Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Just Life....

So, I'm 53 years old.  At that age, one would think that most of the mysteries in one's life would have been solved.

Not so, apparently.

At a minimum, religious beliefs, one's beliefs of the likelihood of a life hereafter, the presence or lack of a creator, basic human nature and predictable actions (and reactions), favorite and disagreeable foods, favorite pastimes, and the person with whom one would like to spend the rest of one's life, should have all been answered.

What has become obvious, at least for me, is that some of life's "givens", aren't....

A biggy, is relationships. Lately, I'm reminded that the relationships I've had which  have turned out to be the important ones, are the old ones.  Friends I've known a long time, that generally have been in my past.  Old friends from high school and college, and relationships that began in optometry school.  Specific friends that maybe aren't kept up with on a daily, or even yearly, basis.  But, those are the same no matter how long between visits.  Those are the dependable ones.

Surprisingly, and possibly due to an over abundance of naivete and optimism, I continue to be surprised.

The dissolution of relationships provides time and energy for new ones.  But, as it turns out, the new ones are best kept to the old ones.  Those that are trusted, those with some sort of history.  Turns out, they are pretty terrific.  And, dependable.....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Little Story for My Friend, Terry Tilson

Just a quick story (as promised) for Terry Tilson...

Several years ago, my brother-in-law Scott McKinney and I were on my first vacation-by-motorcycle. He had been before and was the more experienced rider. I hadn't ridden a bike much since I was a teenager. It was the first of what would be two trips out west on our bikes, the second coming the next fall. We departed Norman around 11pm on a clear September night, and headed west.

The next few days we traveled, without an itinerary, through the panhandle of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah, through the Four Corners, and circling around the Grand Canyon stopping for a few minutes in Las Vegas. Then south through Arizona, to Ruidoso, New Mexico and on to Roswell. The last leg of the journey took us through the cotton and other crop fields around Lubbock, to Altus, Lawton and then home.

A few hours after heading east out of Lubbock, we approached the small town of Matador, Texas, and accompanying us were three separate thunder storms. All three were merging toward us and the little town, so we decided to wait it out. The torrential rain we met after passing Matador was the clinching factor in the decision to ride out the storm at the local Dairy Queen. We parked our bikes under a very small awning on the west side of the building, the only refuge available for the bikes. The next couple of hours were a bit boring. We made some small talk with the employees, hung out inside, then outside, feeling the rain and watching the occasional car drive by. At one point, we were outside next to the bikes, and close to the drive up window, as an old van pulled up, and the driver ordered. We were easily close enough to hear the conversation between the driver and the waitress inside the window.

While waiting for his order, the driver asked, "Those your bikes?". "Yes they are", we both responded." We had an easy conversation for a few minutes before he asked, "Where you boys from?" Scott mentioned that we were from Oklahoma, to which the driver responded, "Well, I'm from Oklahoma." "Really?", was my surprised response, given the fact he was obviously ordering dinner in some remote west Texas farm town. "Yep!" he said. Scott mentioned that he was from Edmond, and that I was from Purcell, to which the driver offered, "Well, I'm from Purcell." "Sure", I thought. "Well" I said, planning on stumping him once and for all, "I'm really from Lexington." I fully expected a puzzled look, suspicious that he was just "going along" with me to suggest he knew small town Oklahoma. "Oh, well actually, I'm from Lexington." "OK", I thought, "this is a bit much." "Really?" "Yep, lived there for several years before I moved back out here, back home." "What's your name?" I quizzed. "Tilson", he said, "and I've got a couple of daughters you might know, Grace, Terry, and..." "You're Mr. Tilson? Grace and Terry's dad?".....

We had a nice chat and visited about Lex, and some mutual friends. He finally got his hamburger, we said goodbye and he drove off in his little old van. I was just stunned that in this little spot of a town, in west Texas, I'd run in to Terry Tilson's dad. First thing that I could think of was to Scott, "That just goes to show you. You'd better act right, no matter where you are, because you never know who's watching you."

Hadn't seen him since I was in high school, but had a great visit, the last time I saw him....

