Thinkerfromiowa's Blog

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The Class Reunion

The Class Reunion

Hello, everyone.

There are several rites of passage that we go through in our sojourn from infancy to adulthood, like the first day of school, graduating from elementary or middle school into high school, the first after-school job, the day we get our driver’s license, etc.  But the three major ones – the ones that mark our passage from childhood to adulthood – are in our senior year and some time later – the prom, graduation, and the class reunion.

The prom is a significant rite of passage because it is our last social event as high-school students.  For some high-school sweethearts, it is the night that marriage is proposed and accepted or rejected.  For us stags, it is one last opportunity to have an evening together before we graduate and go our separate ways to parts unknown.

Graduation is always called “Commencement,” and what an absolutely true description it is!  It is the end of our lives as students and children and the commencement of our lives as adults.  For some, it means marriage, like I said earlier.  For others, it means an actual, honest-to-goodness job.  For still others, it means military service.  And for yet others it is the bridge between high school and college.

The high-school reunion is a whole different matter.  For some, it is a time to reunite and seek the renewal of those unbreakable bonds that were formed in high school.  For others, it is a time to gather and see people from the past and also to see how we all have changed since the days that we were in Miss Grundy’s homeroom or Mr. Rehnbke’s shop class.  For still others, it is an event along the road from Point A to Point B.

I did not attend my 10-year reunion because I was living out in Montana and it would not have been practical for me to go back.

I did attend my 25th reunion, and I had a wonderful time.  I sat at the same table as a guy I never really knew in high school, and in the three hours we were there, Dennis and I got to know each other better than we ever did during 4 years of high school!  I also danced with a girl I always thought was neat and cute.  She had lived in the country, and if I had been able to drive, I would definitely have pursued her.  I also danced with a girl named Georgina, whom I had known since third grade.  I told her that I had a HUGE crush on her in third grade, and she laughed and said that she knew it.  We both shared some nice laughs over those wonderful long-ago days.

In short, my 25th class reunion was so wonderful and marvelous that I decided to attend the next major reunion we had, which was the 40th reunion in 2000.  I went to that one and vowed to NEVER AGAIN attend a reunion.

Carol and I lived in Colorado, and since I don’t drive, it was a 2-day trip.  We got into Albia on a Friday.  There was an informal get-together at a restaurant and bar that night, with the actual reunion the next evening at the Country Club.  Albia was celebrating a local festival called “Restoration Days,” in honor of the restoration of our Victorian town square in the 80s.  The parade was next morning, and our class was to be on a float in the parade.

We had our informal get-together, and someone said that we were to meet at the high school to get on the float.  On our way home to my mother’s house, where we were staying, I said that I wanted to ride the float, but that Carol didn’t need to drive me to the high school.  I would walk there, just like I used to do all those years ago.  Carol said that that was fine.

The next morning, I got up, had breakfast, got ready, and walked to the high school.  But there was no one there!  There wasn’t a float either.  I ran into an old friend from my days in the Methodist Church in Albia, and we visited and caught up on things.  I said that I was there to ride our class’s float in the parade, and he said that there hadn’t been anyone around the school and there wasn’t any float there during the time that he was there.  I told him that I had a very good idea of what happened.  We chatted some more, and then I walked back home.

As soon as I walked in the door, Mother asked me, “Is the parade over all ready?” and I told her that I didn’t ride in the parade.  She asked me why, and I told her that there was no float or anyone there at the high school.  Carol said that they had said last night to meet at the high school to ride the float, and I said yes they did, but apparently they had changed their minds after we left.  Mother then said, “They didn’t want you on the float with them?” and I said, apparently not.  Carol then said, “I have always heard that small towns are cliquish.”  Mother then said, “Albia is, believe you me!  All three of the kids went through what Bill did this morning all of the time that they were in that high school.”

My brother and his family from Davenport came shortly afterward, and we all had a nice visit.  My brother from Des Moines came down for a few hours on Sunday, and Mother had all of her boys home once again.

A few days later, it was time to return to Colorado.  As we went down the road, I apologized profusely to Carol for her having to drive and for having come to Iowa for this fiasco.  She said, “Honey, the trip wasn’t a fiasco.  You had a nice visit with your mother and you got to see your brothers again.  Those two things made the trip worthwhile.”  That was the kind of woman she was.

