Dick Doyscher: A Man for a Few More Seasons

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The world is full of extraordinary people, but Dick Doyscher is not one of them.  Therein lies the problem.  We are inundated with news of extraordinary people, some stupid, some evil and some great.  We have become accustomed to news of people who have won 4000 gold medals, who have made $50,000,000,000 dollars with a new line of running shoes, who are four year old virtuosos that can sing the Soprano role of Gilda in Rigoletto and dance “Thriller” better than Michael Jackson could, or nut cases who have gone out and shot 45 people with a single round that we ignore people like Dick.  Dick is not extraordinary, but he is remarkable.  To paraphrase the “History Guy”, Dick deserves to be remembered.

As we get older, we no doubt read more and more obituaries.  The typical obituary is not like an obituary for Princess Diana or Kobe Bryant.  People write books about the rich and famous.  The typical obituary for the common person is one or two paragraphs long usually ending with something like:

“They worked as an air conditioner repair person for thirty years until they retired.  After retiring they took up gardening and were known for helping their neighbors plant flowers.  They were loved by all and will be dearly missed.” 

Perhaps a beautiful life rolled up into a few paragraphs and a short sweet ending.  You still know little or nothing about the deceased except that they loved flowers and died.  So sad.

Well, I wanted to say something about Dick while he is still alive.  You should know why he is a remarkable individual because I am sure it will not be listed in his obit. He is now 80 years old as he loves to remind us.  He is fond of saying, “Well, when you are as old as I am.”  I think he knows this drives me crazy.  I will perhaps never be old enough to say “I told you so” to Dick since he will either a.) always be older than me or b.) when I turn 80, he will not be around anymore.  So really, I am writing this blog about him as a way of getting even with him for all the times he has flaunted his age in our library group.  But before I tell you why he is remarkable, a short background on how I came to know Dick.

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Ten years ago when we moved to Frederic, I discovered a bunch of guys (See the “Old Library Guys”) who meet daily in the Frederic Public Library for free coffee and donuts.  There are about seven or eight of these guys who are sometimes joined by wives or women in the library.  We are not gender exclusive, but our conversations tend to be around politics, cars, guns and local goings on.  A few years ago, we created a “Last Man Standing Bottle.”  We purchased a bottle of “Old Grand Dad 114 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” (Seemed appropriate) and sealed it in a wooden case with seven of our names on it.  Two of the men on the bottle are now deceased.  Dick and I remain among the living with three other men.

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When I first met Dick, I cannot say that I was impressed.  He was a retired mechanic with a younger attractive wife (Gladys, who I will talk about later) and no formal education beyond high school.  Dick liked cars and guns and Lorie Line.  He did not show much interest in reading the great books, traveling to exotic places or listening to classical concerts.  He did like one pianist name Lorie Line than he had heard but felt little need to explore other pianists.  I nicknamed him “Dick the Stick.”  This was short for “stick in the mud.”

By all known stereotypes, Dick should have been a classic Red Neck.  Now even Red Necks can be kind and caring individuals and you might be thinking that perhaps Dick the Stick was a kind individual who lent money to other people and helped them dig their gardens.  If so, you would be dead wrong.  Dick does not believe in lending money.  He says we should go to the bank for that and he does not do much heavy lifting since he has a bad back.

So nothing remarkable about Dick yet.  But as the years went by, I started to learn more and more about Dick.  Politically, he did not conform to stereotypes.  He is one of the most open minded and creative political thinkers I have ever met.  He argued with me for years that the USA is in a sort of decline like the Roman Empire.  It took me several years to come to believe that he is probably right.  Nevertheless, he supported Obama and even voted for him despite his belief that we were wasting our time voting.

Many of our politicians seem to thrive on fear or greed.  Many of the constituents that continually reelect these self-serving politicos swoon to the melody of greed and fear.  The politicians pander to these base needs as they extort more and more money for their never-ending re-election campaigns.  The broader interest of the world is suborned to the petty greed and fear of their constituents.  Dick is not swayed by either fear or greed.  Dick is clearly a global thinker who sees beyond any narrow horizons to think about the good of others and not just his family and friends.

Now Dick has been a hunter and still has a cache of guns in his house.  But again breaking stereotypes for such men in the North woods, Dick is no supporter of the NRA nor some of the rabid positions they have taken on gun control.  Dick is a pragmatist when it comes to gun control and supports an element of sensible controls without trying to take all guns away from the second amendment supporters.

54bd1b7c4e715_-_trophy-wife-george-hamilton-1209-04-deI mentioned his “Trophy Wife” Gladys.  I will probably have to duck some punches when she next sees me for this slight, but the standard stereotype is an old guy that marries a younger woman who is a gold digger willing to give up her youth and beauty for money and support.  Gladys loves to travel, but Dick the Stick says, “My traveling days are over.”  When I first heard many years ago that Gladys was going on an exotic bike, hike or kayak trip, I thought to myself “Well, Dick, you will never see her again.  She will find some kayaking stud and that is the end of your relationship.”  To my surprise, Gladys returned home.  Over the years she has gone on many trips abroad without Dick the Stick and always comes back.   Dick is more than supportive and never questions her trips or the financial aspects.  He is one of the least jealous men I have ever met.  They respect each other as individuals, and each pursues interests both together and apart.

