Time, Distance, Roads……….

An hour has 60 minutes; a day has 24 of those hours and a year has 365 or 366 of those days.  A mile has 5280 feet.  Time and distance are consistent unless they are preceded by “seems like” or “feels like” in which case everything changes.

The “seems like” factor in distance is greatly affected by road conditions. It is more difficult to put a finger on what makes a period of time “seem like” yesterday or forever, it is probably best explained by example.  In July ’97 I made my last business trip for the U.S. Air Force, it was a trip to the Pacific Northwest; not a bad place to spend a couple weeks in July. It was one of the best business trips I ever had. Fifteen years later it seems like it was a very long time ago and I remember very few details.

The week after returning from that trip Sharyl and I took two little blond headed five year olds to their first major league baseball game.  We saw the Yankees and Rangers; we were all Ranger fans.  The boys later became Yankee fans Sharyl and I always wondered where we went wrong.  I remember every detail of that trip; it seems like it was yesterday. Why the difference, and it isn’t always the good times that you remember vividly as if they just happened.

Sometimes when you get 50 miles down the road it seems like you just left home, other times it seems like you have been on the road forever I think this is usually related to road conditions. Maybe you are riding the concrete four lane ribbons known as the interstate system that have cris-crossed the country since the Eisenhower administration, time passes pretty fast if you are fortunate and can avoid the construction zones and rush hour in the big towns.  Heaven forbid if the only access to your destination is a rough gravel road; a short trip can seem like it takes forever.  These are the extremes; we all travel a lot of city streets and two-lane asphalt in between the interstate and the gravel. A mile is 5280 ft regardless of the road you are traveling; it just doesn’t seem that way.  For whatever reason all those carefree miles on the interstate seem to blend together, but the short trip down the bumpy gravel road leaves a vivid memory.

The highway of life is similar in a lot of ways to those concrete, asphalt or gravel ribbons I bored you with in the previous paragraph.  I am cautiously optimistic that I have found a little strip of narrow asphalt after a long trip down the bumpy and sometimes very muddy gravel road.

To quote Charles Kuralt of the old CBS show “On The Road”; “I can see the road is bending. I wonder what’s around that bend”. Unlike the concrete ribbons that Charles referred to, there is always a bend in the road of life that prevents us from seeing what lies ahead, and yes I wonder what’s around that bend, more asphalt, a little asphalt and back to the bumpy gravel or could there be an interstate around that bend. I think I could handle an uneventful run down life’s interstate for several miles, but right now this asphalt seems pretty good and I expect some intermittent stretches of the rough gravel.  I think I may see the interstate again but it is still many miles away.

As you can tell from reading this; it has been an unusual couple weeks.  I hope you kind of understood what I tried to say.  Please keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

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Birthdays and Milestones….

I had a birthday yesterday, it was what is known as a major milestone; I started another decade.  I will talk about the birthday first and then I will talk about milestones.

To those of you who are friends on Face book a little of this will be redundant; I try to limit Face book to short statements; I can bore you with more detail here.

I had a reasonably quiet day; Lori and Steve are the only family members that were within 100 miles of Norman.  We had lunch and spent part of the afternoon together.  I will have dinner with Dava and Rick tomorrow.

Cale left his car, the black one pictured, at my house while he is in Kansas for the summer.  I have a lot of parking space, and it seemed like a safe place to leave it. If he reads this blog he may want me to let the 16-year-old kid down the street keep it.

I don’t remember details and that is probably a good thing but I turned 20 running down the road in the white one pictured.

 

After Lori and Steve left I was home alone and yes a little lonesome so I just decided it might be fun to turn 70 running down the road in Cale’s car with the top down, it was.  I really don’t remember the last time I was that relaxed with nothing on my mind.  I didn’t drive real fast; I kept it under 80 except for a few little bursts, I can’t say that for the white car 50 years ago. It was extremely difficult to keep it under 80; come to think of it I don’t think I ever tried. It felt great to be on the open road with the wind blowing what little hair I still have.  I really wanted to just keep going; if Cale doesn’t send someone after the keys I plan to do it again real soon.

