I wrote this piece on January 22, 2015. I am sharing it again because of yesterday’s post, which reminded me of a 2018 post that was “fathered” by my homage to Carl. I’ll probably repost those 2018 posts later, just to preserve them. Carl was a wonderful man, and it was nice to remember how kind and generous he was, even until the end of his life. I’m grateful I was able to speak to him one last time in November 2014.
As I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook, which is my usual habit. My cousin, Lori, posted that her dad, my Uncle Carl, had passed away. I wasn’t surprised by the news. He was suffering from leukemia and my mom told me a couple of days ago that Carl was on hospice and had been told there was nothing more to be done.
Carl was one of my dad’s four brothers, younger by about seven years. He was a great dancer, very friendly, loving, and warm. For many years, he worked in Natural Bridge, Virginia, running all the tourist attractions. Later, he worked in Luray. Carl had a son and a daughter, eleven years apart in age. He also had five grandchildren, three of whom are now grown and two that are still very young.
Over Thanksgiving in 2014, I sat down with Carl and we had a long talk. One of my other uncles, my aunt’s husband, Bill, interrupted us briefly to comment on a “houseguest” Carl was hosting, a young guy with serious OCD issues who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. The guy couldn’t live with his girlfriend because she was getting welfare and it was against the rules for her to co-habitate. Uncle Bill said, “Carl, that guy at your house is a POW.” I looked up at him questioningly and he clarified, “Piece of work.”
Carl then started telling me about this young guy who had moved into a spare apartment on his property. He didn’t pay rent and couldn’t keep a job. Carl told me his wife, Betty, could barely stand to be around him. But Carl was determined to help this young fellow. He did all he could to try to hook him up with people who could help him… ministers and social workers, even though the guy wasn’t interested in that kind of help. He let him live in the apartment, even though the guy didn’t pay rent. Carl said the guy did pay for his electric bills and food, at least.
As Carl was telling me about his “guest”, he focused on the positive, saying that the apartment was kept immaculately clean, thanks to the guy’s issues with obsessive compulsive disorder. He liked having the apartment lived in rather than sitting empty. If no one lived there, he still wouldn’t be getting any money for the place.
I got the feeling that Carl just wanted to be kind and helpful, even though many people told him that he was being used and was enabling his houseguest’s irresponsible behavior. Many people told him to toss the POW out on his ass. But Carl wouldn’t do it. He wanted to be a positive force in the young guy’s life.
I have a feeling that Carl’s “POW” is about to lose his free ride. My Aunt Betty has been ill with Alzheimer’s Disease and Carl had been taking care of her. When we saw each other at Thanksgiving time, Carl told me that his wife’s illness was getting worse and they often had the same conversations repeatedly because she would forget. Betty can’t live by herself, so arrangements will no doubt have to be made. That will likely mean that Carl’s POW friend will need to move on. ETA: Aunt Betty passed in October 2018.
I will miss my Uncle Carl. He was a very loving and decent person. He loved his family very much and was always smiling and laughing. He was deeply caring and empathetic, yet he had a fun loving side, too. I wish I had access to my wedding photos. I have a hilarious picture of him at my wedding with a red rose between his teeth and a big toothy grin. Every time I saw Carl, he was happy to see me. He always gave me big bear hugs and he loved to just sit and talk and tell stories. He told a funny story at my dad’s memorial just two months ago. I will always treasure that memory and am grateful that he was able to spend his last holidays with his loved ones instead of in a hospital room.
I am not a very religious person, but I picture my dad up in heaven, waiting to show Carl the way to the rest of his loved ones who passed before him. Four of Granny’s nine children have gone home now.
The featured photo is of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House in Scotland. Below is what I wrote about the photo in my original post about Carl’s death.
This is a picture of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Bill and I visited there in 2012. We had a wonderful little Scottish lady giving us a tour and she was a great storyteller. She told us about how the house was used as a Naval hospital during World War I. As she was telling us about the house under this beautiful ceiling, she talked about sick and injured military men, waking up to see that ceiling. She said, in her delightful Scottish brogue, “One look at that and you would surely think you’d crossed the bar!” I like to think that Carl and my dad both saw something amazing as they slipped away beyond the bar… Maybe they saw something even more amazing than the ceiling at Mount Stuart…
A little mood music for this post… Some might say I married a SNAG (sensitive new age guy).