Gladys the “Trophy Wife” mirrors another remarkable aspect of Dicks character.  Both are very caring individuals without being obvious or obtrusive about it.  Dick befriended Brian Rogers who was one of the men in our “Last Man Standing” group.  Brian had cerebral palsy and was becoming more and more disabled from the disease.  Dick seemed to know just how to help Brian and they became very close.  Brian would not take charity or help from anyone and was very independent.  However, they formed an almost symbiotic relationship with Brian helping Dick with his depression and Dick helping Brian with his cerebral palsy.  It was a beautiful relationship which ended when Brian died.

Dick has helped other men in the group who need help.  I am often surprised by his ability to transcend insults or sometimes mean-spirited attacks by people in our group.  He will forget the insult and if he sees that the person needs help, Dick will make a phone call, pay a visit or extend a hand to help.  I will say “Screw him Dick” and Dick will say “He is not feeling well” or “He has had a string of bad luck.”  I will stick by “Screw him” but not Dick.  He is always willing to forgive and forget any slight that I have seen leveled at him.

His wife Gladys works part-time with a community church, but I have often seen her at other churches where she helps out with the events or dinners.  Many of the churches in our community have an aging population and need help with volunteers because of the older ages in the church.  Gladys has done more than her share to help other churches.  I mentioned that she mirrors Dick, but it is fair to say that it works both ways.  Dick mirrors Gladys in her compassion for others.

beaver tshirtNow less this sound too much like a soap opera, I should point out some of the character flaws that are obvious with Dick.  He once had a battle with some beavers that resided on his property.  These beavers were adept at building a dam using a stream that flowed near a road leading to Dick’s house.  The dam would cause the water to back up flooding the road.  Dick would go out there and break up the dam but faster than you could say “Dick the Stick” the beavers would rebuild the dam.  I asked Dick why he did not shoot the suckers.  Dick replied that he promised Gladys that he would not kill them but try to get them to relocate.  So periodically Dick would come in with his back aching from breaking up the dam and I would say “Give me your rifle and I will shoot the suckers for you.”  Dick would never do this.  I finally bought him a t-shirt with “Beaver Advice” on it.

new-2018-summer-vladimir-putin-t-shirts-menI mentioned that Dick does not want to travel anywhere (Except maybe Duluth).  I would attribute his “been there, done it” to a possible birth or brain defect but to be fair Dick did go to England, Peru and a bunch of other countries when he was younger.  Furthermore, unlike some people, he is always interested in hearing about the travels of Gladys and others in the group.  I am going to Russia this coming year and I keep telling him that I am going to have an audience with President Putin.  Dick often jokes about Putin and his strong political resolve.  I may bring him a Putin t-shirt when I come back from Moscow, assuming that I am allowed to leave the country.

Well, “That’s all Folks” as Porky Pig used to say.  I am not expecting Dick to go anytime soon.  But in case he does, you will all know some things about him now that probably will not be in the Frederic Inter-county Leader.  I think he is a remarkable man and maybe if he reads this, he will remember me in his last will and testament.

 

Death in Arizona City

There are many ways to die but most of us will not get to choose the way we die.  Saturday on a three-mile dusty stretch of two-lane highway between Sunland Gin Road and Arica Road in Arizona City, two people died.  One made a choice, the other did not.

It started out as just another sunny and cool January morning in Arizona.  At 8:30 AM, I dressed to go for a run up at the Casa Grande Mountains.  I was going to drive to the post office first to pick up a delivery that Alexa had told me was made.  She had also told me what the merchandise was and I was excited to get it. The post office in Arizona City is only open between 9 AM and 11 AM on Saturday and I intended to go there first to be sure that I got there before it closed.  I then wanted to go to the Health Fair that the Chamber of Commerce in Casa Grande was putting on.

The Health Fair was scheduled to start at 10 AM and end at 2 PM.  I planned to get to the fair about the time that it would start.  There are always a lot of handouts and goodies at these fairs and the earlier you get there, the more stuff you can pick up.  I thought I could squeeze a decent run in sometime between the post office and the health fair.  I had to be back home from the fair before 2 PM to pick my wife Karen and her friend Nancy up.  The three of us were going to Tucson for a Dulcimer Jam that would start at 3:30 PM.  Following the jam, we were going to have a potluck and some conversation.  Thus, I was a man with a tight schedule.

I left my house at about 8:55 AM.  I live about two miles from the Arizona City Post Office. The parking lot there was not crowded, and I immediately found a place to park.  I went in and checked my mailbox but there was no package notification in my box.  I then went to the desk and asked the clerk to check if any packages had arrived for PO BOX 2498.  She said, “No problem” and went back into the storage area.  She returned shortly.  “Sorry, she said, but there are too many packages to check and they have not been posted yet.  You will have to wait until Monday.”  I left the Post Office moderately disappointed and headed up to the Casa Grande Mountain Park by way of Sunland Gin Road.  It is about 4 miles from the Post Office to the Arica Road Trail head.  There was little traffic on the way, and I arrived at the trail head about 9:15 AM.

