Is the pandemic a reset?

by Dave Williams
April  2, 2020

   The whole world is gripped with fear. COVID-19 is killing people, overwhelming health care systems and forcing the global economy to its knees.

As I write this we’re all being told to stay home, wash our hands constantly and don’t touch our faces. We’re told to stay at least six feet apart lest Armageddon takes us all, one hapless victim at a time.

Mass media reports are hysterical.

What if this is a Grand Plan? What if God is hitting the reset button and putting us back on the right path?

If you don’t believe in a supreme being that’s fine. I’m not sure I do, either, but hear me out.

Whether this crisis is real or manipulated as some believe, whether or not  the threat to human life is real or overblown it is undeniably real in the changes it  has brought to all  of our ordinary lives.

People are staying home. Families are forced to spend time together, to play games and to remember – or learn for the  first time – what it means to be a family.

There are more people walking the streets of our neighborhoods than ever before. They’re staying safe but being brave, acting cheerful and neighborly. I’ve gotten waves and smiles from people on our street I’ve never seen before. Social media is giving us glimpses of families and friends engaged in happy play in the safety of their own homes.

Kids have never had it so good. Not since I was s child in the 1950s.

Our dogs have never known such loving attention and companionship as they do now, the kind of love they’ve always given us.

We’re home. We’re fearful but we’re learning to rediscover our  humanity and the meaning of life on our own terms.

Even the terrorists are setting aside their fratricidal tactics to ensure their  own safety. ISIS recently told their own death squads to  hunker down. Think of it, people who  willingly blow themselves up to take innocent lives are suddenly fearful of their own mortality.

Change is in the air, all around the world. It’s a terrifying time to be sure. But what if it’s just meant to be, for our own good?

The New Testament describes Armageddon as both a place and a revelation of events that many deem to foretell the end of the world.

What if it’s really a new beginning?

Believe what you will of the existence of God and Revelations. I don’t know what to believe. That stuff is over my head. But I do see something resulting from this pandemic, real or imagined, that is more hopeful than we might have ever dreamed possible.

We’re setting aside our petty differences, putting careers on the back burner and finally finding time for each other.

This may be much more than a silver lining around a dark cloud. It just might put us back on a path we lost a generation or two ago.

Family, friends;  do unto others.

For now at least, love, decency and kindness seem to be in vogue.

I embrace it and look forward to a better, happier world when this is all behind us.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts with me, here.

#StaySafe. #BeBrave. #BeHappy.

Our pandemic of fear

by Dave Williams
March 21, 2020

Coronavirus 19, CDC photo

Nobody could have imagined something like this. Life as we’ve always known it has virtually ground to a halt around the entire civilized world. Here in the U.S. many public gathering places are closed indefinitely. We’re told to socially isolate and self-quarantine.

Wash your hands, stay six feet apart.

Rumors are flying that martial law will soon be imposed and we’ll all be prisoners in our homes.

How could this happen over a disease that most people survive? As of today there have been 287,000 confirmed cases and 11,900 deaths around the world. We’re warned that the numbers will go much higher but if the percentages hold most of us will be just fine. Except, maybe, financially for the immediate future.

Nearly empty flight from Los Angeles to New York. Facebook photo by my friend, Doug McIntyre.

The shutdown of businesses is crushing the stock markets. Hundreds of thousands of people are out of work and here in the U.S. the number of lost jobs is expected to soar into the millions.

It’s like something from a sci-fi movie.

This blog is a diary, really. I write it for my own future memories and for my children and theirs.

Perspective: It’s a grim time here in the First World. And yet, I can’t imagine life in desperately poor countries where this disease is just another relatively minor pain in the ass for people who live with deadly diseases and devastating poverty every single day of their lives.

By comparison our First World has a slight sniffle. We’re fine.

Perspective: I awoke this morning well rested to a beautiful early spring day, my beloved wife beside me. I made coffee as the dogs waited for their breakfast.

Our kids and their families are hunkered down and healthy, as are most Americans.

When all of this is just a memory toilet paper will be the iconic symbol of COVID-19 in America. We have a panic-induced shortage of it but life goes on.

Some people think this is all a lie or at least overblown. Far more people die each year of the flu, it’s true. We just accept that, so why all of this now?

I think the world is getting its act together as a species, globally responsible for the first time in human history. From the local store owner wearing latex gloves to state governors implementing mandatory restrictions of assembly and movement and nations closing their borders we are working together sensibly, cautiously.

Congress is working in bipartisan near-harmony, for God’s sake.