It’s a blissfully quiet and peaceful Saturday morning. All of the home improvement work has been done, and the home invaders are wherever it is they’re living on the wrong side of the tracks. I base that, of course, only on their boorish behavior when they were in my home. For all I know, they are perfect gentlemen when they aren’t working. 😀
The carpenter came here yesterday, behaved in a respectable and courteous way, and quietly did his work for a few hours. His job was all done outside, and he even climbed up to the balconies using a ladder. Using a ladder certainly wasn’t my specific requirement; it was apparently what worked best for him. So that process went just fine. Now the job is done, and I can relax.
After yesterday’s blog ranting was over, I felt somewhat better. I did some chores, like washing ALL of the bed linens on my bed, which got polluted with dust. I walked Noyzi and watched a movie. I was calmly sitting in the bedroom, trying to stay cool, when Bill came home. He had a lovely bouquet of flowers in his hand and a very sweet expression on his face. “For you.” he said, handing the bright bouquet to me.
“Awwww… that is so nice! Thank you!” I replied.
“I just wanted to brighten up your day. I know you’ve had a really hard week.” Bill added.
“Thanks! I really appreciate it!” I said with a big smile.
I couldn’t help but laugh, though, because of a tweet I saw by Ex. As usual, it was part funny, and part ludicrous. She used to be married to this kind, pleasant, gentle man, the kind of man who brings flowers to his wife when she’s stressed out, and will come home with red wine, steaks, and chocolate when Aunt Flow is visiting (which hasn’t happened in a few months).
Bill is a man who doesn’t get pissy when a guilty pleasure song by Air Supply comes on my HomePod, and will happily listen to me talk about funny scenes from The Golden Girls. This is a dude that knows what kind of face cream I use and will happily fetch some for me when he goes to the post exchange during the work week. He’s bought me the right feminine hygiene supplies, too… again, when it was necessary. Bill also sometimes cries when he visits churches and art museums. He loves to read literature and study psychology, and he’s very perceptive and compassionate.
I once watched him comfort my father when my dad had severe dementia. My dad was very agitated, because he was upset about being in a rehab facility. He had always been a man who was in charge of his own realities. But there my father was, disoriented and angry, sick in every sense of the word, with several days of beard growth and clothes that hung from his newly thin body. He was wearing inflatable compression socks that he hated, and was trying to remove them as he was muttering to us, asking for our “input”. Bill recognized that my dad was talking like the seasoned Air Force officer he’d once been before he retired in 1978.
I watched my husband gently push on the inflatable compression sock my dad had been trying to remove as he said, “Sir, don’t worry, we’ve got the mission covered. You need to rest and recover so you can get back into the fight.”
My dad immediately calmed down, and we were able to leave. Bill took us out to dinner at a tavern called Park Lane. My dad had stayed quiet for a short time before a nurse called my mom and asked her to return to the facility and help calm down my dad again. Mom blew a gasket and yelled at the nurse. She was exhausted and fed up with paying people to do a job that they seemingly weren’t able to do. Bill calmly took us back to my mom’s apartment and made my mom a Manhattan (her favorite cocktail).
This is a really good guy, folks. He’s the opposite of a “prick”. And yet, this is what Ex tweeted yesterday…
“Most men, indeed. I asked my brother what happens to little boys to turn them into PR1CKS, when they grow up. He said they are forced to ignore their feminine side. Thoughts?”
There are so many thoughts that come to my head as I read that. I’m in a unique position to know some things about Ex. I know that she spent almost ten years married to a man who never fails to think of other people. In spite of his 30 years in the Army, my husband is a man who is very much in touch with his feminine side. He’s also one of the most non-dickish men I have ever known. I’m grateful she divorced him so it was possible for him to marry me. I am enjoying his company immensely.
I don’t know what it takes to please Ex, apart from sending her a man made out of her wildest fantasies, capable of instantly changing himself to suit her every whim before she has the chance to dream up whatever will satisfy her on any given day. All I know is that my husband thought enough of me this week to remember me with some flowers. Then, he cooked me dinner… and breakfast, come to think of it. Right now, he’s walking the dog.
