I've been pondering some pretty heady questions lately. Maybe you can
help with some answers. For example, just how much is a smidgeon? Is it more
or less than a skosh? And do Old Wives ever tell the truth or do they just
run around telling tales? When you don't give a hoot...what do you give? A
holler? And in...As the crow flies...what if the crow doesn't know the
way? Hmmm...troubling indeed. These days, just how valuable is your two
cents worth? And if time flies when you're having fun...does it have to take the bus
when you're not? If time heals all...what heals time? And how many times
have you been told to sleep tight? Well...at the end of the day...if the truth
be told...what's wrong with sleeping a little loose every now and then.
Like I said...pretty heady stuff. Questions for the ages no doubt.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
My wife thought it would be a good idea to put a new light fixture in the dining room. My wife has a lot of good ideas. Yep...really good ideas. Should be an easy little job...right? Take about an hour or so and voila...let there be new light. Unless you’re like me and feel that everything on the other side of a switch should be left to highly trained professionals. But c’mon...it’s a little light fixture. How hard can it be? So, I stared at it for about an hour trying to answer that very question. Then I put in a call to the Governor to see about shutting down the power on this side of the state or at least the city. No luck. Out of excuses, I shut off every circuit breaker in the house and went to work by flashlight. OK...connect black to black...white to white...ground to ground...and for God’s sake don’t let anything touch anything! I turned the breakers back on, evacuated the area, said a quick prayer to the patron saint of light fixtures...and flicked the switch via broom handle from the next room. Thank God nothing blew up. Now my wife is talking about replacing a faucet. My wife has a lot of good ideas. Yep...really good ideas.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Fall will be here soon. Arriving with her many colors like bright burning embers of summer’s dying fire. Beautiful, but brief. Marking the cooling of the air...the lowering of the clouds...and the coming of Winter’s silver blue. The slanted rays and colored days, as Lightfoot put it, stir many emotions. There’s a certain sadness about a lonely chevron of wild geese in the distant sky. And the rattle of dry leaves on shivering, skeleton trees. Night falls sooner and seems a shade darker. It’s a bittersweet time of memories...loves lost and found and old friends and family past and gone. For me...I know I miss my Dad more in the Fall. I do love the Fall though. Sweater weather and nightly fires in the fireplace. For all the endings Fall brings it’s also such a gateway of promise and good times. Soon will come the little ghosts and goblins of Halloween. The warmth and good cheer of Thanksgiving. The magic of Christmas. The hope of a brand New Year. Fall...the bright burning embers of Summer’s dying fire. The season of what might have been. The season of what could be.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Is it possible for us to grow old...without growing “up”? Now growing older does make certain things inevitable. I mean, gravity kicks in for one. And some of us, though not nearly enough of us, will gain a certain measure of maturity and wisdom. And that’s a good thing. After all, there will be adult type decisions to make, check books to balance, Monday morning alarm clocks, tomorrows to plan for and children to raise. But can we grow older without losing our ability to wonder...giggle...imagine what if...or have fun, even at the risk of looking silly? I hope some of us can. And I really hope I will be one of those some. I see too many people who have grown “up” way before their time. The ones who don’t see Autumn’s beauty...they curse the coming of winter. They don’t hear a child’s laughter...they complain about the noise. And they haven’t wished upon a star in years...they’ve forgotten how. Can we grow old without growing “up”? Well...I’m going to give it my best shot. How about you?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I never realized that just by sitting on my deck I could be in danger. At least, as much danger as a falling acorn can cause. I swear, it was bombs away out there today. Acorns raining from the skies. Acorn Smart Bombs wreaking havoc on hanging baskets, bird feeders and gazing balls everywhere. Then I noticed that those acorns weren’t just free falling...oh no...they were being dropped by squirrels. In fact, they were being thrown by those pesky critters. And that one lefty had a damn good slider. Black ones, brown ones, grey ones alike...all standing together. United in one common effort. To bean whatever and whoever they could. Now, maybe I’m reading too much into this. I mean maybe...just maybe they were knocking those acorns to the ground so it would be easier to gather and store them for the winter. But I swear I heard one of them whisper, “You take the bald guy...I’m goin’ for the gazing ball.”
