Old Dogs: The Solution for World Peace?

oldpug

It is generally acknowledged that dogs are therapeutic.  Notice I didn’t say, owning a dog is therapeutic, because I’m not sure who owns whom. Dogs of any age are a blessing, long after your kids no longer get excited about you coming home, a dog will always view you as hot property.


A word about cats and dogs.

Poppy has been blessed to have been owned by both dogs and cats, and both are great. But cats and dogs are different (see how smart Poppy is)? Perhaps the best explanation between the two that I have read is this: Dogs think; they love me, they feed me, they take care of me … they must be Gods. Cats think; they love me, they feed me, they take care of me … I must be a God.


Puppies, as cute as they might be, are exhausting. Perhaps it’s because my muzzle is also grizzled, that I feel a connection with old dogs. Old dogs seem  at peace with themselves, a virtue that is often hard to attain as a human. Years spent with a dog creates a bond unlike anything else.

On November the 8th, 2016 we said goodbye to Zsa-Zsa, our beloved pug of thirteen plus years. Yes, November the 8th was also election day (I choose not to read anything into the coincidence). Like most pugs, Zsa-Zsa was blessed with an excess of personality. She was fiercely loyal to her family, her pack. We may have failed at her training because I’m pretty sure Zsa-Zsa thought she ran the family. She also assumed the role of family protector. The family was outside once when she spotted intruders encroaching upon our property. Before I could stop her she was off. The matched pair of Rottweilers looked up, alerted by her barking, to the fast closing 25 lbs. of pure pug fury bearing down on them. Fortunately the dog’s owners were friends of ours. Even more fortunate, the Rottweilers had more sense than, Zsa-Zsa, our intrepid pug. They looked down on her with mild amusement and didn’t even offer a replying bark.

For reasons I don’t understand, God has decreed that our dogs will age faster than us. Zsa-Zsa got to the point where she could no longer navigate stairs, let alone charge Rottweilers. But her faithfulness never faltered. Old dogs have a way of looking at you that communicates something entirely different from a puppy. A puppy will look at you with eager eyes that say, “I love you, let’s play.” An old dog will raise its head from the floor, look you in the eye with a depth of knowledge about you that conveys not only love but that says, “I understand.”

Dogs are capable of mischief, they can be sneaky, especially when it comes to stealing food from forbidden sources, but they are incapable of duplicity. Trust, unwavering loyalty, steadfastness, these are the structural traits of our canine companions.  Old dogs are calming. No matter what is going on in the world, no matter what kind of day you’ve had, they understand.

I’ve started to think, that to say, “I understand,” or “I know you,” is more intimate than saying, “I love you.” Evidently the Psalmist thought so too. David in Psalm 139 says, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me,” and later in the Psalm, ” If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

I’ve watched Zsa-Zsa sleep the sound sleep of an old dog, her chest rising and falling with labored breathing, but still twitching as she chased rabbits and Rottweilers in her dreams. I’ve watched as she struggled to stand. I would scoop her into my arms then hold her fast in my right hand as I carried her down the stairs and to the yard outside. When I placed her down, she would often look up at me, and her eyes said, “I’m sorry its come to this.”

“I understand,” I replied.

The world is in need of a lot of understanding. The therapy of an old dog resting its head on our collective feet might be just what we need to put things into perspective. God created dogs with an honesty and empathy that often escapes us “higher” creatures.

We’re going to need a lot of old dogs!

…………………………….

In case you’re wondering, of course dogs go to heaven!

Divided We Stand!

dodoflag

Pro-life Democrats, Republicans who support gun control, and Dodo birds. At one time they all walked the planet on two feet. They are all now extinct.

Politics have become our religion and no one is allowed to stand in the middle. Once you don the cloak of political religiosity, every action and attitude, no matter how extreme, illogical or even cruel is justified because God is on your side. This includes bludgeoning flightless birds and moderate politicians. Those who do not accept their party’s platform in its entirety are no longer viewed as individuals with a different opinion, but as heretics. As with any religion, it is perfectly permissible to destroy heretics. In the post-modern world we burn them  at the stake of public opinion and shun them in the town square of social media. In the world of Dodo bird politics, civility and discourse are weaknesses to be eliminated, ridicule has replaced reason, and humility has lost its once held status as a virtue.