I told Bill what Ex tweeted, and he seemed surprised. He knew her brother, and let’s just say he’s not the most introspective person. When Ex’s adoptive father died (whom she met for the first time when she was 7 years old), there was a 21 gun salute, because he’d been a veteran. The shells were supposed to be divided among his grandchildren. Ex’s brother gathered them up and kept them for himself. Ex’s father also left her three eldest children a total of $15,000 in his will. Ex used it on a down payment for a house, which later went into foreclosure. Seems to me that she’s not one who can really talk about what constitutes “prick” behavior in other people. She’s continually proven that she’s the female version of that, herself. 😉
Anyway… it’s not my circus and not my monkeys… but I did find that an interesting comment from Ex. I KNOW she was married to a man who is in touch with his feminine side, but is still all MAN. That wasn’t enough for her. Fortunately, it is more than enough for me.
Here’s a repost of a blog entry I wrote on July 15, 2018. At the time, we were visiting Dublin to see Paul Simon, James, Taylor, and Bonnie Raitt in concert. Yes, they were all performing in the same awesome show! I reread this story today, remembering our fun in Ireland, and the opportunity Bill got to right a wrong.
Like most everyone, my husband Bill has a dark side. Sometimes it comes out inappropriately. I’m usually surprised and amused when he says something egregiously shocking or mean.
Yesterday, after we had dinner and drinks at a local pub, we stopped by the Spar (Austrian mini mart) to buy some water and a bottle of wine. We’d had several beers between us and a couple of whiskies, so we were feeling no pain. As we approached the cash register, a very thin, bearded man standing behind us asked the cashier if the toilet in the store was working.
The cashier obviously lied and said, “No Mate, the toilet isn’t working. Sorry.”
As we left the store, I said, “Well… that was clearly bullshit.”
Bill responded, “Right. He probably should have said, ‘No, I don’t want you shooting up in our bathroom.'”
Just then, as we crossed the street, the guy passed us. He turned and glared at Bill, who was mortified. I don’t know if he heard Bill make that comment, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Bill had kind of blurted it out in a normal tone of voice. The toilet seeking chap did seem to send Bill a death ray with his eyes, which would make it seem like he’d heard him mock him.
It was kind of surprising that Bill was the one who made that crack. Usually I’m the one who says stuff like that. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to think that guy was a drug addict, though, or even homeless. He hadn’t appeared to be homeless to my eyes. In fact, he simply looked like a working person, which Bill and I have both been in our lifetimes.
Poor Bill is wracked with guilt, though. In fact, while we were enjoying afternoon tea today, he said, “I feel awful about that comment I made. I think I’m going to donate to a homeless shelter.” Sure enough, after we finished having tea, we came back to our hotel room and he started researching charities.
So many people would have just brushed off the incident, but Bill feels the need to repent. Actually, I had the same thought that it might be a good thing to do– give to a homeless charity. Maybe it will improve our karma. I’m just glad no one whipped out a cell phone to record the incident and put it on YouTube.
This morning, as we were touring the Jameson’s Visitor’s Center, Bill was telling me how guilty he felt for making that obnoxious comment. I have felt that way before and have made comments I later regretted. Fortunately, I haven’t yet been caught on film. As current events have shown us, though, it’s not hard to be caught having a bad day, saying or doing shameful things. I know Bill isn’t a shitty person, but sometimes he does make shitty comments. Don’t we all?
One time, we were walking into the German city of Ludwigsburg and we passed an enormous piggy bank in front of a bank. The piggy bank has a name, though I can’t remember it at the moment (ETA: it’s Louise). One can go inside of it and/or drop coins in it to be donated to charity.
It was 2014 and we hadn’t yet been back in Germany for long. Bill said, “I wouldn’t want to go inside of that pig. I’d be afraid someone would close the door and turn on the gas.”
Instantly, my mouth dropped open, since we were standing there in Germany, where people had once been rounded up to be gassed in concentration camps. Bill, of course, hadn’t even thought about the concentration camps. He was thinking of some book he’d read where people were killed that way– had nothing to do with Hitler’s era. It was just a thoughtless comment, same as yesterday. When he saw my facial expression it dawned on him that what he’d said was kind of shocking and potentially offensive. It kind of revealed a dark side of a man who is usually one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know.
Almost all of us have a dark side. Some people are less ashamed of letting theirs show than others are. I don’t think Bill needs to feel guilty, though. Everybody fucks up sometimes. And most people don’t feel the need to repent afterwards. That’s what makes Bill such a special guy in my eyes.
