Friends and family



Name Dropping

As a retired senior, I consciously try to invest my time in looking forward. During this holiday season, however, I’ve been counting my many blessings and looking back at this last year and my life in general.

Not one to keep a journal, I’m now considering making a list of all the interesting people I’ve encountered during my lifetime. What prompted this new endeavor? In looking back, it occurred to me that both my wife and I have frequently had the extraordinary good fortune to serendipitously meet interesting people.

As an example, many years ago we made our first trip to Hawaii. It was at a time when Magnum P.I. was a popular television show and Tom Selleck was the current heart-throb. On our first day in the islands, we rented a car and were headed toward Dimond Head. Somewhat lost and driving down a residential street I spotted a red Ferrari. We stopped, and sure enough they were filming inside a house. As I was taking pictures of the beautiful car, my wife walked across the street. A few minutes later, she came walking back but was not alone. She and Mr. Selleck were having a very nice chat. This kind of thing has continued to occur throughout the years. As I mentioned in a recent blog, this year I ran into and had the privilege of meeting football legend Joe Namath. Over the holidays, while I was watching an NCIS rerun, I was thrilled to see the handsome guest star, Ryan Bittle, because many years ago I was his little league coach for three years. Our families even vacationed together.

If I do get around to it, my “name dropping” encounter list will include politicians, famous business people, authors, adventurers, and many entertainers and sports figures such as Mohammad Ali, Olivia Newton John, The Rolling Stones (not in concert, I actually met all of them at a private airport), Jerry Lee Lewis, Connie Stevens, George Burns, Sally Field, NFL great and actor Fred Dryer, and . . . I’m getting tired and if you are still reading you are probably getting very bored.

What’s the point of this exercise? Well, about a week ago while waiting for my wife as she went into a Florida store at a shopping mall, I encountered a very dapper elderly gentleman. He was dressed in slacks, sweater vest, sport coat, and a very neat bow tie. He sat down next to me and we began to talk. His name is Ray Zander. Being the holiday season, our conversation turned to the true meaning of Christmas. When my wife approached, I introduced her to Ray and they had a chance to get acquainted. When it was time to say our goodbyes, Ray reached into the pocket of his coat and pulled out a book. He said he wanted us to have it. It was titled Life of Faith, Volume X. Turns out Ray is an extraordinarily spiritual man, a poet and speaker. His books are collections of poems and outlines of faith. What a great Christmas gift.

As I said in the setup of this blog, my wife and I are often blessed by meeting very interesting and inspiring people. This year, other than our new granddaughter, meeting Ray is at the top of our list. When I did a search, I see he is all over the internet, even on youtube. Well done Ray, it was great meeting you. By the way, Ray is 92.

Cute-Anitmaed-Happy-New-Year-2014-Gif

As this year ends, my wife Trisha and I wish all of you the best in the new year. We were blessed to spend this holiday season with friends and family. We even got to spend some time together and enjoyed every minute. Here is Trisha at one of our favorite local Florida hangouts, Dune Dogs. See you next year.

Trisha Parker at Dune Dogs

Trisha Parker at Dune Dogs

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Aging and Relationships

 

Hopefully, as we age, we all learn it’s our relationships with friends and family that are the most important components in our lives. Unfortunately, there are some out there who prefer to isolate themselves, but they are the exceptions. The important fact is, there’s a considerable amount of scientific research that shows people who continue to maintain and create new relationships tend to be much healthier and age more successfully than those who live in isolation.  

I’m not sure I needed the reminder, but over the last few weeks I’ve been very fortunate in the relationship category. First of all, traveling to the east coast, one of our sons and his wife blessed us with another grandchild, an incredibly beautiful little girl. Just as happened with all of our grandchildren, that first glimpse of this little angel took our breath and stole our hearts. Holding her tiny body in my hands was overwhelming and there is surely no greater feeling than that of pure love.

Additionally, on this trip we were fortunate to further reconnect with friends made back in my Air Force days. It’s amazing how much time has past, but how much time has stood still in our friendship. These are wonderful people with whom we share great memories, and hopefully we will have many more good times ahead.