Our community is no longer defined by the houses, neighbors, shops, churches and schools within a certain geographical radius, but has become the news-feeds, sites, and sources that we can trust to support our world view and reflect back to us, in the warm glow of our computer screens, opinions that mirror our own. Critical thinking is viewed with suspicion and distrust, and let’s be honest, critical is such a negative word.

Blue-collar caucasian men, voting in the proper manner, are the backbone of our country. Strong of back and stern of jaw, they are the working class, the salt of the earth, honored and revered. Until they offer a differing opinion, then they instantly become just “uneducated white males”, the lowest of the low, suitable for sacrifice on the altar of disdain. There are so many of them, who would miss a few?

Our new prophets descend from Mount Hollywood and the white marble temples of D.C. to deliver their meme’s and wisdom a daily basis, engraved not on tablets of stone but on tablets and phones. Entire Gospels are delivered in 144 characters or less. Continue reading “Divided We Stand!”

At First Glance (a resolution)

SAMSUNG CSC

The flotsam and jetsam of 2016 are being dragged out to sea by the last ebb tide of the year. It is a strong night tide that has cleared the beach and leveled the sand, leaving it pristine, unmarred and untouched. It awaits the dawn of the next year and fresh footprints on a new stage. In the vast continuum of time, it is just another day. There are a trail of days, behind and before, that defy our reckoning. But we have drawn a line in the sand with our calendar and tomorrow we will mark the start of a new year. It is a time, real and imagined, of new hope and new beginnings. It is a time of resolutions.


I am what they refer to as, of a certain age. Though the definition is vague, it is generally accepted to mean, no longer young.

Guilty as charged.

Being of a certain age carries with it some disadvantages. For men, it means that their hair starts to disappear from locations that are desirable and relocates to regions that are less so. In my twenties I gave no thought to my eyebrows, now they require trimming, let’s not even mention the nose and ears. It also marks the onset of what my father called the furniture disease. This is when your chest starts to settle into your drawers. But being of a certain age also brings some benefits. Most of us are finally comfortable with ourselves. We have come to accept our weaknesses and our few strengths. We realize it’s unlikely to see big swings in our temperament, personality, knowledge or wealth. In the words of the great philosopher, Popeye the sailorman, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”

Being of a certain age, I  have to guard against turning into a curmudgeon. I’m starting to see hints of that sneaking into my vocabulary. I try to catch myself before I utter phrases like, “it wasn’t like that when I was (insert age),” or, “that’s not the way it should be done.” I have also become pretty good at sizing up people with just a glance and assigning them to categories of mine own making. Continue reading “At First Glance (a resolution)”

My Wealth!

"Constellation du Bouvier" (Bootes) © Philippe DURVILLE 2001

Braided in a no frills, no-nonsense fashion, her hair style complements her work ethic … no frills, no-nonsense.  The simple gold wire rimmed glasses which frame her eyes, shine brightly against her ebony skin. A force field of experience and knowledge swirls around her as she moves swiftly and efficiently behind the customer service counter of the Shop N’ Save. In her orbit are the girls working with her, decades her junior, looking to her for orders, direction and guidance. When I suggest that it is she, not the manager, who actually runs the store, the hidden source of power, she laughs and waves her hand at me as if it’s the silliest thing she’s ever heard of, yet she is a constant force in her realm and has outlasted several managers. Two or three times a week, for years, our paths have crossed. I call her by name, I have the advantage, it’s printed on the employee badge pinned to her chest. I’m not sure she knows mine.  Our conversations run no deeper than casual chit-chat about work schedules, the weather, or wishing me luck on my most minor of vices, the purchase of a weekly lottery ticket. I don’t know or care who she voted for in the last presidential election. We are not friends on Facebook. By any measure or standard, we are the most casual of friends. Ours is the most minor of relationships.


Like a well-mannered child, who gathers up their art supplies after they are finished coloring, the sun starts to gather up all the colors it has used during the day as it descends toward the horizon. In one last grand gesture before it disappears, the sun splashes those pigments across the clouds and spills its paint on the surface of the ocean. Armed with cameras and cell phones, we gather on the beach, ready to record the event. The display only lasts for a few minutes and the crowd of photographers and observers quickly disperse. Unwilling to leave its precious pigments behind, the sun gathers them up as it starts to brighten the other side of the world. We are left with the muted shades of dusk, the light becomes soft and the crisp edges of the landscape that were so sharp during the day start to lose focus.

