The second time you die

There is a Jewish saying that goes something like you die twice – the second time you die is when your name isn’t spoken anymore. In other words, when the last person who knew who you were passes on, your name will die with them.

This saying shows how short a time we are on this earth. So, we better make the best of it. I have long told my children what I learned. Your name is the most important asset you have. When people hear your name, what do you want them to think?

Would it be she was a real a person? He would give the shirt off his back. Or, would it be, I never trusted him. She was selfish and mean-spirited. Knowing we cannot please everyone, we can strive to be the best version of ourselves. We can endeavor to be kind, fair, honest, hardworking, etc. and when we fall short, we can acknowledge that we have and make amends.

Even if we are not effusive or outgoing, we can still represent ourselves well. More often, it is the folks who do not draw attention to themselves that do the heavy lifting and show up everyday on time. As I have been around the block a few times, I have observed that a person’s true value is often uncorrelated with how much they beat on their chests. The louder the false bravado, the more dubious I become about the boasting.

My step-grandfather was the only grandfather I really knew. My mother’s mother divorced her first husband as he was a “rolling stone” as The Temptations used to sing about. Ironically, my blood line grandfather’s brother, was one of the finest of men and he and my step-grandfather would fish together. Neither of these fishermen were boastful. They were hard working men, who spoke little, but when they spoke, you listened.*

I remember my step-grandfather as he was a very generous and genteel man. He was a builder, a master bricklayer which left his hands quite rough. Fishermen and women know that you need to be careful handling catfish, as their fins can slice your hands. My grandfather’s hands were so rough, he could simply grab a catfish, unhook it and throw it into the bin. I also recall a day when five us caught about one hundred fifty fish. My grandfather caught over half of them but he never said a word as he would reel them in.

False bravado is not a term one would use to define my step-grandfather. But, he is remembered well. And, he is remembered in the manner in which I would like to be.

*Note: My bloodline grandfather’s brother married one of my grandmother’s older sisters. So, two brothers married two sisters. Yet, the irony of my grandmother’s second husband being a fishing buddy of the brother of her first husband is interesting. The other less ironic note, is both sisters were gregarious characters, who married and settled down with quiet men.

Of all the people

One of my favorite bosses had a unique way of not saying something bad about another person, while getting his point across. He would say about the person who consistently wronged others, “Of all the people in the world, he certainly is one of them.”

This comment would draw the appropriate chuckle. I mention this as name calling and insulting folks are becoming too much the norm. Civil discourse is increasingly rare. It is important to respond to some criticism, but do so without stooping to the level of the offender, who is baiting you. And, sometimes it is best not to respond at all.

A good example is arguing with folks like Donald Trump. He wants a mud fight, as his arguments are so poor. He would rather engage in a Twitter fight, so he can feign being insulted and attack back. Plus, with only 140 characters, it is easier for him to call someone the devil, crooked, stupid, weak, loser, ugly, etc. than actually debate points. Like many narcissists, he has a hard time seeing his role in the argument.

The best thing to do with folks like a Trump is push back with civil disagreement. I have said before being politically incorrect does not give anyone the right to lie or be a jerk. It does not give anyone the right to name call or demean people. A disarming comment is to say “I understand your points, but do not agree with them.” This works with many who feel if you just understood their arguments, you would agree with them, so it is an unnerving comeback.

Yet, when faced with such a mean-spirited and divisive person, we cannot be silent. Trump is relentless in his attacks and uses a false bravado that carries more weight than it should. My grandmother said the louder someone shouts, the worse his argument. Also, be very respectful of quiet strength. My grandfather said little and rarely raised his voice, but you listened when he talked.

We must stick to the issues and when Trump attacks with venom, focus on the attack and push back with data and conviction. His attack on Muslim American parents who lost a son in Iraq was not only wrong and spiteful, it also revealed extremely poor judgment that he actually thought it was a good idea to attack a family who lost a son fighting for our country. Yet, that is the nature of the man, as for some reason, he will not argue points, but prefer to attack the person making the arguments.

There is one thing for certain, a President is going to hear a great deal of dissent, so temperament and judgment are key attributes, that this candidate seems to lack. And, a final piece advice he should heed is when you dig yourself a hole, stop digging.

Safe travels and take along an extra dose of patience

In spite of retailers trying to steal the thunder, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It means time with family and friends. My favorite memories as a child were going to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. Now, we have that house, where we will host 15 or more folks for dinner. And, we honor my grandmother, who we called Big Mama, by making her cornbread dressing.

