ALL Lives Matter

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As yet another September 11th approaches, with a 3-hour televised reading-of-names, we should be asking ourselves why (even after 15 years) these particular lives seem to matter more than others. Regardless of your beliefs about destiny and happenstance or your definition of a true hero, there has never been an event in history that has been as publicly commemorated as this one.

September 11th is now part of our history and our culture – alongside two World Wars, too many genocides and the Holocaust. But we have never before dedicated a single day, every year, to publicly name those millions of people who have perished. Didn’t their lives matter, too?

Tragedy and heartbreak come in many forms – death from disease, arson, shootings, car and plane crashes. Who are we to decide whose death is more horrific or more memorable? We ALL matter both in life and in death. Isn’t it possible that the 9/11 families are not so much ‘honoring’ their dead as making their own lives (and losses) matter more?

New York has renamed countless bridges and streets in honor of politicians, policemen and even sports figures. The 9/11 Memorial, in its entirety, takes up much of downtown Manhattan. Since when isn’t a ‘moment of silence’ – generally heard around the world – enough?

I’ve always felt bad for people born on September 11th. How do you celebrate your special day when there’s such sadness all around? Do children innocently ask their parents why THEIR names aren’t being read aloud? Everyone grieves in a different way but most observances are kept private.

There’s a time and a place for remembrance of all kinds. But I believe it’s up to individuals to take on that personal burden if they so choose. We will never forget the events of September 11,2001. But isn’t the whole point for us to move ON and look FORWARD to a brighter future?

 

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The Rules Changed

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Sunday morning I decided to take the train into NYC to visit my boys. What a mistake. Not the visit but the method of transportation at that particular day and time. I didn’t realize it was a Yankees-home-game and that suburban families from upstate NY would be making the long journey with me. And I didn’t even bring headphones…

Toddlers cried incessantly and crawled all over the seats until their indulgent parents gave them their very expensive phones to play with… Men, way too old to still be wearing the names of other grown men on their Yankees jerseys and t-shirts, strutted around the aisles ‘replaying’ past Yankees highlights.

Look, I have nothing against America’s favorite pastime. I think it’s an overpriced day out but to each their own (the train ticket price alone was staggering for these families and I can only assume the stadium ticket price was well beyond my monthly car payment). 

But where was the ‘old time’ fun? I remember going to games with my parents and older brother. It didn’t bankrupt us and we needn’t bring our own food from home because it was mostly affordable. And actually keeping score was a skill we perfected after repeated attendance and something that made us feel like a part of the entire ballgame experience.

Somewhere along the lines the rules changed. Prices skyrocketed and manners plummeted. I wouldn’t bring a young child to a game today – they’d hear foul (pun intended) language; reek of warm, spilled beer and be exposed to a world of entitlement, rudeness and bad sportsmanship.

But, hey, how else will they learn how to act on their own school turf?!

The New Normal

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There’s nothing wrong with getting older. It’s almost as if the ‘over 65’ crowd is ‘the new normal.’ Aches and pains aside, more people than ever before are living into their eighties, their nineties and even living long enough to hear Willard Scott read their names (not as part of a memoriam but) on a Smuckers jar.

One noble aspect about aging is that it doesn’t discriminate – all races and genders, if they’re lucky, can be members of this inclusive club. The only rule is that you do it right… the living, that is, not the dying.

Old people are constantly portrayed as those suffering from incontinence, heart disease, arthritis and memory loss. They’re seen as cranky, unattractive, frail and forgetful. The fact of the matter is, today’s elders are actually computer literate, taking classes, starting new jobs and finding ways to improve their lives.

It’s no longer enough to just sit back and enjoy your retirement. You must keep an open mind and not be afraid to fail. You have to be open to discovery and appreciate life – especially knowing that your time may be limited.

Always remember this… You don’t get to choose how you’ll die but you sure can choose how you’ll live!

Waiting For Godot

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We are always waiting for something – a check to arrive in the mail; a parking spot to materialize; a job to magically fall in our lap. We sometimes spend more hours waiting for things to happen than we do actually living our lives.

Here is a small sample of a daily ‘self-induced’ holding pattern:

  • Waiting to take the perfect selfie
  • Waiting to win the lottery
  • Waiting for Ed McMahon to show up on the doorstep (well, maybe 30 years ago)
  • Waiting for Godot 

You might laugh at the absurdity of listing the well-known play but, really, isn’t that what we all do? We have our ideas and our opinions but most of us never act on them – deciding, rather, to just discuss them, over and over again, with anyone and everyone who is unfortunate enough to be within earshot.

With all the tragedy going on in the world today, we offer prayers, we speak the names of the victims, we color our monuments with their flags but, really, we do nothing. The truth of the matter is, no matter how upbeat or positive we try to be, we’re always just waiting for that other shoe to drop!

State Of Mind

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We spend countless hours on our looks and on our bodies – lotions, spas, gyms, power drinks – so why don’t we spend any time trying to improve our minds? Yes, we play games on our computers and do crossword puzzles and the like. But, since graduating from school (be it HS or college), we haven’t properly exercised our brains.

Try these experiments:

  • Say the alphabet backwards
  • Play the old car-trip game (by yourself) where you think of alphabetized foods you’d like to take on a picnic 
  • Try to remember the names of all of your teachers by grade

How did you do? I was visiting my son some weeks ago and, all of a sudden, I remembered a name we had both drawn blanks on in a recent phone conversation. We laughed. But it just goes to show you… It’s easy to forget but it’s redemptive to remember!

The Name Game

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Ever notice how the more time you spend with people, the more you start to think like them? We all have those moments when we can’t remember what we were going to say or do. Some call them senior moments and some (more colorfully) call them brain farts. But we all have them at one time or another – some more frequently than others and some who flat out deny their very existence.

Living with my parents is sometimes like living in prehistoric times. I’ve come to realize that the remote control is a clicker, a CD is a tape, the cell phone is a ringer, the printer is a copier and the DVR is a recorder. It’s not that these ‘alternate’ names are confusing. It’s fairly easy to tell what my parents are referring to most of the time – especially when they… point.

It’s when the parentals are at a total loss for words yet they expect you to read their minds, nonetheless, that you become somewhat frazzled and impatient. It can go from one extreme to the other:

1) The Dangerous Chair – a comfortable chair that, once sat on, makes an octogenarian fall immediately asleep. This covers every chair in the home from the most comfortable recliner to the hardest, metal folding chair.

2) Squeaky thingy – this can be anything from the upstairs neighbors walking around on parquet floors to a door that needs oiling.

3) Ice box – an old fashioned name for a refrigerator/freezer.

4) Who-ja-ma-bob – again, could be a razor, an alarm, the doorbell, the tv… anything whose name doesn’t immediately register.

5) Thingamajig – see above.

And don’t even get me started on proper names. Whether it’s trying to remember a person’s name from the past, a character or actor’s real name from tv or even their only daughter’s name (I usually come in at about 5 or 6 down on the list – after my brother, my grandparents, their grandkids), I’ve gotten so used to it that I’ll basically answer to any of the above… especially if it’s for something really good that I didn’t even do!