My New Best Friend

I need to preface this piece. Today marks the 21st anniversary of 9/11 and it must be recognized that the loss on that tragic day can never come close to the loss I am writing about in this piece. The courage and bravery of those involved in any and all aspects of that day must never be forgotten.

Last week Deb and I, along with another couple, Larry and Annette, had decided to ride the Sugar River Bike Trail from Albany to New Glarus. Not wanting to ride down and then ride back on the same trail, we had been clever and agreed on a way to leave my car at the end of the trail in New Glarus and Larry’s car at the trailhead in Albany. We would drop off our spouses and the bikes in Albany, drive both cars down to New Glarus and then return to Albany in Larry’s car. Once we completed the ride, I would drive Larry back to Albany to get his car. Perfect plan. What could go wrong? Maybe a disclaimer here: Neither Larry nor I felt particularly proud of our respect for the environment demonstrated in this plan, but hey, we at least rode bikes at some point.

If you have been a faithful reader of my blog or for that matter, patient enough to sit through any of my many stories, you will know that my keys and I sometimes part ways. As we finished our ride and were locking up the bikes, I looked across the parking lot at my waiting car. It took me all of a second for the painful reality to hit me. No, my keys weren’t lost, not this time. In fact, I knew exactly where they were and let me add, they were safe and secure. The problem was that they were safe and secure in Larry’s car, the car that was now 16 miles away in a parking lot in Albany. Facing me now, was the hierarchy of who do I confess to first, my spouse, who would immediately lecture me, rightfully so, on the virtues of making sure I kept track of things, or Larry and Annette, enjoying their well deserved ice cream while anticipating Larry’s ride back to Albany and his parked car, and blissfully ignorant to the events now unfolding just a few feet away..

I opted for neither and headed straight for Kennedy’s Ice Cream stand where I shamelessly asked the owner if she knew how I might actually get back to Albany other than by riding my bike back up the trail…. alone! Even as my loving wife was figuring out what was going on, the owner tells me she will call her husband and he and his truck can take me there. Now all I had to do was break the bad (embarrassing) news to Larry and Annette. Their response was both expected and priceless. The expected; “You’re kidding, right?”, the priceless part; in that exact same moment of shameful confession, the owner calls out to me and says. “He’s on his way.” Praise the Lord, I’m saved! An hour later, Larry and I have returned with Larry’s car, my keys, and a new best friend. In that half hour trip back up, we have heard my hero’s life story, identified at least three intersections in our lives and have considered buying his restored wooden Criss Craft boat, or at least ready to ask him for a ride in it.

Here is my point. We all experience losses in life. Some of those losses are catastrophic; the loss of health, the loss of life, or even the loss of a loved one. Others are far less critical such as the loss of some item or, in my case, the loss of pride. As hard as it was to admit the mistake to my friends, the amazing result was the forgiveness I received and the incredible acts of kindness I experienced at the hands of strangers. The agony of my shame was overshadowed by the reward of renewed faith in the community of strangers. Going forward, I may just make it a practice to lose things so that others can have the chance to rescue me. On second thought, probably not the best of plans.

It was Just a Perfect Night

Sometimes things just work out. I had driven downtown to meet my wife and daughter. My daughter had just finished her first yoga class as an instructor and we decided we should celebrate with a dinner and a drink. The first eating establishment we tried offered too small a menu. The next, closed for the evening. The third try offered no parking and no outside dining. Ready to give up, we found ourselves at The Madison Tap at the Robinia Courtyard, a place none of us had been before but had heard enough good things said about them, to give it a try.

As we were shown to a small table in the courtyard, a band began to set up. As the instruments and the musicians started filing in, it became clear we just might have stumbled into one of those happy accidents. Who doesn’t appreciate a chance for live music. As we finished our meal and contemplated a second drink, someone in the band started hanging up their banner. Much to my surprise, the band turned out to be Mama Dig Down’s Band. In my preretirement career, I had become indirectly associated with the band and knew the band’s organizer and lead singer as well as several of the band members. Tonight was going to be a reunion of sorts and I just had to hang out and listen to them play.

