Homeward Bound
March 31, 2016

 

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I love where I live. It’s a pleasant little home, in the city, and I really like it. I lived in the country for over 20 years and then was “transplanted” back to my hometown of Sharon, Pennsylvania. It’s not a bad place.

But my house, I love it. I find that I don’t like to leave it. It’s “homey”. Now my other house was homey too, but I found we liked to leave it to do things. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s complacency, or maybe it’s that I like being home. Either way, I like it.

When Paul McCartney left the Beatles, he had difficulty talking about the Beatles. When his new band, Wings, was playing, many times the interviewers were asking about Beatles times, and he didn’t want to talk about it. In fact, many of his concerts featured zero, or only a couple Beatles songs. It’s like he didn’t want to remember his time there, as he isn’t THAT GUY anymore. He couldn’t embrace what it was because it ended badly.

I thought about that when I got out of high school. I didn’t hate high school, but I didn’t love it either. I was into alcohol pretty regularly my last two years, and discovered pot my senior year.  I had two sets of friends, actually three. Those I drank with, those I smoked with, and those I didn’t do any of those with. Obviously, I had NO relationship or awareness of Jesus Christ at this point in my life. I’m beyond thankful that I do now. And so do my kids.

I was a pretty friendly fellow, had lots of friends.  I had a good relationship with my classmates. I was the class vice-president for the Class of 1973. It was fun. I didn’t run for president, too much work. We’d drink a lot, spent a lot of time drinking at a doctor’s house where his wife would actually serve us drinks. His son was in my class. Drank a lot with my friend Chuck and would be with him at Francis’s house, where his mother never minded if we drank there.

I was unbelievable slow with girls. Only had a girlfriend or two during the high school years. Even though I was popular, I was never pushy with them. Had tons of crushes but, believe it or not, was actually too shy to pursue them.  I was a virgin when I graduated high school. Never went to prom as I didn’t want to go. I’m still not much of a dancer.

We started a group called “Bleacher Bums” and we’d travel to all the basketball games. We started chants and choruses of songs.  Chuck, Frank, Scott, Tom, just a bunch of us having fun. What a great time that was. Usually drinking. One game Chuck and I arrived late, and there were no seats so we sat in the New Castle section. This was back when we were a big school playing big teams. For some reason that I don’t remember, we were kindly escorted out of the gym by two of Sharon PD’s finest. The principal, Mr. Bennet told us to meet him in his office on Monday .

We went to our usual parties, and my buddy and I  were at the party imitating Mr. Bennet, saying “Get your hat and coat son, you’re going home”.  We thought we’d be expelled. Well Monday comes, and no call to meet with Mr. Bennet came……..until 10 minutes before dismissal.

Well, a bit nervous, we approached Mr. Bennet and he was as cool as could be. Said he was disappointed with us, hoped we’d represent the school and team better, and if it happened again, we’d be expelled. Well, from that point on, we made better decisions. Just one beer before the game ( a 42 oz. beer), then party afterwards.

With all that being said, I loved THAT part of it, but couldn’t wait to get out of Sharon. I remember running into Nick and I told him I was living in West Middlesex and he said, “Couldn’t you find a house in Sharon?” as if that was THE place to be in the valley.  I wanted no part of it. Until I came home.

I felt like Paul McCartney (I wish), and being completely sober for 30 years, I am fond of my time in Sharon, and I fell like I really am at home. I embraced who I was then and who I am now. As Paul began doing Beatles songs and embracing his past, I too have embraced those times and celebrate my past. I’m so thankful to be home. The saying is, ‘home is where your heart is’. Well, I guess I’m home.

I really don’t know what I would have done if the principal told my kids, “get your hat and coat, son you’re going home'”. They were better kids than their father was a kid. But I think they had a better father than I did.

 

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Old Friends
January 27, 2016

Reflective mood tonight. (Notice how I’m avoiding the weight issue? Yes, astute readers, you are). I was reflecting earlier today and re-reflecting tonight about Old Friends. Probably because of listening to Simon and Garfunkel.

I always thought I’d have boyhood friends forever. Just like the song “Old Friends/Bookends”.

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
A newspaper blowin’ through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy.

My buddy growing up, Keith, was my next door neighbor. Heck he was class president and I was vice-president of our class. Actually, before I got into counseling, I worked for him in his construction business. He lives in the area. We speak to each other twice a year. I call him on his birthday and he calls me on mine. Funny how that works.

I had a friend Chuck who I was real close with throughout high school. He introduced me to underage drinking. We went to concerts together, ball games, and drove around a lot just drinking and trying to tune in the New York Yankees on WGAR from Schenectady, NY. (If we found the right place at night, we could listen to the whole game). We spent so much time together. He’s in Chicago or somewhere. I was in his wedding, haven’t seen him or talked to him in over 35 years. Funny how that works.

I lamented not having that, but then realized I have four or five people in my life I would call close friends.

Lon is who I see more than the others. Him and Janet, I’ve known for about 20 years. I actually communicate more with them than with other friends. It’s a beautiful friendship, but it will change as eventually they move to North Carolina. Not soon, but soon enough. Funny how that works. I love him.

Jim has been my friend for 40 years. He lives in Florida. We lived together for awhile there. It seems that when we get together, it was like we were just with each other. We have had more experiences than you can imagine, and as he is a CEO of a non-profit organization, we’ll leave it at that. Concerts, parties, girlfriends, video games. We went through break ups with our girlfriends and more Tony’s pizza than you can shake a stick at. I love him.

