Photographic Treasure

This is the only picture I have of my entire family together. (I’m not in it because I was holding the camera.)

I’d like to say my family always looked this happy but that wouldn’t be true. It wouldn’t be true of any family. Old photos allow us to keep and embellish the good times when everyone was smiling because we were all really happy together, at least in that moment.

My old pictures invoke a nice warm feeling of a time when life was less complicated and when my family was together for everything including mealtimes at the table, visits with our relatives and family vacations.

This was our family vacation in McCann, Northern California, along the Eel River in August of 1964. We were there for a week which included my 13th birthday. My parents gave me a stamp collecting album and a wonderful variety pack of international postage stamps to study, sort and paste.

I also got a new, official National League baseball which my dad and I tossed back and forth for hours that week right in the middle of the dirt road outside our cabin’s front door.

McCann  was already a ghost town when we were there.

It was smack dab in the middle of no place, Humboldt County. It had been a stage coach station in 1881 and a post office soon after. It tried to be a town but stumbled and failed in the thirties and forties. By the time we got there in ’64 there were no living businesses, just the dirty old windows of store fronts that had been abandoned decades earlier.

As I remember it we were there for an entire week without seeing another soul. The only traffic we saw and heard were the Northwestern Pacific freight trains that rumbled and shrieked just a few feet past our cabin in the middle of each night. When that happened we all woke up and giggled in the dark, not just us kids, our parents too.

We had no TV in that cabin and couldn’t even get a radio signal. I know because I tried. Instead we just played together. We hiked down a steep river bank to get to the water’s edge. I held my little brother’s hand as we waded into the Eel. I held onto the blowup raft with my little sister aboard and grinning from ear to ear.

Dad and I fished with salmon eggs for bait and I saw beavers playing in the water not far from the lodge they had built from the branches of young fir and redwood trees along the shore.

My mom burned my birthday cake trying to bake it in an ancient wood burning oven in the cabin. It was edible, just toasty, and I loved it because it was mine and Mom made it for me.

On my birthday I wrote a note to the future, shoved it into an empty tin can and stuck it deep inside a hollowed chunk of a tree that was still very much alive. I imagined that the tree would grow over that hole and preserve my message. Someday, I thought, someone would cut that tree down and find my hello from the past.

Wouldn’t it be something if it was found now, in the 21st century?

I remember all of that from one picture taken 55 years ago. I probably have a lot of it wrong. I just remember it as I wish to.

This picture makes me happy.

A note to my grandsons

Dear Isaiah and Tyler,

I’d like you both to know that though I don’t get to be with you very often I think of you every single day. I really do.

When I wake up in the morning my first thought is to be grateful for a new day. I thank God for it. If you don’t believe in God that’s your right but you should give it some serious thought before you dismiss the possibility that you are alive for a good reason, not just by accident.

Either way, you should start each day happy to be alive. Be grateful for sunrise, blue skies, cold rain and for puppies and bugs.

Be grateful for the people you love.

That’s when I think of you, first thing each day.

Start your day happy.

When you’re happy it makes everyone around you happy. It’s contagious. They spread their happiness to other people. We need more happy people in the world.

As you get older you will learn a great many things about life. You’ll learn most of them from experience but you can get a lot of good tips from your parents, grandparents and other people who are older and carry your life in their hearts.

I’d like to share some of my life lessons with you. I’ll just do one at a time.

My dad taught me what I think is the single most important thing in life:

  1. “If you don’t love yourself you’ll never be worth a damn to anyone else.” – Don Williams, 1981

If you can’t love yourself, who will?

I’ll have some more of these from time to time. You can take them to heart or just consider them and decide later what you think.

We never know how much time we have left so I’ll give you the end of these lessons here and now.

This is the point and purpose of life, in my opinion:

“We are game-playing, fun-having creatures;
we are the otters of the universe.”
Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

With much love,
Your Grandpa Dave

Copyright 2018, David L. Williams. All rights reserved.

“You didn’t come with instructions.”

Researchers have warned that the prospect of leaving home has left ill-prepared millennials feeling anxious and panicked.

A recent study of 2,000 young people about to enter college has concluded that millennials are unprepared for the realities of life in the real world. More than half don’t know how to pay a bill or how much they should expect to spend on rent.

