423. False Guilt

 

Real guilt is an awful feeling one gets after a moral failure. Unless you are perfect or a perfect sociopath, you’ve experienced it too.Either the feeler did something knowingly and willingly wrong, or he knowingly and willingly failed to do something right. In either case an internal conviction rises up like a physical nausea or a psychological gag of self disgust. The self loathing builds until something is done to correct or numb the guilt. Assuage (lessen) or expiate (atone), there’s a pair of words that get after guilt. Addicts favor assuaging guilt with a substance, but that’s a different post for another time. Atonement is the ticket for undoing the guilt inducing act. Here’s the problem, though, folks: false guilt feels the same as real guilt. It masquerades as real, but false guilt is built on false assumptions and incorrect beliefs. As long as the false beliefs persist, so does the false guilt. Truth cuts down that weed, however. No, let’s say eradicates the weed of false guilt. Let me give a personal example.

Decades ago I lived around a bendy hill from a pig farm in the sleepy hamlet of Five Forks. My wife and I owned Coco the sheltie collie. Coco ran loose most of the time. We didn’t tie him up nor did we have a fence. It was a long way between neighbors, so it wasn’t usually a problem, unless you were the guy in the black Fiat who ran over Coco and rolled him up like a prison cigarette one summer day. Oh,  but when the weather turns, there is opportunity for foul play of all sorts. One Sunday afternoon during a February blizzard, I opened the back door of our farmhouse to let Coco in from the blowing snow. In his mouth was a frozen dead piglet.

“Oh, no!! Coco has killed a piglet”, I exclaimed.

My wife asked me, “What are you going to do?”

I picked up my parka and gloves, my scarf and my checkbook. “I’m going to see what a baby pig goes for these days”, and off I trudged toward Farmer Hade’s pig farm. Though his acreage lay directly off our back porch, a stream and a wire fence prevented me from easily crossing over onto his property. I had to walk about a third of a mile by the road to get to his place. I imagined his two boys answering the door. I had them in school back then. Awkward. I wondered how dad would handle the demise of one of his many porkers. Should I pay per pound or a full $200 for a completely grown pig? Many uncomfortable thoughts blew across my brain like the cruel snowflakes that stung my cheeks.

I got to his driveway across from the barn where the 600 pigs were kept. It did not cross my mind how my dog had wedged his way into that wooden fortress. I had the proof: the frozen dead piglet in his choppers. I did not need an eye witness or video evidence. I walked up a few concrete steps and rang the door bell. Mr. Hade answered it promptly.

“What in the world are you doing out in this weather?” he shouted.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. My dog killed on of your pigs.”

He laughed at my dire statement. I wondered if it was the laugh of a crazy man who was on the edge of bankruptcy, one piglet away from disaster.

“Your dog didn’t kill any pig of mine”, he added. “Couldn’t. The barn is locked up tight and I got electric fencing at all the openings. They can’t get out and no critters can get in.”

“But my dog came home with a frozen piglet in his mouth”, I protested, wondering if I could get out for $50.

“He probably got one off the pile.”

“The P-P-P-PILE?” I stammered in the blizzard air.

“Yeah, when the sows roll over, they often crush one of their babies. We throw’m on the pile out back. That’s where he got it most likely.”

“Sorry to bother you, Mr. Hade.  I’ll see the boys when school gets back to normal. Bye.”

I trudged home feeling a mixture of relief and stupidity. “The PILE??!! Unbelievable.” Still, the evidence was compelling. My dog did shoplift a dead piglet without permission after all. But the more I tried to convict myself of crimes against neighbor, property, and humanity, the less I could find to stick to me.

Stinking false guilt! It’s like tar on your skin waiting for the feathers of shame to stick to it, but the turpentine of truth can dissolve it in a few dabs. Sometimes just a few truth filled breaths will wipe away the stain of false guilt. For instance, the woman across from me spoke of her crippling guilt…

“I should have been there for my mom. She slipped off her diet again and wound up in the hospital with her diabetes.”

“And you drove eight hours one way to be with her, so I  don’t get the guilt part.”

“See, I left my home town for college and then my master’s degree. There weren’t many opportunities back home. My family feels like I abandoned them.”

“Okay, but why the guilt instead of pride in your success?”

“My sister has always been jealous, but she would never work to change her circumstances.  Lazy,really, like my dad. She lives around the corner from my folks now. They pay her bills to this day.”

