck. Too bad you can’t see, it’s so dark in there. Hmm, that trough smells good…wow, that’s good grain, you think…better than the stuff you’re used to, and there’s even a water bottle attached – hey, watch the pot holes guys – a water bottle attached to the side of this boxy thing you’re in.

Oops, they’re opening the door…darn, that’s bright. Here comes Herbie. I hope he’s not taking you to that funnel thing. You look pretty good with your head on and everything. What’s that Herbie’s holding in his hand? That looks like the leash for the dog. Wait, he’s opening the boxy thing and putting the leash around your neck. What’s going on here anyway? No chance of escaping anywhere now, not with that leash around your neck. Well, if they’re gonna take you for a walk; if you’re going to that funnel thing, you’re going to walk tall; walk proud; walk with your big breast sticking out. Don’t scratch the ground; that’s what common turkeys do; you’re better than that.

Oh-oh, here comes an important looking group. You wonder how important they are. Hey, Herbie, get your hand off her ass…oh, sorry, you were just picking her up to put her on that table. One of the important people is stepping forward; don’t peck him for crying out loud; you might get your head put in the funnel if you do that. Okay, I can see it in your eyes; you’re wondering who the Black dude is with the lady and the two kids. Man, they are really manhandling you. What’s that man saying? Well how about that; he says they can’t kill – KILL; WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT KILL – wait a minute; calm down; this guy must be the head honcho around this farm; he says you can go back home with Herbie; he says he’s ‘rescuing’ – what’s that mean – he’s rescuing you from his table. You may not know what it means but everybody’s clapping – stick that breast out a little more, sister; you are top turkey in town; hot damn!

Oops, here comes Herbie again. Yeah, that’s right, grab her by the ass and walk her back to the boxy thing; in she goes. He’s taking off the leash and closing the gate. What now? I guess this means you’re going back to the farm and just hang around for another year. Funny, the trip home didn’t seem as long as the trip to that farm with the big white house on it. Okay, they’re fiddling with the door again. Here comes Herbie to take you back to that big coop. Wait a minute; that’s not the leashy thing; that’s a rope. He’s putting it around your legs, not your neck. Uh, he’s not heading for the barn; he’s heading toward that funnel thing.

Ouch…ooh, I bet that hurt.

I wonder what time dinner is on Thursday…yep, damn fine breast!

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“I have to take fuzzy britches out.”

“C’mon Muttley.”

“Hey Widge!”

“Let’s go dog.”

Cripes, it’s a wonder that the dog will come to you when you call it by its right name. Of course, if you happen to call the dog by its right name, you’d be breathless by the time you finished and the poor freakin’ dog wouldn’t know what the hell you were talking about!

Our new pup comes from a top breeder of Cairn Terriers. No one planned it that way. Our last two dogs have been Cairns and they’ve been wonderful. This one’s full American Kennel Club (AKC) name is – now get this – ‘Tin Top Cairn’s Winchedon’s Widget, Wicked Witch of the West,’ summarily named ‘Widget.’ It just fits; no, no, no, not the whole damned thing, but she is a Widget. For those of you ignorant of the origin of the name, Mr. Webster says…”a small gadget or mechanical device, especially one whose name is unknown or unspecified.” Okay, okay, so it doesn’t really fit; blame the breeder. She names her litters by the letter of the alphabet and this litter had to begin with ‘W.’ Therefore, for AKC purposes, her name had to begin with that letter. Then you have to take into account the fact that Winchendon is one of Juli’s favorite towns in Massachusetts and that her favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz – and with all those ‘W’s’ in there, Glenda just didn’t fit – and the naming process becomes exceedingly transparent…right?

Winchendon is a lovely little town….more on that later.

Anyway, as amazing as it may seem, Widget will come when called by name…the shorter version that is. She also knows what to do when you tell her to go to ‘poop hill.’ This really requires no edification, but is merely a dictate of the intelligence of Cairns in general and Widget in particular. It was difficult for me to teach her to ‘stay’ and ‘down;’ Juli, of course, had that down to a science the first time the dog attempted to become entangled in Juli’s legs as well as the first time the dog attempted to jump into her lap – Juli good dog trainer; Dick good chew toy, ugh!

