I have never been a terribly organized traveler. Oh, yes, I have a travel list that I can print from my computer, but it’s getting the items I need into a suitcase in a timely manner. Now, “timely manner” is the catch phrase, as I am a total procrastinator. If I pack ahead of time, I need what I’ve packed. If I wait until the last-minute to pack, then I sweat like a pig and end up having to take several showers before my departure. My organizing is disorganized, I guess. However, I am now living with my partner who has no procrastination genes whatsoever. As we prepared to leave on this trip to Greece, he began packing two weeks ago, not only his suitcase but mine as well. I fought with him regarding clothes as I couldn’t see planning what to wear over a two-week period. He won. Here it is the day that the airport shuttle will pick us up to take us to the airport. I am not sweating, and I am basically, except for a few medicine bag items, ready to go. Wow! Packing for a trip can be done in a timely manner.
My senior English teacher in high school was easily the politest person I have ever known. Whenever she orally asked a question of a student, her reply to an incorrect answer was inevitably, “No, but thank you for trying.” Her policy of humility paid off too in the respect she earned from her students. Besides her primary task as teacher, she was also our senior class sponsor. Just prior to our departure for the traditional senior trip to Washington, D. C., she called first the girls to the auditorium, then the boys to discuss a subject we decided must be too taboo to present to mixed sexes. The talk turned out to be nothing but a warning to stay together in groups of three or four to avoid the perils of the big city. Returning to our classroom, one member of our class, who was always wise-cracking, was heard to remark, “Well, if anyone should try to pick Miss Sheely up, she’d just say, “No, but thank you for trying,” and I think he was right.
I wrote the following passage in my journal on August 9, 1962. I think it bears repeating. I was then 24 years old:
There are many things around us each day that we take for granted — beautiful things that proclaim the true existence of God. The stars shining brightly in their ebony background, the tinted clouds at dawn and sunset, the wind turning the underside of the leaves upward, the fruit trees, vegetables, and all the other greenery that evolves from one tiny seed, the human life that is produced by the fusion of male and female. These things are what we take for granted daily, yet each is a miracle in itself that only one great omnipotent God could perform. If ever God permits earthlings to visit other planets, I feel certain that the astronauts will bring back the news that those not of this earth also worship a great Creator. We have strayed so far from the teachings of our ancestors that our beliefs and rituals have become so modernized. We worship our own 20th century God. I wonder if He understands. I wonder.
I have only one heart, and I suppose I have given it quite a workout in these 76 years of my life so far. I had angioplasty eight years ago followed by a heart attack three years ago. I have four stents holding my arteries open and take four prescriptive pills plus a baby aspirin every day. Today I am scheduled to go in for a routine checkup with my cardiologist. I could not be less prepared. I almost never forget to take my medications but, if I do, never more than one day. However, last Sunday morning, when I refilled my weekly pill case, I somehow never removed it from the kitchen table after putting pills into the slots for each day. This morning, I awoke with a slight headache and took a cold and sinus tablet, something I hardly ever do as it elevates my blood pressure. After taking it, I glanced down at the sink where my pill holder usually resides–no pill holder. I had a sinking feeling then, realizing that I had not taken my pills yesterday. In fact, I had not taken any pills since last Saturday afternoon when I took the last pills in the pill container. That was three days ago. I will confess both misdeeds to my cardiologist this afternoon, hoping by taking my pills for today, they have done their job. I will also promise never to forget again.
Readers: I am off on another travel adventure for the next six weeks. I will write as often as possible but bear with me.
Thom Bobo Cooper
In 1982, I read about the completion and dedication of the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. I read of the thousands who poured past it every day, many becoming very emotional. The wall contained the names of every known military service fatality that occurred during that horrible page of American history, and there were newspaper stories of people who pressed wax into the engravings in order to take home a piece of the memorial. With all my heart, I wanted to see that incredible tribute to those who had fought for our freedom and ended up being misunderstood. My opportunity to visit in Washington, D.C., came two years later when I was invited to stop in D.C., on my way home from New York City after visiting another friend. I immediately told my buddy who lived and worked in Washington that I had a strong desire to see the wall. He therefore made plans for us to visit. On the way to the mall, I had a thought that turned my blood cold. What if I didn’t feel emotional when I saw the names on this long wall? What if I found that I was immune to the patriotism reflected by this wall? Did I dare expose myself when I might find that I was callous and unmoved? I took my chances and wept as I walked down the long way, reading name after name that, though unfamiliar to me meant everything to me. The ultimate sacrifice that they had made overpowered me and reassured me that I cared.
My daughter invited me and my partner to drive down to Naples, FL, so that we could watch my eight-year-old granddaughter, Gracey, perform in a play entitled “Honk, Jr.,” a musical based on the story of “The Ugly Duckling.” My eight-year-old Gracey was the youngest member of the cast but performed as professionally as did all the cast. I was amazed that a group of mostly teenagers could display such unadulterated talent and self-confidence. The “ugly duckling” was a chubby young fellow who, once he was “hatched,” never left his role and coached the audience into feeling sorry for him for his being “different.” The father, who was a neglectful husband until his wife had to leave and search for her missing “duckling,” was a diminutive Asian teenager who sang amazingly and never stopped acting. There was the sinister cat seeking out ducklings. She was beguiling while whining out her musical enticements. I was impressed that a group of young people could so ably win over an audience. Of course, most of us, I’m sure, were family members. Nevertheless, I have seen many Broadway musicals, some incredibly well-done, but others presented with lacklustre. This presentation was far beyond what this grandparent had expected from this little drama group in Naples.
My partner is nicknamed “Mr. Meticulous.” I gave him that nickname soon after he moved in with me. He immediately took over the washing, the ironing, and the general upkeep of the house. He began to spray against aromas and to make up the bed every day, something I had never been prone to do. He even checked the expiration dates on food we brought into the house. I had many food items which he removed for having expired dates. This past January, we made our first flight together. We were flying Edelweiss Airlines from Zürich to Tampa. During the flight, Dimitris excused himself to go to the restroom. When he returned after a lengthy stay, he reported that the bathroom on the plane had needed some attention. He had cleaned the entire restroom, adding aroma spray, straightening up the paper towels, and cleaning the sink. I couldn’t believe it. Later he returned and found that the spray was missing. I’m recommending him for a janitorial job with the airline.