The Day I Joined the Air Force – Part One

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There is a prelude to this story.  I grew up with a father who was abusive.  He was six feet four inches tall and weighed 210 lbs.  I was five foot eight inches tall and weighed 145 lbs.  He had been a professional boxer with 21 wins and two losses.  I lived in fear of him for many years.  During high school, I seldom dated.  I never went to a single high school dance or prom.  Shortly after the end of my high school years in 1964, I finally found a girl whom I liked.  She also seemed to like me.  We dated a few times and I planned a Saturday night out with her.  I had my own car and had funded my own expenses ever since I was sixteen.  I had just turned 18 in the September of 1964.

I arrived home late Saturday afternoon.  It was the first week of October (the day of my planned date) and my father was sitting at the dining room table with a couple of friends.  He said he needed a fourth for a game of pinochle.  I did not want to play since my father hated to lose and I knew he would blame me if we did.  Nevertheless, my father demanded that I be his partner and so I sat down with his two friends for a few games.  Sure enough, we lost the first game and my father started to complain about my play and that I had really screwed up the plays.  We started the second game and he started right in again complaining about my play.  I finally had enough of his berating me and I simply said, “I quit.”  He blew his usual fuse and told me that I was grounded and that I should go to my room.

I went up to bed and woke up about 2 AM in the morning.  I don’t think I ever went to sleep.  I packed a few things in a bag and climbed out my bedroom window.  I went over to a friend’s house and knocked on the door.  Bobby Fandetti (AKA Rock) came to the door.  He was surprised but he let me in.  I told him that I needed a place to stay for the night.  He said fine and that I could sleep on the couch.

The next morning, I told Bob I was going down to military row (where all the military recruiters had their office) and that I was going to join the military.  Bob gave me a ride and I made him promise not to tell anyone where I had gone or that I had stayed the night with him.

I knew I had no chance of getting into any college.  I had poor grades and no money.  I had two arrests.  The first for breaking and entry (a stupid robbery with six other guys from my corner) and the second for a fight leading to an assault and battery charge.  Fortunately, both offenses were sealed since they had occurred before I turned eighteen.

Upon getting down to Providence, Bob dropped me off and left.  I had twenty dollars with me and a few clothes.  I walked down the block looking in the various military recruitment centers.  The recruiters were desperate and would have taken a warm body since the Vietnam war was in full swing.  I started looking at the various uniforms in the windows.  My biggest criteria concerned in which uniform would I have the best chance of getting laid.

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I did not like the Marine uniforms.  They seemed too gaudy.  Navy was out since their uniforms looked silly to me.  They were bell bottoms before bell bottoms became in.  The Army uniforms seemed too drab.  Green was never my favorite color.  Then I saw the Air Force uniforms.  They reminded me of my high school colors which were blue and gray. It was an immediate hit.  I could see myself scoring lots of babes in this cool uniform.

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At the time this all occurred, my father was an American Legion Post commander.  He was a decorated and disabled WW II veteran.  He saw service in Patton’s Third Army as a tank guard.  He won a Purple Heart for his combat injuries.  My father hated communists and had drilled me with the evilness of communists.  My motto when I went into the military was “Kill a commie for Christ.”

army uniform

The recruiter did all he could to make my day.  He was friendly and helpful and gave me a coke and some snacks.  I had to take a test called ASVAB that he said would determine which job I got.  I did not really care which job since I thought that I could get into some combat group and go to Vietnam to kill some “commie gooks.”  I got an AFSC or Air Force Service Code as a Nuclear Weapons Specialist.  For some reason, this was later changed to a 30352 code as an AC&W Radar Technician and I was switched from going to military training in Chanute, Kansas to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.  But first, every Air Force recruit had to go to basic training at Lackland AFB just outside San Antonio, Texas.

air force

However, I was not in the military yet.  I had a bunch of papers to sign and then they sent me by car to an induction center where many other branches of the military also went.  At this center I was going to get a physical.  I remember fifty or more guys all in this big hall and all of us told to strip naked.  A few physicians then went around checking everybody out with a stethoscope.  Guys with obvious impairments were told to get dressed and go home.  Finally, about a half of the original guys were still there.  We were told to put our civvies back on and then we would be sworn in.  We went into another room, where we repeated some oaths and the Pledge of Allegiance.  We were now in the United States Military.

swearing in

I was then sent by commercial bus from Providence to New Jersey.  From the bus terminal I got a ride to the Newark Airport.  At the airport, I somehow (I do not remember how) met some other Air Force recruits.  We had all been given vouchers for ten dollars or so for meals while waiting for our flight to Texas.  We decided to go to a café at the airport for supper.   When we got seated the waitress came around with a menu.  We told her that we had these meal vouchers.  As we ordered. it appeared that even if the price of a meal was less than our vouchers, there were items that we (for unknown reasons) could not purchase with our vouchers.  I got pissed, since I felt we were being ripped off.  I gave my voucher away and left.

I had my twenty dollars and I went in search of another dinner venue.  The airport had this upscale dining area and I went in and seated myself down.  I was surprised that I was the only diner in the room at the time.  The waiter came and he gave me a menu.  On it was a boiled lobster dinner for $18.99.  I thought “Hell, I am going out in style.”  I had never had a boiled lobster dinner in a restaurant although I had caught and eaten many lobsters in Rhode Island.

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The lobster came and I put a bib around my neck and proceeded to eat the lobster.  I was quite adept at cracking lobster shells (having lived in R.I. from my 11th to 18th year of life).  After I was finished with dinner, I noticed a bowl with water and a lemon floating on it.  I was staring at the bowl thinking it might be some weird soup.  The waiter noticed my gaze and came over and very quietly asked me if I knew what it was for.  I said no and he told me that it was to wash my fingers in.  I will never forget his kindness for not embarrassing me or my own lack of knowledge of good etiquette.  This would come back many times to embarrass me in my later years even after I had obtained my Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota.

I then rejoined the other recruits and we waited rather silently for the plane that would take us to our new lives.

