The difference sixty-two years made

It’s four twenty-nine pm, near the end of the first day after falling back into standard time. Supposedly, I recovered the hour I lost in the spring when we sprang forward into daylight savings time. Funny, I don’t feel like I gained an hour. I still had to take a nap this afternoon. I guess it’s just something we old timers must do, since sleeping a full night is something from long ago. It’s been cloudy all day, with light drizzles of rain off and on. The temperature has been in the low sixties (mid-teens for you Celsius users), perfect conditions for me to rewind my memory to a time sixty-two years ago. I was just thinking about the living conditions for me then compared to now.

During the fall of 1962, I was twelve years old. On an afternoon like this, I would’ve been in the house by now sitting by the fire of our wood-burning stove. The little yellow school bus would’ve delivered me to my home in the country a short while ago. Soon after arriving home, I had chores to do, the main among them would’ve been collecting firewood for the night and toting water from my grandparents’ place a couple of hundred yards behind us. Grandpa had a pump outside from which I would manually use the handle to pump water. We were poor folks, living without indoor plumbing, and any other creature comforts one takes for granted in suburban America today. We did have electricity though, which allowed us to have a 60-watt light hanging from the ceiling in each room, a radio, and a black and white television. We picked up television broadcasts from Memphis, Tennessee forty-five miles away with an antenna affixed to the roof. The antenna had to be positioned just right, or we would find ourselves looking at nothing but snow. If there were wood logs already cut to fit the stove, collecting them, and placing them in the corner behind the stove wasn’t too bad. However, if no logs had been cut for the stove, I had to split the wood blocks taken from the wood pile.

Fast forward to November 7, 2022. I’m sitting at a desk in my home office, pecking away at transferring my thoughts to a screen on my laptop computer. By the way, we have three working computers.  As I survey my surroundings, I’m aware of many items and amenities I have today that we didn’t in 1962. I’ve already mentioned the computers. Other things include living in a house in suburbia with central heat and air, hot and cold running water, a nicely manicured lawn, proximity to stores and shops for all our material needs, automobiles that operate dependably, and collection of other items we could only see in use by white folks on television sixty-two years ago. I’ve been blessed with travel to most of the states that comprise the United States, as well as some international travel.

I’m now experiencing a very satisfying retirement that was made possible by acquiring an education of which my parents couldn’t begin to dream. Chris and I both came from similar backgrounds, with similar opportunities afforded us to find ourselves in the blessed conditions under which we now live.

It may sound like a platitude of sorts; however, I can say without hesitation that life (God) has been good to me in countless ways. There have been no coincidences here.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Make Others Feel Important

I felt compelled to reblog this. This post is authored by an eighteen-year-old, who exhibits the wisdom of someone way beyond her age. I hope she doesn’t mind me saying tht she has a n old soul.

I was at my favourite vegan café relishing my chocolate brownie when I witnessed two friends talking. Let’s call them Sarah and Angel. Sarah kept speaking away about her life and her problems, ranging from how her schedule is too hectic at school to how her roommate is too loud, leaving Angel with no opportunity to speak.

Similarly, yesterday I was at a dance party and I met a guy who wouldn’t stop boasting about how his family always spoilt him with luxury so he could live an opulent life. People who speak like that somehow imply that they are above and the other person is below. So I despised every moment of the time we spent with each other.

Though, it was interesting for me to witness these situations because it made me understand what makes some people more attractive than others and what makes us enjoy someone’s company…

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                                                                                Another funeral

I went to another funeral today. At seventy-two years old, being a member of a church, whose membership seems like a chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), funerals are becoming more frequent. I don’t attend a lot of funerals, unlike Chris who is much more attentive to the social and ceremonial importance of being there for people who’ve lost loved ones. I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with funerals all my life. You might say that’s not unique; most people have that same sentiment about funerals. Maybe so, but my feeling about funerals is close in degree to how some people have a fear about dogs even when they’ve never spent any time around one.