If you are unfamiliar with the band or may have never heard them play, they are a multipiece brass band offering a wide range of music but specializing in the New Orleans Jazz style. Oh yeah, and they are great! As Mama Dig Down opened their set, the courtyard literally began to vibrate with the resonate sounds of their lively brass music. Soon patrons began spilling out of the bar and into the courtyard and in no time at all, the crowd was rocking to the sound. In fact, it was nearly impossible to not begin moving to the rhythm of the band as the horns wailed out their jazz beat and the drums drove it home. For a moment, if you closed your eyes, you could imagine yourself standing in the middle of Bourbon Street in the center of the French Quarter. The effect was magical.

I had not started the evening in the best of moods, but I certainly ended it in a great mood. Nothing raises one’s spirits like live music shared with the people you love in a setting you wound up at completely by accident. Thank you Roc and Darin and Mama Dig Down’s Band for a perfect evening. So perfect, not even the parking ticket under the wiper blade of my car could wipe the smile from my face.

Today’s homework kids, will be to …….

I will start with a disclaimer and a “survey says” question. First the question, just so you are at least a little curious; On a scale of one to five, with one meaning I am living but barely to five representing you’re living the high life, how would you describe your financial situation? It’s a rhetorical question so don’t send me emails with your pick but do answer the question for yourself. Second is the disclaimer. I am a math geek and this blog will have a fair amount of math in it.

With that made clear, here goes. As a math geek; 1. I love solving math problems, just ask my kids. Every where and anywhere we went there was a potential math problem looming. Their favorite, okay my favorite, was the semi on the highway problem. It goes like this. Most semis will have the length of their trailer posted somewhere on the back of the truck but the standard is 53 feet. The tractor is another 12 feet for a total average length of 65 feet. If I am traveling 60 mph, my wife would say if only, and I have them start counting the seconds from when my front bumper passes the trucks rear bumper up to the moment my front bumper passes the tractors front bumper, the question posed is “How fast is the truck going?” Someone out there will say can’t you just shadow the truck and check your speedometer? Bet your kid is still asking you to tell them the answers to their homework. By the way, this will keep your child busy and less likely to ask the proverbial how much longer till we get there question and possibly even avoid the worst case scenario of “She’s invading my space.” Enough said on loving math problems as you can simply speculate on the living math hell my daughters grew up in. 2. I love statistics. I have never seen any game, especially games of chance, or demographic that can’t be expressed with statistics. As a teacher, my students would be tasked to make up survey questions and then go out to find the real data. In yet another project, they would use statistical math to calculate the number of theoretical license plates printed in the sequence leading up to my personal vehicle license plate. And again, I know what you are thinking, “He gave them his license plate number?!” What were you thinking? Of course I didn’t give them my license plate. I was a middle school math teacher? The very first survey question would have been, on a scale of one to five, what is the damage risk level to my car of a 7th grade student seeking revenge? Obviously it was the principal’s license plate. And 3. I firmly believe that statistics in the wrong hands can be grossly misleading if not just plain false. Have you seen the latest poll numbers of your favorite politician as put out by their own party? One that always bothers me is that two out every three dentists recommend, fill in the blank here, toothpaste. I suspect that company’s product was filled in that blank. There, you now have my manifesto, and for that matter, most of the math you will need to contemplate.

Those who know me well, as I hope my followers do, know that I finished my career in the finance world. Loving statistics, see above, I came across this tidbit, okay, I deliberately looked it up. It would seem that the total asset value of households in the U.S. is estimated at $113 trillion. The total U.S. debt of those same households was $15 trillion resulting in a net wealth of $98 trillion That’s trillion with a T and twelve zeroes behind it. I mean look at it, $98,000,000,000,000. But, that begged the question, here comes the math problem, how much is that per individual U.S. citizen? There are, at last count, 329 million folks living here in this great country. I’ll save you reaching for your calculators, but I bet my grandson can do the math in his head, that’s $297,000 per person, and that would include individuals like my five year old granddaughter. Factor out those under the age of 21 and the population drops to 197 million changing that wealth number to roughly $497,000 per individual. Wait, what? Feeling short changed? Remember, you still need to subtract your total amount of debt before you arrive at your personal total. I am betting that many of you might be willing to trade positions and settle for that national average.

