Why Are You Waiting?”

If you were going to die soon and had only one telephone call you could make, whom would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?

Stephen Levine

Miracles would happen if we took the time to reflect on Stephen Levine's challenging questions. Who would you call? What would you say? And why are you waiting?

I think that I would call my two kids, hoping I could get them on the same line. I'd tell them how much they have meant to me, how I love them. I'd thank them for all the drama and comedy and challenge they brought into my life. I'd tell them how beautiful they both are and how grateful I am to God for allowing them into my life. At least, that's what I think I would do with that last phone call. I sure wouldn't talk about the weather or the 49ers.

The tougher question for me and I imagine, for most of us, is “And why are you waiting?” Why indeed? Is it because, at some level we are afraid to be completely open with our feelings? To pour out our love for a spouse or for a parent while he or she is still living and healthy is a risk isn't it? Maybe the person does not feel the same way about us or will take lightly what we say, even reject us.

So, we put off saying what is in our heart. If our loved one does have a terminal illness, we like to think that we will have the time and opportunity, Hollywood style, to kneel by his side, gaze lovingly into his eyes and tell him how we feel. He will smile back at us with love and go peacefully into the great beyond. Hogwash! It doesn't happen that way. Most of the time, the opportunity to say goodbye the way we would like, never presents itself. The things we wanted to say go unexpressed and unheard.

We try to make up for what we could have said during life by our words at the memorial service. We have all been there. A lineup of family members makes the deceased sound like the Blessed Virgin Mary. “She was a great mom and a marvelous wife. She touched our lives with her presence and her sense of humor. She loved her children more than anyone I have known,and so forth and so forth. In an honest moment you feel like asking someone, Am I at the right funeral? Are they talking about my friend, Edith? But you stuff the impulse.

I don't know if we need to beat ourselves up over our inability to express all that we feel towards our loved ones. We are human, after all. We get embarrassed and there are times when letting our feelings gush out is not all that smart. Besides, our actions speak louder than any words. We pretty much get that we are loved by the way people act towards us.

This being said, it helps to back up our behavior with words. I suggest that to let people know that they are loved and appreciated is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give them. Life is difficult and it can be lonely. To give someone a hug and an”I love you” can put a spring in his step and a smile on his face. So, “Why are you waiting?”

Is Anything All Right ?

Is Anything All Right?

When I think of the late Fred Salsman, a fixture at the Senior Center for many years, an expression he often used when he greeted me comes to mind. Fred would look at me mischievously, cock his head to one side, and say, “Well, is anything all right?” The rest of the world says Is everything all right but not Fred. He wanted to know if anything was okay.

Fred's greeting sure puts a different spin on life doesn't it ? If we have lived long enough to have a gray hair or two, we know how rare it is to have even one day when everything is copasetic. Just doesn't happen does it? On the other hand, even on a day from hell, something will be all right. Good grief, if we are still alive to complain about what went wrong, that's one major thing that went right. Old Fred never asked if everything was coming up roses. He just wanted to know if even one little rose was blooming.

Lord knows, as each decade passes, we all experience our share of problems. Aging. as we've heard ad nauseum, is not for sissies. Along our path through life, we lose parents, siblings, friends, sometimes even our own children. Our physical powers are not what they once were. Maybe we find ourselves single again late in life, or strapped for money or frustrated that we just don's feel as good anymore. Feeling this way, it's damned hard to pretend that everything is great. We know better. Putting on a front and a smile when we are down doesn't fool anybody very long, least of all, ourselves.

Recalling Fred Salsman's quirky greeting, helps me to put things in perspective. It's perspective that lets us smile at our foibles, joke about our wrinkles and take those gray hairs in stride. It's perspective that helps us to see ourselves and the world around us, neither through rose-colored glasses nor through the dark glasses of unrelieved misery.

Despite our losses, despite that arthritic knee, life is still a hoot, still has its moments of wonder and beauty and laughter. Sweet little girls still sell their girl scout cookies; five year old witches and ghosts appear at our door on Halloween; young men and women give their lives for their country; Dads give horsey back rides to their kids; grammas kiss the boo boo on their grandson's knee, somewhere a couple falls in love and somewhere a new baby cries.

Is anything all right? You betcha it is, Fred. Thanks for asking.

Kings and Queens and Common Folk

Kings and Queens and Common Folks

I ran across an old Italian proverb the other day that tickled me. “Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.” Think about that one for a minute.

We humans like to pretend we're better than others of our species. We think we're better because we make more money or wear more fashionable clothes, or have a better education. Maybe, we think we are better because we shop at Nordstrom's instead of Target. (Target shoppers think themselves superior to the Dollar Store patrons.)

Working people look down on welfare folks. The guy who pays cash for his groceries figures that he is better than the person who has to use food stamps.

Teetotalers think they are better than drinkers; social drinkers lord it over alcoholics; the wine connoisseur, sipping his chardonnay, feels several cuts above the beer drinker down at Marty's.

Japanese look down their noses at Koreans; the Brits are uppity with the Irish; Danes feel superior to Swedes; Episcopalians think themselves more enlightened than Baptists.

Young people are prone to think themselves smarter than old folks; slim people look down at fatsos; non smokers like to think they're better than smokers; supervisors have no doubt that they are a cut above the folks they supervise.

On and on it goes. We say that all men and women are created equal but, in practice, we keep treating one another as unequal. We separate ourselves into rich and poor, educated or not, normal and abnormal. In a thousand different ways, we insist on denying our equality as human beings.

From time to time, we need to remind ourselves that we all have to put on our pants one leg at a time and that “Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.”