You know how folk are known to say that funerals are the one event where only good things are said about an individual. This is said as if good things are falsely manufactured out of some obligation to social etiquette. This funeral I attended today wasn’t like that at all. It was for one of the deacons of our church. He was seventy-three. I won’t mention his name out of respect for his family. I can say without one bit of hesitation that every kind word that was spoken about this fellow was accurate. He was, as they say, the salt of the earth. His celebration of life was just that. There weren’t a lot of wet eyes from what I could see from a back pew, but there was an air of honor and respect. Everyone felt they were blessed to have known this fellow and that he would be sorely missed.

I find myself making comparisons to a lot of things these days. I’ve come to realize that’s probably something people do at a certain age. At seventy-two, I’ve had a wealth of experiences that have equipped me to make comparisons. One thing I’ve noticed is that funerals for older people don’t seem to be as emotionally devastating to those in attendance, outwardly anyway. I think it has to do with the fact that older people have been granted a good number of years to experience life. If they’ve been true to themselves and others, they’ve developed an inventory of wisdom that can be referred to by family and friends after they’re gone. It’s often said of older people that they have lived a good life. That’s not usually said of the young, whose passing is often viewed as tragic and untimely. We can’t escape the feeling that if they had been around a bit longer, they might have made untold contributions to society.

Yes, the older we get, the more opportunities to attend funerals come around. If I might be allowed to say it, the best funeral experiences are those that truly are celebrations of life, where laughter is heard in hush tones as words of commemoration are shared about the deceased. There were several moments of laughter at this funeral today. I left the sanctuary knowing more about this wonderful deacon, wonderful man, wonderful person of faith.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                                                           Oh well

Recently, we received word by way of the news media that the rapper Takeoff had been killed. He had achieved a notable amount of popularity. He was popular without counting me in his throngs of fans. I have nothing negative to say about this young man. It’s just that I’ve never been able to down enough rap music to acquire a taste for it. But, enough about rap music. This piece is about murder, killing, the senseless taking of another human being’s life.

I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas is a small state somewhere west of the Mississippi River and east of the state of Oklahoma. I was hopeful that Arkansas would become easier to locate on the map when our native son Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States. Somehow, I still think we’re on that road that offers a pass through to other places. Little Rock, however, is gaining a reputation as being a violent city. Google the most violent cities in the country and see where Little Rock falls in the rankings. I don’t totally agree with these rankings. There are some parts of this 200,000-person village that see more violence than necessary, but I don’t live in those areas.

Yesterday, the local news media reported the 71st killing for the year in Little Rock. It looks like we’re on our way to setting a record. No doubt, most of us would prefer some other record-setting activities. I must be fair to my hometown and point out that there’s been an increase in violence in many areas of the United States. Guns are certainly a contributing factor to this. For the life of me, I’ll never understand this insane passion we have for guns in the United States. I would love to wake up one morning and hear news reports of the mysterious disappearance of all guns within the borders of our country. Unfortunately, that would be the only way we would ever be rid of guns, since our right to bear arms is incased in our constitution: “The Second Amendment: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Since I’m a long way from being a constitutional scholar, I won’t debate exactly what this means. I’m also not a member of any militia. I would say that reasonable regulation of guns in my beloved country, would throw us into some form of outright societal civil conflict.

And so, our pre-occupation with guns and using them to kill each other, continues to place crimson stains in our schools, our places of worship, our homes, our neighborhoods, our public square, and even our sacred halls government. Like so many dynamics that result in loss of life in staggering numbers, drunk driving, smoking and several other dumb things, we’ve attained a state of numbness to reports of senseless shootings in America from the urban plains to pristine suburban patches and beyond. I can lower my head and scratch it in fruitless efforts to produce answers on how to reduce gun violence in my country. There will, no doubt, be news reports of others killed by some gun-toting person before I can raise my head to catch a breath.

Oh well…

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be to.

