A few thoughts on the Big Inevitability

OK. Good news first: my oldest brother Brad and his wife Cindy just found out from eldest daughter Erin and son-in-law Joel that sometime in October, they too will become grandparents. They are thrilled, as they should be and is most appropriate. It means one day, someday, they’ll have a little critter to come visit who may look something like this:

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And who can resist something who looks like that? Not you, certainly not me; that’s my grandson right there and let me tell you he is a blast. I worked with someone who became a grandmother in her mid-30’s, had four of them by the time I worked with her in her early forties, who said there was nothing better on this earth than being a grandparent. She was right. Quite right.

So I’m happy for them, and looking forward to adding “great-uncle” to my multiple hats, and look forward to meeting the star of future Butterfield Fishing Shows. As there is nothing better than being a grandparent, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing the future right before your eyes. It is the reward of age. The good Lord’s way of saying, “You’re not done yet. All those mistakes you made with your own? Here’s another chance. Good luck.”

It’s good to think of birth right now. Lately, I’ve been thinking an awful lot of death. My oldest cousin lost his wife unexpectedly a few weeks back. A high school friend lost his mother unexpectedly just a few days ago. While I’m not worried about either of them because both of them have the most fantastic support network of family and friends people can ask for, I’m still praying for them because both of them are in shock. They don’t have to say it. I know it. Neither of them are that old. My cousin’s wife wasn’t that old. My friend’s mother wasn’t that old. This wasn’t supposed to happen this soon. Yet it did. Tempus fugit, memento mori, but not yet, not now!

No. Sorry. It’s yet. It’s now. There is no way of knowing how much that hurts until you experience it. I’m not about to claim I know how they feel.

But here’s the reality I do have to face: This is going to happen more and more often to people I know, because that is the lesson of age. The great inevitability of life is on our way to death, people we love will die first and the older we get, the more this will happen until it finally happens to us. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not part of a divine plan. It’s just pure cold logic, frankly. Mathematics. The branch of such called probability. The older we get, the more people we know, that simple. The realization doesn’t really hit you until your late 40’s to early 50’s, though, because that’s when it starts happening more often. It’s no longer this rare event that occasionally disrupts your life. There’s a reason your grandparents read the obituaries in the morning paper every day.

So what can you do about it? Not much. Be supportive. Show in some way how much the lost soul was loved and the survivor still is. Give your heart and your shoulder. Pray. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This weekend is Palm Sunday. If you’re Christian, let this weekend and next remind you as well that death isn’t the end and this life is not all that we live for.

And hug those children and grandbabies while you can. 🙂

 

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SPEED BLOGGING!!

Sorry, I just had an overwhelming need to get your attention… 😉 I’m writing this entry under deadline this morning. The grandson and his parents are on their way up to celebrate Valentine’s Day belated, Dad’s birthday right on schedule, and in Bryce’s case just the pure unbridled joy of life only a fourteen-and-a-half-month-old can experience.

So, before I get too distracted by that, I want to let you know of some new Sheer Arrogance posted on the blog today, called “Something all writers SO need to do.”  In which Your Humble Blogger gives a most valuable writing tip and pays tribute to his first fair crush in honor of Valentine’s Day at the same time. Pretty darn versatile for a old guy, no?  Hey, I even cook up a new word in this one. Enjoy.

Now, back to the grandson report: Young Bryce has been walking for three months now and can go most anywhere he sets his mind to. Grandma has rid the house of ninety percent of cat hair just for him. Once he and his family arrive, we will set out for lunch and partake of some of the finest chain-store buffet Olathe has to offer at Golden Corral.

All I’ve got for now. Maybe a little more to come tomorrow, once my brain recuperates from the gluttony to come.  If you’re looking for something a little more meaty, my entry from last week could stand a few more hits. Until then, be blessed!

Summertime, and the blogging is lazy

Not at 3 a.m., when I was finally sound asleep, but at 4 a.m. when I remembered today I have to go back to work, did I realize–I haven’t written a lick on this blog  in three weeks.  Three weeks!  Why not?

Well…

* I’ve got a family, and every once in awhile, things happen to it.  Rule #1 of blogging: Don’t blog about the stuff that happens to family!  Exceptions may be made for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and funerals, but even then don’t get specific and stick to the good stuff.  What happened this past month, was not good stuff.  No one is dead, but one is set back and the other is a little more humble now.  And that is quite enough said about that.