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Would you excuse me for just a minute? I’ll get back to my regular blog soon, but right now there is something I just have to do. I’ll be right back. So…Rush…old pal…there’s something I think you need to do. I really think this is important. I think you need to pack up all your medications and hop on a plane to France. Catch a cab to Normandy and take a walk on the sands of Omaha beach. Then a stop at Bastogne would be appropriate and, of course, Midway Island and Iwo Jima. And in each of these places I think you need to fall on your knees and kiss that sacred bloody ground. You really owe a huge thank you to all the brave young men and women who fought and died in these places to make sure you kept the right to make the very good living you do by spewing the fear mongering, hate mongering, race baiting half truths, rumors and insane assumptions you do every day. Tip your hat and say thank you Buddy…it’s the least you can do. OK…now where were we?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The other day, I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in many, many years. She had the same sweet smile, the same bright blue eyes...she was the same person I knew so long ago. Except for one thing. There was so much...more. So much more to her story...so much more to her being. When I knew her before she was a single young woman with hopes and dreams. Now she ‘s married, she’s raised a family, created a career...she’s lived, loved, laughed and cried over a thousand different experiences...situations...and events. There have been births, deaths, dreams come true and bitter disappointments that have all added to who and what she is now. I think that’s true of all of us. As we grow older we fill up with the life we live. We keep completing page after page of a never ending story that is who we are. So, while I looked at that same sweet smile and those same bright blue eyes...I wasn’t really looking at the the same person I knew so many years ago. Because after all those years...there’s now so much more to her story...to her being...to her.
Monday, August 17, 2009
There it is. Standing there so straight, tall and proud. Right in the middle of a newly mown lawn. You've seen it too. That one, lone dandylion. And it's not a new dandylion...it's an old, geezer dandylion. It's white, fuzzy head about to send its seeds to frustrate lawn manacurers for miles around. Now we've all seen that dandylion and I'm sure we've all wondered, albiet briefly, how in the world did the lawn mower miss that guy? Well, I think I've figured it out. I believe it's an amazing Darwinian mutation happening right before our very lawn mowers. A Natural Selection that probably began happening thousands of years ago when Neaderthal first began mowing his lawn. Maybe it's the sound of the mower engine...or the vibration...or the whoosh of the mower blade that warns them. Whatever it is, just before that blade takes its little dandylion head off...it ducks. That's right my friend. Dandylions can duck. How else can you possibly explain that one, tall, proud, geezer dandylion sticking its fuzzy head up in the middle of a newly mown lawn? Oh yeah...Dandylions can duck. Trust me.
How long is a moment? Sometimes it’s all the time you need. Sometimes...it’s all the time you get. My father could register his displeasure with me...in just a moment. When I first met her, all it took was a moment for me to know that I wanted to know more about this woman who was to become my wife. And all it took was a moment for me to know that I really didn’t like lima beans. Sometimes a moment is all you need. But sometimes a moment is all you get. That moment...that opportunity to tell someone you love them can pass all to quickly. Lost forever. That moment...that one chance to take a road less traveled can be gone in the blink of an eye. Never to come again. Looking back...it seems my children grew up...in a moment. Seize your moments. Live your moments. Everyday is filled with wee pieces of time...chances...opportunities...that only come once. How long is a moment? Sometimes it’s all the time you need. Sometimes it’s all the time you get.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I don’t know when it happened. I don’t know how it happened. They snuck in one night when I was asleep and downloaded it to my brain. The next day...out it came. “Don’t make me stop this car.” “You’re going to poke your eye out.” “You should have gone before we left.” Dadspeak. The mandatory language of Dadhood. I got married...had children...woke up one morning and became my Father. Just as he had become his Father before. Dadspeak is an ancient language. Oh, it’s evolved...”Stop running in the cave” did become “Stop running in the house”. The basic structure, tone, volume and naggability factor however, remain unchanged ‘lo these thousands of years. Dadspeak is unescapable. No matter how hard you try to avoid it...trust me...it’ll get you. One day you’ll look at your child and...”I’ll give you something to cry about” will leap from your lips. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a Dad thing.
