A few funnies from the past

My close friend Frank is Catholic and one of our annual traditions during our teen and college years was going to midnight mass. The priest would invariably wish everyone a Happy Easter as well, as he knew he would not see some until next Christmas Eve.

This same priest presided over another close friend’s father’s funeral. Having not seen the priest for thirty years, he looked the same as he did before, with a full head of thick hair. He must be in seventies, so I commented on his youthful look to my wife. She said what do you expect, he is not married.

Speaking of looks, my wife and I have long been fans of Tina Turner. Turner was performing in her sixties and still had a dancer’s pair of legs. When I commented to my friend Don that I hoped to look that good when I am her age, he correctly quipped you don’t look that good now.

As my hair has thinned, my older brother has been able to keep more of his on his head. When his daughter hollered across a quiet room, Uncle Keith, how come my Dad has more hair than you do, I responded because his wife does not spend as much as mine does. My wife agreed with my assessment.

Speaking of Easter, my oldest son’s Godfather Joe attended a large Easter egg hunt with us one year. Since the older kids would aggressively gather most of the eggs, Joe would be off to the side guarding a few eggs for my small son to find. It was comical to see him diplomatically tell eight year olds there were no more eggs here, so my son could find a few.

After college, one of our close friends was dating a woman named Lark, while another was dating a woman named Robin. Our friend Randy assessed the names out loud to both and added, it looks like I need to find me a girl named Con-dor, accentuating each syllable.

Randy always enjoys a good joke, yet sometimes he has to let it sink in. Going to  a game, Frank and I were chatting with Randy in the backseat about the lack of success of the junior varsity basketball team coached by Pete Poore. Frank said what do you expect when you have Poore coaching. We both chuckled at the pun and then about a full minute later Randy roars with laughter – poor coaching he shouts.

One of my favorite funny stories with the kids is when I was reading a story to my boys, who at the time shared a room. So, I plopped down on one of the beds and then bounced off between the bed and wall. It took an effort to crawl out of the crevice. The boys and I laughed so hard, my wife and daughter had to come see what happened.

A final story relates to my old boss who was working late. He had to reach someone who he knew was also working late, but had stepped away from his desk. A late night cleaning crew member answered the constantly ringing phone and my friend went into detail of what he needed. The man said sir, sir, I told you as much as I know, when I said hello.

On that note, I will say goodbye.

Those what if questions

As we age, we sometimes reflect on what might have transpired if something happened differently. It is an interesting exercise, but also makes you ponder what is important to you. With this in mind, here are a few what if questions.

  • What if the girl or boy you felt madly about reciprocated with the same fervor? If that happened, then you may not have met your wonderful spouse and had your terrific children
  • What if you turned down a drink invitation from someone who would become the most important person in your life?.
  • What if you got the job you desperately wanted in another town? Would your career path have dramatically changed?
  • What if you had not changed your mind about leaving a job and went to another employer? Would you have shortchanged yourself?
  • What if you had not said yes to joining a charity group to help people in need? Would you be less open minded about the plight of others?
  • What if you not said no to a road less traveled and did not veer off to explore some wonderful venues?
  • What if you did not mend a fence with an old friend or relative before it was too late?

We are the compilation of our life experiences. Some of those experiences were heart breaking and some were exhilarating. Yet, we benefit from the learning. We benefit from the relationship, even if it ended some time ago. We benefit from the reflection we could have handled something better than we did. We benefit from opportunities as they teach us so much.

We each have loved and lost. We each have had relationships with people who cared either more or less than we cared about them. That is one of time’s oldest stories. Relationships are hard work. Finding and keeping one where you are on the same path forward is also hard, but oh so very rewarding.

I am thankful

I am thankful my immediate family is alive and well since the pandemic started. Two of our family felt the need to be tested for COVID-19, but came up negative.

I am thankful my wife’s sister and husband moved closer, to be near their children’s families, but also us. My wife is over the moon happy.

I am thankful my daughter’s boyfriend is a good man. They seem mutually smitten. She deserves no less.

I am thankful my sons have good mates in these interesting times. They are being safe and supportive to each other.

These are the most unusual times I have witnessed in my sixty two years. I feel for those who have lost loved ones to this spiteful virus. I hope we can come together in the months ahead and do what we can to help each other.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Be safe. Be well.

