Thirty-Nine, and Counting

4

September 10, 2021- When I called Mom this afternoon, as it is her birthday, she asked me if I knew how old she was. Having seen a photo of the cake, on which the number 39 was placed, I answered appropriately. Her voice brightened further, and she said “Good boy! I can’t lie, though, I’m 93.”

She said her health is good, and I assured her mine is the same. She has made friends at her new residence, which I am sure accounts for her renewed good spirits, and good health. Having raised us to share, she will do the same with the yogurt-covered strawberries I sent with her flowers.

The best of parents convey life lessons, and she did plenty of that, over the years. Sharing was one of the first-and even my severely autistic youngest brother offered of his food and playthings to us siblings. Meanness was swiftly discouraged, and loving kindness instilled, in each of us. Loyalty and protection of one another has extended, over the years, to the next generations and to those around us. Responsibility has also been a binding expectation, and if one of us got self into difficulty, any money sent was to be paid back-either directly or to the next person who was in a bind.

Mom looks forward to the years ahead, and I applaud her for maintaining the same outlook on life that has gotten us where we need to be. I wish her many more.

How I Overcame Self-Absorption

2

August 27, 2021-

There was a time when I bumped into a clearly visible barrier pole, whilst backing my car out of a space, at Breakheart Reservation, in my hometown of Saugus. My head was so far into a matter of such earthshaking importance, that I can’t even vaguely recall what it was. I remember the fender bender, though, and the mildly amused twelve-year-old kid who chuckled at my ignorance.

Mom and Dad didn’t raise us to ignore our surroundings, and I caught more than a few rounds of indignation, when I turned too far inward. Gradually, in the wider world, the core of my being, which loved my family and those around us, took focus. Penny came into my life, and we helped each other break out of our respective shells. Students, clients, by the hundreds, became my focus and between wife and children, I realized that my life actually mattered far more than I had thought. Aram became our responsibility and made sure, in turn, that I didn’t lapse into my former bubble.

There was a long eleven years, in which my wife was my primary responsibility. In the end, son and his crew, Penny’s family and my brothers were our primary support group. The cackling crows who castigated me for using the adjective “my”, when I referred to Penny, offered absolutely nothing in the way of help-save their mealy-mouthed ideological puffery. There were also the masses, who went about their business, but at least didn’t get in my way.

On my own, I had choices to make, and slowly shed the residue of self-absorption, once again. A few women came to me, hoping that perhaps they would be the next Penny. It didn’t happen, and life took a far wider turn. I almost deluded myself into thinking that one or two others might be the next Penny. That didn’t happen, either, and life took a wider turn, still. There were three things that propelled me out of my bubble, altogether.

The first was dealing with five people who were/are so intensely self-absorbed, in their own right, that I was constantly wondering what, if any, place there was in the world for me, or any other good soul who was just trying to live a good life. Four of these five are gone from my world now, banned for constantly magnifying every single mistake I made, ignoring any good thing I did and yet clawing at me for attention. The fifth at least thanks me for what has already been done. I thank them, though, for making me aware of all the times I was the same towards others.

Secondly, I found myself largely responsible, for the well-being of over 80 people in a storm shelter, in Alexandria, Louisiana, late last summer, during the daylight hours of a Red Cross operation. That is when my work never stopped, until wiser heads pointed out that the opposite of self-absorption is not complete other-immersion. Then came a more balanced view, that both my personal needs and those of others had equal importance. I also realized that being too deeply in the business of other people robs them of dignity.

Third, the full acceptance of others as complete human beings, beyond their physical trappings and even their personalities, has come about from our collective dealing with COVID and all the climate change-based events that we have faced, and will continue to face, long after I myself have left this earthly life. It takes me three to five seconds to recognize that a woman has pleasing features, that a child is precious, that anyone has an engaging nature.

There are things that are about to happen in this life, that make such an emergence from self-absorption more essential than ever. I look forward to them all.

Baby Steps to Justice

2

February 22, 2021-

I spent most of today waiting for my tax return to be done. I ended up having to make a certain adjustment in my personal financial structure, so as to be in compliance with government regulations. It will end up costing the government more, in the long run, but who’s counting?

After that, I checked on my jury interview for tomorrow, and it’s still on. If I get chosen, it will likely be my first and last time, given that the pool is large and I have only five years until the cut-off age of 75. So, I will go and get at least a taste of the selection process.

Justice, at least in the human realm, is an odd thing-as everyone’s concept of it is different. Even among those who adhere to the Golden Rule, there are varying notions of what justice is, and how it ought to be applied. I have, by and large, been fortunate in the course of life events. When misfortune has happened, though, it has taken some time and effort to overcome the urge to deflect blame and to focus, instead, on how I might learn from the unpleasantry.

The lessons I have acquired and internalized, however, made today’s challenges much easier to face and the tasks brought on by them quicker to complete.

Self-Advocacy

4

November 17, 2020-

Two of the most odious, misguided phrases in the English language are “Don’t get smart!” and “What are you, a wise guy?” Intelligence and wisdom, viewed as threats to the security of a grown human, say far more about the perceiver than about the perceived.

