The Christmas Tree

December 10, 2015 | Leave a Comment

Forty-six years go very quickly. It was over forty-six  years ago that the events of this story happened. I remember it as if it were last Christmas.

This story is for you; for all those of you who believe in the possibility of peace and harmony here on earth. And even for those who do not now. Who knows?

The word travels this way and comes back to where it started. All things go full circle.

Peaceful, warm, loving holidays to you. Peaceful, loving life each and every single day. It can happen. The distance between here and there is not so far as it may seem. Try the journey.


A resonant, whining scream crashed through the thin walls of the barracks. It seemed to absorb every object in the room full of bunk beds, some made, some askew, as though their occupants had dashed from them on a sudden, critical mission. It rattled the doors of the metal clothes lockers and the padlocks, which held their small, shiny handles closed.
“F-4,” John Cumberland thought, as he lay on his lower bunk and shielded his eyes from the already hot and humid tropical morning sun, streaming through the window next to him.
“F-4 with afterburners lit.”
A camouflage blur, just above the adjacent building tops, streaked through the deep blue sky framed by the window. John raised up on one arm and turned to watch the blur depart. A clear, plexiglass canopy with the sun reflecting off of it in brilliant flashes, followed by a graceful, jungle-colored fuselage, followed by two cavernous jet thrust ports filled with the blue-yellow fire of the rocket-like afterburners, followed by two swirling coils of black smoke.
“Where to this time?” John wondered aloud. “The peaceful enclave of still another sleepy tropical paradise? Heaven, perhaps,” he rasped sarcastically.
He lay back down on his bed and shielded his eyes again. His mind travelled rapidly down some silently rolling corridor, and for a moment he found himself at age eight,staring at a Christmas tree that reached to the ceiling of the room. Multi-colored lights on it twinkled, and icicle shivered magically, and from behind him somewhere “Silent Night” played from an old AM tabletop radio. He was excited. Santa was coming, and that meant presents under the tree and the family being together and mouth-watering, home-baked coffee cakes and cookies and breads and a kind of deep, warm happiness he felt only at this time of the year.
Outside, already at four thousand feet, the F-4 sharply banked sixty-five degrees left, and the black coils of smoke turned to follow it. Abruptly, the afterburners shut off, and the sound of the jet engines began to fade, as the craft diminished to a point on the distant horizon, then disappeared.
John drifted back from his journey and glanced at the calendar on the wall next to the window. The month was December. Each day from December 1st to December 14th had been crossed off with a bold, determined “X”, the same way all the days had been for all of November and October and September. That made this day December 15th. December 15th, 1969.
“No short timer,” he thought. “Three months down, nine to go. Lots more “X” marks, lots more heat and humidity, lots more crouching under aircraft with raging jet engines, doing last minute repairs in the 120 degree heat before the pilot unlocks the brakes and the aircraft lurches forward into the jungle skies on another mission. Many more alerts.” (“We’ll issue you your weapons later this afternoon when you get back to your barracks,” the Captain at the shop had said one drenching, cloudy afternoon after a wave of torrential monsoon rain had passed over the base. “Security is sure that Charlie will penetrate the perimeter tonight.”)
“Three months down, nine to go,” he said aloud, almost pensively.
“Who you talk to, GI?” a girl’s voice questioned, and he jumped, startled that she was there.
“I say who you talk to, GI?”
It was Deing, a girlish-looking woman of twenty-eight. She and ten other Thai women took care of cleaning the barracks, doing the laundry and all the other tidying up after the three hundred and five GI’s in the two story building.
“I talk to me,” John said to her, crossing his eyes and dangling his tongue from the corner of his mouth in a gesture of madness.
“I talk to me,” he said again and jumped up from his bunk and danced crazily around the cubicle in his underwear. “I talk to me, I talk to me, I talk to me.”
“Ooooh, you crazy, GI, this place make you crazy, or maybe you crazy before here.”
“I talk to me, I talk to me,” John chanted again, and danced crazily toward Deing.
“I speak you later.” Deing giggled, grabbed the laundry she had dropped, and dashed out of the cubicle and down the hall to safety.
“I talk to me, I talk to me,” John yelled down the hall after her.
He walked back to his bunk, sat on the corner of it nearest the window by the storage chest, and lit a cigarette. He thought of home again. Mostly, he thought of home. He thought of it while working in the aircraft shop, when sweating on the flightline and looking at the fierce, heavily armed jet fighters lined up in their protective concrete revetments down the flight line, off to a point in the distance. He thought of the year he had taken off for himself before enlisting, which had happened, he was sure, just before he would have been drafted. It was true that the thought of home was the last one that he had before sleep came fitfully and the first one he had upon waking at any hour.