So what’s my point? Well the obvious one is whose got all the money? If your household, all the adults in the house times the $497,000 per person exceeds the average, well I sure hope you answered that survey question I opened with, at 4 or better. If your household doesn’t exceed the number and you still gave yourself a 3 or better, maybe you already see my point. It’s not what everyone else has that I don’t, but what I have and what I am able to do. I could go further into the weeds and tell you that the top 1% of US households hold 20% of the total wealth, or roughly $20 trillion. ($20,000,000,000,000) Their average wealth then jumps to $6,000,000 per individual! But now I’ve put the spotlight on what I don’t have and that is the complete opposite of the point I am trying to make.

We are a consumer nation and that fact tends to cause us to view the glass as half empty. That in turn leaves us with the feeling that we don’t have enough, or that we deserve more, or just that we might never be satisfied. I asked my opening question before I gave you the statistics for a reason. How did you answer it? Glass half empty or glass half full? Had I posed the statistics first, would it have changed your answer? Don’t let statistics overwhelm you. They are averages at best and you are better than average. Of that I am sure.

If you were waiting for me to go all, no offense, Bernie Sanders on you, I just wouldn’t. I may share his belief that wealth could be spread a little fairer and maybe accomplish more if we got over our political war on taxes, but at the end of the day, what truly counts is your attitude on what you have, not what you want. Heck, what would I do if I had the wealth up there in that 1% bunch. Oh yeah, I’d likely give to those with less. But that’s just me, because I already have enough.

We Wouldn’t be Fathers Without Mothers

As my wife would say, everything’s not about you. And making sure we don’t miss the point, it is Mother’s Day today. Father’s, your day is coming. Today is mother’s day and I will be the first to tell you how much you are appreciated. You are often the glue that holds the family together. You are the car pool driver, the nurse, the comforter, and the support network your children need. And you hold one other very important role, you are the sole reason we are fathers.

Okay fathers, we may think we are the important person in the family, but our role doesn’t exist without mothers. Without mothers, we would have no to do lists to get done. There would be no one in the passenger seat to tell me all the driving mistakes and laws I am breaking. There would be no one to tell me to get directions. No one to repeat all the directions my navigator is already telling me, by the way, thank you whoever that alluring voice is in my navigator. There would be no one to be the person I always told my child to go ask for permission. No one to remind me it’s not all about me.

Without mother’s, or even surrogate mothers, we would never get to be fathers. I would never get to hold the child she gave me in labor, that she carried for nine months, that she nurtured long before I even met them. I would never have gotten to play catch with, to sing Karaoke with, to yell support to her as I watched from the bleachers, or to put my arm around her as she sobbed after a rejection or just a bad game, all the while telling her life wasn’t always going to be fair. To answer the hard questions and sometimes the really tough ones, or just to worry about her on every date and every new boyfriend.

Today is a day to honor mothers. If you needed another reason to appreciate her, I hope this message gave you one. You just wouldn’t be a father if not for a mother.

I Didn’t Do Anything

I lead a comfortable life. I am able to be charitable, to travel freely, and to not struggle with the necessities of life. I believe that I have been successful in work and life. Recently, I tried to look back on the things that I have accomplished and came to the realization that there wasn’t a single one that I could identify as something I did alone. That the accomplishment was mine and mine alone. What I actually came to realize was that those things were always accomplished through the combined efforts of the people I have surrounded myself with.

Throughout my life I have always had people I could lean on for support. When I was young, it was coaches, teachers, and my dad. As I aged and entered the workforce, my support network were co-workers more experienced than me, and mentors so willing to lend advice. Multiple co-teachers were there to assist in the projects I was developing, to give advice and at time to be my promotors. In my years as a teacher, I had invaluable teaching assistants to ease the burden of my often overloaded classroom. When I entered the private sector, I had experienced co-workers who shared their knowledge and skill with me while assisting in the plans I was developing for my clients. At work I was surrounded by an incredible support staff who took my ideas and strategies and did the paperwork to make them working plans. And in my personal life, I had my partner in marriage to do the social and family planning that kept me on track and motivated. As she would tell you, without her it is doubtful that I would have ever showed up anywhere on time or possibly not at all.

My point is that what we accomplish in life is always a collaborative effort. We are never alone if we know where to look. That said, it is so important for us to acknowledge those people in life who are part of our team. I ask people to avoid using the word “just” when they describe what they do. Who was the most important person in a successful, possibly life saving, surgery? Was it the surgeon, or was it the nurse who prepped the patient? Or, was it the person who collected the garbage outside of the surgeon’s home so that he could concentrate on the surgery and not whether the trash was picked up? I would contend that each person involved at any level in the process, shares in the success of the outcome.

