Saturday, December 19, 2020

If ever we needed Christmas

I know what you’re thinking. As years go 2020 has been a bummer in so many ways. Each of us, in our own way, has dealt with month after month of intimidating isolation, longing for a return to normal. The fortunate among us have maintained contact with family, friends, even our church, via Zoom and emails. Though nothing can replace a grandchild’s hug, thank goodness for those ‘second best” alternatives.

Though the latest vaccine news offers reason for hope, they tell us we can expect hard months ahead. And if ever we needed a season of hope….… Christmas in its deepest meaning…..this is that time. Surely, with so many of our neighbors hurting in one way or another, we ought to be extra generous with our Christmas spirit.

Beyond that, I tell myself that this year of the abnormal calls for a bit of geriatric, virus-appropriate boldness. If you are like me you have been housebound……pacing the floor, wearing out your recliner and treadmill, and generally rattling your cage. We would like to fill our hours with productive and satisfying pursuits, but what can we do in the face of these circumstances?

It took some looking, but I finally settled on what might be an answer to my personal “boldness” challenge. I actually believed that my timid excursion into the world of bread making might be enough. After all, what damage could a kitchen-illiterate like me, armed with a bread-making machine, possibly do? Turned out I can produce an edible loaf of bread almost every time. But that modest bit of success still had me falling short on the “boldness” scale. It was time to find something more.

In an earlier post I recapped my totally selfish, off-the-wall idea of serializing my Second Chances story. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say I consider that undeniably “bold” project a success…..a challenging, yet satisfying way to fill my stay-at-home hours.

Better yet, the reader reception has been more positive than I expected. As I said before, I like the story and am proud of how it turned out. To find that some of you agree, at least enough to keep reading, was gratifying. (We’re talking dozens, not hundreds.) Since Second Chances is the first of a two book story I will continue with the serialized chapters of Long Way Home, the second half, after the holidays. (For those who might want to start at Chapter 1 of Second Chances the right sidebar of this post provides links to all the chapters, beginning in October.)

Though I can’t say it works for everyone, I am comfortable urging each of you to consider you own “bold” ways of dealing with the numbing effects of this stay-at-home existence. Why not take a chance, something beyond your own normal, perhaps something you’ve been putting off?

Finally, if you are so inclined, I hope you will consider an invitation to add a reply to the email that brought you this link…….enough to spread your personal Christmas cheer to the rest of us……..with a “Reply to all” comment.

With that…’s wishing a happy holiday season to all of you, and a Happier (much happier) New Year. Stay safe.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

My wife is married to an older man

   Turns out my wife is married to an older, much older man. It was that not-so-surprising realization that had me recalling some of the times she shared with that once-younger fellow. 

      Has it been that long since she was serenaded by the young man’s fraternity brothers on the steps of her college dorm? It was shortly after that she honeymooned with her still-young husband on the nearly deserted Baja beaches ……long before the tourists arrived there in force.

     Before long a pair of strapping sons were keeping her busy, and life had become almost predictable....... until her thirty year old husband decided that Stanford Business School was a good idea. Turned out it wasn' least for him.  

A few years, and a third child later, he had stumbled onto a better idea, one that led their young family to the high desert of the Oregon Outback, where she thrived while playing a ranching lady, wife of a wannabe cowboy.

Then, about the time she hoped he was old enough to settle down, he was once again proving that “growing up” takes longer for some folks. How else could she explain the year their family, numbering six by then, spent in England, while he pretended to be a writer?

Finally, that husband of hers reached the age when it was time to put down roots ……in the small town that would be their home, where they would raise their children. There they prospered…..until that prosperity hit a speed bump.

It was then, in late mid-life, her man was on the move again, launched on a new career path, in a new place, actually several new places……each of them requiring her to turn a different house into a home. Lucky fellow that he was, she was able to pull that off every time. 

Then came the day she must have been waiting for……..Retirement …….escape from his daily work routine, and a retreat to the same small town they had left years before. But did she have any idea how boring it would be, spending twenty-four hours a day with that now-older fellow? Once beyond their three-month European adventure how would they adapt to life in the slow lane?

Truth is, there was no rocking chair in her retirement. (Do recliners count?) Like most folks she and her tired old man tended their garden, mowed the lawn, and tried their best to keep up with the grandkids. 