* It got hot.  Really hot.  Save for a few un-July like days at the start, it’s been hot.  Hard to write when it’s hot.  One tends to focus on staying  not hot, which tends to distract the mind from self-expression other than to say “it’s hot.”  Lame?  You betcha.  I blame air conditioning.  It screws with your head.  Your body feels cool, your head knows it’s hot, the conundrum is too much for it to deal with and your writing goes straight south.  As in Deep South.  Where it’s really hot.  Perhaps this is why Faulkner never traveled.  He knew that Yankee AC would make his mind a mess and he’d start writing about nothing but the heat screwing up his head.  Kind of like I am right now.

* I’ve been working on a multi-media project.  Last year, for the first time in many a moon, I went fishing with my dad and two oldest brothers.  Years ago we’d go to Canada.  Then our great and brave country started requiring passports to get back in and the exchange rate stopped favoring the American dollar, so after trial and error they found a nice place in northern Minnesota instead.  I brought a digital camera that, like almost all made today, could take digital movies as well.  Took a good 90 minutes of “footage” and through trial and error and the rite of passage that Windows Live Movie Maker is–that’s no endorsement, friends, I’m here to tell you it sucks eggs–raw frozen eggs coated lovingly in castor oil–coughed out a 40-minute documentary called “The 2012 Butterfield Fishing Show.”  Maybe I’ll post it here.  Maybe I won’t tempt my father and brothers to drive off in the middle of the night and make me walk home from Minnesota.  I don’t know.  If this brain blockage from the heat caused by air conditioning persists, I may have to just so WordPress won’t reclaim the bandwidth I’ve stolen from them these past three years.

* I’ve also got spend a lot of time with this little guy.  He’s very distracting indeed.  Photo credit to his mommy and daddy:

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That’s pretty much it.  Not like I couldn’t have written anything, I just didn’t because it’s hot and other things have grabbed my attention.  Later this week I’ll try to get another writing tip up in Sheer Arrogance.  Until then, do as I say, not as I do, and write something worth reading, eh?

… and in with the “now”

First things first.  Because I really didn’t stick a Mother’s Day entry in this year, and the little dude turns six months old (for real this time! 🙂 in about a week, here’s my grandson paying due homage to his momma (photo credit to his daddy; he’s taken almost all the pictures of him you’ve seen on this blog):

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I’m going to let myself get gooey.  I love this little guy.  I love his parents and how devoted they are to raising him right.

Lots of my Facebook friends have been posting pictures of their graduating children–call it the other end of the spectrum, if you want.  Two in particular whose privacy I’ll respect have posted a daughter and a niece in gown and mortarboard.  I wish I could post their pictures here too.  Their pictures say how well their mothers and fathers raised them.  They are strong, confident young ladies whom you know will do well.

Last year was the 30th anniversary year of my high school graduating class. I didn’t pay much attention to it, at least here, but I did think about it.  It’s natural to use even numbers as an excuse to compare then to now, see how you’ve grown, maybe even pat yourself on the back a little.  Hopefully.  Maybe even give into wonderful narcissistic fantasies like imagining yourself in front of this year’s class, watching them go wide-eyed and nod with recognition and revelation as you impart your indispensable wisdom upon them.

Of course I didn’t do that ;), but if someone asked me to give their kids advice, there’s really only thing I could tell them with any confidence:  “Now is where we live.”

Not the past.  If you’re my age and the best part of your life so far was high school–I’ll clean this up for more sensitive readers–you’re #%#@$#* up.  Period.  Get a life, NOW, while you still can.

Not the future.  No one is guaranteed a future.  This world would kill us as much as keep us.  Good grief, the weather alone takes people out without warning.  You can’t count on tomorrow.

So focus on NOW.  Leave yesterday behind.  Let tomorrow take care of itself.   Live NOW while you’re blessed to do so.

If there’s one thing I love most of all about the little man above, and his parents, its how much they remind me of how important that is.

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Gooey sentiment of this entry aside, how do you like the new digs?  So far all I’ve done is cheap out and use a more modern WordPress template and tweak it here and there as much as I can for free.  I’m debating if it’s worth the thirty bucks they charge to have a little more appearance control.  Your feedback is welcome, of course.