We drove on, and then she said, “Honey, I have made an ironclad decision.”  I asked her what it was.  She said, “My 50-year reunion is coming up in four years, and I have decided that I am definitely NOT going back for it!”  I said, “Are you sure?”  She said, “Absolutely!!  I saw how hurt and disappointed you were when your class didn’t want you on their float.  The kids in my class treated me like the kids in your class treated you, and I have no desire in the world for putting myself through what you went through this weekend.”  Sure enough, when 2004 came, not a single word was said about going back to Wisconsin for her class reunion.  My experiences at my 40th reunion definitely made an impression with her.

So what is the take-away from this experience?  Mainly this:  Be very, VERY aware that the position that you occupied in high school will be the position that you occupy at the reunion.  If you were in a clique in school, that clique will be alive and well and ready to re-form at the reunion.  If you were an outsider in school, you will be an outsider at the reunion.  And if people didn’t have a lot to do with you in school, you will not be invited to be a part of anything special like riding a float in a parade.  It is hard and sad, I know, but that is just the way things are.

I know that someone will say that not all reunions are like this, and he or she is right.  My 25th reunion was wonderful and glorious, and it was because of this fact that I put myself through the awful weekend of my 40th.  But too many reunions ARE exactly like my 40th, and this is why I wrote this diary — to try to spare someone the pain and disappointment that I experienced.

There is an old Chinese axiom that says, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me!!”  I am a VERY FIRM pracxtitioner of that philosophy.  I got fooled once into putting myself through the agony of my 40th reunion.  I will NOT put myself through it a second time.  For that reason I have determined that I will NEVER, EVER AGAIN attend a reunion of my high-school graduating class.  I made that decision myself, and I am just fine with it.

Thank you for allowing me to vent for once.  I appreciate your time and patience.  All of you have a good day tomorrow and in the days to come.

Bill

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August 27, 2017 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous | , , | Leave a comment

The Forgotten Man

The Forgotten Man

Hello, everyone.

I live in Western Colorado,  and I get BYUTV on my cable system.  There is one program that I never miss, and that is “Music and the Spoken Word,” which features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  A very gifted speaker named Lloyd Newell always gives a meditation during the program.   This program is in effect my church.  There is no “praise music,” or preachers ranting and belching about “Jesus” or “The Blood” or “the Cross.”  It is just high-quality music and a meditation by a guy who could just as easily be sitting across the table from me, talking in a normal, friendly voice.

On yesterday’s (10/30) program, Lloyd gave a meditation titled “The Promise of Better Days.  Here it is:

“Maynard Dixon, a prolific artist from the previous century, is best known for his vibrant paintings of the American West. He spent much of his life roaming the western United States, which he loved so much, capturing on canvas images of the peoples and places he saw. But during the Great Depression in the 1930s, Dixon’s artistic focus changed: he painted a series of images depicting striking and displaced workers. One of those paintings, Forgotten Man, captured the poignant feelings of so many people during that time.

“A man sits on the curb with his head down and his back against a wall of anonymous legs. The people behind him seem to pass by quickly—they are engaged in life, purposeful, going somewhere. But this person, this forgotten man, sits unseen, cast aside and ignored by those around him. He seems dejected, worn out, exhausted with life.

“Maynard Dixon’s painting has a certain timelessness about it. Who has not felt lonely or forgotten at times? At times it seems like everyone else is moving forward, productive and successful. Meanwhile, we may feel that the world is passing us by—that we are forgotten.

“At such times, it’s helpful to remember that no matter how we are treated by others, we are never forgotten by God. He has placed good things in our lives that can brighten our outlook if we will only seek them. He has sent us here with a purpose—to bring goodness to our little part of the world. We can start by realizing that we aren’t the only ones who may feel forgotten. We can notice the unnoticed. We can strive to do something each day—perhaps some little thing—that helps lift someone who is down. We can do our part to help ensure that there are no forgotten men or forgotten women.

“If we can do this, the seed of hope will begin to take root and grow in our heart. Most often, it won’t be a quick or dramatic change, but in small and simple ways, the light of hope and the promise of better days will come.

“-Lloyd D. Newell”

When I listened to this, there was a part that stuck out above the rest.  Here are those 2 paragraphs:

“A man sits on the curb with his head down and his back against a wall of anonymous legs. The people behind him seem to pass by quickly—they are engaged in life, purposeful, going somewhere. But this person, this forgotten man, sits unseen, cast aside and ignored by those around him. He seems dejected, worn out, exhausted with life.