As our hemisphere slides further and further away from the sun, the color palette on the island becomes more restrained until we are left only with hues of black, grey and deep satiny blues. The sun no longer has dominion over the sky and the stars and planets start to appear, Venus first, then Polaris the north star. They emerge almost timidly while the glow of the departing sun still lingers in the western sky. Gradually more and more stars make their entrance until the night sky becomes a dome filled with celestial celebrities, the constellations Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Draco, Orion and Pleiades the seven sisters.

Our family beach vacations are usually spent on Sanibel Island or St. George Island. These are barrier islands that sit off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. They have many things in common, both underdeveloped, no high-rise buildings, no tacky tourist attractions, no stop lights and both have ordinances requiring lights on the outside of buildings be turned off during the summer months, which for sea turtles is nesting season. Female loggerheads, leatherbacks, and green sea turtles return to these islands, the place of their birth, to lay their eggs. The turtle hatchlings when they are born need to head to the sea. If they emerge at nighttime, a bright bulb will appear to them as a shining moon, potentially causing them to head off in the wrong direction. The lack of outside lights is important for baby turtles and even better for star-gazing.

I don’t exactly sneak out at night. Sometimes it’s a thinly veiled excuse like taking the dog out one last time, sometimes it’s more direct. No one in my family shares my passion for walks on the beach after dark. I understand that to a certain extent. The beach is a totally different place after dark and the pitch darkness can be a little scary. For this city boy the main attraction is the night sky. The canopy of stars that stretches from horizon to horizon is nothing like my vista back home where the view is marred by buildings, trees and light pollution. When I tilt my head back to take in this spectacle, the effect is dizzying. My mind can’t grasp the scope, the time, the distance displayed before me. I start to understand my smallness, my insignificance. For the moment I understand that the world does not revolve around  me and I am content to be one little guy in God’s great big old creation.

As I gaze at the constellations above me, I realize they don’t exist as a singular unit, whole unto themselves. Only by one star establishing a relationship with an adjacent star, then another and another until the sum of their parts is greater than any individual star do they become the constellations we know. For all its brightness, Polaris is just another star until it connects with other stars to become part of the  little dipper or the larger constellation Ursa Minor, Little Bear (yes I’m a nerd). It is that relationship of position, brightness and arrangement that make up all the constellations that we know.

I think about the people in my life. I consider the relationships, the connections, the arrangements, the distance or the closeness.

I think about my family waiting for me back in the rented condo. I imagine each family member as a star. In my limited galaxy of constellations, my family shines the brightest. In the center of that star cluster is my best friend, my love, the mother of my children. Nearby are the stars of my daughters, my grandchildren, my brother, my in-laws. Beyond that are the constellations made of old friends, never wavering, always constant, shining brightly. Circling them is the nebula of co-workers, many of whom I spend more time with them than most family members.

I’ll admit I’m not always the quickest to get things. I’m the guy that chuckles at the punchline of a joke about 10 seconds after everyone else has quit laughing (if I get it at all). But I’ve collected enough years to understand some things, or at least some things about myself.  I’ve slowly learned that my true wealth is not determined by my bank account, the car I drive, or the paintings I own. The richness of my life is in those myriad of relationships, those people formed constellations, from the most intimate (my spouse) to the most casual (the customer service lady at Shop N’ Save). Some relationships can last for decades, others come and go as quickly as a meteor that flashes across the night sky for a few seconds, then is gone. Once I learned that there is value in all those affiliations, it changed the way I view them and to some degree, how I treat them. We treat things of value differently than items of trash. I might kick a tin can down the street, but would never treat a diamond ring that way.

I’m a little bemused by all the “unfriending” that has occurred during the last presidential election. Sadly it’s not all just “cyber-friends”, the friends made just by clicking on a hyperlink on a social media site, but relationships that  have had real meaning in the past. Mrs. Poppy has experienced this personally. A former supervisor, a friend, has shunned everyone whose political and social views don’t match up with hers. I want to, at least metaphorically, drag her down to the island at night and force her to look up at the night sky. I want her to understand the quality her life has not been improved by surrounding herself only with people who think exactly as she does, that she has become poorer by discarding those other relationships. The constellations she has enjoyed in the past, no longer exist because they are missing key elements.

“Variety is the spice of life”, may be a cliché, but it is also true. I can’t imagine eating only one type of food, listening to only one genre of music or associating only with people who look and think exactly as I do.

