"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


     I spent a couple of years of my life as a weekend psych aide at a regional medical center.  It was often entertaining, rarely was it particularly sad but there were those moments.
     She was in her mid 30's, shoulder length curly hair, she had a bruise on her cheek.  She'd come in the day before, very stressed, tearful and a little confused.  They admitted her though she seemed to be basically intact.  She'd come by herself.  For the weekend, she was on my list of 8 to 10 patients who I had to keep an eye on and then write a brief nursing note at the end of the shift.  Being an unmotivated weekend warrior I generally avoided getting to caught up in tears and drama if  possible.  Of course, being a male psych aide, you were in the first line of defense if someone got "chippy."  But I ended up talking to her a few hours over the weekend.
     She was living in a motel with her boyfriend,  She had been his secretary, they had an affair, she left her husband and her two teenage sons and she and her boyfriend came to SoCal to start a new life.
     It turned out he drank too much, was verbally abuse and would slap her if he was mad enough and had a few drinks in him.  She didn't know what to do so she had admitted herself into the hospital.    Off and on we spent Saturday talking about her relationship with her boyfriend and what her options were, could they work things out.  She felt rather desperate, thought she had burned her bridges with her ex-husband and her boys, did not know where to go; didn't have a place to go to.
    Sunday afternoon towards the end of the shift I asked her about her ex-husband.  Was he mean?  "No."  Was he an alcoholic?  "No."  Was he cheating on her?  "No." Was he a bad father?  "No, he was a good father."  But he had some physical issues that were somewhat off-putting though nothing terrible.
     I asked, "Did he love you?"  She said, she thought he did.  I asked if she had talked to him recently.  She said she had when she called back home to talk to her sons.  I asked,  "He's a decent man?"   She said that he was.  She figured he deserved better than her.  I said. "Has he found himself a girlfriend?"  She said she didn't think so.
     Well the shift was over, it was time for me to leave.  I said the obvious,  "Why don't you just call him up and ask if you can come home."   She was silent; then she said, " I don't think he'd want me back."  I replied, "I'm a guy, I'm betting he'd take you back."  And then I left.
      When I came back the next weekend she had been discharged.  Nobody knew where she had gone.  30 years later I still wonder what decisions she made.  Did she call up her ex and ask if she could come home or did she return to the motel where she had been living with her boyfriend.  I know what her ex would have done; he'd have taken her back in a heartbeat.  The guy she described to me was the kind of man who would have forgiven her and made all attempts to put his family back together.  I no longer remember what her face looked like but I can still see the shoulder length curly hair.  I hope she worked her life out.  I hope she called her ex and went home.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


     She said she couldn't face changing the sheets for the first three months after her husband  died.  She was clinging to him the only way she could thru the faint smell of him in the sheets.  I asked how come she finally changed the sheets.  She said sadly, "My granddaughter spit up on them one morning and I knew it was time."
    They were are their 35th high school reunion at the Friday nite dinner and dance.  She said it was simply the best time ever.  She and her husband were dancing and talking, she was very happy.  The last song was about to be played and her husband asked if they could sit down.  A few second later, he fell to the floor in the midst of a massive coronary and never came to.  The ambulance arrived promptly, rushed him to the hospital but he was dead on arrival.
     She found out later, he'd seen the cardiologist recently; he was in his very early 50s.  Oh was she mad when she found out.  Simultaneously crying and cursing him for not letting her know there might be something wrong.  She wasn't one of those who didn't want to know about upcoming challenges; she was one of those who wanted to face them head on and her husband never gave her that option.  She lectured me as she would have lectured her husband if he'd been there.  She looked me in the eye and told me I'd better never do that to my wife.  I promised her I wouldn't.
     I had come to know her because two years previously, her teenage son died of unexpected heart failure.  That' was crushing.  Two weeks before he died, he had passed out in the shower.  He wasn't a kid who did drugs, did stupid things.  They of course had taken him to the doctor who ran him thru all the normal tests.  But then he died one day at home.  The autopsy said heart disease.
     Well I've long since lost track of her and her remaining children.  She kept going to church, took over the bills, made all the decisions, fixed the house up; she coped.  I was staggered by her strength in the face of crushing adversity.  Luckily, her husband had not only been a fine man but a good worker with a company who had a good retirement program.  She'd be okay for many years to come if "ok" simply means you have money to pay the bills.  But she'd also be "ok" because she and her husband had a strong marriage and he had given her 30 plus years of love.  I met him once a year before he died.  He was one of those good guys.  Worked hard, cared about his wife, cared about his children and served his God.
      My lingering prayers are that her other children are doing well (they'd be young adults now) and that she has peace and has friends.  If time heals all wounds, I think she's okay.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

