At 18 & At 64

I wish my mind worked more adeptly.

I find that often after I have done something and sent it out into the world for distribution, I think of a way it could have been better done.

It is true of everything I have ever written, from the last e-mail I just sent to a poem I wrote long ago and have worked and reworked time and again, only to see it in my final, published manuscript form and wishing I had said something in it a little differently.

That is true of our spoken words, too.  I am wondering if John Kelly today is still standing by his Thursday comments, or if he is having regrets, wishing he were more adept in handling a grief he feels through the lens of a soldier that doesn’t fit the same world view of a wife and mother who has lost that person most important to her.

That’s the thing about words:  once they leave you, they are forever out there:  in print, on camera, hard drives and even on the very waves of the space-time continuum.  If there really are other inhabitants in our galaxy, I wonder what they must think of the many garbled languages and tangled messages that reach them from planet earth.  We must sound like some strange kind of soap opera out there.

Then there are Trump’s tweets, outrageous on the day they are sent and hilarious in context of the history of his Twitter feed, as you can always find something sent a year or two or more ago that is in direct contradiction to what he just said. And he wonders why he is not better respected.

It is not that people cannot change their minds and grow as they gain life experience, are exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking, cultural nuances and life principles from various sources.

But if I stop and examine myself, how much am I still like my 18 year-old me, which I identify as my point of entry into official adulthood, and myself as I am now?

I know I still believe – as I did then – that love is the ultimate state of being, although my concept of love has been refined over the years to include within it the deep wells of mercy and grace the Lord will pour into our lives if we but let Him.

It is still anathema for me to lie; not that I haven’t done it, but that I can’t do it and just let it go.  It stays with me like a too greasy piece of pizza that sickens me and which I must ultimately somehow disgorge.

No way would I steal.  I was wrongly accused of doing so once when I was very young.  The lady who accused me of it went out of her way to humiliate me and – when she was proven wrong – still had the nerve to find a way of blaming me instead of apologizing for being mistaken.  That experience has stayed with me forever.

Generally I believe the best in people, unless they have shown me from the get-go that they have no “best” in them.  I will still make excuses for their bad behavior until I reach the point where I can no longer give them benefit of the doubt for “meaning well” because they just so obviously did not.

I still love to read, to write, to watch movies and daydream by a body of water or out a window watching snow lightly fall.  I love the latter especially at Christmas, with all the lights turned out except for those glowing on the Christmas tree.  It is magical.

My Mom (Vernette) made me French toast when I did not feel well; still my favorite breakfast food.  Her hot, home-made donuts fresh from the fryer and coated in sugar still melt in my mouth even though I haven’t tasted one since childhood.

Although there are fewer of them in the South to see, I love watching the leaves turn red and gold in the fall; walking in air that is crisp and reddens your cheeks; dressing up for Halloween.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” will always be my favorite movie because it captures so many themes: the innocent honesty of children in looking at the ways of the adult world; the inherent injustice built into our “justice” system against people of color, even when it is physically apparent, as in Tom Robinson’s case, he could not have committed the crime of which he was accused; the smallness of small towns peopled with small minds.

I will always wish there were a real Atticus Finch out there for me somewhere, that Bobby Kennedy had never been assassinated, the Vietnam War had not raged on and Watergate had never happened.

Always I will respect this nation’s flag, but I will hold in still higher esteem the Constitutional right of free political speech, unconstrained by government intrusion.  I believe in a free and questioning press as a bulwark of liberty every bit as much as I believe the same of our troops.

I believe that Jesus calls my name every day and it is my duty to respond to that call above all others.

I believe I cannot suborn any of these things or I would not be myself, at 18 or at 64.


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