Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. – Charles Dickens
Eleven years ago in this space I presented a list of 7 Things I Am Thankful For, and before we proceed it must be understood that I am still grateful for all of them. I lost my Rocco a couple of years ago, but otherwise everything is status quo. That doesn’t preclude me from recognizing other blessings in my life though, right?? In looking back at that little ditty what I am struck by more than anything is the sense of melancholy in the intro. I would like to tell you that I feel differently about life now, but let’s face it…many of us have had a tough path the last couple of years. However, I believe it is that profound sense of loss & disaffection which makes it all the more important to acknowledge those things in life that bring us a little slice of occasional pleasure. So, as I wish The Manoverse a hearty & sincere Happy Thanksgiving, please enjoy…..
from the home office in Pilgrim, TX…..
The Superfluous 7 More Things For Which I Am Thankful:
Full disclosure…I am not as much of a reader as I once was. In the past a 500+ page book was child’s play, but sadly my attention span seems to have diminished. I purchase books with the best of intentions, but one of the more…uncomfortable…questions I get periodically is “How many of these books (in my apartment) have you read??”, with the honest answer being “Not as many as I would prefer”. There is actually a Japanese word for people like me. Tsundoku means “acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without reading them”. Having said that, I am thankful for the books I have and the ones I will hoard in the future. I am happy that…theoretically…I am able to amuse myself with a well written book. Classic novels. Biographies. Books about sports, politics, food, history. It’s all good. Read to your children. Encourage them to appreciate books. They’ll never go out of style.
6 Home Health
In the past I have written about My Unfortunate Incarceration of 2006-08. What some may not know…because I prefer to keep things pretty low key…is that I have been going thru a similar experience since the spring of 2020, but it’s a lot different this time around. Social media is a big part of that (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram wasn’t a thing 15 years ago), along with a couple neighbors whose help is so appreciated it cannot be properly articulated. However, I want to give a shout out to home health nurses and others within such agencies. No one will ever know the depths of despair I have sporadically found myself in this past year & a half. People have their own problems and don’t want to hear someone else complain. But atleast I’ve been at home. Except for a couple of months spent in the hospital & another facility at the beginning of this arduous process I have been able to slowly heal in the peaceful comfort of my humble abode. I am not where I need to be yet. I’m not sure if/when I’ll be able to return to the work force. However, because of home health visits a few times per week I am able to eat my own food, watch my own television, sleep in my own bed, and even venture out on brief excursions (yes, they are aware I leave my apartment occasionally). The situation has been difficult as it is, but I believe if I’d been away from home this whole time it might’ve broken me. God bless the whole concept of home health and especially the men & women out on the road every day providing such amazing care to patients like me.
5 People With Mechanical Skills
I feel like there’s a better way to frame it, but my brain isn’t coming up with the right word. Y’all know what I mean though. Some folks are just…handy. They are the friends/neighbors/family you call to help install, repair, set up, & troubleshoot if that sort of thing just isn’t in your wheelhouse, or if you’re like me and have physical limitations that make certain scenarios challenging. A couple of years ago I bought a new television and hired someone to mount it on my living room wall. My neighbor Bernie has helped me put together new bookshelves a couple of times. In the past few years I’ve had to call roadside service twice when I busted a tire. Every once in awhile I’ve got to take the truck to a local garage for one thing or another (we’ve all been there). My wheelchair was in need of some repairs recently so I called the place where I bought it to set up a service call. If you are the type of person who can figure out just about anything and does everything yourself then congratulations…you can be thankful for that self-reliance, knowledge, & good old-fashioned know-how. However, I think we can safely assume that almost everyone needs help with something on occasion, and I am thankful that there is usually someone somewhere who knows a whole hell of a lot more than me.
I realize that it is fashionable to wax nostalgic for the idyllic “old days” when life was simpler and our perception is that almost everything was “better”. It is also en vogue to rail against social media, television, The Internet, and all manner of technological advances. I am not here to vociferously defend any of those things. They’ve all done their part in destroying civilization (wow…that sounds pretty dramatic!!). Perhaps life was better and/or simpler 30, 50, or 100 years ago. However, since we have all that cool stuff available to us we may as well enjoy it. During this global pandemic we’ve all been living thru I have observed many friends reacquainting themselves with nature and enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer. To borrow a phrase, it seems to renew their soul. However, as someone for whom that kind of thing has never been a viable option…especially in recent months…I am thankful for my big ol’ TV, smart phone, & laptop. I have a love/hate thing going with social media in that comparing the awesome lives of others to my own existence can drag me down, but on the the other hand I enjoy keeping up with friends, watching their kids grow up from afar, and staying in touch with the outside world. It’s a fascinating dichotomy, but today I am choosing to look at the glass as half full and embrace the positive aspects of modern technology.