61% of these young people are scared to leave their parents. 58% have trouble sleeping. 27% have panic attacks when they think about moving away from home.

These blossoming adults go off to college nervously in need of “trigger warnings” for their studies and “safe spaces” in which to live their lives. Many don’t want to learn how to drive a car.

Some expect to get a trophy for merely participating in life.

Recently on our Dallas morning radio show on KLIF my partner, Amy Chodroff, and I talked about this study and tried to figure out how young Americans went from being excited about inheriting their own lives, as we were at their age, to being seemingly terrified by the prospect of growing up and leaving the nest.

Amy, a Gen-Xer with two well-parented and supremely prepared and confident children of her own, decided her generation is to blame for coddling these kids.

We talked about so-called helicopter parents and the everyone-gets-a trophy entitlement era of today’s society. It made sense to us and we left the blame there, on the Gen-X parents of Millenials.

Something about the discussion nagged at me and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized what it was:

Amy’s generation of helicopter parents are my generation’s free-range kids.

We Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, were the beatniks of the 1950s and the hippies of the 60s. We worshiped at the altar of Do Your Own Thing in the Church of What’s Happening Now.

We had a wonderfully carefree childhood during a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity and yet we rejected every notion of our own parents’ culture from the Hit Parade music they loved to our haircuts and the clothes they wanted us to wear.

We even rejected the uniquely American idea that liberty came with a price worth paying, though that’s easy to understand if you consider our perspective.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall – Washington, D.C.

Politicians of the 60s sent us to a war of their making. 50,000 of us died in Vietnamese rice paddies ten thousand miles from home.

I frequently think of my high school buddies who had their lives blown away before they were old enough to grow a beard or fall in love for the first time.

Those of us who dodged the draft warned each other to never trust anyone over thirty and shouted, “Make love, not war!”

Now we’re in our sixties and seventies wondering why our grandkids are so nervous and we blame their parents, our children.

Just look at the society we Boomers left in the wake of our cultural revolution.

In some ways our kids are more traditional than we were at their age. Growing up as the children of free-range parenting they’re over-correcting our mistakes by inventing their own, insisting that every spare minute of their children’s lives be scheduled, structured and under constant supervision and  by insisting that the road to happiness begins at birth with eyes fixed on the prize: a scholarship to Harvard or Stanford.

Our children’s children are leaving home, entering those schools confused and scared. And who can blame them? They were never taught that they would be challenged and sometimes they would fail. Nobody ever explained that they aren’t really bulletproof, bound for glory or as exceptional as they were constantly assured.

Nobody ever explained they’ll be paying off those student loans for the next twenty years.

We love our children. We don’t want them to ever be scared or disappointed. And yet we know they have to suffer to succeed.

Or did we forget to tell them that part?

Sometimes parents make mistakes. We can’t avoid them. We can only try to minimize them and try to make them teachable moments for ourselves and our kids.

As my Carolann likes to remind her Gen-X son: “You didn’t come with instructions.”

 

*Source of quoted material: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4666794/Millennials-aren-t-ready-reality-life.html

 

Great Minds

I don’t write as much as I used to. When I was young I was much smarter. Wisdom came to me so fast I couldn’t explain it all. But, over the years I’ve come to realize the older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

Me, thinking deep thoughts.

That was an original thought when I thunk it. Nobody enlightened me. I had never heard or read anything like it. It was a brilliant and original epiphany. But now we have the Internet and ego crushing reality is just a search away.

A minute ago I typed “The more I learn…” into Google and here’s what popped up:

“The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother to learn? — George Bernard Shaw”

And…

“The more you know, the less you understand. — Lao-Tse”

And the real stunner…

“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. — Socrates”

Socrates had my original thought 2,400 years before I did and said it more crisply!

AND, in ancient Greek!

Socrates had nothing on me.

I suppose having an idea expressed by one of the great thinkers in history come to me all by itself is cool but there’s no point in my passing it along. It obviously occurs to everybody eventually.

Plus, if we all regurgitated every brilliantly mundane original thought we have what would become of the poor philosophy majors who have nothing else to do with their educations?

The other reason I don’t write much anymore is because Americans don’t read much anymore.

We Tweet. We text. We spend our days expressing every banal thought that crosses our mind in such a way that we don’t have to bother hearing or reading a response.

