‘Every family has baggage’ in the words of my friend’s wife.  I never gave it a whole lot of thought but she considered my two sisters to be successful.  Both graduated from college (one with a Master’s) and held good jobs for decades.  In contrast, my friend’s two sisters are struggling supporting themselves and alcoholism.  I always criticized my family and saw their shortcomings and was blind to their successes.  It made me think a little harder about the word success.

Having a childhood friend is a real gift.  We have a history.  He knew my parents and the sisters.  We have a connection I do not necessarily understand but it is there.  He is retired now.  I am not working so I can visit him any time.  He and I were on our high school tennis team.  In our freshman year, in the county championship we played second doubles and won and the newspaper reporter covering the match called us ‘peanut sized freshman’. (???) He did grow up to be six foot.  I didn’t.  Now he lives with his wife in New Orleans.  He used to live in Ohio and we camped in PA for at least five years in a row in a state park somewhat equidistant from our homes.  We have seen each other at least the last eight years once a year.  We had a long period we were out of touch–over thirty years.  I did not know where he lived but my sister went to a high school reunion and I found out from her what city he lived in and I tracked him down.  He still makes me laugh with his wry, understated humor.  And I found out we still have a “connection”.  We never run out of things to discuss.  Not many people have that kind of history with a childhood friend.  We attended the same grammar school grades and high school.  I know he is a real gift.

My birthday was actually two weeks long this year.  My sisters (and their husbands) threw me a birthday bash at a beautiful restaurant with the Susquehanna River in the background. My sister in California arranged her itinerary (she and her husband were going to Spain) to be there.  The last time were were all together was two summers ago although this time my nephew and wife were there.  We were a party of thirteen.  I also invited some friends.  The weather was perfect (we ate on the deck of the restaurant) and so was the food.  We were commemorating my sixty-fifth birthday.  My one sister made the same cake my Mom used to make for our birthdays.  She went to a lot of trouble for me.  I don’t have many relatives but they are scattered from Shore to Shore.  Maybe if I make it we will have a seventieth birthday party.  We will see.

We have become dependent on cell phones.  I remember a few years ago we were having a family reunion at a park somewhat equidistant from one sister and our house.  I remember my other sister expressing some reservations about meeting there:  she was concerned about getting cell phone reception there.  Almost everyone has a cell phone today and check it constantly.  Most people can’t conceive going anywhere with out.  In fact, others get somewhat nervous and anxious when they don’t have one with them or they are in a “‘dead” zone and have no reception.  All you have to do is go to a mall:  most of the teenagers have their cell phone glued to their ears as they walk around and shop afraid they will miss something.  I think it is downright impolite to be sitting at a restaurant and the person with you takes a call.

Tomorrow I will see my sister and her husband.  It will only be over a quick meal.  What is unusual about it is it will be in New Orleans–a place neither of us have been before.  It is plain serendipity.  We will meet in New Orleans proper.  For an hour and half at the most.  Then my friend will take me to the airport at Gulfport.  An hour and half is only a kernel of sand in this vast universe yet it is our time.  And time can be so fleeting.  Last year it was Easton, Pa we met for a few hours and that visit included my other sister and my wife.  You never know for sure when it will be the last time.  Each moment has to be savored and treasured.

Everything Is By Grace

Author: siggy

Everything is by grace.  Today is a good day to count my blessings.  I am not in dialysis.  My kidney function has stabilized (the last three years).  It is not good but it is livable.  My wife loves me.  And my two sisters and my brother-in-law (and a friend) sent me birthday cards (and one check).  There is so much to be grateful of–two well running cars and a roof over my shoulders.  There is no pressing financial needs.  And I am surrounded by animals I love (in fact, there are eleven in this house).  I love watching the birds out my window.  And now I am waiting for the first hummingbird to find the nectar I just put out.  My life is not perfect but it is good.  I am aware God does not owe anything.  Everything is by grace.  And He owns everything.

My world is interconnected.  There are so many people I owe thanks to.  And I am sure I will leave somebody out.  A thanks to my primary doctor who takes goood care of me.

A thank you to our retired electrician who did some work in our house this year.  My wife still loves that lamp you installed over the sink.  And we have three new electric radiators and two new thermostats.  There is nothing like heat in the winter.

Thanks, to Bob, who willingly answers my questions about “ailing” cars.  Thank God I have not needed you too much this year and our 2006 SUV is behaving well.

Thank God to all my listeners at the Open Mikes.  Their comments encouraged me and kept me writing.

A thanks to Mike whose comments in his letter to me I have picked up occasionally when my spirit dropped.  I am sorry your best friend died unexpectedly.

There is Sonya, our postmaster, who always asks how I am doing, everytime I drop by our post office.

A thanks to the team of doctors that takes care of me–my nephrologist, etc.  There are so many people I appreciate.

A thanks to the small church I go to–its pastor Pete and the many people I have become friendly with from there.

I know I have left out people.  My sisters who had an hand in making my trip to San Francisco by train a reality and who both support me and care about me.

Philhaven, a thanks to for helping get me past a rough patch.  You all know who you are.

And all my pets, particular my dogs:  Pax who always comes to me when he wants something.  And Tilla whose tail never refuses to wag when he see me.  And Coco is a real sweetheart.  And don’t let me forget Sweetie, who is just that a sweetie.

And that is just the dogs.  Thanks Cool Hand Luke, the last pet still alive from my Duncannon days, a black cat, who often keeps me company on the bed.

And most of all my wife who is always there and gives me a reason to get up each morning.

I have to go back to my center:  gratitude.  I have been struggling for at least two weeks with depression.  Depression (or self-pity) is selfish and magnifies your self-importance.  It has its place but you should not linger too long there.

I need to thank God for every blessing — to have a sense of gratitude for my life.  Gratitude is my center.  I think less of me when I go back there.  There is so much I have to be thankful for.

Sitting in my driveway is our new used vehicle which was only possible to buy because my family (my two sisters and my aunt) contributed money toward a purchase of another car.

It is so easy to forget your blessings and get into a unforgiving cycle.  When you start thanking God for your every blessing, miracles happen.  You no longer have the luxury of wallowing in self-pity.

That is what I have to do today–keep returning to my center, develop a sense of gratitude for my every blessing.  Then depression just evaporates.