RE: Three Conversations: China, Old Age, and Disabled….

Aloha All,

I ate breakfast with a Chinese Couple, and we ended up talking for about three hours. I mentioned to them, that on a News report about the Forbes Richest People List, I heard one of the talking heads say: “….China has a new millionaire every 22 minutes.” They both laughed.

“We are BORN millionaires !”

I asked them what they meant. They told me that because of the Chinese “One Child” Policy- all your eggs are in one basket so to speak. They said that when you get married, you are the only child, marrying an only child- so you have all the assets of the four in laws, plus the grandparents, plus your assets. When you have a child, it now has the assets of the Eight great grand parents, four grandparents, the two parents, and when it has a child- it now has the assets of a whole bunch of grown working adults behind it. In just five generations, you have almost 30 incomes supporting just you!!!

They explained to me, that when they got married, they received more than 100 apartments in High Rise Buildings in Shanghai, as wedding gifts! They rent them out to people who actually work for a living. So they have equity, and a cash flow, and that is just from friends and family members. They also have stocks, and bonds, and cars, and what have you.

She said that men and women of her generation, are much like members of the Royal Family. Educated beyond belief (her and her husband had to start learning to play musical instruments at age two! They are fluent in Chinese, Russian, English, and French. They had to Master Calculus by age ten (We don’t even teach it until HS!) and they are expected to get at least a Masters Degree. So, they are spoiled in one way, beyond belief- in another, they are driven to excellence- and forced to succeed.

She said if you go by some of those big buildings, they only have 10% occupancies, because there aren’t enough workers to afford to pay rent, and most of the Units are owned by the latest child. Wow. This couple was doing four two week cruises, each in a different part of the world- so they could get a taste of each continent. No money worries, and they are enjoying it immensely.

When they took the ukelele classes, they practiced every day for four hours- force of habit. They guy who teaches it, says they are already at the level, where they are pushing him! In just two weeks. They told me that they cannot fail to learn- it would be socially unacceptable where they are from. Can you imagine the pressure to have Master an instrument in just two weeks, while on vacation? Because of peer pressure? Sheesh….
Okay, then I talked to a couple in their nineties (he is 95 , she is 91) He was at Pearl Harbor, and is in the ship documentary about it, they made him give a talk- and he put on his old Navy Hat, and talked for about an hour and half. Anyways, I was eating lunch with them, and when he left to go get something …she said this to me:

“You know Kevin, I have been married to that man for more than 70 years, and I wish he would let us die. ”

I said: “What?” ( I can be quite clever at times.)

“Kevin, I am tired. I want to rest. He needs me, that is the only reason I am still alive. He just is one of those folks, who never wants to die. I was ready years ago. If it wasn’t for him, I know I could just go peacefully in my sleep.”

He came back with his tea, and we chatted about other things. I didn’t bring up what her and I talked about. I guess at a certain time of your life, it does get (pardon the pun) old. She is living because she is needed. Lots to think about there. Because one of my Aunts, said something very similar to Kathy one time. So, one lady at 91 is ready to go, and yet another guy at 95, isn’t.

I am learning so much about aging – and the varying attitudes that go along with aging – some days, you have fire and vim and vigor, other days, well, why get out of bed? LOL Some days you can leap out, and other days, you just can’t get out of bed, not because you don’t want to, but because of a cramp, a bad back, or you just don’t have the energy. LOL

And lastly, a guy in a wheelchair came over and thanked me for making eye contact when I said : “Good Morning.” He told me that most people don’t even look at him, or his three buddies ( I think I told you about them in an earlier email, the four double amputees, who are traveling in a group). Well, that led to another conversation. And this is a part of that one:

“You know Kevin, when you become disabled, the able bodied partner gets a new role- caretaker. And man, that screws everything up, because they have to switch back and forth, between the professionalism of a nurse: cold, clinical, and routine; and the quiet soul support of a loving partner. If you aren’t careful, you stop being a couple, and become Nurse and Patient. No joy, no laughter, no quiet moments. One is demanding and has needs, the other has to meet those needs, and hide their own.

Luckily, all four of us couples figured this out after a few years. It made all of us men become more independent. We wanted Wives, not Nurses. Our Wives wanted to be Wives , not Nurses. So, we forced our selves to stop the self pity (Think about that for a second my friends). We took over control of our lives again. We made sure that physical therapy did not take place in our home, but at a gym, or rehab place. Our home is our home!

We forced the insurance companies to give us actual Nurses for our recovery periods from operations and the like- our Wives were freed from 99% of the Caretaker roles. About the only thing they have to do, that we can’t, is put the wheelchair in the trunk (boot, for you Europeans) of the car.

We started dating our Wives again, and learning how to match up what physical things we can do, with what they need. For example, we all have pools now. Because in the water, legs aren’t really necessary- and we can play with our wives. We all have hot tubs, because it is very close to a bath, and what woman doesn’t like a long luxurious bath?
We watch movies a lot, so they can cuddle on the couch, and we all play Canasta once a week, rotating between the four houses. ”

I was amazed. He told me it took them all years to figure out what was going on, and how to fix, or find an alternative to correct their relationships. Trying to put all the things he and his wife told me, in a short email, well, I can only hit the highlights. I think I will close with this statement he made.

“You know Kevin when you stop thinking about you, and start thinking about her, she gets more of what she wants, and you get more of what you need. ”

Isn’t that the truth?

Smiles, Kevin

 

Jake’s Cafe. The Man in the Corner: Steve (Christmas Story 24)

Jake brought the man in the corner booth his steak and eggs, and his good coffee. As he poured the coffee into the man’s cup, he glanced over to see Moonbeam deep in a conversation over her phone, sitting in the other booth. “How strange,” thought Jake: ” I have never seen her glow like that. She looks like a little girl on Christmas Day, who got the present to end all presents. ” It made him smile, and he went back behind the counter.

