Monday, September 18, 2017


I found that I had a need for hearing aids in 2011.  It proved to be a good move as it improved my life as well as my wife’s.  She didn’t have to listen to me say, “What?!” every time she spoke to me.

Six years later the hearing aids and the hearer have been showing the wear and tear of daily listening.  At a recent family gathering my wife said something to me to which I replied, “Pardon?”  I had learned not to say, “What?!”  My wife then asked me, “Do you have your hearing aids in?”  I did.  I didn’t hear what she had said initially.  Nor was I hearing what the other women in the gathering were saying.  It was time for another hearing test.

My hearing hasn’t changed that much but the hearing aids are definitely not working as well as they used to.  I had the testing done and left the audiologist’s office with a new pair of hearing aids to try for a week.  They are really nice.  Hi-tech to the point of being compatible with my IPhone.  I can listen to the person on a phone call without putting the phone up to my ear.  And there are numerous ways I can make the task of listening an enjoyable experience and not an exhausting chore, especially in a public setting such as a restaurant.

As the trial week came to an end I was debating whether to get the new hearing aids or keep the old ones.  The darned things are expensive.  During a phone call with my wife and her voice coming through the hearing aids I was telling her that I thought I should just keep the old hearing aids.  She told me in her sternest voice, “No, get the new ones.  It’s a matter of quality of life.”  

 “But I have you.” I replied softly, thinking she would appreciate the sentiment.

“Not your quality of life, my quality of life!”  That was in her sternest voice!

So I have new hearing aids and the quality of life is better.  My wife told our daughter that I was a new man with my new ears.  My wife’s a new woman with my new ears.  Her quality of life, and mine, is much better.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Two weeks ago five of the 20 graduates from our high school seminary class of 1968 got together for a mini-reunion. One of our classmates had come from his home in Upstate New York for a visit to the family homestead in Oregon. He does this every two years or so and we manage to get a small group of us together for dinner and a few beers. But not this time. We met for lunch instead. The late nights just don't work for us old men anymore.

Our gathering place was the Painters Hall Cafe on the grounds of the Pringle Creek Community in Salem.  It was a warm spring day and lunch on the deck was delightful.  We did the usual reminiscing, toasting of departed brethren and sharing of old man ailment stories while eating wood-fired pizza and sipping hibuscus tea and lemonade.  The company and the food were worth the trip from Portland and Eugene.  (And yes, this is a shameless plug for the Pringle Creek Community. Our classmate from New York is related to the developer of Pringle Creek. Just helping out the older brother as best we can.)

After two hours of lunch and reminiscing we were heading over to the family homestead for a tour. But first, being old men, a couple of us needed to take a tour of the facilities inside Painters Hall.  Coming out of the hall into the sunshine, we stepped onto the deck and I noticed two gentlemen down by the parked cars.  My first thought was, "There's a couple of old guys. They could be with us."  Then I realized, "They are with us!"

Suddenly I was very aware of what happened to the class of  '68.  We got old.  Sixty-five and Social Security are mere months away.  

With all due respect to Pogo, "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us".  In a few years, the class of '68 will be 68!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Early Saturday morning I am sitting at my computer going through my email when a chat message comes up. It’s my daughter, “goodmorning”

Oh, good. Someone to chat with at 6:41 in the morning. “Good Morning!”

“what are your plans this morning? I was thinking of coming over but wanted to make sure people were actually home :)”

“Mom is going to First Communion retreat till 12. I am home. Probably doing exciting things like housecleaning.”

“ok, well how about I come over and do exciting things like yard work?”

“Can I help?"

“ahuh. see you in a bit then!”

About thirty minutes later I am sitting with my daughter having breakfast and sipping coffee.

My daughter is a landscape architect/designer. Our backyard is her laboratory where she discovers which plants work best in our clay soil. It is her canvas where she paints the ideas of her imaginative soul. She comes by this artistic bent naturally. One great-grandfather was a farmer who loved the land, another was a master gardener/caretaker, and a third was a florist. Throw in a distant cousin who was an artist along with a favorite uncle who showed her the imaginative soul of his art and you have a woman who was born to paint the landscape.

Over the last few years our backyard has been painted with a variety of trees, bushes and flowers. Mother Nature does her best to make things grow and the time had come for some sculpting and trimming, some clipping and pruning. Breakfast was over; on to exciting things.

