Remember, there are two kinds of people in the world, and you’re one of them.
Remember, there are two kinds of people in the world, and you’re one of them.
This post first appeared in 2013. Since that time, my dad has passed. My wife, too. The baby in the photo is now an effervescent 9-year-old with a 7-year-old brother. The son is living with me while the parties of the wedding in the photo sort out their divorce. Last year, Christmas came just 11 days after my wife died.
This Christmas, I am supremely grateful for every day I live, and every day I have lived prior. I feel I’ve had an easy time of it, these 62 years, and have been blessed with something of a charmed life. Perhaps it’s just an average one, or maybe below average.
It is the only life I have ever known.
Simply knowing a life puts me ahead of some people already.
“When you wake in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.”
Joy to the world. Joy to you, my friends.
I had in mind to write a post called “Last Christmas”, and (not unlike some previous posts) talk about how we’d feel if we found that this had been our last Christmas. If we got the news in January or February or May, that we would not be likely to see another Christmas. Would we be pleased at the way we spent our days?
The post, however, is about This Christmas. Really, this philosophy is always about “this”. This day, this month, this anniversary, this birthday, this autumn, this season. It’s not so much the old “living-in-the-now” as much as it’s carpe diem, seize the day, make your life, in this moment and the next, the life you imagined for yourself.
This Christmas bears the most special and wonderful gifts for me. More than I deserve, I am humbled.
The photo above is taken at my son’s wedding in October. That’s Ryan at the left. Next is me, beside my Dad, and this year’s Christmas gift, my new granddaughter Ellie.
It’s a rare fortune for families to be able to gather four generations together. Turning 83 in January, every Christmas with my Dad is precious, invaluable.
So, about this “Last Christmas” thing.
I’m not trying to be particularly Dickensian or dramatic, but must reveal something I usually keep to myself.
Whenever I am recounting joys and fortunes, sadnesses and hardships, there is a bar, a benchmark, that is never out of my consciousness.
For me, no matter what occurs I compare the situation. We don’t like to talk about it, but we are patrons, “Partners In Hope” they’re called, of St.Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Here, children stricken with life-threatening cancers are cared for, and research is ongoing to combat this deadly foe. Families of these children are never asked for a penny in payment. Don’t we think they have enough to deal with without monstrous medical bills?
My heart and spirit are tied with strings of tears to these children, and their families. Some of them are just babies.
I can’t single-handedly save the whole world so I searched for a place I could do my best work. What could be more important than helping to save the lives of children?
I will listen to your troubles and woes. I will console, cajole and support anyone that comes to me. I will offer opinions colored as advice if you ask.
I will feed you, I will offer you a bed in my home. I will sit silently and hold your hand.
When it comes to an assessment of our troubles—yours, mine, the next guy’s—you will be given perspective.
You see, in Memphis, I have a lot of kids. We’re not hoping they get “what they want” for Christmas.
Every day, throughout this rolling year, our hope for them is simple.
We hope they live to see This Christmas.
May the peace of the season reign in hearts everywhere, and last throughout the year.
This post originally appeared in 2015. -Paz
It occurred to me just how much I admire Frosty The Snowman, and his philosophy on life. Well, life as it is to an inanimate object, or in this case a fictional character who is also an inanimate object. This is personification at it’s best, I suppose.
If you’re not familiar with the children’s tale, here are the Cliff’s notes:
Kids build a snowman and find a silk top hat to put on his head. The top hat has some magic in it, and this animates the Snowman, whom the kids have named Frosty. He springs to life exclaiming “Happy Birthday!”. Yes, it’s a Christmas-season tale, but it is Frosty’s birthday, after all.
Frosty plays and has fun with the kids until he begins to melt. The story is based on the song, I think, and the animated cartoon special picks up the story where the lyrics left off.
In the song, Frosty waves goodbye as he melts, says “Don’t you cry!” to the kids, and “I’ll be back again someday.”.
In the TV special, one of the children is heartbroken at the thought of Frosty’s departure, and adventure ensues as the little girl tries to get a six-foot snowman to the North Pole before he melts.
In the song, the lyrics state “Frosty the snowman knew the sun was hot that day. So he said ‘Let’s run and have some fun now, before I melt away.'”
Now there’s the spirit I admire. Frosty has this little window of life, knows he’s terminal, and instead of spending all his time worrying about how he can be cured and prolong his life, he decides to enjoy it before it’s gone.
The cartoon special takes it further, as the little girl becomes obsessed with “rescuing” the snowman from his natural demise. He’s fine until the human tries to “save him”. Only when pitted against or seen from the human girl’s perspective does Frosty’s limited existence become viewed as problematic. They spend their last days together in agony. Problems getting transportation, a magician trailing them, trying to steal the hat, the girl starts suffering from hypothermia following the snowman into the arctic. Ultimately, circumstances conspire and the girl is forced to watch Frosty’s destruction before her very eyes. *
I’m adopting Frosty’s original spirit. Life will come and go whether it’s on a snowman’s timeline or a human man’s time line.
I say let’s run and have some fun!
Before I melt away.
* Calm down. The girl isn’t real, she’s in a cartoon. And Frosty is magic. Before the kid stops crying, a freezing wind blows Frosty back together and he comes back to life, exclaiming “Happy Birthday!” once again. Happy ending, although it does prove the fruitlessness of the child’s work and worry.
So much has been stolen from us by this evolution into our techno-monetary society.
I have but moments to view this beautiful morning through glass, passing at sixty-five miles per hour.