The Man in the corner booth, watched a young man at the counter. The young man was thin, wiry, and had that air about him that said: “Sadness lives here. Pain lives here. Trouble lives here. Hopelessness lives here. You don’t want to be within a million miles of here.”

The young man was holding his coffee, which had cooled a long time ago. The heat of his thoughts refused by the cooling coffee. He was a Veteran, of two wars, two theaters of those wars, and had spent a lifetime on alert.

That hadn’t changed, he held his cup like a radio, ready to call for fire. He sat, not like a coiled spring, but more like a coiled viper. If had to act, he would. It would be fast. It would be quick. It would be direct. Whether he used words or his fist. For words were fangs too, and they could draw blood where bullets couldn’t reach.

The young man turned suddenly, and sprang into life:

“What the hell are you looking at buddy?”

“Hell. I think.”

That stopped the young man in his tracks.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Look in the mirror.”

Steve did. He had never looked at his eyes when he was “ready”, how could he? He did now.” Oh. My. God. ” Was all he could say. No wonder Cindy didn’t want him back. Who would want that look, directed at them? It was a look that would rip right through you, take your soul, and stomp on it. Then walk right by, as the remains seeped into the ground. It scared him.

He turned back to the man in the corner booth. Only to see behind those eyes, the same look Steve had in the mirror.

“War isn’t the only road to Hell, Steve. Just the quickest.”

Steve got up. HIs coffee cup held tight, almost as tight as the grip Steve had on reality. It was a nervous grip, it was tight, but careless, like an amateur in a fast car, on a sharp turn. It was the grip of someone who doesn’t know the right grip to use. It was a grip that was one moment away from losing control.

Steve slid into the booth across from the man. For a moment neither spoke, as Steve’s eyes searched for any falsehood, weakness, or patriotic bullshit to surface in the man’s eyes. There was none. The man’s eyes simply showed that Hell- had a brother in there.

The man in the corner booth looked over at Steve.

“How are you, Steve?”

“Not good, to tell you the truth ”

A part of Steve’s mind, found where Emily’s mind had been sitting a minute ago. It was comfortable there, not trying to figure out how this guy knew his name. Nor did he question how he answered the man in the corner booth. He had shielded those he loved from the truth for so long, he didn’t know if he could be honest with anyone other than himself. Yet, here he was, being honest.

“Did you ever look in Cindy’s eyes?”

“What?”

“Did you ever look in Cindy’s eyes?”

“No. Why?”

” She has the same look. ”

“How could she? ”

HIs grip on the coffee tightened yet again. The cup tolerated the pain, but only because it thought it was worth it. If the cup got shattered so a damn could break, so be it. It would be a noble death, especially for a cup of coffee. So, it tried its best to stay strong- for Steve.

“Probably because she stopped watching the news within days of your deployment. Afraid she would see you in battle, hurt, wounded, or even dead in real time. Probably because she stopped going out with her friends, because they didn’t have to pray every day for their man to be safe, and come home. Oh, they might, but there was no meat behind their prayers, they were weak, watery, soupy kind of prayers. Her’s were offered with every ounce of her love for you – in exchange for your safety.

Every night you were gone, she made the same self sacrificing prayer. Each time she heard your voice, she knew her prayer was heard. When she heard your voice, she knew the wall was getting bigger and bigger. It had no gate, it had no window. It had only your war buddies, and they had you. She, had only her love, and your promise.

A promise she kept, and you haven’t. ”

Steve wasn’t angry. He wasn’t sad. He was stuck. If he was honest with her, she would hate him. If she knew what he had done just to survive. He wasn’t really a man, he was a machine with no soul, with only the laughter of the insanity of what he had been through to comfort him.

“What can I do?”

“You have a cell phone?”

“Yes.”

“Is she home?”

“Yes.”

“Call her, let me talk to her first, and when I give you the phone back…tell her to meet you here, at Jake’s. Tell her you love her, and maybe a cup of Jake’s good coffee would be a good place to start looking in her eyes again. ”

“Yes. Sir.”

Steve, almost without thinking, took the order. He dialed Cindy.

“Hello? Steve?”

Steve heard hell in a voice for the first time since leaving combat. “What have I done?” He thought, but only to himself. He heard his voice go ragged…

“Cindy. I am so sorry. I never thought about you. Just about me. I closed everyone off, because I didn’t want to lose anyone anymore. Everyone I loved died. In front of me. I don’t want to lose you. Can we talk? Down here at Jake’s cafe?”

Steve stumbled for a moment digging the words out from some dim place in his soul:

“Cindy. I love you. I want to love…you. I know I know how, I just forgot. Not you, me. You can’t love someone if you aren’t someone. I haven’t been me, I have been a machine. I, I..I love you.”

Cindy was so thrilled. He isn’t drunk. He isn’t high. He knows me. I can hear in his voice, he wants to talk to me. He understands. She had been numb for so long after he came home- she felt a tingling, not in her arms and legs, but in her heart and dreams. Like both had been asleep for years, and just woke up. Painful, but grateful.

“Yes. I will be right there. I love you, too. ”

He hung up. Then remembered he was supposed to hand the phone over to the man in the corner booth sitting across from him. He started to dial her again. The man reached out with hands that felt like protection when they gripped his wrist. It was strength without violence- he had heard of that grip, but forgotten it. Having only felt it from his dad, and some other good men in his life.

He didn’t recoil, he didn’t react. He just looked at the man’s hand on his arm then, up at his eyes.

“Good call. ” Said the man. He patted the back of Steve’s hand with his other hand. Each soft pat, taking away another level of fear, and of alertness. Dropping him from hyper to expectant.

“You said the right things, now keep doing that when she gets here. When she says the right things, listen with your eyes.

Steve stood up.

