He Was A Very Good Boy

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I’ve had many dogs in my lifetime and many granddogs as well. I must admit that all of them have been extremely bright and well behaved but one really stole my heart and that was my granddog, Cooper. He was a sweet little pug who stayed with me whenever his family went out of town. We always had a grand time together. He’d follow me everywhere and one of his favorite pastimes was getting his tummy scratched.

Cooper wasn’t the most energetic dog in the world which is probably why he and I got along so well. He mostly liked to sit around and eat. In fact, he rarely barked except to tell me that it was time for breakfast or dinner or to let me know that he needed to get outside. The rest of the time he was quite easy to have around and he loved to snuggle.

I had to watch him whenever he went to my yard. He was rather clever at finding ways to get out of the fence so that he might wander around the neighborhood. He gave me quite a scare on a number of occasions. One time a neighbor of mine who has two pugs of her own found him exploring several blocks away. On another day I was watching him at his own house and he managed to open the gate and take off on an adventure. Luckily he was wearing his collar and a kindly person called the number on his tag to let me know that he was safe and nearby.

When Cooper was young he enjoyed jumping onto the couch or the bed with me. I’d go the sleep at night only to find him curled up at my feet in the morning. As he grew older the jump was a bit too much for him and so he used a chair as his place of slumber. Over time even that became too much for him so I would place a quilt next to my bed and he would snore the night away near me.

Last year Cooper became very ill and had to undergo surgery. It took him quite some time to recover and even after many weeks he never really returned to his old self. He stayed at my house one last time and I had to watch very carefully to know when he needed to go outside. He was no longer interested in roaming but I did not want to leave him by himself anyway. I noticed that he stumbled now and again when he tried to walk across the tile in my kitchen.

Eventually Cooper lost the use of his hind legs. I was willing to purchase some wheels for him but his veterinarian said that he was too old and weak for such things. His family simply carried him wherever he needed to go which worked fine for a time but he slowly grew more and more frail.

The last time I visited with Cooper he seemed to be trying to tell all of us how miserable he was. He let me pet him and feed him from my hand but he cried when I tried to hold him on my lap. It was difficult to see the cute little fellow in such a state.

Last week Cooper’s family decided that it was time to let him go across the rainbow bridge. All of his brothers were with him one last time. They gave him his favorite treats which even included some ice cream. The hugged him and let him know how much they loved him. Later two of them accompanied Cooper and my daughter to the veterinarian who immediately agreed that it was time for him to get some relief from his pain. His passing was quick and peaceful.

I have cried often over Cooper. Somehow he really burrowed his way into my heart. I’ve tried to remember our fun times together instead of focusing on his end, but I will miss his sleepovers at my house. I always told him not to tell the other dogs that he was my favorite. He kept our secret well. He and I were buddies who made each other happy. It will be difficult to never see him again.

Pets are so comforting. They give their love so freely. Cooper seemed to know exactly how I needed for him to be. Ours was a very special relationship that was quiet and sweet. I can still see him sleeping at my feet while I compose one of my blogs, or sitting with me on the couch while I watched one of my favorite programs. I think of him following me to the laundry room as I washed my clothes and mooching little snacks whenever I cooked. He and I were in sync and we both knew it.

I am grateful that I had the chance to know Cooper. Because I loved him so. I understood that he was longing to run across the rainbow bridge where he would be able to walk again and live without pain. I suspect that he is having a great time exploring his new home with his old friend Shane. I’d like to think that our pets will be waiting for us when we get to heaven. It would be quite nice to get to play with Cooper again or just have him follow me around. He’s an angel dog for sure. He was a really good boy.

We Must Never Forget

Midway

Much of the world was at war in November of 1941, but the United States remained decidedly isolationist. While there were many in the USA who were convinced that such a stance was untenable, the prevailing feeling was that the war in Europe and the Pacific was not our business and so our nation warily watched from afar, feeling protected by the two oceans that seemingly insulated us from harm. On December 7, 1941, all of that changed with the brutal attack on American naval installations at Pearl Harbor. Suddenly we were thrust into a war for which we were far from ready to enter.

The first American forays served to illuminate just how ill prepared we were for the conflict. The Japanese forces outdid us on the seas in quality and number of ships and aircraft. The troops of both Germany and Japan were far better trained than our hastily thrown together soldiers. Our initial battles highlighted all of our deficiencies and many believed that we might be defeated before we even got seriously started.

