Monday, June 30, 2014

We're In This Life Together

I try to walk our dog, Shadow, every day around the neighborhood. Granted, the weather dictates just how far and how long, but we usually pass by the same houses. I know most of the people on our route by name, and Shadow knows most of the dogs by smell.

Quite a number of these folks are elderly, so I always make it a point to greet them with a smile and a friendly hello. When invited, occasionally I'll sit down and chit chat for ten minutes or so. One couple in particular seems to look forward to my little visits. Mike and Doris are both in their eighties, both fraile, but although the husband is not very talkative, both are of sound mind and actually very witty.

Last summer I spied a 'for sale' sign in the back window of Mike's newly-purchased automobile. I was confused since I knew he'd purchased it only a few weeks prior. On the way back from our walk, I saw Mike outside, approached him and asked why he was selling it. He told me he could no longer drive because of his eyesight and didn't know what he was going to do in regards to shopping, doctor's appointment, etc.
I asked him for a piece of paper and a pen, jotted down both mine and my husband's name, and included our telephone number. I encouraged Mike to call us anytime, and if we were available, we'd be happy to drive him and Doris wherever they had to go. We're both retired and can afford to help out neighbors in need.

Several days later when visiting, I asked Doris if Mike had given her our information. She readily said that he had, but they just couldn't take advantage of us. They didn't want to burden others with their problems. Again I assured her they wouldn't be an inconvenience and to please let us be of assistance. She said if they really were stuck, Mike would give us a call. He never did.

Yesterday I stopped to visit for a minute. Doris was sitting on their concrete wall, Mike on the steps leading to the front door. Both looked extremely uncomfortable. I asked what happened to the outdoor bench they've always sat on under the front awning to keep cool. Doris told me it was in the garage, but too heavy for them to pull out. When I offered to get it, Doris emphatically stated that she'd rather I didn't. The dear old woman was afraid if I got hurt, I'd sue them. I assured her that if it was indeed too heavy, I'd summon my hubby to help me. I asked if I could at least go in and check it out. Reluctantly she agreed. A few minutes later, I was rolling the bench out on a dolly and had it positioned in their favorite spot in no time.
Tearfully Doris thanked me and handed me a tiny box with an Italian candy inside. I remember eating those when I was a kid. As I accepted her gift, I thanked her profusely for giving me the opportunity to be of service. Of course she said they were the ones who should be thanking me.

I'm not sure that Mike and Doris understand that they were gifting me much more by accepting my service than what I had actually done for them. As we grow older, we need to realize that we can still do for others by permitting others to do for us.

The one lesson we all need to learn is that being in need at anytime and asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a chance to teach others what they can do to better themselves.

We're all in this life together, so together let's make life better for everyone!

Monday, June 23, 2014

16,790 Days!

16,790 days, give or take a few, refers to the number of 24 hour periods I've spent married to my hubby. Yesterday we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary, and we're both still in it for the long haul. To say that every single minute of every single day has been gloriously happy would be a downright lie! To say that every single minute of every single day has been a living hell would also be grossly untrue! But, to say that every single minute of every single day has been worth it, is an extreme understatement because our life together has been exactly that, WORTH IT!

We were so young in 1968 and hadn't a clue what marriage entailed. We're, let's say, much older now, and I must confess at times still don't get it. Yet we keep trying because of our commitment to each other hasn't waivered one iota. When we spoke our vows to have, to hold, and to love, we meant it. When we agreed that for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health until death, we meant it.

We became parents to our beautiful daughter, Joy, seven months after we said "I do." Thirteen months later, our son, Barry, came along. Needless to say, with my hubby working eight hours to pay the bills, and me caring full time for two babies and holding down the fort, we had little time for each other. On most days, hellos, good-byes, and good nights comprised the totality of our conversations. Since we were only engaged four months after we met, and then married seven months later, we knew squat, one about the other. Heck, I didn't know what foods he hated which turned out to be that he loved everything except pigs feet and he didn't even know my full name, Florence Frances Agnes Kolton Barnett! I didn't know he wasn't a fan of the beach, and he certainly didn't know I would be a beach bum for the rest of my life without complaint. We both were guilty of not knowing one another's favorite color! Imagine?