To Be Continued:

Sinner Man, Sinner Woman, Are You a Sinner?

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Sin has a special place in Christian society.  According to orthodox Christians, we are all sinners.   Most Christians upon hearing this will simply nod their head and agree.  The Catholic Church has two types of sin.  One is mortal sin.  This will get you a place in hell if not confessed before you die.  The other is called venial sin.  A venial sin gives you a place in Purgatory where you fry only for a little while until the sin is expurgated.  Then you can move on to heaven having been cleansed of “sinful” behavior.  Somewhat recently, the Catholic Church got rid of the idea of Purgatory.  It is either heaven or hell these days.

Now if you are of a more secular bent, you may dismiss the idea of sin.  In fact, you may be offended by the idea.  For myself as an atheist, I accept that the idea of sin holds some validity in the sense that some behaviors are so egregious they need strong condemnation.  The Ten Commandments depict several such behaviors that are evil enough to have been banned or outlawed in many societies.  Principally among these are murder, robber and adultery.  Even so, these behaviors are far from uncommon throughout the world.

seven deadly sins

Most of us have no doubt heard of the “seven deadly sins.”  The “seven deadly sins” were originally based on a list of eight principal vices.  This list was developed by the mystic Evagrius Ponticus in the fourth century CE.  In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I changed the list of eight vices into the list of seven deadly, or cardinal, sins of Roman Catholic theology.  This list includes pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth.  The only problem with this list is that you would look long and hard before you would find anyone who did not harbor at least one of these “sins.”  I suspect most of us are guilty of all of them at one time or another.  If sin is so common what good does it do to punish people with threats of hell and perdition?

When some behavior becomes normal, can it still be a sin?  Will most Americans go to hell for being greedy?  You are liable to say “no, surely not!”  There is no law against greed, gluttony or pride.  I am no sinner because I lust after the beautiful babe in the skintight yoga pants

Thus, it would be easy to argue that Pope Gregory 1 went overboard with his definition of these seven behaviors as sinful.  If these are not sins, should they even rank as vices?  What if greed were regarded as a vice, what would that say about modern American society?

“A worldwide survey found that majorities of people in the U.K., Canada, Spain and Australia think of Americans as violent, greedy and arrogant…The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that a median of 54 percent of people in countries surveyed associated the negative trait of arrogance with Americans. Fifty-two percent associate greed, and 48 percent say Americans are violent. — The world thinks Americans are violent, greedy, arrogant — and Americans agree  — Teresa Welsh (2016)

I could make a case that each of these seven vices or sins is simply a normal manifestation of human behavior.  Any one of them can be taken to extremes and become dysfunctional but where is the line drawn between normal pride and excessive pride, where is the line drawn between envy and desire and who draws the lines?  My argument is that calling these seven characteristics as vices is almost as extreme as calling them sins.

Does this mean that all of us are perfect?  Can any of us be as pure at heart as Sir Galahad?  Very unlikely, I would think.  So, if we are not sinful or full of vices, then what are we?

I like the word flawed.  Vocabulary.com defines flawed as:

“Flawed objects have some kind of imperfection — a dent or a blemish.  No one’s perfect, so everyone is flawed in some way, but when this word describes a person it often means ‘weak in character.’  A Shakespearian flawed hero has some flaw or foible that will ultimately be his undoing: in other words, a fatal flaw.”

I do not accept that we are all sinful.  I do believe that we are all flawed.  However, I also reject the idea that it means we are weak in character.  Many common run of the mill flaws are more lapses in judgement than they are permanent attributes.  My own definition of a flawed person is “someone who has a behavior that often causes either discomfort to the individual or to those who interact with the individual.”

original-1328023-1There are things that bother other people which may not be flaws at all.  In fact, some so called flaws demonstrate individuals who are marching to a different drummer or who are defying conventional social norms.  To defy anti-Semitism in Germany during the early 20th century would have been considered a character flaw.  To be an abolitionist in the South prior to the Civil War would have led to persecution by your fellow citizens.  Who today would consider these character flaws?  History will often show that a “flawed” individual was a hero or heroine rather than someone with a character defect.

No doubt, some flaws are more serious than others.  Some can be “fatal flaws” depending on the culture and specific context.  Today sexism is widely regarded as being a very serious flaw.  To be accused of sexism can mean the end of a career or worse depending on the infraction.  Witness the number of recent trials for those guilty of sexism.  And of course, it is not only men who succumb to the lure of sex and power but women as well as evidenced by the recent debacle that ensnared former Representative Katie Hill.  No one should be surprised though to know that there are still those who harbor anti-Semitic, sexist or racist sentiments and many who regard these behaviors as normal.

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But sin including the concept of “Original Sin” is something that excuses the participant.  If you sin, you can simply confess to god or your local pastor and be forgiven.  If you believe that we are all sinners, when do you stop sinning?  A flaw does not give you the excuse that a sin does.  Saying “we are all sinners” is like saying “we are all racists.”  Even if it were true, so what?  What are you going to do about being a racist?  Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”  He did not say “go sin and come back again and be forgiven.”

A flaw must be addressed in a different way.  A flaw is something that must be acknowledged and not simply forgiven.  A flaw is something that you must work on.  If you are lazy or greedy, you can through diligence and discipline become “unlazy and ungreedy.”  History is full of examples of people with “flaws” who overcame them and went on to valued exemplary lives.

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A flaw does not imply any inherent ineradicable weakness.  There is no evidence that people have a DNA gene for the seven vices/sins.  A flaw gives you a choice.  Live with it and deal with the consequences or manage it and improve your character.

“When I pass, speak freely of my shortcomings and my flaws. Learn from them, for I’ll have no ego to injure.”  — Aaron McGruder

 

 

 

The 58th Running of the Greatest Race in America

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Ladies and Gentlemen, we are glad to see you here today for the 58th running of the Democratic Presidential Primaries presented by corporate donors and major international lobbyists.  We have a formidable field gathered this year for what portends to be one of the greatest showdowns of all time.  The winner of this race will go on to face the unbeaten stallion “Liar in Chief” in a match race of two miles on November 3, 2020.