“I will. ”

And he did.

Merry Christmas, Kevin

The Ring…

It wasn’t fancy. Nothing they had was fancy. They didn’t have much, but then again, they didn’t need much. If they were hamsters, and not people; well, they would never have puffy cheeks. The ring was a simple wedding band, just gold covered, not solid. Unlike their marriage, which was golden, and solid.

She rolled that ring between her fingers, not in a nervous gesture, in a loving one. When she felt it move beneath her fingers it sang to her. Oh, she never told anyone. Not even him. It would have embarrassed her to no end, if anyone knew how much she loved being married. To him. Her man.

It sang a song she knew by heart. It sang of their youth, and playful times together. It sang of some wondrous times in the bedroom. More important to her, were the times it sang in the bedroom, as two heads, lying close together on the same pillow, faced each other: and spoke of dreams, and plans, and sometimes, of forgiveness. Those quiet moments, were as important to her, as the happy sound of laughter is to parents.

It sang of their middle years. Of kids and the troubles and delights they bring to a couple, as they figure out how to be themselves. Of the years where hard work made possible, possibilities. Of the times they had to struggle to overcome, and overcome they did. Of long walks, long talks, and constant juggling of household chores, and the dreams and whims of an entire family. Of bike rides and beach walks, and explores with the kids.

It sang of their Golden years, which is where she sat now, the ring being caressed by her strong capable fingers. Those same fingers that feel so empty to her, without his fingers there to find them. As the ring sang to her, it sang of joy, of patience, of how comfortable they had become in sharing their love, of the closeness of being. She wasn’t even sure if they were two people anymore. Maybe, just maybe, they have become one person, with two souls.

It sang to her of his coming home. As it always did. She would keep herself busy, so she wouldn’t miss him as much when he was away. At night she would say a prayer, as she always did. “Get him home safe.” And the Ring would sing with power to her: ” He loves you. He will always love you.”

Then the ring would sing the comfort of his hand, his breathing, and the weight of his body to her. It would sing his laugh, the twinkle in his eye, the way he held small children and elderly people. It would sing to her, the things she liked best about him. And she would sleep, surrounded by the song of comfort. The blanket of knowing you are loved, snuggled under her chin.

Tomorrow she will wake. To find him there. There won’t be a lot of words. They are to old for that. There will be a long and strong hug- followed by a gentle flowing conversation, that may, or may not, have words. They will walk on the beach. They will go for a bike ride. Or they will sit- together-to watch a documentary, or drift into a conversation. Their rings will sing from memory, as they make new ones.

Oh, they don’t have much. They never did. The rings aren’t fancy, they never were. The song they sing, as they roll their rings? Angels stop to listen. She rolls the ring, as she watches him sleep. He snores a bit, and wiggles a lot. She doesn’t care. The ring sings to her- he is here, now.

The ring sings to her… and she sleeps.

My Kathy…

There is a scene in Groundhog Day, when he sculpts the woman he loves face out of icy snow- she says:

“Come on, Phil, I’m freezing.”

“Just a second. I just need some syrup and we’ll put a cherry on top and we can eat it.”

He then turns the Ice sculpture of her face towards her.

There is a moment of silence and she says:

“It’s beautiful.”

You can tell she is stunned. Overwhelmed. He then tells her how he could have done her face from just memory. That is how I feel about My Kathy. Every time I see that scene (and I have watched Groundhog Day, almost as much as Phil lived it) – I turn to My Kathy and say:

“I could do that with your face, if I had those skills. When he turns that sculpture towards her, I see your face, not hers.”

Of course, Kathy says: “Do you have to say that every single time we watch this part?”

“Yes. It is GROUNDHOG DAY!” And she smirks and kisses me.

I was not always the perfect husband, in fact, I am still not perfect. I am HER Kevin. She has put up with much over the years, as I learned how to love; without inhibition, without walls, without reservation, without restrictions. I had to learn to love My Kathy both; my way, and her way. What good is being loved, if you don’t feel loved?

We still fight: rarely, and no where near as intense as when we were younger. We still kiss… and snuggle…and talk, and that, sometimes, is more intense. There is a comfort that comes with knowing who you love, and what you have gone through, and grown through, over 30 or more years. Her hand in mine, steadies me in a way that …well, you just have to be there. It is a direct connection to her soul, which is my rock.

America thrives on drama, and when we were younger, mistakes were made- by both of us. I know our media makes it seem like it always the man, but , it isn’t. It is both people, always has been, always will. If you are a couple of any kind, at any stage of life, there are two of you in it. Kathy and I had to learn to love each other, and though I can honestly say that neither of us ever intentionally hurt the other one, there was some hurt. Love teaches you to forgive, to fight to keep that love alive, fresh, vibrant. We have even more love to give to each other…and it is a deeper kind, not limited to just how young and strong our bodies were.

My Kathy is intelligent, funny, hardworking, and caring. She is also the toughest softie I have ever met. Those sounds like contradictions, yet, in My Kathy they nestle up against each other in complete comfort. She is a complicated person, with a simple life style. It took her ten years to learn to love me; and that year I learned – from her- how to love me too. I knew how to love, not how to be loved. She taught me. Thank you, Kathy.

Folks who know me, have heard about her often. Her grace, elegance, charm, and down home, farm girl, roots. You may wonder why I don’t talk about her more often, and why it is usually indirect hints about her in my Blog… it is simple. My Kathy likes to be private. Some of the things I blather on about, embarrass her. Like this blog will. I used to carry an 8 X10 of her, when she wasn’t with me on the ship. She says it got “lost”. LOL

She has changed from a girl/woman, into a woman. She has become a mother, and soon will become, a grandmother. She has managed to keep her sense of self, and independence, while still maintaining her other attributes: like being my wife, my partner, my friend, my lover, and my rock. She skims my blog, I believe she will read this one!