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I put my extra gear on, mostly some pads and armor and commenced running up a trail.  I was not sure how long I wanted to run but I figured maybe 40 minutes or so.  I run with armor because it helps when I fall.  Running these mountain trails, it is not a question of whether I will fall, it is only a question of when.  I have already hit the ground twice this year.  One was minor and no pain.  The other hurt and left me bruised.  After falling, I laid on the ground for a while and stared at the clouds drifting by before trying to stand up.  Finally, I got enough courage back and the pain had subsided enough to enable me to finish my run.  Bruised, battered and my confidence shaken but knowing that I still had a few more runs in me before I called it quits with my running; I finished my run.

However, today was different.  I started off feeling very well and with over fifteen trails to chose from, (I often add or change my route depending on how I feel) I felt strong and decided to run one of my favorite routes.  I was about fifteen minutes into the route when I heard the sirens start off in the distance.  It is not unusual to hear sirens, but these did not stop.  They went on and on for what seemed like forever.  I guessed based on the direction that they were coming from that it was an accident on Sunland Gin Road.  I had two reasons for believing this.  First, this is the major and heavily trafficked route out of Arizona City and second, speeders and impatient drivers seem to abound on this section of Sunland Gin Road.  Last year, three people were killed when a driver drifted across the lane and rammed head on into an oncoming car.  Anyone living in Arizona City has seen several near misses on this road when some driver decides to pass them with little margin for error.  It does not matter that it is only three miles long or that the speed limit is 50 mph, many drivers do 70 mph or more on this road.  I assume following anyone doing the speed limit drives some of these impatient people crazy.

I finished my run in about 37 minutes and got back to my car.  I put my gear in my car and pulled some pants on over my running tights.  I drove off at a few minutes to 10 AM.  I went down to Sunland Gin Road but did not see anything amiss as I made a left turn to the freeway.  It took me about ten minutes to arrive at the Promenade Mall where the Health Fair was being held.  I parked across the street, walked through the car show outside the Mall and into the Mall area.  There I saw the Chamber of Commerce booth where some friends were handing out tote bags.  I greeted my friends (I volunteer at the Chamber on Wednesdays for four hours) and proceeded to systematically visit any booths or tables that either interested me or had some good swag.  It was about 10:15 AM.

I stopped to chat at several booths.  I do not like to appear greedy and just grab the swag and I usually find some vendors who might be helpful to me for any number of reasons.  Nevertheless, I picked up two calendars, 2 mini-calendars, several pens, a banana, a bottle of water, a sweat band and lots of good information relating to home improvement.  I finished going up and down each aisle and double checked to make sure that I did not miss any vendors.  On my way out, I met two more friends who were vets and briefly said hello.  I ended up hitting the men’s room before getting to my car.  It was now about 11 AM.

I took the freeway back to Sunland Gin Road but decided to get off on Jimmy Kerr Blvd. which runs parallel to the freeway.  I wanted to come back to the intersection of Jimmy Kerr and Sunland Gin so that I could pass Carl’s Jr. and stop in for a breakfast burrito.  I went about two miles down Sunland Gin road and suddenly realized that Carl’s Jr. was on Toltec Road and not Sunland Gin.  Burger King was on Sunland Gin.  I decided to just go home and skip the burrito.  As I neared the top of the overpass that connects the I-10 exit to Sunland Gin, I could see in the distance many police cars and lights and it appeared that the road was blocked off.  I had time to make an immediate left turn onto I-10 before I was committed to trying to drive down Sunland Gin Road.  I doubted that going down Sunland Gin Road was possible.

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I headed south on I-10 and got off on Toltec Blvd.  I drove over to Carl’s Jr. and parked. I went in and they were no longer serving breakfast burritos since it was past 11 AM.  They did have some breakfast burgers left so I ordered one and a drink and proceeded to call my wife Karen to tell her about the accident.  It was now two hours or so later then when I had first heard the sirens and the road was still blocked.  As it turned out, the road was not opened until about nine or ten hours later.  We both surmised that a really bad accident had happened on Sunland Gin Road and (Sad to say) we both knew why and how.

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I arrived home and after some relaxing, showering, changing up and loading the instruments and food in the car we left for Tucson.  The jam went great and about 20 people were playing various instruments but mostly dulcimers.  We ate at 5:30 PM and conversation carried us to nearly 8 PM.  We packed the car up and headed back to Arizona City.  I had not thought any more about the accident until we were near our exit.  As we approached, we saw a lot of cars that were coming down Toltec Road which normally would have been coming down Sunland Gin Road.  Apparently, Sunland Gin Road was still closed.

As soon as I came home, I logged onto a Face Book chat group for Arizona City where residents bring up issues and ask questions about what is happening in the area.  Of course, the questions were about the accident and what could be done.  It seemed like everyone knew that two people had died.  Given the history of this road, it does not take a rocket scientist to surmise that two cars had hit in a head-on collision.  The only real question was how many were in each car and how many had died.

One person made a choice to pass and died.  The other person did not make a choice and died involuntarily. 

