“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Happy Father’s Day to all! Thought I might write a little about my father, but perhaps that’s a book and not a blog….While the rest of the world is celebrating Father’s
Day, I have been thinking….
Not being a father, I don’t have a daughter, but if I did, and if I only had one thought with which I could leave her, it would probably be this: “Always remember: You are the prize. If a man doesn’t realize this, then he doesn’t need to be in your life.” Over the course of my wanderings in life, I’ve run into so many women who, for whatever reason, are broken, chronically broken-hearted, recovering from a series of horrendous relationships. To start, somehow, each one came away from her family with such low self-esteem. The very thought makes my head spin. All of them are beautiful, inside and out. Aside from a rocky start, many have found the wrong man along the way — some regrettably more than once — and each accordingly has suffered and is suffering mightily. Low self-esteem—unless one is vigilant—is like gout; it never really goes away and can flare up disablingly under the worst circumstances.
If I had her attention, I might go on to say this:
You are not ugly. You— darling one— are beautiful, so very beautiful! Your mother and I celebrated the day you came into this world. You are not a faddish cell phone to be carelessly tossed out at the earliest opportunity in favor of a newer, shinier, younger model. You’re not, forgive me, a what my father delicately referred to as “a lady of the evening,” —a woman who sleeps with a man for money, status or power — perhaps all three. Cherish your many God-given gifts and do not share them with just any man. Make a man prove himself to you, prove that he is worthy of your love, your time and your affection. You—dear one—are the gift.
You are, quite simply, a divinely-inspired gift from God. He was proud of His creation when he made you, and he gave you to the world to be unwrapped as the precious gift that you are.
Honor your Father in heaven by the way that you behave. Glorify Him in the way you comport yourself, most especially, in your choice of a mate, and let your mate do the same with you. Your mother and I will always be here for you, as long as God gives us breath and life. We have faith in you. You will make the right choices. When you are unsure seek, first and foremost, your Father’s counsel. His wisdom— ageless and unfaltering— will serve you well.
God bless you,
(Photo credit at top of page- Rose: Maglara/Shutterstock)
“To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.” – John McCain Tweet of June 9, 2018.
John McCain, United States Senator from the State of Arizona, those are your words. You haven’t apologized, so I think you are standing by them. I did a little research on you, just a little. Turns out, you’ve been in Congress almost as long as I have been out of college. You first ran for the House of Representatives in 1982 after leaving the Navy in 1981. You have been in the Senate from 1987 up until the present time. You say you’re a Republican—and though it is a personal reflection on my part—I cannot remember a single time that you voted in favor of a conservative Republican piece of legislation, not a single time when your vote actually counted, not once. If memory serves, you’re always part of one of those “gangs”—you know, “The Gang of Five” or “The Gang of Eight,” who usually stand in the way of some important piece of conservative legislation. (Usually one that I and millions of others favor.) I could go through your voting record here, boring my readers; however, it is well-known. No, I am not going to waste their time. You, sir, have a much greater sin for which I would like you to answer. I doubt you’ll take the time, so I’m going to have to leave your answer up to the Almighty.
Since you are suffering with cancer and dying, I wish to be somewhat delicate with my observations and criticism. (I have prayed for you, by the way.) Cancer is horribly, wretchedly painful. I know, because I have watched my best friend and many other friends and relatives whom I have loved dearly die from this dreaded scourge. Herewith a short list of the types of cancer: pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, metastatic lung cancer, the last having claimed my dad. He survived the battle of Iwo Jima, but metastatic lung cancer claimed this fearless Marine in his 89th year. Watching cancer steal one of the brightest Marines to ever fight in the Corps was horrific and personally devastating, to say the least. Thus, I mean it when I say I do not wish you any more pain than what you presently suffer. I do not even wish you that pain, because I have empathy, even for those to whom I am manifestly politically opposed.
On some level, one must have compassion for one’s enemies, Would you not agree? I use the term enemy here as a figure of speech, a metaphor, if you will. Not that you are my enemy—though we seem diametrically opposed when it comes to our interpretation of your constitutional duty—disagreeing mightily about what you tweeted. Many would question my compassion for having taken you on at this time in your life while on your deathbed. I would not have done so, but apparently you chose to enter the political fray right up until your last breath. So, as far as I am concerned, your tweet invites a response, a defense of our Constitution, the very same gifted to us by God through our framers. I never learned to fence, but I venture to say, “A sword raised by one’s opponent from any position is an invitation to spar, thrust and parry.”