Six months after Pearl Harbor there appeared to be little hope of stopping Japan’s dominance in the Pacific. Then an American intelligence force believed that they were hearing the heavily redacted and coded plans of the Japanese. The analysts felt certain that Japanese forces were headed for the American airfield at Midway.

If their beliefs were true and the Japanese were victorious there would be no line of defense between Midway and the west coast of the United Sates. Cities and citizens there would be vulnerable to attack, and the old view that the oceans protected our nation from harm would no longer hold. It was a tense moment in history with no assurances that the analysts were right.

With little more than a wing and a prayer the American naval forces surprised the gathering Japanese fleet with attacks that were devastating. Midway was saved, Japanese warships were lost, and the tide in the war turned to genuine hope and belief that the United States would not only hold its own but might even be able to defeat the powerful nation of Japan.

Fittingly a movie about this battle began showing in theaters the weekend before Veterans’ Day. Midway is a stunning view into the raw courage and sacrifice of our troops in a time when our very freedoms were being challenged by powers intent on dominating the world. Our country was in murky waters without the equipment and training of our enemies, and yet through the sheer will of young men who would rather have been home with their families the Japanese were overcome.

The movie is a wonderful historical piece that honors the men and women who endured that dark time of long ago. It reminds us of the horrors of war and the glory of fighting for a worthy cause. It shows how the once “sleeping giant” of the United States came together to join the fight for freedoms across the globe.

We take so much for granted these days, often doing more complaining about what we don’t have than showing appreciation for the wonderful things about our country and our world. While we enjoy our hundreds of television channels, our four dollar cups of coffee, our sports teams and our vacations there are still American troops at the ready to defend our shores at a moment’s notice. They are a volunteer force trained to go into harm’s way wherever they are needed. We don’t always take note of them or truly appreciated what they are doing for the rest of us.

The world is still a very dangerous place in many corners. War is a way of life for some nations. There are children who have grown into adulthood with the specter of violence ever present. Our troops are often sent to try to help. They go to parts of the world so unlike our own and see horrors that will give them nightmares for the rest of their lives. They witness violence and loss as a matter of their jobs. They see things that we are able to ignore. Sadly some of them lose their lives or their health with little fanfare or glory.

We honor our troops and our veterans now and again, but we also tend to forget them in the times in between. We don’t always have a clear understanding of how difficult their tasks can be. When a movie like Midway comes along we get a visual and emotional look at the frightening world of war. It’s something that we must never underestimate or forget. We are safe for now only because we have courageous individuals who do the hard work of protecting our nation. We can never forget how important they are.

Bridging the Gaps

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I’m a sucker for those little quizzes that so often appear on Facebook. I know that they are about as silly as seeking the advice of a fortune teller but I take them nonetheless, mostly when waiting to see my dentist or or just before I begin a new chore. The other day I fell for the clickbait when it announced that just by answering a few questions I might be identified as a Boomer, a GenXer, or a Millennial. Being unable to resist such a tempting bit of fun I answered all of the queries as honestly as possible and learned which generation was mine, while also no doubt hitting hundreds of lists of potential advertisers. Amazingly I was told that I was indeed a GenXer, a group born about three decades after I actually was.

I’ve always been young at heart, or maybe just immature, but this month I’ll celebrate my seventy first birthday which means that in reality I am a bonafide Baby Boomer. The parents of Boomers like me got together after a long and treacherous war and decided to get down to the business of living with a vengeance. Since reliable birth control was still just a promise of the future their families filled up the earth in record numbers, and boy what a crew Boomer children were and continue to be. Just in numbers we pretty much represent virtually every personality type, political persuasion and philosophical way of thinking that ever walked on the face of this earth. Defining us is a very tricky business because just when someone thinks they have figured us out, they find those among us who don’t fit any kind of mold.

Like most efforts to generalize about a group of people, describing Boomers can be a zero sum game. We’re often stereotyped as hippies who never quite grew up. We heard all the criticisms from our elders about our long hair and rebellious ways long before we were being criticized by our children and grandchildren with taunts like, “Okay, Boomer.” Our elders called us lazy and taunted us with rhetoric that challenged our protests with phrases like “Love it or leave it.” so we don’t tend too get too bent out of shape when we hear snide comments aimed our way. We simply laugh in the knowledge that it is statistically impossible to wedge so many folks into a simple behavioral description.