I got a surprise gift from my new neighbors last night.  My backyard was dark the way country backyards are supposed to be when the sun goes down.  The previous neighbors, I checked the definition and they were not very neighborly but they were neighbors, apparently were afraid of the dark.  They had enough security lights to make my backyard resemble Yankee Stadium; that is an exaggeration but it was well lighted and I guess it was kind of an old man’s pet peeve. The new guys; a young couple with two small children moved in Friday; I took them a little care package (seemed like a neighborly thing to do) and introduced myself.  The security lights were still on Friday and Saturday, I guess they waited until my birthday to turn them off, and I just checked they are off tonight and my yard is dark.  I think these guys are going to be neighborly neighbors.

We have a birthday every year, however for various reasons some of them seem more important or significant than others, these are often referred to as milestones. All birthdays are significant to small children.  The first one I consider a milestone is 13, ah the teen years then comes 16 and a driver’s license.  The next two for various reasons are 18 and 21. Thirty not so much but beginning at forty and every new decade thereafter everyone takes some abuse about getting old.  I think a standard response is “it beats the alternative”.  Without giving it any thought that has always been my immediate response when chastised about getting old. This year is another of those milestones for me and for some reason I gave it some thought and I actually turned the statement “it beats the alternative” into a question “does it beat the alternative?”  The question was answered almost immediately; there are many reasons observing my 70th and starting another decade beats the alternative.  I am excited about it and looking forward to another ten.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

 

 

Testing Their Wings…..

Caution this one is a little long, I apologize

Shortly after Rylie’s fourth birthday she asked Lori if she could play in the front yard. It was late afternoon and they lived on a main neighborhood thoroughfare so Lori asked Cale if he would go out with her.  Rylie said  “Hello! I’m four I can take care of myself!” she had trouble with her Ls and Rs so it was really Hew’woo I’m fouw.

Rylie has probably always been the most independent or self reliant of my grandkids. She grew up following her brothers to the ballpark.  Those of you who have spent time at the ball fields know that kids learn about baseball inside the fences but they learn more about life and make lasting friendships behind the concession stand or under the bleachers; Ry didn’t spend much time inside the fences (I think she played one year) she learned about life.  Surprisingly, she still enjoys and appreciates the game on her terms and schedule of course.

She played Soccer for a couple years.  She didn’t take it as serious as Sharyl thought she should. She was pretty good when she wanted to be; usually for two or three five minute stretches during a match.  Sharyl would pay her for goals and other hustle plays to encourage her to go hard all the time; it didn’t work.  After a rare occasion when we couldn’t attend her match, Sharyl called to see how it went she said “Maw Maw I played like a woman on a mission today.” That statement probably cost Maw Maw five bucks.  If you don’t know what a “woman on a mission” looks like please see the picture.

 

When she gave up Soccer for good she told her mom she just didn’t like the cleats she was more of a flip-flop kind of girl.

As Ry got older she became more dedicated and focused.  By the time she was in high school she was mature beyond her years, very responsible and was active in the right school activities and her church, on her terms of course. She is almost 18 and will leave in a few days with her church youth group on a mission trip to Haiti.  I guess once again she will be “a woman on a mission”.  Am I worried about the trip?  Not at all what she said fourteen years ago still stands.  She can take care of herself.

Lori is concerned that with her big heart and can do attitude she may figure a way to bring a couple Haitians home with her.

One Friday when Braxton was a toddler I picked him up at daycare to go to Tecumseh with me.  I don’t remember his age but he was at the stage where he spoke in words or broken sentences.  Dava put a small sucker in his bag to help make the trip more comfortable for both of us.  I gave it to him then I got in the front.  He couldn’t get the wrapper off; I volunteered to help.   I removed the wrapper and handed him the sucker; he said, “Was sucker good?”  My response “I don’t know” Brax: “Sucker ticky” Me: “some suckers are just sticky” Brax: “others in package not ticky” Me:  it probably got wet in your bag, Brax: “clothes not wet”.  He was convinced I had licked his sucker and he was going to force me to admit it.  I said, “Do you understand condensation?” he said no, I said that is how it got wet.  He probably still thinks I licked his sucker and I still have no clue as to how it got wet.

As he has gotten older he has continued to be analytical and quiet. The sucker discussion may be the longest continuous conversation we have had.

Braxton participates in a variety of activities; his favorite sports are football snow skiing and water sports especially riding a wake board. The two things that occupy most of his time right now are Boy Scouts and music. He is also involved with his church youth group and he recently disassembled and repaired his laptop computer successfully and unassisted.