3 My Local Coffee Shop(s)
I am not a coffee person. I do not require a cup o’ joe every morning to wake up. Hot tea is my jam at home, and I cannot remember the last time I even fixed a cup of coffee. Once upon a time (three ministers ago) I used to enjoy a cup or two before Sunday school or at Wednesday evening Bible study. If you told me I’d never be allowed to consume coffee ever again my life wouldn’t change at all. However, something happened during the Quarantine of 2020. Restaurants began offering curbside service. One can call them up or order online and when you arrive they’ll bring it out to your vehicle. It’s a dream come true for fat guys in wheelchairs everywhere!! Since I do enjoy a little variety I began (before I ended up in the hospital) visiting a lovely coffee shop (not Starbucks 👀) not too far from here. I order a sandwich or pastry and a cup of coffee online, pick it up, park somewhere, and enjoy my food & beverage. This past summer, when I regained the ability to be out for short periods of time, I restarted the practice. I can’t afford to do it often, but it’s a nice option every once in awhile, and eventually I had a revelation: it isn’t about the coffee. It’s about taking a drive, listening to music in the truck, watching traffic, & observing the energy in the town as I drink my warm cup of serenity. Going out for coffee feels less consequential & more casual than lunch or dinner. The coffee is a classic MacGuffin. It is simply an excuse…motivation to get out & about and enjoy some sunshine & fresh air. Some people go hiking or fishing…I go out for coffee. There’s a new coffee shop opening even closer to me very soon and I can’t wait to check it out.
2 The Robinson Grand
Living in a small town is a doubled-edged sword. I love the slow pace, (mostly) friendly people, familiarity, solid family values, relative safety, & reasonably low cost of living. However, I have complained for decades about the dearth of job opportunities & total lack of entertainment options. There’s not much I can do about the former, but the latter was alleviated to some degree a few years ago with the re-opening of the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center just a mile from my lair. I’m sure similar venues dot the landscape of hamlets like Clarksburg across the nation, but the RGPAC is ours and I’m going to brag on it. Originally built in 1913, it was the local movie theater when I was a kid in the late 1970’s & 80’s, but then a shopping mall came along & killed downtown. The Robinson Grand sat deserted & in disrepair for a very long time, but was restored to its former glory in 2018 (coincidentally by an old high school classmate of mine). Since then I have spent as much time there as circumstances, health, & financial considerations allow. I have enjoyed all kinds of cool stuff, from old movies like Beetlejuice & White Christmas to concerts with Travis Tritt, The Guess Who, & Chris Janson, to stage productions like Tony Award winning Once & community theater presentations of Annie and The Addams Family. The theater is accessible, the staff friendly & accommodating, and the entertainment top notch. I am reminded of a line in The Eagles’ song The Sad Cafe: “Oh it seemed like a holy place protected by amazing grace, and we would sing right out loud the things we could not say”.
When I was in school I played trombone in the band from 6th grade thru my senior year of high school. I’d originally intended to play trumpet, but since I am sitting down all the time and trumpet requires a lot of air it proved difficult and my teacher suggested the trombone. Anyway, I wasn’t that good & sold the instrument right after graduation. I never perceived trombone as being all that cool and harbored a secret desire to become a badass guitar player or learn the piano. A college friend attempted to teach me some guitar basics, but dexterity just isn’t my thing. I also enjoyed brief stretches in my church choir a couple of times, but as awesome as it’d be to be the lead vocalist of a sweet cover band the truth is I can’t sing either. At any rate, I am glad that I have felt a deep connection to music throughout my life. Novelist Aldous Huxley once opined that “after silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music”, and God knows music has been a good friend to me in good times & especially in not so good times. My preferences are eclectic, and I am extremely thankful for that. I don’t think I really developed decent taste until college, but in the ensuing years music has been such a blessing. I feel special kinship with the rock n’ roll of my youth, but also have an appreciation for classical, jazz, & blues and seek to become more knowledgeable about those genres. I may not listen to show tunes on a regular basis but delight in a good musical and marvel at the talent on stage. With the holidays approaching I will be immersing myself in Christmas carols & associated tunes. Thanks to my father I learned to admire crooners like Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin at an early age. Pretty much the only stuff I’m really not into is country & rap, although I find even some of that pleasurable. In the past couple of years I’ve spent more time than ever before listening to music and only wish that opportunities to enjoy live music were more convenient & accessible (that small town thing again). Henry David Thoreau said “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest of times, and to the latest.”, which is quite profound yet understandable.