It’s somewhat difficult to describe the manner in which the dynamic of the household has changed since we’ve gone from being dogless for six months to now having a pup – she’s now six months old – in the house. There is, however, a definite change. When I get up at 4:15 am to go to the gym, I do now speak or acknowledge Widget in any manner despite her whines of “I’ve been in this crate the whole night; my legs are crossed, I gotta go so badly. C’mon, bud, let me out.” There is a very good reason for me not to let her out to go or even to acknowledge her in any way. No, it has nothing to do with my cruel personality. Assume for a moment that there comes a day when I do not wish to go to the gym for whatever lazy excuse I may wish to use.  I do not wish to hear a Joe Lieberman whine – that’s what it sounds like – coming from the kitchen just because I elected not to stay in bed that day. It’s amazing what and how quickly dogs can learn…and no, I do not leave the kitchen light on when I leave! And yet, despite my refusal to acknowledge her as I leave, when I return and Juli has taken her out, her tail and entire body wag and wiggle at the sight of me. Perhaps it’s because she knows that if I’m wearing a hoodie, there will be treats in the muff.

I will grant that there are people who do not like dogs or cats or any pet at all. There are times when they are a colossal pain in the ass. Here in New England we seem to have a proclivity in the period between autumn and spring for things called blizzards. They can be extremely unpleasant and if one has to take one’s pet out of doors for biological reasons, the unpleasantness increases a hundred fold. When the pet has finished its ‘business,’ however, and said pet curls up in your lap or at your feet…you realize just how stupid you were not to dry its paws!

Oh, and about Winchendon…check out the town’s web site and stop expecting me to do all the work!

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“My children don’t speak to me.”

“Mother and I have grown farther apart as the children have gotten older.”

“Dad doesn’t want to see us anymore and goes into another room when we visit.”

“My kids don’t like my parents very much.”

If any of this sounds familiar, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for touching a nerve that is probably the same nerve over 75 percent of people have to one degree or another. I’m one of those 75 percenters so I know what you go through or have gone through. In defense of ‘us,’ however, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone. Maybe, just maybe, some people are able to control their feelings far better than those of us who are openly honest and candid. My own family breakup began when Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. Yes, you’d think that would be the time when the family would come together to help him with his struggle; it didn’t work out that way. He was pissed at the world – probably God, too – and I would say, from a psychiatrist’s point of view, that I became pissed at my father because I [erroneously] attributed my own smoking addiction to seeing a cigarette constantly in my father’s mouth. Oh hell, who am I kidding; there are probably millions of reasons that a psychiatrist could use to describe my schism with my family…jealousy over mother having another child when I was almost a teenager; Dad never being home because he worked a 3 to 11 shift at the shipyard; teachers who always told me that I wasn’t as good a student as my older sister; etc, etc, ad nauseum.

The kicker is that life is so short on the grand scale of things that we really shouldn’t have or take the time to be pissed off at any member of our family. We, each of us, inherit traits – good and bad – from those who have contributed to our birth and onward. Let the geneticists have a field day with that one, but I rather doubt they’ll even try. It’s probably beyond DNA strands to something even further removed in our human make up.

Attempting to define our familial relationships is akin to shoveling shit against the tide; sooner or later you’re going to find yourself swallowed up by the tide and you know what that’s gonna mean; you’ve got it. I don’t believe Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz, or Dr. Whatever can accurately determine what goes on in the human brain to cause us to act as we do.

Many efforts have been undertaken to determine why serial killers and these school, mall, and theater killers behave as they do. Brains have been scanned; frontal lobes probed and poked following death; interviews have been conducted with the living, and very little has been determined. Why should it be any different with family arguments that result in wounds that never heal?

Mother was really ticked off when I announced my intention to get married. My wife-to-be was several years older. I had just graduated from college. We were from different social strata. She was Catholic and I was Protestant. She was from Newton and I was from Rockland [as though the two were planets apart], and other equally ridiculous arguments that all fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until our first child was born that my parents seemed to take an interest in our ‘family.’  Ah, perhaps it was my rebellion in later years that created the chasm between us…who the hell knows? Perhaps that’s the wrong question; perhaps the question should be, “Why?” Why do we allow stupidity to get in the way of family? Family is what has created the ‘human condition’ as we call it. Defined, “The human condition encompasses the unique features of being human. It can be described as the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and innate to human beings and not dependent on factors such as gender, race or class.” What hogwash. The human condition is who and what we are and always will be. It is the good and the evil that is in each of us and what we become will depend entirely on which we find more attractive.

It seems to me that when it comes to family, we seem to find the evil more attractive in the long run. Certainly, there are exceptions to this rule, but if we are being “transparent” {that’s a new 21st Century buzzword], we have to admit that we have our own lives to live and our family is rarely a part of it. Why…Because our family’s life and our lives are not really compatible. To put it in terms that may be more easily understood…My parents grew up in the age of conversation; I grew up in the age of radio; my children grew up in the age of television; my grandchildren are growing up in the age telecommunication that is far beyond my scope of understanding. Kids are learning algebra in the second and third grades; kids in junior high are talking about quantum physics with a certain degree of clarity that I can’t even begin to understand. The times they are a changin’.