He plays guitar in a rock band; I have seen them perform several times and yes I know grandparents are always a little prejudice but they are pretty good.  Braxton doesn’t show any emotion on stage he just stands there and does what he thinks a guitar picker is supposed to do; he picks the guitar. The first time I saw him play I told him he reminded me of Luther Perkins, I don’t think he knows that is the highest compliment I could pay him.  Luther played lead guitar for my man Johnny Cash until his death in 1968; in my opinion without him, Johnny’s career would have been limited to a Thursday gig at the “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon”.  Luther showed absolutely no emotion he just stood there and picked the guitar.

 

Brax just returned from Boy Scout camp and is preparing to go with his church youth group on a mission trip to Chicago.  That should help take my mind off some of the troubling things in my life; one grandkid in Haiti and one in Chicago.

I’m driving through a Wally World parking lot; Luke is strapped firmly in his car seat.  The sound coming from the back is: Ford, Honda, Dodge, I not know, Nissan, Chevy, Jeep I not know, Pontiac and it continues with very few I not knows; I checked to see if I had any duct tape.  He has always had a keen interest in cars; he knew about V8s, V6s and 4 cylinders and why there was no V in front of the 4 before most kids knew cars had this thing called an engine.

He has always been very curious and reads a lot to gain knowledge; Conner always had an enormous thirst for knowledge and read a lot.  The difference is Conner primarily focused on sports, human rights, and social issues and the history of those subjects; Luke has been more of a subject of the week or month kind of guy.  He moved from Geography (states & capitals) to alligators to hurricanes and is still moving.  I think he passed his first grade teacher with his knowledge of hurricanes and had questions she couldn’t answer.  She brought him a book.

He tried team sports; he wasn’t the best player but he certainly wasn’t the worst; he just didn’t like to play and gave it up, I was happy with the decision, too many kids continue to play because everyone else does.  He loves to snow ski and enjoys water sports.  His MawMaw was very disappointed because she didn’t get to ski with Rylie, Braxton or Luke.

Like his brother he is a musician; he plays the keyboard, unlike his brother he has no desire to perform in public.  I think and hope that will change when he gets a little older. He also shows some signs of being able to sing.

He is making his first solo jaunt; he is spending the week with a friend in Houston.  I don’t think I’m ready for Maw Maw’s baby boy to venture out alone.

Cale and Conner were almost three; Lori was about 7 months pregnant.  They returned home from somewhere and Lori let Cale have the key to unlock the house; I think the guys took turns.  He opened the door, stepped inside and quickly locked it. He had the key, Lori tried to talk him through the unlock process but the door was more difficult to unlock than it was to lock.  He soon became bored with the door.  He turned on the TV and curled up on the sofa to watch the latest episode of Barney.  Life was good until Lori, all 5”1” and 7 months pregnant of her scaled a 6’ stockade fence and entered the house through an unlocked patio door.  He was exposed to one of life’s lessons “Things sometimes get real bad real quick”.

Cale’s early wings testing days are behind him. He has “been around the block” a couple times to use an old cliché.  He is a baseball player, a left-handed pitcher to be more specific. I know about the grandparent bias thing but he really is pretty good; he has played two years of college ball and plans to play a few more years.  To succeed on the mound takes a combination of the right physical tools and mindset; I like the term “pitcher’s mentality”.

Life on the mound is a little like life in general.  You don’t bring your “A” game every day, some days whatever you throw they manage to hit it hard, and some days they can’t get a bat on anything; most days are somewhere in between.  On those days you keep the same expression if it’s a strike out or a hard hit double in the gap and get ready for the next guy. When the game is over you shower, celebrate a little or gripe a little and get ready to do it again.

Life hit Cale pretty hard the last year or so.  He applied the “pitcher’s mentality” he didn’t change expression and just got ready to face the next obstacle.  I am confident that the strike outs or groundballs to the infield will return soon and I am just as confident that you won’t see much expression change, maybe a little smile and a little celebration at the end of the day and get ready for tomorrow.

I spent some time with him last weekend; he seems to be doing well and is enjoying his time with the Liberal Bee Jays.  I think he and I share an appreciation for the west Kansas people and lifestyle.

