Welcome, to the best day of the year. Well, at least it is here. For, you see, today is a celebration of the day my wife’s delusions began….she married me 27 years ago this evening. When I write that it seems like such a long time. But, it doesn’t feel that way inside. I cannot imagine my life, or any life for that matter, without her. She is still “the one and only”…..and, will always be.

Unfortunately, it is not that way for many. I hear their conversations, I teach their children, and I watch the sadness in their eyes. They have set their hopes and dreams on someone who doesn’t take great care of the precious gifts they were given. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to get up each day knowing your wife is no longer yours. Knowing that she wakes up in the arms of someone else while he raises your children. The pain that each morning brings must be nearly unbearable. Beyond that, I cannot imagine how difficult life must be when you know that you will not be welcomed into her bed tonight. You know that if you do get together it is only to keep from fighting. I feel so sorry for these people.

I met a man once who had been married for 75 years. When his wife, who was wheelchair bound, was in the room he was Tarzan. He still stared at her with the elated eyes of youth, yet he was a mere 98 years old. She, on the other hand, sparkled when he was in the room. She laughed, giggled, wiggled, and whispered to him….constantly. They both turned beet-red. To me, he is the man who knows how to love a woman…..not some poor schlep who can only keep one for a night, a day, a week, etc. No, here was a man who not only stayed with her for decades, but he kept her happy….happy, wow what a word. Don’t see that used to describe marriage much anymore…..save the day she receives a too-expensive ring that, just a short time later, means nothing. I guess the expense of the ring in no way equals the love of the man.

My wife, much like me, has changed dramatically in these many years. But, as a couple, we don’t see these changes as a problem, just another source of laughter…yeah, laughter. Sure, knees, hips, backs, feet, etc. don’t work quite like they once did, but did we really expect them to? We don’t look the same either, but should we? The laugh lines around her eyes, show years of teary-eyed peels that lit the room around her. And, every where I look…and I do look closely….she has become more beautiful by the day. Unfortunately, her husband has retained his beauty….or, serious lack therof. No, I am not aging as gracefully as I would have liked, but I am still here…..mostly functional, yeeha. Yes, we have changed, but then again we haven’t. We are still trying to get away, by ourselves. We are still the ones giggling in the audience, while everyone else is quiet. We are still the ones looking forward to just another minute together, stolen from a day jammed with way too much to do.

My big fear, if you could call it that, is that we may be on the downhill side of all this. Few couples live long enough to see 54 years together. This life just doesn’t seem like it will be long enough to know her completely. No matter how much I long to do so. No, but I promise that I will cherrish each and every one that I get between now and eternity, for I share it with “the one and only”.

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While growing up I must readily admit that the activities of others didn’t distract me very much from the goals that I set for myself…while modest, they were achieved. I watch my students and listen to them talk and I find their take on friendship to be disquieting.

I stated to them that a friend doesn’t ask, or expect, you to do things that are against your morals. A friend doesn’t take you places where you are put in danger just for arriving. In addition, a true friend doesn’t expect you to hold their hand during their bad behavior. For example, if you are trying to quit drinking, they don’t ask you to be the designated driver. Further, they don’t take you to places where you’ll be tempted. In addition, if they are really good friends they will quit too.

I have students whose friends take them to places where they know trouble will erupt. They get taken to places where all are aware fights will occur. A true friend doesn’t endanger you. Matter of fact, they will do what ever is necessary to get you not to go. They would hate to see you hurt. A true friend has your best interest at heart, not just their own selfish desires. And, if a friend does go “bad” they understand when you don’t call or drop by. They don’t expect you to condone their bad behavior.

I understood when I wasn’t invited to parties where drinking and drugging was going on. They also understood why I wasn’t there. I cannot understand what friendship is supposed to be these days.

The kids say “they got my back”. I say they wouldn’t need too if you hadn’t been endangered by their behavior. A true friend takes the “rap” for you, not just shaking their head as you go down. When I was in the military, having your buddy’s back meant you took the bullet. And, you did everything you could to keep you and he out of ANY danger…not charging into it when you didn’t have to. It is not a test of friendship to drag your friend to a fight that you both happen to survive.

A true friend won’t let you drive drunk, drugged, or without a proper license. A true friend keeps the drunking and drugging away from you. How sad for so many that “party” means alcohol, drugs, and fights. Don’t sound like fun to me. Why must we change our personalities just to have fun? Why must we lower our inhibitions to have fun? Inhibitions are there to keep you from…oh, yeah….GETTING HURT!!! Isn’t that what we all want…less pain, emotional and otherwise???? I have known a great many people over the past nearly half-century and none of them regret missing out on that one “drunken escapade” that eluded them. No, more often than not, they regret that one “drunken escapade”. And, of all the escapades how do we know, in advance, which one will be the one to be regretted? Then why risk it? You are the only you you get…..haven’t we lost enough young people??

