ROLL AROUND HEAVEN ALL DAY

Am I the only one, or do most folks who reach senior citizenship at some point begin to wonder about what lies beyond this life? Well, I have been thinking about it, even though, thankfully, I am in good health at this point in time 
I do believe that a life does exist after this one, and I hope that I am able to enjoy it. However, the stories that I heard as a child left me thinking that heaven wasn’t the most wonderful place to spend eternity. I’m not keen on sitting around all day singing hymns. My homes throughout life have been modest ones, so mansions don’t interest me much either. Streets of gold are fine, but they are of no value in a place where is all provided. 
Not intending to show disrespect for anyone else’s view on heaven, I’ll describe what I hope is waiting on me when I get there. First, I look forward to uncloudy days. Temperatures will be warm enough to swim every day, and no one will have to worry about sunburns. We’ll all have perfect tans. At the same time, occasional summer showers will spring up. That gives everyone the opportunity to sit on a front porch or screened porch and listen to the rain fall through the trees or on a tin roof. Snow will fall so that we can sit by fires and drink hot chocolate as we watch it pile up, but the cold won’t bother us. 
 I know that it is said there will be no more hunger or thirst. I hope that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to enjoy foods or drinks. I’d like to think that I can spend eternity eating shrimp or my mother’s butterscotch pie. Fried chicken might be the centerpiece of a meal with a big pitcher of sweet tea to wash it down. I want foods to taste good like they did when I was a child, and I want to eat them without having to take a pill to keep my stomach from churning.  
In heaven, I hope that I’ll live in the same places that I have on this earth. I have spent most of my time either in my parents’ home or the one Amy and I built in 1978. Yes, that also means that I also will spend time sitting by the pool in the back yard. I love my yard and won’t mind mowing the grass when it grows.  
 When I reach the Pearly Gates, I want to find family members, and I pray that the reunion is exuberant. I’d like to think we will know each other and will be able to spend the time talking and laughing and enjoying just being together. The thought that I wouldn’t know my parents or brothers is too disturbing to consider. In some future time, I want to be with Amy, my children, and my grandson, and I want them to know Mother and Daddy and my older brother Dal.  
Along those same lines, I pray that pets will be there in heaven. We humans find a bit of the perfect and sublime in pets, and they should be present with us in our journey into the kingdom of heaven. I want to have Snoop jump in my arms, and I want Sadie to wag her tail in that circular motion as she waits for me to pet her.  
I hope I’ll be able to ask God some questions that have been on my mind for a long time. Knowing the answers will help my understanding or what life is all about. Heaven is a place where most of us hope to spend our “foreverness.” With some of these things I’ve mentioned, it will be a good place to roll around all day.  

IS THIS AMERICA?

I thought that if we ever got passed the coronavirus pandemic that the world would settle down. How wrong did that assumption turn out? I’ll ask you straight: Is this country strong enough to survive the constant problems that arise almost daily? 
States have opened slowly, even though health officials warn us that returning to life as we knew it will lead to a second wave of the illness that will again bring on millions of case of infection and thousands of deaths. Few people are content to sit at home every day without contact with friends and work associates. However, going to the gym, eating in a restaurant, or bowling are activities that might well lead to another long, grueling quarantine.  
I don’t understand people rushing to beaches where they lie or sit next to strangers. The scene at the pool party in Ozark was disgusting, virus or no virus. Flocks of people are running around without masks for protection, and they harass people who make the decisions to wear protective coverings. Yes, we all need interactions, but they should be started out slowly until we can be sure that such contact won’t kill us or make us deathly ill.  
If that weren’t enough, racism reared its ugly head again. Oh, it’s been here all along, but its presence was accentuated with the death of George Floyd. I don’t pretend to know all the facts of his arrests and possible crimes. What is plain to see, however, is a police officer’s knee crunching Floyd’s neck as to two other officers applied weight and force to the rest of his body. I’m pretty sure Floyd was handcuffed by then, so what possibly could have been the motive for such brutal tactics other than to slowly kill the man? If a person commits a crime, he should be held accountable. He does not need to be murdered in the street.  
Demonstrations have arisen across the country, as well as across the world. The line from the Chicago song still applies: “The whole world is watching.” Peaceful demonstrations have been a part of our country’s history. They have many times served to change injustices that took place. They are once again having those results. It is time for the change once and for all. Committing a crime should lead to arrest; unequal treatment of an individual based on the color of his skin no longer can be condoned.  
I believe that those who loot and destroy should be severely punished. They are taking advantage of the death of George Floyd to enrich themselves. At the same time, they are destroying their own community’s business base, the same one that serves them on daily a basis. Such disregard for others and selfishness cannot be ignored.  
With that said, we must realize that those who commit the crimes are not the ones who are pleading for change. The majority of demonstrators are peaceful and also abhor the looting and burning. They don’t need to be attacked by police or National Guard units, or unidentified men in military gear. How dare anyone attack a peaceful demonstration and run people from a public park so that a government official can have his picture taken in front of a church with a bible held up for all to see. It was a circus. The call for military units to put down protests in cities is unconstitutional as well.  
Our country is reeling at this time. A vacuum exists where leadership should be. In fact, the continued fencing of blocks around the White House seems to be a way to keep the residents and workers there even more removed from what is going on in this country. We need to take a step back and see what is going on. Then we can answer the question that I have:  
Is this America? 