    The Big Dam Bridge

I had some time to kill yesterday, Ari, my trusty Shih Tzu and I decided to do a little roaming. We ended up at the Big Dam Bridge in West Little Rock. The name is attributed to the location of the bridge, which is at the location of the Murray Lock and Dam, part of the river navigation system. The following is a description of the bridge taken from the Big Dam Bridge website.

Originally intended to be called Murray Bridge, the Big Dam Bridge in Arkansas spans the Arkansas River and Murray Lock and Dam between Little Rock and North Little Rock and is open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. At 4,226 feet in length, it is the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in North America that has never been used by trains or motor vehicles. It rises to 90 feet over the Arkansas River and 30 feet over the dam. The span over the river is 3,463 feet, with the ramps on either side of the river accounting for the rest of the length. The southern end of the bridge is near Little Rock’s Murray Park, while the northern end is at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Beauty

Genesis 1:31a – And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…

Beauty is a wonderful thing. I’m not talking about the symmetrical arrangement of facial features, which can launch a short career in modeling, acting or some other public venture where shallowness is important. I’m talking about the kind of beauty one finds in letting your eyes focus on the colors of fall in areas on the globe where the four seasons make drastic changes in the flora. The beauty to which I’m referring is also present in the hearts of those of us who see immeasurable value in every human being who’s been granted space on our planet. This beauty is all around us; however, far too many of us are drawn away from it by voices that are telling us to turn our attention to other things. These other things usually consist of what’s in a bottle, the new and improved model of whatever or the radiance that comes with youthful, outward appearance.

You might find it weird, but I like the beauty I see in animals. I get a big kick out of watching animal videos on YouTube. There are videos that present animals in various scenarios where they interact with each other and with humans. I also find myself being highly entertained by baby videos where their laughing is the focus of the video. The cackling of a baby observing an animal or a human doing something funny gives me belly-aching laughs like none other. There’s nothing like the endorphins percolated from a good, deep belly-aching laugh. Whenever I have one of those, I walk away feeling good for quite some time. Can you think of anything more beautiful than that. I wonder what the world would be like if we all had at least one good bellyaching laugh a day.

It’s fall now and there’s beauty abounding everywhere I live. The early parts of all seasons always provide me an opportunity to feast all my senses on the beauty of nature. The early weeks of all seasons are like sliding into a new automobile. That fresh smell is there. Things have just begun to change. There’s no hint of the upcoming season yet. I find myself feeling as though I have a front row seat to a theatrical presentation being produced and performed by the Creator.

Beauty. It’s all around us, and it’s free to take in. I can’t help but wonder if peace would have a better chance of overtaking the planet, if we all would make efforts to observe and enjoy the beauty that emanates from the heart of creation. Just a few silly thoughts from: Old and blessed.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

How many more years do I have?

I was just sitting here at my desk wondering how many more years I’ll be blessed with to rise early in the morning, put my self through the paces of early-morning exercises, earnestly meditate on the things of my life, quietly expressing thanks to my Creator, and to feel at peace. Yes, I’m feeling at peace. Even though there are conflicts occurring all around my beloved globe, I feel at peace at this very moment. It’s quiet. It’s so quiet, I can even hear the overpowering sound of one of my ailments, tinnitus. This ringing in my ear that’s a constant, that I mostly don’t notice until I have a moment of silence. One might say I’m even blessed to be alive to hear this bothersome ringing. I’m not so sure that’s my sentiment.

I remember twenty-two years ago; I asked that same question: How many more years do I have? Life has answered that question for me. I’ve been given ample time to make more dumb mistakes, correct them in many cases and to move onto a future absent of past mistakes; however, there are always new ones waiting in the wings from which to learn. I’ve tried my best at living in the present, but less be honest, don’t we all go to bed at night thinking about what the dawn will bring?

Even tough I do think about the futures of my grandkids and great grandkids, what their experiences in school will be like, what their rights of passage will present them when doorways are opened, I don’t worry myself into a clinical state. I’m convinced they will have similar opportunities to make dumb mistakes, and hopefully to correct them also. Life has a habit of serving up the same stuff repeatedly, with different technologies of course. We may have computers, cellular phones, jet planes and the like, but all these wonders are there to help us indulge in the same human experiences (love, hate, greed, envy, politics…) that have occupied our days since time immemorial.