I am the cumulative result of all of the people in my life who shared in the process that has led to my successes. Hopefully at least a few of them are reading this and know that they are appreciated and loved for the impact they have had on my life and the things we have done, together. I didn’t do anything, alone.

The Christmas Letters

It is five days until Christmas Eve. I have purchased my gifts, the few I actually purchase. I have even wrapped them and actually put name tags on them. My wife has always been frustrated with me for having to tell everyone to whom the gifts I wrapped must go on Christmas morning. I am ahead of the game this year though I am unsure of why that is.

The main gifts I give to my family each year are actually letters of affirmation given to each of my daughters, their husbands, my grandchildren, and of course my wife. I try to include a memory in each letter that brings the affirmation into focus. This process was started a long time ago when my oldest daughter turned sixteen. Soon my younger daughter was looking for her letter and before I knew it, I was writing letters for each of their birthdays and Christmas. As family members were added, they were also included. Though I love to write, just as I am doing right now, keeping those letters fresh and more importantly, meaningful, is no easy task. This is especially true at Christmas when they all come due at once. As the date approaches, I start looking for excuses to end this process and just call it a wrap, but then I am reminded of how important they have become to each of the recipients, my younger daughter’s spouse actually used the letters I had written for him over the years to ask me for her hand in marriage, and so I begin to write.

The amazing thing about this process is how easily the words flow once I begin each letter. Before I know it, the letter has written itself. The beauty of this whole thing is the incredible feeling of peace it gives me. The chance to share the pride I have for each of them, the love and respect I feel for each of them, and the chance to reminisce with a memory, makes it all so rewarding. And then there is the satisfaction of watching them pour over them Christmas morning. One Christmas, intending to measure the expectation, I pretended to have forgotten to write them. The outcry was a rather rewarding experience. And so I continue to write.

My letters this year are all written, last one was finished just last night. As always, it was a very satisfying endeavor. Now I wait anxiously to see how they will be received Christmas morning. Whether you are a seasoned writer, a reluctant one, or even a hack, I encourage you to adopt some form of this project. Life flies by too fast for us to not acknowledge its passing with some form of milepost. Mine has been these letters, each one representing a blink in time. It really does seem like it was just yesterday when I wrote that first letter to my then sixteen year old daughter. Christmas morning her seven year old son and her four year old daughter will open theirs. I am so glad that each year I can be sure that they will be looking for the next one.

One last thought, as the father of two strong willed daughters, these letters are sometimes the only chance for me to get a word in edgewise. Think about it.

Watch Your Back, It Ain’t Over Yet

Just when you think you’ve done everything right, the other shoe drops. That is exactly where I was a little over three weeks ago. I had both vaccinations and my booster. I had masked everywhere I was asked to and even in some places it hadn’t been required. I stayed six feet away from virtually everyone and had played the game of chicken every time I was out for a walk, most of the time being the first to veer off to the street. In short, I had followed the rules. A day after receiving my booster, I attended a meeting and forty eight hours later, the first symptoms began. Of course at the time, I was in denial. This was just another seasonal cold and I would be better by morning. But morning came and more symptoms appeared and by nightfall it was clear that something more was going on. The next morning I got tested, as I am sure you all have at some point during this pandemic, out of caution or maybe a little fear. By that evening my taste was gone and I spent a sleepless night fighting a fever and anxiously awaiting my test results. “Your Covid-19 Test results: POSITIVE.” I read that email multiple times, willing it to change to negative or at least “sort of positive”, but every time I opened the email, the message was depressingly the same. It was 5:30 in the morning and calling the people I had been with, would have to wait till at least dawn. I had dutifully made the list the night before in preparation for the calls I now would have to make. Thankfully it was a short list, but they were people who were so very important in my life, a couple who are among our best friends, my daughter and son-in-law, as well as our two grandchildren, and of course my wife who upon hearing the results, asked me to read the email a few hundred times more.