Until that is, the virus made the extended family, and special family occasions, grist for the Zoom mill. (Though it’s not the same, thank God for high tech.)

And now, having recently celebrated their 60th anniversary, that nice lady and her grumpy old guy are hunkered down, looking forward to what they vaguely remember as “normal.” Seems like she has earned a healthy dose of ‘new normal.’

Still, there are other events that might be added to the old fellow’s list …….now that he has turned 84, and she remains a youthful 83. I expect he will address some of those…….after his nap.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving doesn't look the same this year

It seems like the right time to take a break from my storytelling routine to dwell for a moment on something more timely and topical.

We call it Thanksgiving…..a convenient label that too-often translates into “A gathering of the clan for fellowship, football, and turkey dinner” It has long meant all that for our family, and I’m glad for that. Memories of those warm family times are indeed special.

But if ever there was a time to move beyond that feel-good label, to dwell on the day’s true meaning…….Giving Thanks……. this is that time. Though it seems that “2020” has become synonymous with bad luck and hard times, the annual equivalent of “Friday the 13th,” I’m guessing that your year, and mine, has had its share of abundance and blessings.

For many, if not most of us, this year’s Thanksgiving celebration will be something new and different. How could it not be? Who would have imagined that our national leaders would be urging us to stay home and stay apart on the very day meant to celebrate togetherness?

Yet, together or apart, I would submit that in the face of these hard times………pandemic, politics, and economic uncertainty……..there has  never been a greater need for us to pause and give thanks for our blessings.

So, rather than dwelling on the traumatic impact of our national distress…….rather than getting bogged down in the contentious politics of assigning blame……why not take time to concentrate on the things for which we can give thanks? To be sure, your list of “reasons to be thankful” will be different than mine. But each of us is bound to have more reasons for gratitude than we sometimes acknowledge.

But, of course, our Thanksgiving, and our hopeful “looking ahead,” must be framed in realistic terms. As we celebrate the welcome promise of a Covid vaccine, we must remain vigilant during the perilous months it will take for that saving grace to reach the general population. Some things just can’t be hurried.

With that the three of us, Roma, Terry, and I, will prepare for a quiet, more intimate Thanksgiving day… in the knowing that the rest of our loving clan is doing the same. Hopefully you and yours are planning a safe and satisfying Thanksgiving holiday.

Then, come Saturday morning I will again give thanks for the opportunity to continue my storytelling serialization. Needless to say, I would be thankful to have you join me on that October Years adventure.


Monday, October 19, 2020

It's time for a break

Election Day is drawing near and things are getting really crazy. It seems like every commercial break, on every channel, has some tired incumbent or hopeful newcomer spewing the same worn claims and tawdry half-truths. I don’t know about you, but that’s when I reach for the mute button. Besides, I made up my mind weeks ago. We dropped off our ballots the morning after we received them.

Truth is, after months of mind-numbing campaign videos I was ready for a change……something more sane, lighter, even heartwarming. If you are in that same boat I may have something special for you. 

No matter what your political taste……Republican or Democrat……Conservative or Liberal……and especially if your are a member of our October/November generation……I invite to join me for a well-deserved break from the tedious trials of election season silliness.

Disclaimer…..Odds are some of you are already acquainted with today’s good news. If so, feel free to return again to those fun-filled times. You already know you will enjoy your visit as much as you did the first time.

What is the “good news” that could possibly brighten the dreary prospect of pandemic politics? First of all, what I recommend is humorous……clean, age-appropriate humor. Though our younger, middle-age readers will find hints of familiarity in the offerings suggested here, I know for sure our October and November visitors will appreciate the undeniable reality of late-life situations they have probably faced themselves.

So where will we turn for this taste of late-life reality, served up with a dose of humor? Let me first introduce you to Jeanne Robertson. As I mentioned earlier you may be familiar with Jeanne and her take of late-life. She has been around for a while, entertaining mature audiences for decades. How many years? I read that she was Miss North Carolina in 1963……that was a while ago.

Ms. Robertson seems to be a busy lady, scheduled for speaking engagements  all over the country. She has even appeared on Grand Ole Oprey, which I consider an important endorsement.

Best of all, you don’t need a lengthy introduction from me. Simply call up YouTube,com on your phone or computer, enter “Jeanne Roberson” in the 

search box at the top of the page, and choose from the dozens of intriguing videos that appear.