“December 15th,” he thought. “no I’ll be home for Christmas this year. First year I’m away. I don’t like it. I don’t. Maybe if I could find a way to have a Christmas tree….”
Tyford walked into the cubicle. Richard Tyford. Five feet five and stocky in a muscular sort of way. Already seventy-five percent bald at age twenty-two. Everyone called him “Ty.” The resident of Mt. Vernon, Washington, with a real live log home he built with his own hands in Alaska. The man with wife Ginny and daughter Katie waiting for him back in Mt. Vernon.
“BEER?” Ty boomed. “BEER?”
“BEER?” John boomed back.
The beer exchange continued. It was a tradition between Ty and himself and Butch Frost, another cubicle resident. In a blazing hot, muggy country, with jet engines and war booming, beer was a special treat. Cold beer, blessedly available from the Base Exchange.
“BEER?” Ty boomed again, as he set his bags on his bunk, unzipped one of them, and revealed two six packs of beer. “There you are, my little chickadees,” he quipped, kissing each six pack.
“Howyadoin, Ty,” John asked.
“I’m doin good, doin good. Actually, what I am is SHORT. I’m SHORT, SHORT, SHOORRTT,” he yelled, as he opened up his clothes locker and crossed out December 14th. “Almost forgot this baby,” he said, as he darkened the “X” with zeal.
When you were in Southeast Asia, you became “short” when you had less than three months left, “very short” when you had less than two, and “SHOORRTT” when you were fortunate enough to have less than one month left. Tyford was “SHOORRTT.” He had twenty-one days separating him from Ginny and Katie. On the back of his red Maintenance Squadron hat appeared an embroidered pair of combat boots with a hat on top of them—-the official unofficial symbol of shortness.
John dressed for his trip to the mail room.
“Save some of that beer for me, Ty, ” he said as he left the cubicle.
“BEER?” Tyford shot back. “BEER? Well, perhaps if you’re very brief with your sojourn, very brief, my good man.”
In the mail room, John opened his mail box and collected his mail and a call tag. At the window he traded the call tag for a rectangular box from home. One of the very best treats from the mail room was a box from home. Especially at Christmas time.
“Cookies, I bet,” he thought. “And coffee cakes and breads and jellies and….”
All the way back to the barracks in the scorching heat and humidity, John wondered what he would find in the box.
Once inside the cubicle, John set his mail aside and feverishly opened the box. He raised the cardboard flaps and sharply caught his breath when he saw what was in it. A Christmas tree. A two foot tall artificial Christmas tree from home. Complete with a string of tiny lights. boxes of miniature Christmas tree balls, and a box of icicle. All from home, where it was cold and snowy and kitchens were overflowing with the fragrance of baking and downtown was alive with Christmas lights strung across the streets and shoppers hurried between stores and when you walked indoors, your face and ears tingled with the sudden warmth and…. He found himself fighting back tears. Carefully, as if the box contained the most precious treasure on earth, John resealed it and put it in his clothes locker. He would decorate the tree later. When it was closer to Christmas. If he could stand it.
Through the next week, John received more boxes from home. In them were the baked goods that embellished the tables and counter tops at home at this time of the year. Carefully, he packed them into his clothes locker, and he remembered what it was like to be home for Christmas—-what it smelled like, sounded like, looked like, and felt like.
For the first time in his life, perhaps, a realization began to grow within him of what was truly important in the world and what was not.
Then, it was December 24th, and the day’s work was done. John walked into his cubicle at three-thirty in the afternoon. No one else was there. He stood in front of his clothes locker and wondered what it was going to be like to put up a Christmas tree in the bright, tropical afternoon, with the outdoor temperature hovering at 110 degrees.
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” John sang softly, “with every Christmas card I write. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.”
“Ahhh well,” he sighed, “here goes.”
Slowly he took the tree from its box and put it on its square styrofoam base, then set it on the storage chest by the window. One by one, he unfolded its branches, then carefully strung the delicate lights evenly, hung the miniature balls, and suspended the icicle from each and every branch. Around its base, he placed a section of an old white sheet and fluffed it until it looked like snow.
“Look Mommy and Daddy,” he heard his voice saying from across thirteen years, as he stood looking at the small tree,” Look Mommy and Daddy, Santa left me a train and it’s running in circles around the tree and it has smoke coming out of its smoke stack and if I push this button it whistles and this one makes it change tracks and….”
John covered his eyes for a brief moment, then uncovered them and looked around. He was still in his cubicle, and his cubicle was still in a barracks, and his barracks was still in Southeast Asia.
“Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad,” he said, and, still dressed, he slid into his bunk and drifted off to sleep.
It was three AM Christmas morning when he awoke. A squadron of F-105′s were warming up on the ramp. They raced explosively skyward into the dark, spewing long, yellow tails of fire behind them.
“Graveyard shift,” he mumbled, then walked to the latrine, straightened his hair, and went outdoors to catch the base shuttle bus to the shop.
“Graveyard shift, and a Merry Christmas.”
It was one PM when John arrived back in the barracks. Ty was in the cubicle. So was Butch. They were both on their bunks, writing letters home.
“Merry Christmas Ty, Butch,” he said.
“Merry Christmas,” they answered, pausing a moment from their letters.
The rest of the barracks was very quiet. It was Christmas day, and many of the men were still at their war work.
“Wars should be suspended for Christmas day,” he said.
“Here, here,” Ty answered.
“Yeah, right,” Butch said.
John walked over to the storage chest and paused, looking at the Christmas tree. He bent over and turned the lights on. Then he took the electric coffee pot from home from his clothes locker, prepared it, and turned it on. The warm smell of fresh coffee began to fill the cubicle and drift through the entire barracks. Next, he took the baked goods from the locker, opened their boxes, and set them on his bunk.
He paused a moment to look at the tree, the murmuring coffee pot, and the baked goods. Then he tuned in the Armed Forces Radio Network on his amplifier. They were playing Christmas music. Constant, uninterrupted Christmas music. He set the volume low, and he listened. And he looked.
In a moment, Butch and Ty put their letters down, climbed off their bunks, and pulled chairs up near the tree. Without words, John offered them food. Without words, they accepted.
The music of “Silent Night” filled the cubicle.
Slowly, men began to return to the barracks from their Christmas day’s work. On this day, the normally loud commotion of their return was, instead, soft and muffled. No voices could be heard. Just the gentle music of “Silent Night.”
John turned toward the entrance of the cubicle. Two men he did not know had paused there.
“Come in,” John said, and motioned them in with his hand. “Grab a chair.” The men hesitated, looking first at the Christmas tree, then at John. Then they came in, slid a chair up near John, Ty, and Butch, and sat down. The silence felt strange. One of them said: “I’m from Toledo.”
“Really?” the other one said, “I’m from Akron. I didn’t know you were from Toledo.”
“Yup, Toledo.”
Silence again. Then, voices from behind said: “Is it OK if we come in?” Then more. And more. One by one, men returning from their war work saw the gentle lights of the tree, smelled the warming fragrance of the coffee, and observed the growing congregation in the little cubicle in the large barracks in Southeast Asia on the other side of the world from their homes.
Soon, the cubicle was filled with men sitting on the floor and on bunks and chairs, and mostly, everyone was silent, looking at the Christmas tree, eating home-baked foods, drinking coffee, and listening to Christmas music.
Then, slowly, quiet conversations began.
“I remember,” one man started, “what it was like to be a kid at Christmas time.”
“Yeah,” from someone else.
“My brother and I used to sneak downstairs late at night to see what Santa had left us,” still another said.
And another, laughing: “My sister and I did the same thing!”
“So did we,” from another and another and another, and soft laughter.
A short, thin man, physically aged long past his true years, had been staring at the Christmas tree and for a very long time he had been silent. Then, slowly, almost timidly, speaking very softly, he said: “At this time of the year, my Mother and my Father and sisters and brothers and I would sit together in our living room after dinner, and we would talk about the small things we had done and the great things we had done, and about what we wanted to do and about what we dreamed of doing.”
The cubicle became hushed, so that all present could hear this man.
“And we talked about wars, too. And about how we believed that peace could be for all people everywhere, if only they would listen to each other and talk to and care for and love one another. We did not have much money, my family, but we did have much belief, and we truly believed that this was possible.”
The man fell silent for a moment.
The cubicle was absolutely quiet.
“I am here with all of you on this Christmas day in front of this beautiful, little Christmas tree, and I feel at this moment that these beliefs are present in this room. You see, I am
Jewish, and normally I do not celebrate Christmas, as you know.” He paused for a moment, and looked around the hushed cubicle at the faces of the men.
“This year, though,” he started, “this year with all of you here and this tree, I celebrate Christmas with you in the spirit that peace is possible.”
“Happy Hanukkah,” one of the men said to him. And another. And another.
“And merry Christmas in peace to all of you,” he answered.
Except for Christmas music, the room was silent for a very long time.
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” began on the radio, and slowly and softly the voices of the many men in the cubicle joined in. The sound of this chorus drifted through the barracks and out into the endless night.