In all my years in education, the single most admirable group of people I have encountered are those who not only think for themselves, but speak up for themselves and classmates, as well. I don’t mean the loud, braying complainers; rather, those who speak respectfully, but eloquently and with gravitas.

It is nice to see this, when it happens, especially in an educational setting. I have seen children as young as five years of age say “Enough! This is not how things ought to be!” It does my heart good when adults don’t quash such self-advocacy. So it was, that I praised those who made a perfectly sensible request, in the last hour of class, this afternoon.

The most cogent aspect of such early self-advocacy is that there is no slow burn, no festering, unspoken resentment. There is no ennui, no apathy being seeded. There is, instead, the organic rise of a responsible and self-assured generation, which will be more likely to take its place in society, without a perceived need to engage in mayhem.

So it is, that in the rest of my work with students, in the month that I have left of fulltime work, and in the special assignments I will be asked to take on, between January and May, the focus will be on both fostering the thought process and on their self-advocacy- which are both outgrowths of accepting responsibility for one’s well-being.

I say: “Get smart; be wise!”

Dad

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March 22, 2020-

My father would have been 93 years of age, today.  He transitioned on June 22, 1986, three months after his 59th birthday.  Dad was a middle manager, in the jet engine  department of the General Electric Company’s Riverworks Plant, in Lynn, MA.  He told me it wasn’t the greatest job in the world, and it often seemed to me that his overlords didn’t appreciate him to the fullest.  I know he did his level best.

Dad was slow to adapt to new ways of doing things, but he wasn’t rigid in his thinking, save his steadfast frugality.  He taught me to consider all points of view, even those that seemed counter-intuitive.  He was engaged with his five children and never, once, favoured one of us over the other.  Discipline was meted out as fairly as he knew how, with the facts he had at the time.

He was a man of faith, but was not an ideologue.  He attended Catholic Mass, most every Sunday, yet also didn’t miss a television appearance by Billy Graham, who he greatly admired.  His belief was that all Christians revered the same Son of God. This paved the way for my own belief in the Oneness of all religions, which he accepted of me, while silently shaking his head.

When there was an emergency, he handled it-even if, on occasion, he was physically spent and grumbled a bit.  He cared for all around him, taking in a sick brother at one point-and consistently pulling himself together to see to the needs of his youngest child.

Dad could seem to look at life through rose-coloured glasses, but deep down, I know that he knew there was a problem that just was not going away-whether it was my youngest brother’s illness or his own, which took his life far too soon.  He had his moments of magical thinking and attempts to escape reality, as many of us have, but he always came back to the life, and the woman, he loved most.

I thank you, father, for all you did and for what you expected of me.  God knows, it took me long enough to achieve it.

Enough

17

March 24, 2018, Prescott-

Great minds think for themselves.

300 people marched in our town

of free-thinkers,

a conservative majority,

and a vocal liberal minority.

Today, the conservatives

liberals,

and folks like me,

who are neither,

walked together,

had mostly civil discussions,

and in the end,

conservatives, liberals

and none of the above

stood together,

in a minute of silence.

There is no one trying

to sell the odious

Victorian-era epithet,

“Children should be seen

and not heard.”

Children should be seen,

taught to think,

and heard.

When what they say

is truth;

when what they  do

is sensible,

they should be believed.

Then, they should be supported.

On the edges of the march route,

there were 3-6 armed civilians.

They were not there to intimidate.

They were there to watch out,

for any crazies.

Ditto for the police

who were present.

One lone man

carried a sign

saying “Abortion is murder.”

He’s largely correct,

but it is not

up to men,

to tell women

how to manage

their own bodies.

It is up to women

to exercise their

consciences.

This is, though,

a topic for another post.

For now,

I need to remain

clear headed.

I need to remain

available to support

these two generations

of children and youth,

who are taking

responsibility

for themselves.

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Yes, there was a Trump supporter standing with the kids on the Courthouse steps.  There is something about people not being killed, that appeals to each of us.

Only In Indio

10

June 11, 2017, Indio-

Before leaving Prescott, this afternoon, I called my very inspirational youngest living brother, on the occasion of his birthday.  He’s legally blind, yet has never failed to work, steadily, over the past thirty-five years since his college graduation.  His work has always involved a high level of responsibility, and on he goes.

A nice little brunch party followed my conversation, this one in a lovely garden patio, in Prescott Valley.  The conversation there centered on the fine line between creative thought and following one’s own path, versus the “right” to be willfully disobedient to the institutions of one’s chosen Faith.  I am no one’s idea of a Yes Man, but breaking a covenant is as far from where I want to be, as the proverbial Hell  itself.  The person who conjured thoughts of having one’s own sect, gingerly retreated and hopefully will remain so.  The party continued, a pleasant, lovely affair.