We’re all what some might call old folk these days with our group slowly inching into the sixties, seventies and eighties. We’re bound to have a few old codgers among us who have forgotten what is like to be young. I’ve heard the muttered comments from my peers about the “snowflakes” among our youth. I tend to write such grouches as off to individuals who have become a bit too stuck in the past much like some of our parents were back when we were also young. It’s the way things have gone since the beginning of time. I seem to recall reading about ancient Greeks who complained about the horrible kids of that long ago time.

The truth is that all generations come in all varieties with influences from their own parents, their teachers, their churches, their coworkers, their neighbors and the media. On any given day we are all exposed to a barrage of competing ideas that we filter according to our personal needs and current states in life. The generational gaps or competitions result because one group is just beginning the adult journey and another is looking at the endgame. It makes for totally different points of view.

As I watch my elders die I can’t remember any of their criticisms or flaws. I only see people that I love dearly and know I will miss when they are gone. Watching the world change is somewhat difficult but watching a loved one grow old and die is unbearable. We Boomers understand ourselves and those who guided us more and more as the years go by. What is important to us is not not as sweeping and adventurous as the dreams of the very young. Sometimes just getting through the day without pain in our joints is enough to keep us from coming across as a platoon of curmudgeons.

I suppose that my lifetime of work with young people has given me a great deal more insight into their mindsets than many of my age may have. I have heard the earnest hopes of the young and watched their struggles to earn a meaningful place in society. They have good hearts and truly want to fix the problems that they believe are keeping us from becoming our best selves. They do work hard but life itself can be quite punishing and sometimes they get discouraged. We should not be so quick to dismiss their concerns and complaints. After all we were often ignored and insulted when we rallied for justice and equality. Our parents forgot that they too idealistically battled against evil in a war that demanded their energy and commitment as much as our causes required our dedication. Now new generations are offering their solutions for the ills that plague society and in good faith we should listen.

I suppose that we have always had the kind of misunderstandings between the generations that continue to exit today. Fortunately there have also always been those who somehow know how to bridge the gaps that form between us. The future truly belongs to the young. It would behoove us to listen to what they have to say. 

Patience

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I have trouble being patient, even after seventy one years of knowing that the world more often than not moves slowly. I suppose that I have become a bit better at waiting recently. I’ve leaned that most of the successes that I have enjoyed came from heard work and a willingness to take the necessary time to make them happen. I tend to be okay with situations over which a have a modicum of control, but I become overly anxious when I am at the mercy of others or even God. I have great faith but I also know that sometimes my prayers won’t be answered in the ways that I expect or in the timeframe that I desire.

We all have wishes, dreams, hopes. None of us are particularly keen on the idea of suffering and yet it is something that we all endure. Some people handle it way better than others because they have learned to have faith and patience that the world is unfolding as it was meant to be. It’s not an easy way of accepting all of life’s challenges, but I know those who have mastered the ability to trust that things will eventually work out.

I often speak of prayer, an activity in which I engage throughout each day. I used to ask for very specific outcomes and then feel disappointed when they didn’t happen. I finally realized that the best prayers are those in which I seek the strength to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to tackle those over which I have some control. The Serenity Prayer is my favorite because it clearly outlines the way we should all think about our pleas to God. Instead so often ask for very specific things and then waver in our beliefs if they do not happen.

I am not much of an evangelist. I know those who very naturally speak of their beliefs and spread the word of God with ease. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable foisting my on feelings on others but I don’t mind talking with them if they ask for guidance. I do understand why it is difficult for some to feel that there is a special power beyond our own humanity. Faith is a kind of gift that is exceedingly difficult to explain, especially when really bad things are happening to people.

We tend to think that a loving God will wipe away sorrows and hurts for those who fully believe in Him. Instead the most faithful sometimes have as many difficulties as the guy who swears that there is no God. I don’t think that any of us are ever guaranteed a perfect life here on earth. What our prayers accomplish in our times of need is not always miraculous. Often it is little more than the comfort of knowing that we are not alone. A little voice in our souls tells us that we can make it through terrible pain.

The hardest times for me are those when I see loved ones hurting. I would much prefer to be able to somehow transfer their pain to me so that they might be happy once again. It’s especially terrible when they tell me that they do not believe that prayers will help them. They deny that any good has ever come from their pleas to God. They see little use for religion and find going to church a waste of precious time. They have taken a very literal stance regarding a higher power. They expect tangible proof and without it they think that those of us who do believe are silly, maybe even a bit superstitious.