I have written before about Big Mama and Granddaddy. They were each very special people and very different personalities. My grandfather was very quiet and worked with his hands building houses. He also loved to fish and we would leave early morning to drive to the lake returning with endless lines of fish.

Big Mama was a character and had character. She was very funny and was as talkative as my grandfather was quiet. She worked in retail sales for years and had relationships with families as she helped dress their kids all the way through college. Yet, unlike today, she did not work in the store on Thanksgiving.

I bring this up today, as I want people to travel safely to their many destinations. This goes for folks in other countries as they begin travel for their various holidays and year-end events. With things that have occurred in Paris, Beirut, Egypt and Mali recently, we need to remind ourselves to live our lives to their fullest and hug our friends and loved ones closely when we see them.

And, as we travel, please take along an extra dose of patience. Many travel officials are doing their darnedest to make us safe from those who want to do people harm. Help them, help you by being patient, considerate and kind. Expect and plan for travel delays. And, always remember, we choose how we react to things. Don’t cede that power and get flustered by things that are outside of your control. People in line behind you do not want to be in the line with the exasperated or angry traveler, just as you don’t want to be behind one yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Safe travels and may the force (of patience) be with you.



I only knew my step-grandfather. I have been told I met my father’s father and my mother said her real father came by the house once, but the only grandfather I knew was my mother’s stepfather. We called him “Granddaddy.” When I think of Granddaddy, I think of his love of fishing. When we visited him and Big Mama (my grandmother), he would usually take my dad, brother and me fishing on his favorite fresh water lake.

The irony of all of this is his best friend, my real grandfather’s brother, would join us. While my real grandfather was a wanderer (which is the nicest thing I could say about him), his brother was one of the kindest, most loyal people you will ever meet. And, to make the irony complete, the brother was married to one of my grandmother’s sisters until she passed away.

But, this is about Granddaddy. He was a gruff man, one of few words, but I have seen him cry at weddings of his grandchildren. He dearly loved my cousin who had Autism and lived with them for a brief time. His house was also open to my mother’s oldest sister (and another cousin) when her husband was in Vietnam. He was bricklayer and house builder. His hands were very worn and he could pick up a catfish bare handed as he removed the hook. If you know fish, a catfish can slice you open with its sharp fins. When he fished, he would use two rods and reel out of the back of the boat. It was not a fancy boat, seating only three in its ten foot length, but it was his.

My favorite memory was the day the fish were hitting big. I think we hauled in over 150 fish between the two boats – my older brother would be in my Great Uncle’s boat. Granddaddy probably hauled in 80 by himself. He was so quiet when he fished, you could not tell by his demeanor when he was catching fish, even when he was having a very successful outing. This was the day his teachings of how to clean a fish were practiced over and over again. He was very patient as he taught my brother and me how to do it. And, we ate what we caught – fried fish, hush puppies, collard greens, corn bread, etc. Those were feasts, especially after a long morning on the water.

Granddaddy loved my grandmother, but they would have a tete-a-tete on occasion. Big Mama would get mad at him and he would say “Madame” and proceed with his defense. When we heard “Madame” we knew it was not a fun conversation. We also knew he was outgunned. My grandmother could talk, so she would not let anything go without colorful discussion. She would win almost every argument, but even when she was right, he did not want to hear anymore.

One time, I deserved his wrath as before one of our fishing trips, I knocked over a basket of crickets in his house. My dad was the one who carried out the fussing, but I know he beat Granddaddy to the punch. My mother later told me Big Mama heard crickets in the house for months. Granddaddy would only shake his head and curse under his breath.

Granddaddy died of lung cancer. The last few months of his life he could only speak with a rasp, as his doctors actually damaged his vocal chords with some of the tubing he had to swallow to breathe better. He dared not sue them as they were only doing their job. Having been a bricklayer, he knew first hand that mistakes could be made and you fixed them and moved on. He was not a litigious person. He was a hand shake person. But, to his death, he was always thankful for our visits as they meant so much to him. And, vice versa.

Big Mama lived for fifteen more years after his death and she missed him greatly. No more Madames. No more fish fries. No more yin and yang. They were quite the pair. My grandmother, the character who had character, and my quiet, decent, and hardworking grandfather who loved to fish. Thank you Granddaddy. Thank you both. I remember you well.