Saturday, May 16, 2020

Remembering Mom: If Her Services Had Been About Her

Mom was entombed yesterday. Her service was a lovely sermon that she would likely have despised. It isn't that the minister wasn't eloquent. It was that he talked too much about religion, and got too many things about her incorrect.

To be fair, the job of speaking at her service was offered to me before the minister was hired. I declined. I had the experience speaking at Dad's service. Besides not having practiced public speaking for almost two decades, Mom never asked me to do her service. Dad did. There were points during his service that, if I had broken down, I probably could not have recovered. I was practiced in those days. To that end, it is as much my fault as anyone else's that Mom's services turned into a sermon like at a church service.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Family Finale

One of the things that Dad was most proud of showing off to people was how quickly he could muster the family to gather. He has been dead now for nearly twenty-eight years, and so has the family unity that died with him. It didn't have to die, but it did.

I think the erosion of the family was mostly due to regret. I cannot get into the heads of people, but I can listen to what they say and observe what they do to figure out if they are being honest. If they say one thing, and then do another thing, they aren't being honest. It isn't rocket science; it's human behavior. Actions generally reveal more about people's motives than do words.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Remembering Mom: She Knew Her Tomato Plants

Back in the old days, we would buy a bag of pot, and hope that no more than a fourth of it was stems and seeds. No matter what we tried, there were no good ways to consume the stems and seeds to get high. Just smoking the crap was more likely to give you a headache than a high. If a wayward seed made its way into a joint or a bowl of weed, it would pop like popcorn, except there were no kernels. The lit portions blown out by the seed popping were going to be holes in your shirts and cloth seats.

One of my final antics before leaving home was to use some of the seeds to start about twenty plants. I did it in the closet of my upstairs bedroom with a sun lamp my dad once used.

It wasn't an overly well thought-out plan. Even cousin Guy caught me. I had to beg him to not tell on me.

Yvonne Koecke (1935-2020): Third Eerie Premonition About Death Came True

Mom told me that she didn't fear death; she feared the mode of death. When she explained the difference, it didn't have anything to do with her cause of death. It had to do with the third of her three eerie premonitions that came true. I'll get back to that.

Mom was born on May 31st, 1935 in Leith, North Dakota. Her parents, Roy "Clair" and Dorothy Kamrath, packed everything up that July, and moved to Oregon with their oldest child. 

She told us tales about growing up in the logging camps, and various homes and farms, as her father moved the family seeking regular work during the Great Depression. The family would grow with Clarence, Bill, and Eileen added to the pack. Pa, as we used to call him, found regular employment with Oregon State College in Corvallis, and the family settled into its permanent home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Pondering Death and Its Options

Intellectually, I know that I will eventually die. However, there is this little part of me that wonders if I might be that special someone who somehow defies death. If you will excuse the source if it bothers you, Woody Allen said it best: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying." It is natural to feel that way because of our basic instinct for survival, but it is also intellectually dishonest to hold onto the thought for anything other than fantasy.

While we hold onto those thoughts in one part of our minds, another part of us wants to be adventurous and to live life to the fullest. James Dean's self-fulfilling quote, "Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse," takes the idea to the opposite end of the spectrum of life and death from immortality. While most of us don't go anywhere near that far in our pursuit of adventure, we tend to tie the will to live to having a life worth living.

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Price for Charity

Note: This was originally published in Issue 294 of the Newsletter in April 2000.

* * * * *

The capabilities and limitations of people vary from person to person. Each of us, though, has both, and they change throughout our lives. For example, the lady at the gas pump trying to balance on her one remaining leg* that I helped had no problem pumping her own gas before she lost her leg in an accident. Though she was limited in her ability to stand without some sort of aid, she also has capabilities that other people don't have.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Just When I Needed It Most

Note: This was originally published in Issue 284 of the Newsletter put out by the family business. This issue was published in June 1999.

* * * * *

I was feeling stressed. I was behind schedule (as usual) with more things to do than time to do them in (as usual). I pulled up to a red light next to a car with one of those clear decals like many people use to name their college. It read "Your College Sucks!" I chuckled.

Not a mile down the road, I got stopped at another red light. On the corner was a young lady with a sign advertising pizzas for $5 each. While I often get a kick out of watching creative people holding these signs, my attention was drawn to two young girls standing on either side of her. They were dressed up like pizza slices, and dancing in circles with great big smiles on their faces. I laughed.

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Parrothead Looks at 40

Note: This is an article written for the Newsletter, which was a monthly publication put out by the family business. It was published in January 1998.

* * * * *

I recently found a lode of music that included an 8-track recording of a live performance by Jimmy Buffett called You Had to be There. It sent me into another Parrothead phase.

For those of you who don't know what a Parrothead is, it is simply a devout Jimmy Buffett fan. He has looked at life humorously through his music for more than 30 years. Being a Parrothead requires an attitude that life is good even when things aren't. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Kids Are Back!