I wish that they might feel what I feel because I have endured great loss, great disappointment, great sorrow and always come through feeling ever stronger and more and more loved by God. My talks with Him are my lifeline. I doubt that I would successfully get through many days without the daily conversations that I hold with Him. He knows me quite well and the very idea that He loves me even with all of my silliness and flaws is overwhelmingly powerful. Building an ever more personal relationship with Him brings me joy and patience even on the darkest days.

I am still working on being better at waiting to see what God has in store for me. I have friends like Danny, Eileen, Susan, Martin and Jezael who never seem to question God’s presence. Their love and faithfulness to Him literally shines from every aspect of their lives. They smile when trouble enters their lives confident that God will walk by their sides through all of the storms. They truly inspire me to be less inclined to bouts of fury when it seems to be taking too long for my suffering to ease.

It can be quite difficult to watch the horrors of the world unfold and still have faith. It can try us to witness so much hypocrisy and evil from people who claim to be acting in the name of God. Our faith and patience can be stretched to their very limits, and yet somehow goodness finds a way to sneak into our lives in the most unexpected ways. That’s when I really hear the voice of God reminding me of the bigger picture and of His constant vigilance even when we can’t see it. I’ll keep praying because it brings me great peace. I simply wish that others might find it as well. I have to remind myself to be patient

Walking With Our Young

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Teachers do more than teach concepts. Sometimes they actually become a source of inspiration and comfort for their students. They serve as mentors, guides for their pupils when they need advice or just a calming presence. So was the relationship between a teacher at Smithson Valley High School and my granddaughter.

My granddaughter first met this remarkable educator as a freshman. Somehow they both felt a kind of kinship with one another. As is often the case between teacher and student they were seemingly on the same wavelength and so my granddaughter began to seek out the wisdom of the teacher who had a way of almost peering into her soul. At first she mainly went for help with her studies but before long she opened up about her fears and the stresses that are so much a part of teenage life. The teacher was able to put things into perspective and soothe my granddaughter’s anxieties in addition to being an excellent conveyor of information in the classroom. The two of them formed the kind of professional friendship that sometimes blooms between a teacher and a student.

Even after my granddaughter was no longer one of the teacher’s students she continued to visit with her regularly, finding answers to questions and concerns about academics and life in general. She was hoping to perhaps get an opportunity to take another class from this woman who had so impacted her life, but sadly that was not meant to be. One evening without warning the teacher who was only fifty years old died in her sleep leaving behind a bereft family of eight children and students like my granddaughter who had been so influenced by her intellect, compassion and sagacity.

I suppose that there is little more shocking than losing someone who is still in her prime with so much good to offer the world. We find ourselves wondering how it could be that a person so wonderful would have to leave without warning. I know that it has been unbelievably difficult for my granddaughter to accept. She had thought that she would have the privilege of being guided by this remarkable educator for many years to come. She wonders if the woman ever realized just how much difference she had made in the lives of so many young people.

Teachers never really make enough money to adequately compensate them for the many hours that they give to their work. A teacher is almost always thinking about students past, present and future. They see learning opportunities everywhere they go. They expend enormous amounts of energy worrying over their pupils even after they are long gone. They may not remember all of the names but they see the faces as clearly as if they had been with them only a few minutes ago. Sometimes all it takes is a smile from an aging student for the teacher to recall exactly where they sat in the classroom.

Teachers celebrate the successes of their students as much as they would those of their own children. They grieve over the difficulties that their students face. They think of them in the still of night and pray that all is well with them. They wish for the power to make all of their kids happy and successful. They pray that somehow their charges understand how much they really care beyond the confines of the subject matter that they teach.

Teachers can have a profound effect on their students that lasts a lifetime but what they do not often realize is how much they themselves impact the teachers. Learning is a two way path that does not end with the completion of a school year. Teachers evolve because of the students they encounter just as the students themselves often change when they find a relationship with a particularly gifted educator.

There are few professions that provide all of the players which such an emotion filled experience. Teaching is grand and rich in human interactions. Each day provides an opportunity to literally change a life. Teachers are cautioned to use that enormous power wisely and for the good. They must be aware that what they say or do does indeed make or break the young ones for whom they are responsible.

I salute the teacher who so influenced my granddaughter. I am saddened that she left this earth so soon. I know that she was truly loved and admired. There is little that anyone might accomplish in life that is more meaningful that what this teacher did. May she rest in peace and may her colleagues and students learn the most important lesson that she ever taught, namely that each interaction inside a school is precious and may be just the one that makes someone’s life better.