The U.S revolutionary war with Great Britain was over. Tens of thousands of men were dead—-all for the cause of a free republic that had come to be called the United States of America. The Founding Fathers of this great republic were gathered in Philadelphia to try to work out a critical document—a document that would evolve into the Constitution of the United States of America

At that Constitutional Convention, on June 28, 1787, 81 year old statesman Benjamin Franklin addressed George Washington, President of the Convention with this speech:

“Mr. President:

The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other–our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom since we have been running about in search of it…

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has this happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?

I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth–that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and byword to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move–that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

It should be noted that Franklin was one of the least religious members of the Founding Fathers. Given that—-still—-he saw the need for prayer and thanks.

God and Christian bashing have become quite popular these days. It seems that many have actually willed themselves to forget and/or ignore the millions of people who gave their lives so that this country could be and remain free. It seems that they have forgotten/ignored the truth that without God’s blessing, the U.S.A would never have become the great republic it did become.

So–ask yourself this: are you willing to ignore these facts? If so, are you confident that, if you do–and if many others who are continuing to do–that we will remain free? Are you willing to bet your freedom on that? Are you willing to bet your life on it?

Think about it, and—-remember.


Two Four Barrels

November 26, 2013 | Leave a Comment

Please accept this story as a gift. It is intended to most certainly be that. Gifts mark an occasion, of course—they commemorate. This one marks an occasion for me. Perhaps you have a similar one marked. Enjoy this, please. Enjoy all of yours. Time moves us all along the endless road.

Two Four Barrels

It was a 1962 Corvette convertible, white, with red air scoops on the sides, red in the interior. Two great big four barrel carburetors perched squarely atop its engine. Tucked deep down inside of that engine was a camshaft with a heart for racing.