“And why didn’t she take care of your mom’s health concerns?”

“She’s just the same. My dad too. They all eat what they want, as much as they want, whenever they want.”

“So theirs are self-inflicted wounds, yes?”

“I guess, but I’ve always felt it was my fault that they floundered. I should be there to rescue them somehow. I’m the only healthy one.”

“And your dad?”

“He sits and watches t.v. all day, every day.”

“So let me see if I have this correctly. Your family under-functions, ignores common health practices, and then calls you when one of them needs medical attention. Is that about right?”

“Well, yessss.”

“How’s the guilt?”

“Quickly turning in to anger actually.”

“Well how about that?”

 

421. Insecurity

 

Where does it come from, this thing called insecurity? Emotionally speaking, it comes from real and perceived attacks on one’s safety and then the aftermath of threatened safety, i.e., bad memories, high blood pressure, adrenaline dumps, rapid heart beat, rapid breathing. The short term answer is xanax or adavan after the crisis passes. Still the mirror of reality remains cracked long after the screams and sobs cease. Insecurity is that glass on glass sensation that sends unannounced shudders through your body like high lead crystal fingernails scraping a chalkboard.

Secure, on the other hand, means free from care, without anxiety.  Like the above photo of a sailboat ready for a hurricane demonstrates, lots of lines hold the vessel in place during a storm.  That boat is secured, safely attached to stable others. What gets us to security psychologically?  Well, let’s go to Uncle Abraham Maslow. In his hierarchy of needs, level 2. b. , security is just below love and connection on level 3. I like to tweak that term out into its many component parts with my insecure clients. Allow me to share.

In answer to the question, What makes us secure?, I propose the following in-exhaustive list:

  1. structure
  2. schedules and routines
  3. patterns of behavior
  4. consistency
  5. rules
  6. order
  7. clear limits and boundaries
  8. time management
  9. reliability
  10. control
  11. predictability
  12. familiarity
  13. confidence
  14. trust
  15. realized expectations.

 

Such a list seems pretty boring and mundane, and it is, just like a brick wall. However, the lack of these safeguards results in random chaos and uncontrollable madness. Something like trauma, wherein the sufferer believes he/she is about to die or witness someone else’s death or mutilation. Total structural collapse follows the sense of doom and dread and the hollow kneed feeling of being overwhelmed. A soundless tornado shreds your inner sanctuary; a muddy flood rushes through your soul’s first floor ripping up tiles and tearing at the plaster walls, rolling up carpeting.

 

There are many differences in these two brick pictures. Both have lots of solid, useful bricks. Pile B., however, lacks order, structure, rules, limits, patterns, consistency, predictability, etc. I think insecure folks can relate to the random chaos of Pile B. The hand of the bricklayer remains in the finger jointed mortar of Pile A. Pile B. has no author, no firm hand steadying it. It is a crazy mound containing the ingredients of a potential wall, whereas Pile A. is actualized, unified, launched, and completed.

So, what to do after the xanax and adavan have worn off?  Build a wall, or a patio, or a sidewalk, or a set of stairs. Pick up one brick and place it in a pattern you will follow. Commit to the project, one brick after another. Keep your eyes focused on what you have made not what others have constructed or how big the chaos pile remains. Make order, my friends. The human mind is an order making machine. We humans seek out problems to solve and then go about solving them. Security comes with the knowledge that we solved problems, made order, and subdued chaos.

Somewhere in my psyche I sense a connection with this Irving Layton poem, one of my favorites, and the horrid experience of self doubting insecurity.

There Were No Signs

By walking I found out
Where I was going.

By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.

By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.

Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.

From hypocrisy, I wove directness.

Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.

Another step
And I shall be where I started from.

Obviously this walk is an interior circuit he took through the closet of doubt, and worry, and pain. Yet at the end of this journey the walker knows who he is. He could have paced a jail cell, or a padded holding cell in a psych ward; traversed a battlefield; crawled away from a volatile marriage; slinked across a graveyard; tip toed through a courtroom; slogged across an addiction or two; trudged around a friend’s betrayal. The point is redemption from the negative to the positive. And there were no signs as he turned at each unmarked intersection.

