Getting and Losing a Girlfriend

The past weekend was one filled with emotions. They provided a rollercoaster ride for those who were involved and had Amy and me running in different directions.

Jake Mabe, writer for The Shopper, tied the knot on Saturday. He and bride Jennifer opted to exchange vows at The Museum of Appalachia. They sandwiched their vows in between UT football game weekends, and that made for a good turnout.

The couple exchanged rings and “I love you” at the base of the waterwheel on the mill at the museum. Rows of white chairs sat in the field, and Mason jars held brown and orange arrangements. A clear blue sky and cool temperatures kept guests comfortable. The setting was one that matched Jake’s unpretentious personality and love for history. The bride was beautiful, and her glowing smile warmed the hearts of all. Quick vows over, the throng moved to the banquet hall for food and festivities.

At First Christian Church, another couple enjoyed a wedding day. Julie Mayo, a member of the church, became the wife of Jonah Ruddy. The ceremony took place in the sanctuary. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Knoxville for a couple to begin life together. A pipe organ filled the setting with the majestic notes of special music for the occasion. What made it more special was the presence of so many folks who have been members of the church in years past and folks who have watched the bride grow up. Afterward, guests sat down to a wonderful meal in the fellowship hall.

In both cases, the young couples repeated their vows with excitement. They looked at each other with the sparks of new love. Both traveled to wonderfully romantic places for their honeymoons, and upon their return, they’ll set up new households where each will learn, possibly with some angst and flaring tempers, how to live with another person. That will include accepting the partner’s quirks and annoying habits. In the end, the hopes are that both couples will find years of happiness and love together.

On Friday, things weren’t so joyful. John Rutherford left a message on our phone. His wife June had fallen ill on Wednesday and continued to worsen throughout the next day. His call informed me that she’d suffered a massive stroke and wasn’t expected to live. As soon as I heard the message after arriving home, I took a quick shower and headed to the hospital. I found my good friend John sitting in the hallway with his nephew. He teared up and told me exactly what had happened.

For the next couple of hours we sat together and just talked about lots of things. John commented that it would be hard to lose June. They’ve been married for 59 years, the same number of years I’ve been on this earth. I thought about that, and it broke my heart, mostly because I know how I’d feel if something happened to Amy.

June passed just as Saturday appeared. That same bright day for two couples who were getting married looked gloomy and dark to a longtime husband. John made arrangements, and he held up as best as could be expected. He hated crying in front of people, but how could he keep his emotions in check when the love of his life was no longer there? I told him that no one would think less of him if he showed emotions.

Men, you need to make a short trip to wherever your girlfriend is sitting. Once there, give her a hug and tell her how important she is to you. Over the years, one of my biggest questions has been how I got lucky enough to be with a woman like Amy. We’ve had plenty of rough patches, but with some help, the good Lord above, and a deep, abiding love between us, our marriage has stood the test of time. The truth is that we love each other more now than we did during those first few days of marriage.

Amy is my girlfriend. I love her. June was John’s girlfriend, and he loved her, but now she’s gone. Let’s hope that several decades from now Jake and Jennifer and Jonah and Julie are still together and that the guys still consider their wives as “girlfriends.” Say a prayer for John Rutherford as you imagine how much he misses his girlfriend.

Empower and Enable My Ass

I’ve held off as long as I can about this subject, but the common sense

behind it is so lacking that the time to spout off has arrived. My take on it will rub some folks the wrong way, but on this we’ll have to just disagree.

For too long now, our society has taken on “catch words.” They serve as nothing more than deflections for what is reality. One, for instance, is “empower.” According to the dictionary, the word means “to promote the self-actualization or influence of.” We hear it all the time. Some organization claims that its agenda “empowers” individuals to do something. Legislation is passed to “empower” some special interest group in its fight for their place in society.

Give me a break. Since when did individuals or groups need empowerment from the government? Over the course of years, they were empowered through the sweat created by their own efforts. The civil rights movement empowered itself by taking its message to the streets where common folks live.