When the Corvette idled, it did not go “blub-blub-blub.” It did not even go “blub-a-blub-a-blub.” When this Corvette idled, it went “whoom-ba-ba, whoom-ba-ba-whoom-ba-ba-whoom-ba-ba.” What it did was idle at a speed where most other cars reached their maximum torque. When you looked at this car sitting still, idling, you could see it rocking visibly. To watch it, thus, gave a person goose bumps.

The Corvette belonged to Bob Chamberlain. Despite what most people alleged, Bob Chamberlain was not crazy. He was, however, driven by an undefinable force that pushes some people to their outermost capabilities, and, in the doing, sends them away feeling that they have lived every moment to the fullest. Bob was also very serious, at least where his Corvette was concerned.

Every day, Bob made sure that his Corvette was washed to where it sparkled in the sun. Just before washing it, he would be slumped over the front fenders, tuning it. Every single day. And every single day, Bob saw to it that the sun did not set without he and his Corvette having gone in excess of 130 miles per hour on one of the many different desolate back country roads he carefully chose and alternated between. All these things were absolute rituals to Bob.

Occasionally a friend would tell me that Bob had taken one of us “younger” generation types (Bob was 20; we were 15 to 17) on one of his 130 plus mile per hour runs. Supposedly, this only happened rarely, and it could never be proven by anyone who had claimed to be the passenger. I knew how potentially deadly riding on one of those runs could be, yet I wanted to go along on one so badly I could taste it.

One hot July day in 1964, I was visiting a friend at the service station where he worked, when Bob pulled his quaking red and white Corvette up next to us. He shut the engine off in the middle of a “whoom.” There he sat behind the wheel: the legendary Bob. Dungarees, white t-shirt, cigarette hanging from one corner of his mouth. He surveyed us youngsters for a moment or two, and no one talked. You didn’t talk until Bob talked.

Finally, the silence was broken with his “Guys—howyadoin’?”

“Great, Bob. Cool. Car looks great, sounds great, how you doin’?” was our collective reply.

“I’m O.K.”, Bob said, “O.K.” Another moment of silence. Then, without warning, he looked straight at me and said: “so, you ready for a ride, kid?”

This was it. The unproven was happening. All the things I knew were wrong about saying yes raced through my mind. I could hear my parents saying it was too dangerous, telling me not to go. It was a possibility that I could end up scattered all over a country road, intermingled with smoking 1962 Corvette convertible parts. I knew this, and the thought scared me silly. I could feel myself shaking inside.

“Sure”, I replied. “Sure.”

As we arrived at the day’s chosen location, Bob slowly pulled the Corvette into place at the end of one of his legendary chosen country roads. He shut the engine off. The absolute silence was crushing. The Corvette had the top down, and Bob boosted himself up to sit on top of the driver’s seat back. He stared solidly down the long straightaway, as if somehow making a deep personal connection with it. I could feel myself trembling, and I thought about opening the car door and running, but I couldn’t move. There was a possibility that I was going to wet my—

“Kid,” he said. The word crashed through the tense silence, and I jumped at the sound of it. “Kid, this is going to be one helluva ride. You’ve never taken one like it before, and you never will again. When it’s over, you’ll have a story to tell for the rest of your life. Always remember what it was like, and always remember that it was Bob Chamberlain who gave that ride to you.”

“I wi—” “Whoom-ba-ba-whoom-ba-ba-whoom-ba-ba-whoom-ba-ba.” I had started to try to make my voice work and tell Bob that I would remember, when he dropped down into the seat, grabbed the key, and started the Corvette engine. We sat at the end of the straightaway, the Corvette rocking nervously, Bob’s hand on the floor shift. For a moment, it was like we were the only two people in the world, sitting in the only Corvette in the world, parked and ready to spring at the end of the only country road straightaway in the world. My heart pounded in anticipation. For some reason, I thought of my back yard at home, and I wondered if my mother was hanging clothes on the clothesline that ran from the back of the house to the giant oak tree.