Before I go any further, I must acknowledge your service in Vietnam and most definitely your time as a prisoner of war, where from all accounts, you endured unspeakable horrors, cruelty, and torture—conduct on the part of your captors and beyond squalid conditions that would surely have killed me—and behaved in an exemplary fashion. You even let other prisoners return home first. Your conduct made you a hero to me because you behaved in a most heroic manner. Unfortunately, a man who is a hero at one time in his life does not always behave heroically. History is replete with tawdry examples of the fallen soldier, heroic in battle only to live the remainder of his life as the worst of alcoholics in peacetime. Fallen, his heroic deeds may ultimately outweigh his misdeeds, but judgement is for the fine screen of history and the even finer screen of our Lord. Thankfully, some, like Louis Zamperini, find Christ and redeem themselves during their lifetimes. Humility through Christ is the key to redemption.
Thank you, Senator McCain, for your service in the Navy and for your exemplary, brave conduct while a prisoner in Vietnam.
Let us return to the present: Senator McCain, did you not take an oath to support and defend the Constitution? I double-checked just now and the oath which the Constitution requires you to take has been in force since the 1860s. The primary purpose of the present wording, according to www.senate.gov, was to root out traitors. Remember these words? You should; you have repeated them often enough.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.Senate Oath of Office.
So, Senator McCain, you did take an oath. You took an oath before God to “support and defend the Constitution…against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” What about “…bear true faith and allegiance…”? Tell me sir, where does “pro-globalization” fit in? I am puzzled. Where exactly is the “pro-globalization” Article in the United States Constitution? Our Constitution has seven Articles. Globalization isn’t one of them. I do not see it in the Sections either. Forgive my ignorance, but is not globalization a process whereby the nation state—in this case the United States of America—is minimized in favor of a global entity run by a largely unaccountable administrative bureaucracy answering only to a ruling elite? How is that “supporting and defending” our Constitution? What about “We the People…”? Have you ever noticed that “People” is capitalized? Capitalization must mean that the framers of our Constitution thought that we the people were important. Did I miss something?
What exactly do you mean by the words “pro-globalization”? And, while I am on the subject of your tweet, what do you mean by undercutting our duly elected President of the United States, Donald J. Trump? (Sorry if you dislike him.) Did not the Electoral College settle the matter of who is in charge at present? Poor Hilary, if only she could accept it, but that would mean adhering to the rule of law. (Forgive me, I digress.) What about the old adage: “Politics ends at the water’s edge.” Remember that oft quoted line? One of your fellow Republicans, Arthur Vanderberg, said it. What is it about your ego that you would not take his sage advice:
To me, “bipartisan foreign policy” means a mutual effort, under our indispensable two-party system, to unite our official voice at the water’s edge so that America speaks with maximum authority against those who would divide and conquer us and the free world. It does not involve the remotest surrender of free debate in determining our position. On the contrary, frank co-operation and free debate are indispensable to ultimate unity. In a word, it simply seeks national security ahead of partisan advantage. Every foreign policy must be totally debated (and I think the record proves it has been) and the “loyal opposition” is under special obligation to see that this occurs.
Here we are with President Trump travelling to North Korea to potentially end the Korean War, a war we have been engaged in for all intents and purposes since June 25th 1950, and you, rather than stand down and show unity with our President to the face of our enemy, decide to undercut him with a tweet to the world. Tell me, do you remember when Jane Fonda visited the North Vietnamese while you were in prison in Vietnam? Did that help your cause? While you were in the Navy, were you ever insubordinate to your commanding officer? No? Why then do you think you can dictate foreign policy to the world, usurping the role of President Trump, our duly-elected commander-in-chief?
A wise friend once told me: “People don’t change; you only get more of the same.” You might say the good become better, and the bad become worse. Having been betrayed many times, and literally having had to jettison all manner of scoundrels from my life, I quite agree. To this I might add: “True personal change is rare. A person only changes if he or she sincerely wants to change, and if the benefits of such change outweigh the negatives.” So, during the past 36 years, what happened to your character in Washington, D. C.? What became of the man who made the nation proud back in 1973? By the way, did you read my last blog entitled: “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…” about Ivanka Trump, wherein I wrote that I thought the word weasel should be in the dictionary as a definition for the word politician? Just curious.
Toward the end of a man’s life, one can see who he really is, and what is important to him by his deeds and the company he keeps. One can take the measure of the man, so to speak. Personally, I would rather remember the John McCain who behaved so admirably in Vietnam. I sincerely doubt I am alone.