What sort of videos, you ask? How about these examples……every one of them served up with a generous helping of laughs.

*** Don’t bungee jump naked.

*** Don’t get Frisky in a tent.

*** Don’t ask the plastic surgeon.

*** Be careful here you sit.

*** The internment of Cousin Rudolph.

*** Don’t send a man to the grocery store.

*** Don’t ask a man to clean the carpet.

*** Don’t flash the bellman.

*** Don’t go rafting without a Baptist in the boat.

*** Don’t mess with Broom People.

*** Don’t underestimate a five-year old.

*** And many more.

Or perhaps you are dealing with October/November questions that have you stumped. Where might you turn for helpful advice and answers? How about an aging Ann Landers or Dear Abby, a warm-hearted soul who dispenses late-life advice……sprinkled with hard-learned knowing and unfailing humor?

That description certainly fits Mary Maxwell. Her compact Laughing With Mary videos have attracted tens of millions of YouTube viewers, addressing the challenges we face at this stage of life, answering submitted “senior” questions you may recognize with common-sense replies, laced with unfailing and insightful humor.

What sort of questions? How about……….

*** The kids think I’m crazy for wanting a facelift.

*** Is Dad having a mid-life crisis?

*** Secrets to a happy marriage.

*** Attending a past love’s funeral.

*** How to tell the kids I’ve fallen in love again?

*** We’re in our 70’s and need jobs again.

*** My sister won’t help take care of Mom.

*** A pray about getting old.

*** Seniors at the gym.

*** And dozens more.

I am guessing that for most of us a good laugh, a touch of reality-based humor will take some of the sting out of today’s chaos…..especially when the bearer of that good humor is someone who deals with the same late-life situations you and I experience.

If you are in need of a well-deserved laugh break here’s hoping I have tempted you to make your own YouTube excursion into the wholesome and oh-so-funny offerings of Jeanne Robertson and Mary Maxwell. 

Until next time…..take care.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Framing The Future


Where did we go wrong……this October/November generation of ours……we children of the 30’ and 40’s? As I look back on the times when we were one of the “generations in charge” it seems like I must have missed a few things along the way. Some of what was happening must have gone right over my head. Either that or I simply wasn’t paying attention.

In my more lucid moments I remember our generation as the product of post-WWII unity. And why not? In those trying war years our nation had come together, if only superficially, to fight a common enemy and defeat that era’s Anti-Christ.

This generation of ours was shaped and tempered by that wartime experience, when everyone, at every age, was expected to do their part in the “war effort.” Grade schoolers, such as we were at the time, were expected to save tin foil and metal cans, add our few coins to War Bond collections, and willingly forgo bubble gum and candy for “the duration.” Without knowing exactly what it meant we were being groomed to accept and support a “united” national effort.

At the same time, in our youthful and naive eyes, that unity was producing a powerful affirmation……a sense that “We can do anything.”

But now……seventy years later……it feels like that affirmation has faded for too many of our people. Something as simple as civil discourse is too often out of reach. At times it seems that we are inhabiting an altogether different world … that I scarcely recognize. 

In many ways that new reality is fueled by the internet, with its often unsocial social media, and twenty-four hour cable news, always hungry for eye-catching content. Those technological “improvements” have changed the way we gather the information we use to make decisions.

Perhaps you have noticed that in the process we have become a drastically divided country. I realize that to some degree it has always been that way. But when was it ever this bad……when even our divisions are divided? Right and Left we are divided. Conservation and Liberal we are divided. White and Black we are divided. ’Haves’ and ‘Have-nots’ we are divided. 

How could a nation as united as I once believed we were become so disjointed? Was the perceived unity I remember a mirage? More to the point, is there any way out of the quicksand quagmire we find ourselves in today? 

Fact is, we can offer a serious problem for most any taste. Just take a moment to consider the signs of the time……the more obvious ways our nation’s dysfunction has made itself known. 

One of the most intractable of those divisions is the widening gulf between our country’s ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-nots.’ Is there anything in sight that might reverse that trend? I am one of those who believe that until the ‘Have-nots,’ who make up the vast majority of our nation’s population, are provided a more meaningful place at the table their increasingly vocal complaints will stand in the way of a lasting reconciliation.