Most of the kids today think that we are all so old and weird, with so few redeeming qualities. If they feel this way, why do they follow my generation down the path to divorces, abortions, smoking, alcoholism, addiction, and regret??? Can’t they learn from our mistakes? Or, did they, in fact, get stupider from our glorious leadership example?? Why is the child who saw the chain-smoking parents and didn’t smoke so often the exception??? Are we so stupid that we follow blindly in the direction that we are led without regard to the consequences??

While I will admit that many of today’s kids are wonderful, and have learned a great deal from our stupidity…too many have not. Why is it acceptable in many people’s eyes that some “have to learn the hard way”, when too often learning that way leads to heartache and pain??? Didn’t we want save them from this??? Boy we did a very poor job of it didn’t we?? The pain, regret, and disappointment of poor choices is being revisited on our future generations…could this be the payment due for our transgressions while we are here??? I hope not.

What is wrong with us? Are we, and our children, so desperate to ally ourselves with celebrities that we assign our allegiance to anyone who strikes a chord with us? Witness the current fascination with Paris Hilton. If she were in any of our “normal” families, those without great wealth, we wouldn’t be happy with her behavior. But, our fascination with the living pales miserably when compared with our fascination with some former living folk.

I remember when Elvis died. For more than 10 years, we were all witness to a parade of folk who swore they had seen the dead man. He was seen worldwide. He was seen in small towns. He was seen in laundromats. It is fascinating that his “living” quarters were never identified. He seems to have been living on a cloud…never to surface again. Nope…he really was dead…no matter what we wanted…

I am reminded that Elvis’ fan club wasn’t the only one to be caught up in rumors, fantasies, and wishes that never came true. Tupac fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1996. Today, 10 years after the fact, we still have people claiming he faked is death and will arise. Some of these fans argue with great passion, as if their passion will bring him back. Unfortunately, it won’t, the object of their affection is well outside their reach. But, they still believe. As though belief will change things. Like their Elvis fan counterparts they are often the least educated, poorest read, and most easily led blindly along. They tend to be blown with the wind from one trend to another.

How disheartening must it be to find that there are “secrets” around every corner that you cannot get in on. They always seem to be hiding things from you. There are so many little secrets for those that skip over the “big” words in the newspaper. Those “big” words aren’t important, your friends can tell you all you need to know…of course. If not they, then the TV will tell us, or the never-lying internet, or maybe our illiterate uncle or aunt. But not, God forbid, a……book….eeeeegggadd that horrible word. Why would we read a real book, or even expand our vocabulary to include those “big” words….

I cannot fathom how hard for these people must be, but I have taught some of their children. They are full of suspicion, superstition, hearsay, and blind guess work. They put faith more in the fantasy’s of their illiterate friends than in the books that are so mysterious. For those of us who are tasked with the enlightenment of the next generation, it is very difficult to fight our way through all of this. when your friends are the ultimate authority…it doesn’t leave much room for teachers and such.

While I do not believe that the behavior of the parents is a direct cause of a child’s behavior…it can help to lead them along a certain path. I just wonder how many books their parents read. I wonder if they realize that most people, like the coroners involved in the cases mentioned above, are, almost without exception, people of honor who take their oaths of office as a sacred trust. And, as scientists, the pursuit of the truth is a cause that transcends all other concerns, and that would include and bribes that might have been bandied about. But, of course, that would mean trusting people you don’t know, who may not be part of your immediate society, and/or family. Thus, they cannot be trusted.

If the trust of these types of people cannot be given, then who can be trusted to tell the truth??? Magazines that are in the business of titillating the public??? Websites that make their living by keeping rumors going?? By listening to those who know as little or even less than the children I teach. I agonize daily of the ignorance of those around me. How hard must it be to go through life feeling that everyone knows “it” but you??? “They” are keeping it from you. “They” are the reason you can’t accomplish. “They” are the ones that don’t try to understand you. It is “their” fault that you are an outsider!!!

Could it be that maybe our lack of understanding is our own fault??? And, maybe that of those that care about us?? A good teacher can teach a student to read using a phone book….but, only a student that sees worth in the knowledge, and is willing to work hard to acquire it. Where does that work ethic come from?? When does it arrive?? Can it be instilled at will?? Who is in charge of doing so??

And…for those that don’t understand…we, who care about your understanding, will do our best to give you all the effort we can muster. But, you will have to try to. You may have to do things that aren’t fun. You may have to work hard. And, at least from here, the assault on ignorance will continue…and we’ll work on those “big” words.

As a teacher I am constantly asked how I think the children today are? I am bombarded with condolences for my job, due to the perceived difficulties that must be happening with the children. I am often made aware that the children I teach must be the worst ever, according to the adults I run into. Well…..