Think back to when you were 5 or 6 years old. Remember how long a year used to be? It took forever for Christmas to come. These days the years just seem to fly by. But consider this. Consider your point of reference. When you were 5, one year was an entire 5th of your life. Today, if you’re say 40, one year is a considerably smaller segment. Point of reference. Keep it in mind when your child suffers his or her first broken heart. They don’t have the same point of reference you do. It’s their first. They have nothing to compare it too. Keep it in mind when your kid loses that first big game. He or she doesn’t have a history of wins and losses like you do. They don’t know they’ll get over it because they’ve never had to before. No matter how hard we try we can’t teach experience. And experience is everyone’s point of reference. A 5 year old will never have a 40 year old’s slant on how fast time flies. A 15 year old will never have a 50 year old’s understanding of whether a heart is truly broken or just dented a little. Point of reference. Think about it.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
If you’re at all curious about the strength of your marriage, ask yourself this one simple question. Can you wallpaper together? I’m convinced this may be the truest test of true love. Especially, if you live in an older home. You know, before they invented straight walls and right angled corners. The first step in the Wallpaper Love Test is...can you agree on a pattern? Preliminary skirmishes may give you a good idea if The Wallpaper Wars are about to break out. If agreement can be reached, the actual hanging of the stuff...they picked a good word didn’t they...hanging...will bring out the best or the worst. Can you line up those itty bitty blue flowers...the pattern you thought you agreed on, but he secretly thinks is way too girly...without wishing medieval torture on each other’s families? Can you balance on the top of a ladder, holding a piece in place, while your wife takes a call from her Mother or your husband checks on the score of the game without your complete, unabridged collection of profanity escaping from your clenched lips? Well...can you? If you can wallpaper together, there is not much that can put your marriage asunder. However, if you can’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean your marriage is in trouble. It just means that, for the sake of the kids of course, paint is a much healthier decorating choice.
When my youngest son was a little boy, he was...well let’s say...an active kid. Incredibly self entertaining, curious and full of questions and answers. One day, at a parent teacher meeting, one of his grade school teachers told me that although his grades were good, he could be rather disruptive in class and that he needed to learn how to conform. Well, I told this teacher that I would talk to him about the disruptive part, but I prayed to God he would never learn to conform. This kid was so full of life he was literally bursting at the seams. Did it cause problems sometimes...sure. But this was a kid who should lead...not follow. Take the road less traveled. Conform? Never. Try...test...question...always with respect and honor, but push harder...reach higher. This was a kid who was not afraid to be alone. One day my Father was watching this kid tearing around the front yard. He turned to me and said...I hope no one ever breaks his spirit. Well Dad, if you were here today you’d see...they never have. It seems I’ve learned a lot...from my boy.
You can hardly see it from the road. The old barn. Or rather what’s left of the old barn. A crumbling skeleton fading away in some forgotten field of someone’s long ago dreams. A year or two from now I’ll walk down this road again and it’ll be gone. I’ll bet they had a party when they raised her though. A lifetime or two or three ago it was some farmer’s pride and joy. Built by the hands of family, friends and neighbors. It was shelter from the storms of summer and the snows of winter. It was storage for the harvest. It knew the sound of a fiddle and the laughter of Saturday night barn dances. And it was probably a big, old playhouse for more than a few generations of children. I wonder how many guilty young boys waited in it for a dreaded appointment with Father’s hickory switch? I wonder how many young lovers secretly met behind it for a moonlight smooch? I wonder how many stories it could tell? Well, only a few beams and part of a sunken roof remain today. And it won’t be long before the old barn’s not even a memory. I’ll bet they had a party when they raised her though.