FEELING OLD, THINKING YOUNG

This past week I celebrated another birthday with my twin brother. Without stating how old I am, let’s just say that if the coronavirus cooperates, my high school class will celebrate its graduation from 50 years ago. I’m not ashamed of my age, but I don’t want to be one of those persons who brags about how long he’s survived. To be honest, I’m stunned at the number of years that have flown by.  
I’m a senior citizen, a Baby Boomer, and a retiree. Yes, I’m one of those individuals of which the younger generations make fun. We older folks deserve the pokes because our complaints sometimes are too loud and occur too often. The things about which I most fuss these days deal with health. I’m tired of starting and ending each day with a handful of pills. Prescriptions keep my cholesterol and blood pressure low, my blood flow clot-free, and my restless legs still. I’m not excited about swallowing these medicines, but I’ll do it because staying on this planet a while longer is a goal of mine.  
My body is not cooperating with me anymore. I used to be able to eat anything I wanted. These days, the wrong food choice leads to heartburn. Even late-night bouts of throwing up occur. I miss eating onions on a bowl of soup beans or a hamburger. Pizza now battles my digestion whenever I make the mistake of eating it. If this continues, I’ll be left eating leaves and twigs for meals.  
Each year brings more aches and pains. My knees and hips ache whenever I do yardwork. Yes, Jim and I have a tendency to overdo things. We still will dig ditches or move tons of river rocks. Still, a person would think that his parts would hold up better. Some nights, the aches and pains make sure I don’t get much sleep.  
Another thing that comes with each new birthday is my problem with names. Too often, I call the family roll when I address a comment to one of the children. I know my daughter’s name is Lacey, but more often, I call her Sadie, the name of our dog. Dallas is my son, but on occasion, I call him Jim, all the while knowing who he is. I’m also at that point where I put things in safe places; as a result, I struggle to find those objects again. I start to say something, and the slightest interruption might well cause me to forget my train of thought.  
What befuddles me most is the fact that my body is that of an old man; however, my mind is stuck between 18-22 years old. I look in the mirror and wonder how the image came to be. If my body would only sync with my mind, I’d be ready for anything. Instead, I wear out much too early and need to hit the sack. My mind wants to stay up late as I did as young man; my body tells me I’ll regret it the next day.  
I enjoyed my birthday and hope to have many more. At the same time, my hope is that I can maintain my health and that my mind still stays young. It’s when we begin to think old that we begin to lose the light that burns inside. All of you “Boomers” need to remain young at heart and mind. We still have much to do and accomplish.  

WHAT ARE WE WILLING TO GIVE UP?

The country is slowly beginning to open. I’m not so sure doing so is safe, but pressure from folks who own businesses and others who are just tired of being stuck at home are behind the move. I do understand that people want to go back to work, they want to return to life the way it used to be, and they want to socialize once again. I do too, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to dive back into a pool that still might lead to a spike in the number of infections and deaths.  
Despite the tragedies that have accompanied this pandemic, the world has witnessed some positive things. For one, CO2 emission have declined. In China, the decrease is as much as 25%. Globally, the of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels has declined by 8%.  
In Kathmunda, Nepal, Mt. Everest was visible for the first time in living memory. In major cities around the world, the smog has given way to clearer skies so that sunny days are clear and beautiful. Los Angeles, where sunlight is dimmed by all sorts of emissions, recently had the cleanest air of any major city.  
Maybe not so noticeable is the slowdown of daily life. During some mornings, I walk around my yard to look at flowers and plants. The steady stream of cars clogging Ball Camp Pike is gone. Instead, a small number of vehicles have traveled the road during the shutdown. The bonus from the absence of vehicles is the return of nature’s sounds. Birds fill the air with their songs. Squirrels scratch up and down tree trunks as they play. Rabbits crunch the leaves as they hopped through thickets. Even the pleasant sound of a mower cutting the grass in the early morning is audible.  
Yes, restaurants are hurting at present. Their dining rooms are empty, and businesses rely on folks picking up meals and taking them home. So many families are once again discovering mealtime. They sit at the supper table or even around the television and eat at the same time. For some, it’s the first time since the children were in highchairs that the entire family has eaten together. Perhaps members are getting to know each other again and are learning things about each other’s lives.  
This pandemic has devastated us in so many ways. We lost loved ones, suffered miserable physical effects, and watched our livelihoods and paychecks disappear. Still, it’s given us a sense of community. It’s shown us that the world still has plenty of heroes. It’s given us back our desire to help others and to be strong. Our ties to family and friends and country are strong. Our destruction of the environment has lessened as we curb our driving and economic pollution.  
Soon enough, folks will have the opportunity to return to a normal life. Is that what we want to do? Yes, we need personal contact and jobs that provide money on which to live. However, how much do we really need? Is family connection more important than half a dozen children activities? Is all that overtime work needed to provide a stable, quality life for families? Those are just some of the questions we must answer individually. Ultimately, each of us must answer the central question: What are we willing to give up?