Sunday, May 31, 2009


A few years ago, I saved a life. No, I didn’t pull a baby out of a burning building or give someone CPR. Nothing that dramatic. All I did was pick up a little worm that was struggling across my patio and lay him (or her? can you tell?) in the soft wet grass. I wrote about how this seemingly insignificant act had great meaning for that oligochaete. The reason I bring this up today is that I swear I saw him (her?... how do you tell?) the other day under the patio chair and I do believe he/she/it nodded as if to say “thanks” before squirming into the yard.
There are some days we may feel just like that worm. For some reason known only to that Big Gardener in the Sky, we find ourselves struggling across some tough pavement. The sun may be beating on our backs. The concrete is getting dryer and we are starting to think it would be a whole heck of a lot easier to just shrivel up and quit. Maybe it doesn’t look like anybody is going to come by and lift us up into that cool lawn.
This may have hit home for those of us in the Boomer demographic. We are seeing our investments, if we have any, taking a nose dive unprecedented in modern economic history. There may be a lay off involved, and the subsequent deleterious effects of the ending of medical coverage, danger of mortgage default, and the sheer loss of something meaningful to do with our days. It could be a decline in health…hey, we ain’t getting any younger, sports fans. Or troubles with grown children, for whom we never really stop being mom and dad, no matter how old or far away they may be. Of course, we seasoned citizens have no corner on this market of difficulties. Those raising families face equally challenging issues such as child care and schooling and what the heck to feed this gang of mongrels who will not get off my leg for one sweet second so I can sneak downstairs and do a load of laundry before we all end up wearing plastic bags to church!
Whatever the burden, we may be looking for that somebody to pick us up off the steamy pavement. Whether this comes in the form of a kind word, a favor, or a few bucks to tide us over, the help would be welcome.
Still, none of this may happen. Then, it just takes perseverance. As in all things, bad and good, this situation we find ourselves in is temporary. And like good old Mr. or Mrs. Worm (does anyone out there know how you can tell?! Seriously!), we need to just keep on wiggling, hoping for that lift, but willing to crawl it out if need be.
In 1941, during the worst period of the German bombing of Great Britain, Winston Churchill spoke to students at his former school. That speech became one of great inspiration and hope to the beleaguered English citizenry.
His words can be ours, as we fight the good fight against what may seem like insurmountable odds.
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never.”
(from "A Boomer's Journal, Suburban Journals of St. Louis, MO May, 2009)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Sometimes is just seems like life is flying by. Before you know it, it’s Friday again. Maybe it’s a function of having a big family, or maybe it’s just the phase we’re going through. For some reason, I expected it to be different.
They say that when you hit age 40, you’re over the hill. So I guess being two decades past that, I must be slipping down that slope at a pretty good clip. When I was younger, I wondered if it would slow down some, you know, as the hair thinned and the knees creaked as much as my rocking chair. But no!
Which brings me to our youngest child’s graduation. Yeah, The Joanster, little Joansie, Joana Wee, has finished high school with flying colors and is soon to be a Tiger. Our baby is a woman!
How did this happen, all of a sudden? Wasn’t it just the other day she put on her sisters two-piece, plucked the resident cards from the junk drawer and strolled 3 blocks down to the local pool. At two years old. Jill came home and said, “Hey, where’s Joanie?” Did we panic? Is the Pope German? Running along Halls Ferry like we were on fire, pleading with people walking their dogs, hearts constricted like the Grinch’s. Thank God the life guards knew us and didn’t turn us into Social Services.
Then there’s the next one up. Mary Pat is marrying in November. Huh? Little MP, the kid who regularly donned pink snow boots and stocking cap to watch TV… in June. The athlete who should have never been allowed to run cross country, since her face always turned redder than Mark McGuire’s before Congress. THAT Mary Pat?
And did I mention the wifey is retiring. Wait just a minute here, sports fans. I got four years on her! Just kidding, since she has fought the good fight for a long time, and is definitely in line for this move.
The flip side of all these significant events, once you get past the amazement and the tears and the “Huh?’s”, is that me and that retired lady will be empty-nesters in a couple of months. The recent grad thinks that maybe we’re being a bit too giddy about this prospect, even as she “stresses out” about moving on and out. And maybe we are, but it is hard to contain our glee. It feels like a long, slow, deep breath, followed by a smile of gratitude, and accomplishment. Theirs, and ours, really. Just a memory are the years of doing the happy dance after finding a dollar in the dryer, or cashing in the coin jar to get milk and formula. Gone but not forgotten are the long nights of wondering if one child would ever stop throwing up, or another would ever get home, or still another would ever find their path.
At 60, I guess I’ve put in a good 75% of my allotted time. A glance at my own high school classlist shows a few who can’t say that. So, trust me, I’m not complaining.
But maybe I need to borrow a line from Captain James Kirk of the Starship Enterprise if things are going stay at this warp speed.
“Scottie, I need more power!”


Tuesday, May 05, 2009


(I will be posting the biweekly columns that I write for the Suburban Journals of St. Louis. They appear courtesy of that publication.)

What a crazy time of the year is springtime.
A quick look at our calendar has us booked for nearly two outings every weekend, not to mention the preschool graduations and baccalaureate and birthdays and end of school celebrations during the weekdays. Not that I’m complaining, since every happening is one of joy and accomplishment.
One of the most significant of all spring events is the graduation ceremony. With each, there is the requisite commencement address. That word, “commencement’, has always intrigued me. It’s very meaning shouts” new beginning.”
Back in 1997, a writer produced a famous graduation speech. It started out with the words “Wear Sunscreen.” I read through it yesterday, and found it impossible to improve upon. But here’s what I would say, if given a chance.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of 2009”.
Albert Einstein, that famous mathematician was also quite a philosopher. He once said “Not everything that can be counted, counts; and not everything that counts can be counted.” And this from a guy who made his living from numbers.
Another fairly famous guy by the name of Jesus had something to say about worrying, something we all do even though we know it does absolutely nothing to change what happens. When he talked about the birds in the air getting their supper, he was telling us to chill out. Most of the awful things we think will happen seldom do.
I learned way too late in life from my mom and mother-in-law and wife to never pass up a chance to be nice to somebody. A kind word, a simple compliment, even a pat on the back. And the corollary to this is “Smile so much people will wonder what you’re up to.”
I am also learning to try everyday to do my best, knowing that some days, that may not amount to a whole heck of a lot. But on others, the ones that work, my head can hit the pillow wondering just how I could possibly top this day.
Don’t dress in the dark, or at least lay out your socks the night before. Put a hat on in the winter. And always wear clean underwear. The Joaquin Andujar Maxim, Youneverknow, holds true here.
Old Abe Lincoln was right. Honesty is the best policy. Sometimes, your integrity is the only thing you can call your own.
If you want to excel, practice. A lot. Very few of us are so gifted we can just wing it. There is a reason Tiger Woods plays so often on Sundays.
Strive to love, but also strive to learn to accept love, for it is the essence of life that is too often invisible to the eye.
Never pass up an opportunity to hold a baby.
And remember that the three most welcome words in any speech are “So, in conclusion.”
So, in conclusion…
Trust in a Higher Power, what ever you may conceive that to be. You may stray from this in the coming years, but know that He is always there, peeking out of the blinds, waiting for your headlights to come down the street.
And, oh yeah… the “sunscreen” thing?
That, too.