Friday, November 17, 2017

One of Life's Lessons:

Here's a gift I hope you'll like, but it wasn't from a store

Money's tight for me right now and  I'd love to give you more

This gift will show my love for you so I'm sure you'll understand

Sometimes all that we can give is a loving, helping hand.

I'm back to writing and back to remembering stories that are new to all of you. Hopefully, this is the first of many.

 Earlier in the week, I was riding in the car with Jane and the subject of gifts came up. Since neither of us has won the lottery recently we decided to set a spending limit for our Christma presents to each other The story for this blog came to mind immediately.

This happened over thirty-five years ago, but I will never forget it. It was during the "Mr. Joe" years. Those were the years when my sons were still in grade school and I was broke more often than not.

Jane and I were both single parents on a very tight budget. Her son, Greg was playing little league baseball so I decided to take Mike and Jason to see his game.

It was almost time for my birthday and Jane handed me one of the best gifts ever It was a handwritten coupon for one free night of babysitting. Our West Virginia family lived over four hours away so a night out for either of us was as rare as hen's teeth. That was one of the first times that I realized that the most precious gift you can give someone is your time.

I don't think that the ink was even dry on the coupon before I used it. My sons could not have been better to me, but a night out on my own was a very rare thing. It might have even saved my sanity at the time. Everyone needs alone time at some point. We all need time to ourselves when no one is making demands.

I don't remember what I did or even where I went that night, but the quiet time was needed and appreciated. I was able to "recharge my battery".

As the holidays approach, don't let a small budget and little money stress you out. Don't worry about how much you have to spend on gifts. Jane taught me a good lesson many years ago. The most precious gift you can give anyone is your time. You only have so much of it.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Lying Eyes

I know I needed glasses, but I still could plainly see

You  hadn't changed a bit from how you used to look to me

I have no explanation for the way you looked that night

I still remember what I saw and know it wasn't right

This is a story that I have never written. You won't find this one in Mr. Joe or anywhere else. I have told this one to Jane, but I hesitated to share it any further. When I wrote about seeing ghosts, that seemed normal in my life and I was comfortable with it. This is an entirely different matter.

About five years ago there was a class reunion at our high school in West Virginia. All classes were welcomed so Jane and I decided to take a road trip.

After so many years you might expect me to forget some names and not recognize faces. That's all true except for one person. It was a girl that I had dated in high school. I saw her walking down the hall and I could not believe it. She looked exactly like she did back in the sixties. Even when she was close to me I couldn't see any difference from how she looked fifty years earlier. Her hair was long and identical to the way she wore it her senior year. Her skin was smooth and showed no signs of aging.

I could have justified this if I had seen her from a distance, but that was not the case. We spent fifteen to twenty minutes discussing old times and catching up with each other. Then, she left to join some other friends to look through our old classrooms. Shortly after that Jane and I left and headed for home.

I would have dismissed all of this if it weren't for one thing. A week or so later I saw something that I could not explain. I saw a picture of her at the reunion and she looked completely different.

She was always attractive, but the picture showed someone in her sixties. It showed a lady with short dark hair and wearing different clothes than I remembered.

I don't know how any of this could have been possible, but the eyes don't lie...or do they? Do you sometimes see people the way you remember them? This has only happened once in my life. Once was enough for me.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Birthdays and Memories

I'm almost one year older as my driver's license states.

I must pay for registration so that I'll have legal plates.

The vision test's the only part that I will truly fear.

So if I know the letters, I'm on the road next year.

I am about two weeks from celebrating another birthday. After this, I am out of sixties numbers and that is alright with me. Thanks to several wonderful doctors I am still in pretty good health. Thanks to an unlimited amount of support from friends and family, I am mentally strong. For that I am grateful.

Now, let's talk about aging. When I was very young I did what most kids did and probably still do. I was always my age plus a fraction. I wasn't six: I was six and a half. The half seemed to mean a lot back then, but that has disappeared for me. I don't remember ever saying that I was sixty-eight and a half. I think the fractions disappear once you are old enough to drive, drink, or vote.