As also happens when one travels, my wife Trisha and I were so pleased to make the acquaintance of several new people we look forward to getting to know better in the future. It seems the more you open yourself up to this kind of opportunity, the more people you can meet and share a relationship.

Finally, this week marks the birthday of my wonderful wife Trisha. I’ve now known her for over half a century and been married to her for nearly forty-four years. She is clearly the kindest and most considerate person I have ever known. She wakes each day with a smile and continues to brighten the day of everyone she encounters. For her, difficult situations are simply problems to be solved. She’s not petty, doesn’t complain, and is always positive. She’s warm and loving, and completely devoted to her family. She’s extraordinarily beautiful on both the outside and inside. I couldn’t ask for a better relationship. Happy Birthday Trisha!

One last but important note I want to share. One of my Air Force buddies is in need of a kidney transplant. If everyone who reads this would share this information, perhaps he could be helped. I know that as we age, this kind of decision is probably not one we nor our doctors would advise, but sometimes circumstances arise and the more people that know of this need, the greater the possibility he might be helped. Feel free to contact me.  

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Successful Aging is Living With Passion

For those of us living the second half of life, the reality of our mortality is always in mind. In just the last few months, my wife Trisha and I have lost four friends and one family member. As young persons, we probably all lived in that wonderful state of feeling immortal. Of course, it wasn’t true even then. As we grow older we become acutely aware that our time on this planet comes with a certain expiration date.

Given the responsibilities and unforeseen setbacks of life, it isn’t possible to live every minute exactly the way we might choose, but we should give it everything we’ve got. As a famous radio psychologist used to say, “This is your life, it’s not the dress rehearsal.”

Living our lives with as much passion as possible is certainly one of the principles of successful aging. Even as a young person, I was always struck by the differences in people’s lifestyles. As I age, I’m even more aware and curious about the lifestyles people choose to live.

As an example, there is a Subway sandwich shop I sometimes visit at lunchtime. For years, the same Afro-American lady behind the counter greets her customers with a wide smile and genuinely affectionate greeting. Her positive attitude and passion for life puts everyone in a better frame of mind. I’m sure the routine tasks of her job aren’t particularly fulfilling, but her customers love her and I’m sure she realizes her life is enriched by those positive and life affirming interactions. I’m also sure as many customers stop in to see her as for the sandwiches. I’ve even run in to a celebrity or two at her counter.

On the other hand, I’ve met people with wealth beyond my comprehension and other extraordinary gifts that appear to lead miserable and completely boring lives. What gives? While it may be cliché, “life is what we make it,” seems to be  an accurate truism.

So, how do we live with passion?

First, growing older means we all will have suffered loss in our lives. Overcoming the inevitable tears of life is something we must conquer.

We can live passionately by loving those around us. Be it family or friends, the richness of our lives is defined by our relationships. This doesn’t mean we have to love everyone. We should simply treat people fairly and with respect. Love is an active verb. We should shower those we care for with appreciation and affection. 

Enjoying the simple things in life is another key. Very few of us can afford the time or money for a life of continuous great adventures. Passion can be found by appreciating the simple everyday blessings in our lives.

Another way to live passionately is giving of ourselves by volunteering or donating to worthwhile causes. During this holiday season, the opportunities to help those less fortunate abound. We will always get more than we give.

On a more self-indulgent note, we can formalize the process of living passionately by making up a list of the things we still want to accomplish in our lives. We can learn to play a musical instrument, speak a foreign language, meet someone we admire, reconnect with old friends or family. The choices are many and ours to make.  

I would even add it’s more than acceptable to get a little crazy when making up our list. Remember, it’s our life to live. The possibilities are endless and we don’t need approval for anything we want to do. (At this point I began to write out and share some of the “crazy” activities I’ve engaged in and then thought better of it. Some things are best left unsaid.) The point is, especially in the second half of life, we should thoughtfully and methodically pursue our dreams and passions. It’s now or never. 

Let me leave you with a favorite quote:

A few can touch the magic string, and noisy fame is proud to win them: Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!   Oliver Wendell Holmes

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God Bless All Those Who Have Served

My flag is flying proudly this holiday weekend as we honor those who have served and those who have died in service to our country. As an Air Force veteran who served during the Viet Nam era, I have the greatest respect for every person who ever wore the uniform.