But over the years we slowly realized that all of who we were and what we wanted out of life would reveal itself eventually. All we needed to do was pay attention. Sometimes when we did just that, our lives were blissfully happy. However when our observations diminished or were totally nonexistent, our lives were taken over by resentment and hurt. Arguments ensued and days of silence took over our household. Not only did we suffer, but our children did as well. Even though they were quite young, they felt the tension and disconnect. Seperately we tried to attend to the needs of our daughter and son, but know that their lives were negatively changed. How could they not be!

After decades of practicing to understand one another and make compromises for the good of our family, did our marriage improve immensely. Today we know pretty much everything about each other and accept the foibles and quirks the are part of our beings the we had a difficult time tolerating way back when. We laugh at how silly we were in trying to be right instead of being happy.

Oh, I would be remiss if I didn't mention out third child, Kristy, who was born eight years after her brother. Although I was highly upset at first, over time we both realized that she was the best thing that could have happened to us.  We were older and had been there, done that already, but we were wiser, too. We not only had quality time with only one baby to care for, but we definitely made sure to be there for each other.

16,790 days seems like a long time, but actually it isn't.  We still have a lot to learn about each other, and hopefully we'll have the time to do it.  Our life together has been fruitful, we have seven amazing grandchildren to dote on.  Have there been bumps along the road? Definitely!

But on day, 16,791, give or take a few, we're still commitment and it's 100% with out a doubt, WORTH IT!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why the Need to Defame?

Why is it that no matter what a person does, what extraordinary feat a person accomplishes, what horrific experiences a person endures, is it always necessary to spotlight something negative about him or her? Perhaps in finding fault, the person who does nothing, accomplishes little, and never suffers extreme pain or loss, can boast that their actions have never warranted criticism. What they fail to realize is that they've done nothing!

A soldier returns home from Afghanistan after being abducted and held captive for five years. This young man has undoubtedly been deprived of food, water, and most importantly his freedom. Assuredly he's been subjected to physical and mental torture by the Taliban. He has little to no contact with the outside world especially his family. His health is terribly compromised.

Then one day his country comes to his rescue and negotiates his release in exchange for five known terrorists. Although some may think such a bargain too high, what exactly is the right price for a man's life?

In our local paper, the headlines revealed that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Iowa was most likely AWOL on June 30, 2009 at the time of his capture. Bummer, right? All of our elation and admiration for a twenty-three year old who went through such a terrible ordeal for five years has certainly been misplaced. The only thing such a coward deserves is our ridicule and disdain. Right?

After all, Sgt. Bergdahl admittedly criticized the military for lacking in leadership, caring little for the plight of the Afghan people, even going so far as to bully both soldiers and townsfolk for no reason. He says the U.S. Army is a joke. What kind of soldier rebukes his superiors and fellow servicemen in such a vile manner? Perhaps five years in Taliban captivity is exactly what this ingrate deserved. Right?

Wrong, and wrong! On the night in question, Bowe completed his surveillance duties and then asked if it would be a problem if he took his rifle and gear when he walked away from the outpost. Of course he was told that indeed it would be a problem.

At age twenty-three, Sgt. Bergdahl became disillusioned with the military he had once committed himself to much like becoming aware of an unfaithful wife who cared little for him and the dreams they'd once shared.
About 50% of the marriages in the U.S. end in divorce without societal rebuke.

Does the town newspaper headline the couple's split, highlighting her failure to keep the house clean, or his propensity to spend money on fast cars? Is their dirty laundry plastered across the front page so that we now view these two as unworthy of our sympathy? If jailed for their misconduct, would we rail against their release? I highly doubt it.

Certainly going AWOL was a serious mistake in judgement. But in this case, I believe Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has paid a high price for his misconduct. Five years held by terrorists, tortured and abused, deprived of his very freedom was cruel and unusual punishment for his offense. He's finally home now, and deserves our understanding and compassion, not our ridicule and disdain. Let's rally around this soldier and his family and try to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he enlisted to serve his country, to bring peace to a war-torn, God-forsaken land even though it meant putting himself in harm's way.

This person did something, accomplished much, and endured pain and loss. Right? Why the need to defame?