ROBERT "Bob" O'BRIEN - Kudos to a fine man.

     High School functions under a fairly rigid caste system; Rule 1) Seniors have nothing to do with freshman unless it's the quarterback of the football team flirting or dating the prettiest Jr. Varsity cheerleader in view. Otherwise, seniors do not generally acknowledge that freshmen even exist.  Why would they.
     Being a "gym rat" I entered the all but deserted gymnasium one afternoon to practice my shots.  I was 5'5" tall, I weighed 115 pounds.  Even other freshmen don't know I exist.  It's a big high school.  I was pretty comfortable being anonymous. It lessened your chance of being "pantsed" by arrogant and nasty sophomores who are celebrating their newly acquired status of no longer being freshmen;  the lowest of the low in the high school caste system, by trying to humiliate them.  My freshman goal in life;  avoid being humiliated.
    At the far end of the gym shooting baskets is Bob O'Brien.  As it turns out, Bob is also a "gym rat."  There are 6 baskets in the gym; Bob's at one end, I, being an undersized and anonymous freshmen head to the other.  I hear Bob say, "Why don't you come down here and shoot with me."  I realize there must be someone else in the gym beside me and Bob.  I carefully look for the third basketball player.  There isn't one.  Bob must be talking to me.  That doesn't make sense.
    I look at Bob, point towards myself and squeak "Me?".  He says, "Come on down."  I slowly and somewhat suspiciously walk down to his end of the gym.  He walks up to me and says, "I'm Bob.  What's your name." I stammer - "er Jim."  He shakes my hand and invites me to shoot.
    Now here's the problem.  He WASN'T just "Bob."  He was "Bob O'Brien" President of the senior class, ALL C.I.F. basketball player HIS JUNIOR YEAR and acknowledged to be the school stud.  He was 6'3", he weighed a muscular 190 and he was the quintessential B.M.O.C.  There wasn't a soul on the campus who didn't know who Bob O'Brien was.  And yet, he had initiated a conversation with me - nameless, faceless freshman of no particular ability or claim to fame.  We shot baskets for awhile, I spent the whole time trying to unravel the mystery, why did Bob O'Brien ask me to shoot with him.  Being seen on the same court with me would not enhance his status with other B.M.O.Cs nor B.W.O.Cs.  He didn't seem to care.  Well, finally he had to go, told me "bye" and left.  Through-out the rest of the year, if he saw me, he generally acknowledged my existence.  Because we both played high school basketball ( He at the Varsity level, me at the "Dee" level) we did cross paths on occasion.  He would look at me and smile.  Then he graduated and went off to college.  At least once after that, I ended up shooting baskets with him at the community gym one Christmas when he was home from college. He saw me, walked over and started talking to me like we were peers.  I was quite flattered that he remembered me a couple of years after matriculating off to college.
   I've never forgotten Bob, kind of kept an eye on what became of him as best I could.

     Today, I wanted to write a post on him and did a google search.  He ended up getting a doctorate and has been on the faculty of the University of Oregon many years after a career at the University of California, Riverside.  Here's a link:  http://sociology.uoregon.edu/faculty/obrien.php

     Kudos to you, Bob O'Brien, for breaking all the rules of the high school caste system to chat with a kid who was never in your league athletically or socially.  It meant so very much to me.  I tried to emulate him in high school, failed athletically but did end up feeling free to initiate conversations with other students who were not juniors or seniors.  He showed me how it was done

   Bob is in his late 60s now.  He can probably retire anytime.  I'm thinking when he does, the University of Oregon will have lost a great professor.   Here's to you Bob.

