Yesterday, November 16, would have been my Father’s 100th birthday. Instead, he passed at age 61.
There were so many life lessons he was unable to impart to me.
Calm reflection (he was an angry rage kind of guy); Moderation (he was an alcoholic and a compulsive overeater); Mechanical ability (I once saw him attempt to repair a leaky radiator hose with Scotch tape(!) I was a kid, and even I knew that wouldn’t work).
But I knew he loved me.
After all, when I was born prematurely (and my twin brother didn’t make it) he hurriedly ran to the nearest church to pray for my survival.
He tried to make me an athlete, as he had been. Alas, my developing a physical disability @ age 12 stopped those attempts in it’s tracks. And from that point forward, he was unclear how to relate to me.
I only saw him cry once. When he told me how proud he was of my graduating the Eighth Grade, and that I never asked him for money. To be fair, I didn’t know I was allowed to! When my Mother passed, he kept his grief private.
I’m certain his childhood was horrific. A stern father who had been a Marine and railroad policeman, and his having grown up poor during the Depression.
He had not been raised to be a hugger. I don’t remember him ever hugging me. A firm handshake was the order-of-the-day.
But, he did teach me a few important things. Loyalty (be true to your friends – he was to his); Honesty (your word IS your bond); and yes, Love.
He loved his wife (my mother) with all his heart. Watching her die @ age 41 of emphysema must have been horrible. (I was in the Second Grade, what did I know?) And in spite of the fact they were estranged, my (half)sister was his jewel. He was very protective of her, which probably in-part caused the estrangement. But she was another connection to his wife, which I don’t think she ever saw.
And he kept his heart disease hidden from me until it was too late.
He was flawed – he was human.
I love you and miss you, Dad. Happy Birthday!
From the time we are very small, we believe Life is about acquiring things. Food, warmth, love…stuff. It’s when we are a little older we realize that Life, too, is about loss.
And, most of us don’t understand or like that. In fact, most of us hate it!
And, it becomes a matter of degree. That toy that broke (with which we didn’t play, anyway), gives way to the lost book. The dog that died. The high school girlfriend who moved away.
And we choose to suffer for our loss.
But, there is a larger picture, if we choose to see it.
If we didn’t lose ‘it’, we wouldn’t really appreciate it.
My dear friend Bob (of the many Bobs I know) texted me yesterday, to advise me that on Friday he had his left foot and about six inches of his left leg amputated. He’s been diabetic for many years, and had already lost a toe. Even though I lost the use of my right hip when I was 12, I still grieved for him. I’m certain he has a long and arduous road ahead involving prosetheses, crutches, and much pain.
And grief over the loss of his foot.
Most of us don’t even think of our feet or legs, unless they are giving us difficulty. A blister, a bunion, a corn. Calluses. For me, calluses are difficult, because grinding them off is problematic with a fused hip. And, I too, am diabetic.
I still am fortunate enough to still have all my extremities, though. You can bet my nightly cursory examination of said feet was more than cursory last night, though!
I was wrong. And I survive here to do the suffering.
I love you and miss you, Molly. And sometimes grieve over you.
But, I also appreciate the time I had to know and love you. I believe so much more than if we had continued in our parallel life paths. Because of the yin and yang.
And I’ve my memories to keep.
Go and hug and kiss those you love, and tell them. Because you never know.
And, if you are diabetic, check your feet often.
I’m in whine mode.
(I know I said at the outset that I wouldn’t use this weblog for therapy, but, hell, it’s my blog, so here goes…)
Why? Not only do I not have any funds to get neat presents for friends and family, but, I’ve no one with whom to share the non-materialistic parts of the holidays. One terrific couple I know gifted me with a cool assortment of cheeses and beers (including Lindeman’s raspberry ale!), and all I could give them in response was a small bag of garlic goldfish.
Hardly an even trade.
I love my sister and her kids, and her kid’s kids dearly, but going to a family celebration alone with certain people in absentia is always painful.
Now it’s the downhill slide from the New Year, to Molly’s birthday, to the anniversary of the accident, in March.
We’re told the best way to get out of this kind of funk is to create a gratitude list. So here goes…
I’ve a roof over my head, and a working car. Thanks to my friends! I’m on Medicare. I’ve disability benefits, which, while in no way am I rich, I can buy food, gas, and pay rent. I’ve a select group of friends, both locally and on the Internet, who help out whenever they can. Many of these friends have gone above and beyond – for years – when I am unable to give back in kind.
This must mean something.
I’m disabling comments for this post. Because, in lieu of giving me an Internet “there-there”, or a virtual hug (or a kick in the pants), please stop for a moment and create your own gratitude list.
Most of you know I was raised on TV and movies. It was an escape from my somewhat dysfunctional family and from the daily stress of life. My roomie and I still enjoy much on electronic media, especially now that so many choices are available.
I recently completed watching the many morality plays that made up Have Gun – Will Travel. Certainly NOT your typical horse opera. And I went looking for something else.
And I found something. It was produced in 2008. (see, behind the times!)
It was an HBO production, and I found it on On Demand on DISH. A seven part mini-series.
This, too, is no horse opera. It is based on the David McCullough book about our second President, and his life leading up to his Presidency. He was not handsome; he was not a great orator. He didn’t stir the passions his cousin Sam Adams did.
But, he WAS a man of principle.
I find myself wondering if he was the last man of principle to hold that office, politics being as they are.
