Mr. Steward

A man I knew pretty well died suddenly last week. He was six years older than I am. We were not bosom buddies, we didn’t really see each other outside of the monthly meetings that we both attended, and what I knew about him mostly came from our periodic interactions. I first met him in 1975, when he called to tell me that I was going to become a member of a social organization of young men. I was surprised that he knew my name and eventually flattered that I was considered worthy. Even more, he suggested that I should become an officer in that organization and help recruit younger men like me. I accepted his offer, as if I had a choice, and benefited from the association. A few years later, as president of the group, I sent him an invitation to our annual event, something I did for all of the former presidents. He came, we chatted for a few minutes, and he told me how much he appreciated not being forgotten. I don’t think it occurred to me to thank him for being recognized by him those few years earlier.

In 2004, I was nominated by another organization to become a part of the leadership. It didn’t mean much, other than I would have to attend two meetings a month, 10 months out of the year, and if I was a responsible committee member then I stood a chance, in about twenty years, of  becoming the Steward, or head man, of an organization founded in 1737. The Steward was my friend from the earlier years.

He was a good Steward, thoughtful, judicious, and completely committed to the organization and its goals. I learned much sitting at the table as we worked to manage and maintain our organization. When his five year terms expired, he joined the ranks of former Stewards who guided the organization.

At our last meeting, in March, we had a nice crowd for supper and the members seemed to want to linger, enjoying the company, the conversation, and the camaraderie. We happened to walk out at the same time, and we chatted quietly on the sidewalk. As I had done before, I reminded him of our intermingled path and how much his interventions meant to me. We laughed a little, shook hands, and went our separate ways.

Last Sunday he died. Suddenly, in the country, on some land he owned, doing what he most enjoyed in his life.

Tonight, I will attend our regular meeting and it will be the first meeting without him. It will be a profoundly sad event, but the organization will continue on, as it has for more than two hundred fifty years, thanks to men like my friend.

Now that he is gone, and as I have thought about his absence, I understand that he was, for me, a mentor. For whatever reason, he took a shine to this callow youth and gave me an opportunity. Not once, but twice. I was honored each time. I hope I can live up to his expectations.

I will miss him.

 

Reality Bites

lawn mower

Dreams do come true. At least some of the time. One of my dreams, when I was an itinerant manager for one of my employers, was to live in a house with a yard. I wanted to cut the grass, fertilize the grass, water the grass, and enjoy the calming power of a well tended lawn. Fast forward 20 years. The dream has become a reality, and sadly the reality is not an exact copy of the dream.

Not being mechanically inclined, I have always relied on the kindness of strangers to help keep electro-mechanical devices functional. My lawnmower is such a device. Every couple of years I do something stupid which results in a trip to the lawnmower repair guy. I gladly pay the premium.

Last weekend, in the midst of a lawn manicure, the machine abruptly died. After a minute or two of confusion, I diagnosed the problem as a torn throttle cable. This has happened before. I knew that a professional would be required.

So, bright this Saturday, I and the lawnmower travelled to our repair guy. Down Folly Road, in the company of the thousands headed to the beach. The trip was fruitless; the hardware store had eliminated small engine repairs from their income statement. But, I was told, their other store, on Johns Island, still provided the service. Off we went.

The young man working the counter seemed disinterested in my arrival. I told him what I needed and he said they might have the part in stock. Where was my machine? Did I want him to do the work? What kind of machine was it? Patiently, I explained that I had left the machine in my car, and yes I wanted him to perform the miracle. As to the machine, all I could recall was that the engine is a 6.5 HP Briggs & Stratton. He pointed to the shiny display of machines for sale and observed that the name was written on the chassis (inferring, of course, that my stupid self ought to be able to read and recall such facts). The cross examination, the haughty demeanor of the pimply faced teenager, and my apparent inability to exchange such technical information, all combined to force me into a state of mind that I rarely encounter. I departed the store, telling the manager that I would never darken their door.

But, the grass remains uncut. Not a dream, but reality.

The White Album in Perspective

whitealbum

While checking out at my local grocery store today, I found myself in the slowest line. It was too late to change lanes, as everyone seemed to be getting ready for the Super Bowl. The gent in front of me was no exception, as his buggy was filled with beer, wine, snacks, and the rest of it. The only notable thing about him was that he looked a little old for most of his shopping items, having the hunched back, baggy jeans, and strap-on shoes that tend to mark our senior citizens. My opinion was confirmed when the clerk advised him of the total and he whipped out his check book. I sighed deeply, annoyed that he wasn’t availing himself of a debit card, and irritated that he didn’t start writing the check until he had a total. Typical, my inner voice pouted.

old man writing a check

Finally paid, he said a cheery good-bye to the clerk and everyone else in the vicinity and shuffled off to the exit. My order was quickly scanned, debit card payment accepted, and everything bagged.

As I exited the grocery and parked my cart, I heard the melodious strains of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da coming from a nearby car. Looking around, I saw an elderly woman sitting in a new Subaru Outback, windows down, stereo cranking. It struck me strange. Looking further, who should be putting groceries in the back but the old man slowpoke from the check-out lane? My smile was quick and involuntary, as I started to hum along. As I passed her window, I said. “The White Album – what a great set of songs!”

“What”, she hollered, trying to turn down the volume. “Great song”, I said, smiling.