Monday, September 23, 2013


   In 7th grade for my Christmas present, my Dad and Mom got me a backboard, a hoop and a basketball.  Dad attached the backboard and hoop to the garage  on Christmas Day and I began to shoot baskets.  I became a fanatic.  Until I left home at 18, I played basketball pretty much every day of my life.  I played or simply shot baskets for the pleasure of it all.  Then I graduated from college, got married and pretty much retired the basketball.  Oh I still played a little but the daily schedule of playing basketball ended - until now.

9 months ago, for my birthday present, my wife suggested I buy myself a gym membership.  The gym I joined actually had a inside basketball court.  I spent the first month lifting weights but one day decided to wander in and shoot a couple of baskets between liftings.  After 40 years the ball felt heavy, I felt awkward and I couldn't quite figure out how to get it thru the basket.  I was so awkward I felt embarrassed.   I shot for about 10 minutes then left. But I started coming back, just shooting by myself at one end of the gym.  Periodically there would be other guys shooting and I would be invited to play in a 1/2 court game.  At first I refused but then decided to accept (against the advice of my knee doctor).  Well I found the games to be quite a "rush" and though I didn't contribute much offensively, at least the months of practice insured I didn't embarrass myself.  Since then I shoot at least 3 days a week and when I have an opportunity, play a little 1/2 court basketball.  For the most part, it's been quite fun.

Not surprisingly, the next oldest guy I've played with has been in his late 40s, about 16 years younger than me.  So I am the "old man" in the gym but have developed some rules that I thought I would pass on to any other old men who wanted to try and revive their basketball skills after decades of retirement.

FIRST RULE:  Fuggedaboutit.  Basketball is NOT for the plus 60 crowd unless you are a natural, thin athlete that runs twice a day ( I'm not.)   Even then, fuggedaboutit.
Your odds of destroying an ankle, a knee, or tearing an achilles tendon are quite good.  Basketball remains a physical sport and you can injure yourself very easily.  Also, old backs generally dislike the kind of movements associated with playing basketball.  But in case you chose to ignore First Rule, let's go to the next rule.

SECOND RULE:  Don't even dream about trying to play full-court.  "Are you kidding me?" as John McEnroe used to say.  You can have just as much fun playing 1/2 court as you can trying to run full court.  You need to minimize your chances of a heart attack; playing full court basketball may well shorten your life span at this age.  And the odds of a significant injury increase exponentially.

THIRD RULE:  Don't jump.  You're just asking for it if you try to do a lot of jumping.  Your ankles, knees and back are begging you, "No Jumping Puhleese."  As an interesting side note, if you watch the old pros in the NBA, those 35 and above, you will notice that they actually don't do a whole lot of jumping.  Their game changes over the years and as their injuries add up, they learn to play the game without any explosive jumping.  If you're in your 60s,  keep your Red Ball Jets tennis shoes in contact with the wood floor.  You'll be better for it.

FOURTH RULE: Play smarter not harder.  At my age when playing defense, I simply can't chase guys all over the court.  My basic defensive strategy, don't give up any lay ups; keep your self positioned between them and the basket.  NO LAY UPS.  Foul them if necessary but foul them politely.  (  I always say "Oops" when I have delivered a particularly vicious chop to their shooting arm.  I also wear glasses so they won't try to punch me in the nose. Always smile after a particularly fierce foul and tell them it's the Alzheimers that made you do it.)

FIFTH RULE:  Never move faster than a modest trot.  Trying to take the quick step is going to get you in trouble.  Groin pulls are not your friend when you're in your 60s.  Baby steps, they're a good way to avoid E.R. visits.