Let’s talk about the Covid-19 cycle of emotions that I , and I assume most people who have experienced this, went through; Guilt – Shame – Frustration / Fear – Anger

Guilt, the first emotion. I am now about to call people I love, to tell them that I have contracted this beast and that because we were together during that period of time when I may have been shedding the virus, they should probably be tested. I also have to call the organizer of the courses I am scheduled to teach starting in three days. Schedules will need to be rearranged, delayed, or possibly cancelled. I am now impacting hundreds of people scheduled to attend these sessions. But lest I lose focus, it is the loved ones I was with whom I might have unwittingly infected that weighs on me the most. I will now anxiously await the results of their tests.

Shame, the next emotion to deal with. This is a very publicized plague. We have been told time and time again that it shows no favorites. None the less, I am now ashamed. What did I do wrong or what did I not do enough of? How could I have been more diligent and avoided this? No matter what people who find out are telling me, this shame runs deep.

Frustration was my next emotion and at least this helped to reduce some of the guilt and shame. I HAD done everything right, or at least as right as humanly possible. I should have waited at least a few days before attending that meeting in person. I could have given it a bit more time to boost up my immunity. For me this was just frustration, the symptoms were far reduced from what they could have been had I not been vaccinated and I was already beginning to feel a bit better by the time I reached day three. For others, less fortunate, the frustration would have been replaced by fear. I couldn’t do much other than to be isolated in my own home and this lack of ability to be “normal” was frustrating.

Eventually, one reaches the final stage. As I began to regain my strength and even had some of my taste start to return, the anger sets in. Why did this happen, and why did it happen to me? Is there a responsibly irresponsible individual out there who gave this gift to me? And why is this pandemic hanging on in the first place? Isn’t it getting tired of closing businesses, laying off employees, filling hospital beds, killing hundreds of thousands? Anger, if controlled, expressed without action, can be at least cathartic. In my case, it at least reduced the stranglehold the other emotions had on me. I might be able to heal, both inside and out.

But it is time to switch gears. It has been just over three weeks and I am feeling much better, but far more importantly, no one around me, none of my loved ones, none of my friends were infected. Within a day, thanks to rapid testing, everyone’s tests came back negative. What a huge relief. I can’t imagine the alternative. Maybe now there might even be room for a little humor. When this first came on and I had lost my taste, my daughter teased me. I have not had a sense of smell since I was thirty years old, none, nada. Her thought was how about maybe the virus doesn’t have a vested interest in whether it’s turning smell off or on, just flipping the switch. Great possibility, but not the reality. Still no smell. And please, spare me the “if you can’t smell, then” ideas. Pretty sure I’ve heard them all and I will add this, when it came to changing my children’s diapers, I may not have had the joy of smell, but I wasn’t blind and the mind can be very creative.

So that you don’t worry about my sense of humor recovering, I thought I’d leave you with the following:

Five things I mastered thanks to the Pandemic

 1. How to coordinate your mask with your wardrobe. This is important as no one wants to see a less than stylish look and would rather have it be, at its finest, a statement piece. I may have to make a point of attending masked balls in the future just to get use out of my extensive mask collection. Shout out to Annette for getting mine started.

 2. Corona Virus and Corona Beer are two different things. You don’t have to taste test here, trust me. I, like so many others, after month two of the pandemic, wondered if and when Corona Beer would change its name.

3. How to Zoom, Google Meet, and Go Webinar Workshop like a pro. Remember the early days of the pandemic, when the two statements uttered over and over were, “you’re muted Frank” and “for God’s sake, put some pants on.”

 4. How to celebrate Christmas with the family in the driveway and make it look natural.  As one Jimmy Buffet song goes, “it’s twenty degrees and the hockey games on.” Thanks to a patio heater I drove a hundred miles to obtain (the last one they had), we managed to last three hours before we broke up the festivities and sent our two daughter’s families back to their nice warm homes. Here the shout out goes to Eli whose very useful and much used firepit still resides on our patio.

And #5….How to measure six feet accurate to within an inch without the use of a ruler. Pretty much speaks for itself!

I am hoping my readers have stayed healthy and that maybe, just maybe, you are enjoying Thanksgiving at home, inside, warm, and with your family. And for that matter, anyone else in your bubble. Stay safe, but find ways to keep enjoying life.

Maybe Covid-19 Wasn’t All That Bad

We should always look for the silver lining, and when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I started thinking today about all the changes Covid-19 brought about and I started to realize that as bad as the pandemic was, there were things I accomplished. I finally got that Little Library built. During the pandemic, it became my wife’s total focus. We now have neighborhood children putting in book requests to their favorite librarian, Ms. Debi. The treat bags and notes ay have something to do with her popularity.