This will all be over sooner rather than later because Americans and citizens of every other nation in the world are reacting to a crisis with serious actions and measured perspective.

While you’re cooped up in self-quarantine with your family this weekend and for what might be days and weeks to come, make it a special time that none of you will ever forget. Give your kids joyous lifetime memories of the time their family came together as families had in generations past.

This, too, shall pass.

My dear mother always said to me, “This can be a good day or a bad day. It’s up to you.”

Stay safe and well. Make it a good day.

The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate

by Dave Williams

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, 1967-1973

I read this story on Fox News a couple of days ago:

A couple married for nearly 50 years had just enjoyed a cocktail on their deck, where they talked about their inevitable deaths.

As they walked back inside their Vermont home, a piece of ice fell off the roof and fatally struck 73-year-old Linda Freedman Scharrenberg in the back of the head, according to the couple’s daughter, Jodine Meyers.

In the porch conversation, Meyers said her father told his wife he didn’t know how he could live without her.

Sometimes coincidence borders on creepy. And if you think about it for more than a moment it can make you question your disbelief in fate.

Another news story I recall telling on the radio many years ago was about a man fishing at a lake while his family was preparing a picnic table nearby. He hooked a very small perch and it made him laugh. Lifting the tiny fish still on his line above his head he called to his wife and kids, “Hey, look at this whopper!” As she grabbed for her camera the guy looked up at the sunfish dangling on the line over his head, throwing back his head in laughter.

The fish wiggled off the hook, fell into the man’s open mouth and lodged in his throat suffocating him.

Sometimes even God can make clumsy work of things left until the last minute.

Little Boxes

This is a picture of the sales department in the radio station where I work. I kick myself for thinking it’s kind of sad. Who am I to judge?

I’ve never worked in a cubicle. I guess the idea is to give employees their own private space within the much larger hive of many worker bees.

They make their cubicles as personal as they can, dressing them up with lots of pictures of people and places they love, of children’s artwork, toys, awards and memorabilia.

They decorate their private spaces with silly and serious memes, of rapturous photos of vacation memories and maybe-someday dreams.

They post inspirational words that remind them of who they once were and hopefully can still be away from all of this.

I don’t work in a cubicle but I do live in a box, a house that looks nearly identical to all the rest of the homes on our street and the next several streets over in every direction.

Like the  worker bees my dozens of nameless neighbors and I dress up the insides of our otherwise identical private spaces to declare our individuality, our uniqueness and to remember who we are.

Still, we really are workers bees in a hive.

I guess it just shows how we all work together to form a productive, efficient society to the benefit of all. I guess.

But the sales department cubicles still make me sad.

Judge not…

by Dave Williams

My special friend and blogging partner, Anita Garner, just posted an insightful piece called The Way You Make Me Feel. You should read it. It will make you think.

When I was young I was quick to judge others for their attitudes, words and actions. I was young, strong, handsome, wise and cocky.

The only part of that I have left is wise and I’m less sure about that the more I learn about life and myself every day.

Many years ago my adult son asked about my relationship with his mother from whom I had been divorced since he was four.

“I can’t see what you and Mom could have ever had in common,” he said.

“You didn’t know us when we were seventeen,” I answered. “We had a lot in common. We were in love but we grew up in different directions.”

As I am dragged kicking and screaming into my golden years I find great peace in learning that we are all still growing up in directions we never would have expected.

I’m still a flawed mortal, I do pass judgments on others but these days it’s usually judgments on social media squawks from people I don’t know and will never meet. We all need to identify the idiots in the world, right?

But, I’m deeply satisfied with myself these days for having been relieved of the burden of critical introspection in realizing that I have no way nor reason to judge the paths others have chosen or the perspectives and opinions they’ve developed along the way.

I’m interested in your life but I can’t share the millions of moments that have shaped the person you are right now.

We’ll both be different the next time we meet. I can’t wait.

© 2020, Dave Williams

An unrepentant underachiever

by Dave Williams

I don’t remember when I first realized that I was never going to be special. I don’t mean as a person. I’m a good guy and I’m proud of that but when we’re very young we imagine a world of glory and achievements just waiting for us to arrive and pick them up as fate has arranged.

As kids we’re told we can be anything we want to be. It’s a lovely lie.

I wanted to be a major league baseball star. I daydreamed about it for years and played the game joyously. I was decent. I could hit the ball a mile but was a terrible runner and chasing down a fly ball in the outfield was always an adventure. At some point I suddenly understood that hitting World Series winning home runs would always remain in my imagination because I could never be good enough to play center field for the Giants.