I am hardly perfect in this regard. I have my share of fading stars, friendships that I have neglected. Too busy, too lazy, too self-absorbed, too distant, the excuses and reasons are endless. My New Year’s resolutions may come early this season. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some emails to send, some phone calls to make.

Merry Christmas, Poppy

 

 

 

 


Captiva and Sanibel Island gifts, souvenirs and t-shirts  http://www.cafepress.com/sanibelslacker

 

The Fine Art of Being Still

still

The sun has already dropped below the horizon and the moon is just a sliver in the night sky. Venus shines brightly directly below the waxing crescent, as if suspended by an invisible thread attached to the arc of its celestial neighbor.

With the help of some nocturnal insects, the gentle surf from the Gulf of Mexico provides the soundtrack for the evening. The reverie is interrupted only briefly by the sound of a distant power boat returning to the marina, its pursuit of fish done for the day. On plane, the drone of the outboard engine is joined by the slap of its hull as it pounds against the offshore chop.

I’m writing this from my version of paradise … the lanai of a condo rented on Sanibel Island. Sanibel has no high-rises, no traffic lights, no fast food restaurants, the only exceptions being a Subway and Dairy Queen, grandfathered in after the strict building ordinances passed in 1974. It is as peaceful as it gets in this crazy state of Florida.

Why then is it so hard for me to quiet my mind? Continue reading “The Fine Art of Being Still”

The Shadow and the Tree

lincoln-1859

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing” – Abraham Lincoln


The design was unremarkable. The message was simple.  If it had not been on the eve of the second presidential debate, the t-shirt would have probably gone unnoticed.

Our family had just finished touring the Abraham Lincoln museum in Springfield, Illinois (which is excellent). As with all good American attractions, we were instructed to “exit through the gift shop”. Front and center upon entering the gift shop was a circular display filled with black t-shirts of various sizes. They all bore the same inscription in simple white letters … “I miss Abe.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” I thought to myself, “what I wouldn’t give for a good Lincoln-Douglas debate right about now.” Of course that was not to be, and instead we had Hillary and Donald.

Arriving back at our hotel, I fired up the iPad and started to catch up on the events of the day. I’ve made it a habit to switch between Fox News and CNN for my news feeds. It’s interesting to observe how two different news organizations can spin the same story in such opposite directions. Many times they pick entirely different stories to cover without even a pretense of neutrality.

Following both news feeds is an attempt on my part to get a balanced perspective. I can’t tell that it’s working.

What was working, was that after spending ten minutes reading about the latest shenanigans from both candidates, I was thoroughly depressed.

I thought about character. I thought about principles. I thought about personal values. I thought about Abe.

I’m sure over the years we have romanticized Lincoln to some extent. But we have enough of his writings, speeches and notes, not to mention the recorded history from the newspapers of that time to have a pretty accurate picture of the man.

I thought about our current crop of candidates.

I thought about character some more.

Do we, as a nation, care about character anymore?

Hilary and Donald seem to be in a race to the bottom. It’s as if they were in some perverse video game where the goal is to collect the seven deadly sins as bonus tokens during their free fall. And then when they have arrived at the bottom, jump up in front of us and say, “Vote for Me.”

Are we so desperate to align ourselves with a candidate that mirrors a particular position we hold, that we are willing to accept anything?

Let’s bring it a little closer to home:

  • Suppose you’re on the board of a worthy non-profit organization and you discover that the treasurer is skimming money meant to help those in need. But the treasurer holds the same views as you do on immigration and health care, so you let it slide.
  • You find out that your city councilwoman is taking bribes to award city business. You’re upset by that, but their stance on gun control and gay marriage is the same as yours, so you let it go unreported.
  • You discover your pastor is having an affair with the church secretary. You’re not happy with that, but the pastor agrees with your position on abortion and foreign policy, so you accept his immorality.

Of course those examples are ridiculous, no moral person would look the other way on any of those scenarios … why then do we accept such a lack of character, morality and principles from our candidates for the highest offices of the land?

I’m not so naïve as to expect perfection from anyone, let alone politicians. Backroom deals, chicanery and tomfoolery (to be polite) have been a part of politics since the beginning. But traditionally they were kept in the backroom, they were kept secret. Why?, because the majority of Americans would not have tolerated those behaviors.