And there are all the things I learned, useful things. Top on the list would be Zoom. Before Covid-19, I would resist Skype calls, Duo calls, and any other virtual calls. Then came the pandemic and suddenly, virtual meetings, virtual gatherings, even virtual game nights, became the norm. I am proud to say, I am now a Zoom, Google Meets, and Microsoft Teams wizard. Seems strange to say I am a virtual expert. Does that mean, not really, just imaginary?

Another learned process, making wearing a mask a fashion statement. I admit that when it started, I wasn’t too stylish. But as time went on we all got pretty clever and fashionable. We wore masks sporting our favorite logos, coordinated our masks with our ensemble, and even found ways to make them almost sexy. I for one, sort of miss donning my various masks now that I have been vaccinated. Thanks to Covid-19’s mask wearing mandates, I will be better prepared to rob a bank if I ever decide to go rogue.

And then there is the improvements to my office décor. Pre pandemic, I hadn’t really thought about my shelves. Once I started Zooming (is that a word?), I started seeing it as my backdrop on my zoom calls. Time to clean up my act. Off to storage, went a lot of the memorabilia, unread books, and just piles of paper and files. Thank you Covid-19!, my office is quite impressive these days.

Six feet used to be a rough estimate that was anywhere from way too short to ridiculously long. A couple of months of pandemic rules, and I can now nail six feet to within a couple inches. I feel like a walking ruler. Want to know how long that putt was?, I got it. Need that board cut to six feet?, leave that tape measure in your tool belt. Admit it, how many times during the last year did you find yourself moving that extra three inches to put six feet between you and that other person.

There were a lot of other little lessons learned. I have now mastered the art of separating the wafer section from the wine pod in those little communion cups. I discovered that you can actually party outside in the middle of winter with snow falling as long as you have that fire pit going and the now all important patio heater. I actually drove seventy-five miles to a Lowes to find mine. I am even looking forward to this fall when I can fire it back up and party. I might even invite more than ten people.

I know it wasn’t at all good, but it wasn’t all bad either. I have developed skills that were clearly lacking and as an added bonus, I now know every dog and every dog walker in the neighborhood. Admittedly, I will see if I recognize them without their masks.

And one final observation, it seems that as we learned to stand six feet apart, we somehow all grew a little closer.

Becoming a Dad

I became a father on April 21, 1984. Bailey was born that morning after a long previous day and night of waiting for her. We had to make a decision that morning to continue trying or to consider a C Section delivery. That decision was taken away when it became clear we had to do an emergency surgery to bring Bailey into our world.

At the time, becoming a father was a scary thing. I was worried that I would not be a good father. I thought I might be ill prepared for the role and thus not able to do what was needed to be the father Bailey would need. This was a huge responsibility I was about to take on and was I willing to make the life style changes that it would require. As I look back on that fear, I realize how selfish that was. I was more concerned about me than what I actually needed to be concerned about.

The surgery was successful and within moments of the delivery, Bailey was in my arms and my world and my worries changed. In that moment, as her tiny hand found my finger, my world became her world and I transitioned from worried father to fully engaged dad. It now all made sense. To be a father simply took the act, but being a dad was a gift that was bestowed upon you by that moment you connected with the life you had helped create. Of course my life would change. I had a whole new person to share it with. That fear of responsibility was replaced by the excitement of being part of a whole new journey.

I spent the next several hours bonding with and falling in love with our little baby girl as my wife recovered from the surgery. These were precious moments that shaped the rest of my relationship, moments where I learned the difference between being a father and being a dad. By the time my wife was able to hold our child, her life was all ready being mapped out. She would be given adventures to make her strong. She would be given opportunities to grow in every possible way.  She would be given support in whatever choices she made. She would be loved.

Seven years later, my wife and I would welcome the birth of our second child, this time by natural delivery but no less dramatic. I would be given a chance to do it all again and this time to help my older daughter become the big sister. Kathryn was welcomed into our world on April 26, 1991 and just as her sister became part of our plans, so too did Kathryn become part of our family plans. Like her sister before her, she would be encouraged to find her own space, to be part of our adventures, to be loved for who she was and would become. To be honest, I think Kathryn took her role to be the one who would make the adventures bigger.

