Thursday, August 31, 2017
June is now long gone and with it Father’s Day and my own father's birthday. That doesn't mean I do not think of it and him.
My late dad, Charles Edmund Reilly, Sr. was an extraordinary man because he was so ordinary. I never recall him, ever, calling attention to himself. His life revolved around my mother, a four foot, ten inch meteor to whom he was utterly devoted. Theirs was a “marriage made in Heaven” according to their friends. Who knows? I can bear witness to the fact that they never argued, let alone fought in word or deed in front of their children.
If their marriage was not made in Heaven, their attraction and devotion to each other surely was. And an early starter too. They were 12-year-olds when my father walked the four blocks separating their family homes to present this diminutive curly-haired girl a box of chocolate candy at Christmas time. Alas, she had nothing in the way of a gift for him. Up the stairs she raced to my grandfather's bureau, whipped out a silk scarf, quickly wrapped it and gifted this young swain with same. Certainly he was impressed. Not so her father who went ballistic when the theft was eventually discovered.
When my brothers and I were youngsters my father took us on “Sunday drives”. Having a car during the Great Depression was reason enough to celebrate, but of course we were too young to understand such things. My father was an excellent driver for good reason. Old-timers remembered him as a 5-year-old with cascading blonde curls driving around the neighborhood at the wheel of a Pierce Arrow roadster.
However, my parents did have a difference of opinion on the subject of dancing. My mother detested it. And this was even before the compulsory dancing class graduation with our mothers as partners. Only the expression on her face showed that 3 of my box 4 step were on the top of her feet. Dad on the other hand was masterful and much admired by the ladies. My mother shared their view because she could happily sit on the sidelines as one lady after another lined up to dance with him.
The years have flown by since my father moved up to the Great Ballroom in the Sky. My “If Only” list would roll back the film of life and afford me a chance to hang out with him and ask why he did this or that. And perhaps learn how to change an outright klutz into Fred Astaire at least for a dance or two.
Football is now underway. Hooray! A new season should numb the pain from talking politics.
My Seat of Wisdom is located in one of the recliner chairs in our living room. It is equipped with two handy containers on coasters ready to receive cold brew. The first is always a work in progress; the second a back-up reservoir against more advertising commercials.
Television programming, as I am sure you have noticed, has not lived up to its potential for enriching people's lives by educating, informing and enlightening our society. (And this was before the last presidential election.) But away from politics we have televised sporting events promising manna in our desert. Manna or no, there is no free lunch. The price our athletes have to pay for playing is escalating at an alarming rate. A list of prominent tennis players who had to opt out of Opens due to injury is all we need to show that the human body can only take so much wear and tear. And tennis is not even a contact sport. Let's go back and look at football for the moment.
In watching a pre-season football game I brought fresh eyes and another perspective to the slamming and banging that goes on in an ordinary game. We all know football is brutal, combat under another name. It always has been. The difference now is general awareness of the medical damage that goes along with the thrill of athletic prowess. The days of “aw, shucks, it's just an old football injury” are over. It's not so funny today when former jocks are having trouble remembering the names of family and friends and yes, even their own. Repeated blows to the head can absolutely scramble your brain. No helmet can provide real protection.
My own interest in football goes way back to the days when I was an assistant manager of our high school team. I carried a galvanized bucket full of spigot water to the field during timeouts. Gunga Din in suburbia. Thirsty players all drank from one long-handled ladle. Compared to today's frenzied football world on and off the field, those were days of blissful innocence.
The reality is that there is so much money and prominence involved with football success, it would be unheard of for players, coaches, management and owners to turn their collective backs on this enormous potential for riches. After all, these athletes willingly choose to go into the arena, they would argue. It's risk versus reward, etc., etc.
The only real chance for sparing the health of our athletes can come from sports-lovers, including me, rising en masse saying “enough is enough.” You can imagine the odds against that happening.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
“Fish Got to Swim, Birds Got to Fly” and writers Got to Write till the day that they die. However, sometimes words are simply not enough as we writers know very well.
The sadness and hurt surrounding the Charlottesville, Virginia, automobile murder short days ago defies real definition, but most of us agree it was a true outrage. And it is not enough to sit back and say “The Almighty will sort it all out” which is also true. Americans, notoriously impatient and used to instant fulfillment, want action in the here and now. How anyone in his/her right mind can want to identify with Hitler and the Nazis is beyond me. But then again not everyone has had the experience, directly or indirectly, of witnessing the handiwork of those monsters.
Compared to my friends who actually lost relatives to the madness of Hitler and his henchmen, my own experience was weak tea. Yet it has stayed with me all these long decades, as if it was only yesterday when a young Army officer serving in the Occupation Forces in Germany walked all alone through the killing machine called Dachau, the gas chamber where poor souls were to “shower”, the ovens where their corpses would be burned to avoid the evidence. Absolutely, it was the Devil's Work. How in God's name can anyone want to identify with such madness and a so-called “master race”? Neo-Nazis seeking to emulate superiority over (any) others are walking on Hell's highway in the steps of those now long gone terrorists.
Violence in any disguise is flat out wrong. You and I have to figure out our own specific ways to make a difference. For here, once again, words are not enough.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Many Americans are upset these days. I'm among them. There are reasons aplenty why one should get “upset” in 2017, including global warming, pollution in general, the price of everything, on and on. But a recurring theme in the letters we receive here in the newsroom is sadness about “what has happened to our country.”
What has happened in our country is a notable lack of respect for one another and for our country's historic building blocks: Faith in the Almighty, a Hope that every one of us can build a better life for our families and Charity toward the less fortunate among us. Instead the gods many worship are 1.) money and 2.) more of it. Strange that there are those who are hell bent on accumulating material goods even though we know “you can't take it with you.” We came into this world naked and we are going out the same way. Bank on it.
To restore ourselves, it's best to remember and practice The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Our models for this should be the senior leaders of our government and local communities. In the past we have had exemplary men and women there who consistently showed the way. Even if that's not the case today, all is not lost. Good examples of solid leadership are still all around us. Take the time to identify those who are setting the right standards. Think of those you admire personally. Write to them, encourage them, point them out to your children. They are our steady everyday heroes, and, we need them desperately.
Wonder if you and I qualify? Let's take another look in the mirror. Chances are you do. The jury is still out on me, but in any case, I'm going to be trying a lot harder now.