As a consequence of all of this, is it any wonder that families are torn apart. The only thing they can hold on to is what they shared in common way back when, and the younger generations don’t wish to look back. They want to look forward; to the future; to what lies ahead. And that attitude has become more common as the world shrinks. In my own case, I find that my children have become less tolerant of my [aberrant] behavior. They tell me they want me to be happy, but they want me to be happy on their terms; I prefer to be happy on terms that suit me.

I would offer this to all generations: Be happy with one another for what each has contributed to the other’s life. You will never share interests other than historical. Respect those interests and to hell with everything else. Youngsters…go your way; move forward and make a better world for yourselves and your children; rid the world of all of the evil that you see and take another step toward the Utopian existence you desire. Oldsters…let them go, but require the same of them; that they let you go and live your life the way you wish. They will learn; they will stub their collective toes along the way; they will add to our knowledge; and perhaps they will move the world forward on this front or that; wish them well in their endeavors; then sit back and pray for them. After all, in the final analysis, isn’t that what you did with your elders?

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This really sucked! The day and my mood were running along parallel tracks. As for the day, the temperature had dropped to somewhere in the low to mid-thirties from a high of about seventy the day before – that sucked – and the clouds were so low it looked like you could hit them with a rock. Drizzle interspersed with a few snowflakes reminded me that the better days of this year were far behind. If you can translate all of that into my mood, you might just understand that this wasn’t going to be one of the better days of my life. Even after turning the clocks back – daylight savings time was over; another indication of how dark things were becoming – I still slept an hour later than usual. Maybe I just didn’t want to face the prospect of apple juice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…not to overwork the word, but that also sucked.

Tomorrow is colonoscopy day…unplanned colonoscopy day. At my age you gotta figure that a few things are going to get somewhat fucked up with your body but when you haven’t had a bowel movement in over a month and the emergency room doc freely admits that you’re FOS, you just know that you’re in for a bad time to come a calling over the next week or so. In a telephone call the night before, my own doctor had suggested that I might want to get to the emergency room for an x-ray to see what was going on in my gut; I’d already told him that I hadn’t shat – is that really a word – in a month, but that just seemed to sail over his head; either that, or he wasn’t surprised that my blue eyes now had a brownish tint…who knows?

I went to the ER the next morning after my workout at the gym – a weak workout because of the way I felt – arriving just at shift change. Do you have any clue what happens at shift change in an emergency room? The doctors, nurses, and techs who have been there since the evening before want nothing more than to haul ass to the warmth of their beds, and the crew coming on wants nothing more than to hope that all of the ER beds are empty and remain that way. Thus, the former attempt to procrastinate bringing in a new patient for fear of getting stuck in the ER beyond their time, and the latter would like to have their ‘cuppa’ before they have to begin the day’s work. I’m kidding, of course, but I really did have to wait for about half an hour before I was taken to an ER bed.

First to my bed was a don’t-talk-to-me-I’m-not-awake-yet-nurse. She was nice enough I guess, yet largely lacking in a sense of humor. She never saw my eyes – so she didn’t notice the brown tint – because her face was glued to the clipboard she held while asking inane questions. She was followed by a fourth year medical student who asked the same questions – I guess they didn’t know one another – but with a sparkle in her blue eyes. Next came the doctor who, thankfully, was one I had known for ten years. We talked about his children, now 8, 6, and 3, and about my situation. He sent me for an x-ray that showed nothing of consequence and then he told me to check with a gastroenterologist – GI, not to be confused with a soldier by the same initials – as soon as possible. I guess I didn’t expect a whole hell of a lot more, but his ‘diagnosis’ certainly didn’t help my mood to any positive degree.

A visit to the gastroenterologist is always an experience. People in the waiting room avoid looking at one another because there’s something about having a problem with your asshole and upwards that creates a certain amount of embarrassment or tension or something. Thankfully, I was the only one in the waiting room when I walked in. The child behind the counter – she has two degrees and is working on a third – looked to be about ten years old, took me into an examining room and began asking the normal questions that one would be asked when they are FOS – you haven’t figured that one yet? It means full of shit, and surely, I am – and she was talking about these things as though she was asking about the weather. It’s difficult for older people to talk about these things with children whom they do not know and who appear so blasé about the whole thing. I was just thankful she didn’t tell me to drop my drawers while she stuck a finger up my butt…ouch…yuck…holy crap! “The doctor will be in in a minute,” she told me, rousing me from my horrific thoughts. Whew, just the memory of it leaves me weak.