We have a good system worked out, my daughter and I. She prunes and trims, snips and clips, tossing branches and such on the ground behind her. I pick up the debris and put it into the recycle bin. For this I get a hearty, “Thanks, Dad!” This is much better than when I do the trimming and clipping and I hear, “Oh, Dad! You really pruned that bush!”

It is better for my daughter, better for me and better for the plants if my daughter clips and I pick up the clippings. She knows how to do it right. She has the touch.

This is why, after the yard work was done, I asked her to give me a haircut. I don’t have a lot of hair to begin with so not much damage can be done. So when I run the hair clippers over my head the result is not particularly good. Though I may have saved a few bucks on a trip to the barbershop, my daughter, after surveying the final product, has been heard to say, “Oh, Dad! You really...”

So, just like with our yard work, we have a system, my daughter and I. She snips and clips and I do the clean up.

At the end of the morning, the yard looked good and my hair looked good.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Not really. It is just “Habemus Papem!”

We have one pope, Pope Francis. We have a Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, but we have only one boss and he is the first pope to take the name of Francis. Lots of folks are calling him Pope Francis I or Pope Francis the First. There is no need to do so.

He is Pope Francis, the one and only. He doesn’t need a Roman numeral after his name until such time as there is a second pope to take the name of Francis. Pope John Paul I was just Pope John Paul until Karol Józef Wojtyła took the name of John Paul and became John Paul II.

There were 266 popes before Pope Francis. Of that number, forty-two fall into the one and only category with Pope Francis. With names like Pope Evaristus, Eleutherius, and Silverius it is not surprising that some papal names will never be repeated. There is only one pope named Peter and it is not likely that someone would choose to become Peter II. “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock…” Some things are too sacred to change.

The first pope to leave the one and only category was our seventh pope, St. Sixtus I. He was pope from 115 to 125. In 257, St. Sixtus II began his reign as pope and thus made Pope Sixtus I the first pope to be able to say, “Sum numerus unus! Sum numerus unus!”

Before Pope Francis, the last pope without a Roman numeral after his name was Pope Lando. He was a native of Sabina and was elected pope in July or August of 913 and died in February or March of 914, a reign lasting a little over six months. We do not know much about him except that he was a worthy man, granted a privilege to a church in his native land and went on to play a crucial role in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back in 1977 and Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. At the time, we thought the movies were Star Wars II and III, part of the one and only Star Wars trilogy which turned out to be the sequel trilogy even though it was made before the prequel trilogy, Star Wars I, II and III. All of these Roman numerals get to be too much, even for Lando Calrissian.

So we have a new pope who is the first Jesuit to become pope, the first pope from the Americas, the first Latin American pope, the first pope from Argentina. Pope Francis, the one and only, is leading the way.

Catholic Encyclopedia, The List of Popes

Monday, March 11, 2013


We have a pope!

Not as of today, the 11th of March, 2013. Maybe on March 12th when the cardinals meet and the conclave to elect a new pope begins. Some folks say the white smoke will billow out that day, others predict by the end of week and others expect a longer wait. Only God knows.

Ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, the rumors have been flying. Speculation runs amok with the choosing of a new pope. I thoroughly enjoy watching it all; the Catholics who understand the process, the Catholics who don't have a clue about the process and the secular press folk who don't have a clue about anything. They all have something to add to the event.

A friend in Illinois says, “I love the way that the media outlets cover it. CBS said that while the cardinals like the faithful to believe that the Holy Spirit directs the selection of the pope, the “horse trading” has already begun.”

I saw the ABC version of that story. They show two cardinals talking to each other, as if they are whispering about something. “The politicking has begun.", says the reporter. My wife says, "They could be talking about their golf game!" Being an ex-seminarian, I thought they might be telling a dirty joke.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights thinks The Vatican should tap Italy’s Archbishop of Milan as the successor to Pope Benedict. Cardinal Angelo Scola is a safe bet.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana has been on a number of lists but talked with a reporter about the chance of being elected pope. This is almost a guarantee of not being elected pope. No politicking allowed. At least not out loud.