Curt Massengale
Eulogy for Kenneth Hawkins
Purcell, OK

I was honored by the Hawkins family, who have asked that I say a few words today about Kenneth.

As painful as this is, it as been said, A man’s dying is more the survivor’s affair than his own. Today Kenneth is at rest, free from the pain of this life and this human condition.

It has also been said that…. somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. There are only so many tomorrows.

Kenneth must have read these words when he was a young man, because that is how he lived, always enthusiastic, always content.

These last few days are the days we’ve dreaded for several months. Kenneth has fought the good fight; his race has been won. He lived his life as a man to be admired, a life of example for other men to aspire.

Kenneth was, simply put, a hero to his wife, his daughters and his granddaughter. But Doris, and you three girls, he was a hero to many. He is not yours alone. He was a hero to your friends, to grown men, to a general, and years ago through to this day, to a young man from across the river.

He may be gone forever from this earth, but his memory, his legacy will remain as testimony to his life with us. This legacy survives in the lives of his family and in the hearts of those of us fortunate enough to have known him.

It is a legacy of selflessness and service to others, of gentleness and kindness. His life is a clear example of how one lives with unwavering integrity and the highest of character, and is a testimony to the value of family and friendship. To visit with Kenneth was to think you were his best friend, because he made everyone feel like they were. Selfishly, I have always thought I held a special place in his life, but when you visit with all these friends that have gathered, it becomes obvious that we all feel that way. We all feel like we were somehow special to him. But that’s just his way. He cherished his relationship with all of you.

Kenneth is of the greatest generation. I only recently learned that Kenneth is a veteran of the Korean War. You know, I’ve known him a long time, and spent enough time around him that it’s something I should have known. But, he was like that. He never talked about himself. He never complained of his problems, although I’m sure he had them. But he never talked about him. He was much more interested in celebrating your life, your accomplishments, your happiness.

He lived his life with the unspoken spirit of “Well done is better than well said.” He never discussed his accomplishments.

He worked hard, in the background and without publicity. He never asked anyone for a reward, never asked anyone to sing his praises. In fact, he never asked anything of anyone. Although many knew him, he was an anonymous pillar of this community. He died quietly at home, and without fanfare.

I believe that old saying, the one that says “It takes a village to raise a child”. When I consider all those throughout my life who have influenced me - those folks in my “village”, there are some close friends who are pretty important people in it – parents and grandparents, award winning educators, college deans and presidents, physicians, and community leaders. But it my village, none were more important than this simple man from this small town, whose life and friendship have directed me as much as anyone. His words - always direct, encouraging, optimistic, and supportive. He’s the same man in the village who made sure everyone got to cheerleading or basketball practice, or a football game. He made sure his neighbors who might not have the means to get out of town had a Christmas display. You know, when she was young, Donna and her friends could easily be called tom-boys, and they had tom-boy stuff to do, mini-bikes to ride. Kenneth was their short order mechanic. He wouldn’t let them sit idle very long. Whatever the girls needed, he was their man.

Yes, Kenneth is in my village, and in my village, he’s Andy Taylor. If you’re here today, and didn’t know Kenneth, just watch the old Andy Griffith show, and you’ll see who they must have patterned his character after.

Just like his special spot in the church pew, probably worn thin by now, and his chair at home, in my village, he’s got a spot at the front gate with that big smile and firm handshake.

I first met Kenneth and Doris when, during my senior year of high school, I started dating his daughter Debbie. I spent a fair amount of time with the family and was afforded much more respect than was deserved. From the very beginning Kenneth and Doris treated me like I deserved their confidence, although I had provided nothing in the way of evidence they should do so. It’s just the way they are.

The reason I have had such a great and sustained relationship with Kenneth and his family, is because of their tolerance, patience and forgiveness.

I could never say enough about how much integrity, how much class, how much kindness with which Kenneth lived his life. So I’ll not start there.

In the interest of fairness, I’ve got to tell you the other side of Kenneth. I doubt that he made many mistakes in his lifetime, but I witnessed at least one of them.

I know Kenneth must have occasionally taken leave of his senses, because I saw him do it once. He had on old restored 1950-something model blaze OSU orange classic step-side pick-up truck. His good sense must have left him the day he gave me the keys.

