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January 12, 2006 [ More archived home pages here ]

Young Feelings From An Older Man

Today's song is, Old Man by Neil Young released in 1972.

When Sherry and I married, we lived in a very small wooden cabin without running water in a small Wisconsin farm town. We love those days gone bye and still think of those first five months of marriage there as some of our best times in life. We slept in the loft of that cabin and we often looked out the window into the woods all around us. We loved when the moon was full in the night sky, spreading moonbeams throughout the forest. Almost every night we played our music on my small tape recorder. We liked the music of Neil Young, especially his album, Harvest. "Old Man" is one of my favorite selections from that album. I used to consider when I played it in that cabin how I would feel when I got older. Some of those ramifications are coming true as I age.

In many ways, I still think of myself as a twenty-five year-old guy. I'm still an incurable romantic on life and always thinking of ways to improve life around me. My wife of almost 33 years keeps me young with her smile and close attention in matters of the heart. My daughter and other extended family members are part of my life that keeps me going. I am surrounded by many friends and others who are spread out around the world. All together as a whole, I've lived a very good life. The ups and downs provided insights and understanding to help me know who I am and to help others when I can.

For over ten years now, Sherry and I have practiced empty nesting. We raised our daughter to be independent and that allowed her to enjoy her personal freedom when she was eighteen. She was secure in her own feelings when we moved away from the Chicago area to San Diego. It made the transition for us moving here easier. Distance doesn't change the feelings between parents and children in a loving family. Whether parents live nearby or across the world, love of family remains paramount. At least that's what we've discovered in our family.

What the years of my life taught me is that we all are really here for a very short time in the grand scheme of things. We should share what we learn, share our love for one another as that emotion is felt between us. Sharing love feels great and I often wonder why that emotion isn't expressed more often between people who obviously feel it between them.

Love is a respectful condition and the totality of what one feels for another should be conveyed in appropriate terms. Smiles often set that tone and indicate what words or actions could or should not. Respect of the total person is another paramount condition of love. To love another for only certain attributes is often indicative of something other than love, perhaps lust. The more lust is in a relationship, the less love is present, in my humble opinion. When I was a teenager, I mistakenly thought otherwise and learned through pain and heartache from misinterpretations of those experiences. Some of you will understand better than others what I mean, probably from your own experiences in youth.

I'm still learning in life. That learning process never ends. I learn from older people and I learn from the young. Age is not an indicator of knowledge or wisdom. A true heart expressing from within is the best indicator of what is important in life. As I said above, perhaps people should consider expressing what is within more openly in the spirit of love and sharing. As a pathfinder, an artist, an author, a lover, a friend, I practice what I preach. When I fail in those endeavors, I reach out with apology and ask for forgiveness and understanding. Then I'm usually accepted back into the fold of those I offended.

I needed to be a bit more revealing today. I've been holding on to very wonderful news for nearly three weeks now. I've never had to hold my "virtual breath" for so long. ;-)

Two days before Christmas, Sherry and I were informed that we will be grandparents this August! This is our first grandchild and we have swung into high gear with our love and feelings for our daughter and her husband, Michael. Michael's parents are just as excited as we are and the whole expectation grows with every email and phone call exchanged. As soon as I found out the news, my fatherly, now grandfatherly genes started kicking-in again as they did 30 years ago when Sherry was pregnant with Jenny. The target date is August 12, 2006. I'm predicting it will be August 16, 2006, just because that day of that month has mattered in other events in my life.

Last week, I gave a speech at my Twin Oaks Toastmasters club. The subject was the story of my life since Jenny was born and I presented it without notes for the entire 8+ minutes directly in front of the audience as is the preferred delivery technique in our club. I conveyed the emotion of the speech without becoming overwhelmed and I present it below for your review. The title is, First, I Cried and was my second advanced speech from the Storytelling manual towards my ATM-Bronze award.

First, I Cried

First, I cried when I saw her. A moment before she was yet unborn, then before my eyes, she arrived in our world and drew her first breathe of air. She announced her presence with a cry. Her name is Jenny and I have listened intently since.