Our dog Casey woke me up in the middle of the night last night. Seems she had to go visit her favorite tree in the backyard. It was a nice night, so I stayed out with her, enjoying the silence. Until I realized that it wasn’t being a silent night at all. In fact, it was darn noisy. I could hear the rumble of trucks rolling down the expressway in the distance. The haunting wail of a siren off somewhere in the darkness. Far off car horns every few seconds. The sound of a red eye leaving a vapor trail across the moon. The world doesn’t sleep anymore does it? Used to be when the sun would set...the world would settle in for the night. The street lights would come on and day was done. Not any more. Now we have late night drive-throughs, all night cable movies and third shifts. You can do your grocery shopping, banking, pick up your dry cleaning...gamble your paycheck away even in the wee hours. And with the internet...earth is open for business 24/7. That not so silent night got me thinking. I don’t believe the world is getting enough sleep. Maybe that’s why it’s so cranky.
Alright...just who are...”They”? “They” are quoted all the time. “They” have very specific opinions. “They” swear things are true...or false. And are believed. “They” seem to be very influential. I mean, I hear about what “They” say...what “They” do...how “They” think...and what “They” believe all the time. Don’t you? But who the heck are...“They”? And is there more than one “They”? Because sometimes “They” seem to be on both sides of the fence at the same time. “They say it’s a good time to sell. “They” say it’s a good time to buy. “They” say she’s an evil tax raiser. “They” say she’s a heroic tax fighter. “They” swear he did it and everybody knows. “They” swear he didn’t and everybody knows that too. Well, all I know is that I don’t trust “They”. And I would suggest that you don’t put too much trust in “They” either. The next time you hear a sentence that starts out...Well, “They” said...find out for yourself before you stick that information in your fact file. Question the “Theys” of this world. That is, if we can ever find out who “They” are.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I’ve discovered an amazing phenomenon. I’ve discovered that the more I learn...the less I know. And the more I try to learn to make up for it just keeps uncovering how much less I know. Which in turn, makes me want to learn more. Which in turn... well...are you getting the picture here? This kind of learning and ignorance curve seems to work like this. A few years back, I set out to learn how to use a computer. And over the years I’ve done fairly well with it. I’ve learned to cut, paste and occasionally save the world from invading aliens. I’ve also learned that I don’t know a thing about the other gazillion things in that little box. Jpegs, bitmaps, caches, cookies, extensions, launchers and all that other junk. When I didn’t know anything about computers...I also didn’t know that I didn’t know about all that other stuff. Was it better that way? I don’t know. It’s like learning a new word and being very proud of yourself. Only to discover the word is in the middle of a sentence made up of other words you have to learn. And the sentence is in the middle of a page and the page is in the middle of a book that is in a bookcase full of other books...and on and on. The more I learn...the dumber I get. Amazing isn’t it?
The other day I was pondering...great word isn’t it? Pondering. It sounds so...oh, I don’t know...so thoughtful. So deep. Real pondering takes time. It’s a slow, heady process. I mean, you don’t ponder about what to have for lunch or what’s on TV. And you certainly don’t waste a good ponder over what movie to see or if you want fries with that. Oh no. You save your pondering for the more meaningful questions. So, like I said, the other day I was pondering some of what I feel are the great mysteries of life. Like, what is an occasional table the rest of the time? Why don’t the clouds blow apart? Why doesn’t the wind ever blow the same way your hair is parted? What the heck was God thinking when he invented the mosquito? And if the universe is expanding...what’s it expanding into? Now those are pondering questions. And if you can get people to believe that you’re a world class ponderer...it’s a great cover for all your daydreaming.