Simultaneously, Bob slammed the gas pedal to the floor and popped the clutch. The world was instantly filled with the rage of an untamed engine at full throttle, the screaming of spinning tires, and the smell of burning rubber. Pinned solidly to the back of the seat, I was unable to move forward against the crushing force of acceleration. My heart felt like it was about to leap out of my chest. Water streamed backwards out of the corners of my eyes as we gained speed. Each time Bob shifted into the next gear, it was a perfect speed shift. The gas pedal stayed on the floor. The floor shift and the clutch pedal flashed in perfect unison, as if they somehow controlled each other without assistance. With each shift, the Corvette lurched forward like a wild animal. The dotted line down the center of the road transformed through speed into the solid line down the center of the road. The roaring of the speed-induced wind grew louder and louder, and the trees in the fields on both sides of the road blended to become a solid wall of green. I could feel the skin on my face begin to distort from the g-forces. “Slam” went the last shift, and, over the combined roar, I could hear the back tires bark out a sharp squeal. I forced my head to the left to try to see the speedometer. I squinted through the wind and the tears. 137 miles per hour. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it all reversed: clutch in, motor at idle, brakes firmly applied, speedometer needle dropping; 110, 65, 30, 0, engine off. Silence. Somewhere, a bird chirped.

I looked over at Bob and saw him looking at me, and was that the slightest indication of a tiny smile at the corners of his mouth? He said nothing. I said nothing. The trip back to the service station was made without conversation.

“Take it easy, kid,” Bob said as I opened the door.

“Yeah, you too,” I answered. “And, Bob—thanks.”

“It’s cool, kid, it’s cool. You’re O.K.”

With that, Bob Chamberlain and his 1962 Corvette convertible drove off the lot. For some reason, standing there alone, I felt like crying. I did not know it then, but the very next day, Bob was off to report for duty. He had been drafted into the Army and had volunteered to serve in a place called Vietnam. He knew this when he gave me my ride, but he never said a word. As it turned out, he was one of the thousands of fine men and women who never came home alive.

I know not what happened to his beloved 1962 Corvette convertible.

He was right, though. It was one helluva ride. I’ll never forget what it was like. And I will never forget Bob Chamberlain.



I Believe In Love

September 20, 2013 | Leave a Comment

I believe in love. You know—-the romantic kind. The kind where—-when you can’t be with her every minute, you feel crazy—-not obsessive—-crazy—-because you miss her so much. Because her being with you completes you. Makes you know that you can do anything. Anything. And, in the doing—-you want more than anything to support and help your love in any way you can.

It’s difficult to put into words, isn’t it? But—-many of you know exactly what I mean.

A story. My Dad was a bank teller his entire adult life. Retired from it. No real glamor there—-just an honest job that he did well. Years after he was gone, someone who did business with him told me how, if you needed banking help—-my Dad was the one to go to. So—-he was a bank teller. That’s what he did. His and my Mom’s life was not extraordinary. They had their ups and downs. Sound familiar? But—-no matter what—-they were there for each other. Whether in the middle of an up or a down.

Because my Mom and Dad were on a budget, my Dad elected to fix everything that broke in the house that he possibly could—-to avoid the expense of having someone come in to fix it. We had an old oil furnace in our house that needed to have its firebox relined every so often. So the family could keep warm. Feel secure. And—-my Dad would labor—-sitting in front of that furnace on a stool for hours and hours—-molding furnace cement in his hands—-to do the job that needed doing. And—-of course—-as he got older—-that job became harder and harder….But—-he did it. As it happened, the last time he did it, he stumbled emotionally—-wasn’t sure he could do it again. Probably was afraid and wondering what would happen if he failed. My Mom—-God bless her—came down into the basement. She said: “you can do it Hoot (his lifelong nickname)—-you can do it. Here—-let’s do it together.” And—-so they did. Mom and Dad. Working on an aging furnace firebox. And they got it done. Because they loved one another so much. And—-because they wanted to support and help each other in any way they could.