I get this visceral unease when I am driving without crystal clear directions. I can be literally doors away from my destination, but without the final recognition, I might just as well be 100 miles away. You can be lost in your own house for that matter.
I had an enlightening dream last night. So vivid that I can recall it 18 hours later. Seems I was in a small rental house down south, maybe Georgia or South Carolina. The house had historic value and was known as a regional artist’s home, and was one block away from a river, sitting down from an earthen levee and subject to floods. The problem was, as I explained to my wife in the dream house living room, this lovely cottage flooded all the time. In fact little canals were built right in to the first floor. Unfortunately the drains were clogged with leaves and so these canals overflowed into the living room, which was partially underwater. I tried to persuade my wife that we should buy the place because of its charm. (We were renting it in the dream.)
 Image result for antebellum southern river cottages pictures
Meanwhile an angry neighbor walked right through our yard. He was in a uniform, Fish and Game Commission, with a holstered pistol on his hip. I confronted him about tromping right through our yard. He wheeled around on me and told me to shut up. He lived next door and felt like this artist house was some sort of left over hippie drug center. “For God’s sake, they painted “Animal House” on the steps out front. You people are a waste of oxygen.” He stomped away. I turned to see hippies playing music on the steps out front. No signs of graffiti, though, just pleasant acoustic music and artifacts on display
I set about cleaning the drains, and lo and behold, the water rolled magically back into its canals. I began raking up the nasty rotting leaves, feeling very satisfied that this crazy cottage was just the perfect fit for us. In this improbable unconscious world I felt secure, not because of my surrounding and the Spanish moss hanging from the old oak trees. No, my security gurgled up in the living water that flowed right through this quaint fantasy. My unconscious mind had built order out of chaos and given me a delightful little image of contentment. Amen.Image result for basement waterway pictures

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370. What Guilt?

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott

Guilt:  a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc. whether real or imagined.

In my business, since I work with human beings, I hear a lot about the subject of guilt, that nagging feeling of self loathing that convicts you when you have done something wrong or failed to do something right, assuming you were consciously choosing one outcome or another.  Growing up as a Catholic kid, I learned a lot about guilt and sin. You don’t even have to sin to be guilty if you believe in Original Sin, the sin of Adam and Eve that is attached to the human race. Then there are venial and mortal sins. Venial sins are lesser than mortal, as  you might guess. Mortal sins, unrepented of, lead to eternal damnation. Game over. Venial sins just put you in purgatory, which is like a moral rehab hospital in Catholic cosmology. You do your time and get cleaned up, purged, so you can be reunited with God. In the Middle Ages you could pay off your sins by paying church officials indulgences. I don’t think that program is still in effect these days.

Back in my St. Louis Catholic Elementary School days in the 1960’s I tried to be good or at least tried not to get caught being bad. A daunting task when you have three brothers and 150 boisterous neighbor boys trying to be heathens. The trouble was that the teachers and priests at St. Louis were excellent guilt peddlers to their young and not so innocent charges. All their work paid off on Fridays when Confession was held behind the secret curtain in a booth at the back of the fairly modern church, architecturally speaking it was modern. We would line up in two lines per booth. Little boys in crew cuts and flattop haircuts, white shirts, navy blue pants and a navy blue bow tie. Girls in white blouses and navy jumpers with white socks and saddle shoes. Quaking in anticipation of God’s justice uttered by an invisible priest on the other side of the purple curtain.

The confessional booths in our architecturally modern church were wired with sensor pads in the kneelers.  As you knelt down, a little light turned red outside to indicate “busy”. As you stood up, a light on the outside turned green, indicating “Go”, maybe to Hell if you had the wrong stuff to share. Now if you shifted your weight back and forth as fourth grade boys liked to do in order to have blinking lights bragging rights, the lights would blink strobosocopically into a blur of brownish orange. The goal was to run up more blinks than the guy before you had managed, without getting caught by the teacher monitoring you outside or the priest listening to kids confess sins inside behind the yellow lit sliding screen that smelled of incense and holiness.

John Digeorgi and James LaFrankie are the only boys’ names I can recall from those diabolical days. I’m sure one of us was pulled up by our ears in the midst of setting the blinking confessional light land record.  You see, it was a given condition that justice would be swift and harsh in those parochial school days. One legendary story came from the eighth grade class where Sister Josephine Stalin was striding toward a wayward bad boy with a paddle in her hand. The boy was trapped, away from the classroom door, so he jumped out the first floor window to save his fleshly behind. I don’t know if he ever came back. It doesn’t matter; the legend lives.