As I stood today listening to the tale of one of the youngsters it occurred to me that the adults in this child’s life must not understand at all. While many of our parents today are doing a wonderful job and their children are well-adjusted and responsible, far too many are not. I often am the recipient of the poor behavior that began because “my mom and I had a fight this morning….sorry” when that behavior is bad enough for me to have to get administration involved. I cannot imagine sending my child off into the day knowing that the last thing I said to her would stir her anger all day. Sure, we’ve had our days, nights, and weekends, where we didn’t agree or get along too well. But, she always knew that she was still my “one and only”.

The lack of respect displayed between the children and their parents is amazing. They call their children horrible names and then can’t understand why the child stays mad. They expect the child to overlook what they said, or did, out of anger yet they keep telling the child not “to speak to me in that tone.” Shouldn’t we as adults model the behavior we want to see in the child? Shouldn’t we be the ones to calm down first, after all we have seen many moments of frustration and know that they will pass?

I cannot imagine responding to my child as other parents do. I saw a woman screaming at the top of her lungs at a child in a store. She was demanding that he stop whining and put down the toy he had asked for. I was standing immobilized by the display. As the tantrum of the child, and that of its mother, grew in intensity, I was sure I knew where he learned the behavior. Do we ever stop to think about the way our children see us?

I remember thinking that some of the questions children are asked make little sense, yet we expect them explain themselves fully. I actually heard a father ask his son if he wanted him (the father) to hit him (the son). I thought “why would he want that?” What a stupid question!!! And this father will be amazed when the child hits his little brother…wondering where in the world he learned that.

Do we understand how bad the words that we say hurt the people we love? I have been in the presence of so many crying children, I know that few of the parents I see realize it. Most of them say what ever comes to mind….or at least to mouth. They never even guess that their child may be suicidal. They never understand why the child sneaks out at night. Yeah, like why would the child want to be away from such a monster? Then, often, the monster attempts to explain that “I was just mad…sorry.” Sure, I guess the child merely erases that from its memory.

This is not written to impune all parents. I just feel so sorry for both parties. There is only one greater relationship on Earth than parent to child….that being the one between the parents….and yet people tear both relationships apart over and over. What do they get for all of their trouble? Better wives, husbands, and children….it seems they only get greater anger and frustration from all corners. Do we really want our children to approach us in fear? I have seen large teenage boys tremble at the approach of their mother….terrified of her force of personality and authority. I have actually heard fathers state that they wanted their sons to “respect” them…..that isn’t respect…..thats fear. They are not the same. We wonder why our children have become so violent. Yet they aren’t the ones shooting at others who cut them off on the highway. What do we desire of them? What could possibly be more important than securing the love of our children? Oh yeah, we have to be right!! Is being right worth the tension in our families? Is being right and forcing a child to do our bidding, worth the wrath that child simmers until the explosion occurs?

At some point both parties must remember that it is the family that does the burying. It is the family that is to supply the scaffolding that is the main support for the child’s future. Without that support we all run a great risk of collapse. I have actually seen a parent viscously scolding a child, becoming a screaming spectacle, over insignificant things (like candy at the store, uncleaned rooms, unmade beds, etc). What will these parents do if the child wrecks the car later in life? I’m sure the child wonders the same thing.

Too often in parent teacher meetings we, teachers, exchange quick knowing glances as the parent explains why things have gone wrong. Too often the behaviors that we see in the kids are there, older, grayer, and usually angrier.

After all of these years teaching, I’m not sure that children have changed all that much, but I am sure parenting seems to have changed. The levels of frustrations in families of all socioeconomic levels seems to be rising. How many tears must we all shed? How many angry words can pass between us? How much pain can the hearts of all stand? Must we find out??? Must we be sure to be the major heartache in our child’s life? While it is never a one-sided affair, it cannot be overlooked that it is the parent who holds the position of authority and thus, the position of the greatest responsibility.

So, here I was riding off to work…upset about leaving, still knowing that the mission must be undertaken. I arrive without much fanfare. No real problems on the way. Then,….the stiffness began.

It started slowly at first, a tug on the ole hamstring. Then, a tightening of the thighs. Slowly, the back began to spasm a bit. Ah yes, the ole bad neck had to ensure I never forget old injuries….the glories of aging.