My tears fell down on my wife Sherry's face as she lay on that delivery table. It was September 1976. My life changed forever that day. All that I had been before was only preparation for what was to follow.

The tracks of those tears dried shortly after they were shed. But in any moment I can still feel them anew. Those memories will never leave me while I live.

I recall asking myself, "Who will you grow up to be, Jenny?"

I quickly learned the skills of taking care of a baby. Diaper changing, bathing, feeding and burping, became the frequent daily chores in the early life of Jenny. Many times I held her on my shoulder or in my arms and watched her fall asleep there.

In a few short years Jenny was walking and talking. When Jenny asked, "Pa, will you play with me?" I always did. I used to take her out to play at the parks or push her on a swing.

I took Jenny to her first day of school. She cried at first, but then laughed right along with the other children as I stepped into the background that day. For many months I would pick her up from school and we would go have a snack or I would take her to the local toy store and let her select something to add to her vast collection of toys. We still have her favorite doll, "Susie" which we put out on her bed whenever she comes to visit us.

She sat by me from the time I purchased my first computer and learned how to use computers from that point on in her life. One time while in third grade, Jenny was asked to help out with a computer problem at school while the Superintendent was visiting. She did so and when the Superintendent thanked her, Jenny gave him her business card, it was actually my business card with my name scratched out and hers printed in!

I learned my daughter had a streak of entrepreneur in her and it was one more piece of the answer for who she was going to be.

I taught Jenny how to ride a bike and how to play video games. I taught her how to use some small hand tools. I taught her how to record cassette tapes from the stereo equipment. All was good between parents and daughter and we drew very close in love.

From the time Jenny was seven years old, Sherry and I encouraged Jenny to accept responsibility for herself. That concept expanded over the years as she matured.

I helped Jenny with her homework. When she struggled with a topic I found ways to encourage her to find her own answers instead of telling her the solution. Usually she read too fast and missed absorbing the details. "Pa" she said, "I can't find the answer to these questions!" I responded that the information is there, let me help you find it. "No it's not there", Jenny would reply with exasperation in her tone. Slowly I helped her uncover the information and she would say, "Pa, how did you find it?" I would tell her it was written in a "Parent Font" that only parents can read...

I remember when Jenny graduated elementary school. That was the year we moved to a large house in Naperville, IL. It was the house that Jenny would live in while she attended high school. Sherry and I watched her evolve into a young woman. We had many talks over the years about countless topics. "Can I use the car tonight?", Jenny would ask in anticipation. "Can I go out to a party Friday night?", she would ask us trustingly, "I really want to go", she exclaimed. She was a very good child.

We never hid any secrets from Jenny about ourselves. She knew all about my life, the good and bad parts, the crazy reckless times when I was a teenager, the struggles of becoming a man. She learned from her mother, how Sherry grew to be a woman and who married me at age 18.

We watched Jenny graduate from high school. She would be leaving home a few months later to attend a private college two hundred miles away. It took time to get used to not having her around.

In her first year at college she found someone who gradually took her attention away from me. His name was Michael and he treated Jenny with respect and kindness. In time she told us she loved him and wanted to share her life with his.

On February 13th 1997, Michael called Sherry and I and asked our permission to marry Jenny. We thought that was special of him and of course gave our blessing. He proposed to Jenny the next day and the engagement was on.

We watched Jenny graduate college in 1998 with a degree in Psychology. Michael graduated that day too with a degree in Finance. They lived together until they married in April 2000. I walked Jenny down the aisle to give to Michael to be his bride. I cried again once more and I was not alone in tears that day. The families of Jenny and Michael all shed them at that occasion as they heard Jenny and Michael recite their wedding vows.

They are happily married for almost six years now. I have held many special conversations with Jenny and Michael over the years. I truly have been blessed by marrying Sherry and being a father to Jenny. Sherry, Jenny, Michael, and I are all very close in our love for each other. That's the way families should be.

Life answered my question of who Jenny would become -- a happy person and successful in her life.

This summer we will be grandparents! The old dried tracks of my tears will fill with fresh ones again. And Jenny might ask her child, "Who will you grow up to be?"

To say aloud I feel all those young feelings again by this older man is a great sense of exhilaration!

Don


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