Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The nice police

I don't know why we sugar coat things these days.

For some reason the word "cripple" is distasteful so we now say "disabled." Frankly, I don't see how that's any better. I guess the nice police figure it implies strength within infirmity. It excuses us our physical and mental shortcomings. It helps us pretend we are not less than complete; we cripples are just as good as anybody else, even though we are, admittedly, "disabled."

Pardon me for saying so, but in the words of my Wyoming coal-mining cowboy grandfather, that is horse hockey.

I'm crippled. It's no shame. I had an accident, that's all. My feet don't work well but my brain still does. And by the way, the accident was my own fault. I need to know that so please don't take it away from me.

Nobody is old these days. We're "senior citizens." 

Puh-leeze. It's cute but I'm not a big fan of cute except in babies and puppies. You can be a "senior" if you like but don't call me that, okay? I'd rather be "old" or, better yet, not defined by my age at all. Don't make me cute. It's condescending. 

People don't get fired these days, they get "laid off." 

I remember when "laid off" meant you could expect to be rehired in the near future. Not anymore. The fact is, you've been fired, canned, kicked to the curb. The company you worked for just doesn't need or want you anymore. But, it's somehow less personal to say you were "laid off."

It's not your fault, nothing is.

And that's the problem, isn't it? Nobody is at fault and nobody is to blame for the ups and downs of what we used to just call life.

My grandson's soccer league doesn't keep score. They don't want any losers.

I don't have to explain to you why that's so horribly twisted. Most of you are old and wise like me. You remember when your parents and grandparents watched you fall, waited for you to cry and picked you up to wipe your tears, clean your wound and say, "I told you so!" Touching a hot stove is the only way to learn to never do it again. Losing is the only way to learn to win.

It used to be, anyway. These days being on the losing side of a soccer game is considered the death of self-respect.

The only thing that seems to matter is our fragile ego and self-esteem.

I can't change the culture but I still have something to say about the raising of my own sons and grandsons:

--You will curse your mistakes and failures; I will quietly celebrate them because they are lessons I cannot give you. You are a winner and, at times, a loser. Deal with it.

--You will suffer emotionally and I will try to love you out of your misery. But then I'll have to go home and leave you to sort it out, yourself.

-- There is not enough time in my life or yours for us to completely share our hearts. Try to be grateful for every moment we have together, especially the ones that seem unimportant at the time.

Thirty years ago, while in the depths of my greatest despair my own father, my hero, told me -- in these exact words, which I will never forget: 

"If you don't love yourself you'll never be worth a damn to anybody else."

And now, I have finally reached an age where I am qualified to add to my dad's life-defining revelation:

You don't love yourself for your goodness, that's a given. You love yourself for falling down, getting up and living right.

Copyright © 2010, David L. Williams. All rights reserved.

The seven-year-old diplomat

Post-It Note found on our grandson's bedroom door this morning...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


What is it about summer that fills and yet drains us?

You say it’s the heat and certainly that defines it. It’s the close intensity of the sun through a hazy sky. Sharp shadows. Fuzzy memories.

Summer was our youthful promise of immortality. It began at the exact moment of the final school bell in early June. It proceeded through endless days of hitting baseballs and jarring polliwogs from the slippery, slimy-green drainage ditch that ran through our neighborhood like our own private subway.

Summer involved rolling down grassy hillsides, giggling, wearing only shorts and then being itchy all day.

Summer made necessary running through lawn sprinklers, wherever we found them inviting us in.

The entire neighborhood played hide-and-seek. No place was out of bounds. It might take half an hour to find kids scattered behind parked cars, perched in trees and jumping fences to race through neighboring backyards.


Summer evenings frequently found us in front yards on blankets. The entire family was there and neighbor kids and sometimes their parents, as well.

We’d look through the grass for four-leaf clovers and watch Venus follow the sun into a darkening horizon. We looked for shooting stars and UFOs. We drank Kool-Aid and talked about what we wanted to do tomorrow.

The cricket chorus began at full darkness as the Delta breeze arrived from the Golden Gate. Shortly after that Mom said it was time to come in and take a bath. The truth is, I didn’t really mind. I was tired.

And I wanted tomorrow to get here fast.

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