How I envy the rat and raven, free to consume the entire day, one sacred Now at a time.
In A Christmas Story, Randy’s mom does not make him come out of the cupboard beneath the sink.
She brings him a glass of milk, pat’s his head, and closes the curtain on his hiding place.
Loved and fed and in his safe place.
The essence of Mother.
Choose something, consciously and early on, to be notoriously incapable of.
Something, despite your great agility and impressive strength and massive brainpower, your positive outlook and can-do attitude, that you are just bad at. Just cannot get the hang of. Inexplicable.
If you get that out of the way then you can excel at everything else.
Every day becomes part of your story.
You needn’t write about your cares and woes.
You needn’t write about your disappointments or regrets.
Every morning is a blank page.
Write about the best you, living the best life you’ve imagined for yourself.
Keep re-writing until the story comes out just the way you want it to.
The act of composition forces my ever-whirring mind to slow to the speed of the pen.
This time warp allows me to see and focus on thoughts, which otherwise streak past like the blurry motion of a speeding commuter train.
Composition is the station and platform from which I can read the placards on the locomotives, and correlate them to the great galactic schedule on the wall.
I slow long enough to realize how, if anyone, I am positioned squarely for such life-changing events as those currently being navigated. I have prepared for many decades a heart and spirit that look to see beyond the occasional storms, grounded in the celestial and terrestrial. At once embracing the limitless cosmos and holding the delicate sparrow in my hand.
Such things are the farthest from transitory, and will carry me home.
From every hawk I watch
With every scent I savor on the wind
Every person I meet
From every star I watch
With every snowflake I count
Every day I greet
From every life into which I am born
With each skin of life I shed
Every day I live
p.s.: A special note to some special friends:
I’ve been out of touch with a lot of things for a while, the blog community among them. I’d often wondered about the fleeting acquaintances one might encounter in such places. I’ve wondered at other blogs whose authors were absent for months. These boiling pot days spent forging the New Me brought scrutiny to this activity. Is it simply self-promotion? Is it conceit raised to new heights? Are all the brightly backlit names anonymous and as good as none? How could true bonds be formed within?
Then the notes trickled in. First from one and then another and then another. Sincere thoughts and well-wishing. Thank you Michele, Ellen, Justine, Leah, and a few other folks.
Not “readers” or “followers”.
Hope to be “seeing” much more of you!
Exhausted from a harrowing run down the cataracts, I sought respite in the deep sleep of the woe-worn, thankful for this broad and smooth, if swift, stretch of the river.
I woke to the sound of voices. Concern and caring from the close and the newly acquainted, inquiring as to need for rescue.
I have awakened in the levee.
Sound and dry, I look to the sun and stars to determine my location. To determine how far I am along the river. Or perhaps I turn to these immortal and perpetual landmarks in space to recalibrate my sense of direction. A ponderous irony, these distant celestial objects make me feel grounded, secure. They triangulate my position on this tiny Earth with pinpoint accuracy. These life-long and eternal companions usher me along my journey, unaffected by tide or time.
Back here on Earth, however, there is some commotion ashore, and I am compelled to investigate. It is a band of those tireless workers. The nameless faces and friends joined in the communal act of shoring the levee.
A view abaft reveals the great length of river behind me, crashing in the slowest-motion imaginable, into the sharp bend. Volume and inertia and guileless will to have its way conspire against those man-made earthworks, and the water line rises with frightening rapidity. A man that reminds me of my Grampa Pete, whom I never got to know, calls out through a bright, toothy smile, sensing my anxiety at the loss of my bearings, and sudden immersion in the present circumstance.
“Don’t you worry about that levee.” his voice was deep and bellowed forth from a barrel chest hanging from broad shoulders, topped with a head dusted with the thinnest layer of white hair. “It’ll hold. I guarantee it.”
He looked over my shoulder upriver and went on, as if I had ambled along, inviting idle conversation.
“Lot of storms recently, that’s why it looks like a flood coming. Don’t you fret. They were not the first, and they won’t be the last. But from here you have one long stretch, and then you’re in the delta.” He returned his attention to this wayward but familiar wanderer, and looked me in the eye as he finished, “That’ll carry you to the sea.”
The tone of his baritone voice, the certainty ringing in his statements, and that sunny smile washed over me like a tonic, wrapped around my shoulders like an arm, and left me with a renewed sense of surety and harmony with this place and time.
Without another word he turned and strode down the embankment. The human hodgepodge of crew could be seen to be making routine repairs. It seemed the gathering and fellowship, laughter, and a sort of lingering were as much a goal of the operation as any physical productivity. As if they were selected as an ad hoc committee representing humankind. Front-line, first-person perspectives with feet on the ground and eyes on the road. Purposed to feel, on behalf of us all, the confidence in the levee, born of the many generations that have stood such watch, as it were, through fair weather and foul. They buoyed my spirit, and I was chagrinned to leave them behind.
Their voices filled the air like song. The smell of peony and phlox wafted like perfumes, and my ever-present friends the sparrows darted about as I rounded the turn and beheld the great flat of the river. It is massive, in an overwhelming, humbling, shoulder-shaking reality-check way.
Immense and unimaginable forces moving at a speed incomprehensible for something so gargantuan. I float idyllically on the surface, as the kinetic energy is carried and dissipated over the broadening course.
How far along to the delta Grampa Pete didn’t say.
I reached for my compass, only to stop and realize it is a worthless bauble, merely a decoration, on a river.