Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What’s Truly Important

 

I’m a bit depressed this morning. Normally I make an effort not to let the ugliness and destructiveness of the news get me down. But the world weighs heavily on my shoulders today: feckless actions by Macron, the usual contradictions by Trump, efforts to pass anti-Semitic/anti-Israel bills in Congress (which I will write about later). I can’t find the space to let in the joy and knowledge of blessings. And then I remember that in one hour, I will do something good.

On Monday mornings I visit with my friend, Earl. He is 88 years old. I’ve written about him before—his concerns about racism (he’s black and liberal), Donald Trump, the state of the world.

Our time together has taken on a familiar, comfortable pattern. I arrive precisely at 10:30am; sometimes when I knock, he’s already waiting at the door and playfully knocks back. As I enter the house, he leans down from his 6foot-plus height and we kiss each other on the cheek. As I rest my hands on his shoulders, I can feel his thinness and fragility.

We head into the living room. On our way, I often look at the art he and his wife display: African art, mostly. One piece shows a black man shot, laying on the sidewalk. We sit on the sofa nearby. I set my cell phone for 20 minutes of meditation. The fountain in the pool provides background music. The phone occasionally rings. We breathe in our friendship and pleasure of being together. And then we talk.

You would think that Earl would be overly absorbed with his struggles with his health, which are major. Instead, he wants to talk about the dissension in the world and the inability of people to reflect on their own lives.

For many months we’ve been discussing a book by Pema Chodron called When Things Fall Apart. I selected the book just before Earl’s health took a major downturn; we both agreed it would be helpful for both of us to share our thoughts on her ideas.

The most significant message she offers is to try to deal with life deeply, whatever comes our way. No hiding in a closet; no avoidance; no denial. We often mix our intellectual ideas with reflections on our own lives; there’s always plenty to share.

Earl rarely talks about his health; he wants to talk about ideas. He wants to be heard. He wants to learn. Fortunately, I want to do all those things, too.

When I get ready to leave, Earl almost always tells me how grateful he is for our time together. I insist that I love it as much as he does. He slowly walks me to the door, we kiss each other’s cheek, I step out the door and wave good-bye. He waves back.

When I leave, I know that the world will look just a bit brighter.

There are 14 comments.

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  1. Henry Castaigne Member

    There is a meme going around in our culture that says, you are stronger than you think you are. I always seemed too saccharine to me but maybe the meme is right. 

    • #1
    • August 26, 2019, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    It is definitely true, Henry, even if it is a meme! At least for myself, I always underrate my capabilities, my ability to relate to others, my intellect. I’m not totally pathetic in that regard–just insecure. But when I try, simply try to extend myself, I continue to surprise myself. And it makes me stronger.

    • #2
    • August 26, 2019, at 7:12 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Bryan G. Stephens, Trump Aveng… Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens, Trump Aveng…Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    There is a meme going around in our culture that says, you are stronger than you think you are. I always seemed too saccharine to me but maybe the meme is right.

    Most people will give up on physical tasks at somewhere between 40% and 60% of their actual ability. 

    I think the same is true for emotional and mental.

    • #3
    • August 26, 2019, at 7:13 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    There is a meme going around in our culture that says, you are stronger than you think you are. I always seemed too saccharine to me but maybe the meme is right.

    Most people will give up on physical tasks at somewhere between 40% and 60% of their actual ability.

    I think the same is true for emotional and mental.

    I agree, Bryan. To continue to get stronger, we have to persist, work hard, and for me, appreciate the journey as much as the destination. Too often we feel the work we have to do in between is a slog; trying to re-frame those efforts is important to me.

    • #4
    • August 26, 2019, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tell Earl that the country that elected Barack Obama for president twice didn’t suddenly become racist because the Russians made a FaceBook ad buy.

    And tell him he’s got a cool name. Same as my grandfather. God bless him.

    • #5
    • August 26, 2019, at 8:00 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  6. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn: The most significant message she offers is to try to deal with life deeply, whatever comes our way. No hiding in a closet; no avoidance; no denial.

    Well, I don’t know what else she says, but she certainly got that part right.

    • #6
    • August 26, 2019, at 8:35 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Tell Earl that the country that elected Barack Obama for president twice didn’t suddenly become racist because the Russians made a FaceBook ad buy.

    And tell him he’s got a cool name. Same as my grandfather. God bless him.

    We’ve had discussions on racism, including with his wife. I don’t know how he lives with the cognitive dissonance regarding his own life, but he’s like so many others on the Left–reality is irrelevant. And he’s still a wonderful man.

    • #7
    • August 26, 2019, at 8:37 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  8. B. W. Wooster Member

    Thanks for making the world a better place.

    • #8
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Rodin Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Tell Earl that the country that elected Barack Obama for president twice didn’t suddenly become racist because the Russians made a FaceBook ad buy.

    And tell him he’s got a cool name. Same as my grandfather. God bless him.

    We’ve had discussions on racism, including with his wife. I don’t know how he lives with the cognitive dissonance regarding his own life, but he’s like so many others on the Left–reality is irrelevant. And he’s still a wonderful man.

    It so much more pleasant to have positive fantasies (elves and fairies) than negative fantasies (Trump racism and white supremacy). 