Maybe we don’t want response. We’re just spewin’.  Maybe we’re just trying to shut off the noise and hear ourselves think.

I could be wrong about this. Maybe, but how can I know?

I’ve learned so much, so fast, I’m rushing toward total ignorance.

Emily’s Gift

CarolAnn and I just sent a birthday gift to our daughter-in-law, Emily. Took just thirty seconds to pick it out and ship it. ?

Gift giving isn’t what it used to be and a lot of us old geezers are highly annoyed by it. Back in the day we’d think about it a lot and then head out to the mall to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Then we’d go home and gift wrap it. If that person lived far away we’d package it and take it to the post office. The whole process could take half a day or more but it was gratifying. It was fun to think of our loved one opening the pretty package and being surprised and delighted by what was inside.

Sending a gift card via email as I just did takes no time at all. No thought. The efficiency of it is undeniable and that doesn’t mean we love our daughter-in-law any less, of course. It just means another tradition has fallen to our modern addiction to efficiency.

We don’t write letters anymore. Heck, most of us don’t even bother with email anymore. We text. We tweet.

Occasionally we use our phones as phones and actually talk with each other but that’s starting to seem like a special occasion these days. I’ve even started texting people to make an appointment to talk with them on the phone. No kidding.

Here’s what I think:

I think adapting to change is difficult as we get older but our only alternative is to refuse to change. Those who do that just sit on the porch and watch life pass by without even bothering to wave to them.

I think wistful longing for the past is natural and fine in small measure. Nostalgia is warm and comforting but it’s no way to live.

I want to keep learning to keep living. These days I find I’m constantly learning from my children. And why not? We taught them the ways of the world with hope they’d make it better. I think they’re doing that, even if we don’t always understand or like the changes.

Bottled Water

About thirty years ago I was working with a guy named Bob Nathan. He told me one morning that he had just invested some money in a new company that was going to sell drinking water in plastic bottles. I thought he was kidding. When I found out he wasn’t, I thought he was crazy.

No, this is not a scene from a sci-fi movie about cloning geeky teens. It’s an actual tanning bed.

Who would ever pay for bottled water?

Bob retired years ago. I’m still working for the man.

About the same time another friend bought a tanning salon, where people would spend ridiculous amounts of money  to bake themselves to a turkey skin crisp. And mind you, this was in California where the sun is always shining for free.

Have you heard about oxygen bars? Yes, it’s true. People make dating reservations to sit down and plug hoses into their noses so they can pay to breathe.

(And by the way, don’t think it didn’t occur to me to wonder why someone who could buy a cattle ranch needed to sell useless dead wood.)

.I may be slow but I’m not entirely stupid. After thirty years I have an idea of my own. I’m going to charge people money to be nice to them. For a dollar a day I’ll be pleasant whenever our paths cross. Or, wait…how about this? For two dollars a day I’m stay out of your life completely.

How can I miss you?

You ever get tired of yourself??

We all get tired of constantly being around other people. Not always or often, but occasionally we need a break from even the people we love most in life: our spouse, our kids, our best friend. And it’s not just one or two of them at a time it’s all of them all at once!

I’m no psychologist but I’m absolutely sure this is normal and healthy and nothing to worry about. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Or, as Dan Hicks put it in his song by the same name: How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

Have you ever wondered how you can go through your entire life without feeling that way about yourself? Geez! Everywhere you go all day, every day, there you are!

When you go to bed you go with you. When you wake up you’re still there.

Every single moment of your life you know everything you’re thinking and everything you’re going to say before you say it! Doesn’t that make you just a little crazy every once in awhile?

You understand yourself better than anybody else. You talk to yourself but you never, I mean NEVER, have a disagreement. You like the same foods, watch the same TV shows, laugh and cry at the same things and you love the same people.

The one thing I almost never do is surprise myself. And that’s a drag.

I swear, sometimes I just need a short break from me. I need to send myself away or take a short vacation and be somebody I never met before. Or, be nobody at all just for a little while.

If you know me personally, admit it, the thought of being with me 24/7 for 66 years is unimaginable, right? Sure it is! You couldn’t do it, so why should I be expected to?

Ever feel like that?