There is an ancient saying...When you teach your son, you also teach your son’s son. Unfortunately, in so many cases...it’s so true. I think that’s why it’s so difficult for us to break the chains of bigotry, intolerance and the distrust born of ignorance. When the next generation is taught to hate and fear...the generation after that is being taught the same thing...at the same time. And so on and so on. And while we can change the laws...we have the fight of our lives on our hands to change...the hearts. It takes incredible courage for a son or a daughter to step away from a parents words. To question that authority. We are moving forward in our humanity, but it’s a painfully slow process. Because it has to happen one courageous young heart at a time. When you teach your son, you also teach your son’s son. Let’s pray that at least a few of our sons and daughters will be taught to think for themselves.
Monday, August 10, 2009
As I grow older, I’m realizing that eventually, I have a major decision to make. So...what’s it going to be? Geezer or Curmudgeon. Now, both have some pretty cool things going for them. Take Curmudgeon for example. A good Curmudgeon never has to make nice with anybody. He gets to be mean to dogs and small children. And he gets to keep all those wayward baseballs that land in his yard from the kids’ street games. Pretty cool. Now, on the other hand, a good Geezer gets to make up all kinds of tall tales. And tell them over and over again to the same person. He gets to be forgetful, talk loud, wear clothes that don’t match and flirt with all the pretty, young girls. This is a major decision that I’m glad I don’t have to make today. It’s a tough choice. When the time comes though, I’m pretty sure I’m going Geezer. Unless, of course, the world is experiencing a shortage of pretty, young girls to flirt with...or I’m running short of baseballs.
I was thinking about my Grandfather the other night. My Dad’s Dad. He passed away long ago, but I think of him often. I remember one Christmas when I was about 16 or so...Grandpa stood at the end of the dinner table and gave a toast about getting through another year...family and such. And just when I thought he was finished...he went on. In fluent French. Now, I knew our family ancestry was French, but I never knew Grandpa spoke the language. And as I listened to those beautiful words I didn’t understand...I watched his eyes fill with tears. It was at that moment that I realized this was a man recalling someone or something from somewhere in a life I knew nothing of. Filled with celebration and disappointment... Love lost and found...a young man’s dreams...some coming true and some never realized. Now, I’ll never know why the tears fell or what the beautiful French words said...but ever since then, when I pass on old man on the street...I often wonder...if a young man’s dreams ever came true...and if he speaks French.
I met some really important people the other day. Well, I can’t actually say I met them, but I did watch them as they sailed by a bunch of us good citizens waiting our turn in one of those lane ends construction areas. You know...you see one of those lane ends up ahead signs and you pull over and wait your turn to go through like everybody else...except the really important people. I mean they must be really important...because they can’t wait in line like the rest of us. They go right to the front and force their way in. I figure they do this because they have much more important places to go and much more important people to see than the rest of us. Their time must be much more valuable than ours. Yep...that must be what it is. I mean...you don’t think they could just be arrogant, thoughtless and rude do you? Nooo...they can’t just be inconsiderate jerks...can they? They must be much more important than you and I. I must confess to being a very bad person though. Because when I finally do get to the front of the line and there’s a very important person trying to get in front of me...I don’t let ‘em in. Screw ‘em. Terrible aren’t I?
A tree fell in the back yard the other night. Luckily it missed the house although it did take out the deck, the grill and a section of the fence. Now, all the damage is fixable, but that magnificent 60 foot maple tree is gone forever. I counted the rings on the broken trunk and that tree was 132 years old. It got me thinking. That tree was a sapling when we were still grieving for the boys who never came home from the Civil War. It stood tall and strong as our soldiers went off to the war to end all wars. And stood guard still as our boys went off to...World War II. It saw the dawn of flight and man on the moon. It watched families in this house grow up...grow old...be born and die. Some rings were fat...years with a lot of rain. Others were very thin...years of heat and drought. I imagined hot summer evenings at the turn of the century with neighbors sitting on the front porch sipping lemonade and tossing “Hot enough for ya”s” back and forth. Well, the old maple is gone now and all that remains is a big old stump. You know, I don’t think I’ll have that stump removed. To me...it’s a little piece of sacred ground.