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We are showing the largest assembly of competitors in the history of this race.  We have almost two dozen contenders for this high-stakes contest.  The stakes are high since only one horse will go on to face “The Liar in Chief.”  The odds-on favorites for this elimination race are currently Crazy Bernie, Pocahontas and Sleepy Joe but dark horses abound in this field of twenty-five hot-blooded contestants.  There are several bad actors who just might throw the leaders off their pace.  Each of these runners has a history of agility, speed and spirit.  There are only one or two maidens in the field.  At this time, no contestant can conclusively be ruled out, but you can look at the following chart to see the odds given by the bookmakers.  Racing forms are also available for those of you who want more history on each horse.

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Today’s race is a 1 ¾ mile flat oval.  The track today is dry and fast with an even surface.  This track tends to favor horses with more stamina and endurance.  It is a beautiful day here with an expected high of 80 degrees and sunny skies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise as the famous Darth Vader Group sings our national anthem.

The “Call to Post” and “Riders Up” have been sounded and the horses are now beginning to head to the starting gates.  In addition, to the large field you will notice as they parade by the stands that we have more diversity of saddle cloth colors here than we have ever seen before.  We have browns, blacks, pinks, blue, green, khaki, rainbow, yellow and lots of whites but still reds.  Speculation exists that Pocahontas is part red but others dispute this claim.

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Crazy Bernie is loading in post position 12.  Pocahontas is in post position 4 and Sleepy Joe has loaded with the inside track in post position 1.  Sleepy Joe is considered a Frontrunner so post position 1 will play to his strengths.  Crazy Bernie is considered a Closer who likes to let the other horses get out in front and then sneak up when the time is right, so position 12 will play to his strengths.  Pocahontas and the other mares in the race are mostly filling the inside positions as many still see their strengths as pushing the stronger stallions.

“Race Fans:  The 58th Democratic Primary.  They are in the gate and they are off.”

A great start.  Very Nasty, Pocahontas and Snowwoman all flashing early speed coming out of the inside.  Pocahontas in the lead and clearly setting the pace as they make this long and dramatic run to the Clubhouse Turn.

At the first turn, its Pocahontas, Very Nasty and Snowwoman followed by Allred E. Neumann, A Flake and A Horrible Mayor.  Twelve lengths off the lead and coming on the inside is Sleepy Joe and off the pace is Crazy Bernie trailing the pack.

Racing for the far turn is Pocahontas, Snowwoman and Very Nasty.  Very Nasty now dropping back.  Very Nasty now trails by six lengths.  As they round the turn, sixteen candidates are effectively out of this race.  It’s clear that they underestimated the strength and stamina that this race would take.

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Coming up strong on the backstretch is Sleepy Joe.  Sleepy Joe has passed Very Nasty.  Sleepy Joe is trailing Pocahontas by three lengths.  Snowwoman has gone to the outside but is losing her speed.  With 1/8 mile to go, it is Pocahontas, Sleepy Joe and Very Nasty.

Now with a strong move coming up on the inside is Crazy Bernie.  Crazy Bernie is making a bold run up the rail.  Crazy Bernie has passed Very Nasty and is now following Pocahontas and Sleepy Joe.  Very Nasty is falling back.  Snowwoman and Very Nasty trail by fourteen lengths.

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As we near the finish line, Sleepy Joe is losing the pace.  Looks like it’s going to be a race between Crazy Bernie and Pocahontas.  Crazy Bernie and Pocahontas are running neck and neck.  With only fifty yards to go, it is Pocahontas and Crazy Bernie.  Ladies and Gentlemen, it is going to be a photo finish.  But wait!  Pocahontas appears to be pulling up.  She is pulling up!  She has let Crazy Bernie take the lead.

It’s Crazy Bernie in first, Pocahontas in second followed by Sleepy Joe at the finish line in this 58th Presidential Primary.

Wow, what a race.  There are going to be a lot of questions at the Pocahontas Stables after this race.  Why did she pull up?  Did Pocahontas come out too soon?  Can a mare really handle the heat?

Stay Tuned for the match race between two old stallions for the President of America Sweepstakes.  Winner takes all in thirteen more months.

Writers Note:  

My skepticism and humor may be lost to some people.  The “nicknames” for the horses are names that our esteemed leader has bestowed on some of the Democratic candidates.  Since race horses generally have interesting names, I chose to use his “nicknames” rather than the actual names of the candidates.  If you are offended by my brand of humor, well just delete me from your blog list and accept my humble apologies.  Brands of humor can be like fish.  Not every fish is everyone’s delight. 

The main point of this blog is (in my mind anyway), the way this whole primary thing seems like a race rather than a process to select the best candidate.  It is orchestrated for TV to sell ads more than to inform the American public.  If you think these debates are informative, than I am happy for you.  I think the entire process is a waste of money and an ineffective way to select someone to run for the Presidency of the United States of America. 

 

Un toast à l’humanité: A Toast To Those Brave Men and Women, Who Call Themselves Americans

toast-of-the-week-black-friday-1101326-TwoByOneUn toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the jurors and prosecutors who decide to execute children until the age of twenty-one in America for crimes against humanity.  “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord” but here on earth we can decide who can live and who can die.  Who must be punished and who must be acquitted.  Death is the only justice for the evil and it only takes eleven good men and a prosecutor bent on political gain to decide who lives and who dies.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!   Here’s to all the righteous men who want to decide who can be married and who cannot be married.   Let’s not have a world where people who care for each other can choose who they can love.  Government and politicians know more about love and compassion and it is up to them to tell us what love is sanctioned by God and what love is evil.