The White Album is 45 years old. You do the math……..

Old Man Winter

rochester_mn images

The in-laws are on their way to the Mayo Clinic for their annual comprehensive physicals. Hope they took their winter clothes….

Rochester, MN
Currently

9.1 °F
Partly Cloudy
Humidity: 62%
Wind: 1.0 mph from the NW
Wind Gust: 7.0 mph
Visibility: 10.0 miles
Dew Point: -1 °F
Precipitation: 13% Chance of Rain
Pressure: 30.40 in (Rising)
Updated: 1:09 PM CST on January 20, 2013
Source: Quarry Hill Nature Center, Rochester, MN
Forecast
Today

14° | -11°
Monday

0° | -8°
Tuesday

10° | 0°
Wednesday

25° | 10°

That’s a little chilly for this Southern boy……

Happy Birthday, Bobby Lee

relee

The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light

The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.


Welcome Back

Wordpress

After months of inactivity and the relentless torrent of monthly bills for hosting and domain name ownership, I have made the move back to WordPress. My hope is that I can continue to write on subjects that you and I enjoy without the expense. We’ll see.

I am going to play with the site a bit, so if you notice changes, or want to offer suggestions, just email me.

As always, thanks for reading…..

Neptunus Lex

I lost a friend yesterday. His name was Carroll LeFon, and he was a retired naval aviator. He leaves behind a wife and three children, and thousands of fans who knew him as Neptunus Lex. He was one of the first bloggers I followed when I became aware of and gained access to the internet. I knew him as well as anyone can know someone they have never met. We had similar interests, and he was what I had once wanted to be, so it was easy for me to think I understood every word he ever posted.

Rest in peace, Captain. 

Jack Frost

Jack Frost
Jack Frost announced his annual visit to our fertile land with bolts of lightning, peals of thunder, and buckets of rain, behind which came the brisk winds of the North Land.

What a welcome visitor!

The windows have been pried open from their locked summer state, and the thermostat has been turned to a lower setting. The HVAC system thanks me for the welcome break, while the power company wonders where all the demand went. If I had a solar grid, I wouldn’t be selling the excess…

The daily constitutional won’t soak my exercise togs, and it may be that extra covering is called for. On the down side, walking in the dark is not really very much fun; part of the stimulation is looking at the other exercise hounds doing their thing, discreetly, of course.

Brown whiskey, my old friend, is now acceptable; perhaps even necessary to ward off Jack’s little friends, chills and cold feet.

Football games seem better.

But, best of all, the grass will soon be dormant, which means that your scribe will not have to waste valuable Saturday mornings on mundane things that take away from sports time.

Yea!

Thoughts While Mowing

This morning, before I had even finished my first cup of coffee, my wife announced that she had a big “LIST” for me. List is one of my wife’s favorite words, which she uses with annoying frequency. Almost, but not quite, as much as I use “God Damn”, which is my favorite expression.

And so, with no breakfast, the WSJ unread, and with Google Reader reporting 109 unread posts, I was shuffled out the door, in order to accomplish the “LIST” before the noon kickoff. To the drug store, for my prescription refills, to the dry cleaner with drop off and pick up responsibility. Then to the hardware megastore for new, shiny returns for the HVAC vents in a couple of rooms. Finally, the grocery store, in order to pick up the spareribs for the evening/first game of the year kickoff supper.

Only the grocery was out of spareribs. Plenty of babyback ribs – which are for amateurs. On to the second grocery – where my question “Are y’all out of ribs?” was greeted with hoots of derision from the counter men. One asked me, “Dude, what weekend is this? I think tomorrow’s a big holiday”. Never mind that he meant Monday; I had no choice but to admit that my procrastination had put this baby into the corner.

By the time the chuck wagon reached the house, it was nearly noon. The wife had taken the morning off to go to the Famer’s Market with her friend, so I had to unload the car, put the stuff away, and fix my own breakfast/lunch (brunch?). While reading the paper, watching the game, and catching up on Google Reader, my phone chimed. It was her, telling me that they were going to lunch, and see you in a bit. In an attempt at clever repartee, I replied that the window for the grass cutting had closed, and likely would not reopen until Monday. Big mistake.

And so, while Auburn struggled, Alabama marched, and Virginia Tech steamrolled, I pulled out the lawnmower, filled it with gas, and began. As the sweat slowly infiltrated my favorite t-shirt, and lawn detritus began to soil my exercise shoes, I pondered one of life’s great questions:

How does a man go from shameless to shameful?

Your typical unmarried male sheds responsibility like a dog shakes off water. He is deaf to the entreaties of a woman, if the result is a deprivation of his pleasure. He is blind to the effects of female disgust, and thus cannot see the approaching danger.

Married men, on the other hand, scurry from one assigned task to another, all the while casting covert glances at the game, or daydreaming about a cold beer, maybe later, if it is allowed.

We all know that the institution of marriage is one of civilization’s great rituals, whose meaning is embedded in all religions since the dawn of time. Sacred words are uttered, vows taken, and symbols of bondage exchanged. In many cultures, the man’s family has to pay a dowry to the bride’s family, thus ensuring the establishment of a life long debt, from which there is no abatement, and severe penalty if the contract is breached.

But how did we let things get so far out of hand?

I’m still pondering…….