The following is an excerpt from the Arizona City Facebook chat with a typical selection of comments and questions regarding the accident:

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As you might notice from these comments, the range of solutions varies widely.  Some want more policing.  Some want a passing lane.  Some want a four-lane highway.  Some want better driver education.  Some want people to smarten up and not be in such a hurry.  It is a difficult issue.  People don’t usually respond well to persuasion and people do not want their taxes to go up to pay for new roads.

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So, what will we do?  Are these deaths the cost of riding the highways?  Are we content to simply let more people die on this road?  Not very difficult to decide unless it is you or a loved one who will die.  The cost/benefit equation can change very radically when it impacts us personally.

 

 

 

 

 

3611– Wednesday, June 12, 2019 –  Fear of Death and Dying

 Have your ever cursed out an “old” driver for going to slow?  If so, I am sure that you are not alone.  I was once one of those who had no patience for the old folks poking along doing less than the speed limit on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Karen would always remind me that “You will be old someday.”  I did not believe it.  The problem is that I am now an old driver.  I probably drive slower and more cautiously then I did years ago, but so as not to offend anyone, I usually set my cruise control about 5 mph over the speed limit.  I figure it is too slow to get a ticket but too fast to piss off anyone who hates slow old folks behind the wheel.  Of course, my logic sucks.  I am beset by mortals who obviously have both no fear of death and no fear of getting a ticket.   Why are people in such a hurry today?  Where the hell is everyone going?

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The subject of my blog today concerns the poor old guys and gals who want to live a few years longer.  One would think that at age 70 or greater, the elderly would be reckless and carefree.  After all, I have had 72 good years on this earth, why should I fret if I die tomorrow.  The strange truth is that the older we get, the more cautious we get.  It is almost like thinking that if I give up smoking, drinking, motorcycles, wild parties and wild women or wild men, I will be able to live longer.  I doubt seriously if the time to be safe is after age 70.  It seems to me that logically, the time to be safety conscious would be when you were young and had many potential years ahead of you.  Why be safe, when your heart or brain might blow out tomorrow.  This is a paradox that I do not understand, but I observe it all around me.

I have friends who don’t want to travel because it might be dangerous.  I have friends who have concealed carry permits because they might get mugged and this even in Frederic.  I have a daughter who has security lights all around her house and is planning to install a security camera.  I have friends who live in gated communities with security guards.  I have friends who will not drive in the city or at night.

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In each case above, my friends would not have thought twice about it a few years ago.  But something happens as we age.  Suddenly, we worry.  We worry more about things that in the past would not have given us a glimmer of concern.  Now we want to know what the weather will be like before we go out.  We want to know if a neighborhood is safe before we drive though it.  We want to know if a chosen vacation spot is safe to visit.

Why again I ask, would anyone with so few years left to live, worry about their safety?  They say that growing old is not for the faint of heart.  I can see why.  The older we get; the scarier things are.  Is it simply a bit of DNA that ordains old people should die safely in their beds?

A little caution as we age is no doubt common sense.  Old people are more brittle and less flexible.  We do not bounce when we fall, and we can no longer put one foot behind our heads while standing on the other foot doing a Yoga posture (not that I ever could).  We do not have as much balance and we should rightfully be staying off of high ladders and roofs.  We take more time to mend and with less time left on this earth, we don’t want to spend our last days in a cast or hospital room.  We will probably end up in a hospital room anyway, but I doubt it will be because we did anything foolish like bungee jumping or wing suit diving.

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Aging, for many of us, will be a process of pulling our blankets ever closer and ever tighter.  The days of throwing off the blankets in wild abandon and streaking naked through our gardens are probably over.  Somewhere between the two extremes we must find an accommodation with growing old.  To die or not to die is not the question.  The question is how to die.  I always liked the quote in Julius Caesar by Shakespeare “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant never taste of death but once.”  Or to paraphrase Patrick Henry, “I know not what course others may take, but give me a party or let me die comfortably in my bed.”

“You can’t possibly be afraid of death, really, you can only be afraid of life.”  — Carl R. Rogers

When I Die?

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“Every now and then I think about my own death.”  Martin Luther King was only thirty-nine years old when he said these words and shared his thoughts about what he wanted his life to stand for.  I think about these words a great deal these days but more in connection with my own life.  The thought that someone only 39 years old had to contemplate the ramifications and implications of death is alarming.  No one should have such worries until old age.

“It is necessary to meditate early, and often, on the art of dying to succeed later in doing it properly just once.”
― Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before

I don’t know when I started to think about dying but at age seventy-two, I suppose it is worth reflecting on.  Wasn’t it Socrates who said that the “Unexamined life is not worth living?”  Death is one part of life that many of us may put off thinking about until perhaps it is too late.  I have had ample evidence that death is inevitable.

My grandfather died at the age of fifty-six when I was only eight years old in 1954.  My father died in 1985 when he was 60 years old and I was not yet forty.  My mother died in 1994 when she was 68 and my oldest sister died in 2002 when she was fifty-five years old.  I have had many other relatives and friends who have already departed this world at an earlier than expected age.  I seldom am surprised anymore by anyone else’s death.