On the other hand, if a ‘Have vs Have-not’ debate fails to gain your attention you might consider Climate Change as major-league point of social division. 

I have never put much faith in prophecies, the ones claiming to foretell the future. But it seems that any seer worth his or her salt could have predicted that 2020 would be an apocalyptic disaster for mankind………at least the American branch of the species. Given that magic gift of foresight why couldn’t an adept fortune teller have gazed into his or her crystal ball to warn us of a Tropical Storm season on steroids, or how the dry and windy western half of our country was about to spawn such disastrous fires and destruction.

For those of us who cannot foretell the future the question is……how did we get to this distressing place? Have we failed to appreciate the fragile balance that allows our world’s eco-system to operate in a “human friendly” manner ………or have we consciously allowed the ‘gods of profit’ to drive their destructive, “unfriendly” agenda? In either case, why have we allowed this global destruction to happen?

In our little corner of the world 2020 will be remembered as the year the Oregon Cascades, and especially the Santiam River Canyon, turned to fire. Roma and I are rightfully thankful that our discomfort was limited to a darkened, orange-tinted mid-day overcast and days of low-hanging, ash-laden smoke. 

Still, it is hard to find comfort in that when a mere twenty minutes from our front door dozens of unfortunate folks, including a few we know personally, have lost literally everything except the clothes on their back and the vehicle they used to escape the approaching inferno. It is hard not to feel a tinge of guilt about our unmerited good fortune.

Or perhaps your complaint de jour is the plague of ‘social, racially-fueled unrest’ that has gripped our nation. Without pointing fingers or placing blame I fear that sad reality is destined to impact American society in ways we may scarcely comprehend. No matter how I approach our sad dilemma I keep returning to one unrelenting question. What about the world our grandchildren will inherit?

More to the point, how will the gradual demise of the country’s white majority……the demographic condition that some assume was God’s intended plan……impact that future?  It seems that trend, so threatening to so many, is unlikely to be reversed. And if it is not, will ‘social unrest’ remain a permanent feature of American life?

Yet, be it economic disparity, mankind’s impact on global climate, or social and racial unrest the epic problems we face have at least a couple elements in common. Each of them is deeply ingrained in American culture. There will be no "On/Off" switches, no quick fixes. Beyond that, at least for the immediate future, each of those obstacles will be impacted in its own way by the weighty presence of Covid-19.

With that in mind it seems to me that until our nation…..its leaders, its politicians, and its people…….is able to come together, and more importantly “work together,” the answers we seek will remain out of reach. Truth to tell, that “coming together,” which we have managed to accomplish in times past, will not happen all by itself. It will require a special sort of leadership. 

The status quo, circa 2020, cries out for that leadership……the sort that can help stop the bleeding, acknowledge our failings, and turn us toward the slow and tedious process of reconciliation.

From the beginning Obama struck me as one who could be that leader. Sadly, I fear that he was simply too black for many of our people to accept in that role.


On the other hand, as a “unifier” Trump will never get out of the gate. Actually, it is a role he has no interest in playing. “Bringing people together,” seeking a middle ground, is far down his list of priorities, a list that appears to be headed by “Winning at any cost.” Instead, he revels in Napoleonic posses, wanting us to believe the epic grandeur he sees in his own mind.

At this moment in history I happen to believe that Biden understands and believes in the “coming together” we need so badly. But I do wonder if he can muster the dynamic charisma it will take to bring today’s young voters into the fold. 

So many of those youngsters have been raised on “Not winning is the same as losing.” The notion of ‘compromise,’ instead of ‘domination' might be a hard sale with many of them……at least until they, like the rest of us……have spent more time paying the high price of everyone doing their own thing.

To summarize……Economic inequity…… climate change……social and racial unrest ……Covid-19

Together they will play key roles in framing the coming decade and beyond. In the hands of leaders we have yet to choose these important elements will help shape the outcomes we have yet to create. Here’s hoping we choose wisely.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Reality Denied

2020…..It’s been quite a year, one we won’t soon forget. Among other things, no year in the last one hundred has brought us a pandemic as dangerous as the one we are facing at this moment. Among other things this will go down in history as the year of Covid-19.

By mid-March we knew it was bad, and getting worse. Truth to tell the devil was in what we did not know.