My patriotism is almost curious to me now because at the time I entered into the military, I was more interested in flying airplanes, playing guitar in a rock band, playing baseball, and chasing girls. All this with longish hair and sideburns accompanied with the requisite love beads of the day. (Fact is, I actually wore those beads under my uniform for my four years of active duty)

My true patriotism actually snuck up on me. While I was proud of my father’s Navy service in WWII, I didn’t actually understand what it meant to be patriotic and proud of my service. Through basic training, most of us spent time complaining about everything from missing our home lives to our girlfriends. Then it happened. It was time for graduation day and we put on our dress blue uniforms. We marched to the parade grounds where there were crowds of people and other flights of airmen waiting to march into place. All of a sudden, the military band struck up Stars and Stripes Forever, and off we marched. As I marched, my chest pushed out, my head raised up, and I felt a kinship to all those who had served before. 

I still feel that kinship, and although my service cannot compare to the sacrifice so many true heroes made, I still feel a strong connection. I hope every citizen takes a moment in the next few days to honor our service men and women. They deserve our appreciation.

I want to thank all of those who read my blog. I enjoy writing it and hopefully you find something useful or amusing from time-to-time. This is actually my 100th blog. I had planned to write something very upbeat and celebratory, but in the last few days: my wife and I lost a very dear friend to cancer, our lovely neighbor fell and broke her foot, another dear friend damaged her eyes in an accident requiring several procedures, and my always healthy wife twisted her back causing a pinched nerve.

But you know what? It’s called life and we need to live it as fully as possible. In our last visit with our friend who just passed away, she would not let our conversation be sympathetic. Knowing what we were thinking and perceiving the sadness in our faces, she looked at me and said, “I don’t think I’ll be driving for a couple of months.” We both smiled. Such wonderful courage and consideration for her friends and family.

Our other friends, both a bit damaged for the moment, have accepted their fates and look forward to better days. Of course my wife Trisha, even with the pain of a pinched nerve, refuses to slow down. Believe me, I’ve tried to reign her in a bit, but she’s not having it.

Into each life a little rain must fall, and sometimes it’s a monsoon. It gives us more reason to celebrate those sunny, more carefree days.

If you do enjoy my blog, please pass the link to others in your contact list. I will be making some changes in the near future and I think you will like them. Thank you.

 www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Person of Interest

Over the last month, my wife Trisha and I have traveled extensively making a point of reconnecting with family and old friends. One of those old friends I’ve known since I was about 10 years old. His name is Danny Telford.

In every school class, there always seems to be one person who everyone likes and respects. In my class, it was Danny. Fact is, it’s still Danny. He’s the guy that heads up all the reunions and other class activities. If someone needs something, they call on Danny. If a classmate happens to be in town and needs a place to stay, they can always stay at Danny’s. Fortunately, he married a wonderful woman named Susan who is equally well liked and respected.

Danny is an example of someone who has reached retirement age, but decided to keep working. As young boys growing up in the Los Angeles area, we were all Dodger fans. Several years ago, Danny landed a job working at Dodger Stadium. He puts in long hours, works every game and event, and is completely dedicated. I don’t think there is anyone who works at the stadium who doesn’t know Danny. He is truly one of the good guys and I’m proud to have him as a friend. (By the way, if you get the baseball package on cable or satellite, you can see Danny on TV durinig every Dodger game. One of his many duties is setting up the microphones for the singers who perform the National Anthem and later God Bless America.)

 

Simplify

I know I’ve written about this topic before, but this week has made it more real for me. My wife and I have been spending time every day at our storage space. Yes, our storage space. I even hate saying the term. Hundreds of dollars a year to store a few dollars worth of goods we will probably never look at or use.

We started out by clearing my late parents storage space. I have to give them credit because they had done a wonderful job of downsizing and organizing. We just needed to go through and decide what to do with the remaining goods. We gave away most of it. We’re not big on garage sales and would rather see it go to people who have a need rather than trying to bargain someone for a few dollars.