Every now and then I think about dying and how I will succumb to Charon.  Will I go willingly? Will I go honorably?  Will my life have meant something?  Will I have made a difference in the world?  The how, when and where of death holds fascinating opportunities for reflection.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
― Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Occasionally, I think about going out of this world, fast.  I had a Yamaha FZ1 up to 160 mph on the I35 going to Duluth one morning.  A crash at that speed might not have been going out in a blaze of glory, but it would have been quick.  I wonder if it would have been painless?  That would be a plus.

Sometimes I think about going out heroically.  I dive into some icy river or rush into a burning house to save some poor soul.  I don’t make it.  Will the world remember me as a hero or some idiot with heroic aspirations who failed at his hero task?

Part of me would like to die in bed.  I think of the remark that Clive Cussler made that the best way to go is in bed with your accountant telling you that you are ten dollars overdrawn in your account.  I would die peacefully with my beloved Karen and sister Jeanine at my side.  I would use my last breath to tell them how much I love them.  No pain but no heroic antics either.  Sort of a blah death in a way but it does have an appeal.

I was doing a morning run this week when the thought of dying kept intruding into my run.  I sometimes think about how long it would take a bullet to hit me when I run in the mountains and desert.  There are always some folks who seem to prefer shooting near the park rather than in the approved shooting ranges on the other side of the Casa Grande Mountains.  I can hear the boom of their shots echoing across the desert valley.  I wonder precisely how long it would take a stray bullet to strike me?  A friend of mine said much less than one second.  I count the seconds anyway after I hear a boom and wonder what my last thoughts will be.

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Death accidently shot while running in the mountains would no doubt be a fast but ignominious way of dying.  I am opting for something a little more glamourous.  I think about the headline in the Casa Grande Dispatch the next day.  “Man accidently shot while running trails in the mountains by MORON exercising his Second Amendment rights.”  Man and MORON would be linked for all eternity.  How will anyone weave this into my eulogy?

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
― Banksy

Some of you reading this might be thinking “This guy is really morose, maybe even suicidal.”  The experts say that reflecting on death too much might not be healthy and might be evidence of suicidal tendencies.  However, (as you might expect) other experts say that reflecting on death is a normal and even important aspect of aging that may help prepare us for the coming trials of old age.  A quote I rather like goes like this “Old age is not for the faint of heart.”

My sister (who seems to know everyone in the State of Rhode Island) is five years younger than I am and manages to go to at least one or two funerals a month.  I avoid funerals, but I prefer them to weddings.  While funerals may be no more honest than weddings when it comes to the things people will say about the departed, at least funerals preclude any errant delusions of grandeur (For example, living happily ever after).  How many newlyweds will manage to live happily ever after?

I have always said (half-jokingly) that I want to go first.  I want Karen to live on long after I pass away and have a good life.  Many of the things I do today are in a sense to help prepare for that eventuality.  I had expected that Karen would no doubt survive me as women generally live longer than men.  Besides, my life has been lived much faster than Karen’s and thus I have used up more of my “thread of life.”  However, with old age I have had second thoughts on this expectation.

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
― Shannon Alder

A few weeks ago, I was sharing a bottle of Brandy and some cigars with two friends, when I said that I hoped that I would go first as I could not think of being alone in this life without Karen.  One of the other men astonished me when he said, “I want my wife to go first.”  I immediately assumed that he was being selfish but being curious I asked him why?  He explained very sincerely that his wife had been quite sick and that he had no one else to take care of her.  He did not want to leave her alone without his help.  I was moved by his charity and unselfishness which suddenly made my position seem quite the opposite.  Selfish!  Selfish!  Selfish!

Another joke I have often made was that I married a nurse so that she could take care of me when I was old and feeble.  I always thought this was funny.  In the last few years, I have had a different perspective.  My spouse (who really is a nurse) is getting older and frailer.  The wear and tear of aging is very visible in new creases, new lines, slower movements and lower energy levels.  The realization hit me like the proverbial brick a few years ago that I might be taking care of her rather than the other way around.

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I doubt that anyone who knows me would ever think of me as a “caregiver.”  But I have always been a pragmatist and so I have started taking some caregiver classes and classes on aging.   I have also taken one on the various aspects of Dementia and Alzheimers.  I will grow old along with my spouse and do what I can to take care of both of us.  I may not always believe that the “best is yet to be” but I will do my best to help make this possibility a reality.

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“To fear death, gentlemen, is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not, to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.”
― Socrates

I don’t want to glamorize getting old but neither do I want to disparage the possibilities that old age has for many of us.  I will never know the how, when or where of my dying, but I can live my life the best I can and each day try to be the best person, husband, friend, father and neighbor that I can be.  Each day life offers me more choices to grow old with dignity.  To face the difficulties of aging more boldly and maybe even heroically.  To paraphrase Martin Luther King, when I die:

  • Don’t tell them about my titles
  • Don’t tell them about my degrees
  • Don’t tell them about my jobs
  • Don’t tell them about the books I wrote or the places I have been
  • Tell them I wanted to be a good person and was honest enough to know that I usually fell short.

Time for Questions:

Do your ever think about dying?  What do you want to be remembered for? How would you like to die?  Do you think you will go fast or slow?

Life is just beginning.

“In the end, I won’t say that I have ‘NO REGRETS’ because that would be bullshit.  I have more regrets than I can count.” —  J. Persico

 

 

My Heroes Have Always Been Evil Geniuses!