Having lived with that reality for six months, seeing the ways it has impacted our lives, we are just now learning that in the midst of all that death and dying our President has realized from the start how serious that invisible enemy would be.

So what did he do with that terrible understanding? Well, in the beginning he assured us that any talk of real danger was a “hoax,” since this new “bug” was no more lethal than the seasonal flu. 

The way he tells it, to alert our unsuspecting population to the truth of the matter would have probably upset them, creating anxiety, perhaps even panic. Rather than trigger that awful possibility he concluded it would be better of “downplay” the threat…… label it “fake news”……and soften the blow. AND WITH THAT PEOPLE BEGAN TO DIE.

But what about the need to protect our health-care providers with the tools and equipment they would need for the coming battle? Masks, protective gear, and ventilators would be necessary tools in their arsenal. But cranking up production of those items would probably fuel the dreaded possibility of anxiety and panic? Best not to do that. So pandemic preparation was set aside for the sake of calming the population. AND EVEN MORE PEOPLE DIED.

In a matter of weeks, as the scope of the pandemic became more obvious to the general public, a new round of concerns was being voiced. Perhaps it was time to restrict social and business activities to help control the spread of what now had a name……Covid-19. 

A few state and local leaders began moving in that direction……requiring masks in public places, calling for “social distancing,” even closing “non-essential” businesses. The government’s own scientists and experts supported those efforts…….at least until they were instructed to “back off.” AND STILL PEOPLE WERE DYING.

Yet, even as isolated examples of “Lockdown” effectiveness began to surface, the President and his loyal Republican state governors resisted the economic price to be paid by closing bars and businesses ……the always disturbing loss of jobs and profits. By then our Leader was suggesting that like FDR and Churchill he was leading His People through a great test…….shielding them from a hurtful reality, by denying its reality. AND PEOPLE CONTINUED TO DIE.

And now we have learned another 2020 lesson, about our ‘Designated Protector’s’ opinion of those who have died or suffered in the defense of our country. You’ve heard the stories of how he has called them “losers” and “suckers.” 

Of course he denies ever saying that. That is his way……he always denies everything…….falling back on his familiar justifications……”It’s a hoax.” “That’s false.” “Not true at all.” 

You may believe his denials. You may be one of those who accept his word when he says “Up is down, and down is up,” or “White is Black.” (Sorry, bad example…….He would never suggest that anything White is Black. In his eyes that difference is too important to mistake.)

As for me, having seen the President’s response to John McCain’s passing, and his thoughts on what McCain stood for, I am inclined to believe those who have confirmed his unsavory quotes about our fallen heroes. Having seen how he has “downplayed” the patriotic loss of life in war, it is easier to understand his apparent lack of concern over the tens of thousands of lives lost in our present pandemic. 

Yet, even though his disinterest is understandable, it is not acceptable …….. NOT WITH HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE DYING EVERY DAY.

What would a better response look like? Who ought to lead that effort? In a matter of weeks the American people will have the opportunity to answer those important questions for themselves.


Friday, August 28, 2020

United we stand, divided.............

   “United we stand, divided we fall.” It was the group Brotherhood of Man who turned that time-worn adage into melodic lyrics. Sadly, however, it appears that ancient wisdom has been lost in the chaos of today’s politics. In so many ways our so-called “United” States of America has become a misnomer.
   It’s been a while since I’ve darkened these pages. In times past I have tried to walk a middle path.....setting aside my rose-colored glasses, while at the same time steering clear of today's sad situation, at least as it registers in my tired, old mind.
   Yet it feels like it is time to be realistic… face the facts, speak up, and add my voice to the conversation. In particular, I am here to ask why “Making America Great Again” has me scratching my head like this, wondering where our great nation took the wrong turn? And why it feels like our train has jumped the tracks.


   Well, I suppose I could start close to home. Truth is for decades Portland, the bellwether of our Oregon country, has been viewed as a peaceful and welcoming place to visit or live. After all, what is not to like? Our first city, on the banks of the Willamette, has normally been depicted as fresh, clean, and progressive……perhaps even a bit bland.
   But now…….you can scratch the “bland” part. Who could have guessed that Portland, in the heart of the green and peaceful Pacific Northwest, would have suddenly become an internationally-visible magnet for social protesters, both peaceful and violent. For ninety days their nightly side-show, with its destructive property damage and tear-gas standoffs, sometimes even including an intervention by “federal enforcement forces,” has been played out on most every TV set in the so-called “civilized” world.