The seed of doubt was planted in me early, fifteen or sixteen, maybe. Once they take root doubt seeds spread like dandelions.

I wanted to be a professional actor and as a young adult some pretty knowledgeable people told me I was good enough to study hard, get better and succeed. I’m still not sure what stopped me from trying. Fear of failure, I guess. Though, my wife, the lovely and feisty Carolann Conley-Williams, says I actually fear success. It’s an interesting possibility.

And that’s where I am now: 68 years old, most of my futures behind me and sometimes still wondering why I’ve carried self doubt with me through a lifetime.

I’ve had a very good radio career. I’ve worked morning shows in major markets and learned my craft as well as anyone in the business. I say that with expert objectivity. I’m very good but I’m not great.

I can write but I don’t. I want to but I don’t burn for it. Writers always say they write for their own satisfaction but I think that’s a nifty bit of self deception. What’s the point in writing if lots of other people don’t read your work and love it?

Writing is hard, lonely work fraught with doubt.

Contrary to what I had always assumed I began to learn that doubt can be a comforting friend. He requires nothing more of you than acceptance.

My old friend, Doubt.

I describe myself in social media as, “Happy husband, proud dad and grandpa, unrepentant underachiever.” I wrote it to be charmingly humble but it has suddenly dawned on me that it’s true.

I am an underachiever in one sense but I love my life, every bit of it. I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one instant.

Pushing 70 I’m beginning to understand that finding glory in one’s ordinariness can be a deeply satisfying thing.

My old friend, Doubt, brought me here.

Pictures courtesy of the free online photo share source, Unsplash.com.

Big round numbers

June 13, 2019

Highlands High School, Sacramento, 1969

A couple of days ago marked the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Highlands High School outside of Sacramento. A few days later I began my radio career.

50 years. It’s a stunning number. And that was quite a week, as I recall.

June 10, 1969 was a Tuesday. School was out and for some three or four hundred of us assembled in the football stadium the entire world of opportunities was laid at our feet.

I gave one of the two student commencement speeches that day. I waxed eloquently and metaphorically about those opportunities and warned my classmates, “You must be quick to grab the world by the tail (dramatic pause)…or be left holding the shattered fragments of a Crystal Dream.”

Our parents and teachers applauded my youthful wisdom. My classmates drank from hidden flasks, fired off a couple of illegal bottle rockets and laughed like hell.

One guy in the front row flashed me his junk under his graduation robe.

I said goodbye to my childhood that day with a handful of close friends who are still close and the girl who would become my wife.

Then 50 years slipped away.

KLIF, Dallas, 2019

In our fascination with big, round numbers we look back on our lives and try to find meaning in the journey.  We measure ourselves, comparing then and now.

I’ve been anticipating this big round number for quite awhile and now that it has arrived I’m surprised to learn that it’s not that big a deal except for two things:

I’m alive and happy.

Next stop, the big, round 7-0.

Every day is Mothers Day

Don & Nancy Williams on their wedding day, Aug. 6, 1950. I was born exactly one year later.

I’m the oldest of four kids born to my mom, Nancy Laura Webster Williams. She was still three months from her 20th birthday when I entered the world. Now, as we approach our 68th anniversary as mother and child I’m still trying to understand our indescribable bond.

Until this past year I could talk with my mother. We’d laugh and love with the sparkle in our eyes meant only for each other and with words that couldn’t begin to explain the depth of who we are together. But this past year she lost her words and laughter.

She lives but she barely knows my name and voice.

Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. – Erich Fromm

I’m not sad. Her memories of us may be scrambled but she gave them to me for safe keeping.

I remember the songs she sang at home and the silly sense of humor she taught me. I remember her hugs and kisses and all the smart things she said; the pain and tears she shared and the sunshine of her smile that followed.

My mother loves me. She has checked every box in the official Maternal Love and Devotion handbook every single day of my existence. I’m in her heart if not quite secure in her mind.

We are the science of genetics combined with all the flowery words of poets.

Today can be a good day or a bad day. It’s up to you. – Mom

We are a mother and her son.

I will tell her again tomorrow that I love her. She might not hear me but she knows.

How would you change your life?

The big tree at Big Tree Park, Glendora, CA. CarolAnn and I lived half a block away. Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

How would you change your life if you could have a total do-over?

The idea of going into the past to change history is science fiction meat and potatoes. It teaches us the time travel paradox: if you went back in time and killed your grandfather you would no longer exist and therefore could not go back in time to kill your grandfather.

Let’s not go down that rabbit hole. Just ask yourself, what would you do differently if you could?

