A man called Ove – a curmudgeon worth a deeper look

The title of bestselling author Fredrik Backman’s book “A man called Ove” or the reference to the subject may not be inviting, but give this book a chance. We all have curmudgeons in our lives and sometimes we may even channel our inner curmudgeon. But, why do some people act the way they do?

People Magazine opines on Ove, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel new sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life.” I agree.

Backman introduces Ove in real time, so you will start off with a full-frontal view of a curmudgeon. But, through changes in his daily life and a series of reveals as Ove remembers the good and bad in his life, you gain a new perspective on how he has evolved to be who he is. You will learn Ove has a tough outer shell, but different layers are buried beneath.

To avoid any spoilers, let me mention what is written on the back cover to invite you to read the book. Ove’s daily routine is disrupted when chatty new neighbors with two young daughters announce they have arrived one November morning by accidentally backing their U-Haul trailer over Ove’s mailbox.

Their interactions and related others take an ice-pick to Ove’s icy outer shell. The book is an easy read, but do give Ove a chance. Your initial reaction to Ove will be like everyone else’s whom the character meets in the book. So, bring your proverbial ice pick along. And, some tissue.

Have you ever noticed?

Have you ever noticed…

– the person at the park laboring while he or she walks or runs seems to leave you in the dust?

– the volume of an arguer’s voice increases in opposite proportion to the veracity of his or her argument?

– the same opposite proportion holds true with the amount of name-calling and labeling?

– the best bread has the hardest crust and is served with the biggest knife?

– the one you should respect the most is the quiet one going about his or her business?

– there is a reason for the term false bravado, as an important corollary to the above?

– if there is a lot of lying going on to cover one’s hind end, there is a reason it is bare?

– the higher a monkey climbs in a tree, the more you can see its hind end?

– people who read seem to be more adept at writing?

– you can never have enough cups of coffee with people?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

When memories of loved ones pop up unexpectedly

I watched a poignant video where a young woman was presented with a birthday gift of a talking teddy bear. The bear had a prerecorded voice and she soon realized the voice was her father’s speaking to her using her name. It brought tears as her dad had passed away a year before.

This beautiful story made me think of two poignant movie scenes and a real story. The first movie scene is from “Peggy Sue got married.” Kathleen Turner played Peggy Sue, who went back in time to avoid marrying her boyfriend who eventually left her. The poignant scene occurs when she answers the phone at her mom and dad’s house and hears her grandmother’s voice, who had died years before her time travel occurred. It gives me chills to write this as she spoke to a departed loved one once again.

The other movie scene is from “Field of Dreams,” with Kevin Costner. After building a baseball field in his corn crop, the now deceased players of the Chicago White Sox, who had been banned for gambling, appear to play. But, the real reason he is inspired to build the field is his father comes to play as a young man and former ballplayer. When he asks his dad for a game of catch, it is a very emotional for me as I used to play catch with my father.

While these movies are dramatically poignant, we came across an old cassette tape of my father-in-law singing. Before he passed in 1997, he used to play guitar and sing in clubs, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, church, senior living centers, etc. So, we just sat and listened to his crooning, as he performed old standards from the 1940 – 60s. It was a treat for my wife and me. One of my favorite memories is returning from New York at night, with him and my mother-in-law singing old songs like these while riding in the back seat.

Cherish your memories, especially when they unexpectedly pop up. Sometimes, all it takes is a prompt – a song, a movie clip, an old friend, or an old piece of clothing – to flush out the memories.

Perspective from a life event

My wife and I traveled to Charleston for a christening of the one year old son of our nephew and his wife. As we were at breakfast before-hand, I got a call from my college student daughter. That was an immediate red flag.

She had been in an accident, but was OK. She was headed to work at her part-time job at a nearby ski resort. She said an approaching snow plow scared her and she over corrected and ran off the road, fortunately stopped by small trees.

So, everything in life becomes clear. She is unharmed and has seen the value of having good friends. We will have to deal with repairing a car and working through the insurance process. Yet, other than her pride in her red SUV which she calls “Percy,” for the lead character in “The Scarlett Pimpernel,” she is unscathed.

Life goes on. That is what is most important. Thank you, Lord.

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.

A Sunday morning love story

Since I am tired of writing about “he who shall not be named,” let me offer a quick love story. It is all true and happened to a good friend and his charming and funny wife, who passed way too early.

My friend Jack was divorced with two sons. He was also a talented consultant who was devoted to his clients. He traveled to an internal two day meeting in the headquarter city of his company.

There he met Paula who was in for the same meeting from a different office three states away. They hit it off extremely well, but the flirtatious relationship was limited to just that. They returned to their cities parting on good terms.

Just before the seminar, Jack had shared his frustration with David, another consultant in a different office, who was delinquent on an assignment for his client. Again, Jack was devoted to his clients.

David felt badly for slighting the client and Jack, so he sent him a card saying “You are in my thoughts,” signing it with a big scribbled “D.” The card arrived after Jack returned from the seminar.

The card made Jack wonder who had sent it. To him, the scribbled “D” resembled a “P.” He was not certain, but hopeful that it was from Paula. So, he sheepishly called her and asked if she had sent such a note and, if she did, the feeling was reciprocal. Paula said she had not, but wished that she had. She had similar feelings.

So, with a misinterpreted card about a different issue, two kindred spirits had the most straightforward of conversations. They remained in love until she passed away. They were a delightful couple. My wife liked Paula so much, they would get together when Jack and I traveled.

When I think back on this, it is like an adult’s version of anonymous Valentine Card. It wasn’t until later that Jack learned of the real author of the card. As I got to know the author later, he liked to retell the story as well. Everyone likes a good love story.

Words parents like to hear

Our youngest son graduated college on Saturday. After a couple of transfers, he found himself at this college and flourished. He did well academically, but he also grew into being an adult.

As we talked to his professors at a breakfast for his department, we heard what a fine young man our son is and how attentive and kind he was in class and community involvement functions. As we heard these words, I saw him hand to select professors handwritten thank you notes.

Later, we spoke to his friends, roommates and their parents, even going to lunch with some. We heard from the parents what a good friend he had been to their daughter or son. We made sure to get many pictures of him with these friends.

Our son deserves kudos for what he has accomplished academically. But, to hear that he has been a good friend and community steward means a great deal. This will stay with him long after some of the learnings fade.

Well done son. We are very proud of you always, but also your being a good person. That makes all the difference.