Guilt Feelings in Losing Touch

Yesterday, I became aware that a friend, Clay, was admitted to the hospital suddenly to have major heart surgery. I had been communicating with Clay for many years, but mostly now through Facebook. He had stopped using email. Apparently he sends and receives texts instead … but that leaves me out because I block texting on my mobile device because I find texting both expensive and intrusive. (What I like about email is that I can read and reply to it on my schedule.)

I have always felt that Facebook is a way to observe what your family and friends are doing, but is not a way to discuss news, share information about feelings and frustrations, and so forth, the way friends talk when they’re together.

But since Clay only seems to use Facebook and texting as his primary means of communication these days, I comment from time to time on his Facebook posts to let him know that I care and am thinking about him. It’s not the same, but at least that form of contact lets him know that I appreciate and care about him.

Then he goes into surgery… and his predicament caused me to think about other friends who I haven’t communicated with as much as I once did, and even a few who have dropped out of my life.
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How Rich Are You?

This was an actual question that someone sent to me recently.  I have not communicated with him before. His first email to me said, “nice boots… how rich are you?”  He was from somewhere in the United States.

How rich am I?

I will answer it this way:  I am richer than I could ever imagine….

I have a wonderful partner who cares for me deeply, and tenderly looks after me.  He is my rock.  He keeps me focused, strong, and positive.  He makes sure that I am safe, well, and protected.  He loves me unconditionally.  He is a testament to strength, fortitude, endurance, and faith.  He is the foundation of my soul.  What other words may I use?  How does one measure his richness by his blessings of his best half?

I am rich with the love and support from family.  They nurture me, care for me, love me, and keep me sane and well-grounded.  All of my siblings, nieces, nephews, “greats,” cousins, aunts, uncles … the whole fam-damily — as many as we are — we are who we are because of our bond of blood.  My siblings, in particular, are a testament to what love is all about.  We all are different in many ways.  However, overall, our bond is deep, enduring, and its richness is undescribable.

I am rich with strong bonds of enduring friendship with people who know what a real friend is all about.  They do so many things to show their love.  Some of my friends have done that for me for over 50 years, and some more recently.  It has been said that you can measure how rich you are by the strength of your bonds of friendship.  I do not take these bonds lightly.  I do what I can to extend myself to caring for my friends as they care for me.  Each and every day I am made richer by these wonderful, thoughtful, caring souls.

I am rich with learning patience every day. I care for my 96-year-old aunt who has Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as general old-age infirmities. Under the clouded thoughts and occasional blank stares lies a woman who has done a lot in her own life, and who loves me deeply. This experience of enabling her to continue to live on her own terms, in her own home, with activities and actions that keep her life meaningful enrichen me in ways that I cannot describe, and make me a better person. I have learned how to listen better, to observe better, and how to be a much more patient man.

I am rich with the ability to extend caring to a large network of senior pals. Helping them out, taking them to get groceries, fixing things and doing home repairs, preparing tax returns… these people are the net that sustain my life of voluntarism and my heart, which makes me richer than anything else: the ability to extend yourself to make someone else’s life better makes one rich in his soul.

I am rich with community.  I live in an exciting place.  Right outside the door (almost) of the Capital of the United States.  I live in a state (Maryland) that is thoughtful in its approach and acceptance of my partner and my relationship (and isn’t hateful, hurtful, and backward as some other states).

I live with rich diversity. My local government is provided by a county, not a city. The county is strong and vibrant.  Its government is inclusive.  It listens.  It responds.  It may take some whacks on the proverbial head to get some local elected officials and county leaders to listen … but they do.  We’re all in this together, and the richness of my community composed of almost a million residents who hail from all corners of the world demonstrates how diversity makes us all stronger and better as a people.

I am rich with strong faith.  I have deep faith and belief in powers beyond my own.  I have faith in humanity, civility, and what’s right — rather than what’s wrong.  I believe….

I am rich with a job that I love.  I enjoy working.  I enjoy the heck out of doing what I do.  Words cannot describe how rich one feels when one wakes each morning and says, “oh, goodie!  I get to go to work today!  Yippie!”  (Seriously, I am insanely happy with my employment….)