Even though my folks did a good job, it’s still a pain in the rear going through stuff. When we were finished with their space, we decided to make it as simple as possible for our kids. That’s why we’ve been working so hard at our storage space. We are almost finished and it feels great. All I can say is, at this point in our lives it’s time to simplify, get rid of the stuff you don’t need, and get organized. You will have peace of mind and your family will be forever grateful.

I should add, our kids still don’t believe that hookah in our storage was a gift from a friend in Turkey. It really was.

Bodies In Motion

One of the things my wife Trisha and I have tried to do since we retired is to stay active. If you’ve seen the commercial for one of the health care companies that talks about senior health, they use a physics metaphor by saying: “A body at rest stays at rest, a body in motion stays in motion.”

Obviously, this is not a new revelation. But as Trisha and I caution in our book and public presentations, as a senior it’s very easy to get into a rut. That may feel comfortable for a while, but in the long run it’s detrimental for both the mind and the body. Besides, as has often been said, “this is not the dress rehearsal, this is your life.” There are things to do, people to see, knowledge and skills to learn, causes to champion – well, you get the idea. One of our favorite activities since we retired is visiting and reconnecting with old friends and family, and meeting as many new people as we can. I must say Trisha is much better at connecting with new people, but it’s something we both enjoy.

If we weren’t sold before on the idea of getting up and going, connecting with old and new friends and family, this last week was all we needed to remind us how it can benefit our lives. Let me share some highlights of our week:

On the first day of a road trip, we stopped in and took lunch to my aunt, the last living relative of my late father’s family in that generation. She is home-bound due to poor health and we had a very heart warming visit. We showed her pictures of new grandchildren and reminisced about favorite memories. It was a wonderful visit.

Next, we were off to Arizona. While driving through Phoenix, we decided to take in some of the local sites. As sports nuts, we wanted an upclose look at their beautiful sports stadiums. After that, we had heard there was a memorial for those who had died on the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor, so we went looking for that site. Well, there was much more. We found the memorial in a park that honored veterans of several wars. It was very beautiful and dignified. The Arizona memorial actually had one of the ship’s anchors and the ship’s mast which is pictured below. In the other picture, Trisha is standing in front of their Korean War Memorial.

Probably because it was quite warm (O. K., downright hot), there was only one other couple at the memorial. He was wearing an Air Force hat, and being an Air Force veteran myself, we began to chat. It turns out this man makes memory bears for the families of fallen veterans. Trisha and I had only recently become acquainted with memory bears when hospice presented us with bears made from the clothing of my late mother and father. What a wonderful and lasting treasure. If anyone reading this would like to contact MSGT Charles R. Leon and his Fallen Warrior Bears/AZ Hearts for Heroes, his email is:

azheartsforheroes@yahoo.org  

I know how much our family memory bears mean to us, and I also know the families of these fallen heroes must truly appreciate the work Charles does on their behalf. I also know he operates solely on donations and hopefully some readers might be able to help his efforts.

As we continued our trip into Tucson, I had arranged to meet with my cousin Mary and her husband Rick. It had been several years since we had gotten together and our lunch turned into a couple of hours. Great memories of family were shared and we were able to give Mary a box of photos my mother had collected for her before she passed away in March. Wonderful people and we promised not to go so long without another visit.

Next, we made our way to visit friends Susan and Lee. Because they live in a scenic and crafts-filled area of Arizona, we definitely made the rounds. Spice shops, fabric shops, copper mine, historic missions, restaurants, dining on Susan’s great meals (this woman knows how to cook), swimming (actually, more cooling off and talking) in the pool, and pleasant conversations under the Arizona night sky. A relaxing and fun few days with good friends. 

On one of our excursions, we were about to visit the historic Mission Tumacacori, a National State Park, when Susan and Lee asked if we had our “Geezer Passes.” They then informed us that for $10, anyone 62 or over can obtain a senior lifetime pass that allows that senior and their party entrance into any National Park. What a deal. We signed up and got our passes. Here is a link for anyone interested:

 U.S. National Park ServiceAmerica the Beautiful – The National Parks and Feder

Below are Susan and Trisha enjoying the scenic and serene beauty of Mission Tumacacori.