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I know it is strange.  Most young men when I was growing up had cowboys as heroes, particularly the ones who wore white hats.  Men like Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger were the heroes to an entire generation of young baby boomers.

My heroes have always been cowboys
And they still are, it seems
Sadly, in search of, and one step in back of
Themselves and their slow movin’ dreams — Willie Nelson

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I guess I was always different because I liked the guys with the black hats.  They seemed to have more fun and less inhibitions.  You never saw the good guys kiss the girls, but the bad guys thought nothing about kissing them.  Bad guys were also early into bondage (think of all the women tied up on railroad tracks) which was taboo for good people back in the forties and fifties.  In fact, until 50 Shades of Grey, bondage still had a sort of naughty ring to it.

ming-the-merciless-tom-carltonMy first real hero was Ming the Merciless.  He had all the primary characteristics of an evil genius.  He was a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world.  He was always smarter than Flash Gordon.  He had dozens of minions who followed his every order.  He obeyed no rules except his own.  And finally, he lusted after Dale Arden who was a pretty hot babe for the time.  Dale had wonderful blond curls, a great figure and was into bare midriff before it became popular in the 90’s.  Flash was a wimp when it came to Dale but Ming the Merciless knew what he wanted and really went after it.  I suppose tying women up today would not be proper but if you are an evil genius it is simply part of the expectations.

Ming the Merciless: “Flash, you stand in my way of my ruling the universe.  Not only that, but I want Dale for my bride and queen.  If you will give her to me, I will make you ruler of a galaxy of your own.  You can have more riches and power than you have ever dreamed possible.  If you don’t give her to me, I will destroy you, your mom and dad and all your sisters and brothers.  I will hypnotize Dale into loving me anyway and I will take over the earth and turn the earthlings into cockroaches and then step on them all.”

fu-manchuMy second Hero was Dr. Fu Manchu.  A character created by the writer Sax Rohmer.  Fu was as evil as they came.  He was a brilliant megalomaniac.  He obeyed no rules or laws except his own.  He was alleged to hold doctorates from four Western universities.  Unlike the wimpy college professors who one associates with a Ph.D. degree, there was nothing wimpy about Dr. Fu Manchu.  He would not hesitate to murder anyone who got in his way.  In the 1932 film, The Mask of Fu Manchu, Fu tells an assembled group of his minions that they must “kill the white men and take their women.”  Evil geniuses have a knack for thinking big and ignoring the normal bonds of propriety and civility.

Dr. Fu Manchu: “I hate Western imperialists.  I will drive them all from the face of the earth.  Together with my supporters, I will take over all of Europe and the United States.  I will have my pick of White blond women who I will make part of my harem.  I will destroy the capitalists and take over all the gold in Fort Knox and all the diamonds in the DeBeers Diamond mines.  If you Sir Denis Nayland Smith try to stand in my way, I will boil your friend Dr. Petri in oil very slowly and feed him to my pet crocodiles.  I will take your sister and put her in my harem.  I will spit on your mother’s grave.”  If you join me, I will give you your own harem.”

A few years after I ran out of Fu Manchu stories, I discovered my third hero.  He was none other than another brilliant Ph.D. named Professor Moriarty.  He was the arch nemesis of the world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes.  Dr. Moriaty was a genius with pretentions for ruling a large swath of the world.  Moriarty wanted to be the head of a vast criminal enterprise that would control all illegal underworld activities.

professor_moriarty_by_borbel-d2rstoyAs is usual with evil geniuses, Moriarty was always one step ahead of Sherlock.  Perhaps because it was still the Victorian age, Moriarty did not have much to do with lusting after women.  There was no kidnapping, tying women up or forced kissing in any of the Moriarty tales.  However, Sherlock was not much better in the womanizing category and seemed to be a confirmed bachelor.  His main relationship with a woman was with his housekeeper Mrs. Hudson which always stayed platonic.

Professor Moriarty: “Sherlock, you are one big pain in the ass.  You can’t outsmart me because your brain is too addled with cocaine.  I have hundreds of willing crooks who will help me to defeat you every time.  Why don’t you just take your friend Dr. Watson and spend more time playing your violin.  All, I want is to control the entire British underworld and you keep interfering with my plans.  I am warning you for the last time Sherlock, keep out of my affairs or I will eliminate your housekeeper Mrs. Hudson so that you and Watson will have to do your own cleaning and cooking.”

My next hero was from the Marvel Comic book universe and his name was Dr. Victor victor von doomVon Doom.  You must love someone with a name like that.  Dr. Doom was evil and ruthless and a certified genius.  He had many gadgets and inventions that enabled him to defeat an entire pantheon of superheroes.  When it came to bad, he took a back seat to no one.  Imagine, someone who would let his childhood sweetheart be savagely sacrificed so that he could gain the power to rule the world.  Yes, like most other evil geniuses, Dr. Doom was also a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world.