EDITED TO ADD…
A couple of hours after I posted this, Bill and I went out into the city. The Dublin area has been experiencing a drought for the past 40 days. In fact, a significant archeological find was discovered recently thanks to the drought. The New York Times reported on it. Today, there was rain. It’s been raining all day. So after we tasted Irish whiskies, we came back to the hotel and had high tea. Then we went to our hotel room, thinking we might not go out again. But then I started to get a little hungry.
At about 6:30pm, we decided we might like to have some dinner. I really wanted a Sunday roast or prime rib or something… but as we walked around the hotel, we found a number of places closed. We thought about eating at a place that advertised tacos, but decided tacos in Ireland might be too weird. So we kept walking and I decided to turn left at the first street we encountered. I figured it would take us back toward the hotel where I knew we could get something.
Suddenly, just as we were nearing the end of the street, the same guy Bill had insulted yesterday popped into our path. Looking more closely at him, I could see that he definitely was a street person. He was very small and slender, with red hair and a beard, and obviously somewhat older than I’d originally thought he was. He looked unkempt and was missing teeth. It’s certainly possible he abuses drugs, but I can’t know for sure. His appearance could be just as easily due to hard times or some other illness. I don’t know if he recognized Bill, but Bill definitely recognized him.
He said, “Do you have any spare change so I can get some coffee?”
Bill said, without any hesitation, “Yes, I do.” And he pulled almost all of the change out of his pocket… about ten euros worth. He said something had told him to carry it with him, while it was I who had decided to turn on that quiet street near our hotel. We could have just as easily skipped dinner or had it at the hotel or the taco place. But fate put us in the path of the guy Bill had insulted yesterday.
The guy was shocked as Bill gave him the change and the guy said, “God bless you,” as he accepted it.
As we walked away, Bill’s eyes got teary and he started to look like Michael Landon during one of his more emotional scenes on either Little House on the Prairie or Highway to Heaven. And then, as if things couldn’t get any more touching, there was a restaurant right in front of us specializing in beef dishes. We stopped in and had a very nice dinner, topped off by a final nightcap in the hotel bar before we head back to Germany tomorrow.
Maybe this story means nothing to many people. I have a weird knack for running into people, though. I always have. And Bill is a very perceptive and sensitive guy whose superego has a tendency to run amok. It’s entirely possible that guy hadn’t even heard Bill’s snarky remarks yesterday, but I think both he and Bill ended up coming out winners in this situation.
Bill still intends to donate to a charity, too. I think this trip will go down as one of our very best and most memorable. I’m looking forward to writing it up, starting tomorrow evening.
And here’s another repost from January 26, 2018, shared today because I just wrote fresh content about the Turpin case.
Every once in awhile, I read something that really makes me stop and think. Jennifer Turpin is one of the thirteen “kids” who were discovered living in a “house of horrors” in Perris, California a couple of weeks ago. Authorities found her and her siblings living in filth. Some of them were shackled to their beds, completely removed from the outside world. I have been following the horrifying story of the Turpin family. The more that comes out about them, the more bizarre and insane their story is.
This morning, I ran across a very poignant Facebook post written by Taha Muntajibuddin, a man who knew Jennifer Turpin when they were both kids. At one time, Jennifer Turpin had been allowed to attend school, and she and Muntajibuddin were third grade classmates at Meadowcreek Elementary School. Evidently, in those days, Jennifer Turpin was thought of as one of the “cootie kids”. No one wanted to be friends with her because she was dirty and smelled bad.
Muntajibuddin remembers that after that year, Jennifer moved away and he lost track of her. There had been times when he’d tried to track her down through Facebook. He wondered how she’d turned out and hoped she’d turned into someone totally different than who she was when they were eight years old. But he never was able to find her and imagined that maybe she was one of the few people in the world who hadn’t succumbed to the lure of social media. Naturally, like so many people who recently discovered the Turpin family, he was horrified when her real story came to light.
In his very reflective Facebook post, Muntajibuddin reminds people how important it is to be kind. Better yet, they should teach their children to be kind. Every elementary school has a “cootie kid” who gets picked on. Sometimes those kids are able to rise above that moniker. Sometimes being harassed and bullied leads them down a dark road in which they turn to violence or substance abuse. Sometimes, it turns out the “cootie kid” is a survivor of a hell that no one else knows about or understands.