Anyway, I wanted to share the three guilts: True, False and Imposed Guilt. I defined true guilt above. It’s that awful, nauseating feeling that comes over you if you have a conscience, that motivates you to make the wrong you committed right again. E.g. you broke the neighbor’s window while hitting golf balls off a tee in your back yard. Hey, it happens. You feel fear, then some sadness, then maybe you try to think of who else can be blamed for the broken window, but there are ten other boys waiting to tee off or tell on you so you decide to expiate your guilt by knocking on the Coopers’ door and confessing your sin. Later you pay for the damage, thus ending the material and spiritual conflict.

False guilt, on the other hand, feels just like true guilt, but it is based on false information or incorrect thinking. For instance, when your unlicensed sheltie dog comes home in a blizzard with a frozen baby pig in his mouth… well, you know right away that Coco had run over to the Hades’ adjacent pig farm because we (yes, it was my dog) had no fence, no leash, and no sense. Okay? We lived like freakin’ hippies back then.

Well, because I knew the neighbor and had his two sons in school, I did the honorable thing based on limited information. I got my checkbook, bundled up against the blowing snow, and trudged over to their house, about a quarter mile away. I rang the bell, wondering what a pig cost ($200? maybe) and Mr. Hade answered.

“What in the world are you doing out?” he inquired.

“I’m sorry to tell you that my dog killed one of your piglets.”

He laughed a deep belly laugh and stepped back a few paces. “Come on in out of the snow. Your dog did no such thing.”

“Mr. Hade, Coco came home with a baby pig in his mouth. It had to be from your herd.”

He laughed again. “Not possible. Your dog could not get into my barn. It’s hotwired to keep predators out. He probably just got one off the pile.”

“The pile?” I asked, stunned at this turn of events.

“Yeah, when the sow rolls over on her young’uns, sometimes she smothers them. We just throw the dead ones on the pile out back.”

“Oh… I feel foolish. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Oh, no, no problem.”

At least the wind was at my back on the way home. “The pile!!!” I was ready to write a check for big money. Stupid assumption! False guilt.Image result for i'm stupid face picturesImage result for math equations pictures

Finally we have imposed guilt. It’s also false guilt. The difference is that someone else imposes guilt onto you, usually with the words should or should not. E.g. your mother tells you, “You should have gone to law school, you little schmuck! Now look at ya. You’re a nothing, nobody, Georgie Costanza.”

The reverse is also used. “You shouldn’t have gone to Atlantic City, but you did, Mr. Bigshot. Now you’re broke and you suck!!”

The shoulding business is so common I have called its use, Suck Math. It goes like this–

You should do x.

–You didn’t do x.

Therefore, you suck.

The final product of suck math is “you suck”.  Oh, guilt mongers. I don’t have enough time to give you full treatment. See, I’m way over 1,000 words and feeling a little guilty that I stretched the attention span of my three faithful followers. And with their medication load, that’s just too much. So I’m just going to stop here.Guilty as charged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

331. Not Fade Away

“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad…”  So sang Cheryl Crow. Oh, but it can be this way; it is true. So many folks I know cling to something that made them happy, but over time it no longer does. They ache and pine for a lost loved one or an unfaithful lover. Bittersweet is the taste and the feeling that courses through them as they ping pong between tender longing with a dry throat or vinegary tears dripping down contorted cheeks. What a strange combination and contradiction when couples dance at wedddings to songs of heartbreak and melancholy, feeling safe, even invulnerable in a satin white coccoon. “That won’t happen to us. We’re special, protected somehow, immune.” And they sway to the slow rhythm of a broken heart song, unaware that they will follow in its hollow footsteps…

Bittersweet memories
That is all I’m taking with me
So, goodbye
Please, don’t cry
We both know I’m not what you, you need
And iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIII will always love you
I will allllllllllllways love you  {goodbye Whitney}

Oh, why do fools fall in love? Because love makes fools of us all.

 [Frankie Lymon and the Teennagers.]

Long ago I heard a therapist say that couples divorce for the same reasons they marry. This seemed contradictory to me, so I inquired further. Say what? “Yes. If a couple marries for looks, when their looks fade, as they inevitably do, then they divorce. If a couple marries for status and money, when those fade, they divorce. If they marry for the fun they shared in activities, when the activities fade, they divorce. And so on, with sex, popularity, health, etc. Even couples who are passionately attached with a sparky connection divorce when inevitably that spark fades.”

