Play ball!

Candlestick Park, San Francisco – 1960s

Today is the first day of the Major League Baseball season and as always I’m just a bit melancholy.

Throughout my life I’ve taught myself to treasure my past without clinging to it. Some people can’t let go of their “good old days”. They just seem worn out and refuse to go any farther.

They seem to quit on life before it leaves them.

I’ve worked hard to avoid what I call GOMS, Grumpy Old Man Syndrome. It’s not hard. I’m blessed. I love my life, my family and friends. I love waking up each day.

But every year there is one day, this day, that makes me feel old and frustrated because my body won’t allow me to play the game in my heart.

Baseball is the essence of eternal youth, of fluffy white clouds in March and the smell of freshly cut grass. To play the game, to run and leap and slide in the dirt using muscles that stretch and coil in perfect harmony with young reflexes, is indescribable.

Spring turns to summer and we played daily, all day, until darkness sent us home for a brief time out. In those days tomorrows were endless and each new morning began with a promise of glory.

All the wonderful tributes paid to the game that turns old men into little boys again hurt just a bit. It’s the only time of the year when I am painfully nostalgic for my youth.

I’ll watch the boys of this summer. I’ll remember their skills and hope for them that they love it all as much as I still do.

 

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.

A bird watcher’s lament

(Beginning music by the great Spike Jones and his City Slickers via YouTube.)

Ah, spring! When every young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love. 

Old men like me start thinking about pollen, mowing and weeding and sneezing and wheezing. And here in Texas that means I’m in for at least seven months of it. Except that I usually throw in the towel and give up about mid-August. That’s when the heat keeps me indoors most of the time knowing that my efforts to keep everything green and colorful are futile anyway. The lawn will turn brown eventually no matter what I do.
It’s Texas.
 
Last year I found a new distraction that I fancied might become a serious hobby. I started birdwatching. I don’t mean to offend anyone but in my mind nothing says “old man” louder than trying to differentiate between a common and a great tail grackle. Not that it matters. Grackles are all annoying trash birds that scare away the ones I really want to see: cardinals and orioles, golden finch and a rainbow of hummingbirds.
 
We bought bird feeders last year and placed them where we could see them from our family room. That was fun at first but the more involved I got the more frustrated I became in trying to stop the sparrows from beating up a delicate little tufted titmouse or a delightful red breasted nuthatch.
 
Sparrows are mean. They’re bullies, did you know that? They are. Theyve been known to throw eggs our of the nests of other species and steal their homes.
 
And another thing: birds are messy. They throw more seeds on the ground than they eat and they eat a ton of them. It gets expensive. The bird seed takes root in the lawn and weeds are growing everywhere when I had none before. What worse — the dogs eat the seeds off the ground and leave us little, crumbling piles of seedy poop.
 
I don’t know what to do. Should I resume the madness and go broke again having truckloads of premium seeds delivered from Amazon or should I just let them fend for themselves.
 
The thrill is gone and I’m glad I escaped the grip of addiction before it could pull me down to rock bottom. I am now and shall always be a recovering bird watcher.

Blossoms of spring, promise of cobbler

Spring has sprung in North Texas.

Dormant lawns are greening before we can get our mowers tuned. Perennials are yawning awake. We’re thanking last year’s spent annuals while replacing them with a new generation of color and sweetness.

Our peach tree is budding with gorgeous pink flowers and promise of delicious homemade cobblers in the coming summer.

I smoke meats and cook dinners but peach cobbler is the only from-scratch dessert in my baking repertoire. It’s easy to make and nothing is better after any summer evening meal, especially when topped off with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. Blue Bell please, if you have it.

My blogging friend Gabriana took note of her own peach tree blossoms the other day and like me, she’s pretty excited about it. (See her Nosy Parker Blog here.)

As much as I love the dark cold days and long, narcotic nights of winter, this time of year I’m forced to admit with observational comic Robert Orben:

Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’

Season of storms and Bluebonnets

Near Covington TX, March 17, 2018 Photo bu Jeff Stephens, The Backroads of Texas Facebook group.

This is not a tornado but it might have turned into one if conditions had been just slightly different yesterday. The photo is pure Texas in the spring.

Here’s another one taken yesterday near Lampasas. This is called a supercell. You don’t see these everywhere, mainly in tornado alley. You really don’t want to see one up close and personal. But again, this is not a tornado, though it can give them birth.

Near Lampasas, TX, March 17-2018 Photo by Jessica Price – Backroads of Texas Facebook Group

When you live in Texas you learn more about weather than you need to know in California.  Spring and fall are severe storm seasons. They can throw softball size hailstones at us, spawn terrifying tornadoes and create brief straight-line winds up to 100 mph on what was a hot, sunny day just a few minutes earlier.

