I originally planned on posting this on Memorial Day, a little late, but still worthy to remember.
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Henry Scott Holland
Originally posted October 2012
I wrote this article several months ago for posting on Mothers Day 2013. With the approaching holiday season I thought it fitting to post it today.
My Mom died ten years ago, unexpectedly, and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. When I marvel at the size of big screen TV’s I think of her and what she’s missing out on. When I see a new boat in a showroom I think of her and the fact that Mom never saw a boat she didn’t like or want to own and in a lot of cases she did. Mom liked gadgets from cell phones to stereo equipment and tried to keep up on advancing technology, I know she would have liked the iPhone.
Mom was a depression baby who grew to be part of the greatest generation. She worked in a factory producing clothing for GI’s, purchased war bonds, married my Dad, who became part of the invasion of Europe and found time to play baseball, a passion that led to an offer to play in the All American Women’s Baseball League. As busy as she was trying to survive in those stressful times she gave birth to me. Of course I don’t remember much about my early childhood and what it was like to live through the war years but several years ago my uncle handed me a stack of letters post dated 1944 through 1945, letters received by my aunt from my Mother and from my Dad. I had received a gift of history first hand and read what it was like to live and work in those times, but more importantly I learned how much my mother loved me and the sacrifices she made for me and about my life in those early years.
And that brings me to my point. I wish I could have told her, one last time, I loved her before she died and I wish I could have thanked her for all the things she did in bringing me into to this world and those first years of my life. I wished she would have lived to see my first book published and like the main character in my story, Jean Marchaud, followed a young man through his loss of a loved one and like me wished he could have told her he loved her before she died.
So I’ll tell you now, I love you Mom and I hope you get this message where ever you are.
What the hell am I writing about now? Immortality, not immorality; life extension, bio-genetic altering, and all those fascinating things science is experimenting with to prolong and jazz up our lives. Some folks estimate that humans could live to age 120, and that if we enhance our decaying bodies with replaceable parts, we’ll live even longer. Of course by then we’ll be part human and part robot. So how close are we? According to scientists working on this – and there are a lot of them by the way – it could all be reality in the next fifteen to twenty years. If you’re as old as I am, you’re probably thinking you’ll never be around to see it. In fact, a famous gerontologist recently told Michio Kaku in an interview that our generation might be the last to die as we know it. If that’s not lousy timing, I don’t know what is.
But future generations beware: if this does become a reality, you’re not going to retire at age sixty- seven. It’ll be more like ninety-five. That doesn’t even sound enticing. Then consider that we’re gonna need to share our homes with much extended family because if the world’s population continues to swell, we are just going to run out of space. Damn, another conundrum. After they extend our lives, they will probably want to start on cats and dogs. I sure wouldn’t want to be guilted into paying those vet bills.
So if you think this would be a really good deal when the time comes, think before you make any rash decisions. Still, it just might beat the alternatives.
The earth has been in existence for three billion years, so they say. Recently, give or take a few hundred thousand years, our species has come up with answers to all the problems our planet is facing. It’s like until we showed up to manage things, the entire world was at risk of being annihilated. So how are we doing? The human race has a self-centered smugness that infers our planet isn’t going to make it unless we assist, guide it so to speak, or act as some kind of steward.
We may think we can manage the earth but the reality is that it pretty much does what it wants, when it wants. As example: when was the last time we stopped an earthquake, changed the direction of an approaching hurricane, or made it rain for a hundred days in the Sahara desert? Don’t get me wrong –we are certainly capable of messing up the natural order of things – like dumping chemicals in a river, running raw sewage into the ocean, or inflicting wars on our species. So we can do a better job of managing that. The other stuff, I’m not so sure.
There may come a day when we’ll be able to control the weather, make arid areas fertile, and put an end to pollution. I think that time is getting close…right after every country loses interest in waging war and building nuclear weapons. Oh yeah, and after we figure out how to make some interest on our investments so we can survive the future financially. Looks like a pretty sure thing to me…
It was Jean Marchaud’s dogged persistence that got him into trouble more than any other trait. Persistence turns into obsession when his world is shattered by unspeakable tragedy, his sense of well-being shaken to the core by unexplained events and a force so invasive it has tainted every level of government, business, and religion worldwide. Now a race to stop the bloodletting begins. In bizarre quirks of fate, Marchaud’s association with an old Interpol cohort, an alluring philologist, an ex-Mossad rabbi, and a powerful Jewish family becomes the mission to unravel a triad of ancient enigmas. Together they must battle their way through Europe, outwit assassins, and defend against overwhelming foes. One will survive an actual death experience; most will make it back But can they convince nations to aid them in their quest? What happens if they run out of time? And how do they mastermind the phenomenon that can change civilization forever?
via Book Review: The Red Serpent by Larry Merris.