 

 

As a former radio talk show host and recipient of the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, Lee now keeps very busy writing a very interesting and provocative political blog. For all you political types, don’t miss his daily commentary on:

www.radiorodgers.com 

Back on the road, we headed north again to Phoenix. We were in for another treat. My late mother had a life-long friend with whom she stayed in constant contact. This wonderful lady, who happened to be celebrating a birthday in another state on the day we arrived, has a daughter I had not seen since she was six years old. She and her  husband met us for lunch and it was a sensational afternoon. While Kathy and husband Bronson are much younger, we had many things in common. He is currently active Air Force, the same branch in which I served. They told us later they were looking at us thinking that would be them in the future, and Trisha and I admitted we could see ourselves in them when we were younger. Great couple and we hope to get together again soon. 

 

For those still reading (bless you), our next stop was Palm Desert. My cousin Bob and his wife Nancy are two of our favorite people in the world. We spent the night out at a great Italian restaurant, laughing and having a wonderful time. Back at their place, as always, they allowed us their guest room for the night. In the morning Nancy, one of the world’s best chefs, fixed a delicious breakfast and we were off again.

Once in Southern California, we connected with oldest son Michael and our three grandchildren there. After an afternoon at the best pizza place I’ve ever been, we went back to Mike’s for a fun night. On Father’s Day, we headed to Dodger Stadium for a sensational extra inning game in which our team won. The stadium was packed and it was little Charlie’s first game. Lot’s of high fives, cheering, and Dodger Dogs. Great kids and we loved every minute. I honored my dad by wearing the same jersey he wore when he threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium two years ago.

We considered stopping for the night, but then decided to drive all the way home. We arrived around 11:00. The relationships of the week, some old and some new, were special. While Trisha and I know we will slow down as time passes, as long as we can we hope to be “bodies in motion.”

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Happy Mother’s Day

Some say Mother’s Day originated in ancient Greece, still others contend it began in ancient Egypt. Regardless, this Sunday we honor moms and I wish you all a wonderful day.

For readers of this blog, you know I lost my mother two months ago. I’m still in that phase of disbelief. Just yesterday when my wife and I walked into a familiar store, she grabbed a cart in the parking lot. When I asked her why, she got teary-eyed because she realized it was something she’d always done for my mother. She would grab the first cart she saw because holding the cart helped mom walk more steadily. It’s going to take a while.

This will be my first Mother’s Day without mom. But to me, “special days” are just like any other day. It’s one of the lessons I learned from my mother. While it’s nice to celebrate certain occasions such as birthdays and other similar cultural conventions, my mother taught me to live each day with enthusiasm, love, and respect.

Growing up on a farm, life for mom was not complicated. No shrinks needed. If you encountered a problem, you dealt with it. In dealing with people, you were always to be honest, polite, and show good manners. You were to get up each day and groom yourself, whether you were going out or not. You worked hard, were loyal to family, friends, and co-workers. Mom expected the same behavior from others and truly could not understand why anyone would not follow these simple rules of life. Many times she would see or hear a story about something like someone stealing something. She could never understand why anyone would do such a thing. In recent times, she would see women wearing pajama bottoms in a store and would be embarrassed for them. She considered it to be very disrespectful and an affront to good manners.

Some might consider such a rigid approach to life as being snobbish or prudish. Quite the contrary. Mom simply lived the Golden Rule. If others did not exhibit the same sensibilities, while she didn’t understand, she still showed them courtesy and respect.

Both my mother and father lived relatively modest lives. Interestingly, through his business, my father was once offered an opportunity to make a fortune with a long-term state contract if he would secretly kick back money to a certain state official. I was a young teenager at the time, and I overheard my parent’s  conversation. Here was a man who worked two jobs for thirteen years and his wife who supported him by taking care of the kids and maintaining a wonderful household. It was their chance to grab the financial golden ring. The choice was easy. They were not going to do anything even slightly dishonest, no matter how wealthy it would have made them.

The lessons were simple, and by today’s standards, perhaps considered a bit old-fashioned and out of touch. I very lucky to have had parents like mine. 

Thanks Mom.   

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