You might have noticed there’s a new tab at the top, too–“SHEER ARROGANCE.”  That’s a quick and easy way of saying “A guy who has no real writing experience other than this blog and two self-published novels thinks he can tell you how to write.”   Yeah, that’s it, and a little more I’ll elaborate on over the months to come, but the gist is I’d like to make that page my feeble little effort to keep alive the concept of writing as everyman art.  I firmly believe that writing in some form or fashion is for all.  Everyone has a story to tell, and modern technology is at once making it easier to do while destroying the way it’s done.  No big surprise there, plenty of studies in the wild indicating stuff like iPads and Twitter and the big bad ol’ Internet is changing the very way we think.

And that brings us right back to writing.  Writing is thinking, expressed as verbiage either electronically or in print.  To write well is to think well.  To think well is to reason well.  To reason well is to make the decisions which benefit both self and all.

In other words, yes, kids, this IS important.

I hope to have an entry under the Sheer Arrogance tab by the end of this weekend.  Until then, you’re welcome to click the link there to the old “Writing Tips for Non-Writers” page.  Many of SA’s entries will elaborate on concepts presented there.

Have a great week.  And please, write something. 😉

“Much better, thanks”

2:52 a.m. Monday morning.  For the first time in about a week my head isn’t in either a fog or on a Mucinex-D high, or both at once.  I’m coming off a slam-bang headcold that mentally shut me down really good.  Can’t complain, it was karma, or divine retribution, or serves-ya-right, call it whatever you want–I caught it from my wife.  Only fair, seeing I gave her the cold that gave her the bronchitis that won’t let go back in January.  If things were perfectly just I’d be typing this from inside an iron lung.  No, she’s not in an iron lung.  But some days she feels like it.

Anyway, just when this blog was getting on a roll, I find myself out of practice.  Can you indulge me a ramble to get back into shape?  Thanks.

Let’s cheat a little and update you on my grandson.

ImageStylin’, little man.  Stylin.’

As of April 6 he turned 4 months old, and is a very healthy 17 pounds.  I forget the inches but he’s, well, most wonderful upper-body exercise.  Fifty pushups and fifty above -the-shoulder grandson lifts a day and I’m sure I’d knock ten years off my appearance.

I won’t publish pictures of theirs because I’m just not into violating people’s privacy like that, but some friends of mine became grandparents for the first time twice within a week.  Their oldest daughters had their first children–sons both–barely six days apart.  What are the odds?  Grandpa’s convinced from their body movements that they’re good Ohio State fans, as he is.  Lay them side by side and one makes an “O” and the other makes an “H.”

He, like me, is not a blood grandparent; the oldest girls are his wife’s from a prior marriage. He, like me, couldn’t care less about such things.  He, like me, loves those little critters to pieces.  He, unlike me, for now will have to go halfway around the world to see them.  Both mamas are in Germany.  Something tells me a long plane ride is in his future.

I had all these wonderful observations I was going to make about destiny and society based on grandparenthood and the cold has wiped them out.  Do me a favor, please?  Run with this and make a few of your own.  Post them if you like, blog about them on your own, pass ’em on over coffee or two a.m. feeding, but share them.  Such thoughts need sharing, before fear and technology make us too insular to even consider such a thing.

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I do have more of “Reed’s Story” done, but not enough to post it yet.  Fact is it’ll be awhile before I have more ready to post.  Once I got my first “twist” out of the way I hit a nice big Hoover Dam-sized brick wall of where to take the story, and writing through or even around it hasn’t been easy.  And then I got sick.  Ideas welcome, please.

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I also need to call out another blogger, “The Booky Bunhead,” and apologize for my bad manners.  A good month ago at least, she nominated me for a Liebster Award. And what the heck is that, you ask?  Apparently it’s an award one blogger can share with another blogger whose blog is an at least halfway-decent read but has a relatively low follower count.  You, in turn, for receiving this award, are supposed to answer ten questions the blogger asks you, then come up with ten questions of your own, nominate ten other sites, and keep the award spreading through the blogosphere, replicating like a benevolent smiley-face virus, building your readership.

I haven’t done it.  Until now I haven’t even acknowledged the nomination.  This is no knock at all on the Booky Bunhead.  She strikes me as a pleasantly quirky young lady whose blog is very fun to read.  I’m just not big on awards or self-promotion.  They tend to go straight to my head and make me someone I don’t want to be.