Yeah, I would like to have a few more years, without dementia, and physical frailties. Of course, I know I can’t order them up the way I would want them. For now, I’ll keep rising early in the morning, exercising, meditating, and enjoying the peace granted me by my Creator. That sounds like a winner, don’t you think so?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Fifteen minutes of fame delayed

Technological development moves at a rapid pace. I bought an iPhone eleven twenty-one months ago. The iPhone fourteen is out now and people are going bat crazy over it. My cell phone service has been emailing me incessantly over the last three months, trying to get me to purchase the new iPhone. Their pitch is to pay off the balance I yet owe on the phone I have so that I might be sitting pretty like countless others, enjoying the latest in communication technology. People are aware of new communications technology, and they want to be right there amidst it. To the contrary, society’s consciousness about social issues doesn’t develop at a pace necessary to keep instep with needed justice and equal treatment of all.

Recently, my Sunday newspaper contained an article about James Meredith, an African American who bravely enrolled in the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 1962. Meredith, as did several African Americans, of all ages, stepped from a social frying pan into an inferno when they bravely crossed the thresholds of all-white educational institutions in the South during the 1950s and 60s. His act resulted in violence from Ole Miss students, members of the local community and folks from outside of the State of Mississippi. Five hundred federal law enforcement agents were required to protect the life of Meredith and to attempt to keep the peace. On Thursday, September 29, the University of Mississippi recognized Meredith for what he did sixty years ago. There were accolades showered upon him for his bravery in doing something that should have been the right of every American citizen to do, enroll in a public educational institution. The retired assistant provost at Ole Miss, Donald Cole said of Meredith, “He came and revolutionized our thinking. He came to open our closed society.” At age eighty-nine Meredith finally got his much deserved fifteen minutes of fame.

Following the article about James Meredith, my newspaper contained another article about delayed recognition. The article was announcing the death of the Native American activist and actor Sacheen Littlefeather. In 1973, Sacheen, made a speech on behalf of the actor Marlon Brando of Godfather fame. Brando had declined to appear at the Academy awards to accept his award for best actor in the Godfather movie. While on stage, Littlefeather spoke about the mistreatment and misrepresentation of Native Americans in the entertainment industry. Her comments were met with some applause and much booing. According to her, in an interview she sat through later, John Wayne was so moved with anger, security personnel had to restrain him from physically attacking her. As a result of Sacheen’s speech, her acting career was torpedoed before it gained momentum. It is strangely ironic that two weeks before Sacheen’s death the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offered a long overdue public apology to Sacheen for the treatment she received nearly fifty years ago when she made her speech at the awards ceremony.

The list of forward-thinking individuals who brought socially redeeming thoughts to the table years before those thoughts were widely accepted is impressive. These individuals are showered with distain at the time they spoke, protested, or took some other action that elevated their thoughts to discussion in the public square. Later, sometimes when they’re dead, people from across the social spectrum can’t quote them enough. I suppose innovative thinking must sit awhile to allow the rest of us to catch up.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Suffering through encourages others

I’ve written several times about my chronic health condition. I have multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. As I continue to survive this horrible disease, I’ll write something about it occasionally. How can I not write about it, with my blog having the handle Old and Blessed. Aging, and aging gracefully with cancer is a wonderful blessing. Taking stock of the things I’m blessed with enjoying demands that I write about those things in my despite column; despite the challenges that threaten not only my quality of life, but life itself. We all have a despite column, consisting of those items in life that come to stifle us. Somehow, we’re able to journey on with more joy than we deserve. I chalk it up to my Creator.