They call it the great American pastime. Frankly, I can’t understand the fascination with watching nine men on a hot summer day trying to hit a ball zinging towards them at ninety-eight miles per hour. Nor do I understand a season that begins in March and doesn’t end until late October, during which no less than one hundred and sixty-two games are played. Please understand I have attended some high-profile games in my life: summer of ’62, Washington Senators versus the New York Yankees at DC Stadium, Whitey Ford pitching, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris at bat. What do I remember from that game? Summer in Washington, hotter than hell, unbearably long, and couldn’t wait for the game to be over. In retrospect I saw some pretty great players, but at the time they were nothing special to me.
As a kid I tried out for Little League. My mother, having been a pretty formidable athlete in her own right, convinced the coach to try me out for pitcher. First pitch, batter hits a line drive right to my head. I’m practically out cold and crying like a baby as I limp off the field. As a teenager I tried out for Teener League. I’m catching, the batter swings and lets the bat fly – in my face of course – resulting in several stitches above my eye. Again, not a good start. The next year during tryouts a fast ball hits my right thumb and my hand swells up like a grapefruit. I’m convinced that baseball is a curse!
Now for a little more background. I was an unwitting baseball brat. My mother played semi-pro women’s baseball similar to that proclaimed in the film with Geena Davis as “A League of Their Own.” I was the team mascot, or the team pain-in-the-ass, depending on who you asked. I had to attend every game, and in the seventh-inning stretch my job was to pass the hat in lieu of admission. I sat on the bench with the players, had a very short attention span, repeatedly pissed off the coach, and needed a player assigned to keep an eye on me during each game. I could never focus enough to watch a whole game even though, like the Major League game in Washington, there was some pretty great baseball being played. In fact, my mom was hailed as one of the best pitchers in semi-pro ball in the east and was even recruited for the professional league. For me it was always another long, hot summer and I had better things on my mind.
In some ways I enjoy America’s pastime – like when the season draws to a close, fall is in the air, and the greatest sport in the world is reappearing on gridirons across the USA. But for now it’s only March, and another less-than-intriguing sports season is under way. Might as well hunker down for that inevitable long, hot summer. I do have other things to accomplish. If I can stay focused, maybe I’ll even write a book…
I have a phobia about fishing. Maybe phobia isn’t the right word, but I find fishing boring and a waste of time. Growing up, I was surrounded by fishermen and women. It was a way of life and, obviously, a sport my folks loved. It wasn’t that I didn’t try my hand at fishing; I actually baited hooks, reeled in a few keepers, cleaned, cooked, and ate them. Problem was, I never had the patience to cast my line and wait for a fish to bite. As a youngster I would often lay my rod down and walk off, much to the consternation of my Mom and Aunt, who incidentally both loved to fish.
I blame fishing for causing me to become easily bored. It actually ruined me for a lot of things like playing cards, watching baseball – well that’s another story – or watching golf on TV (sort of like watching grass grow). My wife says it wasn’t fishing that caused this but a slight case of ADD that has never officially been diagnosed. She says I can’t stay focused and am often like a train veering off the track. Funny, I never noticed. But if it’s true, it’s because of fishing.
I’m now retired, but unlike a lot of fellows my age, I do not fish and probably won’t. It isn’t that I didn’t try. I went to fly fishing school with a couple of buddies and almost bought the expensive rod and reel, the boots, and that neat vest. At the last minute I became lucid and backed out, blaming boredom. My buddies had a different take on our fishing adventure. They said it was from getting hung up in trees and bushes. Actually, any plant life could snag my cast. I told them it wasn’t my casting but the fish gods casting on me a spell of impatience. It’s as good a way as any to explain a mild case of ADD.
How many times have we heard people say “if only I could live my life over again?” Really! What would you accomplish by doing that? Oh sure, there are some people who have, no doubt, lived a horrid life and could possibly redeem themselves. But for the rest of us, give me a break. We only seem to utter that phrase when we hit a streak of bad luck or realize we’ve made a foolish choice.
Whenever I try to analyze a part of my life that could use a re-run, I always fall into the same old pattern – I can’t think of any. Instead, I remember the times growing up as a kid: getting bumps on the head after my grandmother told me not to jump on the bed or netting a trip to the hospital and four stitches to the head after volunteering to be the caboose on a swinging, human school-yard train. Do I wish these things hadn’t happened? Of course. Are they reason enough to relive that part of my life? Absolutely not! Boys learn from doing stupid things. It’s in their DNA.
Like all of us, however, I did make some life choices that I question. I enlisted in the Navy instead of going into the Army ASA but actually that turned out all right. I chose not to go to college directly after graduating from high school but matriculating later proved to be a good choice. How about girlfriends, marriage, or divorce? Now we may be getting close to some do-over possibilities, especially when we start playing the “what-if” game. When I look back on those parts of my life, I’m saddened because I cannot change what has already transpired and there are times when I wish I could.
I believe we are here for a specific purpose, we are here to learn from our successes and our mistakes and for some unusual, god given reason we don’t get to watch a replay and do the scene over and over till we get it right. That’s Hollywood, come to think of it, they’re no doubt the reason people want to live their lives over again…figures.