SIXTH RULE: Learn to shoot the "three."  If you're in your 60s, you never shot three pointers because when you were playing basketball they didn't yet exist.  I actually had to practice about 4  months before I could begin to knock down the occasional 3 pointer.  it was a whole new shot and I had to build up the strength and form to get it to the basket.  But if you don't develop a 3 pointer, you're going to expend all kinds of energy ( which you don't have ) trying to put up shots when they're guarding you.  Thankfully, most kids today don't get a rat's behind about playing perimeter defense so you're generally pretty free to hoist up a three pointer without them being up in your face.  Ninety per cent of the players will simply give you that shot.  Take it, it requires so much less energy then trying to either run around or back them down into the key and then attempt some turnaround shot you can't make because you're exhausted.

SEVENTH RULE:  Wear knee braces.  Personally, I wear those ACE type elastisized knee wraps.  They seem to work pretty good for me.  If you have worse problems then I  do, get and wear the more serious knee braces.  They'll give you a convenient excuse if you lose.

EIGHTH RULE;  Don't play longer than an hour - too much risk.  The more tired, the more injuries.  The worst injury in my long career came when I played "just one more game" that I really didn't want to play.  My ankle never fully recovered from that high sprain.

NINETH RULE:  Pick on someone worse then you were when you were their age. Then you at least have a chance.  Playing someone who is better than you is a guaranteed loss.  And at 60 plus, who wants to lose?

TENTH RULE:  ENJOY the heck out of it.  One day I played Danny who worked at the gym, was 22 and was a GREAT 3 point shooter.  He killed me.  But I had a great time.  I ran around, got lots of shots off while he beat me 3 games straight without it ever being close.    But I went out intending to have fun and fun I had.
It was good exercise, I was still just beginning to develop my 3 point shot and I saw my game improve.  Danny had a great time too, beat me three zip.  (When I was his age, I would have beat him two out of three).
So if you refuse to "fuggedaboutit" - don't worry too much about winning, just  go out, have a good time and play smartly taking as much care as you can to avoid unnecessary injuries.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I'M actually good at taking out the trash; rarely do I forget.

There is a reason; I LIKE removing trash from my house, my office, my garage.  It actually pleases me to put it out so, VOILA, I'm very good at not forgetting.  On trash or recycle day, I get home in the afternoon and feel a great sense of relief if I see that the garbagemen  have indeed done their job and emptied out the trash barrels.
So I have to admit; I don't actually do this for my wife but I do it for myself.  However, I like to ACT as if I'm doing this for my wife hoping to earn bonus points.
I wonder if the rest of the husbands feel the same way I do; a sense of accomplishment when the accumulated trash is removed from the premises.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Every Grandpa needs one

My wonderful daughter and my grand-daughter
Kati & Quinn
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mark Sandford; Redemption/Re-election

MARK SANDFORD is running for election and seeking redemption.

"The disgraced ex-South Carolina governor is back on the trail seeking forgiveness for the sins that caused his political career to collapse in spectacular fashion four years ago: The mysterious days-long disappearance, the lies about hiking the Appalachian Trail and the extramarital affair with an Argentine woman that splintered the Republican’s picture-perfect family and shattered his presidential aspirations.

“I’m not in any way unaware of how I’ve let you down. I’m not in any way unaware of my well-chronicled failings as a human being,” Sanford told a Hilton Head Island Republican group last week, in the first public speech of his campaign. “But I am equally aware that God forgives people who are imperfect.”"

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/02/the-mark-sanford-confessional-campaign-87411.html#ixzz2KY7ybAHB

At times like this, one wishes for god like knowledge to judge the heart and motives of Mark Sandford.

I certainly believe in forgiveness; I'm in constant need of it.  But it's also easy to be a little cynical about a politician who failed miserably, lost his source of status and income and now asks for forgiveness and re-instatement.  His abandoned wife, Jenny Sandford, has not spoken yet, maybe never will.  

Sandford puts forth an interesting doctrinal statement that is true but incomplete.
"....God forgives people who are imperfect."
A)  I believe that statement is true --
B)  But there are often long lasting consequences that follow moral failings ( sins).