I complain often; and often, about little things. Kathy does not. We have worked out a system, where I make light of my complaints with little personal sayings- that only the two of us recognize for what they are. When I use those little sayings in an email, I can see her laughing…I love her laugh ; and like most folks, she has an emotional pallet filled with her different kinds of laughs. I can, on a good day, make her snort. It embarrasses her, and makes me leap from the couch, fists over my head, running in little circles going: “Yes!”
A Fiero moment.
(Look it up, English doesn’t really have the equivalent word…we borrowed it from the Italians : Fiero is that moment of success, when you didn’t think you could make it happen. Sometimes, other languages are better at expressing certain feelings. Just like the German word: schadenfreude; which means to have a secret glee at a rival, or former friend’s, bad luck)

My Kathy doesn’t like to be in the Public eye. So you will only get glimpses of her in my Blogs. When she would come out to sea with me, she never missed a show. In fact, she has become one of the best “comedy critics”, in the full sense of the words; that I know of. Her input is as valuable as: Warren Buffets, for finance, or Steve Jobs, for innovation, or Bill Bellichek for football players. I listen to her about lighting, movement, and her comments about how fast I talk on stage: “Slow down, Kevin. Let them digest the joke, and laugh at their own pace.” Sound advice, which she knows is good for me.

Her sense of humor is different; she loves: “Curb your Enthusiasm,” “Judge Judy,” reruns, and “Keeping up Appearances.” She loves to watch reruns on Netflix of : “The Office,” “Doc Martin,” and she has a passion for “Foreign Films” …she thinks they have better actors. She also reads a lot. So, our different tastes, like a good meal, don’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the food, the company, and the conversation.

Oh, the conversations! Kathy and I have travelled together in a car, for well over 2 million miles ; and that, my friends, is not a typo. That is 15 years of road warrior comedy. She spent another seven years at sea; in an 8 X10 cabin, for months at time. We do talk to each other so much, we have learned to listen for both what was said, and what wasn’t. I even wrote song lyrics for her called:
“The words I didn’t say.” And she heard them.

I hope in your life, you have the equivalent of My Kathy. She is sweet, smart, loyal, talented, and she is always her self. Without her, meaning, in this life, would become meaningless. I mean that, and she knows it.

She is quoted all the time by our children, for her funny way of saying the right thing, the wrong way. Like this gem, when talking to a person who was full, but didn’t want to waste food:

“It is always better to throw away food, then to eat it.”

We laughed and laughed. We laugh about weird things, like how my Norwegian friends swear; which sounds like ” Moooderr…” We howl. We laugh at Galaxy Quest: “It’s like throwing gasoline, on a flame.” Or a memory, like when my daughter, who was five, asked if I could put my giant sputnik like head on a pillow.

But, I think the quote that shows just who my Kathy really is, comes from this story. When our first child was being born, Kathy would lean up on her elbows, in between contractions and say:
“Come see the world little baby, come see the world.”

I wish you could see the world though my eyes, which always have Kathy beside them. “Come see the world,” – indeed.
I love you, Kathy. And thank you.

Tea cups…memories, music, and the day…

Aloha All,

Just a day, an ordinary day, with so many moments in it. Where do I start? I started the day by coming home. That may be the best way to start a day, any where, any way. A hug, a talk, a sunrise, a donut, and a quiet moment between a husband and wife. That was just the beginning…a day, an ordinary day.

My daughter sent me a sentence she loves, from a collection of prose poems by Charles Simic:

“The stone is a mirror which works poorly. Nothing in it but dimness. Your dimness or its dimness, who’s to say? In the hush your heart sounds like a black cricket.”

A spoon full of her, goes into the tea. Words mixing like milk, making something dark, lighter, sweeter- easier to handle.

Then when Kathy, Timmy, and I, were sitting at the Kitchen table, my brother shows me the very tea cups I had been drinking from since I was first able to keep a memory. They were gifts from the Milk Man, if you bought enough milk; with ten of us in the house, we bought enough milk! I drank from those “Currier and Ives” cups until my last cup of tea in them- 1972. Today, I drank from them again.

As the tea tasted like a childhood memory; glimpses from every aspect of my life until age 21, flashed, lingered, and then fused with another memory. A cascade that included: plastic Army men, Davy Crocket lunch boxes, Roy Rogers cowboy sets, sleighs, the Zoo, my first girlfriend, first kiss, best friend, a concussion, Lucille Ball, Ed Sullivan, Walt Disney and the Mickey Mouse Club, swimming in Wallace Lake, sunburns, summer baseball, riding in cars the size of a nice living room, and the seminary. Still they flow, and the tea makes me taste them as well.

I sent a picture of me holding one of the cups , while playing hand and foot with Kathy, and yet another memory slips inside the cup, to mix with the sugar to sweeten it.

My other daughter calls and asks us to travel just a little bit more- and driving down to NC, so that she can have her Mom there, and feel safe while her husband is away. The baby is do soon, and she wants someone who loves her, to be nearby when someone she loves comes into this world. Weary though I might be, we pack up and leave in another day. The sisterhood would be proud, a dad would understand, and a father feels better about earning a living for his new child. The tea cup stirs.

After my nap, the day continues. My brother wakes up (he works nights) we chat. As the memories from the tea cup, burst out like hot steam, I raise the cup to blow gently on it; a memory is breathed away, only for another one to surface in the whirlwind in a tea cup. It is of my brother’s and sisters. For all of us drank tea, or coffee, out of those cups. Along with Mom and Dad.

Yes, Mom and Dad, come back in a bitter sweet pile of snapshots. Now that I am older, I see what they did to give us a life, a chance, a place that was safe. I can see things I never saw back when the memory was being laid down. The struggles and world weary looks, the moments of “getting it right”, the slow dance you did as Mom tried to spank you, but you could run a circle fast enough to stay ahead of the belt- until she would tire and laugh. We got the point, and the hug.