Tuesday afternoon

The Moody Blues asked us to stop and smell the roses, as life is too short. Here are the first two stanzas of their poignant song “Tuesday afternoon.”

“Tuesday afternoon
I’m just beginning to see
Now I’m on my way
It doesn’t matter to me
Chasing the clouds away

Something calls to me
The trees are drawing me near
I’ve got to find out why
Those gentle voices I hear
Explain it all with a sigh”

We seem to have many clouds gathering around us. Yes, we must see the clouds and act accordingly. No question. But, we do have lives to lead. So, be smart and still do things to enjoy our world. Walks in the park or woods will see less contamination from the dreaded C word. If you encounter other human beings – give them some space, but still meet and greet. You need not shake a hand to have a conversation.

Ring up a friend or loved one and say “Hi, I was thinking about you.” The best line from the movie “Yesterday,” about a young man who wakes up from an accident and is the only person to remember The Beatles, comes near the end. A profound older man advises the young man that life is simple, “when you find the girl you love, tell her that you love her.”

This piece of advice can be modified to fit most any relationship. Tell you mom (or dad) that you love her (him). Tell your friend that you were thinking of her or him. The Moody Blues should be remembered for more than just their wonderful orchestrations. Their words had meaning. So, start “chasing the clouds away.”

I realize fully this C word has caused illnesses and even death. I realize the social distancing has caused some to lose jobs or get furloughed. Reach out to those folks, in particular. They may need a reference, a helping hand, some groceries, some cash. But, a kind word or reach out will help as a start.

Visiting people and places is the ticket

I wrote a few years ago about the wonderful visit we had to New England, made more enjoyable because we reconnected with some relatives. The combination of using a visit to a place to visit people can be marvelous, the caveat is to make sure it is people who you want to be around.

The past few days, my wife and I did a similar kind of visit to my home state of Florida and roots in south Georgia. Starting with my hometown of Jacksonville, we stayed with my brother and visited with his oldest daughter who is temporarily staying with him. The next night, we had dinner with his son, who we had not seen for a few years. It was wonderful to catch up. Earlier that day, we had yet another four hour lunch with my three best friends dating back to grade school, along with their wives. We did hear a few new stories, along with the old, and got to catch up.

The next day we drove to Tampa where we spent a couple of days enjoying its wonderful River Walk and a cool place called the Oxford Exchange suggested by our niece, my brother’s youngest daughter. The key to our trip was to visit with her, which was lots of fun. But, while there, we got to meet our blogging friend Gronda, who I had never met in person. She is a delight and has lived a wonderful life with various experiences, which she shared. We walked to and from the restaurant with Gronda, which was on the River Walk, as we sat outside and enjoyed the meal.

As for meeting our niece, it is lovely to meet her now as a wonderful young woman, as contrasted to the child we saw grow up. Meeting her alone in her new home city was quite fun. We had a nice brunch at the Oxford Exchange which is a rehabbed old building filled with shops and restaurants.

Finally, we ventured north and had a wonderful meal with members of my father’s family in south Georgia. I won’t mention the town, because everyone knows everyone else. There were eight of us, which included the three children (and their spouses) of a man raised with my father after his parents divorced. My dad was brought up largely by his aunt and her husband, who had two children as well. This aunt had helped raise his mother, as her biological mother was not part of the picture.

We had so much fun catching up, trading stories and filling in gaps in other stories. I hope the visits spawn reciprocal ones. It did with our New England trip. In fact, another niece we reconnected with in Maine is coming down for a few days later today.

I cannot emphasize enough how happy we are to have made these trips. I recognize this may not be newsworthy, but let me say don’t wait until it is too late to connect or reconnect.

Have a safe and enjoyable holidays

For those who celebrate, please have a Merry Christmas. For those who do not (and those who do), please have a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Christianity is an important religion, but it is only one of several, so a blanket Merry Christmas statement may or may not be well received, even if well-intended.

Either way, time away from work should be spent with friends and family. Yet, the holiday season is a time when those who do not have others will be even more despondent or depressed. Even more so, the holidays will be a time when loved ones who have passed (or left or are in harm’s way) are missed. So, please share your home or celebration with others.