My Life In a Shoebox

Here in North Texas the seasons change overnight. And then they change back again. A couple of days ago we hit 94 degrees. Today we’re going to stay in the 40s. Next month or next week we might have snow, then back to 85 for a couple of days.

Texas is famous for it and I love the variety.

We all mark the passing of time with changes in the weather. If it never changed we would seem to be living the same day over and over.

And yet… the days and years of our lives often seem to change like calendar pages flying off the screen to show passage of time in old movies.

You know what frustrates me? I can’t remember everything. The past 66  years are written on my brain in fuzzy black and white memories like the photographs of my childhood. They’re all mixed up in my shoebox of a brain. I sort through them from time to time and while I can usually remember a relative few specific places and people the entire experience of my life is mostly conjecture.

I figure young people of today will have the opposite problem. When they’re my age they’ll be sorting through hundreds of thousands of pictures of cats and babies they once knew and meals they once ate.

Making sense of your life is as hard as predicting it

60, 70, 80  years…

It sounds so long but it lives so fast.

Daylight saving time is dumb but it won’t kill you

Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday.

I don’t really care. I’m the least busy person I know.

Everybody still says we’ll all lose an hour’s sleep Saturday night. Not me. I go to bed when I’m tired on Saturday and wake up Sunday morning when I’m finished sleeping. The clock says whatever it says, I don’t care.

The only time changing the clock became a personal issue is when I was working on the air at radio stations on the Fall Back all night shift. I would slog through the 1-2 a.m. hour and then, presto time change-o!, it was 1 a.m. again! That kinda sucked.

If you do have to awaken at a particular time on Sunday and you’re afraid losing an hour’s sleep will kick your butt I have two suggestions: go to bed earlier or change your plans.

Seriously, why is this a big deal?

It’s exactly the same as when you fly into a different time zone that’s one hour ahead. Does that wreak havoc in your life for as much as five days as they keep telling us in the news? I don’t think so.

Lately we’ve been treated to sensationalized news stories telling us how changing the clocks one hour leads to more highway deaths for sleepy drivers and more heart attacks and strokes for people who have trouble adjusting their bodies to the arbitrary numbers we call time.

Oh, puh-leeze!

I don’t mean to be a jerk but if you have a heart attack because of Daylight Saving Time I’m guessing that your heart was in critical distress before you changed the clock.

Farmers: “Make hay while the sun shines.”

We’ve all been taught that the goal of Daylight Saving Time was to give farmers an extra hour of daylight. Farmers, being much smarter than the rest of us, call that a big pile of horse hockey. The sun rises and sets on its own schedule all year ’round. Farmers adjust their work to the actual hours of daylight, not clocks.

And, by the way, there really are more hours of daylight in the summer. We don’t need to extend them artificially by changing our clocks.

10:30 P.M. – Oh, Canada!

One summer Carolann and I drove to the Canadian Rockies. It didn’t get dark until 10:30 P.M.! The Canadians seem to be just fine with it.

The only thing I find remotely interesting in all of this is the history of keeping time in the United States.

Until 1883 clocks were set at noon when the sun was straight overhead no matter where you happened to be. This made sense except that a town fifty miles east or west would set their clocks to noon when the sun was straight overhead a few minutes earlier or later.

That was no big deal until the railroads came along and started moving people great distances faster than the speed of the overhead sun. The availability of pocket watches made the problem suddenly obvious: your watch said 2:30 but the clock at the railroad station where you just arrived might say it was 3:15.

Imagine flying into an airport today and needing to change planes. Say it only takes you five minutes to walk from one terminal to another but when you get there you’ve mysteriously lost half an hour and missed your connecting flight.

That’s how railroads worked until 1883. There were literally hundreds of “time zones” in the U.S.

But then the government got involved and, as usual, made everything work smoothly.

But here’s the good news: if we insist on maintaining this silly tradition we’re darned close to living in a world where all clocks change themselves. Your computers, tablets and phones already do this. Watches, clocks on stoves and in cars can’t be far behind.

And you know what that means?  Blessedly, nothing.

We’ll never notice anything except that it suddenly stays light an hour longer.

“Hmm. I guess the time changed last night.”

That’s all we’ll say.

If TV and radio stop beating us over the head with stuff to worry about we’ll all be fine.