I call the time when I was raising my sons the "Mr. Joe" years. Since they have become adults they are both doing well. As a matter of fact, they received degrees with honors and they both worked very hard to achieve their goals.It wasn't always that way.

This approaching birthday reminded me of a story from roughly thirty-five years ago. Money was scarce even though I always worked full time.

Every once in a while I could afford to take my sons to a movie. I'm not talking a giant drink and popcorn. I mean that I could afford to pay for the admission. That's when the fraction added to the age got me. I don't remember the cutoff for kids tickets back then, but it was young. It might have been even six or seven. I remember telling the lady at the ticket counter that Jason was six and a half. He would always get upset and tell them that he was seven. There were a few times when we had to drive back home. If you don't have don't have it.

I remember when the boys were in daycare and they would force me to work over. I was making eleven dollars an hour and roughly sixteen on overtime. I was supposed to get off work at four thirty, but that didn't happen that often. The daycare closed at six and they charged a dollar a minute when they had to stay open until you picked up your kids

I'm good enough at math to know that if you are bringing in sixteen dollars an hour before taxes, paying out sixty doesn't work.

I'm looking forward to my birthday because it reminds me that I have been blessed for yet another year. I think that if I have a cake it might have Roman Numerals for candles. That's cool. I like to think that I am a few years away from having only one. Thanks to the fact that I quit smoking six years ago, I will easily blow them out. That's pretty cool, too.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jury Duty

I'm sorry that we're meeting in a courtroom.

But, I've been called to listen to your case.

Please try to make the twelve of us believe you

It's up to us what future you will face.

I have had many experiences in my lifetime. Some were wonderful and some were painful. We learn from both and each contributes to making us the person we are today.

One thing I have always wanted to do and never have had the opportunity is to serve on a jury. I have never been asked and I have to wonder why. I have been a licensed driver since the sixties and the first person I ever voted for was a peanut farmer. That means I have had half a century to be called.

 Most people seem to hate the thought of serving on a jury. I guess I would too if it caused me the loss of income or time away from my family. Since I was a single parent I can absolutely understand where they are coming from. You want to fulfill your obligations as a citizen, but you have to put your family first. That is why I might have solved the problem of selecting a jury.

 I am a retired, card carrying member of AARP and also a recipient of social security, Medicare, and a pension. For the most part, I am covered financially and don't need to seek employment if I choose not to. The problem I do have since I am single is what to do each day.

 I live in a nice apartment complex, but that means there is no lawn care or maintenance required. A house makes no sense to me at my age and in my situation.

 Now, back to my solution. Most appointments that I schedule have been with doctors, with the exception of a monthly haircut. My sister told me about how seniors obsess about appointments and I understand it now. It seems I can't leave home without spending money and seniors have a lot of time on their hands.Why not put the time to use and solve the problem that some seniors are facing. Being alone and lacking contact with the outside world.

 Make jury duty voluntary. Ask the ones who would relish the opportunity to have their opinions mean something. I would do it full-time if I could. I think it would be interesting and I think I could add a positive note. Look at it from my point of view. It's a chance to get out and even make a few bucks. It's also a chance to meet people your age and see that your opinion is valuable.

 The only downside I see is this. If you are on trial for trespassing on someone's yard, you might not want your jurors to look like Fred or Ethel Mertz.That was a senior reference and not meant for everyone.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bad Memories

I'm sorry that I spoke too soon and told you how I felt

At least I know I'm getting soap and not my father's belt

I can't say that I like the taste because I have no choice

When you are in the second grade you really have no voice.

Every once in a while another memory pops into this balding head. I have decided to write down the ones that influenced my life the most. Maybe not for the better, but still an influence.

When I was in the first or second grade there was a punishment that became fairly commonplace. Anytime I said something that my mother didn't like, I would get another escorted trip to our bathroom.

No, I didn't get spanked or lectured like most of my friends. I got the privilege of eating soap in order to clean out my mouth. I got to take the "I" out of Ivory in a manner of speaking. There was a special bar of soap that was used to punish me. Each time I said the wrong thing I got to bite the soap and drink a tall glass of water. After all, what good does soap do without adding water?