Materially, I have enough resources to live comfortably, in a nice house that we built, and to have things that make life fun, like my Harley.  I owe no debt.  I do not carry a balance on any credit cards.  I live life responsibly.  I practice financial responsibility.  Because I have managed my resources well, I have had sufficient discretionary funds to buy some boots and leather items from time to time.  But I do not spend money that I don’t have.

I am also rich by means of measurement with many other intangibles.  Seriously, to me, that is what makes life “rich.”  It’s not money or things.  It’s people.  As they told George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, “no man is a failure who has friends” and he was “the richest man in town.”

Yep, I consider myself to be among the richest men in town … all because of the relationships with the people who make my life that way.

Life is short:  cherish your family and your friends.  They are, after all, what makes life rich and rewarding.

Friends for Life Terrorize the Old ‘Hood

Last night, for the 38th year in a row, 14 of my friends from Junior High School and I, along with spouses, children, and grandchildren, went Christmas Caroling in the neighborhood where we grew up.  It was a blast!

While we sing off key, our spirit was enthusiastic and our joy was fantastic.  I got a huge “high” from doing this — for so long, so many years: so much fun.

We did not go as far as we did 38 years ago.  But we saw some of our former neighbors, including a woman who babysat for me and my family when we were kids.  She is 92 now, and still lives on her own in the same old house I remember.

After getting a bit hoarse and not tolerating the cold as well as we once did (though I remember complaining about the cold back in 1972), we went to the house that one of the members of our group lives in now — and still in the same old neighborhood — right next door to the house in which I grew up.  My friend had bought the house from his parents, and has raised his family there.  How nice.

We laughed, told wild stories, and even pulled taffy while eating too much.  What great fun.  I regret that my partner wasn’t with me, but he hates crowds.  I got home way too late, and woke early to write and post this message while seeing my partner off for a drive to pick up his mother who lives 200 miles away.  She will spend Christmas with us when he brings her back in the middle of the coming week.

BTW, I wore a pair of thick leather jeans with a flannel shirt and a leather bomber jacket, black Wesco harness boots and leather gloves — it was cold!  And before you ask, no one said a thing about the leather.  They all know me, and know that I wear leather regularly.  It was waaaay too cold to ride my Harley, plus the streets were a bit icy from the remnants of a spit of snow we got a couple days ago, so I drove my truck over there, and was glad I had a pair of “snow tires” on my feet (the Vibram lug soles) when I walked outside on the snow & ice.

Following is a YouTube video of a song that is my “signature tune” — that my friends turn to me to sing the  verse while they chime in (in very bad Italian) during the chorus.  The tune is Tu scendi dalle stelle which means You Come Down From The Stars.  It is an old Italian folk song, sung at Christmas.  I remember singing it with my family while we were decorating our tree, baking cookies, and especially while visiting Nonna (Grandma).

Life is short:  Buon Natale!

Brother From Another Mother

This is a brief shout-out to the man I refer to as my eighth brother, my brother from another mother.  We have much in common.  I admire his honesty, integrity, intelligence, and charm.

I regret that I do not get to see him very much, because he lives in Arizona and I live two thousand miles away in Maryland.  However, we speak on the phone and exchange email often.

I imagine that he is busy preparing for Christmas at his church, and caring for his many friends.  His heart warms my own.  His tender caring is a treasure to hold close.

So today on this blog, I express my warmest best wishes to my bestest bud, my brother from another mother, and a man who leads a good, decent life through his actions and extensions of his love.  He is a model of decency and integrity who I try to emulate in my own actions and my life. 

Life is short:  cherish your friends and hold them close.

Classic Bamaboy

I have the distinct honor and privilege of having developed a very close friendship with a guy who has quite a reputation for producing high-quality photos of some of his boots.  Striking, masculine, classy, and with style … and with a charm unique to this guy whose self-deprecation belies his intelligence.  Smart as a whip, he is, but I shan’t say more, else it will go to his head.

The guy I am talking about goes by “Bamaboy”.  Yeah, he lives in Alabama, but is a man of the world.  Quick-witted and skilled, he continues to blow me away with his creativity and artistry.  Ooops, there I go again….

It was kinda funny how our friendship developed, but I’m glad it did.  I am also pleased to have met him in person — and he told me that I’m the only one from the “boots gang” at hotboots/BOL who he has met in person.  He is a very private guy.  He is honorable, good to his family and loved-ones, and honest as the day is long.  Our values are parallel, and our respect for one another runs deep.