The doctor is Swiss; he’s a wonderful man…funny, brilliant, and completely at ease with everyone. What the hell, he sees more assholes in a week than any of us do in our lifetime. He explained to me that my symptoms warranted an immediate colonoscopy. The thing is that you don’t walk into a doctor’s office and just have a colonoscopy. This is a process that requires preparation. The doctor indicated that the procedure would take place on Monday. He explained this as I was sitting in his office on Saturday. Guess what this means, sports fans? Tomorrow will be prep day; today in this case since this is when I’m at the computer. No food all day and at noon, the preparation will begin; twenty plus minutes ago since it is now 12:22, and I am already feeling the effects of having drunk ten ounces of citrate of magnesia.

Let me tell you about citrate of magnesia. This is not your normal Exlex, Dulcolax, Miralex, or any other ‘lax’ which you may have taken. If you can picture swallowing a very large fire cracker to break the dam, while having a cherry bomb explode just inside your butt, you have some sense of citrate of magnesia. It is a nuclear weapon as compared to a BB gun….and you have to drink thirty ounces of this stuff [I was going to say “shit” but that would be overkill]. In addition, you should know that this stuff is not your gentle, stool softening agent that works overnight. Oh, no…I’m back at the computer now having just launched the first of many citrate of magnesia bombs into the bottom of the porcelain war god. I told you this stuff was fast.

The frequent trips to the toilet will continue throughout the afternoon and evening. Eventually, I will crawl into bed, wearing Depends and praying that being in a horizontal position will prevent any accidents. I know, however, having been down this road before, that sleep will not come easy. Tomorrow morning – the procedure is scheduled for 1:30 pm – I will further prep by drinking have a gallon of slime known in the trade as “Go-lightly.” What a horrible fucking name! And I must do this before 9:30…aaarrrggghhh!

End of part I…

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Have you ever tried to assess your life? You know…you sit back, take a look at what you’re doing and the degree to which it is in keeping with your life’s wishes and desires? I’m not certain that any of us – change that to not to many of us – ever take the time to reflect on where we are; how we got here; and whether or not it’s actually where we want to be. There may be a day here and there when we might say to ourselves, “Oh crap, how did I get into this mess,” or “Wow, life really doesn’t get any better than this; why can’t I bottle it?” Those are days. In the overall, they are few and far between.

A couple of weeks ago I became 79 years old. When some idiot says, “Oh, you’re 79 years young,” I tend to resort to the great Joan Rivers line, “Yeah, and your 250 pounds light” [always exaggerate their weight by a minimum of 50 pounds]. Where did those years come from? What has happened during all that time? Am I happy with where I am? Have I accomplished anything? Did I ever try to do something that would be lasting and good…or bad as the case may be?

Perhaps this is just a big ego speaking…and heaven only knows that my ego is rather large…but I’d love to die knowing that I made a difference somewhere, to someone, about something. Don’t you think it would be great if you could look back on your own life and say, “Yeah, I did make a difference…and at the time I didn’t even think about it that way?” Perhaps we are destined never to know. Perhaps you have a made a difference in more lives than you realize because you did something; something like tossing a ten instead of a five in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas time. Maybe you decided to volunteer an extra day at your child’s school, and that was the day that you helped a child to read, and perhaps that was a gift the child never would have received if not for you. The examples are endless, but how will you ever recall them?

I reached this point in my writing when I decided to check Google and see how many others had done a reflection on their lives. Holy Smokes; 220 million popped up in less than half a second. It was rather weird to note that Billy Graham had done it when he was in his seventies. However, after reading several of the references, I came to the following conclusion…I really don’t know what the hell I’m talking about!

I did learn that each of us has to choose his or her way of assessing the value of his or her life. I learned that what I might consider to be a high point in my life, e.g., having students with whom I had interacted contact me years later just to say, “Hi; how’re ya doing?” might be insignificant to another of my colleagues in the same field. While there are very few left, I’m willing to bet that the women who built bombers for WWII would look on that as one of the most significant contributions they ever made. Here’s another example that may not seem important to some but it’s one of which I’m quite proud: I volunteered as a meals on wheels driver after I retired…did it until the stairs in some of those places where I delivered became a bit too steep. Then I worked in the kitchen helping to prepare those meals.