Timmy then tells me my sister Jane is watching and listening to us. He points to a small golden box. In it, are some of my sisters ashes. We speak of her, as if she is here. Now, some tears are falling from my face, but this afternoon, she was right there with us. Like my Mom and Dad’s memories, I see her as a strange mixture of child, teen, woman, young woman, mother, grandmother, and bundle of love. Girl woman in a cup of tea.

Teasing her in 6th grade about being overweight… something I regret now, watching her smile, and ride roller coasters with gay abandon- yet scared out of her mind by spiders. Watching her get dressed for a date, and wondering why she spent so much time getting ready. She leaned over and kissed my head: “Someday, someday, you will find a girl, and you will spend the time too.” And I did. And the tea cooled.

Kathy and I went for a long bike ride. My brother John calls, just to say he is sorry he will miss me this trip. More sugar for the tea. He took the time , while busy shopping in another city, to take a moment, to sip the tea. And share it.

Then we settled down to play cards, only to find out the day had not decided to end, just because we were winding down. No indeed. For next came Music: Tommy James and the Shondells. Crystal Blue Persuasion, Crimson and Clover, and a song she had never heard by them: “Ball of Fire.” She loved it. Another cup of tea, same cup, more tea, and like life, the same thing, becomes different.

I then put on an album by an Artist named Seal. My brother Tim had it laying in a box of his CD’s. She was going to put on relaxing piano music. I asked her if she ever heard Seal sing? No? Well, you are in for a treat. Kind of like Otis Redding meets Percy Sledge, with some Isaac Hayes overtones. She says, with a faint smile: “Well, okay, I guess.” It was a good guess. Moment later the music hit her. And the tea cup stirred.

Rising like cream in my old tea cup, was watching the song : I can’t stand the Rain…on my window; hit her as a full blown memory. She closed her eyes and swayed across the table from me…I watched the song sink in. Knowing with absolute certainty, that “My song” was forming in her mind. When a couple dances to a song that is: ” Our song.” It starts with that faraway smile, closed eyes and gentle sway. It fills the cup.

Now she reads quietly in the bedroom, book in her hand, song in her head, my closeness in her heart. Seal still plays, as it has since she first heard him, more than 2 hours ago. When “her song” comes on, the book sinks slowly to her lap, her head feels the gentle breeze of the lyrics, her eyes close, her soul- exposed- melts into the tea cup.

So the day closes, like it opened. Wonder. Joy. Simple things. A blue and white etching on a tea cup. Moments that brought life, to life. The cream and sugar, mingling with the bitter tea to connect them all in perfect balance. May you have a cup of tea today. In your favorite cup. Sit back, and let the tea, the cup, and the day- play.

Good night day. Good day, night.

Love, its all in your mind…..

Love. You can’t hold it. You can’t save it. You can’t prove it. Yet, we all know it when we feel it. Where is it? It is all in your mind.

In my life, and I am sure in yours. You have loved someone, without telling them. Or you didn’t tell them for a long time. In your mind, just like in mine, that time that they didn’t know your feelings, still counted as being in “love” – for you. In your mind, you were actively loving them, thinking about them, caring about them, worrying about them, and well, loving them well. They knew nothing about that.

In my past, I met a girl I loved from the moment I saw her. We were just kids, both of us in Grade school. Years later, in High School, we became boyfriend/girlfriend – then engaged for 2 yrs. Then she moved on. It was 8 years later, when I finally met my next true love. So, in the first case, I loved that girl/woman, even when she didn’t know. In my mind, our relationship lasted more than a decade, and then I pined away for another 8 years.  In hers? I was just an old boyfriend.

When I met my next true love, it was that same thing. I loved her the minute I saw her, and proposed to her that night. We married about a year later, and have been married since. When we had been together for more than ten years, she finally fell in love with me. I was stunned. Why did you marry me, if you didn’t love me?  ” I was only 22 years old.  I didn’t know what love was. I knew you were my best friend, and you wouldn’t ever hurt me, and maybe some day, we would have kids. I always wanted to be a Mom. If I married you, I figured I would just hang out with my best friend for life. Then I fell in love with you.”

By the way, that day she said : “I love you, Kevin”; and meant it- was the best day in our marriage. The following year, was the worst in our marriage. Why? Because I knew how to love, not how to be loved. I was the gift giver. I didn’t know how to accept gifts. It took a year to sort out that someone could possibly think about and love me; with the same intensity and passion that I loved them. Now, I can do both: Love and Be Loved!

I think this is why breaking up is so hard to do. In your mind, is where the love you have for someone else lives. If they leave, or go away, or stop loving you; there is nothing you can do about it. But, in your own mind, the loving doesn’t stop. Or at least, it lingers for a while. My first love went on and found her true love, got married and was raising children; before I even found my true love. So, I had years more of loving in my mind, than she did.

I lucked out, in that both women were gentle, kind, smart and funny; leaving me with a strong base of love. Without the first girl, loving the second girl would have been impossible. Without loving the second girl for ten years; she wouldn’t have been able to fall in love with me. She needed time for her mind to learn to love, my mind had to learn how to be loved.

It is strange, this Love thing. It can exist on its own, without any basis in reality. Yet, when it is real, it is mind blowing. I love it. When the love is shared, it becomes a real love- and it grows deep and safe. When it is only in your mind, it kind of needs your imagination to stay alive.

The only way to give love a chance, is to love out loud. Say it to the ones you love. If they love you , it will grow, if they don’t, let it go. I like loving. It is lovely. Even in my mind.

North of Liking, South of Soul Mates, West of Friendship,and East of Lover.