He and Jenny are divorced and he intends to marry the Argentinian lady with whom he had his affair.  I don't know him, I don't know her but I am uneasy about his continuing the relationship with the woman of his affair.  I'm not sure it shows good judgment.   The odds of them having a lasting marriage are pretty poor.  She will be in a very difficult position; the   "home-wrecker" wife of a high level politician.  I suspect the gossip and innuendo will be be difficult and ongoing.  It can take years to live something like that down.  His political enemies will forever use it against him as they embarrass her.  

Then there is the wife he has betrayed, Jenny.   Bright, very attractive, appears to be quite the lady.   You think to yourself, "Who in their right mind would leave her?"

Of course we do not know the details of their relationship; we don't know where all the fractures were but it does appear, she was/is a stand-up lady.  

At least on the surface, Mark Sandford continues to make bad choices; not working to save his long marriage to his wife and the mother of his children, but instead chasing a Argentinian lady who's moral compass appears somewhat suspect.

Based upon current available information, I don't think I could vote for him  But then again I have my own skeletons.

UPDATE:  Jenny Sandford has spoken - in fact wrote a book.  Here's one review.


Monday, February 04, 2013


     A few years ago, while searching YOUTUBE for the Blood, Sweat and Tears version of "Fire and Rain," I discovered this video which honored the now deceased members of Piedmont High School Class of '69.  The faces look familiar, they are very much my era and Piedmont appears to be similar to my own suburban high school.  The video was created by Robert Nelson, himself a member of the class.
     The video itself is a wonderful tribute to the now deceased classmates.
At their 40th reunion, they paid tribute to those deceased classmates and teachers;  choosing 1 alumni for each of the departed classmates.  Each classmate was given a eulogy.
     The eulogies are well done, it gives one a desire to have known these individuals being eulogized.   They all experienced adult life, a couple died within 20 years of the high school graduation, others died only in the last couple of years, but all of them before their "time."
     Also eulogized were several teachers and the librarian.  They too were wonderfully remembered.
     The Piedmont High School Class of '69 must have had some extraordinary people because they have shown great caring and respect for their teachers and classmates who were a part of their lives, a part of their school community and who have now gone on to meet their creator and God.

KUDOS, Piedmont High School, Class of 1969.

Friday, February 01, 2013


     Sitting at a light on a very busy street in my city, I note the car ahead of me has a dangerously low rear tire.  I roll down my window, honk a few times and wave my arm.  The driver looks around and I point towards the rear tire.  She opens her door, peers back at the tire and yells "thank you" as she closes the door.  I am relieved.  She appears to be about my daughter's age.  The light turned green, she edged over into the right lane and then, to my utter amazement, headed up a freeway onramp heading North on I 95.  I watched helplessly thru my rearview mirror as she accelerated on up the cloverleaf.
   I thought to myself, "What in the world is wrong with you" as I drove on down the road.  What kind of young lady would purposely get onto the freeway with a very low tire?
   Later I thought, maybe she didn't have a father.  My own children, in their driving careers, have been lectured (sometimes rather loudly) when they have encountered problems on the road;  running out of gas, having oil light indicators come on or temperature gauges climbing into the red zone or calling to ask why their car is pulling to one side or making loud thumping noises or asking why there's smoke coming out from under the hood..
    I have a standard, intense response;  "PULL OVER IMMEDIATELY."  "STOP THE CAR IN THE FIRST SAFE PLACE, TURN OFF THE ENGINE."  I believe I say this in my best Shouting-Dad-Tone-of-Voice.  I think this is what Dads do.  For most fathers my age ( the plus side of 60) our first vehicles were generally "beaters."  You quickly learned from your own father or from sad experience that your car needs careful attention and maintenance if you intend to drive it a few thousand miles then sell it to your most gullible friend.
    Then somewhere along the line you become a father and watch in horror as your 16 year old takes your car to school.   But I guarantee this; they don't drive without a list of safety measures yelled into their ear.  Even today if I were to discover that my married daughter purposely drove onto a freeway knowing she had a low tire, I'd be doing the Dad Bellow despite the fact she has a husband and lives in another country. That's what Dad's do.   You try to help your children fend off vehicle disaster as best you can; generally that involves a lot of yelling.
    So I'm thinking, maybe this young lady with the dangerously low rear tire didn't have the benefit of growing up in a family where Dad yelled at her to protect her from harm and vehicular disaster.  'Cause if she'd had that yelling Dad, she would NEVER have driven up the freeway on ramp before getting the tire inflated immediately (32-34 P.S.I) at the nearest gas station or tire store..
    That's exactly why Dads exist.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tossing out Floppys: Computer Spring Cleaning