At the time, I was sure he held some passion for that old truck, although I couldn’t have appreciated it, but I knew I had better take great care with it. But looking back, I should have been much more afraid of how I treated the passenger, one of his most precious possessions, his daughter. But as a teenager, I was more worried about that truck.

But, one particular night, and I don’t recall that we had permission to take it for a joy ride, I wanted to show off a bit, as young boys are prone to do, so I drove Debbie and the truck out east of Lexington to some pasture land my dad owned. When we got there, I decided we’d do some “off-roading” and struck out around a pond dam. Of course, it was dark, no lights out there in the country, so it was perfect for a little thrill-seeking. The trip was impressive, I thought, until we were just about all the way around and came to the pond’s spillway. Recent rains had softened the ground, a fact that, in my zeal, I had not considered. In retrospect, the lack of mud tires probably was my most significant oversight. You guessed right. I drove it into the mud, right up to the axles.

So, there we were, late at night, miles from her home, and too close to my mine, where I wasn’t about to go, middle of the night, in a classic old vehicle that my girlfriend’s father had obviously spent hours restoring and babying, stuck in the mud… in a field… in the dark.

I ran through my options, which didn’t take long, because there were few, and in finally choosing who to wake, picked someone other than either of the two fathers, someone who might be a little less passionate about the situation. Doc Taylor lived about a mile down the road, and I don’t remember if I walked the mile to his house or called from another neighbor’s, but I awakened him from his sleep, and he came down and pulled us out. We went straight home - to her house not mine, as I was not about to try to explain this to my dad.

Now Doris, all these years later, I can assure you that there was no real cause for concern, as I am sure that once back at your house I slowed down enough for Debbie to safely leap from the truck as I dropped her off.

Kenneth surely knew, at some point, what had happened, but… he never said a word. He certainly didn’t say anything that night, because I wasn’t going to give him the chance. Looking back, though, I don’t recall him offering it again.

A couple of years later, I was in college and the air conditioner had gone out in my car. I knew I didn’t have the $700 to fix it so I decided I would just look for another car. When Kenneth found out I was looking, he looked in the newspaper and located a couple of cars he thought I should look at, then took me to look at one. He even lined up the financing at a bank in Newcastle. I failed to tell him I hadn’t discussed this with my dad, so we bought it, signed the papers, and I’m sure he had vouched for me for the loan. My dad wasn’t too thrilled about it, but I don’t think I ever told Kenneth that I’d never discussed it with the guy who was going to pay for it. I never told him that we were spending my dad’s money, and without his consent. Kenneth just was about doing anything he could to help. He had solved the problem before I even let my dad know there was a problem. That’s how Kenneth solved things.

The summer after my first year in college, on the 4th of July I took Debbie to Veteran’s lake in Sulpher with some friends and we were involved in a boat wreck, and a pretty serious one at that. Debbie ended up with some trauma to her jaw and actually permanently damaged two fingers on one hand. She spent a few days in the hospital. You can imagine the position of responsibility in which he and Doris must have held me, but not once did he chastise me, not once did he tell me of the mistakes I made. I know he must have wanted to. I guess he figured I’d learned a lesson, but he never sat me down to let me know the fear I must have caused him, Doris and his precious daughter. He just was not the type to satisfy any need to blame me. He always carried out his affairs with the ultimate in class and dignity.

There were so many times he could have jerked a knot in my tail over poor decisions he clearly could see that I made, but he never did. He was always just a consummate gentleman.

Some children miss out on their fathers because they decide to be physically absent, choosing work or hobbies over spending time with their kids. Other parents are emotionally absent, not letting their children see that they even have emotions, hiding who they really are, maybe because they are embarrassed by their feelings, or afraid that real men don't cry, or hug, or kiss their children.

With Kenneth, I am sure his family wanted for nothing. He was always there for them in both body and spirit, showing them by his living example what it was like to be a father and a husband, that it was possible for a man to show tenderness, to be unafraid of open affection with his children, and to be a loving husband. He was selfless with us all.