Why do we now accept those behaviors? We have witnessed things in this campaign that would have derailed candidates in previous election cycles. And now that we have accepted the lowest common denominator, where do we go from here?

I miss Abe!



Addendum –

“Okay Poppy,” you’re thinking right about now … “you’ve shot your mouth off, what do you suggest”?

I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you a few things that have helped me.

Take an inventory of your values-

I can place mine in three buckets. In the first group are issues that I have some opinion about, but are of little importance to me. The second group contain issues that are important to me and all other things being equal, will be a deciding factor. The third group holds values that are to me, inviolate. I would never vote for a candidate who does not uphold that value.

Your values will vary, for me there is only one issue in that third bucket because I believe it to be literally a matter of life and death.

Understand your rights-

As an American citizen you have the right to vote.

As an American citizen you have the right to not vote.

If voting for either candidate for a particular office violates your conscience, then don’t do it. Don’t be guilted into voting for someone you don’t approve of or fall prey to the faulty logic of … “If you don’t vote for him, it’s a vote for her or if you don’t vote her it’s a vote for him.” It cuts both ways.

Demand better-

We don’t have to go back all the way to Lincoln to find principled candidates. It was not so long ago, that I could have pointed to the Republican and Democratic candidates for president and while I might have preferred one over the other, I believe both were of good character.

We all know principled men and women of good character. They exist! Demand more of everyone running for office on every level from dog-catcher to the POTUS. Don’t settle for click-bait. Get involved!

See you in four years!

Having “Skin” in the Game…

At the time, I didn’t know his name.

All I knew was that I was in a hurry and he was partially blocking the entrance to the Shop N Save. He looked to be about 14 or 15 years old. The August heat radiating off the pavement, caused a thin sheen of perspiration to coat his ebony skin, soaking into his jeans and dark grey sleeveless t-shirt.

“Excuse me,” he said, holding up his hand motioning for me to stop.

Here it comes, I thought, He’s going to ask me for some type of handout.

He didn’t disappoint. His approach was direct and to the point.

“I need some money for the bus, could you help me?”

I’m pretty sure there is an invisible sign floating over my head that only people who are panhandling can see. It says, “Soft Touch” or “Easy Mark”, or something to that effect, with an arrow pointing down at my head.

“Sorry,” I said, “I don’t have any cash on me.”

He paused for just a second then said, “Could you give me a ride then? It’s just down the street,” as he pointed in a southerly direction.

“What’s just down the street?” I asked, somewhat incredulous at his bold approach. Between my less than stellar hearing, the ambient street noise, and his thick inner-city dialogue he mumbled something that I didn’t quite catch. “I’m sorry, what’s just down the street?” I repeated.

“You know, it’s next to the Walgreens” he said with equal parts exasperation and desperation, “It’s not that far.”

Still not understanding everything he was saying, I said, “I’m going to get my groceries,” and walked past him into the store. I had less than a dozen items to pick up but that still gave me plenty of time for an internal debate.

It’s not my problem … he’s young, it won’t kill him to walk a few miles … but it’s 95° …what if he tries to carjack me? … he’s a skinny kid, I could take him … but what if he has a gun? … he’s only 14 or 15 … even 14 year olds have guns these days … if he was intent on carjacking someone, would he hang out in such a visible spot? …it’s just not smart to let a total stranger in the car with you … but he seems so desperate … I could go out the other entrance to the store and circle around to my car, he would never see me …it’s not my problem … I can spare 10 or 15 minutes out of my life to help someone .

I paid for my groceries. Not bothering to take a shopping cart, I balanced my two small bags of groceries in each hand, and headed out of the store. He was sitting on the ground, back pressed against one of the brick columns that ran the length of the store. His arms wrapped around his bent legs, forehead resting on his knees, he was the picture of dejection.

“You ready?”

He glanced up and jumped to his feet, “Yes.”

I shifted the bags in my right hand to my left and introduced myself.

Tentatively he took my offered hand, “Maurice,” he replied.

I loaded the groceries into the back of the SUV while he climbed into the passenger seat. Opening the driver’s side door, I took one last inventory of my companion before settling in behind the wheel. “So, Maurice, where are we headed?” I asked, still not understanding exactly where he wanted to go.

“I’ll show you, it’s not that far,” he said trying to reassure me. “The people from the store let me hang out, I tried to earn some money by helping people with their groceries, but nobody wanted any help,” he volunteered.