A 3 1/2 inch floppy labeled,  "DOS 3.3 - backup";  O.S.2 Warp - a box full of disks that puts the O.S.2 program on to your harddrive; I gritted my teeth and tossed them out today.

A Quicken Home and Business ‘99 C.D.  Several CDs that have the utility drivers for long since lost and destroyed motherboards.  I THREW THEM ALL OUT this afternoon. Spring cleaning has come to my home computer center and when I walked in this afternoon my wife pointed to a file of floppys, CDs and manuals stacked near my chair and suggested I needed to do something about it. I said, "What?" She smiled and said brightly, "The trash pick-up is tomorrow?" I wailed, "But what if O.S.2 Warp makes a comeback?" Her smile suggested that the Mental Health S.W.A.T. could be at the house in under 5 minutes if needed.

I purchased my first computer in 1985, an  IBM clone.  I got the  one with two floppies; it turned out to be handy.  I figured it would last me 10 years, at least that what I promised my wife.  [Within 2 years it had been replaced by an upgrade.] She was afraid I was wasting my  money.  I’ve long since lost count off how many computers my family has owned but my wife and I currently have 6 working computers between the two of us.  If we want, we could be  on 3 computers a piece at one time.  Of course you only end up using one at a time though laptops and  chrome books (my latest acquisition} are handy to drag around.

Not only are floppies long since passe, the youngest generation is bypassing laptops for sophisticated smart phones, leaving the "boomers", such as me, way behind. Oh, I now have an obsolete iPhone and I can make calls on it and text too. It actually does a lot of stuff, I just don't know how to use it. I can still mostly find my way around a P.C.

But I can't on a unit that has Windows 8; the O.S. from hell. I don't own it but I know about it. I talked my little old neighbor into buying a new laptop since his 10 year old would no longer load, and ended up being confronted by Microsoft's newest demon; Windows 8. I don't LIKE Windows 8. Windows 7 is an excellent O.S. Windows 8 makes every attempt to make sure you can't find things; or if you can, you can't move them around. It's been pretty successful at that. Sooner or later, against your will, you're going to own it. It will be pre-installed on your next soon-to-be-obsolete P.C.

But back to the floppys CDs and manuals. If you were wise (and after a few major errors we all became wiser) you made backups of everything, particularly drivers and utilities. But now they're all available on the internet? Need a Dell computer or printer driver? Go to dell.com and with a little searching you'll find all you need. It was a huge advance when companies started putting their utility drivers on the internet for downloading.

A big "shout out" to that advancement in acquiring needed information.

So all those backup floppys, all those CDs with the utilities and drivers on them; "Historie" Kaput, needless, obsolete. Computers quit being built with floppys a few years back. For now they have flash-drives, but I have no doubt they'll also be obsolete not so distant future. But what about your priceless pictures and documents? Don't we need to back those up? Maybe not .......

BECAUSE now we have "THE CLOUD." Write a post using google docs and google Chrome and your work is automatically saved somewhere out in the internet ether where only God actually knows where it is stored. Theoretically it will always exist in "THE CLOUD." Pictures will be there too. And the cloud is cheap and they say you'll never have to worry about backups. But, if the Google Server Farm is ever hit by a nuclear device, we'll no longer exist.

In the modern era, I am only what Google knows about me; But that's a post for another day.