JACK-23549-Chicago-Concert-Poster_rvsd-P-72dpi1-805x1024Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the brave men that want to send others to fight in the name of liberty and justice and the American way of life.  Let’s keep killing all those bastards who defame America or who don’t want Democracy.  The world will be better off with less of those evil people who don’t believe in Mom, God and the American way of life.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all those Americans who think voting and politics is a waste of time.  Kudo’s to those who are smart enough to realize that Monday night football and American Idol are much more important than who is elected Senator or President.  Let us never forget that all it takes are enough people who don’t care and we can all go back to the good old days.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all those Americans who are simply apathetic about what happens to other people.  Why give a damn if it does not affect your life or money?  Let’s only think about our own team and our own friends and our own family and the hell with all those other losers and deadbeats.   Let the downtrodden take care of themselves.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the religious people who are against other religions.  The world has too many religions as it is and we all know that our religion is the only right one.  Let’s persecute and denigrate other religions.  Let’s abhor those who are less sacred then we are. They have no right to contradict what we believe in or the God we know is ours alone.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the greedy people in this country who put profits before compassion.   Money is their God.  Money is their only God.  Greed is good.  Greed knows who the true and only true God is.  The rest are fools since they worship false Gods like kindness and love.  Jesus was misguided when he threw the moneylenders out of the temple.  We need to rectify his mistake.  God is Greed and Greed is God.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the men who put race before humanity.  White Race, Black Race, Race is the only thing that counts.  You must be true to your race.  Blood is thicker than water.  People who are not true to their race are cowards.  My race is and always will be better than your race.  Your race is so inferior to my race that it needs to be persecuted and denigrated.  Kudo’s to the race baiters and race haters for theirs is the Kingdom of Hell.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the people that believe that welfare, 3f139e06b0641f43a84f3af62faf0559--homeless-veterans-vietnam-veteranssocial security, Medicare and Obama Care are socialist plots to undermine the government of the United States of America.  Surely they are the only ones with eyes who can see that poverty and need are traits of people who have no discipline or honor.  Good people do not rely on the government for handouts; they simply pull themselves up to heaven by their own boot straps.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!   Here’s to all the people who can go to bed tonight secure in their gated communities that they will not be robbed or raped by the dregs of humanity.  Once we can wall ourselves in from other humans, we can forget about crime and poverty and concentrate on the really important things in life like golf and pickle ball.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to all the people in America who don’t inconvenience the rest of us with problems and issues that we don’t really care about.  The world will be a better place when the complainers all die with a stake through their hearts and stop pestering the rest of us about poverty and education and health care and jobs and the environment and gay rights and sexism and racism and immigration.

Un toast à vous tous braves hommes!  Here’s to those people who think nothing will ever change and that in a dog eat dog world, you simply take care of yourself.  Nothing any of us can do will make a difference. Nothing any of us can do will ever change anything.  So why bother.  Let the dead take care of themselves and we can take care of ourselves.  Good guys finish last.

Un toast à vous tous de braves hommes. Un toast à vous tous les politiciens. Un toast à vous tous, hommes religieux. Un toast à vous tous, hommes patriotiques. Un toast à vous tous les hommes qui ne se soucient que de vous-mêmes. Un toast en enfer pour ceux d’entre vous qui me rencontrer là-bas.

Time for Questions: 

Do you really give a damn? If so, what do you give a damn about?

Life is just beginning.

What if it isn’t’?

3494– Monday, October 7, 2019 — Can We Really Grow Old Gracefully? – Part 2

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This is the continuation of an article I started which might have been called the “Top Ten Attributes for Growing Old Gracefully.”  In Part 1, I described attributes 1 through 5.  I also noted that two of my very good friends had been ill for some time and were not expected to live out the year.  One of these good friends, died two days after I published Part 1 of this article.  He was a unique individual about whom I wrote the following to some common friends the day after he died:

“I will always remember Sam for his brilliance and intellectual rigor.  I do not think I have ever met anyone with a greater knowledge of the world than Sam.  He was my first mentor out of graduate school, and I learned almost all I know about consulting from the work that we did together at International Nickel in Canada.  He was kind and gracious to a fool that knew little or nothing about the consulting world.  Over the years, we had our ups and downs, but Sam always helped me when I was in need of advice or guidance.”

“The world is truly less of a place for me and many others without Sam.” 

I must say a word about the validity and reliability of the ideas that I am presenting here.  I believe in them with my whole heart and soul.  Everything about life that I have learned up to this point says that they are the keys to a happy old age.  A friend whom I have found since writing my blogs left a comment in Part 1 where she said: “I hope you are following this excellent advice, John!  I replied: “Jane, I wish I could honestly say that I always do but that is not always the case.”

For me, I am somewhat like the alcoholic with good intentions who occasionally falls off the bandwagon.  Looking at each of these attributes, I have good days and bad.  But somehow, I climb back up out of whatever is bothering me, and I start again.  I have days when I am not grateful or have very little sense of humor.  I have days when I can find no joy in life and days when I can find no purpose or meaning in what I am doing.  But I know that “this too will pass” and that it is important not to give up.  Growing old is a journey that only ends when it will be too late for you to do anything about it.  But as long as we are alive, we can do our best to enjoy the journey.  So, here are the rest of the key attributes that will help you grow old gracefully and enjoy the trip.  Following are attributes six through ten.

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  1. Kindness

This is a simple one.  Do something kind for someone each day.  Make someone else happy by sharing your good fortune, knowledge, skills or abilities with another.  It is often easier said than done though.  We get so busy with our own problems that it is easy to forget the needs of those around us.  Very few people will wake up today and jump out of bed with joy at being alive.  For many people, the kind word or deed that you can do for them will give them the strength to live another day or to have a day with joy and happiness.

A funny thing happened to me this afternoon while I was on my way to see a play called Pipeline at Penumbra Theater in St. Paul.  An old rumpled homeless looking man on a bicycle asked if I could give him a few bucks for a meal.  I was feeling generous, so I pulled out my wallet and took a peek in it.  I had a five, a twenty and three one-dollar bills.  I grabbed the fiver and handed it to the old man.  He took it and thanked me, and I impulsively decided to give him another single.  He took the second bill I gave him and let out a rather exuberant exclamation of thanks and gave both me and Karen hugs.