He abhorred slavery, and unlike some of the other Founding Fathers didn’t own any. He was very uncomfortable with Dr. Franklin’s dalliances while they were on a diplomatic visit to France during The Revolution, and by all accounts was loyal to his wife. He was not afraid to pick up a gun in defense of his country.
But few remembered the second President. Until the book and this mini-series.
You should read/watch it!
I’ve NEVER thought of myself as cool.
I’ve always been dorky. Dorky thin, dorky fat, dorky thin again. Now dorky less fat. But never cool.
I get grief from my roomie about calling myself an iconoclast. When everyone had long hair – mine was short. When they all went yuppie short – I had a pony tail. All these groups of ‘individuals’, copying each other to find themselves. Sheesh.
But I was never cool.
Below, here’s a picture of me driving:
Not THIS kind…
Largely because of errors-in-judgement I’ve made in my own life, I find myself drawn to other’s opinions with regard to how one should live. And I sometimes even try to apply them to my standards, and see how (or if) they fit.
I’ve occasionally referred to The Art of Manliness in this blog. While much of what is written there is a how-to, some of it is a paradigm-breaking thing. Thinking outside the box, as it were.
This recent essay challenges the mold of modern parenting. The one wherein a parent tells the child they can accomplish anything if they put their mind to it. Now my parents tried their own version of this which was I wasn’t living up to my potential. Not exactly a positive message. I tried to encourage my own daughter, but let her figure out her own limits for herself. She wasn’t necessarily supposed to live my dreams. She was to live hers.
“You can do anything you put your mind to!”
“The sky’s the limit!”
“You’re the best!”
“Follow your dreams!”
Did you hear these kinds of things growing up? Your parents sure meant well. They really felt like you were the most special creature to arrive on planet earth – a beautiful boy full of limitless possibilities. You could do anything in the world!
But now that that boy is grown up and in his twenties, you might find that such encouragement has become more paralyzing than motivating. If your possibilities really are endless, how will you ever decide which path to take and what to do with your life? (TAOM)
I would encourage you to visit the link above and also read the other essays. I often learn things there – and I’m old!
Better than thinking I can blow up the Earth because it blocks my view of Venus!
Sipsey Street Irregulars recounts for us idiocy in it’s highest form.
Those who know better.
Two masked men wearing hoodies and wielding handguns burst into the Pine Eagle Charter School in this tiny rural community on Friday. Students were at home for an in-service day, so the gunmen headed into a meeting room full of teachers and opened fire.
Someone figured out in a few seconds that the bullets were not drawing blood because they were blanks and the exercise was a drill, designed to test Pine Eagle’s preparation for an assault by “active shooters” who were, in reality, members of the school staff. But those few seconds left everybody plenty scared.
I’m with Dutchman6. If I’d been present (and legally armed) I’d have shot the bastards!
Reminiscent of my security guard days, walking into a cafeteria right after an ‘armed robber’ put a gun in the cashier’s face. It was Halloween and it was a friend of hers in costume. I arrived five minutes later.
He would have been shot – right there.
Will Rogers was a comedian and actor from the early part of the Twentieth Century. Before becoming a stage personality, he had actually been a cowboy – some of his act involved lasso tricks!
finally ~ If you don’t learn
to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you’re old.
h/t my dear sister, Ellie
I recently had a conversation with a friend which sparked a bittersweet memory.
One of the things many of us miss as adults is the wonder, the surprise, the simple serendipity of joy. In childhood we experience it often, probably because most things and experiences are new to us, and we’ve yet to become jaded.
One of my favorite memories of my daughter Molly was when I gave her a gift. She was turning twelve, and I knew just as the Sun rose in the morning that soon she would be developing into a teenager, full of doubt and promise. One who no longer trusted her parents to be all-knowing and truthful. Because, of course, we weren’t and could never be.
But here we were, proud father giving his daughter a present. She opened it, her eyes widened, and there was that sudden exhalation of breath. Excitement, happiness, joy. Innocence and appreciation in one second, one breath. Followed by the big hug.
I don’t even remember what I had given her. But what she gave me was so much more. An everlasting memory of a happy young woman, unspoiled by the adolescent hormones of parental treachery. Not yet jump-started into that distrust generated simply by being parents and adults.
Zen masters tell us to be in the now. Live life as if each moment was your last. This is what Molly showed me that day.
I’ve had many difficult times of year. The holidays and my birthday comprise one such time. Not because of those specific events, but rather because of who’s not there.
But, I’ve already received my present this year. As I get every year – when I remember it.
Live in the now, with joy, and never be disappointed.
Thank you, Molly.
One of my favorites from childhood (WAY back in the 1950s) was Gene Autry. Along with Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers, he embodied much of the Western mythos that was presented to we children. In later life, he contributed heavily to charity, and even owned a baseball team. Obviously, Capitalism was good to him.
But, Mr. Autry wasn’t just a capitalist, film, radio and TV star. He set forth in his radio show a set of rules to live by. The Cowboy Code. Granted, they may seem trite by today’s standards, but in their simplicity and directness really aren’t a bad way to conduct oneself.
A Cowboy Must:
I don’t recall having any toys attributed to him (I still have my Hopalong Cassidy watch, somewhere!) but finding these rules in my Internet travels is a better remembrance.
My question is this – what values are being presented to today’s children steeped in popular culture? From the Kardashians to the Octomom…what are their rules to live by?(I DO apologize for mentioning them – Guffaw)