(Photo credit at top of page-McCain: Krista Kennell/Shutterstock)
Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. –Henri Nouwen
With the recent tasteless remarks of Samantha Bee hurled toward Ivanka Trump, can we civilized folk now not all agree that we need to end such vicious, vulgar discourse? Is this invective not the lowest of the low when it comes to remarks? As a man, had I said something like that, even without a microphone, I would suffer no end of justified attacks, not to mention suspension of my social media accounts. Ivanka Trump, whether you like her or not, is the very accomplished daughter of the President of the United States, who just happens to be Donald Trump, whether you like him or not. I happen to like both of them; although, I have only briefly met President Trump, shaking his hand back when he was changing the skyline of New York, as I delivered some documents. That was over 35 years ago. I cannot help but admire Ivanka for what she has done in the world of fashion.
If you ask me why I like President Trump now, I will give you two reasons, actually three: 1. He’s pro-America and a great cheerleader. 2. He’s pro-military and realizes the magnitude of the threat we face. 3. He’s for strong borders and fully comprehends you cannot have a country without those. We disagree from time to time, and I make my objections clear in my blog, Facebook page and tweets, but I am with him, and with every battle he wins against the political establishment, I like him more and more. He’s my president and until he proves otherwise, I trust him to move the ship of our state in the right direction. As for Ivanka, I say, give her the respect that her position demands. I see no reason to do otherwise.
I am not very fond of a lot of politicians. Don’t know any one of them well enough to say that I know members of his or her family. (Not sure if Bill Bennett counts, about whom I think the world.) I could run through a scoundrels list of them—all those whom I don’t like viscerally— but all you have to do is go through my social media posts, and you’ll see that I am not shy when it comes to challenging them, even the President when I thought he was wrong. I might even call someone a name, but not a foul name. During his administration, I opined that President Obama was both feckless and mendacious, simply because he was: “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” Right. Uh Huh. I think the worst I have ever done is to call someone a weasel. When you double cross your faithful voters, you—in my book—are a weasel. In fact, in the modern dictionary under politician, I think they should have the words “see weasel.”
As to foul language, I detest it. People, my friends included, use the F-word as if it were some sort of comma. We, as a culture are saturated in verbal filth—drowning. I cannot stand women who swear, especially in public. Many years ago—I think it was my 40th birthday party—a friend of mine and his wife were walking through my house and she kept swearing, ultimately ending with, “Your house is so f**king beautiful!” I finally asked her to tone her language down as we were in the house. She was a bit taken aback at my request, and her husband who was not known for his angel’s tongue explained to her that she needed to accede to my wish. Her crude language was jarring me, and I was sure that my other guests would neither approve nor appreciate her crudity. Not that I am a prude by any means; I can swear like the sailor that I am, especially if something goes suddenly awry. Having said that, how cheap and tawdry a woman sounds who swears, don’t you agree? Men swear. Why would woman want to appropriate such a base heretofore primarily male characteristic?
So this Samantha Bee…Who is she? I had to google her to find out. I had never heard of her, but modern comedy with its cretin’s parade of insults, attacks—mostly upon conservatives— and outright vulgarities, has yet to catch my ear. As I age, my ear increasingly seeks peace, respite from this chaotic world. The last comic whom I found remotely funny, I used to laugh at Jay Leno from time to time—awkward in his delivery though he could be—but he was never disgusting nor vulgar. I found out that Samantha Bee’s ratings have dropped precipitously, down almost 30% year over year. (Hat tip to Rush Limbaugh.) Wonder why? Maybe people are just plain bored. After all, if everyone swears, you cannot be the modern day Lenny Bruce.
Guess Samantha Bee wanted to draw attention to herself to give herself a boost. Well, in the grand scheme of things as far as fame is concerned, it worked for a relative second. Now, I am quite certain, unless she joins a convent, I will have no interest in meeting Samantha Bee or listening to anything she says. None. I am not listening. To her, I am deaf. Like most who struggle on the false pedestal of quotidian relevance, Samantha Bee has nothing to say worthwhile, if she ever had. One simply doesn’t talk like that in public. If she wants to improve her standing, doesn’t she volunteer to pack care packages for the military or read to children in the hospital? Why not buck the boring nasty remark trend set by your fellow Hollywood elites?