He set off down the street and said that he was heading right to McDonald’s to get a meal to eat.  I was still surprised at his extreme gratefulness.  Later on, when I went to look in my wallet for some money to pay for some stuff, I found that I still had the three singles but no twenty.  I suddenly realized why the old feller had been so ecstatic.  I had given him the five-dollar bill and the twenty-dollar bill.  I could have kicked myself in the butt.  I told Karen about my unexpected generosity and we both laughed and wondered what he was going to get to eat for the money we gave him.  I felt a little stupid giving this much money away but on the other hand, how many times have I wasted three or four times this amount on some impulse purchase that I did not really need.  It felt good knowing that I had made somebodies day a little brighter even if it was by accident.

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight.  Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” — Og Mandino

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  1. Physical Fitness

What is the secret to living a long and health life?  Ask anyone who fits this qualification and who is in their nineties and do you know what they will say?  “Keep moving!”  “Keep moving!”  Stay active!  Garden, run, swim, bicycle, play Pickleball, walk, do Zumba, do Yoga, do anything but keep your body moving!

I have talked about the need for an exercise plan in many of my other blogs.  You have a choice.  If you live long enough and stay somewhat reasonably fit, then like our friend Joan, you can still play golf when you are ninety.  Or you can sit all day watching TV and become more and more dependent on walkers and canes and surgeries for your ailing joints.  Some of the problems of old age are unavoidable but some are due to a lack of good nutrition and good exercise.  Keep all things in moderation.  You will not be an Arnold Schwarzenegger at 80 but you can still be healthy enough to take trips and spend active time outdoors.  The key?  Right!  Keep moving!

For me, I love having an exercise plan that will adapt to my changing circumstances and that is fun.  If you are interested in more information on developing an exercise plan, see my blog at:  How Can We Set Realistic Exercise Goals as We Age?

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” — Edward Stanley

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  1. Friendships

There is a story told about Thomas Jefferson who supposedly attended a fiftieth anniversary party for the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1826.  According to the story, Jefferson was not recognized by anyone at the party.  He was one of only three surviving members of the original signers who were still alive.  The other two being John Adams and Charles Carroll.  Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826 as did John Adams, so I am not sure when the party was actually held.  Nevertheless, Jefferson is reported to have said that he felt like a ghost.  That he felt like someone living in a time when he no longer belonged.

This story made an impact on me since as we age, we see more and more of our loved ones, relatives and friends pass away.  In the picture (top of blog) taken at a wedding for my father’s youngest sister, I am standing to the right in the picture.  The wedding was held in 1957.  The most remarkable thing about this photo (For me anyway) is that I am the only one left alive in the photo.  My sister died of lung cancer several years ago and my two cousins in the photo both passed away.  One died of a stroke and the other died younger of suicide.

My Aunt Mary, who is on the right in the picture, (She was my Godmother) died at the age of 103 about four years ago.  She too outlived almost everyone in the photo except me.  She outlived two of her sons and her husband who are in the picture.  I asked my Aunt a few years before she died if she felt like she no longer belonged and that her time had passed.  Her answer surprised me.  She said “No.”  I asked how she managed, and she told me that you must keep making friends.  She said that she had made many new friends who cared about her and helped enrich her life.  Could this be how she made it to 103 years of age?

The attribute of “Friendship” was mentioned at the Caregiver Conference I attended as one of the most important factors for a happy old age.  We cannot bury ourselves in pity or sorrow for the past.  Life must go on.  As someone said: “Life is for the living.”  You are never too old to make new friends.

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce.  If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” — Zig Ziglar

chronic_pain_treatment_continuum_jpeg

  1. Pain Management

Yes, you better believe it.  Pain management is a key attribute of growing old gracefully.  The older you get, the more pains you will have.  You will have pain and if you cannot deal with it, life will be one endless day of misery.  The sad fact is that people seem to only know two ways to deal with pain.  The first is to see a doctor who will often prescribe surgery.  The second is similar, you go to see a doctor, only in this case, the doctor prescribes some sort of pain killer.  If you want to know what is causing the pain, which should be the first step towards any diagnosis or remedy, the doctor will be very reluctant to order a Ct scan or MRI due to the cost of such diagnostics.  He/she might do some blood tests or other tests that will probably not tell you very much.

More than likely though, your doc will just tell you that the cause of your pain is “Old Age” and your remedy is to live with it.  The older you are, the more likely the latter will be your diagnosis and prescription.  A few years ago (until the opioid epidemic which doctors and pharmaceutical companies created), they would probably have given you an abundant supply of Oxycontin or Vicodin and told you to go home and swallow a pill.

Now the first step towards pain management is preventive.  You guessed it.  Exercise and weight control.  However, even with diligent exercise you will encounter problems.  The chronic pain treatment diagram (I have included above) is one that best fits my ideas of how we should deal with pain.  You start with the lowest possible tier with the least side effects and you work up.  You do not immediately accept that surgery is the solution.  There are more surgeries done in this country that are unneeded than I can count.  If you doubt my assertion, then see my blog on the subject where I have written about the epidemic of surgeries which serve only to make more money for doctors.  “Should we be cautious when seeing our family doctor?”

I could tell you true story after true story of pains that I have dealt with over the years.  Yes, I had prostate surgery and hernia surgery.  These required invasive medical procedures and some respite from exercising.  But I have had Plantar Fasciitis, Sesamoiditis, Morton’s Neuroma, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, back pain and several other neuromuscular pains.  I have not had surgery for any of these.  While several of these problems managed to derail my exercise program for some months, I have managed to deal with each of these without surgery and am still running and exercising regularly.

In all cases, I have used the pain management continuum as noted above.  Starting with diagnosis (sometimes seeing a doctor but often doing research on the web) and moving up to the first level of diet, exercise and nutrition.  My second level would include OTC drugs, lotions like Tiger Balm or now CBD cream and diet supplements like Glucosamine and Turmeric.  I have managed to avoid opioids except in one case of dental problems where some implants became infected.  My second level also includes things like knee braces and elbow braces to help stabilize the joint until the inflammation went away.  My favorite second tier cure is a great massage which if I appear to be in enough pain, my spouse will usually proffer.  A massage will not cure the pain, but it helps to alleviate the pain and with other pain management techniques can speed recover.