Sharyl was a die-hard baseball fan, and I think God may have taken Conner from us so she can sit and visit with someone she loves during Cale’s games.

I can picture the two of them, Sharyl knows the center fielder is from Lawton, Oklahoma and that one of his high school coaches is the son of a rodeo clown that I worked with many years ago.  Conner knows the kid has good speed is a switch hitter and probably knows his batting averages from both sides of the plate.

Cale is having a good day, it is the bottom of the 9th the Bee Jays are one run ahead two outs the count is 2 balls 2 strikes.  The batter drives Cale’s fastball over the fleet footed centerfielders head for a standup double; Conner looks at his MawMaw and says, “He should have thrown a changeup.  The count goes to 2-2 on the next guy the batter is way out in front on the next pitch, he strikes out, Bee Jays win; Conner and Sharyl look at each other smile and say almost in unison “got him with a changeup”.

I love you guys and miss you every day.

My prayer tonight is for Cale, Luke, Braxton and Rylie to have the opportunity to enjoy senior citizen discounts for many years; please join me in that prayer.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

 

Home Away From Home………

I’m sitting in a hotel room on Wichita’s south side for the first time in many years; it has changed a little the desk clerk wasn’t behind bulletproof glass when I checked in otherwise no significant change.  I have spent many hours killing time in Kansas.  Most of the people I know think the only reason Kansas exists is to provide a route to the mountains of Colorado.  I like it here and have always considered it my home away from home and although not a world traveler, I have been to 41 of the 50 states and a few foreign countries.

This time my stay will be short, in fact I may finish this at home.  I’m here to watch the Liberal Bee Jays play a couple baseball games.  Cale is a member of the Bee Jays team and seems to be enjoying his time n Kansas.  I came here to watch them because it is a long way to Liberal.

My fist trip to Kansas was in the summer of ’59 either just before or just after my 17th birthday.  It was my first attempt at conquering the world; I didn’t make the trip alone; my brother and two friends were with me.  One of the group had some connections in Scott City; there was supposedly a lot of work and the pay was good.  I stayed a few days and made the trip home alone while I still had gas money; I think it is about 425 miles.  The only work I did was haul hay; I could do that at home and mom would fix my dinner and do my laundry.  I slept in my car; a ’51 Oldsmobile in a gas station parking lot in Woodward Oklahoma; wouldn’t do that today.

My brother had settled (probably not a good word for a 20 year old) anyway he was still in Scott City so when I got out of high school I returned to Kansas.  It went a little better this time; I found work, not get rich or career stuff but it wasn’t hauling hay.  I had a very fun summer and grew up some. I worked my butt off but I met some good people and had a lot of fun; it wasn’t all good clean fun one of the things I learned was to drink alcohol.  Some years later and through much trial and error I learned to do that responsibly. I came back home that fall to do some other things; I don’t remember what but I’m sure I had something big in mind.

Other than making a very quick trip in ’64 to pay my respects to a good friend who lost his life in an auto accident I didn’t return to Kansas until my rodeo endeavor brought me this way often from 1975 to 1981.  I became very familiar with Kansas in ’77 I spent 17 weekends in various towns scattered from Dodge City to Hill City to Paola. I learned to like the people and appreciate the lifestyle; they work hard, play hard and enjoy life.  I looked at a lot of Kansas’s two-lane road and was almost on a first name basis with the toll both people at the Wellington turnpike gate.

I still remember coming through Wichita one night about midnight Sharyl and the girls were with me; we were on the almost deserted turnpike and had an excellent view; if I would have had a video camera I could have got some wall cloud, lightning and tornado footage that would have made Gary England and Mike Morgan (Oklahoma City weathermen) do back flips.  We made it OK, and did it again the next weekend minus the storms.

Beginning in the late 80s my day job brought me to Wichita frequently for about ten years, someone else was paying the bills so I stayed where they didn’t have bulletproof glass, but I can truthfully say “Wichita ain’t a bad place to kill some time” especially if you are like me, laid back and aren’t looking for bright lights and touristy things.

I plan to go to Liberal this summer and while I’m that far west go ahead and make the 100 mile drive up north to Scott City; not so much to see how things have changed but to see how they have stayed the same, that is kind of the west Kansas way.  It feels good to be back in my home away from home.