It is impossible to speak of him without also speaking of Doris, because they were one. They seemed to always be together, and together they showed us all what true love was like, taught us all what a marriage should be. Kenneth loved his family more than he loved himself. When it became too hard for him to live on, the pain that was the greatest for him was never his own, but rather the pain that he saw in those that loved him.

At tragic times like these, so many families are worried about all the things left unsaid because they were not brave enough to say them and they ran out of time.

Kenneth’s family and friends were lucky, because of his openness, in that he always let his loved ones know how he felt about them. There are no regrets about that, his willingness, his understanding and his love.

But the most important thing I can say about Kenneth is that through his relationships he was able to spare them the void that so many people have in their lives.

The world is filled with adult’s who never heard their father say “I love you,” who wonder throughout their lives whether they were loved. Kenneth spared his loved ones from this wound that many walk around with. No one that knew Kenneth ever doubted how he felt about them. That is the greatest gift that a father can give to his children.

He was a hard man to dislike. In fact, I know no one who didn’t love Kenneth. I know it's common at a funeral to only remember the good things, to omit the things that would embarrass someone. In Kenneth's case, the most remarkable thing that can be said is that there is no bad.

Recently, however, close to the end of his life, I was witness to the harshest thing I ever heard Kenneth say. My wife and I were visiting one day and he was bed-ridden, for the most part, but at one point he wanting to move from the hospital bed he was resting in, to his favorite chair. If you’ve been to his house you know which one it is. Doris, with all the sweetness she could muster, tried to dissuade him from doing so, and when it was obvious she wasn’t going to comply, Kenneth said in a voice almost too soft to hear, “you’re not calling the shots here.”

To Debbie, Donna and Cammy, you all have no excuses. Your dad was the best, and he gave you the genes to be outstanding people - the desire to help those around you. But I know you all well, and you are just like him - kind, considerate, outstanding people. He was proud of you and he talked glowingly about you all.

Ronnie and Mike…. Sorry to tell you, but you’ve got shoes to fill that are, I’m afraid, impossible to fill. But you’re both good men. And Kenneth bragged on you two every time I talked with him. He was proud of the men that you are.

Two particular things I’ll remember about Kenneth. His hands and his smile. As you know, Kenneth is one of those men who could do anything. One of his passions was working with his hands. They were big and strong. A firm handshake. And his smile was always the same. Big and sincere.

And lastly, the thing for which I’ll always strive, is to emulate his undying enthusiasm. It was with him until the end.

Today, our hearts are broken. Kenneth is going to a place we are not ready for. He’ll go there alone, but he was ready. We will all join him some day, and we will look forward to that time when we can have another visit.

And finally, I think what I’ll miss most, is walking to the front of my office and seeing Doris, his lovely bride, and Kenneth with that big, warm smile and hearty handshake.

I will never forget it….

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Murder on Music Row.....

Don't get me wrong. I'm no music aficianado. But, I am a fan of all kinds of music. My interest ranges from classic rock to country to classical. A lot more of the former two, and less of the latter, but safe to say, if the music is good, I'll like it. I also understand that one's opinions are based on personal tastes, so I'll start out saying that my tastes are biased, based on my own personal history, a history of music that I've listenend to during the different phases of life to this point. If one were to peruse my iPod, you'd find all kinds of music, but this little gripe session has to do with Country music.

As time goes on, I'm starting to appreciate Toby Keith more and more. Not just his music, but also his stand against the politics in Country music. Tonight, I'm more aware of the machine promoting Country music than ever before. The reason Mr. Keith has snubbed back the CMA has got to do with the reasons for who gets the awards. Never has it been much of an issue to me personally, but a young lady named Taylor Swift was just awarded the CMA's 2009 Entertainer of The Year, among other awards. Now, I have nothing personal against the young lady. I'm sure she's talented, creative, and deserving of some sort of award. But it is obvious to me, and it's got to be pretty obvious for me to notice, that the CMA's intent is not to award the best Country music entertainer to the most deserving, but to the talent that is most likely to grow the Country music brand. Ms. Swift's greatest talent is in her ability to reach and attract more young listeners to Coutry music, not in her dazzling performance of the art.