Still, she went through the trouble of tagging this blog as worth reading, meaning I should at least acknowledge what she did, and give her thanks and a verbal hug for it.  Very nice of you, Ms. Bunhead. Very nice.

A hodgepodge of Granddad musings

Wow.  I’m alone for a few hours.  My wife and stepson are at a concert he must see for a music appreciation class which makes him listen to music he does not appreciate.  So I can write without distraction of any kind, an increasingly rare thing, which is why fewer and fewer parts of “Reed’s Story” are popping up on this blog lately.  I put up one last week if you missed it.  Sorry I don’t have another ready.  I got interrupted by a foot of snow.  I’m about to get interrupted by another foot of snow in 24 hours or so. So this glorious small bit of solitary time should be filled with prolific musings while the time is available to me, right?  

Naturally, I can’t write a lick.  Here’s a John Prine song that spells out why.

I’d love to write like John Prine, you know?  Simple, straightforward lyrics any fool can get, yet deep intellectual meaning few fools can appreciate.  Art for the Common Man.

Anyway, seeing I can’t write a lick right now, I’m going to rely on my favorite crutch to goose my blog muse, my grandson Bryce.

"Yep, I still make moonbeams.  And lots of other goodies Daddy doesn't like. Hee-hee!"
“Yep, I still make moonbeams. And lots of other goodies Daddy doesn’t like. Hee-hee!”

I dig the granddad thing, for reasons beyond not having to do any real parental work:  Would you believe the young man above is my first ongoing direct-contact experience with an infant, ever?  ‘Tis true.  I’m the youngest of four sons and when I met the woman who would be my wife, she already had one nine-year-old daughter and one three-year-old son.  So I escaped the baby years completely with them.  No late-night feedings or rockings or diaper changings for me!  Lucky stiff I was!  Right?

No. 🙂  The baby years are when you bond, dammit.  Bryce’s mom and dad may be losing sleep now, but when he gains sentience beyond basic perception of stuff around him and on him and going into him and coming out of him, there will be no doubt whatsoever whom Mom and Dad are.  There will be a natural bond that someone waltzing into your life afterwards just doesn’t have with you.  It’s nature and cannot be helped.  I guess.  I really wish sometimes I had that bond with “my” kids.  It would make some things a little less awkward.

My daughter–as I pointed out a few entries back, she wants me to stop calling her “stepdaughter,” a great and loving gift from her–seems to get that, and when we come down to see Bryce, she makes sure I get “grandpa time.”  I appreciate that.  I’m not sure what Bryce thinks about it; compared to Daddy I’m a little awkward holding him and such, but hey, he’ll teach me what I need to know.

What startles me looking at pictures of me with Bryce is how much I look like my own granddad in some of them.  I won’t claim I’m nothing like my granddad, but he was one of those unique individuals whom only living in southern Indiana can make, tempered by a couple of years in the Corps right after WWI.  He was the son of a do-what-it-takes-to-get-by farmer, and that’s pretty much what he was, too.  He built his own house, and barn, and tractor shed, and corn crib, and chicken coop, all of which still stand.  He farmed 40 acres much of his life because in southern Indiana in the 20’s through 60’s that’s what you did, and still is what you do for many; yet he also found time to work for the railroad, and as a janitor for the high school, and do carpentry on the side at reasonable prices, and maintain a full-acre personal garden with almost anything imaginable that could come out of the ground.  The last two things he did right up to the day he died.  He mostly kept to himself, yet when he passed the local paper printed that they were shocked and saddened to hear of it, and hundreds were in attendance at his funeral.

And he loved kids.  He didn’t love them like pop culture these days say you’re supposed to love kids, with big smiles and constant “I love you’s” and “quality time” and all that silly meaningless crap that if you bother to dig a little bit you’ll find is just meant to make you buy or buy into something.  No, sir, he was a man who said what he meant and meant what he said and if you didn’t like it that was too damned bad; the truth was the truth and from him you would hear it.  He softened that stance not a whit for one’s age.  He was a stern disciplinarian.