It is with purpose that I have recounted this story on Father’s Day. It was and will always be my greatest honor to have been a father who understands what it takes to be a dad.

Reflections on Time

We go through decades in our lives. If you are reading this, you’ve gone through at least one. In that first decade we learn a lot, some would argue most, of what we will need to survive our remaining decades. We learn that hot things can hurt. That counting will help us figure out how far we still need to go, though asking the question “are we there yet” holds a lot of pleasure for the questioner. We figure out that food comes in an incredible variety of forms and delivery systems and that we are often forced to eat some of the foods even though we don’t like them. We hopefully learn to play nice and to vow to practice that in the decades to come every chance we get and with everyone we meet even when they haven’t learned this lesson as well.

In our second decade, we anxiously await our teens and when we finally achieve them, we have no idea what to do with them, especially the hormones. We hopefully learn to drive, though it is becoming questionable whether future generations will ever need to drive the car at all. In the last part of the decade, we get to vote which is all too often filled with disappointment, sometimes even when our candidate wins. Make no mistake here, you still need to vote. No vote means you are only allowed to be disappointed. And as that second decade comes to an end, you are given the keys to adulthood and the admonition “go get a job kid cause you’re on your own”. Ah the sweet smell of freedom and the lure of the wild.

Decade three starts the trip of wonder. We wonder about everything as we wander through our twenties. We try out our wild side, three hours of sleep and a recovery plan seem perfectly natural. We figure out our tolerance for risk, and generally amass the mistakes we will refer to in our later decades as lessons learned. This is the decade where we will explore our sexuality (god I miss that, but maybe not), decide to decide what we might be, and as we approach the end of the decade, come to the realization that this was the decade when we actually grew up.

Thirties, these are the years we re-find and re-define ourselves, not that it is the final time we will do that. We either find our soul mate or decide that we would rather fly solo. We settle down, maybe even buy a house and, if we are up to it, make it a home. It is during our thirties that we will likely start our families. It is the decade where we will claim we left our wild days behind, no matter how wild we still remain.

Our fifth decade is the decade we will look back on and want a mulligan. Not because we messed up, but because it was the decade we played young people’s games and held grown up jobs. We were in our prime and still full of energy, energy we likely needed to deal with our children. We make actual grown up decisions and start building our bucket lists.

Then comes our sixth decade. We come to the realization that like it or not, our wealth determines both our success and status all the while learning that it still can’t really buy happiness. We learn that money can buy us time and maybe offer more choices, but happiness comes from the people around us and our connection to family and friends. We start to spend a little too much time with the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”. We start counting our gray hairs and spending time trying to look once more like we did a decade earlier. If we are lucky, as we approach the end of this decade, we start to appreciate who we are and the person we have become. We may even accept who we are as the better version of who we were.

Decade number seven brings you the respect of age and the realization that your journey through the first six decades have left you tagged as “experienced”. Experience somehow equates to wisdom and wisdom redefines you as a commodity. Your children refer to other people your age as “old” but not you, and all it took to earn that dignity was paying for a college education or two or three and being there through every crisis they faced on their journey through the earlier decades. This is the decade you will likely experiment with retirement as a title. And, if all has worked out, you will travel and start checking off some of the more possible things on your very long bucket list.

And that brings me to tonight at midnight. It is upon that momentous tick of the minute hand that I will enter my next decade. I cannot tell you what it will hold or how it will define me but I enter it knowing certain truths. I am a better version of the me I have sometimes been. I have in fact learned from the mistakes I have made and have applied them to my decisions that followed. I feel good, even valued for the help I have given to those I have met along the way. I have raised, with the help of their mother, two beautiful successful daughters. I have been blessed to be part of the lives of two equally impressive, uniquely inquisitive, challengingly energetic grandchildren of whom I am so incredibly fond. Do I wish I could be forty something again, of course, but then all these things that I am so grateful for would not have happened yet and possibly wouldn’t. I will not trade what I have for a what if. I am possibly and finally content.

By the time you read this I will have crossed the milepost and will be beginning my 70th trip around the sun. Send me no gifts for all I ask is that you take the time to think about the decades YOU have crossed and vow to make the next one just a little better than the last. Promise to do one more good deed than the last time. Help one more person than before and look for the good in the people around you so they may see the good in you.