I am guilty – caught red-handed playing solitaire on my computer. I have a self righteous friend who sort of makes fun of me for doing this while he watches third rate movies on his iPad.

In my defense, I am able to think while doing this seemingly mindless exercise. So, I rather see it as a meditative experience. My mind is often somewhere else or at least open to other things while trying to retire the tableau to the aces in ascending order.

I have favorite games of solitaire. Mostly I gravitate toward the simple kind that are truly played mindlessly. Others, like the fan games take a little paying attention or I’d be there all day. I like to win, so I find those games that are winnable to be the ones I play most. I suppose you could say that winning at solitaire sort of bolsters my spirits, reminding me that my mind is still working at some level and that I am, after all, a winner.

When I do win at one of these games the program goes into a rousing round of canned applause which always brings a smile to my face. Sometimes I enthusiastically respond and say, “Thank you! Thank you very much!”, as the sound of the clapping fades away. There is nothing like being appreciated.

I mean, these days it’s so easy to feel that the Great Universe has dropped a big stinky one on top of your head. A rousing game of solitaire can be a cheap fix for the temporary blahs or perhaps become a focus point for the mind to clean up and slow down to make room for deeper, more meaningful work. And of course, you never know – you could win!

Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!

Thank you! Thank you very much.

There’s a lot wrong with just about everything in our world these days. With instant world wide communication available to everyone, any public statement, act or event is subject to observation, criticism, condemnation and even praise, all of which can circle the globe before your next breath.

Take the Olympics, for example.

The last summer games in China put on one of the most mechanically perfect performances in history.  It pretty much defined biggest, flashiest, noisiest, most coordinated and most – well, Chinese.

Today, in London, we are likely to see something a bit different. Olympian to be sure but with the inevitable British twist.  Personally, I couldn’t give a cracked farthing about the games.  It’s all about money, folks.  The athletes themselves are little more than pawns in the exercise which will bring billions into the pockets of the media, promoters, sponsors, vendors, restaurant operators   and innkeepers.

The assembled athletes represent the top of what the human organism can achieve given a combination of ability, training, money, desire and luck.  If it were not for the carnival, commercialism and self promotion of the media it would be appealing.  Of course, I speak only for myself.

We can only hope that the Brits can pull it off with some style and twinkle.  I can not say it as well as the Washington Post put it this morning – specially when quoting the words of Jon Plowman:

“Come on, this is Britain. We’re not going to do thousands of marching Chinese,” said Jon Plowman, executive producer of the BBC show “Twenty Twelve.” “There’s just something about the British character that isn’t good at getting all excited about something like the Olympics. You have this thing in America of being all gung-ho and saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be great,’ and ‘Yes, we can.’ But we’re not like that. We say, ‘Well, yes, we might. It rather depends on the weather.’ ”

You know the rule – a body at rest tends to stay put while a body in motion tends to keep on moving. Given time, I think I’d have figured that out. But in the meantime, I would like to apply that principle to life after the two minute warning has sounded. God, have I ever told you how I just hate sports metaphors?

I have always been a devotee of activity. I guess I should say, that activity was the default mode of my life. I was always a laborer. I worked with my hands and did labor insensitive things. I complained all the time but really, it was good for me. Then one day I became enlightened and thought I needed a college education and at that point, I began to put on weight because I was always reading a book or sitting in the library.

Then one day, I became enlightened again. This can happen many times in the same lifetime. This enlightenment was the true enlightenment – meaning the most recent one – and it meant that I needed to do something about being a big fat blob. I had been a certified body at rest.

I began to run. I ran off 75 pounds. I became a body in motion. I found that I could run and run for hours. Not fast, you understand, but steady. A marathon crowd would be into their third six pack by the time I got there. That’s why I never saw that as a priority. I would have missed out on all that beer.

Well, if you live long enough, and I seem to have done that, you begin to feel the ravages of aging. The pressure to remain at rest is overwhelming. Stiffness, aches and pains, the lack of endurance and finally the inevitable loss of strength confront you every moment. About that last part, there are some things you can do to delay it but strength diminishes over time no matter what you do. Time will win that battle.

There are always exceptions and you will believe you are one. Trust me – you’re not. I’m sorry, I meant to say, I am not that exception. I believe I am healthier for knowing that. I don’t always know it. Just today I said to CA that I would climb up a limb on this huge maple tree and cut it off bit by bit so it wouldn’t be hanging over the wood shed. What? she said. You are 80 years old and YOU ARE NOT CLIMBING THAT TREE WITH A CHAIN SAW! She was almost shouting. Upon reflection, I saw that her logic was bullet proof. This is called wisdom.