Why, you may ask, did this occur. There are two reasons. The first, my own actions. Since returning to motorcycling after more than a decade away, I decided to do some research (I am a science major after all) and learn more about the activity. Well, I am reading a book by a man named Hough (More Practical Motorcycling), that explains some low-speed skills I had never attempted before. I had already been trying a lot of low-speed maneuvers to sharpen my skills, but these were a bit different. (You see, I know that like in aviation, some one who can control the bike at very low speeds has a much easier time of it at high speeds.) These particular skills required me to stand on the pegs altering the pressure left or right to achieve certain motorcycle behaviors. I haven’t tried that for……I can’t remember…the pain in my sore legs is too great. It is far more athletic than I anticipated. I am weak. I am nervous. I am feeling very old. Well, I did the maneuvers without too much difficulty, but I have suffered all day. My New Year’s resolution to exercise a bit more will have to wait until I recover from…er….exercising?????? How does that work? I do not understand…heck I can hardly stand at all….eeegggaaaadddd…..I am such a weakling.

The second reason for my distress lies with my lovely wife. You should be aware of the fact that a few years ago she had surgery to remove some questionable growths on her thyroid. She came through the surgery wonderfully. I was very relieved. But…….it left her with a very odd side effect. She now often sounds like a muppet when she sleeps. Normally, I don’t care my snoring drowns her out. Or, my tinnitus keeps me from hearing anything anyway (at least on my bad days). But, last night she added a new sound….honking goose. OMG….she was not rhythmic. It kinda came and went. I couldn’t stay asleep….my ringing, her honking, the dog, the cars in the road,…but, mostly the honking. I realize this is not her fault…but, it isn’t mine either….what was the name of that doctor again?????

So my sleeplessness added to my recovery time. Age added to my recovery time. My usual athletic prowess added to my recovery time. Then, I began to try to make my self sleep….ever try that? You keep flinging yourself down on the pillow. Slam your eyes shut. Block out what you can. Force sleep to come. Then, you begin to quiz yourself to determine if you are asleep……which of course you aren’t…or you wouldn’t be asking stupid questions like: AM I ASLEEP YET……WELL, NO STUPID YOU ARE NOT!!!!

So, for now I shall drag my tired, sore, pathetic old ben-gay smelling self off to bed…put a pillow over my wife’s head, stuff plugs in my ears, dart the dog, seal the window, and GET SOME SLEEP AROUND HERE.

I don’t want to go…….

January 2, 2007

Well, the holidays have come and gone. Its back to work….oh, joy…..oh, joy. There is a reason they call it work….if it were fun we’d call it something else. While I will, gladly, admit that my teaching¬† job pales miserably in frustration, physical pain, and stress when compared to my old Military position, it can still find ways to get under my skin. But, that is beside the point today.

It is amazing to me that so many people are so happy to get back to work. Whether its after a long vacation, holiday break, or even a weekend, these people come hipity(?) hop gleefully to work….what is wrong with them???? I remember well when I was on active duty in North Dakota that we’d occasionally get snowbound and have to spend 2-3 days at home without electricity and/or any way to leave. My contemporaries would get back to work and they’d be all frustrated… They had spent 3 days stuck in the house with “that woman”, and they were fit to be tied. I was upset too. I had to leave “that woman” and return to the office with those clowns. I can’t imagine a situation where work is the place I go for happiness while home was full of frustration. If I didn’t want to get snowbound with “that woman” I wouldn’t have married her. Now, as we approach our 27th wedding anniversary I still find the same to be true.

I believe it was New Year’s day I had awakened from our nap and was watching my wife sleep…she is so peaceful, especially when she sleeps, it is mesmerizing. I lose track of time when I watch her. While watching her it occurred to me that I had been watching her for nearly 27 years, it seems like such a short time. I cannot believe it is slipping away so quickly. I cannot imagine life without her.

All that said, I feel sorry for others who don’t feel that way about their spouse. It seems that my wife and I are in the minority…most relationships explode rather quickly for one reason or other. I have watched my friends and their trials and tribulations, I have watched the celebrities on the news, I have watched those with more money, I have watched those who look so much better than we do, and I find myself shaking my head at their folly. How much pain must they feel? Yet, they jump from relationship to relationship not changing the way they act. I’ve heard that the true definition of stupid is doing the same thing the same way over and over expecting different results.

It occurs to me that part of the reason that my wife and I have survived, as a couple, when others didn’t is the fact that, I truly appreciate what she brings to my life. She is not my property, but my partner in a world working hard to tear us apart. She is my best friend. I do understand that if most guys married their best friend it would sadly be Tom, Mark, John, etc. What does that say about the importance we place on those who have our children?

Well, I for one, have reached the end, once again, to a wonderfully quiet holiday season and must leave my wife to go to work tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, etc. and “they” will expect me to be happy…..aaaaarrrgggh. She will be asleep when I leave. I’ll step into the cold grey dawn as she snuggles…..aaaaaarrrrggggghhhh. Tomorrow the commuters around me will race and jockey for position flinging themselves toward work at a break-neck speed. I’ll let them pass….. I’ll ease my way to work, savoring the last few wisps of my wife’s presence, as the grumpiness of our separation envelopes me as I amble away, but only for a while, from here.