My own class had a “cootie kid”. I have written about her on this blog (ETA: Maybe I’ll repost about her, too). Like Muntajibuddin, I went Googling to see how she turned out. Unlike Muntajibuddin, I actually found our old “cootie kid”. I was gratified to see that it looks like she turned out alright. She’s one of the ostracized kids who had enough resilience to rise above being picked on and bullied in school. Just as Muntajibuddin describes Jennifer Turpin as “pleasant” and having a “whimsical optimism”, the “cootie kid” girl I knew was very plucky and friendly, despite her challenges. She had some really good qualities, in spite of being made the odd girl out. She was worth the effort of kindness and consideration, as most people ultimately are.
I don’t have kids of my own, of course, so I have never had the responsibility of trying to teach anyone right from wrong. I’d like to think that if I’d had children, I’d try to teach them to be nice to others. I’d like to hope I’d encourage them to befriend kids who need friends. On the other hand, I’m also a realist and a human. The reality is, as lofty as those goals are, they often fall flat. Humans are horribly flawed and fallible. You can have the best of intentions and still be a total failure in some areas. You can try to be an excellent example and still not manage to sway anyone to follow your lead.
If there’s anything to be learned from kids like Jennifer Turpin, it’s that everyone is fighting battles that aren’t readily apparent to the naked eye. Kids make fun of other kids when they are different somehow. I was made fun of when I was in school. So were a lot of my friends. We didn’t have the misfortune of being total outcasts, but we took our share of licks. I remember how that felt and how it still feels today. Life is hard for most people, but it costs nothing to be kind.
And yet, as I write that, I know there are times that I’ll fail to be kind because I’m human and fallible. Perhaps if I can take anything from Muntajibuddin’s Facebook post, it’s the reminder that sometimes the reality of another person’s situation is much more horrible than you can ever know. If it weren’t for Jennifer Turpin’s sister’s bravery, there’s no telling how much longer she and her siblings would be living the miserable life they were living.
You never know how you will affect other people. Jennifer Turpin surely doesn’t know how she affected her classmate and how her classmate is, in turn, affecting everyone who reads his poignant thoughts about her. Just by existing, she’s already changed the world.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m sure those who had contact with the Turpin kids now regret not speaking up and calling the authorities. There’s a fine line in knowing when it’s right to call for help for someone else’s kids. Some people do it at the drop of a hat. I think most people would rather not get involved when they see someone like Jennifer Turpin. I can admit to feeling that way myself, even though I have a degree in social work and would likely have been one of the people who got called when a situation like this is discovered. It’s hard to stand up for other people. It’s even harder to know when a situation warrants making a call to the authorities.
The Turpin kids needed a lot more than friends. In fact, it sounds to me like they weren’t really allowed to have any friends. But the ones who went to school no doubt interacted with others. We should teach kids– really each other– to simply be kind… and Muntajibuddin’s post is an excellent reminder to do so.
I originally posted this piece on January 10, 2018 on my old blog. I am reposting it today because as 2020 closes, I think we need a reminder. At the end of this as/is repost from 2018, look for a few new comments from yours truly.
When I was growing up, it was very common to see public service announcements on TV. One PSA that I remember from my youth was one from the Department of Energy. The ads had a very recognizable musical cue followed by a small chorus of singers who sang “Energy: we can’t afford to waste it!” Their line would be followed by a very late 70s early 80s electronic musical flourish. I wish I could find a video of one of those ads. They used to run all the time. As it is, I’ve only managed to find a picture of the record that used to be played for the radio PSAs.
I’m reminded of that campaign this morning. The slogan was catchy, as was the dated musical interlude that came with it. It’s sad that we no longer see PSAs the way we used to back in the day. A lot of people could use a helpful reminder of what’s important. Empathy is important. We can’t afford to waste it.
Last night, Bill and I were talking more about how he and his younger daughter have reconnected. In the course of our discussion, the topic of empathy came up. Bill was telling me about how his ex wife used to compare their relationship to the one described in Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree. Bill hates that book, even though it illustrates a very effective lesson on empathy. Bill recognizes the value in Silverstein’s story, but his ex wife had an annoying habit of using children’s books to make points about her perceptions of Bill’s “shortcomings”.
You can watch the video above to get the whole story. Alternatively, here’s a short synopsis. The Giving Tree is the story of a boy and a beautiful tree. They once had a loving and mutually beneficial relationship. The boy would play on the tree and lavish attention on it. The tree would provide shade, branches for him to swing on, and apples to eat. Sadly, as the boy grew older, he began to neglect the tree. His interests had changed. His needs had expanded. The tree could no longer give the boy all he wanted. But she could provide the materials for him to give him what he needed. She would suggest ways he could use her and he would thoughtlessly take her up on her offers to give herself to him.