    • #9
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:03 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    The “88 year old” triggered a memory of another 88 year old I knew many years ago. It’s an example of how people survived in an earlier, more primitive time. He was admitted to the hospital where I was practicing with a large aortic aneurysm and back pain, typical symptoms of a rupturing aneurysm. His name was Alfred Pinegar and he was in stable condition but the painful aneurysm was an urgent situation. As it happened, the day I met him was the 71st anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake, April 18, 1977. He had been there.

    He had had an appendectomy the year before, in Denver his home city, and did not get along with his stepfather. He was 15 and decided to travel a bit as he recovered from the surgery. He had a married sister in Seattle and thought he would visit her. Onj his own, he ended up in a boarding house sharing a room with two other boys his age on April 18. The earthquake woke them up and they ran downstairs into the street until the shaking stopped. The other buildings had their front walls collapse so the boys could see into the hallways as other men collected their belongings. The boys went back up to their room and did likewise. The building was now uninhabitable so they loaded up their belongings and walked around the city. For a while they watched the buildings around Union Square burn. The water mains had all been destroyed and there was no way to fight the fires.

    Eventually, the fires got closer and they left the square. They found a tavern and left their things there as they wandered around. They found a grocery store in the path of the flames, broke a window and took food. Others did the same and looted the store. The fire was getting closer to the tavern where their clothes were, so they went back to find it closed up. There were soldiers on the streets now and they convinced one to allow them to break into the tavern to get their things. They could not get out of the city as ferries were carrying water and had no room for them. It took two weeks before they could find a schooner to Los Angeles and get out.

    He made it to Seattle and found his brother-in-law by asking for building sites, where a mason might be employed. Years later, he owned a big farm in Nebraska and an auto dealership. He survived his aneurysm repair without difficulty and I kept track of him for another five years. He would swim laps in his mobile home park pool.

    Those were the people who built this country.

    • #10
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:44 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    The “88 year old” triggered a memory of another 88 year old I knew many years ago. It’s an example of how people survived in an earlier, more primitive time. He was admitted to the hospital where I was practicing with a large aortic aneurysm and back pain, typical symptoms of a rupturing aneurysm. His name was Alfred Pinegar and he was in stable condition but the painful aneurysm was an urgent situation. As it happened, the day I met him was the 71st anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake, April 18, 1977. He had been there.

    He had had an appendectomy the year before, in Denver his home city, and did not get along with his stepfather. He was 15 and decided to travel a bit as he recovered from the surgery. He had a married sister in Seattle and thought he would visit her. Onj his own, he ended up in a boarding house sharing a room with two other boys his age on April 18. The earthquake woke them up and they ran downstairs into the street until the shaking stopped. The other buildings had their front walls collapse so the boys could see into the hallways as other men collected their belongings. The boys went back up to their room and did likewise. The building was now uninhabitable so they loaded up their belongings and walked around the city. For a while they watched the buildings around Union Square burn. The water mains had all been destroyed and there was no way to fight the fires.

    Eventually, the fires got closer and they left the square. They found a tavern and left their things there as they wandered around. They found a grocery store in the path of the flames, broke a window and took food. Others did the same and looted the store. The fire was getting closer to the tavern where their clothes were, so they went back to find it closed up. There were soldiers on the streets now and they convinced one to allow them to break into the tavern to get their things. They could not get out of the city as ferries were carrying water and had no room for them. It took two weeks before they could find a schooner to Los Angeles and get out.

    He made it to Seattle and found his brother-in-law by asking for building sites, where a mason might be employed. Years later, he owned a big farm in Nebraska and an auto dealership. He survived his aneurysm repair without difficulty and I kept track of him for another five years. He would swim laps in his mobile home park pool.

    Those were the people who built this country.

    What a lovely story. Earl was a swimmer, too, and had many different jobs over time: clinical psychology, lie detector analyst, police officer and finally defense lawyer. He had lots of stories about his clients (no names, of course). Yes, he did well for himself, and he and his wife certainly made a difference in their communities. Bless them all.

    • #11
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:51 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  12. Henry Castaigne Member

    Rodin (View Comment):
    It so much more pleasant to have positive fantasies (elves and fairies) than negative fantasies (Trump racism and white supremacy). 

    I think you are imagining fairies as depicted by the Victorians. Some of the old school Unseelie faeries are pretty creepy. 

    • #12
    • August 26, 2019, at 10:24 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Samuel Block Support

    Susan Quinn:

    I arrive precisely at 10:30am; sometimes when I knock, he’s already waiting at the door and playfully knocks back. 

    88 years but his inner-rascal hasn’t aged a bit!

    • #13
    • August 26, 2019, at 12:39 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Samuel Block (View Comment):
    88 years but his inner-rascal hasn’t aged a bit!

    Absolutely correct! He has a dry sense of humor, too, which is less present. And I didn’t mention that he has early onset Alzheimer’s, although it seems to be progressing very slowly. I suspect it is showing up in his being less clever. But it doesn’t matter. He’s still here! Thanks, @samuelblock.

    • #14
    • August 26, 2019, at 12:44 PM PDT
    • 5 likes

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