While I was writing this blog post, Samantha Bee has since apologized. Great. It’s a start. I guess a metaphorical elder with some refined decorous sense pointed out that when you are fighting an uphill battle, you save your breath for the climb; you do not hurl invectives into the wind. You enlist the support of as many friends and people of good character as you can. Guess Samantha Bee forgot the old adage: One’swords should be as sweet and as pleasant as possible, in case one ever has to eat them. Tell me, Miss Bee, how do they taste? Bitter? A bit sour?
If Samantha Bee doesn’t like President Trumps’s immigration policies, perhaps she ought to write the president. Wonder if she’s done that? Wonder if she has the slightest clue what his immigration policies are designed to do. Wonder if she’s pro-American? My guess is that Samantha Bee has 24-7, 365 security, lives in the equivalent of a gated community and rarely ever interacts with the residue of a sanctuary city policy. My guess is that she, like so many in Hollywood, is simply parroting the anti-Trump line. I, for one, am deaf to that line.
I think it must be my age. Anyone else wish we could reintroduce modesty into our culture?
I am old enough to have been raised with manners and decorum, raised to think that a woman is precious. I think we should all make a concerted effort to return to that golden standard.
(Photo credit at top of page, Wooden fence: liznel/Shutterstock)
“Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
About the brokerage business, my uncle Mike, who was an account executive for a big brokerage house, once opined: “When you’re done….[All you have are] footprints in the sand.” I guess we could all say that about our lives, most of us, anyway. Ultimately, what we have done will be inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, or won’t it?
I am very lucky to live by the sea and to belong to a club where one can swim and pitch an umbrella at the beach for the day. On gorgeous sunny days, such as this past Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the view was quite spectacular–one of wispy cirrus clouds, motionless against a bright blue backdrop, as if they were brushed in by a great master, along with blue green waves rolling gently onto a soft, white sandy shore. As I stare out at the serene view on days like this, I count my multitude of blessings, perhaps just a bit more than usual. So grateful to God am I for directing me here and so very grateful for the way He has arranged the day. A small thing, this lovely isle of serenity.
Though frightfully hot in the midday sun, I resolved–and yes, that is the right word–to walk down to the water from the upper decks of the club. You see–I had had shoulder surgery on my left shoulder to repair a torn rotator cuff and exercise in any form is literally the order of the day. Huffing and puffing as a went, I cheerfully greeted many a mother and child, many a lone boardwalk stroller. (I just have to get back into shape.) Passing the two young beach chair minders, definitely no more than 21, I joked with them about the tough job they had, “Beautiful day, beautiful women,” and perhaps “A few beers tonight after work to help you deal with the stress.” What a struggle! How I remember and long for those halcyon days….Thin as a rail, fit and sailing every chance I got. No beer of course, not a drop! 😉 I do, however, remember this jingle: “Surprise people, serve Michelob®.”
Having painted you a picture of this past Saturday’s walk, I would like to mention one small detail, one small detail which has irritated me ever since I first started noticing it–much like the imprint of a small pebble in one’s sneaker on a long beach walk. Much like the litter left on some of the beaches around our great country at the end of a fine summer’s day, I think it says much about the way we think of or don’t think of our fellow travelers. I guess I notice this behavior because there have been times when I have walked down to the water using a cane or a walking stick in my left hand, times when, were I to trip over carelessly placed flip-flops, sneakers or shoes, I might have fallen and injured my shoulder or worse.
Imagine two dozen or more haphazardly strewn about….
Saturday morning or afternoon Memorial Day weekend, the official or unofficial start of the summer season, or on any Saturday, Sunday, or even weekday during the summer one is apt to find at least a score or more of flip-flops haphazardly discarded at what people naturally think is the end of the walk. I’m guessing here: it might be an extra five or 10 feet, but hey, I like to walk until the end in more ways than one. Besides there is a vertical stop erected there to keep walkers from walking off the end of the walk, and it’s a great place to rest and stretch, or pray, activities in which I always engage before continuing on or returning to the house.
Lest I seem like a curmudgeon, I can imagine the thrill of the children–many of whom are seeing the beach and the ocean for the first time that season, or for the first time ever. As boy eagerly anticipating the first trip to Point O’Woods in the early spring, I felt similar emotions upon first smelling the salt air, and once we arrived, first spying the beach over the top of the stile. I can imagine the parents trying vainly to restrain their children somewhat while they survey the sand for space, for hazards such rip currents or for obstacles such as flotsam and jetsam. Everyone it seems, regardless of age, removes his or her flip-flops, sneakers or shoes–hurriedly sweeping them out of the way–before hitting the beach, the younger ones leaping joyously onto the sand. I understand; I really do. When I was a young boy, just for fun from time to time, I merrily jumped into it off the stile about four steps up.