SPRING CLEANING; where do the years go.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Murder-suicide in my little neighborhood

[ This is not a good story.  You really don't need to read it. ]

They moved in across the street about a couple years after we did  A Dad, a Mom, an older brother and a younger brother my age.  The older brother was lively and funny, his name was Davey.  The younger brother was more serious but he and I got along well enough.   His name was Jimmy.  That's a picture of him.  He was 10 years of age when his father killed him and then committed suicide, apparently in response to his mother asking the father for a divorce and forcing the father to move out.

The father had visitation, came to pick up both boys one weekend but Davey didn't go.
The father took Jimmy to the motel where he was staying and shot him to death then turned the gun upon himself.

I really didn't live in "that kind of a neighborhood."  But I guess I did.

Jimmy wrote a suicide note;

It is a terrible thing.

Below is a picture of Jimmy's mother.

I suppose those are the detectives talking to her, I'm not sure.

My parents were very devout and we always went to church.  My father recognized, after the separation, that the father was struggling and he invited him to come to church one Sunday.  The father came and sat next to my Dad.  At the end of the service there was an "altar call" for people to come forward and give their lives to Jesus Christ vowing to follow after His ways, not ours.
So we're standing, singing the invitation hymn and the father is gripping the pew in front of him so hard that his knuckles are white.  But he didn't go ask for help, ask for salvation and he never came to church with us again.  Then a few/couple of weeks later  the father and Jimmy were dead.

"Sad" inadequately describes the story.  Decades later I still have trouble with it.
Davey and his Mom soon moved out of the neighborhood never to return.

I've often wondered how Davey is doing.  I hope he was able to find some hope, joy and love in his own life.  Maybe he became a follower of Jesus Christ.  I know my folks prayed for him and his Mom after the tragedy.  I hope he made it out of the family trauma alive.
He was funny, personable and he made the other kids in the neighborhood laugh.  He had a lot going for him.

I hope Davey made it.

Friday, January 11, 2013


They were in 5th grade, Haley had it all.  Cute, bright, personality plus, vivacious and liked by all.  If there was a popularity Clic, she was the alpha dog.

I asked her one day, "Who's the quietest kid in your class?"  She thought for a moment and then said, "Spencer." I asked her to tell me about Spencer.  She really didn't know anything about Spencer except he was kind of chubby, sat in the back of the class, never spoke and didn't seem to have any friends.
I said, "Haley, who's the most popular kid in the class?"  She replied, honestly enough, "I suppose I am."

I said, "Hm."

I said, "Haley, have you ever talked to Spencer?"  She said, "No, why would I want to?"

I said, "Hm."

"Haley," I said.  "I have a homework assignment for you."  She promptly indicated she was doing enough homework already.  I said, "No, this is a different kind of homework, "I said, "I want you to speak to Spencer this week?"  She wanted to know why.  Then she wanted to know what she was supposed to say.

"In answer to your second question Haley, I want you to say 'Hey Spencer.'"   She said, "That's all?"  I said, "That's all."

She asked again, "Why do you want me to do this?"  I told her, that's how I measure popular kids.
She told me her friends would think it strange if she was talking to Spencer.  I asked if she would lose friends if she spoke to him.  She replied, "I guess not."

I saw Haley a few days later.  I asked her how her homework was coming.  She said she was walking by his desk and said, "Hey Spencer."
"What did he do?" I asked.
"Nothing" she said.  "He kind of looked startled though."

"Hm" I said.

I told her that her homework was to speak to him at least 3 times the next week I told her I'd be checking  her homework.
When I saw her  some days later she told me she had greeted him and that he finally muttered, almost inaudibly while keeping his head down, "Hey Haley."

I lost track of Haley for a few weeks then ran across her one day.  I asked about Spencer.
I said, "Is Spencer still the quietest kid in class?"

She said, "No; now he won't shut up."  ( I muttered under my breath, "YES" ) I asked if he only talked to her, she said "No, he talks to everyone."

Haley moved on, I ran into here when she was in high school; still smart, cute, vivacious and personality plus.  Sadly I forgot to ask about Spencer.