Whenever someone tries to tell you that love is about things—-about money—-about fine mansion-like houses—-about a lot of social posturing—-about any of the stupid things that many folks make love out to be these days—-don’t you believe it. Instead, you tell them about my Mom and Hoot working on that old furnace.

I believe in love. You know—-the romantic kind.



A quote from Mr. Robert Frost—-not from his poetry—-but a direct quote during an interview: “Never be bullied into silence. never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

And the cost? Monumental. Financially. Personally—-and a whole lot more. The cost of not doing so? Your lifelong peace, perhaps.

So—-what to do? Different for each of us, isn’t it? Take the chance? Possibly go to your end in bankruptcy? Or in glory? Either way…

Here’s the deal: do it, and be able to like and live with yourself each day. Don’t do it, and God knows what.



The Human Spirit

January 6, 2012 | Leave a Comment

Here’s one for you: one of the hospital housekeeping staff inadvertently kicks a bucket of cleaning solution outside the room of a dying patient. Mortified at the offense, she cringes at what she has done. Then–from inside the patient’s room comes this: “hey—-I’m supposed to be the one doing that.”

Look far and wide. Travel far and wide. Do so with your eyes and ears wide open. As such, you will always find this kind of beautiful, graceful, touching display of the ability of the human spirit to revert to humor in even the most dire circumstances.

Says something about our mortality. Also—and much more important to me—says something about our immortality—-even in death.




December 27, 2011 | Leave a Comment

He worried about his departure.

Not from his town or his state—-he worried about his departure from the planet.

There was so much that he had said while he was there. And—-there was so much that he had not said. Always wanting to put to words his burning emotions—-and always feeling that he had not been able to accurately do so.

Two lines from a Robert Frost poem kept surfacing: “Was something brushed across my mind/That no one on earth will ever find?” kept running and rerunning through his mind–piercing him. Piercing that ever-present, longing desire.

It was like this: “I always did the best I could do—-and—-it felt like it was rarely enough.”

Be at peace, then. If we believe–if we care–we do what we can. And it goes out through the furthest reaches of the universe and comes back, having been shared time and time again–having made a difference.  And——–although we usually miss the reality that doing our best was enough——–the precise truth is that it was.

Rest now, and——–remember.


When I was much, much younger, I often wondered what it was going to be like to be–say–60–or so.

The Christmases came and went in blind succession, and the line “not even a mouse” swerved in and out of them–giggling, it seemed.

Not even a mouse.

And not a single sparrow that would fall without His knowing.

Well—-knowing what it is like to be 60–or so–has come and gone long ago. It ain’t the age, my friends—-it’s who loves you—-who cares about and respects you–who accepts you for who you are—-faults and all.

About who saves you from the emptiness and despair and loneliness.

So—-to all the mice and the sparrows and the friends and lovers and husbands and wives who care about each other—-to all of you: Merry Christmas.

And may God richly bless and keep all of you.



Courtesy of Mr. Richard Harris from “The Yard Went On Forever”, written by Mr. Jimmy Webb and released in the year of our Lord 1968:

“And a man could have a boy, and a boy could have a dog, and there weren’t any subways, and there wasn’t any smog——–and the yard went on forever.”

Caustic, I think, is the word that best describes the feeling those lines evoke. The sweet simplicity, the honest yearning for—what? Perhaps simplicity and honesty themselves.



A Flash of Light

December 4, 2011 | Leave a Comment

A flash of light.

He felt it before he saw it.

It stung.

And—-it was imbued with all the oldies and the explosive emotions that went with them.

What was it?

Could it have been that he still felt her hand in his? Still remembered the feeling when they drove into the dark night with their fingers intertwined, singing along with the songs?

It ain’t fair when the past becomes the past. It disallows the truth.

We need the past to be a part of the present.

The sting is too sweet to be otherwise.