I wish–perhaps I am a curmudgeon–that when people who frequent the beach in front of the club to which I belong leave their footwear on the boardwalk that they would line it up along the edge on one side or the other. Is it folly to suggest that one ought to think that one is not alone? I have even suggested that the club paint pairs of shoe outlines–perhaps in bright colors along the edges to serve as a guide. I have asked but to no avail. Doing so would eliminate a tripping hazard and enable the full use of the boardwalk. Speaking of those boardwalks….
As a full time resident, over the course of the past eight years, I think I’ve seen at least five boardwalks wash out, shortened by the ever shoreward march of the waves during a hard blow from the southwest. As I tell strangers, it’s not the hurricanes that do the most damage, but the steady, relentless pounding of the winds and the waves from the southwest or from the northeast. Depending on the prevailing winds that season, the season being the whole year, you get the building or erosion of the beach on one side or the other of the point that forms Cape Fear. Thankfully, though shorter every year, these boardwalks are replaced in time for each season with great thought and care as to where they should run, so as to not disturb the nesting least terns. As a thoughtful person (I pride myself as such), maybe I should declare myself an endangered species? Before you say I am making fun of these creatures, I love these little birds and have endorsed their protection as a life member of the Nature Conservancy.
So there you have it: my inconsequential vignette about Memorial Day. Where one places one’s flip-flops on the boardwalk assuredly won’t change the course of human history, but it might change mine–or someone else’s– if I were to fall as a result of tripping over one haphazardly placed pair or a pile of them and re-injure my left shoulder. “What a trivial complaint!” I am sure you are saying, but I think, as I run through my childhood memories, that I don’t remember the routine thoughtlessness of people when it came to little things like leaving flip-flops and other tripping hazards in another’s path. Should I then be surprised if legions of Americans don’t take time to reflect upon the true meaning of the Memorial Day?
(Photo credit at top of page-Footprints: Ksenia Lev/Shutterstock)
Over the years, many have urged me to keep quiet—“You cannot say that”—some even to change my political affiliations. “Come over to the liberal side, and you’ll have more chances with women.” I do not know how to be silent when my heart calls me. I cannot become a man whom I am not, even if it means I frustrate people, lose friends and have fewer companions at my dinner table. Tonight, though I would rather be in bed, I feel compelled to write, so write I must. I know no more disturbing subject to discuss than the Holocaust. Looking through the Shutterstock images under that title is almost more than I can bear. I just need two.
On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I urge you to speak up when you see injustice. Speak up while you still have a right. Speak up while you still have your voice. Never let anyone dissuade you from your truly-held convictions, no matter the promises, no matter the cost. It takes courage to take a firm stand when you are one of the few; it takes courage to take a firm stand when you are the only one. Stand you must, however, to avoid living what Henry David Thoreau referred to as “lives of quiet desperation.” Speak up, but keep your emotions in check in the same manner as one bridles a fine horse, not to break its spirit, but only to focus its exertions.
Listen. Listen first. Harness reason in all your arguments. Quietly persuade. Persist. My late friend, Charlie Maust, whom I knew for less than one year—age 89 to age 90—taught me an invaluable life lesson. One night, as we were preparing to attend a city council meeting to try to keep the proposed City Hall building off the Village Green, he suggested we ought to sit back and let everyone else talk first, believing that the majority of people would not have much worthwhile to say: “They don’t know what they are talking about, said he. “They love to hear themselves talk.” How right he was. Thank you, Charlie. Listening, I discovered, would arm one with all the ammunition one needed to make sound arguments, to defeat the enemy by carefully dismantling his arguments. Listen. Reason. Speak up! Persist. You can have all the guns in the world on your side, but without wisdom, without reason, like an unbridled horse—recklessly emotional, you will ultimately lose the battle.
On this sorrowful day, with profound reverence for all who fell victim to the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II, I cannot write more poignant words than those of Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
April 12, 2018: I shall let these words stand for all those who whose voices were silenced.
The haunting, ghastly, ghoulish, ghostly nightmare of the Holocaust is over, is it not? Yet, by our silence, sew we the poisonous seeds anew?