I wouldn’t change a second of my childhood. It was a wonderful childhood. I loved my parents deeply and they loved me. Growing up in the 1950s and 60s was the ideal age of innocence, security and adventure.

I wouldn’t change my first marriage, either. Yes, we got married too young but if we had waited chances are it wouldn’t have happened at all and our son would not have been born. That would be a terrible loss for us and for the world he grew into. Besides, we were young and in love, each of us for the first time. Who would give that up? Would you erase your first love?

I have many fond memories of that time in my life. Our marriage didn’t fail, it just ended so we could both move on.

Between marriages I lived life large with a million laughs and many friends.  I had those so-called wild times that people usually have when they’re ten years younger than I was. It wasn’t perfect but it was a lot of fun. I was catching up on my life lessons. I wouldn’t change a moment.

The wild times led me to CarolAnn. We met in a honky tonk. She likes to emphasize the fact that we met on a country swing dance team but the fact is if I hadn’t gone into that bar for some beers, neither knowing about nor interested in a dance team, I would never have met the love of my life.

I’ve had pain and sorrow, disappointments and screwups. Those things are important. They teach us perspective and push us into the next phase of our lives. The decisions we make, the choices of whether to turn left, right or go straight are what matters. Those decisions are informed by our experience.

If I could do it all over again I’d change just one moment. I wouldn’t climb up on that roof December 13, 1990.  Falling has given me 29 years of pain and denied CarolAnn the opportunity of dancing with her husband the way we used to.

I’d change that in a heartbeat but nothing else.

What would you change if you got a total do-over?

 

Cough drops

by Dave Williams

I’ve had a chronic cough since just before Thanksgiving, 14 weeks to be exact. That’s a long time for a cough to linger and I’ve not ignored it. After two visits to my doctor, a chest x-ray (turned out clear) and a passel of expensive steroidal and antibiotic prescriptions and inhalers, to say nothing of a hundred bucks worth of over the counter cough syrups, suppressants and antihistamines, I’m still coughing. My doctor is a learned and experienced man but he’s stumped. He’s talking about sending me to a pulmonologist. (I had to look it up: that’s a specialist in respiratory matters.)

I’m not writing this because I’m worried about my cough. I’m just taking note of this moment in my life. At 67 I’m experiencing something totally new: the unexpected idea that I may be entering an age of increasing infirmity, of nagging pains and niggling problems that I might have to drag around to the end of my days.

I rarely get sick, not even a cold, but suddenly I’m starting to feel a bit frail for the first time. Coughing wears you out and makes you think.

Roughly 40 years ago I suddenly realized that I would never play baseball again. Real baseball, I mean. Unwillingly I made the transition from hard-breaking fastballs to the high arcing lobs of a bigger, softer target. Slow-pitch softball is fun but it’s not baseball.  Now, a couple of decades later I miss them both.

About 20 years ago I was suddenly relieved of the daily responsibility of parenting. Our oldest son was married and our youngest son had just moved out. CarolAnn and I celebrated our freedom as new empty-nesters. We loved it yet we missed having children in the house. Family time became the two of us time, which is wonderful though still bittersweet. We will always miss our boys.

There have been other life transitions of course, less notable and too numerous to mention. The thing is, after nearly 70 years of living I’m starting to see a pattern, a constant ending and renewal of a single life’s experiences and perspectives. In 1984 author Gail Sheehy kicked off her enormously successful series of books about the subject she called Passages.

From toddler hood to old age we who are lucky enough to live long lives are constantly saying goodbye to one time of life and entering the next with some trepidation. That’s the excitement of the journey. With great luck, or by design if you prefer, life is a very long road of wondrous yet worrisome discovery.

I feel like a slow student, coming to this realization as recently as I have but I’ve been too busy living to take notice of passages. I’m just now beginning to understand something that should have been obvious:

Lives are lived as chapters of precious stories belonging to the world and yet as unique as ourselves.

I don’t miss baseball as much as I did 40 years ago. And frankly, though I will always enjoy memories of having our boys at home, I’ve gotten over wistful nostalgia pretty well and cherish my daily solitude with CarolAnn more than ever.

This cough is forcing me to hire a younger man to do my yard work. I hope that’s just temporary but the fact is I may never mow a lawn again. That seems trivial but I’m starting to miss trivial things as well as the big, profound stuff. At the same time I’m learning to shrug off the life I’ve known for whatever surprises come next. We all are.

Life is a kaleidoscope. Every slight turn brings a shift in perspective and a dazzling new view of the world we’ve always held.

If this all sounds a little loopy, just blame the meds.