I will not say anymore about pain management except to be wary of surgery until you have exhausted other less invasive possibilities.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of physical pain, with a lot of emotional pain; anybody’s who’s ever been an alcoholic has handled both of those in extreme.” — Jason Isbell

hope and optimism

  1. Hope and Optimism

I have saved these two attributes for graceful aging for last.  I believe these are essential for a happy and complete life.  I also believe they are the most difficult to acquire and maintain.  How can we be optimistic or have hope when death surrounds us and is the most inevitable fact of our lives?  What is there to be hopeful for when your friends and loved ones are dying and you see a future where you are left alone?  Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it?

They say hope springs eternal in the human breast but a simple observation of the people you know, will tell you that is a lie.  People give up hope when they are continually beaten down by the daily toil and challenges of life.  It should be a great deal easier to be optimistic when you are twenty than when you are eighty, but I doubt whether hope and optimism are linked to aging.  (True, the suicide rate for the aged is very high, but some of that may reflect practicality rather than hopelessness. The suicide rate for teenagers is nearly as high as that for the aged.)  The simple fact is that some people are more optimistic than others.  Some are more hopeful than others.

But hope and optimism are a choice we each can make in how to see life.

I can’t tell you what your hope should be.  My hope is that my writing will help you to lead a better life. I am hopeful that something I say and someone who reads what I say will find some value in my ideas.

I can’t tell you what to be optimistic about.  I am optimistic about my trip to Russia this coming year.  It will be a new adventure and I will go again with my spouse to our 40th new country.  I have always dreamed of taking an express train across Europe and we are going to take the Paris to Moscow Express for our trip into Russia.  There are a million things that could go wrong between now and then, but what gain do I have from being negative and pessimistic?

Find your hope and find your optimism.  Perhaps they will change each day but without them, your life will be like a life without sunshine

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

3498– Thursday, October 3, 2019 — Can We Really Grow Old Gracefully? Part 1

growing old gracefully_main

Let’s be honest.  Growing old is not like fine wine aging.  Growing old is not “golden years.”  Growing old means infirmity.  Growing old means watching friends and loved ones suffer and die.  Growing old means dealing with pain, doctors, medications, surgery and increasing illness.  In short, growing old sucks or does it?  Can growing old bring true happiness and meaning to our lives?  Can we really grow old gracefully?

Last week I went to a conference on care-giving.  My spouse Karen went with me.  It was held at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond, Wisconsin.  The title of the conference was “A Positive Approach to Care.”  The keynote speaker and also a workshop presenter was a remarkable woman named Teepa Snow.  To paraphrase a famous quote, I would say that the conference was “Not for the faint of heart.”  The participants seemed to be divided between professional caregivers like nurses and aides and family members who had care-giving responsibilities thrust on them due to the illness of a loved one.  Many more women than men were in attendance, but the demographics of the attendees included young and old alike.

The conference was a challenge for me because it touched on many topics that I would rather ignore.  If I can only keep my head down or buried in the ground perhaps the things that they discussed would never happen to me or anyone I love.  Of course, this last thought is fake.  These things are already happening to many people I know and love.  Two of my good friends are in homes as I speak with increasing dementia and not expected to live out the rest of the year.  They can no longer recognize old friends or deal with life in the forceful energetic manner that was once typical of them.  Before these things can happen to me, I want to run and hide someplace.  But there is no where to hide, is there!  The alternative is to find a way to succeed in dying and not to let dying succeed in diminishing us.  Death can take our bodies, but it cannot take our spirits.

I found ten attributes at the conference from listening to the speakers and observing and studying the stories that were told that I think can help our spirits as we age.  I am calling these “The Ten Attributes for Growing Old Gracefully.”  I have created a checklist for these attributes which I am going to use on a weekly basis to see how well I have done at following them.  If you prefer, think of these ten attributes as a multi-vitamin for emotional aging.  You may not need all ten of them each day, but at least one of these each day will certainly do you no harm and may help to make your life easier and happier.  The order of these is of no importance.

meaning and purpose

  1. A sense of purpose and meaning

You may well ask “What is the difference between purpose and meaning?”  Purpose is the things that you plan to do each day or with the rest of your life.  Purpose should be something you enjoy doing and are good at.  You get up in the morning with a purpose.  Meaning concerns the usefulness or strength of feeling that you have for your purpose.  Meaning comes from making a difference in the world or trying to make a difference.  Meaning comes from helping others or giving back to the world.  Meaning provides the world with beauty and grace.  Purpose without meaning is boring.

I like to think that my purpose now is writing.  I believe that I write well, and I enjoy writing very much.  The meaning of my writing comes from the sense that I hope my writing will help others find peace and joy in their lives.  I often receive comments attesting to the fact that others are helped by my writing.  This keeps inspiring me and helping me to continue.

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”  ― Anaïs Nin,

courage

  1. Courage

If you are growing old, there are no doubt days when you wish you could just leave this world.  We all have days of depression, misery and pain.  Suicide is highest among the elderly.  Who among us has not thought of suicide as a viable option to growing old?  Thus, the saying that “Aging is not for the faint of heart.”

I have written about my good friend Brian who committed suicide about four years ago.  He was 68 at the time.  There are many things that could be said about why he chose this path, but they all seem irrelevant now.  I miss him and so do many other people.  Brian was one of the most positive people you could ever meet.  Nevertheless, the prospect of growing old in a nursing home dictated his actions.

Why, you might ask should we have courage when we are going to lose the battle anyway?  I guess it all comes down to how you want to face the foe.  Do you want to go to your death on your knees or with dignity and grit?  I prefer the route of true grit.  I try to keep in mind the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant only die once.”

Perhaps a better reason for courage are the people that love you and care about you.  Would they choose that you leave the world earlier or later?  What difference can you make to them by choosing courage and the will to live?