North of Liking, South of Soul Mates, West of Friendship, and East of Lover

Where does the compass of Love point, when someone is more than a friend, or could be? Sometimes, people are situationally important; something in your life causes them to be there when you need them there. Then, like a great meal, or a wonderful movie, they linger for a while, and fade quickly.

Sometimes, people were important in your past; maybe very important; even though the love faded, the love of the memory of loving them; did not. These are people whose memories become fond memories. Memories that you cherish and surround with what might have been , or could have been. These are people that were, but aren’t now. Like Youth, you had it when you were younger.

Then, there is that group of people, or maybe a few, or even- just one; who given a chance; could blossom into more than a friend. How much more will not be known. Why? Because you stop the bloom. You have someone in your life already- someone constant. Exploring a friendship with someone else, might cause the one you have to wither. Unlike a garden, you can’t water multiple plants , or feed them with the same cup. Love is infinite, the time and space it takes to form one on one human love- is not. That is why most of us are serial monogamists; we love, grow, mature, and either move on, or put down deeper roots. The branches can support some of the compasses of Love; but the tree itself in rooted in one direction.

So where do we put people in our lives, who we could like more, or if things were different, might have become a soulmate? Or whom are much more than friends, but, yet, not lovers? Sometimes, even Lovers, are no match for a friendship with trust and confidence. Sometimes, sex is much weaker than holding hands. Sometimes sex gets in the way of true love. Other times, it just adds a dimension of hugging not available any other way. Not all Lover’s use their bodies.

How much do you hold back, because of someone else? Can you love more than one person at a time? Yes, but only in different ways. Jealousy, or simple conflicts of interest will often split up a budding compass spinning relationship. You might mistakenly think you can love two people at the same time; they will have a different opinion. Quality time, is always a byproduct of quantity time. One needs the other. If you are not around enough to have those “moments”; it is difficult to create them on demand. Oh, there is the occasional moment that comes out of nowhere- but that is usually passion, and little else. Like magicians paper- passionate moments burn brightly, unexpectedly; then fizzle out. Leaving just smoke, and a moment of dazzle.

So where do you put the people in your life; who are: North of Liking, South of Soul Mates, West of Friendship, and East of Lover- you put them where they belong; in your heart. When their door opens, the direction they should take, will be clear; as will the direction you take. A lucky few will find more than one true love, and love more than once- truly.

 

Love is a many Splendored Thing….

Love is a many splendored thing.

Even tho those lyrics were written many years ago–they are still true today. Love is: a wonderfully complicated, many dimensional, and multilayered spectrum. It covers everything from the stunning, heart stopping, take your breath away joy of seeing someone that you love at every level of your being–physically, mentally, spiritually–to the love you feel when you pass by a young mother with her new baby and see them both giggle. Love can run hot, and passionate–it can be warm and benevolent, enveloping you like a sudsy bath, or the perfect hot tub experience.

Love can be revealed in just the overall joy of witnessing compassion by a large group of people for an unknown stranger. It can be hidden beneath the surface, like a kind deed done anonymously. It can show itself in the weirdest places, like the silences between true friends. A true friend of mine just wrote me a wonderful e-mail. The pleasant afterglow from that–lingers, like a really good perfume. Hitting a hint of what was there, but just that. Oftentimes, you can tell that Love was in the room; just by the behavior of the people left behind. As you become more aware of being loved, you can become more loving–which makes you more sensitive to loving acts, loving deeds, loving words–and your world becomes colored. Not rose colored–you know the reality–but you know there is a rainbow of love directed back at you–that will brighten your world, given half a chance.

I am over 60 so the hot burning passionate love –centered in the loins in most cases–has been replaced by the deep quiet waters of unconditional love. The negative love emotions–jealousy, unrequited passion, proprietorship–they are gone now; and have been for a while. In the world I live in, love is acknowledged at every level. The gentle love of many years, which you can sip slowly and savor–like a cup of steaming hot chocolate, after walking in from the snow; you can cup the loving in your hands– letting the vapors of contentment settle around you. You can read a warm and comforting e-mail, and sit back as if you had read a letter written by a romantic poet in the 18th century–holding the thought in one hand–as you glance out the window, with a soft and subtle smile on your face; knowing that someone, somewhere–cares. That is love too.

I’m not sure you can ever love enough, and I am positive you can never run out of it. No matter how much you love, or how many people you love, or how many ways you love–love is infinite. It replaces itself simply by the act of loving. It is ultimately, the only perpetual motion machine known to man. If you want to be loved, start loving. We have understood that at such a basic level as human beings–that we’ve even reduce that entire concept to one word: BELOVED. To love, to be loved, all in a single word.

I once read in a book by John Scalzi–a book called: “the old man’s war,” one of the greatest testimonies to this whole concept of beloved. The main character in the story is standing at his wife’s grave–and reading the epithet on her tombstone: “BELOVED wife and mother.” He then expounds on that concept for a page. Basically saying that those 4 words are the most powerful complement anyone who had ever lived could have. It doesn’t tell you the color of her hair, her favorite food, when she laughed, when she cried; it simply says she was loved. Beloved. Beloved by the people who know her. Encapsulated in a single word–beloved.

So whether it is two young people, their skin glistening with the joy of youth–hugging,s embrace brought on by the ardor of a First love; or whether it is the deep, all enveloping love, of a mature relationship, with the eddies of kindness and courtesy, and companionship–sliding up against the banks of that love, to lap at the banks of life.Or as two hands reach to hold each other; familiar, comforting, trusting–or if it is just a general human love–of life. Glad to be alive, glad to have a day, glad to risk expanding comfort into joy–for that is a type of love to. Whether it is the crazy companionship provided by brothers and sisters, or uncles and aunts, with teasing- in a gentle way- crossing over generations–or if it is the quiet personal solace garnerd from the trust of an old friend–or the very private moments-as the one you love is just inches away on a pillow; eyes locked into a gaze as you whisper secrets unknown to any but the two of you–whatever style love is in your day; accept it. Embrace it. Hug it. Revel in the joy of loving.