”Maynard Dixon’s painting has a certain timelessness about it. Who has not felt lonely or forgotten at times? At times it seems like everyone else is moving forward, productive and successful. Meanwhile, we may feel that the world is passing us by—that we are forgotten. “

What Lloyd Newell says is true; we all feel neglected and forgotten at times.  That is just human nature.  But what is sad is that there is a lot of truth behind those feelings.  A lot of us ARE forgotten.  That is especially true of us seniors or someone who has lost a spouse.  One unforgettable episode of the program “Little House on the Prairie” involves a woman who is so desperate to see her own children that she fakes her own funeral to get them to come home.

And in real life, when one loses a spouse, the spouse’s family quite often treats the widow or widower as though he or she does not exist.  People whom one was once so close to no longer want anything to do with them.  That happened to my mother when my stepfather died, and it happened to me also when my late wife Carol died.

It isn’t just individuals who are that way.  Nations are as well.  This country has day after day after day throughout the year when the veterans and service people are honored.  But what about those who couldn’t serve because of physical problems?  What about the civilians who kept the home fires burning and the nation humming while the guys and girls went off to war?  Don’t those people count in the nation’s estimation?  Apparently not, because there is no recognition of them or honoring them in the nation’s year.

Several years ago, one of the phone companies had an unforgettable commercial.  In it, an older guy was talking about his boyhood friend and how the other boy’s mother called them “Pete and repeat” and how he was godfather to his friend’s daughter.  He apparently hadn’t talked to his friend in years.  The commercial went on, and at the end, it showed the old guy on the phone, laughing and talking.  He had apparently reconnected with his boyhood friend.

This happens all the time.  As we live our lives, our significant others change and the once significant ones are exchanged for the current ones.  There is one thing that Facebook has done that is totally worthy, and that is that it has made it possible to reconnect with the once-significant people in our lives. In my case, I have gotten rejoined with several members of my high-school class, and I even got rejoined with a former student of mine whom I loved deeply when she was in my classes.  I also have been able to be joined with some very dear cousins whom I love dearly.

But relationships can go south, and we can be forgotten once again.  At one time, I was a raging Liberal firebrand.  My ex-student got rejoined at this time, and she was a raging Liberal also.  Every mail run or every Facebook visit, there would be something from her.  One time, we were in a back-and-forth, and I set up to print the exchange and it ran to 3 pages!  Roxy and I were drinking out of the same glass.

But that all changed when I got home from my month-long trip around and across the country 2 years ago.  I had seen and experienced much, and I was not the same person.  Where I once worshiped Barack Obama, I now vilified him.  I found good, decent, wonderful people, and I could not help loving them.  I went from being a raging Liberal firebrand to being a strong Moderate who leaned Republican, and that switch doomed my friendship with my former student.  She now has little to nothing to do with me, and I am again the forgotten man.

Yes, we all can become The Forgotten Man through no fault of ourselves.  But, as Lloyd Newell said, these times of being forgotten can lead to the promise of better times.  We have to believe that.  We MUST believe it if we want to keep our sanity.

You all have yourselves a great day today.

Bill

 

 

 

 

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous, Politics, Religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Hymn to a Brother

Hymn to a brother

Hello, everyone.

This is going to be a personal diary, so bear with me. According to Facebook, today (4/10/16) is “Sibling Day.” I had two siblings. One is still with us, but one has passed on. And it is that brother whom I want to honor today.

His name was Robert Thomas Chambers, but everybody called him “Tommy.” I know of only one person who ever hated him. That was my maternal grandmother, and she hated everything and everyone who had the name “Chambers.” But that is another story.

Tommy was born a little over 4 years after I was, and we were very close. My grandmother hated his being in the house, but he used to love coming to her house and being with me. When Grandma got sick and I moved down home, he was happy that we were together under one roof. Dad turned the attic into a bedroom and he and I slept up there. We would lay in bed and giggle and talk until Dad came to the foot of the stairs and yelled for us to go to sleep. He always yelled at Tommy, but it was meant for both of us. Not that it did any good, but it did make us quiet down to a degree.

