Death Is Personal

The news we hear every day contains statistics of death. Suicide bombings in Iraq, military bombings in Afghanistan, senseless murders of innocents caught in drive by shootings, people of fame die often at what appears to be too young. This morning  I read an article of the high but declining murder rate in Brazil. The article talked about murders per hundred thousand.

I do not believe that people go when it is “their time”. I believe that the timing is random and senseless. Yet if we had to think about or feel all of these deaths individually,  the people of the world would be overwhelmed by grief and could do nothing else but mourn. That would be too much. One can be empathetic but need the distance that death as a statistic provides.

And yet it is all personal to someone. To the people who know and love the dead or dying.  Every now and again we should pause and remember that as we read about the numbers. Each has a name. Each was a someone.

Death is personal. Trust me, I am becoming one of the millions of experts created each year.

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Sunday’s Ride

Better. 60 modestly strong miles. Still far short of 100.

Memories of Boston

I was in Boston today. Like so many business trips, I landed late morning, had meetings and was out by early evening. Other than lunch at Legal Seafood I had no opportunity to do anything Bostonian.

Memories of Boston for me are few and very far between. In addition to today, I spent a weekend there 22 years ago, had another one day business meeting and spent two days at a conference 4 or 5 years ago. I want to come back and spend at least a long weekend here with my wife. And I have got to get into Fenway one day.

Though few, the memories I have are strong. During the weekend long, long ago, I played typical tourist. Spent much of a day hanging out at Faneuil Hall. In addition to walking through the market (I love places like that) I watched a guy making his living juggling. He was quite entertaining. I also walked along Beacon Hill, marveling at the architecture of the homes and wondering how many lifetimes of working I would need to do to buy one. I did part of the freedom walk. And I checked out Harvard. The coolest thing about that day was that Harvard was honoring Corazon Aquino who had recently taken over as President of The Philippines and a long period of dictatorship. I caught a glimpse of her walking out of a building after her lecture. I have picture of all of this, including a shot of Cory. I may have to dig them out of the three boxes of pictures I have waiting to be filed so I can share them on-line. Unfortunately I have a close up of the juggler and only a very distant shot of Ms. Aquino.

The second memory of Boston was one night of the conference I attended. My friends Frank, Sarah and Shelly were there. We met up with a neighbor of Frank’s from Philly who was living in Boston. What started as an ordinary day became one of those semi-magical, serendipitous nights of good friends sharing great conversation. The restaurant was a typical Italian place with lots of character. I can’t remember what we talked about but the feeling of friendship, even with this woman I had never met nor seen since, the humor, wit, passion, and laughter are all there. After dinner we went across the street to this cool, little desert place. As we came out it began to rain and we shared too few umbrellas and jackets each one wanting the other to have one.

Boston offers a fine combination of history, architecture, universities, good food and interesting neighborhoods. A muti-faceted city and you know how much I love facets. Time to go back and create more memories.

Window Washing: A Life Lesson?

I try to be a responsible parent and to pass on a sense of responsibility to my son. My son at age 17 tries to be independent and in control of his time and actions. Sometimes these “tries” intertwine.

Near the end of the last school year D got a ticket while driving. I was not mad. He rolled through a Stop sign, who among us have not. He got caught.

It did lead to a large fine for which I wrote a check ( the county does not take credit cards even in this Internet age). I told him he would have to work it off. At the moment he was sincerely apologetic and agreed.

We put in 32 new Pella windows last year. It was time for them to be cleaned. There was no pressure to begin until school ended. He had a heavy class load and baseball. June 13. School ends, the clock starts ticking and the games begin.

Better, and much longer, than the Olympics these were The Father/Son Games. Sometimes a battle royal, sometimes a game of strategy much more intricate than chess, sometimes like WWF Smackdown. Since I have a son who is a good kid this never became about whether or not the windows would get washed. It was all about when and who decided when.

I prefer a high degree of certainty. I plan. A schedule. I never expected that he would start Day 1 and work until they were done forsaking all else. He wanted complete flexibility. After all, he had the entire summer. What’s the rush?

Parental push here WHAM.  Son sidestep there. POW. Suggest that he put together a schedule. WHOMP. You didn’t say by when the schedule had to be done. BANG. On and on it went.

With a 17 year old boy there is an art to knowing when to push and knowing when you will get more by backing off. With only a year left until he goes off to collage, I ain’t no Rembrandt. More at a paint by numbers level.

All the windows got washed with more than a week before school started. In fairness to D once he got rolling he took the initiative and worked on a few almost every day. As I said, he is a good kid.

Who will I give life lessons to next year? Who will give them to me?

My Fear of Falling (To My Death) From High Places

I do not have a fear of heights. I am fine on a plane or in a tall building. I have a fear of falling off high places to my death.

I am sure I have written before of family vacations in the mountains. I love to hike as long as I am not on the edge of a narrow path. My wife and son will walk to the edge and look down. I can barely watch them do that. I am sure I miss some spectacular photo opportunities because of this fear.

While I would like to overcome this fear, there are often reminders of why I have these healthy reactions. Newspaper articles with titles such as 81 Foot Fall Kills Man are all I need. First let me say that I send my sympathies to the family and friends of Milos Hrsto. He was only 21. But here is an excerpt from the article in the Chicago Tribune about his trip to Starved Rock National Park:

The latest death to hit the popular park about 90 miles southwest of Chicago, near Utica, involved a 21-year-old recent college graduate whom relatives said had veered from the marked path about 8 feet to peer over the rim of Pontiac Canyon along the upper trail, one of the park’s many rocky vistas.

Milos Hrsto fell 81 feet to his death Sunday while hiking with his older sister, her husband and her sister-in-law. Relatives said he fell after a tree branch he was leaning against broke, causing him to lose his balance.

I have hiked there. One of the few decent places for hiking in the Chicagoland area.

Lesson to be learned. Take risks but realize that the unexpected happens. Be careful when near the edge. I will be too far away to help.

My Million Dollar Idea

 I am still waiting to come up with my $1 million dollar idea. Actually given my desire to retire and travel the world, make that a $10 million idea.

On thought is to find a way to monetize the thoughts in my head. Christian Lander did. He and a friend came up with the idea that became the blog Stuff White People Like.  It was all the craze for awhile. Hundres of thousands of hits a day. Of course once that happens you get ads. The if you are like Christian you get a book deal. Guess what the book is called? You got it!  Stuff White People Like.

Come on. He was a drop-out. OK he dropped out of a Phd program but he is still a drop out. And while some of his list contains clever even humorous writing, it is not universally hilarious. And look at him. No Brad Pitt if you ask me.

When my mind clears again (hopefully before senility clicks in) I am going to divine an even better blog idea that will make me rich and famous. Maybe I will test some out on you. Now you should be scared. Very scared.

Its All Bad

I like the phrase, “its all good” especially when people use it sincerely. Those are individuals who take things in stride and generally see the positive side of life.

However, when it comes to my Mom’s health there ain’t no good news. When a liver is not working the way it should no amount of determination and fortitude can withstand the onslaught. She is getting weaker and not all that slowly fading away. The doctors use terms like “in the final stages of the disease”. They are trying a few new things to stabilize her condition for a time. The end, though, is not as far away as I would like.

She spent last night in the emergency room after looking like, but not yet experiencing, death. It turned out dehydration had raised her potassium levels. They fixed her and sent her back. She was asleep by the time I got there tonight but I have been told she was much better today.

It seems surreal but is all too real. I will be writing about her life at some point. Her story is worth telling  but not now. It would seem like a eulogy and she is not in need of that just yet.