Dr. Victor Von Doom: “Dr. Strange, you have thwarted me for the last time.  I am banishing you into the netherworld of demons and monsters from which you will never return.  Before I do, I want you to watch as I destroy all the other superheroes in the Marvel universe.  I will be ruler of the entire planet and there will be no one left to stop me.  I will make all the gypsies in Rumania into the leaders of all the countries on earth and everyone will have to learn how to play the violin and the accordion.”

a villains coloring bookI have not had time to describe all the evil geniuses whom I have loved and admired.  I have given you only a few of the ones who have punctuated my life.  I do not have the space to do justice (sic) to some of my other heroes such as Lex Luther, the Kingpin, The Joker, Green Goblin and of course Sauron.  By the way, recently we had a female megalomaniac out to destroy the world.  It was quite refreshing to see how Hela kicked Thor’s butt from one end of Asgard to the other.  But to bring you up to the present, I have now found perhaps the most evil genius in history.  He has all the truly great characteristics of evilness.  He is also a genius.

How do I know he is evil?  He grabs women by the pussies.  He incites violence.  He belittles disabled people.  He lies continuously.  He cheats on his taxes and cheats on just about anything he purchases.  He treats his minions with scorn and he has scores of servants willing to do his bidding.  His followers are willing to lie and cover up anything he does wrong.

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How do I know he is a genius?  That is easy.  The simple answer is because he says so.  But the real proof is in the mountains of money he has made.  He has property all over the world.  He owns humongous golf courses and houses.  He has plans to build a big wall to keep out all the immigrants who want to come to the United States to start a better life.  He is also smart enough to get congress to do whatever he wants.

destroying the world

Finally, we know that a chief characteristic of an evil genius is that they must also be a megalomaniac.  Webster’s defines a megalomania as:

1: a mania for great or grandiose performance

  • an outburst of wildly extravagant commercial megalomania

2: a delusional mental illness that is marked by feelings of     personal omnipotence and grandeur

I think you can easily see that Donald Trump is also a megalomaniac.  His rallies are key examples of the need for grandiose performances.  There is little question that he feels that he is omnipotent and can do anything he wants to do.  For example, he said:

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

He has also commented that he can get anything he wanted from a woman because he was a star:

“I just start kissing them.  It’s like a magnet.  Just kiss.  I don’t even wait.  And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything.  Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Evil geniuses are real studs when it comes to women.  I never had that kind of success with women when I was growing up but then I was never terribly evil, megalomaniacal or even a genius.

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I guess I will just have to continue living vicariously through my heroes or at least until I get bitten by a spider or hit with some type of gamma ray and acquire super powers.  You better watch out if I do.  I will grab your mother, sister and wife by the pussy, maybe even your grandmother, after I take over the universe of course.

Time for Questions:

Who is your favorite evil genius?  What do you admire about them?  How come we have so few women evil geniuses?  Did Hillary qualify for one?  Who can you think of that you admire?  Why?  What is it about evil geniuses that seems to attract people?  Why do they always get the best parts in the movies?

Life is just beginning.

With the proper training, I could’ve been an evil genius.”  —  George Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

Emily and Robert:  A love story

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Our story starts in a bathroom.   Emily is brushing her teeth and thinking about her beloved husband Robert.  Emily is 85 years old and Robert is 87 years old.  Emily and Robert have had a long life together.  Often happy, but often tumultuous with the stress of family, money and work disrupting the natural harmony of things.  Through all the ups and downs, their love for each other was the one constant of their lives.  Despite all the cliches about true love and being made for each other and all the other tropes one hears about lovers, no two people ever loved each other more than Emily and Robert.

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For the past ten years, Emily had been taking care of Robert.  After he had his second stroke, Robert needed help to dress and shower each morning.  He was no longer able to take care of his house hold chores and he needed help to do the many activities that he had once taken for granted.  Robert was a proud man but Emily was also very stubborn and she showed her love for Robert in her dedication to helping him.  Robert was appreciative and demonstrated it by doing all he could to minimize the burden for Emily.  He never complained and he never forget to say thank you to Emily no matter how many times she helped him.

An-older-couple-sitting-i-0072Emily and Robert had been married for nearly 65 years.  They were both in their early twenties when they met in college.  It was love at first sight.  Their parents wanted them to wait to finish college but after a brief whirlwind romance, they simply eloped.  They surprised everyone when they came back to school and finished their college degrees.  Robert became an engineer and Emily was a school teacher for many years.  The careers they chose suited their personalities.  They were known as hard faithful workers.  Not once in over forty years did any employer ever have a complaint or problem with either Robert or Emily.  After forty-five years, they both chose to retire so they could spend more time together after Robert’s first stroke.

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The saddest part of their lives was their inability to have their own children.  However, they made up for this by becoming foster parents.  Over the course of their years together, they had helped to raise nearly twenty-five foster children.  The social service agency responsible for the placements always said that they could not have found two more loving parents.  As parents, they were strict with high expectations but they were always fair and compassionate.  They latino-couplewere loved by all their foster children who often returned home to visit or to simply stop by with a bit of news or something to eat.  Robert and Emily could not have loved any children of their own more than they loved their foster children.