Tommy and I did everything together. Sometimes we borrowed the family car and just drove around and talked. Other times we went to the bowling alley and bowled several lines each. If mother decided she was in the mood for a pizza burger or some pop or something else, we would “fly and buy.” Tommy drove and I bought the goodies.

Tommy went into the Navy about a month after I went to Aplington, Iowa, to start my first teaching job. After basic, he would get a pass and come home over the weekend, and a couple of times, Mother came to Aplington and got me and I had the weekend with him. Even then, things were like they were before, especially with Dad telling us to shut up and go to sleep. When he would call when I was home, we would always have a nice long talk.

One of the happiest times I’ve had in my life was the day after Christmas in 1965 when Tommy and I made a trip to Kansas City to visit an aunt and uncle and cousins who lived there. On Monday night, Tommy and our cousin Ronnie went to a movie while I went to lodge with Uncle Bill. The following night, we went to the movie and saw “The Sound of Music.” On Wednesday night we boys went to a drive-in and watched a movie titled “Boeing Boeing.” The plot was so convoluted that I won’t attempt to describe it. And during the day, we boys rode all over Kansas City North. We went home the next day.

Tommy was transferred to the air station in Rota, Spain the following April. He had 2 weeks’ furlough before he left, and he spent that at home. I was teaching in a town 10 miles away, so I stayed at home and he drove me to school each morning and picked me up in the afternoon.

He and I stood up for each other when we married. I was his best man and he was mine in my second wedding. The Assembly of God church in Waukegan, Illinois refused to let us get married in their church, so we got married at the United Methodist Church in Diamond Lake and then had a mock wedding in Waukegan. Tommy functioned as my best man for that.

Seven months after our wedding, I had eye surgery, and he was there for that. I was out of it due to the anesthesia, but I remember him asking me how I was feeling. One of my sweetest memories is that of his little daughter Michelle putting her little hand between the rails of my bed and patting my arm and saying, “Bye-bye, Uncle Bill.”

I lost my Ginny 5 ½ years after we married and I could not have gotten through that time without Tommy. He thought of details that I would never have thought of. He and Mae and the kids were close to me and both of my wives.

Tommy bought a house in Davenport, Iowa, and moved his family there. He still worked out of his office in Arlington Heights,and talked about renting a room around there. I told him no way; he was welcome to share my house if he wanted. I worked 3rd shift and he worked 1st, so it worked out beautifully. On my nights off, I slept on my couch. That was such a great time, almost like when we slept upstairs at home.

Mother moved out of our house and into a care facility in our home town. I used to call her every Sunday night to talk with her. On one of those calls, Mother said, “I don’t think that we are going to have Tommy with us much longer.” I asked her, “How’s that?” She said that he and his daughter Michelle had been down to see her the day before and that he spent the whole time lying on her bed, sicker than a dog. She said that she asked him why didn’t he stay home if he was so sick. He told her that he wanted to come. I feel that he made that trip to say good-bye to her.

A few weeks after that, I got the phone call that he was gone. I had lost Carol the previous Christmas, so I didn’t grieve for him. But one day, I was playing music videos on my computer, and I played Johann Strauss’s waltz “Roses From the South,” Something about that music took me back when we were boys, and I sat at my computer and cried like a baby for him. That pretty much gave me the closure that I needed.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us that there is a friend who sticks with us closer than a brother. Tommy was my brother, but he was also my friend. I miss him deeply, but he and I had some wonderful years and wonderful times together, and those memories are worth far more to me than all of the gold in Fort Knox.

I thank you all for indulging me and putting up with me on this special day. I just wanted to honor the greatest brother a guy could have, my brother Tommy.

You all have a great day tomorrow.

Bill

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous | , , | Leave a comment

Fair Weather Friends

Fair Weather Friends

Hello, everyone.

This is the holiday Season – the time when we celebrate Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and possibly some others that I am not aware of.  We think about our friends and loved ones and treasure our memories of our past holiday seasons.

Mark Twain, a very funny man and a very wise man as well, once said that there were three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics.  Statistics are lies when our opponents use them to shoot down our arguments.  And we all know what “lies and damned lies” are.

I believe that there are three kinds of friends as well, and I want to elaborate on that idea at this time.

The first kind of friend is the friend who is there when the sky is blue and the sun is shining.  They are there to share the good times and fun with you.  But when the sky clouds up and the sun no longer shines, they make themselves scarce pretty darned quick.