The same is true of women’s suffrage. The stronger sex grew tired of being treated as second class citizens, so they took the fight for voting rights to the courthouses, community centers, and other public places. Then they demanded an equal voice in the choices made by this country, and guess what. Changes occurred and the vote was theirs.

The Vietnam War brought about never before seen waves of dissension. Citizens, as well as many veterans of that war, saw the injustices of it. They so believed in their cause that they organized and marched and protested until the war that the government wouldn’t let the troops win ended.

Now, all sorts of groups clamor for inclusion in society. They want equal footing with other well-established causes, organizations, or mores. However, advocates aren’t about to tackle the tasks on their own. No, they stand around and complain and whine and wait for some entity to “empower” them. They want it free of charge and without having to put any effort or sweat into make dreams reality.

And what is all this about “enabling.” The definition of “enable” is “to provide with the means or opportunity.” Again, those who want something want it for free. Individuals look to someone or something to “enable” them to act. How does that work? If I need money to pay the bills, why in the world would I look to some group to give me the means to earn money? Seems to me that the need to eat and pay bills is enough motivation to find a job. I don’t need anyone to provide me with the means or opportunity to search for employment. I sell myself to a boss, and through my own actions I enable myself to earn the money I need.

The term “enabler” has replaced teacher too many times in public schools. I always hated to be called one. I was a teacher. That meant standing in front of classes and explaining how to do something or interpreting some piece of literature. When I’d covered the skills, the time came for students to put into practice the skills that I taught. I didn’t enable anyone. Instead, my job was to provide the material or the skill. Whether a student took those things and applied them or sat idly by and earned failing marks was his or her decision. They “enabled” themselves by taking up what I taught and applying it.

Empower and enable my ass. The folks of this country need to stop looking outside themselves for power and motivation. Those things dwell within, and that’s where we all need to look if our hopes and dreams are to come to fruition. Ralph Waldo Emerson “empowered” all of us with one line: “Insist upon yourself; never imitate.” That’s good enough advice for me.

Waiting for a Healing

I knew we were in trouble when she walked into the room and said, “Hello, my name is Peggy.” Our Sunday afternoon turned into a stop in hell.

Amy and I traveled to Athens, TN to eat lunch with Dallas. He wanted to spend time with his mother on her birthday weekend. Our visit with him at the Cracker Barrel followed a good morning at church and then a relaxing drive.

On the way home, Amy called the Summit Medical Walk-in Clinic in Farragut to set an appointment. Her left wrist was puffy and ached so much that she woke up from the pain during the night. I practiced medicine without a license and diagnosed the problem as being tendonitis, but she wanted to get a second opinion.

The employee who answered the phone set up an appointment at 3:45. That gave us plenty of time to drive back to Knoxville. In fact, we got there early (big surprise with me being involved) and walked through the door a half hour early. The place was crowded, but the attendant told Amy that individuals with appointments would be seen first. Not a single seat was empty, so I stood for awhile.

Most of the folks walking in snorted and coughed and wheezed. Whether they suffered from colds or allergies wasn’t clear. However, I wanted to hurry up and get out of the place before someone hacked on me a million germs attacked and laid me low. What I can’t figure out is why folks will lie around sick for a couple of days and finally look for help when the weekend comes.

One woman rose from her chair and asked the receptionist behind the glass how much longer would she have to wait? Her voice carried throughout the waiting area as she announced she was experiencing heart palpitations. DUH! If my heart is fluttering or beating so fast that it feels as if it might jump out of my chest, I’m not wasting time in a clinic. I’m headed for the closest ER.

A young mother entered and carried a little boy who appeared to be around five years old. She filled out papers and asked how long it would be. When the worker couldn’t give her a definitive answer, she snapped, “My son has had a fever of 104 for five hours.” It’s been a long time since our kids were little, but I’m sure I would have had either child somewhere much earlier if one had come down with a fever that high.