I'm guessing that I'm not alone in the opinion that Country music is morphing in to some sort of hybrid genre that is growing out of "Country" music. A few years ago, George Straight and Alan Jackson performed a song called "Murder on Music Row". They were a bit ahead of me in their idea. Country music is being hijacked by this offshoot branch of performers who are not so much Country, as they are Pop-Folk music. Keith Urban is a perfect example. He's no more Country than are The Eagles. Neither are "Country". Again, I'm a big fan of the Eagles, in fact, they are one of my favorite groups. But, Country.... they're not. And neither is he. And Taylor Swift? Hardly. She writes her own lyrics and music, so I won't deny she's talented. But she's a "Country" music star about as much as is Steven Tyler. Guess they've stuck her in Country, because the Teen-Pop genre is filled up, or no longer exists. Let's see..... she's not Rap, not Rock, not..... well, you get the point. Why not stick her in Country? Yep, that's the best fit. Not.....

If I were King for a day, one of my missions would be to kick all the imposters out of Country music and begin a new category. Teeny Bopper. That works best. To quote Bugs Bunny, what a bunch of maroons....

Garth, Vince, Brooks and Dunn, Reba, George (Straight and Jones), Charlie (Pride and Daniels), Alan, Johnny, the list goes on and on. Country music. Not the stuff that's being used to pull in loads of listeners. Us old folks are dissalusioned with the new Country. At least I am. These days, I have to search for something called "Classic" Country on the radio to find the good stuff. Why don't they call the new stuff "Suburbia"? Pardon my french, but somebody needs a Boot Up Their Ass....

But then again, I'm not King.

Until next time....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Consequences of Injustice....

For Jenny's 40th birthday, this past Friday night I took her to see her favorite group, Sugarland. I'm no big fan, but she loves them. She happened to get us front row seats. During the warm up bands, I noticed that all the seats around us were taken, except for two at the end of our row, two seats to our left. Seats immediately to our right and left were filled with husbands and their wives. After listening to the two front bands, we took off for the restrooms. The line for hers was long, so Sugarland started playing before we got back to our seats. Within about two feet of reaching our seats, a security guard grabbed Jenny's arm about the same time another grabbed me, each saying that we couldn't go "that" way... we couldn't pass through the front row on the way to our seats. We were both close enough to see that someone was sitting in our seats, 3 feet away. The music was LOUD, and through it, I was telling, rather yellling at, the guy who grabbed me, that our seats were, as I pointed to the people sitting in them, RIGHT THERE! "You'll have to go around!" he shouted. A similar confrontation was taking place between Jenny and her accostor, I assumed, because I couldn't her it over the music. As I was pointing to the people in our seats, it crossed my mind that I recognized the two seat stealers.

More on them shortly.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye, that Jenny was having less success in pleading her arguement than I. My guy believed me after I showed him my ticket. An apparent organizer showed up and took Jenny and I aside and asked if we would sit next to our seats, two seats away. He would move the husband and wife that had previously been to our left, down two seats, and we would take theirs. Having finally decided I knew exactly who had taken our seats, I thought this arrangement would be fine. Jenny was, by this time, hell bent on righting the wrong, and in full warrior mode to make it happen. The organizer was trying his best to leave the perpetrators and move us two seats down, thinking everyone would finally be satisfied. All the while, Sugarland was playing their little hearts out, feet from us.

The male perpetrator's response to all this was "I just sit where they tell me", but said it to the husband to the right, who was actually pleading Jenny's case.... that the two perpertrators were in our seats. The perpetrator wouldn't look at Jenny, or I, but his wife was growing a bit uncomfortable with the "hell bent" part of Jenny's position, which I might add, was intense. The organizer was pleading for us to take the alternate seats.....did I mention they were the two adjacent seats to ours? The seats next to the seats the perp's had taken.

Finally, Jenny produced her ticket which resulted in two reactions. First, the large African American security guard let go of the tight grip he had on her arm. Second, the evidence was the final blow for the female perpertrator. That, and Jenny's vocal assertion that she had no intention of not sitting in the seats she bought for her 40th birthday. The female perp. finally could take no more. She grabbed her husband and moved to the seats to the left, where we had been asked to take.