My mother passed away early Christmas morning in 2016. To me, as devout a woman as she was, it was fitting for her to pass away when Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth. My wife, brother, sister and I will always remember her passing this day. Not ironically, my mother-in-law passed away just after Christmas. Like my mother, she was a devout woman. So, we will remember her well this season.

Let me close out with a bit of humor, which is indicative of non-Christians remembering the holiday in their own way. When Elena Kagan was being vetted by the Senate for the Supreme Court, she handled a question meant to highlight that she was Jewish. Its purpose was unclear, but the following was asked in a mid-December hearing. “Judge Kagan, how will you be celebrating Christmas this week?”

Her response was priceless. “Senator, I will be eating at a Chinese restaurant like all Jewish people do.” It received a laugh even from the asker and diffused its uncertain intent with aplomb.

Being with family and friends. Sharing a meal. Remembering those not with us. Happy holidays everyone. And, travel safely. Following distance is our friend.

Sixty feels like fifty-nine

I am no longer in my fifties. I know many reading this may have passed this threshold. More than being one day older, the milestone has caused a lot of reflection.

My boyhood friends that last to this day also turned sixty this year, with me the final entrant. We were reflecting on boyhood moments and achievements that seem like they were just yesterday. Reminding each other of what each remembers about an event is an interesting exercise as perspectives vary. I remember something that a friend forgot about it and vice versa.

Old friends are treasures. We cannot talk or text for a couple of months and pick up conversation as if no time had elapsed. We are like an old pair of jeans that are broken in real well.

With that said, my best friend is the one I married. My wife of thirty-three years is a constant. She grounds me and keeps me sane while driving me crazy on occasion. She is the best of listeners, one of those “rainy day people” that Gordon Lightfoot sang about. She makes me laugh.

We have had some family challenges like all families do, so we seem to always have a ball drop while we are juggling many. The other day, I sat down after putting a lid on one issue and had solace for eight minutes until the phone rang. After hanging up, I told my wife – eight minutes of solace.

I guess turning sixty reminds me of our recent loss that is painful for my wife and me. Her brother Joe passed away almost three weeks ago at the young age of 61.
He died young, but his body was hurting. She loved and admired her brother greatly.

We don’t know how much time we have. We just have to make the best of it. We need to live our lives with intent, not being a passenger in our own lives. We need to savor our friends and family. I hope many years remain for all of us. And, I want to thank all of my blogging friends for sharing their insights and stories.

Four friends, one parent left

I have shared before that I am blessed to still have two friends dating back to elementary school with a third one being added in junior high school. We four visit when I return to my home town of Jacksonville, usually over much laughter and time well spent.

Unfortunately, some of the recent visits have been for funerals for our parents. Tomorrow, I will be headed down for the next to last parent funeral for our group. Glenn lost his mother this week.

That will leave Frank’s mother as the last parent. Unfortunately, she has been burdened with Alzheimer’s like my mother. So, she won’t likely remember any of us. But, she is a rock for us all, as we spent  more time with her as Frank’s father died forty years ago.

Glenn’s mother was a gem as well. One of my favorite stories about Glenn’s mother is while she drove any of her children, regardless of age, when she braked the car, she would invariably shoot her right arm out to restrain her child. For my British friends, think left arm. Picture an adult child being restrained by his mother when she brakes.

She was a caring woman whose husband was a minister. He passed away two years ago. Her several grandchildren called her “Nana.” I like that as it suits her well.

She will be missed by her family and friends. She lived a full life and raised a beautiful family. Please think a good thought for her. And, if still blessed to have your mother and/or father, give them a call. If not call a brother, sister or friend.

Happy Thanksgiving All

Even for our friends who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, peace be with you. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, bar none. Nineteen of us will sit down to dinner and fellowship.

This will need to be short as more preparation is required. We have been at this for ten days, but thank goodness people will be bringing food, drinks or ice.

Please remember this season all of the things to be thankful for. Also, note good news is vastly underreported and bad news is vastly overreported, so things are never as bad as they seem. With that said, there are too many who do without or less than we do in this country and world. There are too many that live in a more dangerous area than we do and are ostracized and disenfranchised daily.

Let’s be thankful for what we have and remember those who are not as comfortable as we are or are in severe need. All the best.