I headed out, towards southern California, around 3:30 PM, successfully avoiding whatever back to LA traffic slog might have ensued.  Dinner at a fine, best-kept-secret place, Nichols West, in the tiny old mining town of Congress, certainly helped in that avoidance.  Run by an acerbic, but somewhat cordial, New Zealander, Nichols offers a variety of burgers with unusual toppings, intense salads, exquisite Mexican fare and a surprising variety of seafood.  I chose the brie & avocado burger, with a modest helping of shoestring fries.  The burger was fabulous, grass-fed beef, crispy bacon and moist, ripe avocado wedges, held together by a generous coating of melted brie.  A lovely, very pleasant team of waitresses didn’t hurt the occasion, either.

I digress, though.  I decided to stop here, at City Center Motel, given that what lies ahead of me is I-10, CA 57 & 22 to Highway 1.  At the end of that jaunt lies Palos Verdes Peninsula, where I will make the hike from a gorgeous overlook, down to the shore.  Then, it’ll be a fair drive, with stops at Long Beach’s pier, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, before securing a spot in one of the state beach campgrounds, en route to Crystal Cove.

“Only in Indio”?  That is an ubiquitous sign, along Hwy. 111, and Business 10.  It alludes to the Coachella Music Festival, held in this area every April.  Then, this area fills to the brim with alt-rock lovers from all over.  Now, however, it’s a cool night in June.  Motel rooms cost less than $ 100 per night, and I gratefully parked my carcass in a nice one.

It happens, in Indio, that one can walk, safely, along the 111, for two miles, and not find anywhere, other than an AM/PM., to get a cup of coffee.  This is, as much as anywhere else in southern California, a city designed for the automobile, while those whose fortune, or whose choice, it is to be without wheels, manage to walk along wide and well-kept sidewalks, taking the time they need to get from A to B.  Somehow, I enjoy being among them, walking the flat surface of the Colorado Desert cityscape.

Now, it’s bedtime.  I pray for a little boy who didn’t survive a beat-down, allegedly at the hands of his stepfather.  It’ll take some time before I can pray for the stepfather, and all I can do right now is resolve to be ever better at being kind and loving to those children I, myself, encounter, every day.

Meaning Business

4

January 12, 2017, Prescott-

The child claimed what’s his.

A grown man can’t hold what’s his.

I make little go far.

The above verse is in reference to one of our boys speaking out, about respect, across all lines. He is the smallest of our students, but is being raised by loving parents, to not give an inch, to anyone bigger and stronger, when it comes to holding onto what belongs to him.

A very troubled man, claiming to speak for his Lord, is finding that hubris is an empty vessel, and doesn’t take the place of living in the path of God’s Messengers.  He is leaving shattered pieces, for others to pick up and carry forward.

Much had to be done, financially, these past two weeks.  I made it, thanks to a short-term advance from my bank, which will be re-paid, in full, at midnight.  This is a small example of what gets achieved, time and again, with relatively little.  I will not let my responsibilities, to loved ones, or to those who meet my needs, ever go unmet.

Responsibility for self is always basic.

Getting Around

2

October 27, 2016, Prescott-

A brief update:  My landlord is in town, for a few days of repairs to our quadplex and grounds-keeping. He is considering allowing me more responsibility in the quad.  I plan to keep our backyard looking better, with his blessing.  A terraced garden has been my dream, for many years, and I hope to finally get it done.

Our team at school is upgrading the day-to-day curriculum, finally.  I am building a word wall and will post multiplication and division tables, over the next several school days.  Halloween is a half day for the students, and a few hours of planning work for us.  So, I will hopefully get a lot done, in the above regards, on Monday afternoon.

I will head down to Phoenix on Saturday, attend a morning meeting, get in some hiking and attend a Halloween party at the home of some friends, in midtown.  Sunday will be another day for hiking in the Table Mesa area, this time starting earlier in the morning.

Next week, I will begin to collate my poems and short essays, for the book which I want to put forth, in January.

That’s it for tonight.

 

The Road to 65, Mile 136: The Last Such Gift

2

April 13, 2015, Prescott-   I completed my online Defensive Driving class, this evening.  Then, I went over to the Tow Lot and retrieved the license plate to the defunct KIA.  A round of machine work and deep heat massage at Planet Fitness completed the ritual.  I am back into the routine.

The loss of my 2007 KIA Optima marks the end of my direct, day-to-day connection with Penny’s side of the family.  The house has given way to the apartment, and the KIA to the Nissan.  Penny will never give way to anyone.  If I enter into another relationship, it will parallel my now spiritual tie to the most effervescent, heart-centered soul I have ever known.  She has guided me into friendships with other women, and I’m sure this process will continue.  The central bond is always there, by the Grace of God.

The last gift I received from her, in the tangible sense, was an investment, the core of which I will guard and do what I can to help grow.  It is this which has helped me, in turn, show responsibility and pay various homages to both her father and to those who came long before us, both here in North America and on the continent of Europe.  It is this which helped me honour our son, on his return voyage from Hawai’i to California.

The last gift from the Light of my life is generating seeds of its own.