Monday, September 3, 2018

TENNIS

The 2018 tennis season is winding down.  It's a good time to reflect on the year, and perhaps on the game itself.

My love affair with tennis began in 1948, when gifted by my Aunt Catherine with a wooden Bancroft complete with genuine gut stringing, I ventured to the sideline of a tennis court. Sideline, not on the court as a player. For the next couple of years, I was manager of the college tennis team.  I learned a lot by observing and observing and observing our players in action. Eventually, this loyalty paid off by being promoted to playing status.  On the third doubles duo to be sure, but varsity nonetheless. My rise up was aided mightily by the team captain, Taney (pronounced “Tawney” ) Willcox, and player John Bateman. My college record was mediocre. However, I did earn my letter.

Off campus, I battled in singles play with my lifelong pal, Hugh Jones. This competition was marked by rare brilliance, nonstop bickering as to whether a shot was in or out and a bedrock of fraternal affection that has served both of us well over more than a half century. So here I am now in my 90th year, rich in tennis memories of the Greats I saw play the game and of matches where I worked the lines as an official. (Not the least of which was calling the center line when Pancho Gonzales was serving. Unable to move fast enough to avoid his blistering serve, he nailed me twice in the chest.)

The equipment has changed dramatically from the days of my 1948 wooden Bancroft. High tech racquet innovations, plus an emphasis on player physical conditioning have resulted in booming serves and volleying from the baseline, a far cry from the all-court movement that was the hallmark of those long ago days. Young spectators today know only baseline play. Any departure from slugging it out “long distance” causes gasps from the gallery.

I gasp too. But mine is more of a sigh of regret that the game has become so one-dimensional.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

John McCain

Newspaper people are wont to look ahead. Inevitably at some point, “looking ahead” becomes “now.”  That moment has come. Senator John McCain has moved on to the Great Unknown. Knowing of his physical challenges, I have had John McCain on my mind for some time. Along with my personal sadness, however, I will always be remembering the happy time Joan and I shared with him one night at a military ball.

For me, McCain was the epitome of a military person.  A no-excuses kind of guy. Many of us who wore the uniform, certainly those of us who had relatively easy service, will always wonder how we would have stacked up against his standard of courage when facing brutality as a prisoner of war. Reading the excerpts of what McCain and others went through in captivity makes you sick to your stomach.

For most of us, it was an honor to serve in uniform. The three words “Duty, Honor, Country” mean a lot. Later on, as veterans, they epitomize our pride when recalling our time in the service. We cherish these three words when we honor those who gave their lives in defense of our nation. We remember as well those who sacrificed through endless days as prisoners of war.

Sometimes it seems like we have so few heroes anymore. It's not true, you know. They exist everywhere across this blessed land. We just don't know about them because they serve silently, or until some event places them in the spotlight.

The President of These United States is, by virtue of his office, the Commander in Chief of The Armed Forces. What a sad, sad day it is when Mr. Trump failed to even mention Senator McCain's name when he was honored by Congress and We the People. Until he had to.

Trump let us down. Every single one of us.

Monday, August 20, 2018

DOGGERS (Part Two of Two)

It was Harry Truman who said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get yourself a dog.”  Well, I have an even better idea, Mr. President, and it's called “get a spouse.” Friend, lover and so much more! With 300 million souls here in the USA, and Canada and Mexico nestled right next door, there's got to be somebody just right for you as there was for Charles Reilly, Sr., Charles Reilly, Jr., and Charles Reilly, III ! So do your own homework and start looking.

Years ago somebody in our extended family, probably young Jeffrey, started calling dogs “doggers”.  The name stuck and doggers they are to this day.

I mentioned in my preceding column that some people are 100% animal lovers and others less so. I am in the latter category.  I do not dislike doggers but I do not place them in the top drawer category along with sports and great-grandchildren. However, there were exceptions. “Shammy” was an exception.  She was a gentle Yellow Lab and my take-a-walk buddy on fair days and snow-on-the-ground days. We two marched the township. One hiking day I dropped my key ring with the car, house and whatever-else-was-important key on it. Trying to retrace my steps was not a treat I can tell you that. I was stumbling along on a hillside, muttering when Shammy pulled on the leash to the right side.  “Lo and behold !” as writers used to say. There was the ring with all those keys peeking out from a clump of snow. Shammy would have gotten a Guinness that day, save for the fact she did not drink or smoke.

Eventually, old age caught up with Shammy just as it does with all doggers and dogger-walkers. Joan and I will never forget the day when our sensitive veterinarian, St. George Hunt, picked her up in his little SUV and took her away. Shammy mournfully looked out the car window at the two of us. We three were a portrait of sadness. It is tough to tell even as I write these many years later.

Life grants us wonderful memories of loved ones who have passed on. It does the same thing for prized pets. Happily, we have a trunk-load of Shammy memories to take out and enjoy time and again.

Friday, August 17, 2018

DOGGERS (Part One of Two)

Many people are animal lovers.  Loving dogs especially. My own Dear Heart is one such. Truth be told, she would make an excellent veterinarian assistant.

How we relate to our four-legged friends probably has a lot to do with how we were introduced to them early on. My brothers and I grew up with Great Danes, a noble species. “Gainor” was our first. She was so beloved her name was eventually passed on to another Dane in our household.  There is, somewhere, a formal picture of the young Reilly Boyz sitting on the floor around Gainor. Mischievous brothers in placid poses which no doubt had to do with the serenity projected by regal Gainor.

