March 10, 2014

My One Regret

I'm at a stage in my life where I don't have many regrets. At least, not major ones. But I do have one, and it rears its ugly head every year about now.

It's that I didn't make more time to visit my parents when our kids were young. You know how it is. Work; school, social and church obligations; all the living stuff that keeps you running. Besides, your folks have always been there. You never think about when they might not be. Now, they're passed, and it's too late.

Both Dad's and Mom's birthdays are this month. Dad's on March 1 and Mom's, the 10th. Today. She would have been 97; Dad, 90 and 9 days. (Mom was a "cougar" before "cougars" were trendy.)

They were a loving, interesting couple.

When they met, Mom was a rarity, a 29 year-old divorcee who had given up her two children to escape a seriously abusive marriage. We never talked about it much, and eventually my older (half-)sister came to live with us. But Mom carried some deep scars to her grave — and I'm pretty sure some still exist within our family.

Dad was 22 and a returned WW2 Navy veteran. When I was a swabby in the '60s and '70s, we called them "kiddy cruisers," men who either joined up the day they got out of high school or lied about their ages and joined early. I don't know if Dad lied to enlist, but I do know that he graduated from high school when I was about 3.

Mom came from a large, farm family in Missouri. Thirteen children, though one died at birth and her closest sister passed at 14 or 15. Mom was the youngest of seven girls, and every so often when she was in an introspective mood, she commented on how hard it had been at the bottom of the family food chain. I got the impression Gran'dad was aloof and not very demonstrative, at least with Mom. I suspect that was fairly typical for that day and region. But I never met Mom's dad, so I don't know.

But Mom's family never went hungry. Gran'ma, Mom said numerous times, was kept scurrying, fixing food for her family. Sometimes — during harvest, for example — Gran'ma's spent her whole day was in the kitchen at the wood-burning cookstove.

Dad, on the other hand, did go hungry. He grew up the eldest of five during the Great Depression, when times were unimaginably tough by today's standards. Dad wasn't particularly talkative, but I remember him mentioning how as a child he'd had to scrounge and scramble to come up with money to help feed his three sisters and kid brother. That was when Dad vowed his family would always have food on the table.

He was something of a contradiction to me. Although he'd gotten his growth early and was an exceptional athlete, Dad apparently lacked confidence. I think Gran'ma thought he was the black sheep of the family. When the war broke out, he was gone. And when he returned, he had to work hard to woo the tall beautiful auburn-haired waitress who wanted little to do with men or marriage.

And work hard he did. Mom and Dad fit together well. They helped each other cope. When Mom was down, Dad lifted her. Conversely, Dad never once showed me any lack of self-confidence. He was a real man. My hero.

They wed August 31, 1946, and were still together contentedly when Dad died in '91. Mom was never the same afterwards, and passed in 2002.

So my regret is that I didn't give them more of my time. My kids' time. And when I think about that, it's sad.

I pray that others — our kids, especially — don't end up with this same regret. Not because we parents miss our children when we don't see 'em for awhile. We do, certainly. But it's because I didn't really know of what I'd deprived my family. I didn't realize how I'd deprived my parents, until they were gone. It's the old "you don't miss your water 'til the well runs dry." And this particular regret blind-sided me. That's an experience I don't want for our children.

Regrets, I think, are like what they say about opinions and butts: everybody's got 'em. Some of us have many (How do you like that image?). So, because I thankfully have only the one...

I think I'll just dance!

January 13, 2014

The pigeons come home — even to rude cell users

Okay. A show of hands.

How many of you ever have wanted to just strangle someone who was talking on his/her cell phone? In a public place. In louder-than-normal voice. With no consideration of anyone around 'em?

Have you ever had to endure some jerk talking on the phone, or texting, during a movie? I have. I asked the individual as politely as I know how if she would turn it off. I was met with loud, indignant hostility. I missed part of the movie to report her to the manager; then more as she argued loudly with him. If I were a violent person, I'd have seriously considered murder.

Get those hands up now, where I can see 'em. That's good....That's what I thought. There's a lot of us. Apparently, we're not the only ones, either. Today, ABC News reported that a 71-year-old retired Tampa FL cop shot a man 'cuz he wouldn't turn off his cell phone in a movie (Think I'm lying? Check out: )

Now, before I go any further, let's get this straight: I am NOT advocating open season on boorish cell phone users! So don't anyone say I am.

But I am saying that, if this retired cop can get steamed enough at a self-centered phone user to plug him, maybe it's time phone users everywhere took a good look at ourselves.

I've addressed cell phone etiquette, or lack of, here before. My 2-cents worth haven't helped at all. People still walk against the light, phone at their ears. They still text behind the wheel. They still stand in line at the (fill it in) _______ and yammer on as if they were home at their kitchen table. I even saw one young woman texting in an ice rink. She skated right into a pillar.

And such people do these things all without a single thought that they're being extremely discourteous. Or more dangerously, they just might be chewing on the last nerve of some stressed-out person about to go nova.

Whatever the whole story may be, the Florida theater incident could have been avoided. But it wasn't. If it's true good comes even from tragedy — and this is a real stretch, I admit — at least patrons of that particular theater won't have to worry about rude cell phone users. For awhile, anyway.

I don't wanna see anybody shot. I wouldn't mind, though, if Americans are a bit less tolerant of unthinking, selfish, arrogant, aggressive and discourteous cell hone users. I certainly wouldn't mind if, sometime soon, the U.S. experienced a significant rise in cell phonectomies.

Then, no maybe about it. I will dance...!