Still trying to puzzle out his desired destination I asked, “So do you live on that street by the Walgreens?”

“Oh no,” he replied quickly, “I live in the city! That street goes to the bus station.”

“If you live in the city, how did you end up out here?” I asked.

“I was supposed to meet my cousin, but I took the wrong bus. Now I don’t have any money, I’ve got to get home … this is the worst day of my life!” he blurted out.

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Maurice, I really hope this is the worst day of your life, but if you live very long I can pretty much guarantee this won’t be the worst day of your life.” Before my eyes the young black man I had viewed as a potential threat morphed into a kid … lost, confused and just trying to get home.

“How much is the bus fare?” I asked.

“With the transfer, it’s $3.00, but if I ask the driver maybe they will let me ride for free.”

Good luck with that, I thought to myself.

“Let’s see what we can do.” I said, “There is always some cash scattered around in the truck I keep for tolls and such.”

“Can we look?” he said excitedly.

I pulled off the road and started rummaging through the cup holders and console. The drink holders yielded 79¢, the console revealed a long forgotten crumbled one-dollar bill along with some more change. I passed the loot over to Maurice bit-by-bit as he totaled it up.

“How are we doing?” I asked.

“We’ve got it!” he exclaimed.

When we arrived at the Metrolink station, a much more confident young man thrust his hand into mine and said, “Thank you.”

With his head held high and a bit of strut in his walk he made a beeline for the bus.

I’ve thought about Maurice several times since then. He told me what school he would be attending this fall, I have a pretty good idea what part of town he lives in … the odds are not in his favor.


I’ve lived in two houses built in 1890. I’ve learned to fix a lot of things. But the things I can fix pale in comparison to the things I can’t. I can’t fix racial strife and inequality. I can’t fix abusive cops. I can’t fix the divisiveness of Black Lives Matter. I can’t fix either of the Presidential candidates or even top 40 country music, and that’s just scratching the surface! So why even worry about it?

I’ve flirted with Apathy. I’ve considered going steady with her. If I totally committed to her and embraced her, maybe life would be simpler … I wouldn’t have to worry about all those things I can’t fix. But Apathy will never be my mistress, you see I have skin in the game.


My grandson, whom I love more than life itself, is biracial. I see him as an amazing young man bursting with undeveloped potential. Society will see him as a black man.

Already tall, when he reaches the age of Maurice, he will probably tower over me. Five years from now, will he engender fear when he approaches a sixty-something white man? Will he receive extra scrutiny when he walks into an upscale store? Will he be viewed as an automatic suspect by police?

I don’t like the term white privilege, I find it simplistic and divisive. Privilege exists on an almost unlimited number of levels that are beyond our control or influence. If you are born into money, you will have advantages that others don’t. If you are born with perfectly symmetrical and proportioned features that fit our definition of beauty, you will have advantages that others don’t. The majority of CEO’s are male, over six feet tall and have full heads of hair. Life is not, or ever will be, a level playing field.

While I may not like the term, white privilege, it would be naive not to recognize that my grandson will face challenges that I never had to face. Only by recognizing and acknowledging these challenges will we ever reduce or eliminate them. However, having challenges that I have not had, does not make him a victim. Not being born beautiful, rich, or having any of those other advantages does not make you a victim.

So where do we go from here as a society on the myriad of racial issues that face us as a species?

It would be the height of hubris for me to pretend I have the answers to those questions, but I can tell you how I would like my grandson treated (and by extension the Maurice’s of the world).

  • I want him seen as an individual, not as a member of some monolithic block. As an individual he will decide what types of food and music he will enjoy. As a unique person he will decide who to vote for. As an individual he will choose his friends, his educational path and ultimately his profession. I never want him instantly categorized on any level based on his appearance.
  • I want him held accountable for his actions. I want him judged but not prejudged.
  • I want him given a fair chance, but not receive special consideration based on his skin color. I don’t want him awarded a ribbon for just showing up. A couple of years ago, I taught him to play chess. He has yet to beat me in a game of chess. One day he will best me, and on that day he will know he has earned that victory.
  • Most of all I want my grandson viewed as child of God. Steinbeck wrote, The great change in the last 2,000 years was the Christian idea that the individual soul was very precious. Unless we can preserve and foster the principle of the preciousness of the individual mind, the world of men will either disintegrate into a screaming chaos or will go into a gray slavery.”