The boy used the tree over and over again. The tree was happy to have him use her to make his life better, even though his endless needs literally took away pieces of her. She was selfless, empathetic, nurturing, and loving. He was thoughtless, neglectful, exploitative, and cruel. Finally, the day came when they were both old, and there wasn’t much left of either of them. In one last act of selfishness, the boy sat on the tree’s stump and rested.
My husband’s ex wife claimed that she was like the tree and Bill was like the selfish boy who used the tree over and over again for his own self-interests. She claimed she was “happy” to let him “use” her. In my opinion, Ex’s decision to use The Giving Tree as an object lesson is a classic example of projection. She is one of the least empathetic people I’ve ever known, and her penchant for using children’s literature to make her points is one of many grating features of her narcissistic personality.
In fifteen years of marriage, I’ve heard many stories about how Bill’s ex loved using children’s books for “object lessons”, particularly books by Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. She repeatedly preyed on other people’s empathy and twisted things so she’d somehow look both wounded and virtuous. She had an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what “lessons” she thought her victims needed to learn and would most readily receive, but lacked the talent to “teach” them with original materials. Instead, she relied on venerable children’s authors to deliver her toxic messages, ruining their works for her victims in the process. She would also choose the least appropriate times to employ her methods, like during major religious holidays, on birthdays, when the whole family was gathered… or when Bill was about to go into a combat zone.
Right before Bill went to war, he wanted to call his daughters and ex stepson and tell them he loved them. Instead of cooperating with Bill and arranging a phone call, Ex sent him a children’s book about forgiveness that he used to read to the kids when they were small. He never got to say goodbye to them. Instead, he got another shitty “object lesson” from his ex wife about “forgiveness” in the form of yet another children’s book.
Every day for several weeks, I would see that book lying on the floor in a spare room we had. Every time I passed it lying there, I wanted to burn it or at least throw it away. I did not do so, because it wasn’t my property. The sight of it made my blood boil. Finally, I asked Bill to do something with that children’s book so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore. He finally sent it back to his former wife with a note that read “You need this more than I do.” Then Bill went off to Iraq for six months without saying goodbye to his kids.
I noticed this canister yesterday while I was pouring myself a beer…
All of this build up leads me to an explanation of the above picture. That is an unopened canister of chocolate protein powder. It’s been sitting on that shelf for about two years. I had noticed it before, but figured Bill had bought it for himself. When he was still in the Army, Bill often bought supplements to help him maintain his physical fitness. He had to take physical training tests every six months and, as he got older, the tests were harder to pass. I thought maybe he was going to use the powder to get in better shape.
Last night, I finally asked him about the canister on the shelf. It had been there so long that I actually wondered if it had been left by the previous tenants.
Bill said, “I bought that for you when you had oral surgery a couple of years ago. I was concerned about your nutrition. I thought maybe you’d have trouble eating solid foods and wanted to make sure you’d be able to get some protein. I’ve had a lot of dental work myself and I know how it is.”
My mouth dropped open. I have always known Bill to be empathetic and kind. He has always been thoughtful and solicitous, sometimes to a fault. But for some reason, it never occurred to me that he’d think enough of me to buy protein powder.
I am really grateful to be married to such a genuinely empathetic person. I never asked him to buy me protein powder. He thought of that himself. He had anticipated my needs. I gave him a hug and told him just how much I appreciated that he cared enough to buy me protein powder so I’d be okay after my oral surgery (which turned out to be no big deal). In my mind, it was extraordinary.
A lot of people have the idea that all men are thoughtless jerks who don’t consider others. I somehow got lucky enough to marry a man who is incredibly empathetic and thoughtful. Every time I think of what Bill’s ex wife so thoughtlessly threw away, I experience a weird combination of rage and gratitude. I will always be grateful to her for being dumb enough to dump him, but it also angers me that she abused him for so many years.
Bill’s ex wife repeatedly took advantage of his kindness and rarely appreciated thoughtful things he did for her. As a matter of fact, when he would do thoughtful things for her, she usually regarded him as a chump. The kind deeds would inspire contempt rather than gratitude. It was like she thought he was a sucker for being considerate.