This is one of my soapbox issues clamoring to be addressed: I’m a writer; one of the very few people who said they should write a book, and did. Many people say they should write a book, thinking they have a fascinating story to tell. They know, deep down, it would be a run-away best seller. Seriously, it just might be, but they can’t seem to find time in their busy lives to get to it. Does that stop these folks from saying “I should write a book” every time I see them? Not wanting to slight any feelings, I succumb to a writing demon that prods me to ask what their book would be about. Predictably, the answer is that it would be about their life. Honestly, these same people I have known for years are going to sell a book about their lives? To a mass audience? I don’t think so!
I believe this nonsense starts in the fourth grade when a teacher asks, no demands, that you write your autobiography. Whoa! By my calculation you’d be about nine years old. What the hell kind of autobiography would that be? “I was born in Pottsville? My house is white?” I know it was more an academic exercise than a means of identifying budding authors, but I do remember my fourth grade teacher telling my mother that I had a vivid imagination. I don’t think my mom was impressed by that remark but I seem to remember getting in trouble over it. My point here is that a conspiracy of fourth grade teachers implanted the idea that we should all write a book – write “what we know.” Unfortunately, unless we are a political insider, teen idol, reality TV star, multi-rehabbed celebrity, or have our own talk show, this will never fly.
So next time you run into a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger who tells you they could “write a book,” take on a glazed, zombie-like look, become distracted, mumble senselessly, and I guarantee they’ll be so bewildered by your actions that you’ll be able to slip away unscathed. For sanity’s sake, don’t make the mistake of asking what their book would be about!
Good morning. I am your cat, and as you know I rarely speak. My vocabulary is poor. I cannot make myself understood by you and your human friends. Trust me, if it were otherwise I would be on the phone right now ordering Finding Nemo on Pay per View. But today God has granted me five minutes of articulate speech so that I can clear up a thing or two with you, my owner.
First let us crush some misconceptions. I do not own you. You have the ability to remove my genitals and my claws. So, let us not be ridiculous by talking about me owning you. Also, I am not all that independent. I like you. You give me food, and you do funny things like sit on the toilet. When you are gone I miss you, and when you come home I stick to you like a fuzzy, dignified rash. Sure, if you dropped dead I would happily eat your corpse, but I am not going to drag you down like a gazelle on the veldt.
Now that we have resolved that, let us get specific. You complain because I scratch up your couch. You gave me a charming scratching post, and I ignore it like it was the ghost of Lassie. You yell and squirt water at me, which makes me sad because you are missing the point. Your couch is as ugly as moose crotch. I mean really, sunflowers? I never scratch the ottoman, because it is a lovely piece of furniture. I am doing you a favor by pointing out an appalling item in our shared home, so please desist squirting me with that bottle. I think it has bacteria in it.
You often laugh at me when I play. I am happy to provide you amusement. Please consider how much amusement I provide for such a small investment. All I need is a crumpled piece of paper to entertain you. And yet, when you play it is in fact quite boring for me. I do not want to hurt your feelings, but seven hours of twitching your thumb in front of your computer or X-Box is hardly a laugh riot for me. Please consider my enjoyment when choosing your leisure activities. Play your Wii more often. When you are Wii bowling I laugh so hard I think I am going to pee.
Let me raise another sore point. Sometimes I meow a lot, and sometimes I whine. Yes, I admit that on occasion I howl at 3:00 a.m. when you have an important meeting with a real jerk in only four hours. Sometimes when you are asleep I lie on your face, lick your eyelids, and pull out your hair with my teeth. All of this behavior must puzzle you and even anger you. I want you to understand that I do these things because you gave me a stupid name. You named me Snowball, and my brother is named Macaroni. I know cats named Oatcake, Loki, Tigger, and Dammit. Come on. Would you name your son “Schmoo”? How about “Sassafras”? Stop naming us like we were roadies on a Def Leppard tour and you will have a lot more peace at home.
When I roll on catnip while gripped by a profound euphoria, I sometimes sense that you are mocking me. I suspect that you are saying, “Look at the silly cat! He’s going crazy for that catnip. That’s just so wild!” I may be wrong about your comments, and if so I apologize, but just allow me to say this. You drink martinis and smoke dope. I roll in catnip and chase laser pointers. No one has cause to throw stones here.
Sometimes I feel we have lost sight of our respective roles in the home. My role is to be cute, play, eat your food, sleep, keep you company, and throw up in your shoe. Your role is to feed me, provide a lap for me on demand, clean my litter box, give me toys, keep me company, and leave your shoes lying around. When we both know our job, everything runs smoothly. My job may seem menial or even boring. Yet I remind you that I have never had to explain a return policy to an angry customer.
I hope we now better understand one another. This was certainly cathartic for me, and I expect it was illuminating for you. Now we can achieve a more harmonious life together, one that is genteel and even generous. We may yet create a world where I walk into the kitchen to find a can of tuna by my bowl, and you walk into the bedroom to find a dead bird on your pillow.
Thanks to Bill McCurry for allowing me to post this great article. Bill is a one of the best blog writers I’ve encountered in years visit him at http://whimsoffairness.wordpress.com. or click on his name (in blue). Lots of great posts and more about cats. Thanks Bill.