I was proud of Haley.   When you're the most popular girl in 5th grade it must appear there is no "upside" to interacting with the least popular  kid in the class; and she did worry about the ramifications.  But she did what she was asked and I have no doubt that Spencer's 5th grade year was immeasurably better because of the actions of the most popular girl in the class.

I struggle to remember my own lessons.  It's pretty easy to interact with some one pretty/handsome, personable and outgoing. But I find I have to discipline myself to say hello to the quiet, sometimes unattractive people.  It takes effort and sometimes I'm unwilling to make it.

But if the measure of a popular 5th grader is how she treats the invisible 5th grader, I suppose it's a measure of the adult male how I treat the less visible adults; male and female..

"Hey Spencer."   Such a simple assignment but what a significant impact on an invisible kid and maybe Haley learned something too.

"Hey Spencer,"

 I think I can do that.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Death of an old friend


My nursing home friend, Elmer, died today.

He was, by his own admission, a handful as a youngster.  He went off and joined the Army during WWII, served in the European theater and then came home.  He had dropped out of school and never acquired much formal education.
 He held various odd jobs and then, in his 40s,  he began to attend this small Pentecostal Church after marrying his second wife.  He was a faithful member there and one Wednesday evening, the pastor asked him to give the message.  Elmer thought this was a crazy idea but when the pastor asks you to do something, you do it.  So he gave the message and the pastor told him he wanted him to preach more.  So Elmer did. 
In the course of time Elmer became the pastor/preacher of that little Pentecostal Church in a run-down community of some antiquity.

By this time, Elmer was working at the Naval base and making a decent salary based upon his standards.  He ended up pastoring that little Pentecostal church for 14 years and never received a dime for his ministry.  He took his own money and fixed things up; repaired and ministered.  From what Elmer said, I don’t think it ever exceeded 50 people but Elmer didn’t seem to worry about things like that.  He was just amazed that God took someone like him and called him to pastor.

I met Elmer when he was about 80, his wife had died, his health was breaking down and he decided to enter a nursing home.  And so began his last journey.  He was classically the “old codger” and would both tease and joke with the staff.  He liked to call the staff psychologist the “nut doctor.”  The psychologist seemed to take it in stride.

Elmer had never fathered any children and his only relatives were just a sister and niece and they were out of state.  So visitors were few and far between.  The staff at the nursing home ultimately became his family for the last decade of his life.  They treated him well and on the last day of his life, a lot of women entered his room to check on him and make sure he did not die alone.

He had a TV,  it was always on but he didn’t really watch it.  He colored and did crossword type activities.  He built relationships with the staff but not much with the residents.  He always had his Bible open to be read.

Over the years, C.O.P.D. ( chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) became a bigger problem but somehow he held on.  Then earlier this year it got pretty bad and he was sent to the cardiac ward at the downtown hospital where he resided for a few weeks.  Much to my surprise, he got somewhat better and returned to the nursing home.  But he had lost a lot of ground that he would never make up.

When I came in this morning, the staff indicated he was doing fairly poorly.  So I write this sitting next to his bed, he’s on full oxygen but medications have been ceased and the staff has been instructed to just make sure he is comfortable. 
He is not responding interacting anymore.  He still has a feeding tube but that seems unnecessary at this point.

The staff has not been able to contact his sister though we’re pretty sure she’s alive because she sent him some mail a few days ago.  I read it to him this morning though he did not respond.  His sister recounted how he used to call her “Skeeter” when they were little and how furious that made her.  But she tells him in his letter and in the Christmas card, how much she loves him and prays that God might bless him.  She signed it, “Skeeter.”

I don’t know if he heard what I read; but it was  the last communication he would  receive from what is left of his family.

I told him I loved him too.  He’s an old saint and I don’t doubt he’ll be in the presence of the Living God the moment he breaths his last breath on Earth.

His eulogy should read:  He loved His God, he loved his wife, he treated others well and with a sense of humor.

It can be said of Elmer , “he finished well” and blest us with the last years of his life.

So on this first day of 2013,    R.I.P. old man.  You earned it.

(He died 8 hours later).