I have always been able. I hate being unable to do some of the things I have always done. If I may say so: it sucks.

So, there is a compromise. You move when you can and you enjoy your moments of rest. But you do move. You get up and you move. As long as you can, you move. Not everybody gets to be old, and not everybody who gets to be old can move, but if you do get to be old and can move – count your blessings and move! There will always be time to rest.

I’VE MISSED A FEW THINGS IN MY LIFE. These were things I would have really enjoyed seeing or participating in or just being there. These are the kind of things about which I would say many times since, “I wish I’d have done that”.

It was May, 1957, Chicago. I did my undergraduate time at a small denominational college in Louisiana, called, of all things, Louisiana College. It attracted, in spite of it’s affiliation, many students from the central Louisiana area who were not that religious. It was held in high esteem in the academic world. Many of its graduates went on to high achievements. I was not among that number.

I did, however, have the ability to carry a tune and therefore became the student director of the school’s regionally famous men’s ensemble, The Louisianians. We were in Chicago to sing before the keynote speaker, our president, at the denominational convention – thousands upon thousands of hometown Baptists loose in a big wicked city.

Someone found out that we could go to Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club and possibly sing. Wow! There was a time when I never missed a morning of his show. He began in 1933 and went on through 1968. Longer than even Johnny Carson. Also the famous Blue Angel was featuring none other than the one and only Louie Armstrong! Friends, I had no money and it took money to just go into the Blue Angel. I slept through the Breakfast Club. I wish I had done both. Makes me wonder just how much I have actually slept through in my life. I don’t know…. The list is endless of those things I couldn’t afford to do.

I also missed the famous Freedom Train. You remember when the Declaration of Independence was aboard a special rail road car – this was when there were actual usable railroads that did stuff other than haul coal. I was in High School and my friend Richard, his real name, and I went down to see the famous document. It was for a school credit. There was a marine guard most of whom were not much older than we were. They had on those multi-colored uniforms they wear on special occasions and my friend Richard blabbed out so that every one heard: “Hey check out those sea-going bell hops!”. Well, of course I was guilty by association and we were unceremoniously pitched off the “Freedom” train. I guess freedom only goes so far. I wish I could have gotten on that freedom train. Bound for glory. This land is my land and all that stuff. I have hated those uniforms ever since. But of course, one does not mention that kind of thing.

I could have, however, gotten up and watched this latest Aurora. It was a meteorological impossibility at my location. It’s still cloudy. I’m sorry I missed you Aurora. I hear you are a lovely girl. Billowing multi-hued tresses and sudden changes in disposition, which, I suppose, I could have put up with for a brief time. It’s not like i’m unfamiliar with the condition.

It was a few minutes before 9 PM on the evening of June 21, 2011.  I was walking about the yard enjoying a bug-free communion with the evening air.  I had just walked through the vegetable garden and was heading inside when I looked up and say the familiar sight of Ruth’s light shining through.  I knew she was likely watching baseball or the “Wheel” or working on a cross word.

I had made some cookies and would take her a couple after a while.  We would sit together and if there was a ball game on we would talk about that.  She was quite knowledgable about sports and specially Yankee baseball.  She had many adjustments to make when she came to live with us, but none as difficult as the idea that she, a lifelong Yankee fan, now resided in Red Sox land.  When the Yankees and Sox payed each other we could probably be heard in the next town.

I am not a true sports fan but she was.  She loved the game.   She knew the players and all about them.  As a 13 year old girl recovering from polio, she spent hours with doctors who taught her to play bridge and listen to baseball.  This produced a life long passion for both.  We never got closer to bridge than rummy.  I can remember one night as I pondered my hand, she said, “Jerry, you can’t change them by looking at them…”  She was like that.  We all broke up.

A few weeks prior to this night she had made a critical decision for her life: she stopped getting blood transfusions, the frequency of which had increased from about once a month to every week and were now going to be necessary about every 5 to 6 days.  She suffered from meyodysplastic syndrome, a leukemia-like blood condition that could be treated but not cured.  She was very much aware of the consequences of halting the transfusions.  It would be the beginning of a slow decline toward the end of her life.  

At home, after a few weeks, she lacked the energy to participate in the usual after dinner rummy game.  We knew then that the end was near.    

She died on July 10 2011, just a few weeks after the photo was taken.  She was surrounded by her things, in her room with Carol Ann and I holding her hands.  

She showed the way.