He also, with ingenuity and imagination, provided his kids–and his kids’ kids, and ultimately their kids–with ways to show themselves a lot of fun.  Including a combination swing and merry-go-round.  I’d heard stories of its existence, but until my Aunt Caroline’s passing last March I’d never actually seen the thing.  Fortunately, Aunt Caroline took lots  of pictures over her life, and one was of that  glorious contraption, covered top to bottom with kids swinging and twisting and spinning.

You cannot build such a thing, you cannot do the drawing for such a thing, you cannot cut the wood or the metal pipe for such a thing, without loving kids.

I might look like him–sort of–but can I be him?  Or at least a little like him?

Guess I’ve got a few years to find out, don’t I?  Wish me luck!

Suck it up, it’s almost Lent…

… already.  Good.  I like early Lenten seasons.  The earlier Lent is, the earlier it is over.  That’s my selfish secular side coming through, kids.  The bit of soul in me warring against that likes early Lenten seasons too, but for different reasons.  The earlier Lent is, the earlier incentive to expel the sugar-fueled gluttony the holidays bring that sticks around in spite of all good intentions, especially when January brings a plague like this one did.  If you can’t do it for yourself… if you can’t do it for your health… if you can’t do it even for vanity… perhaps, just maybe, you can do it… for GOD.  Maybe. 🙂

I’ve written a lot on this blog about Lent and God. It’s probably cost me some readers. I don’t care. It’s kind of important. As this entry from a couple of years ago spells out, belief or disbelief in God is the philosophical fundamental of human existence; everything you “are” as a human being hinges on whether or not you accept a higher power over yourself. That’s not nearly as deep as it sounds. We all ask ourselves “why” at some point; it’s the only answer that makes sense.

That’s the whole point of Lent, at least from the Catholic perspective. It’s a month and a half of looking into yourself for what’s there that’s getting in the way of your relationship with God, taking that, and ideally eliminating it–or at least putting it in its proper place. It’s why, though not required, many Catholics choose a symbolic thing to “give up” over Lent.  Soda pop.  Candy bars.

Or if you want to go deeper with it… your prejudices.

Now there’s a challenge: Stare down a hard truth for Lent. Face the other side of a long-held belief. Try to get why someone doesn’t think like you do.

Here’s a blog from an old high school acquaintance that’s pushing me to do just that.  Its subject is “spiritual surrealism,” or “spirrealism” for short.  Grossly oversimplified, it’s a take on the issues of modern religion through the eyes of two surrealist artists, one with an Orthodox background, one with a Catholic background.

Vonnegut likens artists to canaries in coal mines; SPIR well backs that up.  It is not pleasant reading.   I say that not to disparage it.  It is doing what art is to do. The more traditional you are in outlook, the more it jolts and shocks.  In fact, I’ve caught myself thinking while reading some entries, “Is he serious… or is this art?”  Is it his thoughts, or what the work displayed with the writing is to say?  After all, once his co-contributor to the site, upon being presented with criticism of what she said, responded “Did you like the art?”

So take that caveat with you as you visit and read, but for the sake of the Lenten exercise I have in mind, I will assume both contributors to the site are deadly serious.  And I will ask myself, why am thinking the things I am, feeling the emotions I am, while reading this.  I’ve already suggested some reading to them as well.  I may keep doing so, but I have no intention of critiquing their work.  That’s not the point of this exercise.  Lent is meant to be taken internally.  The point is to let their work critique me.

I doubt I write much more about Lent this year, so take that thought with you:  what we “give up” for Lent should be as much internal as external, if not more so.  IMHO.

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Finally, part seven of Reed’s Story is up.  If you haven’t read it in awhile, I’d strongly suggest re-reading parts one and two as well as part six before this one. If you haven’t read it at all, I’d strongly recommend reading parts one, two, three, four, five and six first. 😀  There’s a twist, see, and I’d hate for you to miss its full significance.  ‘Nuff said.  Criticism welcome at the email address in the link above, all I ask is you remember it’s a first draft.

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Finally, one more “proud grandpa” picture:

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Gotta say I love the “moonbeam phase” of early childhood.  Every smile this little guy makes is like a moonbeam straight into the soul.  Granted I’m not the one diaper-changing him or cleaning up his upchucks–though I have got to feed and burp him a couple of times–but I’ve got to think his parents feel the same moonbeams from him.  I hope so.  He’s showing signs already of being a rather cool character.