The special bar of Ivory was there for a reason. Each time I bit, I had to make sure that I took out another letter. I guess there was a minimum child dosage.

I reached the point where I finally kept my mouth shut. I would go upstairs to my room and put a pillow over my head and let out all of my feelings. I wanted to make sure that no one heard me. After all, you don't want more soap than you need.

It reached the point where I was afraid to say anything about how I was, either mentally or physically. That's a tough lesson for a six-year-old to learn, but it's one that I still haven't forgotten. At some point in your life, you need to let friends or family know if something is wrong, but old habits die hard.

I have always tried to listen to my sons. I always encouraged them to let me know when they needed any kind of help. I wanted to know if there were any serious problems.I never want them to hide their head under a pillow. Soap should be used for cleaning the body and not for punishment. I am sure that Ivory soap is a great product. In fact, it is manufactured about twenty miles from where I now live. But, I have never bought a single bar. I have had my fill of it.

Maybe writing about this will help me in the future. At some point, you have to let it out. You eventually run out of pillows.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Crash Courses.

I hear you need my service, but it doesn't come for free.

I'd love to help you solve this if it won't endanger me

I'll drive your car into a wall, but it isn't always cheap

I get your car loan paid for. It is one disgusting heap.

When I was growing up in West Virginia I worked a lot of different jobs to earn spending money. It was a different era and a different mindset. If you wanted something, you earned it. That's just the way it was.

I delivered newspapers, set pins at the local bowling alley, washed cars, caddied at the local golf course. I think you get my drift. None of these jobs were easy, but none of them involved a life -threatening situation. Then there was my friend Andy.

Andy was the go-to guy if you needed a car totaled. Sometimes the payment was too high and sometimes the car wasn't worth the amount that the person owed. The owner could have been laid off or lost their job completely. There were endless stories that people told Andy, but the result was the same in each case. They needed their car to be totaled for the insurance money.

This was a time before air bags and seat belts, so Andy earned every penny that he made. I never witnessed any of his crashes, but I heard a little about his technique. I don't know what or where he crashed the cars into, but he would cross his arms between ten and two on the steering wheel, put his head down, and hope for the best.

I never would have thought of being a "crash dummy" as a profession but to each his own. Andy seemed to have what he needed in life and always had a few dollars in his pocket. It has been over fifty years since I have thought of him. The stories just keep on surfacing. I hope you enjoyed this memory.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Window Shopping"

We don't have to have it right away, the World's not going to stop.

Learn to have some patience and then learn to window shop.

Waiting isn't all that bad and can be good for you.

So, take the time before you buy to just enjoy the view

There are so many memories that never made it to "Mr. Joe". I thought I had told everything but my shoe size and blood type in my story, but I wasn't even close. You would think that over a six- year period I would have covered everything. You would be wrong. It seems like every day I remember something else that I would have included in my memoir. Here is the latest:

When I was growing up in West Virginia there was a time when most, if not all businesses were required to be closed on Sunday. There were no department stores allowed to remain open until the "Blue Law" was passed which allowed them to do business on the Sabbath.

This came to mind when I started thinking about "window shopping". I remember looking forward to going to Charleston just to look at the fashions and displays of each store. The drive to Charleston was seventy miles round trip and took about an hour each way. By the time you would drive around so many mountain turns you might actually drive fifty miles in order to reach a destination thirty- five miles away.

We would have to dress in our nice cloths on these trips. We went into this day knowing that we weren't going to actually shop or purchase anything , but for some reason I still looked forward to it. Sometimes we would even have to wait behind another family or two before we got our turn to stand in front of the windows.

I'm not completely sure why this story came to mind, but I do think that it gives us something to think about. When I was growing up, the anticipation of  getting something that I wanted was fun. I was not raised to assume that everything had to come right away or that I was automatically deserving to receive it.

I think somewhere along the line that way of thinking has disappeared. People are no longer willing to wait for the time when they actually can afford something. Everything has to happen right away. It wouldn't hurt to have a little of that old school mentality these days. Who knows? You might just enjoy it.