Release all the conditions, or preconditions, or expectations–make loving a verb, a moment in time, shared with all who know you. They will love you for it.

A wonderfully hard question to answer: “How do you stay married?”

Today, a young husband asked me: “How do you stay married? ” He was genuinely interested and did not want to end up divorced; as that is what happened with his parents.  I smiled. How in the world do you answer that? “Some work out, some don’t.” Not a very satisfying answer, and kind of evasive. I said to him: ” I think I know part of the answer. I also think we have to clear up the distinction between love and marriage, and challenge some misconceptions.”

Here I go, stepping off of the deep end! First and foremost, before you dot another I, or cross another T, Bob Cratchet : I want you to remember this ( to paraphrase old Scrooge) :

You never fail at love! Never. You never fail at marriage either. Neither scenario is failure, nor can they be. Why? Because you love and marry for only good reasons (usually). When you love, it is possibility, it is hope, it is with a future in mind- and for however long it lasts; you think, and care, about another person more than you do yourself. That is in and of itself: Wonderful. It is a joyful, upbeat and exciting place to be. It is a beginning.

The same is true of marriage. It is based on wanting to share your life with another person. It has all the adjectives of Love. With one addition; the weight of thousands of years of tradition, coupled with some kind of moral bias imposed by belief systems.

So, let’s get this out loud and clear: You never fail at love, or at marriage. They simply end.

What both do, is teach you things. About yourself, about your partner, about life. Life is change- and a changing life doesn’t always keep you together. If you worked 20 years at a business and then changed careers, no one would go: “I failed at business.” What about college? That is only four years of your life; and if you get your degree and never go back again; nobody every goes: “You failed at college.”

We expect college to be transitional, we expect businesses to end, careers to; but somehow we think both love and marriage- are permanent unending structures. They are not, although they can, and do last some folks for their whole lives. If you only loved someone for a year- at least you loved! It was a year of hope, of wonder, of growing to actually know (and care) about what another human being thinks or does. A bigger world than just me, or I. Marriage may be an institution, but love is a condition. Funnily enough, conditional love, will end it as sure as a period at the end of this sentence.

 

So, the first rule of a lasting marriage is this: The love has to be unconditional. They can’t have to change to meet your needs. If you say: “When you do X, or stop doing Y, or when you do all that I ask, then I will love you. No you won’t. You never loved them to begin with. Love has to be unconditional to grow. It can become conditional later, when you recognize what might be a threat to it. But those conditions will be selected by both of you. Not one of you.

Never marry anyone you love, I told the young husband. Marry someone you like , and then learn how to love them. You have no ex friends, just ex lovers. You forgive friends, lovers, well some of us hang onto that hurt for our whole lives.

Now forgive me for introducing the simplest philosophy of marriage you probably have never heard of:

The Peanut Butter and Jelly theory.

Peanut butter is a great sandwich. Lots of people like it, and it gets taken to lots of picnics. Jelly is a great sandwich, and it gets taken to lots of picnics too. The number one picnic sandwich in the USA? Peanut butter and jelly! Why? Because together, they are better than apart. So goes a good marriage. Another subtle lesson from the Peanut Butter and Jelly analogy is this: no matter how much you mix the peanut butter and jelly, when you lift the bread, you can always tell them apart.

In a strong marriage, that is also true. Kathy, is not Kevin. We can always be told apart. Yet, we are never apart – except in physical distance. If I know she is okay, I am okay, and free to be me. We have many differences, yet we have some corps basics. We have chosen to love, and we do.

I also told the young husband this piece of old guy advice: “Make your marriage bigger than the both of you. It will support you, when you can’t. Never use the “D” word in an argument. Words have power. Real power. As soon as you vocalize the “D” word, it becomes a possibility, then an option, and then a reality. ”

Being married for 30 plus years, is relatively a new thing. Like menopause, most people didn’t live long enough to experience it. Before WW II, the average age of death in all developed nations was only 42. 42! So, if you got married at 16, or 19 – at best – you were looking at 20 years of marriage or so. Not 30,40,50 or even more. Same thing with menopause; most women, before the war, died before it showed up. So we have no idea of how it impacted long term marriages. Nor did we know how the work force would effect people who would end up working more years than their parents had been alive.

We built our marriage over the last 31 years, and time makes you more comfortable with each other. We didn’t know about the power of menopause in an older marriage. We also didn’t know about our own shifting and growing likes and dislikes. If you had told me I would become interested in being mostly vegetarian, this late in life; I would have thought you were nuts. Yet here I am. Luckily, my wife had become semi – vegetarian years ago, along with our daughters; so she could handle my transition. Believe me, if you live with someone, and you don’t eat the same foods, you can quickly go from a couple to roommates!

So, how do you stay married? You both decide to. Then you learn how to make it work. You treasure your partner; and you revel in their independence. As they do in yours. So at the close of the day, it is the two of you, comfortable in your space together.

In my 31 years of marriage (so far), I see these three stages present in any long term relationship:

Stage one: Co-dependent (Which is not the nightmare that some folks attach to that stage)

Stage two: Independent: Where you both struggle with your own journey, while staying together.

Stage three: Inter-dependent. Where you become a team. A well oiled machine. You glide over obstacles with an uncanny knack for keeping together.

And that is the best I could come up with. Marry your friend. Embrace love. Decide to stay married. Understand the difference, and remove the judgement of those differences. Oh, and one final thing – make sure there is still laughter in the home. If that dies, it signals the end of that relationship- which then frees you up for the next one; which will bring laughter, love, hope and joy, back again.

As Kathy says: “I love you. Your fears are real. And it is going to be okay.” And that may be the real answer to his question.

