“…who has friends…”

Christmas Eve 2019, approximately 10:55 PM, I lay here in bed on my right side, holding my tablet in my right hand and typing with my left…watching the last few minutes of the Yuletide favorite of millions (while a must avoid at all costs to others) IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Without fail, several tears escape and roll sideways down my cheek at the few words I actually like from a character I mostly dislike…from Harry Bailey, “to my big brother George, the richest man in town!” Then the camera pans to the Tom Sawyer book and the inscription from Clarence, “…no man is a failure who has friends…”

Decades ago I first saw just a few minutes of the then oft seen movie because TV stations across the country could air it for free. It had not been a commercial success when released in 1946 due to its dark and desperate tones through the final hour despite the joyful ending. After Thanksgiving in 1982, I underwent my first spinal surgery. I had, a few nights prior, learned in the darkened hospital room that I would need the prayed for NO body-cast body-cast. In another room in the wee hours I was unable to sleep and held the TV remote switching channels, trying to find something to watch. Another patient was bedded nearby so I knew I couldn’t turn up the volume much. 37 some years later I still recall seeing the final 30 minutes or so when George Bailey is his most hopeless till Clarence drops in…in the water for George to save him. For the following few years, I would look for the movie…not knowing its name and usually only catching bits and pieces. I wish I could recall how long it was before I was able to see the movie from start to finish, but when I did, I knew I would always need to watch. And watch I have…innumerable times since, but less frequently each season since NBC obtained exclusive rights to air. Nevertheless, I would watch the first December airing and tape (nowadays, DVR) the Christmas Eve program as I was usually attending late Candlelight Church services. Those days, or rather nights, are long gone as several surgeries over the last 9 years have left me much more incapacitated than I ever was for the first 43 years of my life even with congenital deformities of all parts skeletal. The details do not need to be explained here. Suffice it to type that my world is much smaller…the world I can manuever in. And this 2019 year was particularly hard…as hard as 2015 was when my then world crashed around me. Then I lost both my parents, a cousin and any “smitch” of independence I had left after bad hip surgery in 2010. I felt lost all over again this year.

A never could be started surgery occurred in January…a traumatic experience that left me scared, furious and despondent. I was told the surgical team had decided to stop for fear of my coding on the OR table. Please bear with me, I wish the attempt had been made regardless of the risk…and if I had coded and died, then obviously I wouldn’t be typing this now…but I had been prepared. Another incident a couple of months later rocked me more. I felt utterly worthless. Finally in late June, the procedure was performed in a different hospital…a complicated success. Took more time to intubate me than remove the cyst that hadn’t been where it was scanned to be. At least my discomforting pain was validated as the cyst was even larger than thought. The Depression I had fallen deep into didn’t lessen after though. I let several matters go unattended which left me in even worse shape mentally and emotionally.

Watching George Bailey once again realize he wasn’t a failure (as he thought others think of the standards) filled up my well even more…the well that had run dry but that I had finally began filling again myself back in September. I had a choice one day whether to give up …for instance my presentations and much more. But even with short arms and stubby fingers, I “clawed” my way up enough so I could begin to refill my soul well and I chose to continue trying.

This Christmas …not in the song sense…had gotten away from me…decorations were missing …two stockings, too. Sitting up is more and more difficult …no window light were hung, no wreath on my front door…

And yet in the past 3 days as well as over a week ago, I received comfort by the visits of friends…Saturday, Monday and today, Christmas Eve. 3 separate visits today along and then I was able to visit other friends’ home with steps. And while very different, I attended early Candlelight service …thanks to the willingness of friends making sure I could get in despite the steps to and in the Church itself. Hmmm…3 visits in my home today…the same as we imagine certain visitors to another laying in a bed of sorts….hmmm

I may not be exactly where I long ago thought I would, much like George Bailey. He even has wife and children. No spouse or children of my own…not even a failing like the Building and Loan business. My “business” isn’t even big enough to be a failure…

Yet, I know I have friends, old and new, near and far…virtual and face to face…so for now, I’m not a failure.

Hope, Peace, Joy and Love … May all these gifts of Christmas be with you now and throughout the coming year…

Happy July 4th, America!

Write only if you cannot live without writing. Write only what you alone can write. ~ Elie Wiesel

Today is July 4th, 2016, 240 years after the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence – for the 13 colonies, from that point on to be known as the United States of America, to sever ties with England, from their oppressors, to rebel against taxation without representation among other iniquities.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…”

Can’t help but read these words with new appreciation and insight. These are tumultuous times we live in. Within the past week, we saw our original Sovereign power declare its independence from a modern international union.

For all of America’s current faults and divisions, and they are plentiful, I am grateful to be an American citizen. Am grateful to have been born on this land. Am not sure how or when exactly I became a mini Yankee Doodle Dandy and Patriotic fool – was as far back as Elementary School. My parents were always involved in politics and we celebrated the 4th of July each summer with cookouts, sparklers, fireworks over the Hudson River and later right over Orange Lake. Dad would buy us Commemorative Coins – including the 1976 Bicentennial Set. I’d read books set in the Revolutionary Days, including one about a little girl living in Bedford (and for the life of me, I can not remember the title or the character’s name). I read biographies of important Americans. I delighted in the Bicentennial Celebration during 3rd grade with Miss Partalis. Holly Hobby, Martha Washington, Betsy Ross were a few of my “idols” – yes, I was a bit of a geek way back. 6th & 8th Grade Social Studies classes brought more American History and my fascination grew.

Then came 9th Grade Non Western Studies with Mr. Klinger. Herbert Klinger who wore drab olive green sweaters and slacks. He was a world traveler and had made numerous educational films. (Seriously, what kid wasn’t thrilled to see the projector set up when entering the classroom?) We learned of the caste system in India I remember. And surely we learned something about ancient China (I think?). What I remember most, though, is sitting in my mid row seat hearing and seeing about babies in Africa that were left out for Animals to eat or to die in the elements – the babies that weren’t healthy or “normal.” I remember shifting around in the chair, not knowing what to do ..wanting to cry but not wanting to draw attention to myself. Back in those days there were no such thing as “trigger warnings,” not that I do think it was or is necessary. Life happens and survival of the fittest means rising to the occasion and facing difficulties when they come. If we were all to be warned ahead of time, where would our strength develop from? Back to the point at hand, 9th Grade Non Western Studies Social Studies Class was when I knew for sure I was blessed to have been born in America. Sure I was left in a hospital by my biological parents, but I wasn’t put outside to perish.

And I wasn’t even left in a hospital forever because wise women (and I do believe the powers to be at that time were wise women) decided I should have independence to a degree, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness out in society – my unalienable rights as much as the next baby.

Our government is not perfect, there are the pros and cons to Benefits – but I’ll save those for another time.

For this July 4th, 2016, the 240th Anniversary of this great imperfect nation, I am grateful to be an American and I pray to be here in 10 years for the 250th Celebration!! Regardless of my physical independence, whether it bounces back some or not, I am still of Independent Mind and that is everything.