 

Emily continued brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed.  The light was off in their bedroom and the bathroom adjoined the bedroom.  Emily kept up a running dialogue with Robert about her day and the trip she had taken to visit one of her sick foster children.  Robert never answered so Emily just assumed he was reading or perhaps had fallen asleep.  Even after all these years, they still slept together.  Robert always slept closest to the bathroom door and Emily slept on the other side closest to the window.

lady surprisedEmily finished brushing her teeth and then took her nightly pills.  She shut off the bathroom light and started out to the bedroom.  The light by Robert’s side of the bed was on and Emily started to say something to Robert when abruptly she stopped.  Her eyes fell upon an empty bed that was undisturbed.  The sheets and bed covers had not been moved.  Emily was surprised and shocked.  Where was bedroom at nightRobert?  Suddenly, Emily remembered.  Robert had died the previous week and had been buried two days before on Saturday.  Tears came to her eyes.  What would she do without her Robert?  She was all alone now.  No one to go to bed with.  No one to talk to at night.  No one who would regularly listen to her complaints and problems about the world.

Being the survivor of a pair of lovers is a terrible burden.  Most of us want to go first.  However, neither Emily or Robert had ever wanted to be the first to go for both knew how hard it would be for the other.  Sadly, someone must go first.  The survivor is left with a vacuum in their life and memories.  The vacuum can never be filled and the memories cannot be forgotten.  Events that happened many years ago seem like they just happened yesterday and events of a few days past seem like they happened eons ago.  Memories do not respect a correlation to physical time.

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Emily will die in five years.  In between today and her death, she will experience joy, sadness, pain and a certainty that life will once more resume for her and Robert.  She believes that somewhere in this vast universe, her atoms and Robert’s atoms will coalesce and the two of them will again be united.  As sure as you are reading this story, Robert and Emily will live joyfully ever after in a place where life and death can no longer challenge their happiness.

Time for Questions:

What is love?  Have you ever been in love?  How do you know?  Who was the greatest love of your life?  Why?  Is there anything more important than love?

Life is just beginning.

“The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.” —  Barbara De Angelis
 

The Little Boy Who Believed in God

The following story was inspired by a Charles Dickens story called “A Child’s Dream of a Star.”

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Once upon a time there was a little boy who believed in God.  Every morning when he woke up, he would look out the window and thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the sun, the beautiful day, the flowers, the trees, the water, the birds and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.  Every night when the little boy would go to bed, he would look out the window and again thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the moon, the stars, the planets and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.

Now the circumstance of a little boy believing in God might not seem strange but in this case, it was very strange.  You see, the little boy’s mother and father and older sister and older brother and even his grandparents were all confirmed Atheists.  Not a one of them went to church or professed a belief in any type of a higher entity.  In fact, his father and mother were very worried about the little boy.

Father:  “Honey, I am very worried about our little boy.  We have told him that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and God are all myths.  He accepted the reality for these fictions except for the greatest fiction of all, a higher power called God who supposedly created the universe.  Where do you think he got this idea of God from?

Mother:  “I don’t know. It is very strange.  The schools do not teach God.  His brother and sister do not believe in God.  His grandparents do not believe in God.  None of our friends believe in God.  Most religions do not really practice what they preach.  Most people who say they believe in God are really hypocrites or liars.  I am as mystified as you are.

Believing in God might not have been a problem for the little boy as he had very accepting parents.  However, the little boy found out that whenever he tried to talk to any of his friends or schoolmates or even teachers about God, they did not want to discuss the issue.  The little boy would ask questions like “Do you think God is having a good day today?”  “Do you think God worries about the evil deeds in the world?”  “How can we help God to bring more joy and happiness in the world?”  His teachers and friends would puzzle at such questions and try to ignore him.  They would shake their heads and hope that he would stop asking about God.  His wanting to discuss God made most people very uncomfortable.  God was not a subject for polite conversation.

God-is-good-Article-TemplateAs the little boy grew up, he became an even more devout believer in God.  Everywhere he went, he saw the hand of God.  In the clouds, in nature, in the weather, in the oceans, in good times and in bad times he believed that God was present.  The little boy thought how hard God must have to work to try to keep life sustained.  Each night he would pray to God that when he grew up, he would be able to help ease God’s work somewhat and do his share to help make the world a better place.

The little boy became a social worker and devoted his life to helping other people.  He met many other social workers who became cynical and skeptical.  One told him what a fool he was for believing that a God existed who cared about the human race.  Another told him that if a God really existed he would not have allowed people to be so greedy and corrupt.  Most of the social workers he knew eventually quit to become investment bankers or insurance salespeople.

god is my salvation

Time passed.  Aging became more salient in the little boy’s life.  His grandparents died.  His mother and father died.  His sister and brother died.  All his friends passed away.  Every time one of them died, the little boy would thank God for the time he had been able to spend with his loved ones.  He would ask God to take good care of them until he could see them again.

Many years went by and eventually the little boy stood at death’s door.  It was his last hour on earth.  He had few breaths left.  A nurse and a doctor waited at his bedside.  They heard him say before he passed “Thank you God for the life you gave me.  Thank you for the trees and the sun and the moon and the stars and the oceans and the forests and the sky.  But most of all, thank you for all the wonderful people that you put in my life and who I will now meet again.”

Time for Questions:

What do you believe in?  Why?  What role does faith have in your beliefs?  Do you think that there is a God?  Does he/she watch over and take care of humanity?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” — Gilbert K. Chesterton
 

 

 

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