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  ― Lao Tzu

humor

  1. Humor

Did you have any fun today?  Did you see any humor is some recent news or event where others only see doom and gloom?  It is very easy to get all wrapped up in the misery and disasters that plague our daily news.  We live in a society that seldom seems to present us with much humor.  But what would any life be without some humor.

Each day when I get together with our local library group, we have some fun by laughing at some of the stupidity that surrounds us.  A social group that can laugh at the world is helpful to my sanity.  One of the guys is always good for laughs since he has a “fun meter” that he uses to gauge our group conversations.  It goes from blue to red.  When he is enjoying or having fun in a discussion, he moves his fun meter to red.  When conversations turns bleak or sometimes idiotic, he moves his meter to blue.  Not only is his meter a good source of laughs but he is always good for laughs with some of his other antics.

Can you find one thing each day to laugh about?  Do you build some fun into your life?  If your answer is no to either of these questions, you really need to start today to have some fun.

“And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night.  If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.”   ― Hafiz

Finding-Joy

  1. Finding joy in your life

Sounds like the same as finding humor but it is not.  Finding joy in your life means to find things each day that you enjoy doing or just simply being.  For many people, it means finding ways to help others.  It is related to finding a purpose or meaning in life since it is hard to find joy without finding a purpose that makes you happy.

However, finding joy can mean simply enjoying a rainy day.  It can mean enjoying a good book or sitting on a beach and watching the tide roll in.  I can find joy in doing nothing, but it takes reflection to find joy.  You must think about what you are doing.  At some point, I say “Wow, I will really enjoy doing this or maybe today I will enjoy doing nothing.”  I don’t need a widget or gadget to make my life.  I am responsible for my own joy and happiness.  It is a thought that makes one miserable or happy and you can find joy in life when you choose joyful thoughts.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”  ― Thich Nhat Hanh

grateful

  1. Gratitude

St. Ignatius believed ingratitude to be “The cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.”  Ingratitude makes us look at things that others have and want them.  Ingratitude makes us unhappy and miserable with our own lives.  Growing old, it is always easy to look at what others have and find a deficit in our lives.  Friends may have more money, bigger homes, better retirement living, more vacations, nicer cars, better physical condition and even “better” grandchildren.

No matter what the world brings, you can always find something or someone who is better, smarter and probably happier than you are.  It is not observing these things which will bring you unhappiness.  It is forgetting to see the good things in your own life.  No matter how bad life is or the cards we are dealt, there is always something that we can find to be grateful for.  I love flowers and every day; I look at the flowers that my wife has planted, and I am grateful for her taking the time and effort to try to make our home beautiful.  I can easily find people with nicer gardens, more flowers, less weeds, better displays but forgetting to appreciate what I have makes for an unhappy existence.

At the end of each day, see if you can find one thing to be grateful for.  If you start thinking about such a list, you will undoubtedly find several things to be grateful for.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”   ― Epicurus

Part 2 – To Be Continued.

I will share my 6 through 10 attitudes for graceful aging in the next blog I post.

3503– Saturday, September 28, 2019 — The Story of Little Red Riding Hood:  AKA: Autumn, Part 2

hoodie in cemetary

The years before high school went by pretty fast for Autumn and her mother.  They were not without problems.  Autumn caught shoplifting.  Autumn suspended from junior high school for truancy.  Autumn caught with 20-year-old boyfriend in bed.  Autumn doing pot and possibly some ecstasy.  Autumn running away from home.  Autumn and her mother constantly fighting.  Autumn understood that she was on a slippery slope and it seemed to all head downhill.

However, she told herself that when she turned 14 and started high school that things would be really different.  She would find a nice guy to love and they would plan a life together after high school.  In addition to her dreams, it came as a happy surprise for Autumn when her mom and dad got back together again.  Her father and brothers moved back in with Autumn and her mom.  Autumn took these events as auspicious signs that things were already starting to look up.

Within the next year, Autumn started 9th grade at the local high school.  Her brothers were in the 11th and 12th grades respectively.  Autumn wasted little time in finding a new boyfriend, but they quickly parted when it seemed that all he wanted was sex and Autumn wanted more than just sex.  Autumn was quite happy to provide some of what the boy wanted but in exchange she expected to be treated as a girlfriend and not just some bimbo.

Autumn found another boyfriend and then another boyfriend.  One boyfriend followed another faster than she could count, and her relationships always followed the same pattern.  A date, sex, more sex, being taken for granted and then breaking up.  Autumn was only 14 but within months of starting high school she had acquired a reputation as an easy girl who would put out on the first date.  The more her reputation as a harlot grew, the worse her relationships with others at the school became.  The boys all gave her funny looks and smirks as she passed them in the hallways, but it was the girls that proved her real problem.

The girls at school would gossip behind her back and she would actually find comments about herself in the bathroom stalls.  Comments like “For a quick fuck, call Autumn at 520-238-6123.”  Groups of girls talking would point to her and laugh and then grow silent and snicker when she walked by.  Autumn felt that she had become a laughing stock in school and that none of the other girls wanted or dared to associate with her.  Her life grew lonelier and more and more bleak.

At home, Autumn noticed her once loving brothers becoming more and more distant.  One day she summoned up her courage and asked them what was wrong.  They told her in no uncertain terms that she was the laughing stock of the school and that all their friends made sexual comments about her.  They wanted noting to do with Autumn and they were both ashamed that she was their sister. “Keep away from us” were their parting comments.

The school year eventually ended.  The hopes for love and happiness that Autumn cherished had evaporated like a puddle of water on a hot summer day in Texas.  Autumn kept to herself most of the summer months before the next school year.  Her mother and father were both to busy working to deal with her problems and assumed it was just teenage angst and that she would grow out of it.  Autumn dreaded the coming of school but tried to convince herself that a great guy must be out there some place if she could only find him.

The new school year started.  Autumn was 15 years old and a sophomore.  Within the first two weeks of school she met a good-looking guy who was a senior and he asked her out on a date.  He seemed really nice.  He took her to dinner and a movie and even bought her flowers.  They went out on a few other dates before he wanted to go to bed with her.  She began to think that she had found true love.