The Future

The Future is now.

The Future is now, today. It will always be that way. Yesterday, today was the Future, Tomorrow, it will be the Past. These are not word games, it is the beginning of what I hope to explain, as we speak. No one can predict the Future, but you can reach goals. That sets a subtle tone. Slippery. Yes, just like the Future. I mean you can set a goal to lose 10 pounds over the next ten days- and maybe even make it. You can’t predict what the world be like in those ten days- or even if you will be here for them. Therefore, the Future is today.

I wrote the other day about my inability to predict where I would be today. A year ago, I moved to Cleveland, Ohio- in December. I know, it sounds like I must have had a head injury; but, I like Cleveland. I was born there. We moved up after I took a trip down memory lane with my Best Friend. Him and his sister, and I, go back almost fifty years. My brother was seriously ill, Kathy’s Mom was too. Cleveland became a no brainer. For a year. One year later, we moved back to NC. Just two months ago, we had no idea we would. Then it dawned on me; not once, in my 31 years of marriage, have I been able to predict where I would be, or what I would be doing the following year. Yet, I managed to reach many of my goals. How confusing is that?

My friend sent me a note, telling me about how him and his wife wrote down on January 1st, 2000 where they thought they would be, what they would be doing, and what they would have in the year 2010. When they opened their “predictions” a decade later. Well to quote him:

“It kinda pissed me off.”

Indeed. To find out how little control of our Future we really have. Another friend went back to his old house, after just a year. He is renting in another country, and has decided to move to that country. He said :

“Stepping into that house, after a year, was like walking into a snapshot of our lives, a year ago. The piano, the paintings, the clothes, the things we thought – at the time- we needed. Just still right where we left them.”

We did exactly the same thing. Just yesterday. We walked into our house, almost exactly a year after we left it. It never sold (Thankfully) so, we were able to move right back in. It was just as we had left it. Nothing changed- except us. We were different. Because we had lived in a different climate, and different mini-culture; coming back here was an eye opener. No Pink houses in Cleveland. No bright greens, or blues, or yellows on the outside of houses; in general. Most clothes were dark colors. Down here, vibrant pastels, and “beachy” clothes. Flip flops and shorts galore , and no snow. Different. Different does not mean “bad”, it means different. That’s all. Making something “bad” , or “good”, is a personal choice, and one we usually don’t make. It just is.

My best friend and I, and his sister – could never have predicted where we would be 40 years later. If you go back to my childhood. Nobody could have predicted that a little kid from Cleveland’s lower West Side, the 10th of 11 children- would go on the journey he did. No one. Not even me. That I would travel the USA, then the World, and marry a Canadian, who just happened to be visiting Austin, Texas, at the same time I was visiting my little brother. That I would be a soldier, a comic, a speaker, an athlete, a Father, a Husband, a Pilot, a College graduate, and a zillion other things. Look back at your life; could you predict any of the things that brought you where you are now?

Yet, I did have some control – over me. I sometimes got what I wanted, but not because I knew what I wanted; but because I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to work in a factory, or office job. So, I didn’t. That kept me bouncing between the Army and college; and that led to a lab partner getting me my first comedy gig. That led to my career. I couldn’t predict any of it. Here at Sixty years of age; I still can’t predict anything. Yet, I am still setting goals, and seeing where they lead me. I know they might not come true, on the other hand, maybe they will. I can’t tell yet. Maybe setting one, will lead to other opportunities. Was my life just luck? I don’t know. I know I was lucky.

The Future is a funny thing. You can decide to be better off next year, then you are this year. Next year – you will be. But maybe in ways you never thought of. I had a friend who set exactly that goal: He wanted to be better off Next Year- than this year. He set that goal back in 2004. He was fat, and tired all the time. He made good money, but not great money. He was divorced. He just wanted to be better off the next year. He was. But, it unravelled in a weird way.  He had a heart attack in January of 2004. Big one. A week in the hospital. Surgery. Then rehab. His choice? Change or die. He chose.

He met his new wife, she was his nurse. He learned how to eat correctly, became good at making Vegetarian meals. He started jogging, he met some folks. They all pitched in and opened a little veggie restaurant.  He lost the weight. He is active in the community, he makes enough money to get by. In every way, he did indeed, become better off in every way. Just not the way anyone, including him, could have predicted. If you told him on Christmas Day 2003 – that his Future would go like this:  He would have a major heart attack, lose his job, lose 50 pounds, find a new career, become a vegetarian, and get married to the girl of his dreams; and make way less money than he did the year before (and, by the way, be happier with less money), and he would become a serious jogger and restauranteur – in just a year. He wouldn’t have believed you.

Look around. How many people do you know, or have heard of- have a similar story? Many, I would suppose. My friend in Texas, was looking to move to Cleveland, and become a Dean; his wife was planning on moving to be near her family up there. One year later, they are both in Texas, he has a dream job, she has a dream house, her business is booming , because of an invention that came out last year. Now she gives seminars, and he is helping thousands with his podcasts. Oh, and they joined a new church, that gives them a thrill to belong too. Neither could have predicted any of those things in their Future.

My other friend wanted to brush up on his German. He took a job in Germany. He got fluent. That led to a job in Switzerland. That let him bring his wife and son. The family grew closer. That led to another job in Germany. His wife and son with him. That led to another job in Switzerland- with his son working with him, and his wife keeping them on track. After all the trials and tribulations , his family is closer than ever, his son has started a career, he is a proud father- and a much more accomplished Act. He also is doggone fluent in German. A year ago? Working on ships, and the occasional club.

You have a future. Pursue it. Today. That is the only Future you get. Let me know how it went!  In fact, why not write down now, where you think you will be Next Year on this date. Next year – read it back to yourself.  And write me again! The Future is yours, but not yours to know. But you will know it when it is past! LOL