This photo was posted by Bamaboy on the hotboots/BOL board yesterday, sorta at my urging.  The board has had a “harness boots week.”  He has posted this image on that board before, but so long ago that many haven’t seen it.  The boots in this photo are now in my collection as Bama told me he was going to sell them, and gave me “first dibs” to buy them from him.  I wear these boots when I ride my Harley, and think fondly of my friend each time I do.  And I no longer wonder why these boots wander off into mudholes… (giggle).

Life is short:  cherish close friends, and hold them with respect and honor in your heart.

Bootmen of Da’ ‘Burgh

This past weekend, my partner and I drove to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, to visit his mother who lives there.  My partner did a number of chores around the house to keep it in good shape (and he told me not to, so I wouldn’t aggravate a hernia that I just discovered).  We also gave his Mom some company as she lives alone and gets rather lonely.

It was a quiet, peaceful, visit.  While I was “up bear,” I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a friend who contacted me at first through this blog, and then through many hundreds of emails over several years.  It never worked out until this trip to be able to meet in person.  We sat atop Mt. Washington enjoying a bright, sunny afternoon on a lovely day, while taking in the view of the picturesque city skyline.

What a wonderful guy, from his comfy Justin cowboy boots to his broad smile on his handsome face.  

Life is short:  enjoy it with friends!

Bama’s Fault

This image is all Bamaboy’s fault. All his fault. Oh my has he influenced me.

He is known for his stunning photographic and Photoshop skills, as shown here. I am among the few fortunate men to have met him and enjoy a wonderful friendship with a smart, witty, great guy.

But man oh man, has he influenced me. I ride by a stream or river, and the boots jump in the mud. As Bama says, “hahahahahaha!”

Life is short: share joy of great friendships.

[by the way, the boots clean up well when hosed off…]

My Brother-in-Heart

This is my brother-in-heart, AZ. I found a couple pictures on my computer that I had not processed yet. These pics were taken of us when I visited him in Arizona in September, 2009. What a wonderful guy. How blessed I am to have him in my life as my best friend. His smile warms my heart, and his heart warms my smile.

Mudlessness

Okay, while I am on the “lessness” theme of blog posts, today, Friday, I am mudless. Or shall I say, my boots are in a state of mudlessness.

That is their usual state. And I presume all of my boots are mudless (save for some of my work boots that may still show some dirt in the lugs). In my current condition, I cannot see them. My boots are in the basement or my upstairs closets, and I am in between — safely situated on an easy chair in my family room which is on the middle floor of our house. Having a broken leg with a cast on it that weighs a ton prevents me from going up and down stairs to check on the status of my boots. Not seeing my alarm panel change from “all secure” status indicates that my boots must be where I last saw them a month ago — in their respective storage areas in their usual state of mudlessness — and are not walking out the door all by themselves to go play in what has become a mud pit of a back yard since a lot of our snow has melted.

Why am I carrying on about my boots being in a state of mudlessness? Well, had I not broken my leg, I would have gone on a business trip to Alabama this week. The event I was scheduled to facilitate would have ended at 3pm today. Then my good friend, Bamaboy, would have picked me up from the hotel and we would have gone to “play” and have some pair of boots become, shall we say, “a bit dirty,” or as Bama would say, “all mudded!”

What is it that as men in our 50s and grown adults that we like to go jump in mud puddles? Are we reverting to our childhood? Well, perhaps for play, fun, and seeing the results of the superb photographic work that Bamaboy does… sure, I’d love it! Last time I saw Bama, it was dry as a bone and no mud could be found. We kicked up some dirt, had a nice dinner, and enjoyed each other’s company as good buddies.

Well, alas, here I remain in Maryland, unable to put on a pair of boots, and only snuck (snow and melting mess) in sight. This is not quite where I wanted to be right now, but it’s what I have to endure.

Perhaps sometime in the future the stars will fall on Alabama again, align, and bring me back to enjoy some muddin’ with my buddy, his company, camaraderie, amusing humor, and gettin’ a little mud on our boots. That’s okay, the boots can clean up. Eventually. Returning to their usual state of mudlessness.

Life is short: dream on!