Thursday, November 22, 2012

Silver linings

The end of the year is always a time of reflection. For me, there's not a lot good to reflect on this year, and it goes beyond the election results, which, while they are depressing, are not the end of the world. No, from a personal perspective, it's been a rough year for my family, and it's not over yet.

In August, I had an uncle pass away quite unexpectedly. He had apparently been ill for a while, but never shared with the rest of the family just how ill he had been. He had purposely become more estranged from the family to try and keep us from worrying over his condition. At the same time, my grandpa Billy's health was beginning to decline.  As it turned out, my uncle's funeral was at the end of August, and four weeks later we were back at the funeral home having services for my grandfather.

Billy was 95 and had led quite a life, and not to discount my uncle's life story, that's what I wanted to spend some time on today. Back in 1986 my real grandfather died from complications of emphysema. Billy, the man who would later become by grandmother's second husband, lost his wife to cancer about the same time, but more on that in a minute.

Billy was a 30 year veteran of the United States Army Air Corps/United States Air Force. He was stationed on Sai Pan in World War II where he was awarded (I believe) the Legion Of Merit. He was a mechanic and the unit he led were critical in their role in keeping aircraft operational. In one 72 hour stretch they serviced, repaired and rearmed planes non-stop for the duration, and their ability to keep planes in the air during this stretch of time was of critical importance to the war effort. If you asked him about it, he would say he was just doing his job, but the letter that accompanied the medal we found in a box in his garage said otherwise. But that's typical of people like Billy. Humility is first amongst their virtues.

He served in Korea and later in Vietnam before retiring from the service in 1971, at which time he went to work for IBM and retired for the second and final time in 1982 at age 65. After losing his wife to cancer he started walking with a seniors group at the mall in town. You could find him there most mornings, walking the perimeter of the mall with other seniors and drinking a cup of coffee after logging his miles. At least, that's where my grandma found him in 1992. A friend of hers forced her to introduce herself to him, and he asked out for date that very night. Those Air Force boys move fast! She said 'yes' and a whirlwind courtship ensued.

They married that year and Billy and Grandma traveled the world. He took her to Australia and Europe, bought her a mobile home and traveled the US, wintering in Florida or Arizona, or where ever she wanted to go. We used to joke that Billy still had his original nickel, because he never spent money on himself (he was angry when we bought him a new 32" TV because the old, 20 inch quasi-color unit still worked fine...but once he saw his first Broncos game on it he stopped complaining).  But, though he only ever spent money on what he needed vs. what he wanted, with grandma it was a different story, because he sure didn't think twice about spending money taking care of her. To him she was a need, not a want. We never had to worry about her after they met because we knew he would provide for her.

After a second marriage that lasted longer than most people's first marriages, Grandma buried her second husband in early October. Now 96 years old, she's had more than her share of tragedy, as you might expect from someone who's been on Earth for almost a century. She's outlived her 9 brother's and sisters, and has buried two of her own children (one this August) and 2 husbands (the second in October). In a weak moment, she'll tell me she doesn't know what she's going to do, but she'll catch herself and say "I'll get through it. I'm a tough old bird."  She still drives herself to the store, gets her hair styled once a week and gets dressed up when I go have lunch with her (even if we don't go out), and always wears a pair of earrings I got her for Christmas when I was a teenager. After everything she's been through she still pays attention to the little things.

Tragedy has struck again as my wife's grandmother fell and broke her hip and had to have it replaced. She's not recovered from the surgery well and we're now keeping vigil waiting for the inevitable, which we're told will probably come this weekend. My grandma and my wife's were not close friends but always enjoyed each other's company at family get-togethers. So Grandma calls to check in and see if there's anything she can do, and tells us she's praying for her. Even after all she's been through this year, she's not feeling sorry for herself, but rather is worried about my wife and her family. Even though she pays attention to the little things, she still sees the big picture.

So now it's Thanksgiving. Our dinner tomorrow will be a somber one, with long shadows cast over it on both sides of our family. Seats at the table will be empty that have not been in decades, if ever, and my first thought is that I don't have a lot to be thankful for this year, other than it's almost over. But that's not true. Despite the hard times this year, I'm thankful that my grandma had 20 years with Billy. I'm glad that I got to know him. In the end, I knew him longer than my real grandfather. He demonstrated the value of thrift, that hard work is its own reward, that humility and perseverance will carry far in life, and that doing good things makes a difference to people around you. I'm also grateful that all of this has brought me closer to my grandmother. I've learned more from her about my family's history this year than I have in the previous 42. I've reconnected with cousins and made plans for next year with extended family. I've seen my side of our family pull together in the face of multiple losses this year, and now we're going through it all again on my wife's side as we have another loss looming in the near future. So yes, it's hard to be thankful if you dwell on the losses.  But when you pay attention to the little things - the lessons left behind, the connections made or re-made, and the big picture things like what lies ahead for the rest of us, and how we can impact the lives of others then yes, there's a lot to be grateful for.