“So Doc, what’s the answer to this riddle? I mean, why don’t we all just hang ourselves now?”

“The answer is to marry for reasons that don’t fade or change. Immutable reasons.”

“Like what? ‘Cause everything changes.”

“Actually an adult’s core values are relatively immune to change. An honest adult is likely to be honest all his life, whether he is bald or happens to sport a full head of Elvis hair. A faithful, upright woman will be faithful and upright as well. A compassionate adult will live a compassionate life. A faithful friend is likely to be faithful to the bitter end.”

“So you are talking about abstractions not material world stuff.”

“Yes. Your ripped and toned body is going to soften and weaken if you live long enough. Your incredible hand-eye coordination is likewise doomed to a similar fate, even with Lasik surgery and testosterone treatments.”

 “C’mon, Man. Look at these abs…And great sex falls into this sad basket also?”

“Yeah, stuff wears out– muscles, organs, bones, blood vessels, skin, nerves. All fail one day.”

“You are killing me, man. Have you ever considered un-motivational speaking for a career?”

“Actually I have, but the market isn’t there. I have been called an emotional exterminator. The Undertaker of Conviviality. For a while I was a bouncer at Polish weddings.”

“Uh huh, you can empty a room fast.”

“Well, it depends on the crowd. Some folks lap up what I’m putting out there. But they are a lot more mature than you.”

“You mean older, right?”

“No, I mean wiser. The maturity that comes from successful suffering.”

“Look, I’m not going to stand here and listen to your condescending lecture.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, I was hoping you’d back off if I got all Neanderthal on you.”

“Which only further proves my maturity point.”

“OOOOOkay. I get it. I’m infantile Now tell me something I don’t already know.”

“Life expectancy gets in the way of enduring marriages.”

“Huh?”

“Average life expectancy in the U.S. during the years of 1850-1900 was 40 years. And during those years folks didn’t have movies or television, fast food or central air conditioning. They worked 10 and 12 hours a day just to survive. They were so busy with survival that this drivel we’ve been discussing would have made no sense to them. You following me?”

“Yes Sir! I can follow hard facts easier than prickly paradoxes and slippery conundrums. These folks lived brief, painful lives and died after they procreated but before they grew tired of one another.”

“Something like that.”

“So they could fall in love for silly and superficial reasons but die before they saw the varnish tarnish.”

“Is that some sort of stupid play on words?”

“Yeah, you know, it’s like a rhyme. A little word play to lighten it up, Doc. You know, you are deadly.”

“Well, remember my audience, doltish, and the task I have undertaken.”

“Yup, I’m with you. I still think you suck at motivating people though.”

“Yes, so with the extended life together, American married couples were not prepared for decades of shared life overlapping more and more free time. It was just too much. Drama and bickering and the endless struggle for control developed once the television came to dominate American living rooms. It is clearly illustrated in this unrelated chart. As you can see, new marriages peaked in 2006 and by 2014 over half a person was  missing due to recessionary pressures.”

“Doc, I get the big picture, even though your chart has nothing to do with your subject at hand.”

“I didn’t think you’d notice. ‘Touche for ooya.’ How do you like that word play?”

“Doc, let’s finish with an affirmation. I don’t want to leave this post angry. Okay?  Think of the little Blogglers out there who need a boost. I mean, they have read this far hoping for something resembling intelligent writing. Lie if you have to, but don’t let them go to bed hungry.”

“You are pitiful.”

“I don’t care what you think of me, Mister. Just give my people a crust of intellectual bread.”

“Okay, you’ve warn me down. My final point is that if you choose a partner for ephemeral reasons, you will indeed have an ephemeral mayfly marriage. Modern marriage is a covenant agreement that may last sixty or seventy years in our modern era. It’s longer and harder than ever to make marriage work. So, build on solid ground with proven materials– faith, integrity, truth, transparency. They don’t fade away.”

“I prefer Buddy Holly’s advice… amen.”