We sat, patiently I might add, as our 3:45 appointment melted into 4:00 and then 4:45. Finally, Amy was called back a few minutes before 5:00. After the nurse took vitals, the physician assistant entered and introduced herself as “Peggy.” She advised Amy to have an x-ray and said she’d have the nurse take one. More than fifteen minutes later, my wife asked the nurse about it, to which she responded that Peggy hadn’t told her. In all, we waited for forty-five minutes to have an x-ray taken, developed, and analyzed.

I admit by then I was HOT. We’d spent the entire afternoon in a crowded waiting area with no lights and no ventilation. For a brief time the receptionist opened the door that led to the rooms so that cooler air could circulate, but that didn’t last long.

A weekend clinic should be adequately staffed. Having someone to check patients in, one nurse, and a physician’s assistant seems to be running a facility on the cheap. Come on! At least a couple of nurses and examiners comprise and adequate minimum staff for serving people. It looks like Summit Medical is cutting costs without regard to service to patients.

When Amy and I finally escaped, it was almost 6:00, and we still had to find an open pharmacy to fill prescriptions. Once safely at home, we both reached for a soothing refreshment. Sipping and decompressing, we came to the decision that the next time we had a situation that required medical attention, a visit to the emergency room is our preference. The wait won’t be any longer than the one we had Sunday, and we’ll even get to see a physician.

Buffaloed by My Blackberry

As my Blackberry pinged, a new message appeared. It announced that I could now have Blackberry Protect. Oh how I wish I had ignored that app.

Seeing the word “protect” led me to add the program to my phone. The information about Blackberry Protect states it is “a free application designed to help find a lost BlackBerry smartphone and keep the information on it secure. That was just what I needed. Without questioning, I downloaded and installed this cursed app. It didn’t take long for me to discover how stupid I’d been.

After rebooting my phone, I checked my information. One place I looked first was Lister, another app. It keeps lists of things that are typed into it and prioritizes them. Over the last year and a half, I’ve typed in no fewer than thirty titles and ideas for columns I planned to write.

When Lister came up, the screen was empty. I read a message that said no lists were available. Yep, everything that I typed into the app had disappeared. It had been zapped into some other dimension where my retrieving it was impossible.

Most folks are probably shaking their heads and thinking, “Why didn’t the moron have the list somewhere else?” That’s a good question for which I have an answer. I put those ideas on my phone as soon as they came to me. At this point in my life, ideas, appointments, and chores flash into my consciousness briefly before evaporating for all time. By typing them onto Lister, I was assured the “next great column” would be waiting for me when I sat down at the keyboard. Then I simply forgot to make a copy of the items.

So, here I am without a clue what those topics were. Oh, a couple returned to my mind, but for the most part, they taken flight. I should have known better. I’m no technical whiz anyway. Computers confound me, and on so many occasions I’ve run to my neighbor Mike Bremseth or to fellow teacher Brad Neal and begged them to save me from the blue screen of despair.

It’s the same way with my iPod. I’ve invested in a library of songs that bring entertainment and fond memories. However, not long ago I hit the wrong key, and an entire segment of them disappeared. I furrowed my brow, cursed, and spent three hours trying to rescue the music, all of it in vain.

I love my flat screen television and Bose speaker system and blu-ray player. But I can’t operate them. The simple act of loading a DVD and watching a movie overwhelms me. Amy or one of the kids, when they’re in town, has to take over the controls and get things running right.

On my night stand sits an alarm clock. It has no radio or CD player. On the back are dials that I can use to set the time and alarm. Simple? You bet your ass because I’m not smart enough to figure out the operations of anything higher level.

So, I sit here and grieve for the list of topics that I lost. My last hope is that someone who reads this can email me instructions on how to find those lost ideas. Whoever can will have earned my undying thanks. Until that happens, I’m going back to paper and pen for cataloging ideas. Things will be fine until I have to remember where I put the paper.