Cindi, my cousin, who also lives in Florida. We have experienced so many things growing up, and it was always good to bounce things off her when girls drove me crazy.  I was the same to her. I spent summers at her house when she lived near by. So many stories, and we have verbally agreed not to blackmail each other. I love her.

Johnny, my cousin. He lives near by and we don’t see each other near enough. Nobody made me laugh like him, and my goal has and continues to be, to get him to pee his pants. He’s 60, so it shouldn’t be hard. His mom was like my second mother. He’s a chubber like me, and even now, deep down, though we struggled to lose weight by dieting and exercising together, we both hope the other stays fat. I love him.

Bonnie, my wife. We have been married over 30 years. We’ve known each other closer to 40. She knows everything about me. She is my biggest critic and my biggest fan. When I’m down, she builds me up. When I feel full of myself, she brings me down. She didn’t know me when I was going through my struggles, but has kept me from going back to them. My best friend. I am blessed. I love her.

The song continues:

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

A time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.

But I can see myself at 70 sitting on a park bench with Bonnie or Jim or Cindi or Johnny. In fact I do that now because it’s actually “terribly strange” to be 60.

“Old Friends/Bookends” by Simon and Garfunkel.

 

 

 

Winter
January 7, 2016

Well, week one into 2016 and winter has arrived. I’m ok with that, as apparently, I’m a northern kind of guy.

Christmas Eve and Day was like 60 degrees, which is kind of nice. See, I like cold and cool weather. So 60 is cool and lovely. I guess that at my age, I’m over a white Christmas. If it happens, cool, if not, I’m very ok with it.

We’ve had just one snow, less than an inch. I find I like snow also. Not a “Oh boy, it’s snowing”, but more like a “oh, it snowed”. I’m learning to adjust to life. So let’s throw a bit of Bob Dylan in here, which is to no one who knows me surprise.

This song I discovered is called “It’s Not Dark Yet” off his “Time Out Of Mind” CD (in case you want to buy it……). Fascinating song as I am approaching the winter of my life. I’ve learned to accept things that are. There are a few things this song says, and I’ll quote it without permission and hopefully not infringe on copyright laws.

I have come to the conclusion that western Pennsylvania, maybe where I’m at in Sharon or somewhere near by, is where I’m supposed to be. This is where God has me. This is where God wants me. I had wanted to move to California with the kids, but they moved home. I had wanted to travel, but that desire has left me, also. If I travel, I want to do it as a family. I’ve also discovered that I love it here. Maybe that’s the Lord helping me, but I do. My desire is to live where my kids and grandkids will live. I have a friend Bill Jones who picked up and moved with his wife to eastern Pennsylvania because it was between where his two kids lived. I get that.

I never understood why Paul McCartney always dreaded his “Beatles” years after they broke up. He rarely sang Beatles songs, mainly doing his solo work. I’ve noticed as Paul’s aged that he has embraced that the Beatles was a part of who he was, but not who he was. Now he does a nice mix of both in concert, so I’m told.

I’ve found that out about me. I hated the high school years. I think that’s why I drank so much in high school. Started drinking at 13, just hated Sharon. Moved to Florida twice, and came back to the area and when I got married we bought a house in West Middlesex. Not Sharon. As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed that I’m embracing my high school years as a part of who I was, but not who I was, just like McCartney. It was a part of who I am, but does not define me as who I am.

I was popular in school, but it didn’t satisfy me. I look back on the drama of high school and some of the crazy things I did and I should be dead. But God spared me and here I am. Friends who betrayed me, friends I betrayed, relationships that ruined me and relationships I ruined, poor decisions that I made. This brings me back to Dylan.

Always was a Dylan fan. He spoke for my generation, but it wasn’t until lately I’ve encountered some of the songs he did, especially off the Bootleg Series 1-12, that really speak to great depth in my life. Songs that I go, “Yeah, that’s true” or “yeah, I believe(d) that”. As I’ve turned 60, it’s becoming clearer to me that I have become older and wiser. Things don’t bother me like they used to, (well, except the Browns, but I’ve been working on that for years), and I really don’t care what people think. I believe if I had that attitude in high school I would have enjoyed it more. But back to Dylan.

The whole song “It’s Not Dark Yet” is so good and speaks so much to who I am. The one verse goes:                “I was born here and I’ll die here, against my will. I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still. Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb. I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from. I don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer. It’s not dark yet. But it’s getting there.”

I guess as I’m in the autumn of life, late October I’d say, that’s where I’m at. I’m in Sharon, at first against my will but now my will is lining up with God’s. I’ll probably die here. I’m ok with all of that. Heck, I got cemetery plots here.

This is where I’m to be. I like it here. Everything I need and want is here. My wife, my kids and their spouses and their kids, all here. I’m a blessed man. I don’t need a vacation. My life is a vacation. It was 12 degrees this morning and I walked in the Park. Crazy? Nah, enjoying home.

My home isn’t gorgeous or in the greatest neighborhood. I’m not a “fixer upper” kind of fella, so things need done. I get to things eventually, although I’d rather pay someone to fix things because, hey, that’s why we work, don’t we? Ain’t got a whole lot of money (“but I’m so in love with you honey”)But I love where I live. I do. I’m home. People say you can’t go home. You can, but it’s not the same. It’s different only if you’ve changed.

I absolutely have only one regret. I wish I’d married Bonnie earlier in life instead of 30 so I’d be around for the grandkids longer, but who knows? God’s timing is perfect.

Winter is here. It doesn’t last long. I’ve embraced it. Life is very good, and I’m realistic about life and the outcome. It’s Not Dark Yet. But it’s getting there.