   And of course the violence in our streets has not been limited to one city. Across our country the impact of racism and class warfare……. whether Black Lives Matter or the various strains of White Supremacy…… no longer hidden in the closet. It has spilled out into the open.
   Protests have become weaponized, ugly, and dangerous. Law enforcement struggles to find its place in the scheme of things. Even professional sports leagues have stepped forward to make a stand. How long can we expect to endure these hateful standoffs……the new and distressing symbols of our “Dis-United” division?


   Moving a bit further afield, while Portland and the rest of the country struggle to find their footing, our nation faces the harsh effects of another of our government’s favored “hoaxes.” While those in charge dither, ignoring the dire projections, California is on fire……boiling and burning at a record rate, and praying for the end of the terrible drought that threatens to become their new normal.
   At the same time the Gulf Coast states of Texas and Louisiana are literally afloat in water…..far more than they need or want. For perhaps the first time ever storms are arriving in pairs, magnifying the damage created by hurricane winds and raging tidal surges……precursors of increasingly unpredictable weather fueled by spreading pollution, melting polar icecaps, and rising ocean temperatures.
   Though science assures us it is real, “global climate change” has yet to be accepted or seriously addressed by those who can direct the necessary changes. And why should we expect them to take that sort of action? After all, it would surely impact the profits they have come to worship.


   And as you have probably noticed, in the midst of all that existential chaos our nation and the world are dealing with a raging and dangerous pandemic. Sadly, by any measure our country is faring worse than most. As we approach 200,000 Covid-19 deaths our hospitals have too often been overrun, and our medical professionals worn out. Now, as public schools and colleges prepare to resume their hoped-for normal schedules a spike in new virus cases seems likely.
   So why are we so far behind the curve? For far too long those responsible for responding have continued to play their ever-popular “hoax” card. 
   In every way…….planning, diagnosis, testing, treatment, and safety equipment for our caregivers ……they have abdicated their responsibility, insisting that individual states must deal with the problem, while hoping it will simply fade away.


   As we have learned in the course of the last several months an out-of-control pandemic carries a steep price. In economic terms, after a promising start, 2020 has taken a decidedly ominous turn for the worse…….at least on Main Street, USA.
While federally-funded cash infusions have fueled a stock market resurgence, small businesses and American consumers have been held hostage by mandatory lockdowns. Unemployment has soared, food bank lines grow longer by the day, and evictions and bankruptcies are likely to reach new heights.
   And, of course, the resulting fiscal push and pull has worsened the already growing disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots,” fueling new levels of social unrest.


   At the same time, given our many domestic trials, it is often easy to overlook another undeniable reality. Our nation’s standing on the world stage………among the major nations that since WWII have generally accepted our leadership role …….has been significantly diminished.
   Internationally, the American brand of democracy, once the world’s standard of excellence, has suffered. Over the last three years we have abandoned long-standing alliances and treaty obligations, and turned our back on long-time allies…….all the while showing unfamiliar favor for dictators and authoritarian regimes. If there is safety in numbers, where does that leave us?


   And finally…….adding a bit of spice to our already boiling stew…...all of the above is taking place against the backdrop of a Presidential election.
   True, this year’s electoral dance is a bit different than usual, thanks in part to the distressing presence of Covid-19 and a spat of seldom seen campaign tactics. 
   Who would have imagined that the US Postal System would be a pawn in the Administration’s voter-suppression game….an apparent effort to reduce the impact of vote-by-mail in this pandemic era? Or what about other voter suppression efforts…..the wholesale closing of voting sites, the not-so-subtle attempts to limit voting among parts of our population.
   Taken as a whole the ugliness of ‘Campaign 2020’ may be hard to swallow, yet the need for all of us to cast our votes and have our say has never been greater.