“Not Fade Away”

I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
You’re gonna give your love to me
I wanna love you night and day
You know my love a-not fade away
A-well, you know my love a-not fade away
My love a-bigger than a cadillac
I try to show it and you drive a-me back
Your love for me a-got to be real
For you to know just how I feel
A love for real not fade away
I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
You’re gonna give your love to me
A love to last a-more than one day
A love that’s love – not fade away
A well, a-love that’s love – not fade away

 

 

 

 

 

 

120. Hope

In the mental health business hope is an indicator of health, optimism, and faith. The opposite of hope, hopelessness, is an indicator of bad times and often correlates with suicide attempts. “I’ve lost all hope” is a pre-suicide cliche. So by extension hope correlates with life, and hopelessness with death. I’ve known a few unfortunate souls who suffered from intense chronic pain. Not surprisingly they thought of death as a reasonable pain killer. They did not want to die, just to end their suffering. They had lost hope of their pain ending; lost faith in their painkillers; and decided to kill the pain receptor, i.e., themselves.

It’s a hard sell to try and persuade someone back into their pain wracked body. It’s comparable to encouraging a battered spouse to go back into his/her marriage. I would never try to persuade a battered spouse to return to a battering partner. Yet, I would try to walk and talk a chronic sufferer back into their pain dump. Not because I am a cruel sadist and derive pleasure from another’s pain. No, my position is more rooted in the value of life and,of course, the hope of cure. I believe in better times and have walked through many dark valleys with folks who were ready to cash out their chips. So far, no suicides have occurred on my watch. None of the credit belongs to me; all of it belongs to the concept and practice of hoping for better days, and the strength of the hoper.

Years ago I recall a conversation with my one good buddy who was swatting at the flies of suicide in his mind. “Been this way for fifty years, Man. No chance. Gotta face it.” I argued a bit that the past is not the ruler of the future. He disagreed. “The past rules. No, once the bell is rung, you can’t unring it.”

“True, but you don’t have to march to the same cadence to the end of your life. What if Act Three of your life is all about redemption and joy? You’ll miss it because you bought the message of the first two acts of your life.” Fortunately for him, the love of his life was just around the corner. He is one of the happiest guys I know now, except when he bosses me around and I won’t cooperate.

Today I am back in Arizona with my daughter and brand new granddaughter, Leah Grace. It’s a surreal experience as I feel and hear my granddaughter’s little kitten breaths while she slumbers on my chest. She curls her little hands together and clings like a baby possum to its mother. The circle of life is complete, and something very satisfying is rising up in my core. I suppose it is joy. Eight pounds of gentle quiet joy. She resembles her mother whom I can barely remember cradling in my arms 26 years ago. The old photos show a svelt young me with full black hair and big 80’s glasses. Wow! A full generation has passed. Back then I am sure I hoped and prayed for a healthy and wonderful life for my baby at that time, Grace Marie. My wife and I were so grateful to God that we could have another child after losing one in 1984. We hoped all the more because of the deep pain we had suffered through with the loss of baby #2, Lisa Ellen. It’s funny: you don’t hope for what you have. Hope is the thing that keeps you going when you are at the bottom of an abandoned well, calling for help, hoping a Good Samaritan passes by. You don’t practice hope if you are securely standing beside the well. Still, I hope and pray for this precious child, that she will have a healthy and wonder-filled life. I can realistically hope to hold her child one day, God willinng. I can cast my hope out there another 26 years… I’ll be 82 and teetering on the Grand Canyon of life. What a blessing that would be!

For the moment I will content myself with hope for a good night’s sleep for her devoted mother and father.  Ever wonder what your life would be like if your kids were your parents? In some faint reflective way, they are. The DNA may commingle and dilute, but there are traits of my parents in my children. My wife is adopted, so the trail ends with her. My folks were odd people, let me tell you. They married late for their generation due to the Big War. My mother wrote to many GI’s during WWII because it was the patriotic thing to do. Plus, there weren’t many men available in Boston in the early 1940’s. My dad wrote back. He returned in person and hung out with my uncles. Amazingly none of my uncles was killed or injured in the War, though one was held for two years in a Nazi prison camp. Think he needed some hope?  And his family who faithfully sent him packages that he never received. Hope might have been an empty box, but it still contained a loving spirit if not cookies and bread and chocolate. However, what if he had received every package sent and never made it home? That would have been the empty box, the coffin. Instead he was liberated and made it back to Boston. Bob fathered nine kids, by the way. He lived a full life and was much loved when he died a  timely death a few years back.

The old saying goes, “Be careful what you hope for. You might just get it.” Well, thus far my life has exceeded my hopes and dreams, and there is more ahead. Amen.