Crisis absolved.

Jenny's pointed statement that she had no intention of giving up her seats, to her favorite band, in the middle of the front row, regardless of who had them, had taken their toll.

The perps ended up sitting just to our left, him next to me, shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee. For two hours, not a word was spoken between us, the perpertrator and me. My silence was because I was a bit embarrassed over the whole thing. His, as I think about it now, may have been due to a fear of reprisal or physical altercation. The concert went on as normal, enjoyed by all, although I spent a majority of the time wondering what "they" were thinking, or whether they were plotting a revenge. Just before the end, the perps were led away, never a word spoken, save the "whoo-hoo's" he occasionally blurted. Jenny had long since dismissed the hard feelings and thoroughly enjoyed the concert. From seats she had purchased. She was satisfied.

It's that way for a person of principal. Life can be enjoyed when things are the way they should be.

I was left with the sense that the two probably may have never experienced not getting their way, not having to stoop to inhabit the same air as the commoners. But I think they also learned the consequences of not making things right, when they often should be made that way. Of course, I'm sure it often depends on with whom one is dealing. I could have told him. I could have warned him that there are some people that live by right and wrong, and that asking those individuals to live with things not being right leads to consequences.... every time.

Jenny is one of those people. Right will always be right. And wrong will always be wrong. And to someone who lives by principals, the players don't matter, no matter who they are. And with these principaled people, there are consequences for not participating in making things right.

The perpertrators? The two who stole someone else's seats, whose they didn't care, and were happy to leave the injustice unresolved? The two who came face to face with the consequences of asking a person of principal to look the other way?

As the organizer put it to me later... she'll always be able to say that she kicked out of his seat....

The honorable governor of the state of Oklahoma and his wife, Brad and Kim Henry......

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Tough" Times

I happened to be performing a minor laser procedure on an old patient of mine today. We got to talking and he brought up the issue about the reportedly tough times of the day. If you ever get to thinking you've got it tough, and need a little pick-me-up, engage an old-timer about how things were not so long ago. He mentioned that back in the mid-30's life was a bit different when described as difficult. He was lamenting the huge government spending of the day and talked about how the government infused $500 million to help get out of the depression. "Didn't work then, and it won't work now. The thing that ultimately turned things around was The War. Wasn't until 1950, 15 years later, that things got better, then the Korean War boosted things again." He recalled that folks were much more willing to sacrifice day to day things to help in the war effort. If you needed to go somewhere, which you didn't do unless you really needed to, you walked, because they needed the gasoline. You did without metal, rubber, meals, new clothes, and only bought what you absolutely needed. You knew your neighbors, because everyone helped each other out.... and everyone needed help.

He went on to talk about how very few do without today. The vast majority of us have all the food, clothing, gasoline, household goods... and other "needs". Most of us are able to go where and when we need. Seems everyone, including those on state assistance, have cell phones, cars, and medical care. In my position, I see these folks every day. I don't mean to make light of those less fortunate. It just seems there are few who really suffer from lack of want. I do ocassinally see those that are truly "needy", but it seems like they are the ones who don't ask for much. They don't generally ask for assistance, but it is usually obvious that they need help. Few of these folks are actually on state assitance. They generally have jobs, albeit, poorly paid ones. But they don't play the pity card. They accept who and where they are, and easily accept what they can, and can't, have. Some times what they need is surgery. When faced with that as an only option to improve their sight, they usually are satisfied that they'll just have to wait. We'll always check to see if one of the generous eye surgeons will help out, and they generally do. These folks are a bit uncomfortable with taking charity, and sometimes reluctantly accept, IF they need it to keep their job. Some won't, and gladly accept the fact that they will just do without. Of course, these are the ones for which we work the hardest. Would we all be so humble? I think it's a sign of maturity and selflessness to humbly accept your situation, however difficult, and expect no one to fix it for you.