When we were little guys everything and everybody was big.  And Gainor was very big. She was loyal, friendly, and a marvelous, comfortable cushion. She was also obedient. When Cousin John walked up the pathway to the picket fence surrounding our porch, I yelled: “Sic him!” Gainor was up and over that fence in a blink. Heartbeats paused all round, notably Cousin John's. After assuring that John was okay, my mother then turned her attention to me. Several very long days followed. I have not issued a command to a dog since that moment at the picket fence. When Gainor departed for Doggie Heaven the air went out of the house. Eventually, Gainor was replaced by Timmy, an English bulldog. Timmy was everything Gainor was not.  Regal bearing was a non-starter.  He was friendly enough but a slobbering soul if there ever was one. As the years rolled by, there were several other misfits in residence.

The responsibility for ending the household partnership between dogs and humanity laid with Good Old Dad.  My standard exit line was “it's not fair to keep a dog all cooped up when they need lots and lots of room to run around. Like on a big farm.” That statement is an evergreen with my now-adult offspring. When there's any kind of misunderstanding one or more of them will bellow “it's off to a farm!” Kids nowadays embrace the “he's/she's part of the family” philosophy which neatly overwhelms objections from any parent anywhere.  There's no more shipping the unwanted off to a farm.

(I've got to sign off now because of my editor's word-count rules. Try to join me next time for my closing column on “Doggers”.

Friday, August 3, 2018

CHARITY

“There is Faith, Hope and Charity. And the greatest of these is Charity.”

Maybe.
                
Faith, Hope and Charity pour forth from a theological spring with the names of revered saints and a 1001 other references. FH&C have been around for centuries. They trip easily off the tongue. But practical applications in the real world are not so easy to come by. Charity especially.

Some people say paying taxes is a blessing because we generated the income to tax in the first place. Sort of a brick on the back for doing well. Likewise, charitable giving presents some sense of worthiness. We are helping those in need, PLUS we can lessen our own tax bill by claiming a deduction. Paying taxes is universally detested. I trace my own dislike of this scourge to my paternal grandfather, T. F. Reilly. T.F. reputedly kept two sets of books, causing my father, who worked for him, a lifetime of acid reflux while awaiting the knock on the door from the IRS.

On balance, giving is good, but at what cost?  How do you select the person or cause to be a recipient from the mob of worthies assaulting our limited treasuries? People like thee and me certainly can't give to one and all. Charities today are professionally marketed. They know the buttons to press, the notes to play on our heartstrings. I watch the toll their pleadings take on a good soul like my wife.  Unsolicited trinkets leave her guilt-ridden because she can't open her checkbook each time.  She has been encouraged to keep a list of donations we make because this lightens her sadness a bit when she finds a charity's name is already on it. Still, it's just a band-aid.     

We need money in order to give it away. We have to strike it rich, and quickly. Crowdfunding has appeal but that is largely over-ridden by common decency when so many others in the neighborhood are in dire straits. My only hope seems to lie in winning the lottery.

A couple of times.

Monday, July 2, 2018

ME LLAMO CARLOS

There is talk, talk, talk about borders these days. How do we secure them? Why we should not separate children from their parents who are trying to come into the USA illegally. And much, much more.  If you live close to a border as we do, this issue is on the front burner bubbling away 24/7.

We citizens are entitled to speak our minds freely. It is also one of the big reasons many unfortunates want to gain access to our blessed land. True, freedom is not fully appreciated by those of us who enjoy it as a birthright. We breathe it just as easily as the air. But when we see the faces and hear the voices of those who suffer from a loss of freedom, it becomes quite another thing altogether. We pay attention.

The issue of US residency is critically important to ALL of us, not just those outside waiting to get in. We really should put heat to the feet of our elected officials to resolve the immigration and citizenship dilemma. We cannot allow Washington to kick the issue further down the road. It is far too important to delay, again.

Florida has an abundance of transplanted Northerners, senior-seniors and Hispanics. I'm two for three here, leaning toward the Hispanics on the third, although my credentials are shaky. Long years ago the United States Army felt that my schooling which included four years of studying the Spanish language marked me as a special soldier. While the rest of the draftees in my group were marched off to the infantry, I was held aside for the Language School in Monterrey, California, where they were churning out interpreters.

Placed in an empty barracks taking various tests, I never progressed far beyond how to identify myself, “me llamo Carlos” (May Yah Mo Karl Oss) and the names of a few Mexican beers. When the testing scores came back, I was firmly at the bottom of the list.

And quickly in the field artillery.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

WOMEN – Pick one.

In a recent column, I mentioned my admiration for women. Not just my wife, mother, grand-daughters, other female relatives, and friends, but all women. Not everyone feels this way. Yes, unlike the difference between being alive and the alternative to that state, cheerleading for women isn't a slam dunk. It can get complicated. I did not say women are, like men, simple souls. It seems prudent to admit up-front that along with being irreplaceable in society they are also very complex. If you are challenged in your thinking about women, I suggest taking a new look at that sex with a positive eye. Concentrate on their uniqueness. One way to do that, it seems, is to identify the qualities in specific women who move easily among groups of men, groups of women, groups of men and women.
               
It's easier if you pick one. We have in mind our friend, Barbara. What is it that she possesses that makes her so effective in business and social settings? Sounds corny I guess, but making a list of her positive qualities worked for us. You may have another approach, if so, that's your choice. My wife and I started out by jotting down Barbara’s strengths: There are the obvious ones - she is an attractive, hard-working woman, supportive of her colleagues, consistently reliable, a great communicator of information, an even better listener. She's compassionate and genuinely interested in other people (all kinds of people, from executives to doormen.) From early on she decided she wanted to help men and women get where they want to go in this life. Her professional career was designed to do just that.
               
Barbara always keeps the focus on others, never allowing the spotlight to linger on herself. Perhaps this is a holdover from her days as a young teacher where it's quite true that “they don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
              
People know Barbara cares because she does. It shows.