Note: This was originally an article in the Newsletter that our company published. This particular article was in Issue 286 from August 1999.

* * * * * 

As hard as it is to raise two daughters (one a teenager, and the other on the verge), it is always harder for me when they leave for the east coast to visit their mother during the summer. The 46 consecutive weeks of "I need this" and "I want that" should probably prelude a welcome 6 week break, but there's a hollow feeling when the kids are gone.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Engineer and His Apprentice

It was only a garage roof, but, after years of admiring Jack, the engineer in the family, I would finally have the opportunity to work beside and for him as an apprentice, albeit for one rather small job. Still, this was my chance to cast away the doubts I seem to have over everything, and learn how to be certain about everything based on an engineering degree like Jack has from the local state college.

Now, I have a bit of experience with some things involving maintenance, but Jack suggested that he oversee the job from afar to make certain that my uncertainty about almost everything did not hinder the project. He assured me that it would not be a problem for him provided I sent him pictures and information so he could tell me what was certainly the correct way to do the job. He even offered that he was dealing with a project where he lives that was quite similar to this particular garage roofing project.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

You Hold Him Down; I'll Tie It To Him

Dave and I go back many years. There were thousands of times of getting stoned, playing darts, and having a drink or two. However, there were two nights that were memorable because instead of being stoned on pot, we were taking hallucinogens.

Dean and Bob joined us on the mushroom adventure. We went to the new Stadium Bowl that got washed away. We got what we needed and got out of there so we wouldn't get caught with our haul. It was off to J Street where we added 'shrooms to some cheap frozen pizza and made some terrible tasting tea. We weren't after the taste, and soon we were tripping.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Are We Equal?

It would be both nice and convenient if the answer to the question of whether or not we are equal were a simple "yes." However, that will not stand up to scrutiny, even to the most liberal of minds. Ultimately, the answer is "no," we are not equal except that we each are only one person. Once we get beyond that similarity, the differences begin indiscriminately.

Sometimes, though, the differences are discriminatory. We would all like to think that we are either exempt from the possibility of discrimination, or that our discrimination is more justifiable than other discriminations, but it is still discrimination.

There is truth in measuring things in degrees or in amounts, and some discrimination is more justifiable than other discriminations. To wit: it is more justifiable to discriminate against people with disabilities if the disability means they cannot fulfill the needs for the job, like lifting or climbing requirements, than it is to discriminate against them because they don't fit the image of the company.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Depressing Tale of Empathy

There was no particular significance to that Tuesday. I had no other plans for the day, so it fit into the schedule. I hadn't told anyone about my plans, but I didn't on those other occasions, either. It all worked out okay those times. I know that one of these times it won't, but I still think selecting how and when we die has its advantages.

That Tuesday I chose to take an overdose of sleeping pills washed down with some whiskey. This time felt different than all those other times, though. In fact, I could point to the differences. 

All those other visions of hanging myself, blowing my brains out, and jumping off bridges were just things that seem to go through my mind. I find it hard to believe that everyone hasn't at some point thought about suicide. If they do, and they rid themselves of the thought, then we do it the same way. A few people have claimed to never have thought about it, but even denying the thoughts requires some level of contemplation about it, or so it would seem. 

Like I said, I mostly just get rid of the thoughts. Often. Really often.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Problem With Knowing It All

Aside from the obvious levity in the title, and the preposterous notion that any individual has the answers to all truth, the biggest problem with knowing it all is that then the conclusions must be accepted and evidence must not contradict the conclusions. After all, if we accept evidence contrary to that which we know, then we cannot have known it all. That creates a shorted circuit in the brains of some people. Seriously. They cannot get past the point of looping confirmation bias once a preconceived notion, long held and somewhat sacred, is challenged for truth.

I suspect there will be people who think I am talking about them in particular, and there will be others who think I am talking about other people and not them. However, I am talking about everyone in general and no one in particular. We all are susceptible to thinking we have the answers even though we don't fully understand the questions. Besides, even if we don't have the answers, we can have opinions that we don't fully understand.

And the loop begins anew.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

If You Are Tired of Politics, Lose Your Opinion, Too

Every four years we see the people poke their heads out to state again how tired they are of politics. Some of it is actually okay. There are people who simply are not into politics, who don't want to discuss politics, and who don't want to be dragged into political discussions. There is consistency when the person whose head pokes out to tell someone that they don't discuss politics when everyone is talking about politics.

However, there are those people who feel the need to follow the declaration by offering their opinions on politics. Then, they claim their opinions on politics are valid. 

What do they mean when they aren't interested in politics, but they think their opinions on political matters are valid? That is like saying they aren't interested in cooking, but they have opinions on how we can improve our recipes. How would they know if they don't know our recipes? They can't know. They can't support the reasons for the improvements if they don't know what already goes into it. 

The same goes with politics. If someone doesn't want to know what went into the political discussions, how can they possibly offer anything of value to improve it? They can't. They shouldn't. If it's you who does it, don't.