The truth is, I believe, few today understand what it is to really do without, to have unmet needs. Most have unmet "wants". We live in a time of unmatched comfort, safety and affluence. Life expectancy is at an all time high. Life, through out human history has been a far more dangerous and difficult existence than it is today. My parents' generation understand this better than do we. They understand and recognize a real problem or threat, and know what it means to live within one's means. If you want or need something and you can't afford it, you do without it, until you can afford it. Today, it generally means one bought to much of something else and don't have enough left over for other stuff they want.

Hearing the difficult state of financial affairs, the pain, in this great country, seems to offend a little. Are we really in that much pain? Losing a $100K job is pain? I'd argue that someone with a $30K a year job is much more likely to experience pain. If I were to lose my job, for example, the things I own would have to go. The house, the lake house, the boat, the nice cars, etc. I'd then have to find a smaller house or apartment, drive a smaller and less expensive car, eat fewer steaks and more hamburger, have fewer days off, and the like. But, I'd probably end up with a perfectly good roof over my head, and a reasonably dependable car, and probably wouldn't miss many meals. I'd still be healthy, still have my family that loves me, my kids would have to take more responsibility for the "things" they have and "need". But, is that pain? The hit my pride woud suffer, and the embarrassment, might feel like pain. But wouldn't I have more than my parents and grandparents had for much of their lives? Would I have more that the generations before that?

What we're going through today as a nation is not pain. It's just less than what we've been accustomed to. It's better than any of us had 20 years ago. Let's hope we don't experience real pain. How would we deal with that, if we think today is painful?

The key is to get up every day, be thankful for what we have, the real things like family and close friends, and go to work and make someone else happy. The best anti-depressant is to quit thinking about what we don't have and help someone who really doesn't. Sounds old and cliche, but it is true. The happiest people are the ones who own their things, and don't let their things own them. Unfortunately, the more we have, the more we want. My mother told me that when I was a child, but I finally understand it. Funny how many things my parents taught me didn't sink in until I became an adult. Can't ever repay enough, but I can pass it on to those I care about. And they'll understand it one day. Hopefully, and probably, earlier in life than did I.

Until next time....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ode to a Good Man

Bob Owens was buried this past Tuesday, August 11. He passed away in his sleep on the previous Friday, August 7, 2009. As usual, I was rushing to get things done before leaving the office for the funeral, and rushing to get out and back to the office since I'd been gone for what I felt was a bit too long. During the service, I was struck by the things I learned about a man, my uncle, who I thought I knew reasonably well.

Little did I know how many lives he touched. Several people I didn't know, walked to the pulpit, one after another, to tell us all how Bob had touched their life or gave them a helping hand along the way. I had always know that Bob had worked hard, at least since I had known him from the time I was a young boy. Often times he missed family get-togethers over holidays because he had to go check on a well-site. But I didn't know the things I heard from all who spoke.

I learned that at age 14, his father passed away, and because of the loss of the family's bread-winner, he needed to contribute. At that young age, he took a job delivering milk in Okmulgee, a job that required him to awaken at 4am. He worked hard all through high school, and I doubt it was for spending money. His mother worked as a butcher in town. I also didn't know that my father worked with her there while he was a young man, but that's when he met Bob. He obviously knew him quite some time before he married my father's sister, Billie Sue, some years later.

We heard stories from some who worked with Bob in the oil business, neighbors, high school friends, fellow Mason's, classmates at OSU, and others that had known Bob throughout his life. I must say I had no idea he was so well liked among those outside our family. The common denominator of all the stories and heart felt eulogies, was how dependable and consistent he was. Many of those that spoke didn't know the others who offered similar accolades for the man who, by all accounts, lived his life making sure his family was taken care of, letting his friends knew he cared, and helping his neighbors by contributing to his community in any way he could. He raised money for scholarships for deserving students at OSU, his alma mater, to which he was a loyal alumnis.

I've got to say, I had no idea the kind of man he was. I knew I always enjoyed talking to him, and listening to his views on things political. He once told me something that didn't make much sense at the time, but now know he was absolutely right. "If you owe the bank $50,000, they own you," he said, "but, if you owe the bank $500,000, you own them."

He'll certainly be missed. But it won't be because of the financial obligations or monetary support for his family. He took care of that responsibility. He'll be missed because of the stuff he gave away for free.

Until next time.....