Give an Ass the World Stage and This Is What You Get

The president of the U.S. was invited to Great Britain. I suppose the Brits thought they had no choice given the U.S.’s place in the world. In any event, the visit is turning out to be their worst nightmare.

Upon arriving in London, President Trump royally criticized the Prime Minister and lauded her chief adversary, saying Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister. In other words, Trump is trying to topple the British government.

If a foreign leader came to America and acted this way, we’d show him the door in short order and rightly so. But, of course, the U.S. is the world’s military and economic power so other nations have to put up with this embarrassment of a president and bite their tongues. For now.

I can’t help but think the day will come when the U.S. will have to pay the price for its outlandish, bullying, disrespectful behavior. And, if so, no one can say we don’t deserve it.

Keep Shining

You turn three today, Vera. We’re going to celebrate. Your other grandparents will be here, too. As will your Aunt Elaine and Uncle Matt. I hope you have a good time.

We’re going to have water balloons, and I’ve been informed by your grandmother that I’m going to be the target. We’ll see how your arm has developed. We’ll also see if your grandmother can manage to stay dry!

You are the light of the world, Vera. There is nothing quite like you. Not in our corner of the world. You are interesting, amazing, and astonishing. Love dances with joy when your world encompasses ours.

It was that way with your dad and uncle when they were your age. I suppose there is something about little kids. Their innocence. Purity. Zest for life.

And then the world beats you up. And the flame doesn’t burn as bright. And sometimes it’s but a flicker. And the light grows dim.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not entirely. And it isn’t always. But often.

Sometimes I think our sole purpose in life is to keep the flame alive. And to be the light of the world.

It doesn’t sound like much. But the older I get, it seems like a lot. It might be enough. More than enough. Continue reading

When Your Time Has Passed

There comes a time. At least for most people. When their time has passed. When there’s nothing left to do. When they are alone.

I see it every week when I visit a friend who lives in a nursing home down the street from our house. It’s a nice nursing home. Six cottages. Each has no more than 12 residents. Most are in wheelchairs or use walkers. Many are hard of hearing. Some have a tenuous grip on reality.

Yesterday, when visiting my friend, one of the ladies, who’s in her late 90s, obviously wanted to engage me as I walked by on my way to my friend’s room. This lady is often sitting alone in the living area. I always say hello and perhaps have a brief exchange. But yesterday was different. I could tell she wanted to talk. Continue reading

What Do I Understand Now That I Wish I’d Understood Then?

What do I understand (or at least think I understand) now that I wish I had understood when I had began my journey through adulthood? It’s of no consequence to me, of course: it’s impossible to turn back the clock. But it might be of some help to you, Vera.

In looking back I’m struck by how naïve I was when I came out of high school and, four years later, college. I had little appreciation for what the world was really like. Growing up in a working-class family in homogenous rural south-central Pennsylvania hadn’t exposed me to much. My world was very small.

More than four decades of career experiences in law, business (CEO), government (special agent for DOD and, later, cabinet secretary), and higher ed (college president) changed that. To a degree. There is still much about life I don’t understand or, perhaps more accurately, refuse to accept. I’m still learning and always will be. Nonetheless, life has imparted a few lessons along the way.

Some of the lessons were easy to learn; some were hard. Some were moments of euphoria and left fond memories; some were painful and left scars. Others were learned merely by reading or observing. (It’s always preferable to learn from other people’s wisdom or mistakes.) I decided to compose a list of what I consider to have been some of the most important lessons.

What the list isn’t, however, is a list of rules to live by. I’m not fond of rules and would never suggest life is so easily mastered. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned before, I have absolutely no desire to tell you how to live your life, Vera. Rather, I’m simply sharing some of the things I wish I had better understood when I was young, starting out.

Some of the lessons are practical; some are of the existential variety. The list is neither complete nor final. After all, I’m still learning.

Please don’t infer an order of priority, for none is intended. “You” and “your,” below, refer to me; it is as if life is speaking to me. Occasional personal comments follow parenthetically. Continue reading

Why I Will Never Live With My Children

There was an article in Tuesday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal about “helicopter” children: children who are overly worried about their aging parents, who hover, and who take control of their parents’ affairs (to varying degrees). Or, as I see it, children who treat their parents like adolescents or perhaps even grade-school kids.

I’ve seen it in action. And I hate it. That said, I understand intervention is sometimes necessary and appropriate. Sometimes the mind is too far gone. Or the body has given out. But a child’s response to such situations isn’t helicoptering; it’s necessity.

Helicoptering isn’t a necessity; it’s a choice. Usually if not always, it’s the product of sincere concern about a parent’s physical welfare. “You might fall.” “You might leave the stove on.” Etc. Etc. Implicit in many of the comments is this question: What might happen if you’re left to your own devices? Continue reading