(Photo credit at top of page-photo collage: Giuseppe Crimini/Shutterstock)
God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’ – Billy Graham
What if you one day found yourself alone? What if—through no fault of your own—the family in which you were raised drew away from you? What if your nieces and nephews, or your grandchildren, were too busy with their own lives to take the time to visit you, or even to call? What if no cards came from them at Christmas? What if all those friends who promised always to be there for you were too far away or too busy to spend an afternoon on your porch, share a meal, or to visit your house? (Imagine a table for eight with seven perpetually empty spaces.) What if you couldn’t get to church because the weather was too bad, the snow was too deep, or you were too sick with a cold or the flu to risk exposing the congregation? What if you—despite your best efforts—always found yourself alone on every major holiday, every Easter, every Labor Day, every Christmas, and every New Year’s day, often even in a room full of people, friends and acquaintances? What if you were a Christian in an increasingly secular world? What if you suffered the soft bigotry of disassociation? What if the only other voice you heard in a single day was your own echo? What if every rock of your life suddenly turned to sand? What if your walk in life was a solitary one?
What would you do? From whom and from what would you draw the strength to get out of bed in the morning? Whose hand would take yours every day, especially when you needed a reassuring grip? Who would listen to your troubles, joys, your blessings, your stories? Who would tell you some of his own? Who would keep your daily company?
On this Easter, I reflect upon the many millions of people who find themselves in this situation—so distant from their fellow man. Modern life, with its abundant distractions: iPhones, iPads, headphones, podcasts, radio, and television, has almost perfectly engineered a pallid, prison-less solitary confinement. I can experience it any day and every day, and I watch as others do the same. No one, it seems, has time to talk, to be a truefriend. I wonder sometimes if true friendship is a fanciful conception one outgrows in one’s childhood, at best by the time one graduates from college. I guess I didn’t.
Rough and tumble from time to time, growing up at the beach on Fire Island in the summers, suburbia and a great big farm in the woods of Bucks County (the Farm) in the winters, Huckleberry Finn was my hero. I lost myself in Sunken Forest, the fields, woods and streams of the Farm. The kids with whom I attended grade school with were always eager for adventures—we always were—and they didn’t leave me behind, even when I came back from surgery. No, they wheeled me all over town that day, so much so that my casts created quite a rash that evening. My best friend still is one from grade school Imagine that! Hank, I have known him since I was five years old.
In ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. – Mark Twain
About to crash land into 60 years of age, I have so many elderly friends, men and women at least twenty years my senior, to whom I have reached out and who have reached out to me for companionship, comradeship, kinship. I find it curious the average age of my friends is in the neighborhood of 75. Perhaps it has to do with complete acceptance of each other as we truly are. After all, it’s a bit late to stand on the youthful stage of pretense. Some can barely stand at all. Some are bedridden, delicately, ever so delicately crossing into their late 90s, some trundle along at church with canes and walkers. All have the most interesting, poignant, sometimes sorrowful, assuredly engaging life stories, especially the veterans, if one takes the time to listen. Listen. Time to reflect and listen, truly listen. I am so grateful to each of them for what they have taught me along the way. When one of them passes, as unfortunately happens from time to time, I erase his or her earthly address from my Outlook contacts and replace it with Heaven. Why not? I am quite sure not a one of them will not be there.
Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.
On this fine Easter morning—one so sunlit blue, bright and refreshing that I have the true feeling of spring—I reflect, as I think of the cardinals whom I spy daily all over this island, as I listen to their songs: I think of our risen savior, Jesus Christ, who gave his life that we might have eternal life. Has He not been my companion throughout my life? Has he not made himself known to each of my elderly friends? I reflect upon Christ’s lonely, agonizing journey to the cross, one burdened with the foreknowledge of the Hell He would have to endure on our behalf. Most of all, I reflect upon His precious gift to us, to each of us. He gave his life for you, for me: John 15:13 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
Just like my swift-winged friend the cardinal—a bird I have loved all my life—Jesus accompanies me daily and He has been with me throughout my journey, even in the depths of crushing despair. So, on those mornings when I find myself alone, which is most of them, I reflect upon Jesus’ gift to me, the meaning of His life, His wisdom. His song. Rather than immerse myself in self-pity, I understand I must reflect and listen. The drama of the cross occurred 2000 years ago; although its portent resonates throughout the ages, to find Christ in this cacophony one must quiet oneself. Jesus is surely with me now, but He is quiet, discreet, unobtrusive: To see him, to hear him, I must reflect and listen. He might draw my attention to him with a cardinal’s flight or melodious song, but to hear it I must listen.