We Catholics in the pews are having fun with this election of a new pope. Someone tied into March Madness and created a bracket system for choosing your favorite cardinal for pope. “Sweet Sistine” they called it. I made my choices but haven’t checked back to see who is winning. Chances are good that the new pope won’t have even been in the original sixteen.

Bill Donohue’s personal pick for pope would be New York’s Cardinal Dolan. I am rooting for Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., of Boston. Why? Probably the same reason as many a Red Sox fan, “Damn Yankees!”

A friend from high school says, “I'm going with the Black guy...soul Masses, Stevie Wonder music, etc.” That makes me wonder if it was really Jesus who first said, "I just called to say I love you!"

Our archbishop, who is retiring next month, wrote an article about this period of time from Benedict XVI’s resignation to the election of the new pope. “Sede Vacante” is the subject and the archbishop explains the process and gently calls to task the uninformed secular press and the not so schooled Catholics. Sede Vacante I think it is worth reading.

The coming days will tell us how The Holy Spirit has led the cardinals to vote. It is all really in God’s hands, as are we.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Time for romance and flowers and candy and dinner out with your beloved along with a whole slew of couples you don’t know who are trying to find some quiet time together alone in this crazy world.

There is a wonderful song from the movie Casablanca called As Time Goes By, a most appropriate song for Valentine’s Day. The song was written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931 but became famous in the 1942 movie when Sam (Dooley Wilson), the piano player in Rick’s Café, sang it for Miss Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). “Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By.”
You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss,
a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.
It is a wonderfully romantic song that has been performed by many artists over the years but my favorite is by Jimmy Durante. That not so perfect voice first sang the song on his 1965 album, Jimmy Durante's Way of Life. This rendition was included on the soundtrack of another romantic drama, Sleepless in Seattle. While not quite as dramatic as Casablanca, Sleepless is certainly romantic and a great date movie. You can bring your flowers, candy and popcorn to the couch and cuddle up with your beloved and kiss the night away while watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan recreate An Affair to Remember.

There is another song about kissing that I think is appropriate for Valentine’s Day. A bit more light-hearted than As Time Goes By, John Hartford’s Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation does get to the essence of kissing.
Mouth to mouth resuscitation
Good for the country; good for the nation
Nothing to quicken the respiration
Like a little bit of that good sensation
That mouth to mouth (breath) resuscitation
But that is a song for the baby boomers. For their children there is a somewhat more innocent tune from Disney’s animated version of The Little Mermaid. Sebastian, the crab, sings, Kiss the Girl. It is an ideal song to listen to while dining at your favorite seafood restaurant.
There you see her
Sitting there across the way
She don't got a lot to say
But there's something about her
And you don't know why
But you're dying to try
You wanna kiss the girl
While all that aura, ambience and romance of those kissing songs is wonderful, it took on a different feel the other day when I read the following post from Easy Health Options.

An intense kiss is more than a mere sign of affection. It’s also an exchange of mucus, bacteria and… a whole lot more, according to Slovakian research. A study at Comenius University shows that saliva in your mouth retains DNA evidence of whom you’ve been smooching. That DNA could, theoretically, be used as proof of assault or, perhaps, infidelity under certain circumstances. In the study, researchers had participants lock lips for two minutes or more. They found that evidence of DNA transference from mouth to mouth was still detectable for at least an hour.

In the words of every second grader in the country, “Eew, Yuck!”

Save your lengthy kisses for your beloved. Everyone else gets a peck on the cheek.

The moral of this story? The candy and flowers, the dinner and movie, the romance and cuddling were all meant to be shared with your one true love as the two of you find some quiet time together alone in this crazy world.

“Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


It’s the little things. For several years now I have been trying to use our small bedroom as an office of sorts for myself. Inevitably, the room finds other uses. My clothes are in there so it is a closet, and the spare bed is in there so the room is also a guest room. But there is open space and it quickly fills with whatever we need to hide when company comes over for a visit. I finally got a little, $29, build it yourself desk that holds my laptop. After a few twists of the nifty tool the manufacturer gives you and a few more swear words of my own, I had the table ready and put it in the small room. It is the perfect size for the spare bedroom. I was ready to have my early morning time checking emails and playing word games on the internet and figured this would also be a time that I could write without interruptions. But fate rears its ugly head, or in this case, its red head and our son decided to sleep in the spare room. While he can sleep through earthquakes, he somehow manages to wake up when I open the bedroom door. There is no way he would tolerate my being in the room and typing while he was sleeping. The keys would be too loud and “Dad!” and a few other words would start my day. Recently he returned to sleeping in his bedroom and I decided to take advantage of this change in accommodations. I asked my wife and son if either of them had any objections to my rearranging the small room so that I could put my little desk over by the window to take advantage of the natural light. They didn’t object. As I tried to decide how to move things I realized there was more effort involved than I wanted to expend. I decided the desk was just fine where it was and all of the stuff could stay where it was. That afternoon I went off to work at church to set up for the evening Mass. Mass ran longer than usual and there were a few extra duties after Mass so I got home later than I normally do. As I walked in the door my son says, “We were going to have dinner all ready for you when you got home. You got home sooner than we expected.” That was okay. I was just glad to have someone besides me fixing dinner. But I thought to myself, “What? I’m later than usual. They have no idea of what time I get home.” I went from the living room to the small bedroom to change my clothes. The bedroom door was closed because we had a fire in the fireplace and closed bedroom doors make for a warmer living room. I opened the door and was taken by surprise. My little desk was in the corner of the room by the window, the bed had been moved, the floor lamp was strategically placed by the desk, the storage items had migrated to the attic and I was in awe. I could not have come up with a better arrangement of the furniture and the decorations than my wife and son had. A couple of pictures were put up, one painted by a dear friend who has gone home to God. My Oregon Duck hats were hanging by my desk; my Rose Bowl hat, a regular Duck hat with an O on it and my worn out, sweat stained yellow, screaming Donald Duck hat. The Donald Duck hat is my favorite. I sat down in my desk chair and was feeling quite comfortable in my new office set up. But the icing on the cake, so to speak, is something special. On the other wall above my desk hangs the blade of a canoe paddle. My son, an Eagle Scout, told his mom that I needed to have the paddle blade on my wall. “Makes it more like an office and it’s the one thing Dad got for being Scoutmaster.” I was the Scoutmaster for my son’s troop and in my second year we went to summer camp at Camp Parsons in the Olympic Peninsula, on the shores of the Hood Canal. On the Friday of the week at camp they run a big athletic contest with relay races and other activities. The final event is The Octopus Race. It is just a canoe race but you have four people in the canoe, thus the eight arms of the octopus. We had never been to Parsons so we did not know what the race was all about but we did have our four strongest Scouts ready to go. Prior to the race, while the Scouts were getting their paddles and life vests, I was talking with another Scouter. I told him we hadn’t seen this race before. He told me the secret was to not get into the middle of the canoes at the starting gun. “Go to the outside, otherwise it is a traffic jam.” I thanked him for his advice and immediately found our Senior Patrol Leader to tell him. Sure enough, when the race started, the traffic jam appeared. Our Scouts went to the outside and were one of five canoes that were free of the traffic jam. The race is about a mile in length and by the halfway point there were only two canoes still in contention for first place. As they made the turn, our canoe was in the lead. The rest of us from the troop were watching from the pier. My Scouts started chanting our troop number, “69! 69! 69!” getting louder and louder as our canoe got closer to the finish line. We won! The prize for winning The Octopus Race is the blade of a canoe paddle, hand painted by one of the camp staff. It has our troop number on it, a picture of the bay and Octopus Island, the halfway point of the race, and the words Octopus Cup, Week 4 2003, Camp Parsons. It is an award you won’t find in any trophy shop. I look up at the paddle blade from my chair and think of my Scouts, all of whom are in their twenties now. Ten years have passed but I still remember that race. My son was wrong about the paddle being the only thing I got from being Scoutmaster. I got an Eagle Scout son, a bunch of adopted sons and wonderful memories of their struggles and successes as they journeyed into adulthood. The paddle blade contains them all. But my son was right, the paddle blade does make my little corner of our spare bedroom more like an office. So here I sit, typing away in the early morning and so very thankful that my wife and son spent over three hours fixing up the room. It is just a little thing in the larger span of time but it is an incredibly big thing for me. I am relishing my new office. It doesn’t have a high back leather chair, a rosewood hand carved desk with matching bookshelves or even a Tiffany desk lamp. What it does have is a whole lot of love and I am thoroughly enjoying it.