The girls at school still avoided Autumn.  Comments about Autumn would still appear in the girls’ bathrooms.   Many of the boys would make insulting remarks as she walked by.  Autumn did not care though.  She finally felt that she had found the love and acceptance that she had always dreamed of.

Autumn had been going out with her new beau for several weeks when he picked her up one Friday night and took her to his house.  They had had sex there several times when his parents were not home and she did not think anything about it.  However, tonight he seemed somewhat nervous and anxious and not his usual upbeat self.  Probably just some school related problems thought Autumn.  They arrived at his house and he promptly took her into to his bedroom and shut the door.

He had undressed Autumn and they had started to make love when with a loud bang the door to the bedroom opened and one of his friends yelled out “My turn!”  Autumn’s boyfriend jumped out of bed as Autumn asked what was going on?  “Well, I told some of my friends how good you were in bed and I did not think that you would mind screwing them as well.”  As the new boy pushed Autumn back down and took his turn, Autumn said nothing.  She did not scream.  She did not yell rape.  She did not say stop, no, don’t or get off of me.  As one after another of her boyfriend’s buddies took advantage of Autumn, she quietly laid there and said nothing.

When the assaults had ceased and all of the boys had left for parts unknown, Autumn put on her clothes and said: “Take me home.”  No other words were spoken as her boyfriend drove her home and Autumn got out of his car and went into her house.  It was the worst day of Autumn’s short life and it did not seem like life could get any worse.  Autumn climbed into her bed.  The next two days went by in a sort of haze.  Her cellphone went off dozens if not hundreds of times, but she ignored it.

Monday started another day of hell at school for Autumn.  Walking around it seemed like everyone knew her secret.  The secret being that on Friday, she had been gang-banged by as many as five or six seniors at the high school.  How could everyone know though?  Word could not possibly have spread that fast.  Autumn received more phone calls and text messages but continued to ignore them.  Autumn could not wait for the end of the school day.  It seemed like forever before school the bell signaling the end of the school day sounded.  Autumn walked home alone.

When Autumn arrived home, both her brothers were still out, and her father and mother were most likely at work.  Autumn went up to her room, shut the door and logged onto her computer.  She signed into her Facebook account and nearly passed out at what she saw on her home page.  There in the middle of the page was a picture that had been shared more than 300 times.  It was a picture of Autumn nude in bed with a young man situated somewhere between her splayed legs.  You could only see the boys back, but it was clear from his position that he had inserted something into Autumn.  The expression on Autumn’s face was dull and lifeless but not panicked or frightened.  Autumn now remembered that while some boys were having sex with her, others had been taking pictures on their cell phones.  She realized what must be on the hundreds of text messages that she had been ignoring.

The was the final straw.  Autumn could not, indeed would not take any more.  She got up off the bed and went downstairs to her mom’s bathroom.  She rummaged through the medicine cabinet until she found what she wanted.  At this point, she turned the water on in the bathtub and started to disrobe.  When she was fully undressed, she stepped into the tub and laid down.  She opened the vial containing her mom’s sleeping pills.  She counted only twenty inside.  She was not sure if that was enough to do the job, but she was not going to rely on pills anyway.  The pills would at best make her drowsy and the razor blade would do the rest.  She was determined not to screw this up.  She swallowed all the pills sipping some of the tub water to wash them down.   It took a few minutes, but she began to feel drowsy.  At this point, she took the razor blade and slashed both of her wrists several times.  Autumn then put her hands in the warm water and laid her head back to sleep.

About three hours or so later, her mom and two brothers all arrived home at the same time.  Mom headed into the downstairs bathroom and the two boys went upstairs to their bedrooms.  As her mother entered the bathroom, she immediately noticed a tub full of red water and Autumn laying asleep in the tub.  What, her mom thought is Autumn doing laying in a tub of red water?  Suddenly her mind filled with a single dreadful thought.  She grabbed Autumn by the shoulders and shook her violently, but Autumn would not wake up.  Her mom let out a series of screams which brought both sons running.  The oldest son looked at his mom and the bathtub and bolted for a phone to call 911.  The youngest son grabbed his mom and tried to question her over her screams.  “Mom, Mom, is Autumn dead” he asked.  “No, no, no, it can’t be, it can’t be,” she said.  When 911 came, they told Autumn’s mother and brothers that they were sorry but that there was nothing they could do.  Autumn had been dead for at least two hours.

Funeral preparations started in a few days.  Autumn’s mom and grandmother were discussing arrangements when grandmother suggested that Autumn be buried next to her grandfather in the cemetery.  Something snapped in mom and she grabbed grandmother and violently shook her while yelling “Not near that Son of a Bitch, not near that Son of a Bitch.”  Both women’s eyes locked onto each other’s and both accepted what each had known for a long time.  They had suspected and then known but neither had wanted to admit it.  Looking into each other’s eyes, the truth became clear.  They folded into one big hug and began crying and crying and crying.

A week or so later they held the funeral for Autumn.  The interment was conducted at a cemetery across town from where grandfather was laid to rest.  Autumn’s mother, grandmother, both brothers, father and many other relatives attended.  To the family’s great surprise, hundreds of other people showed up for the burial.  Most of them from Autumn’s high school.  Some showed up out of curiosity, a few out of grief for a lost comrade but many showed up out of guilt and shame.

Autumn’s mother had insisted on writing the script for the gravestone marker in a somewhat unusual manner.  No last name for Autumn and no date of birth.  Only the month that Autumn was born in.  The marker read:

AutumnAutumn gravemarker

October

15 years Old

A Troubled Soul

May she rest in peace now

 

One week after she was buried, her mother went to visit Autumn’s grave-site by herself.  She brought Autumn’s favorite little red hoodie with her.  She stood looking at Autumn’s grave for several minutes, but she could no longer shed any tears.  It was like there was no moisture left in her entire body.  As she draped Autumn’s little red hoodie over the gravestone, she whispered two words before turning to leave: “I’m sorry.”

 

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