   By any measure these are interesting times.
   Take a moment to consider all of the above ingredients stirred together. We have continuing social unrest, violence in our streets, a mishandled pandemic, the impact of global climate change, a stumbling economy, booming stock market, and ever-widening wealth disparity, and our nation’s changing status on the world stage…….all of that played out in the glare of election politics.
   Would you agree that it will take the best efforts of all our people, working together, to restore the normal we like to remember?
   And how likely are we to see “All our people, working together”…… theses times of seldom-equaled division, political distrust, and befuddled leadership?
   No wonder I have a headache. I believe I’ll use a cool Budweiser to wash down my aspirin.
   As always…….I would appreciate your comments.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Beyond Normal

     Think about it for a moment. Does it feel as though the world we used to call home has been hijacked, jerked away from us, leaving us in limbo? 

        To be sure, change has always been with us. We have spent a lifetime adapting to new and altered “normals.” But never have we experienced such drastic change in so short a time. It’s simply not “normal.”

They tell us we are on our way to a “new normal.” But having spent the last few months sipping on 2020’s “on-the-way-to-a-new-normal” cocktail…..a potent blend of pandemic possibilities, economic distress, and social unrest …..I am ready to settle for a different label.

Near as I can tell there is no Goggle map to tell us where this new and disorienting path leads. Truth to tell, it feels like the road to a new normal leads right through the heart of “Abnormal,” an intimidating place where dark clouds gather, the ground is unstable, and visibility is limited…..leaving me to hope that my stumbling attempts to deal with these new challenges will finally lead to a more fruitful “normal” down the road.

And it is not just me. Every one of us has our own litany of “abnormal” complaints……changes that seem to come with the territory these days. They may seem like little things ……activities and events we never dreamed we would someday miss, but now wish were once again part of our daily “normal.”

Take for instance…….grocery shopping. These days we fill out our online order, send it off to Walmart, and a day later sit in our car while they load our order in our car trunk. It is safe and easy, and we are thankful for that. 
But who would have believed that both of us actually miss our weekly stroll through the friendly, often crowded aisles of the local Winco? Granted, I did little more than push the cart. For Roma, however, it was an opportunity to check out their offerings……to pinch and poke the veggies, read the small-print labels, comparing one to another, before selecting the one she wanted. We took our time and never once worried about some illusive virus that might be lying in wait for us. Remember those good times? We look forward to their return.

I understand that it might be unseemly to brag about our monthly Amazon bill, but in a time when we avoid extended shopping trips downtown that “Prime” account has become an important part of our personal “abnormal.”

Or how about Sunday church? As lukewarm Methodists no one has ever mistaken us for fanatics, but we have always looked forward to the fellowship of weekly services in what has been our church home for nearly fifty years……renewing that comfortable and rewarding time spent with friends. The congregation’s YouTube sermons and weekly Zoom sessions may help fill the void, but they are not the same. Chances are you know how that feels.

Speaking of “abnormal,” what about the sudden disappearance of March Madness ……just as the Oregon ladies were primed for a national title? The baseball season too has been neutered, and who knows what football will look like in this new Covid world. For us TV sports junkies the outlook is bleak. How long must we settle for the very definition of “abnormal”……. ”Professional Cornhole competition”? Surely we deserve something more.

And then there is a more hurtful form of “abnormal.” Like many of you, ours is a family-centered family. True, we are spread around the Pacific NW, but we have always stayed in touch, while looking forward to the twenty-plus of us getting together several times a year. This year long-standing family gatherings have been put on hold, including a much-anticipated summer wedding. 
For the last few months our clan has become a “telephone, email, and Zoom” family. We are thankful for the technology that makes all that possible. But it is not the same.

The lucky ones among us, and I count myself as one of those, are facing this “abnormal” slice of life in the company of a caring and compatible quarantine partner. It is not too much to say that in the course of our sixty years together we have become a well-oiled, if somewhat creaky, team. In times like this we give thanks for the backyard garden, which allows us to work off about all the nervous energy we can muster these days.

In the process it sometimes feels like we have become semi-hermits, occasionally venturing out behind our masks and relying on “social distancing” to help keep us safe..…while what seems like an increasingly unsafe world carries on all around us. 

        In the best of times old age includes its trials. These “abnormal” moments simply magnify those speed bumps. Still, in our sometimes unorthodox way we will ride out this unwelcome storm.

And please remember that those who do not have the luxury of a stay-at-home partner need and deserve our continuing attention….. regular phone calls or emails to let them know they are not alone in these crazy times. 

As always, if you are so inclined I would appreciate hearing how you and yours are dealing with your own “abnormal” world. In the meantime stay safe and take care.