After awhile, Bill stopped doing nice things for Ex and withdrew from her. That behavior also inspired contempt and complaints from Ex. She used Bill’s new withdrawn behavior as “proof” that, deep down, he was really an asshole. She predicted one day he would leave her. No matter how many times he tried to reassure her, she wouldn’t believe him. She’d escalate her bad behavior and disrespect to the point at which he could no longer ignore it. Finally, the day she told him she wanted a divorce (Easter Sunday while at the in-laws’ house), he agreed. Her predictions that they would split had finally come to pass. And then, after he forced her to follow through on her divorce threats, she made him an enemy not even worthy of saying goodbye to his daughters when he went off to war in Iraq.
I mainly write about this stuff, not just so I can process it, but also for other people who are in this situation. Plenty of people live with others who lack empathy. I write these stories for them, so they know that they aren’t alone and they aren’t crazy. But I also write them, maybe because I know that there have been a lot of false stories spread to people who matter to Bill. I know his daughters and his parents heard a lot of lies about the kind of person he is. I have no doubt that the ex wife used The Giving Tree and other children’s stories to make her point to people who aren’t wise enough to see the truth. Maybe this story is to try to undo some of the damage wrought by her constant lies and truth stretching.
Let this tale serve as a PSA, just like the one from the Department of Energy in 1980. “Empathy: we can’t afford to waste it.” Choose to be empathetic to those who will recognize and appreciate it. To those who won’t, move on, because life is short and resources are limited. Just like The Giving Tree, you really only have so much to give during your short time on Earth.
And for 2020…
I was reminded of this post from about three years ago this morning, as I was reading a Facebook post that my friend Elizabeth commented on, pictured below.
One might not think this would be a controversial post, but it was. I read through the comments, which quickly became very contentious. This post, while admittedly kind of confrontational, was basically about being decent and kind to others. I noticed my friend becoming somewhat sarcastic when other people disagreed with her. Pretty soon, the whole thing devolved into insults. It didn’t help that someone tried to hijack the post with complaints about male circumcision, complete with a graphic photo.
I noticed one young woman was disagreeing with the post. As people confronted her for her “Libertarian” views and going against the grain, it occurred to me that we would get a lot more accomplished if more people had basic respect for others. That means trying not to fall into derision and name calling when someone disagrees.
Although I am definitely not a conservative anymore, there are a few conservative ideas I accept. This lady, who later claimed to be transgendered, was basically pointing out some things that were common sense and, at least on the surface, correct. But what she was posting wasn’t politically correct, and people were calling her out for it in very rude, condescending, and offensive ways.
I didn’t get involved myself, except to call out the lady posting about circumcision with this photo…
When she laughed, I clarified that I am actually against circumcision, but I am even less for people hijacking threads with off topic spam. I encouraged her to fight the good fight. Then I got back to the very interesting debate going on, in which one poster had referred to the self-reported Libertarian transgendered woman as “honey” and tried to school her.
I wondered what that attitude accomplishes. It makes you feel better, sure. I will even admit to sometimes indulging in it myself. But in the long run, being really rude and insulting when you try to take someone to school doesn’t really help. It turns into a waste of time in a hurry.
I do think we’d get further in making things better if more of us would listen to what others have to say and respect their right to disagree, if they want to. As long as there’s basic respect and empathy for the other person’s viewpoint, new ideas that make more people happy can be formed. But right now, there’s just a lot of polarized noise. Nothing is getting accomplished. And discussions about tolerance and kindness ultimately go nowhere.
Of course… most of us are in a pretty bad mood. 2020 has been a really hard year for many people. We’re all hoping for better days in 2021. I sure am, anyway… at least an end to the constant sickness and violence and hatred toward each other. I do think if we were all a bit more understanding and kind, maybe things would be better. And that means if you preach it, practice it. Easier said than done, I know… and I will even admit to my own hypocrisy at times. As human beings, we all bleed when we’re pricked… and when we encounter a prick, we all bristle.
I’ve been very fortunate to have found an empathetic man with whom I can enjoy my life. I look to him for inspiration. If I need an example for kindness, I remember how Bill wanted to be sure I had protein after oral surgery and bought me a protein powder supplement. He did that, even though I was liable to be cranky after my surgery. And I didn’t have to ask him. He did it because he was thinking of me. Maybe if more of us were like that toward everyone, the world would be a nicer place.
Anyway, those are my deep thoughts for the last day of 2020. Time to have some lunch with Mr. Bill. Happy New Year, y’all!
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.