What do I want from my grandson?

I want him to take the bullet points above and flip them around, so that he treats everyone in the same fashion I want him treated. I want him to always be grateful for the privileges he has and never look down on those with less. I want him to love God and country. I want him to live by these simple but profound words from William Shakespeare, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”


And now the question that haunts me; If my grandson wasn’t who he is, would I have given Maurice a ride? I’m not sure … Poppy, 10/15/2016


chess

*Well, it finally happened, he beat me in a game of chess! … Poppy 9/21/2017

A Big Salute!

DDay

I’m finally getting around to reading, “The Greatest Generation.” On this Independence Day I’m willing to say, shame on me. I’m humbled and proud at the same time. If it were in my power, I would make this required reading for every American.

From the book … “This generation was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values­­ – duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself.”

When I read of the “sappers” (the soldiers at the front of the first wave on D-day, whose job was to find and detonate the land mines) who had their limbs blown apart but shot themselves full of morphine so they could stay conscious long enough to direct the men following them to safety, serving as human markers … I’m not too proud to say I choked up.

When I compare that to our current national debate over who can pee where … I’m speechless. Continue reading “A Big Salute!”

Of Guns, Manatees and J.S. Bach

GunsManateesBach

Driving cross-country gives you plenty of time to think. Maybe too much time.

The second and final leg of our journey home started just south of Chattanooga.   We were on the road by 7:30 Eastern time. Somehow, knowing that we were on the cusp of gaining an hour, moving from the Eastern to the Central Time Zone, felt like we had gotten an earlier start. The family, or at least the members that were with us (1 wife, 1 daughter out of 2, 1 grandchild out of 2, and 2 dogs out of 3) quickly settled into their traveling routines of napping, reading, and checking phones and iPads, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

I rewound the events of the last week and played them back. We over-ate in moderation at a myriad of good restaurants, caught lots of sun but avoided any burns, and collected a fair amount of shells without turning it into a job. One night I introduced my grandson to “The Princess Bride.” By any measure, our week on Sanibel Island, was a success. The highlight being a guided fishing excursion in pursuit of snook. The bonus part of that expedition came as we waited on the docks of Jensen’s Marina for our guide. A large group (herd?) of manatee was frolicking at the marina. Having never been a manatee, I don’t know what was going on, but my best guess would be that they were intent on perpetuating their species. In any case they were more active than any manatees I had seen before.

Unfortunately, my rewind of last week’s events included much less pleasant events: the killing of a young singer, the slaughter at the Orlando nightclub, and a the death of a 2 year-old at Disney. Any one of those events is cause for dismay, but coupled together in the span of a week they were downright depressing. Continue reading “Of Guns, Manatees and J.S. Bach”

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

 

MomOnBillySunday

Mom astride her pony, Billy Sunday, preparing to ride in a parade (circa 1927). Mom claimed he was given this name by my grandfather because the pony was acquired on a Sunday. I have a suspicion there may be a little revisionist history going on here. By all accounts my grandfather was far from a religious man, I can’t prove it, but suspect that the obstinate and sometimes ill-tempered pony was christened thus to poke fun at the famous evangelist rather than pay homage to him.

Nobody outside of our family will care that the pony my mother was riding in the photo at the top of this post was named “Billy Sunday.” This is knowledge that can’t be obtained by “Googling.” This is information that is of no interest beyond a select few individuals, but it is a part of who I am.

Sometime before my mother lost her eyesight she had the foresight to go through our collection of old black and white family photos. With a soft pencil in her scrawling delicate script she inscribed on the back of each image the names of the people pictured along with the location and approximate year as her memory allowed. She told my brother and me that she was doing this because we would not know or remember the details she was recording.

She was correct.

Sure, I recognize most of the people captured on the prints primarily because they are shots of immediate family. Others however would be unknown to me if not for my mom’s record keeping.

Sadly, it has taken me years to have a real interest in my roots and my family’s history. My self-absorbed teenage years blended into my 20’s and 30’s which were only slightly less self-obsessed. Fast forward a few decades and now I would love to sit down with Mom and Dad and have them fill in some missing details from their early years. Dad passed from us in 2012 and a hundred years of living has worn Mom’s memory thin, it skips and jumps like an over-played cassette tape.

I’ve transferred Dad’s 8MM movie film to DVD’s and now have boxes of 35mm slides to go through. Continue reading “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”