Most Texans don’t seem terribly concerned by any of this. Here in Tornado Alley there are darned few storm shelters and nobody has a basement or cellar. Crazy, right? There’s just something inherently Texan about being a cockeyed optimist and at the same time shrugging off fate.

If your time is up, it’s up.

Photo by Abby Gordon,
https://www.facebook.com/texasbluebonnetsightings/

But spring in Texas is also time of dazzling natural beauty, when the prairies bloom into a heavenly landscape of wildflowers. Chief among them is the Blue Bonnet, the state flower of Texas.

I don’t know anyone here that would give up either extreme.

The essence of Texas is a sense of wonder built of challenges overcome.

“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

 

Those beautiful Swedes

I have a friend who does consulting work around the world; he has clients in the U.S., all through Europe, New Zealand, Central and South America. Occasionally he passes through Dallas and we catch up over a meal.

He told me one thing that he’s noticed in his travels is that the Swedes are the most physically and facially beautiful people in the world. He said when he first started doing business in Sweden he caught himself staring at people because they were just unnaturally attractive.

Swedish actors Peter Johansson, Anna Sahlin and Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

One evening while out to dinner with a group of his clients in Sweden he had drank just enough wine to ask the question that had been nagging at him for awhile.

“Do you people realize how beautiful you are?” he asked. “There are no ugly people in your country.”

They laughed and told him immodestly yes, they do know that. Whenever they travel outside their national borders, they said, they find other people in the world a little unsettling.
Isn’t that hilarious?

Daylight Saving Time

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.
 
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.
 
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?  Nothing. 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.

The Age of Irrelevance

Getting older is like getting fatter. You don’t notice because it happens gradually.

One thing you do notice is suddenly being ignored. You notice because it seems to happen overnight. One day you’re a vital part of society and respected leader in your industry; the next day people merely nod at you with a perfunctory smile as if you were a greeter at Walmart.

This only happens with people who didn’t know you when you were young. Unfortunately, over time that seems to be most people.

Several years ago I mentioned this to my son’s mother-in-law, Gloria, a dear friend who is a bit older and very wise. I told her I was frustrated because my experience and knowledge of my business had always been sought by my colleagues but suddenly nobody seems to have any interest in what I think.

“You’ve reached the age of irrelevance,” she explained matter-of-factly.?

I had to let that sink in for a moment.

The age of irrelevance.

Gloria could see I was stunned.  “It happens to all of us,” she said gently. “I used to be the person my managers turned to for ideas. Then one day they weren’t interested in any of my observations or suggestions.”

I didn’t know what to say. It made no sense and yet this is exactly what I was experiencing.

“It’s like when your kids are growing up,” Gloria continued. “They rely on you for everything and then one day they suddenly don’t need you at all. You’re irrelevant.”

Nobody ever warned me this would happen. I don’t like it but I’ve come to accept it philosophically, if not quite emotionally. It still hurts a bit. I feel kind of useless.

Irrelevant.

It’s been a few years since Gloria explained to me this particularly jarring bump on the road of l ife. I’m getting used to it and so will you.

I just thought someone should give you a heads up.

Share

Clutter

I just read a news article quoting new research that determined clutter is stressful.

Really? How much time and money did you spend figuring that out?

While my blogging partner, Anita, is trying to figure out what lifetime memories she should keep and what to do with the rest, I’m still trying to understand how I manage to collect so much stuff in the first place.

I feel a little like the kid named Pigpen from the Peanuts comics. He’s the dirty kid with a perpetual cloud of dust surrounding him. Wherever I go I seem to be in a pile of stuff, especially paper.

Paper collects on my desks at home and work. They gather on the floor and under the seats in my car. They boil out of the glove box: years of expired tire warranties and Taco Bell napkins.

I can’t even bring myself to sit down at my desk at home surrounded as I am by notes, receipts and stacks of paid bills I haven’t had the energy to file.

All around me are boxes of pictures I intend to scan and keep, just like Anita was talking about. That sounds easy enough except that I have  sixty-some years worth and that doesn’t even count the thousands of pointless pictures I’ve taken since my phone became my camera.

I have little boxes here and there filled with stuff I don’t know what to do with. Some of it is unidentifiable – all the stuff I have no use for but am afraid to throw away.

And now we have the research confiming — clutter is stressful.

I’m going to add that article to the shredder pile I’m slowly collecting. It’s not big enough to deal with yet.