The second kind of friend is the friend who likes you as long as you buy into his bill of goods.  As long as you believe his ideas – the earth being flat, the Bible being absolute truth, and the perpetual sinlessness of the Negro race, for example – he will be your best friend.  But once you challenge any of his ideas and no longer believe as he does, he will be gone very quickly as well.

The third kind of a friend is the forever friend.  This friend not only knows all of your faults and quirks, he accepts them and you and is loyal to the death.

Now, if I may, I am going to apply these thoughts to my personal life.  I will not name names in discussing the first two kinds because these people do not deserve honor or mention.

I discovered the “sunshine friends” when my two wives died.  After my first wife died, I tried to maintain a friendship with one person who I thought was a true friend.  However, this woman had other ideas and threatened to report me to the police if I continued to try to contact her.  She was a rabid Evangelical Christian, so I attributed her behavior to her Christian nuttiness.

I had a second friend whom I had adopted as a little sister.  I did maintain this relationship until well into my second marriage.  Our relationship had its ups and downs; one year, when she asked me to come over for Christmas, she threatened to kill me if I tried to kiss her under the mistletoe.  However, she did change her attitude some time later, and she became a type-three friend.

When my second wife died, I again went through the loss of friends, only this time it was her family.  With Carol gone, I essentially did not amount to anything.  Those people were “sunshine friends” of the first order.

Last September, I took a month-long trip on Amtrak, except for a week or so I spent with a cousin in Texas.  During that trip, I saw and experienced much, and my thinking along certain lines changed.  As a result, I essentially lost a Facebook friendship with someone I had known for over 40 years.

I have not had very many of these “my way or the highway” friends because I avoid these friendships like the plague.  But what such friends I have had were Evangelical Christians or political liberals.  Mainline Christians and conservatives have been decent friends, in that I did not have to believe the same way they did in order to be their friend.

And then there are those loyal friends who are there for you through thick and thin and in between.  When I lost my Ginny – my first wife – I had four such friends whom I referred to as my “Four Catholic Champions.”  I referred to them as such because they were indeed practicing or lapsed Catholics, and also to distinguish them from the Evangelical Protestants who had abandoned me.  I actually took two of them out and had a wonderful evening each time we were together.  I was able to work through losing Ginny because they were comfortable with my calling them and just talking to them.  They took the time to listen.

When Carol and I lived in California, our best friends were Bruce and Barbara Boyles.  When we left and came to Colorado, that friendship continued.  After they moved to Boise, Idaho, that friendship still continued, and continues to this day, 25 years later.

I have two cousins whom I consider to be among my closest friends today.  Jimmy, Nikki, and I were very close when we were kids.  Indeed, Jimmy and I were essentially “Pete and Repeat.”  We never lost that closeness as we grew older, although we never were in real close touch.  Those two kids saw me at my best and worst, and yet they still chose to be good friends.

Back 50 years ago, the Beatles had a hit record with “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.”  Money CAN’T buy a person love, but it can buy “friends.”  If the money is flowing like an oil well gusher, a person can have a lot of friends, but when the money dries up and quits flowing, those “friends” dry up and blow away, like the seeds of a dandelion.  How true the old saying is:  When times are good, your friends know who you are; but when times are bad, you know who your friends are.

Back over 60 years ago, I used to listen to a radio program called “The Halls of Ivy,” which was about the trials and triumphs of the president of a small-town college.  It starred the wonderful Ronald Colman and his real-life wife Benita Hume.  On one of the radio episodes, (broadcast, I believe, on June 25, 1952) a group of people sang a song titled “Fair Weather Friends.”  I still remember the opening two phrases of that song.  I have googled to see if it was a legitimate song or something written for the radio program, but I have not been able to find anything on it.  As I remember, the song was about how worthless fair weather friends – Type 1 in my grouping above – really are.  It was a neat song, and it gave me the concept of friends who will abandon you when the going gets a little rough.

Everyone has at least a few of the “forever” friends.  Hang on to them!  Love them!  Nurture them! Treat them as the invaluable treasures that they are.  You will never regret it; I can guarantee you.

Everyone have a wonderful Holiday Season.  Happy Holidays to all.

Bill

 

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Religion | , , , | Leave a comment