I also know that ours isn't the only family dealing with losses this year, and that our personal tragedies aren't even the worst we could be facing, so that helps put some perspective around it for me.  Whatever is going on in your world this year, I hope you have a good Thanksgiving and find much to celebrate. Life can be painful, but life is good.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here...

"Give us your poor, your tired, your huddles masses..."
This is the message that we have put at our (legal) gateway into our country, and the ethos by which we have lived for generations. Last night, that message changed. Now it reads:

"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here..."

If you come to America looking for a better life, you will not find it here. You will find only more of the central planning, totalitarian socialist programs that have been destroying ways of life globally for more a hundred years. Oh sure, it's not that bad - yet. But this is how it begins. Government intrusion is going to grow. UN interference in our sovereignty is going increase (and had anything good ever happened with UN intervention?). The things people are trying to escape by coming to America are now taking root on our shores. Our problem is we're playing checkers while the left is playing chess.  And face it, conservatives we got played masterfully.

  • The media is public enemy number one. They successfully turned Hurricane Sandy from a lesson in FEMA unpreparedness (seriously? 7 years after Katrina and this is the best our government could do?) into an Obama success story (with the help of Chris Fucking Christie).
  • In 2010 we were FURIOUS that Obamacare was passed against our will.  Remember, some 70% of the population was against the law back then. Had the election been that year, Obama would have been tarred, feathered and rode out of town on a rail. Yes, the DNC took a thrashing in the House, but so what? With the senate in their hands all they have to do is ignore everything the House does, and nothing gets done.  That is called 'Republican Obstructionism' by the America hating left, by the way.  In 2010 we mocked - MOCKED - Obamacare because it didn't even take effect until 2014! What a folly, we said. No, it was genius.  For in 2012 when people were casting their ballots for president, they had forgotten how mad we all were about Obamacare. We tried to make it an issue, but the masses, two years down the road, said "the law was passed and the world didn't end." and they cast their votes for Obama.  Yes, we were played.
  • Women's issues haunted us still. We lost two senate seats because two candidates said foolish things about abortion and rape while preaching to the converted.  Here's a clue for GOP candidates - you do not have to say one word about abortion to get the votes of pro-lifers. They will vote for you because they will NOT vote for a Democrat. Instead, we march forward, high on our moral horse and banging the drum about abortion, and it costs us election after election. We should just get out of the way. It's mostly liberals/leftists having abortions, and this will sound horrible, but if they want to commit societal suicide, why should we stop them? Let God judge them, not us. And government funding of birth control - what is $9 a month paying for birth control if it keeps a liberal from being born and voting for more liberal causes 18 years later? Let's keep raising a generation of conservative thinkers and let them screw and murder themselves out of demographic relevance.
  • We let the cult of personality beat us. Despite the fact that the elites in the country - members of the reviled 1% - like Clooney and Streisand and Hanks and Spielberg all live in a world completely different than the rest of America, somehow their support resonated with people. We need to find a way to counteract that. Part of their message, as mentioned above, is 'if it feels good, do it.' That's a cool, easy sell to young people. Churchill had a saying - if you're not liberal when you're 20 you have no heart; if you're not conservative when you're 40 you have no brain. Well, we need to make the 40 year old mindset cool to the 25 year olds.
  • The Ministry Of Truth has hooked the country up to an IV drip of lies and propaganda. The truth will never get out as long as they have control of the message. Starve them. Cancel your newspaper subscriptions. Stop watching their shows. Stop going to the movies. Vote with your feet until they listen to reason.
We need to entrench. We need to get up, gear up, and be ready to endure the next four years. I call on all conservatives to ask their local GOP "what are we going to do to make our local community more Republican over the next four years? What are we going to do to raise our profile?" Republicans in general give more time and treasure to charity than democrats do - this is a proven fact (see the book "Who really cares" for evidence). Democrats have successfully co-opted that image for themselves. Republicans have always been the champions of liberty and equality, and democrats have co-opted that for themselves too. What are we going to do to take that back? If your local GOP doesn't have an answer, then tell them they'd better come up with one, because if they don't, the GOP won't be relevant ever again.