Imagine what it must be like for someone like Lee Iacocca who rescued a car company and saved thousands of jobs or what it must have been like for President Eisenhower to look back at the infrastructure he started to speed up cross-country ground travel. You and I, in all probability, can’t assess our lives from that lofty a perch, nor should we. You and I are very, very small fish in a monstrous ocean, but if we don’t do what we have done, something else wouldn’t have happened somewhere. It’s been called the Butterfly Effect, the Ripple theory and probably has a whole bunch of names. But this isn’t about the physics of dropping a stone in a pond and watching how far the ripples go. No, it’s about you and me looking at our lives to date and trying to assess whether or not, in the aggregate, we’ve led lives that have been pleasant or perhaps not so pleasant.

I have a neighbor who is married with three boys. My late wife, Joan, and I watched those boys go to elementary and middle school. We watched them as they began Boy Scouts – Joan had been a den mother to a group of Webelos years ago. At 16, the oldest started a landscaping business. When he went to college, his younger brother took over, and so on to the youngest. All three became Eagle Scouts just as their Dad had been. Two are still in college, but the business is thriving, with new trucks and equipment, along with a determination to always deliver the best of service. How do you believe their Mom and Dad are going to regard these accomplishments when the asses their lives and ask themselves if the kids turned out okay. Personally, I think they have one hell of a lot to be proud of. It makes me think about my own kids and the pride I feel for how they have succeeded with their lives.

You have to do your own assessment. Are you proud of your life; better yet, are you happy with your life? If your bucket list hasn’t included helping others, should that be added? If you look back and say, “Wow, I’m really proud of that and that and that and that,” congratulations; I’m very happy for you. I’m even more happy that you’ve taken the time to realize that, all in all, you’ve done a pretty good job with you and for those around you. Give yourself a pat on the back from me…way to go!

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We have adopted him as our own little pig…Maxwell, the wonder pig. You may recall Maxwell’s younger days when he was part of a car pool, holding his little pinwheel out the window as he was being driven home from school. He was always shouting, “Wee, wee, wee,” and then politely – we’ve trained him well – saying thanks to Mrs. B… who was driving. What a darling young piglet Maxwell was back then. Those people from Geico thought he belonged to them, but we were just letting him act in their commercials to earn a few extra bucks for the house treasury; pig slop these days has just skyrocketed in price, and Maxwell really seemed to enjoy the attention.

After his graduation from Swine High and before entering Boar U, Max – as we were now calling him – just scared the dickens out of us with his daredevil antics. After all, how many pigs do you know who’d ride a zip line above the trees or wrap his curly little tail around vines and swing from tree to tree?

Maxwell got himself and us into a great deal of trouble recently. He was driving one of his college friends home in his convertible when the car broke down. Ever the efficient one, Maxwell used his I phone to call for roadside assistance. While they were waiting, it appeared that the young lady had more on her mind than a quick trip home. Our naïve little Max didn’t understand and thought that the young lady wanted to play ‘fruity ninjas’ with him on his phone; who knows, maybe she did. When they finally got home, a few dirty-minded individuals tried to accuse them of bestiality. The ‘kids’ were so infuriated, they contacted the advocacy group, One Million Moms. We don’t talk about how that turned out. Evidently, that group also lacks a sense of humor.

After graduating from Boar, Max flew to the University of Arkansas [ Sooooo-weeee) to apply for admission to their graduate school people husbandry. It was during this trip that we found out exactly how cruel some stewardesses can treat someone of Max’s persuasion. While waiting for the plane to take off – he was flying on Hog Hairlines – a stewardess asked him to turn off his ‘kiddy word games.’ Not at all offended, Max shared with her a Geico Insurance app he was using. Although she appeared interested, another – this time the wicked witch – stewardess overheard the conversation and said loudly, “I’ll believe that when pigs fly.” On leaving the plane, Max ‘hoofed’ her foot. She couldn’t work for several months. Don’t get the idea that Max is a vengeful pig. He’s very polite unless people are rude to him. Why recently he was pulled over by a policeman; Max quickly handed over his license, registration, and even his insurance, all contained on his I phone. As the officer was about to leave, Max politely asked why he had been stopped, thinking perhaps that the policeman was somewhat aghast at seeing a pig driving a convertible…with the top down…but no, Max had merely forgotten to replace his tail light.

During a recent hail storm, Max and his friend Ted both had their cars damaged by hail. Our efficient little Maxy – he really hates that name – used his Geico I phone app to arrange an appointment with an adjuster. Ted didn’t have that app and was on the phone for so long that his girlfriend decided to go for a Jet Ski ride with our little pig.

Yes, our little Max is certainly growing up. He loves to ham it up at gatherings with his friend, Smokey Shoulder. Together they are the life of the party and have various ways to tickle the ribs of those around them!

You go, Maxwell!

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