Consider the following: According to the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, an estimated 34,470 adults (19,100 men and 15,370 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma this year. It’s estimated that there will be 12, 640 deaths in the United Sates from multiple myeloma this year. Myeloma is less common than other types of blood-related cancer, such as leukemia and lymphoma Worldwide, an estimated 176,404 people were diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2020. An estimated 117,077 people worldwide died from it in 2020. The overall five-year survival rate for people with multiple myeloma in the United States is fifty-five percent. There are many more statistics I could bore you with regarding this disease but consider the fact that I was diagnosed twenty-two years and seven months ago. Who knows how long I had the disease before diagnosis. My healthcare team reminds me regularly that I’m considered a long-term survivor, poster child, if you will.

I’m a member of a Facebook page called Multiple Myeloma Patients. It provides information about the disease and support for those who have been diagnosed. I’m a regular contributor to the page, looking for those who find themselves struggling with a recent diagnosis, or seeking information about some development in their condition. Although everyone is different and the approaches doctors take to treat individuals are different, based on several variables, there are often some commonalities that can be discussed among patients. I often find myself of some use in encouraging people who haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that they have multiple myeloma, and that the world hasn’t ended for them yet. They are still alive, living during a time when advances in treatment for cancer are being made regularly. Whenever I mention my long-term survival, the responses indicating hope, encouragement for a bright future are quick to show up on the page with likes and smiling emojis.

My journey hasn’t always been positive. I’ve undergone a lot of suffering. There have been numerous hospital visits over the years. I’ve had to have a hip replacement. I’ve contributed nicely to my dentist’s coffers. Heck, I’ve even undergone a bout with sepsis that nearly took me out; however, I’m still here with a story to tell that offers encouragement to others.

Suffering is that dark cloud that sometimes has a silver lining, especially if you are moving forward. I honestly believe it isn’t to be wasted on yourself. When the Psalmist in the Twenty-third Psalm said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…,” I focus on the word through in that verse. I don’t believe I’m walking through this dark valley of suffering for no reason. The best reason I can produce is to let us know that if they’re still alive with sound mind, they have every reason to be encouraged.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

I wouldn’t be without you

From the time two sources came together in a moment of passion, you have been there. You have energized me, given me opportunities to learn, watched me, while never depriving me of my freewill. You were there waiting to usher me into my first exposure to light. You provided a platform for me to test my endowments; to begin the process of developing my humanity. In the initial stages of my development, I had no knowledge of you, what you were about, what your purpose was. I simply reveled in uninhibited joy, most of the time anyway.

As I’ve meandered about, sometimes with short periods of understanding, most of the time with unadulterated ignorance you’ve been there offering more challenges, more opportunities for me to learn and connect with all that I see. There have been forces coming at me from all sides, convinced that they have the answers I require to better prepare me to navigate through the times I’ve been granted. Each force is convinced that it has the best answers, the best tools, and at time, each is willing to vehemently attempt to win me over to its side. At times, I’ve resisted because I’ve wanted to seek my own answers, my own path. Little have I known that paths already taken by other have been better for me than any travel plans I could conjure. Fortunately, I’ve learned much during those times when I turned left when conventional wisdom said turn right. I wish I could say all bad decisions left me unscathed. Sometimes the wounds from bad decisions seem to linger for ever.

There have been times when I have come near being deprived of your presence. I can recall one time when you, in your dogged determination, decided the forces that tried to take you away had to retreat. I don’t think that bothered them terribly, since that was simply a battle lost, not a war. I’ve come to enjoy you in my own unique way, but that was the intent. You’ve been my personal companion, gifted to me to use in the best way I can. I honestly wish I had used you to the fullest of positivity; however, I wasn’t always that good at ignoring the distractions that offered greater sensory experiences at the time.

I’ve had more time with you than I deserved, and now that you’re short on supply, I have a better understanding of who and what you are. I understand your purpose. But isn’t that the refrain of many of us who have been gifted with your presence: Just when we think we’ve got you figured out, the screen goes black. Ironically, it’s a blessing to be given the time to get to that point.

Life, my greatest gift, my greatest friend, my greatest companion, thanks for what has been and what has yet to come.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.