Keep me in your prayers.

Dave

Figuring Out Normal……..

Some of you read what I write because you genuinely care about how I am doing, some of you read it just to see what the goofy old man has on his mind today.  If you are in the first group I thank you, if you are in the second group I understand; I sometimes go back and read them to see what the goofy old man had on his mind last week.  Some of you may just have an Internet habit and read it because it is there; I know about Internet habits and I am sure there are other reasons.

I am going to talk to the first group tonight.  I’m not sure you will understand how I’m doing because to be honest I’m not sure I know. I have been attempting to run my thoughts through a keyboard for the past 3 ½ years or so.  The two things that have been most difficult for me to write about are things I am still trying to understand and to answer the question; how are YOU doing?  I hope we both understand what I have to say.

We have all heard and most of us have used the phrase or term “get back to normal”, that is very appropriate when we have experienced a temporary change in our lifestyle.  Maybe as we recover from an illness or the grandkids have gone home after spending a few days just to name a couple.  We hoped Sharyl’s illness was one of those temporary things and we could “get back to normal”

A few times during my adult life I have experienced significant and permanent change; “getting back to normal” was not an option, I had to establish a “new normal”. When Sharyl and I got married we had fun figuring out what was “normal”; we replaced that normal with a new one when the family grew; we continually adjusted or tweaked normal but sudden or drastic changes weren’t necessary. I guess the next normal we had to establish was when the nest was empty.  I’m sure it wasn’t all fun but the memories are good, and as I remember things usually fell in place rather quickly.

I am trying once again to figure out what is normal; unlike the previous times so far things aren’t just falling in place and fun isn’t one of the words used to describe the process.

I don’t know if my emotions will continue to improve or if I need to accept what I have experienced the past four months as normal.  The improvement has been extremely slow and yes most days at some point during the day I shed a few tears. Through all those other normals I was one of those guys that very rarely shed a tear, I’ve learned it is OK to do so but I would prefer somewhere between the way it was and the way it is as my new normal.

It is now normal for me to spend a lot of time alone.  In a recent conversation with a friend I realized I had never lived alone until January 23rd of this year.  I either lived with my parents or had a roommate prior to our marriage.  The nights are the most difficult and it is very lonely, I probably need to get used to that one because it is obviously part of the new normal.   Sharyl always accused me of not really liking people and made me promise not to become a hermit. I wasn’t as much of a people person as she was, but becoming a hermit isn’t in my future.

Some couples enjoy doing different things in their free time; maybe he plays golf and she prefers gardening or shopping.  Sharyl and I enjoyed the same things; therefore we normally spent most of our free time together. Ballgames and lake time were two of the things we enjoyed.

We watched a lot of ballgames together each of us enjoying them in our own way.  By the end of the third inning or the first quarter she knew all the kids names and as the season progressed she knew their parents, grandparents and little sisters.  I watched the game and ate my peanuts or popcorn.

I recently did an entire blog about the lake place.  I won’t revisit that, but just mention it is another of the things we enjoyed doing together, and yes with her competitive nature she always knew who caught the most fish.  I didn’t care; I just hoped we caught some fish.

I know doing those things without her will continue to be difficult.  I have been to a few games and spent some time at the lake and obviously it isn’t the same. I initially thought about not doing those things anymore, just finding some replacement hobbies.  That would be a little silly; if I had wanted to play golf or poker I would have taken it up years ago. I will try to adjust to not knowing the second baseman’s name or if he has a little sister, and accept the fact that the new normal will probably never be as fun as the old one.

I got a lot of experience taking care of our home during her illness of course I tried to do it her way hoping she would relieve me of my duties when we got back to normal. I have made a few subtle changes in appearance and in the way I do things. With the exception of the loneliness I talked about earlier I think the new normal in the home may be taking shape.  I started to say in MY home; I still can’t do that it is still our home.

One thing that will always be a part of my normal is: I love you babe and I miss you every day.

I probably didn’t say it very well, but to summarize. I hope I am still a long way from my new normal.  Some days are better than others I don’t really think the good ones are getting any better but I don’t believe the bad ones are as bad as they were.

If I see you and you ask how I’m doing, I will try to do you a favor and just say; I’m doing OK or I’m getting there or something like that.

Keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave