“Rikki don’t lose that number You don’t want to call nobody else Send it off in a letter to yourself Rikki don’t lose that number It’s the only one you own You might use it if you feel better When you get home” – (1974) “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” Recorded By: Steely Dan Composers: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
On my Facebook page I decided to have a little fun with an age old question for old rock consumers. The question was: “Did Rikki ever lose that number?” Considering the song was recorded in 1973, along with the reveal that Rikki was an old college girlfriend of Donald Fagen from Steely Dan, it could be Rikki is in her early 70’s now. If Rikki has already experienced cognitive issues, maybe Rikki no longer has knowledge of where that number may be.
While counting down the hours to Thanksgiving this year, I watched a news feature on the growth of Dementia and Alzheimer’s in our country. Because Alzheimer’s runs through the maternal side of my family, I was glued to the report. Contrary to popular belief, Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not one and the same. The “plaque” which appears in the brain seems to be the main monkey wrench in the gears of the mind. Also, there can be shrinkage of the brain matter itself. Dementia is a general term for a slip in mental abilities which gets in the way of everyday life. Dementia is NOT a disease, but considered a brain disorder. There are various kinds of Dementia, as well. Trust me, it’s complicated and a bit over my lay-person’s head. However, if one has Dementia, the symptoms can mean troubles in connecting names of loved ones, or others. One can find it more difficult to follow driving directions, communication skills and focus, the spelling of words, and losing items like…(wait for it)…phone numbers. In the days of yesteryear, it often was referred to as “senior moments.”
Not long ago I mentioned on this platform the fact that my 76 year old mom is now wrestling with a minor form of Dementia. It does appear to be a fading of figuring out how to use her cell phone, remembering names and places on the fly, and losing train of thought in conversation. It’s difficult for me in that she has always been a sharp person with an incredible skill of trouble-shooting and memory. Before spellcheck software, she was my spellcheck. Now, she’s almost given up on texting words. And yes, she’s very much aware of the cognitive decline. It is very concerning.
It was a bittersweet privilege to watch her be a selfless 24/7 caregiver for my grandparents. My granddad had Dementia issues, and my grandmother had full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease. There was a great deal I learned from her just observing how she handled the frustration of seeing her parents traveling downhill with this issue. The main lesson i gleaned from her was how to speak to an Alzheimer’s victim. I learned to never correct the victim when they speak inaccuracies. Gently agree, or placate on a subject. Never show anger if the victim made a mess in the kitchen, or bathroom, or soiled their clothing. It’s best to approach them as you would a toddler. (In many cases, the victim almost “youthens” in their reasoning.) Most of all, we must treat them with compassion, and deliver the highest respect, even when at wits end. Remember, your Dementia or Alzheimer’s victim once was a doctor, a pastor, a teacher, a cop, or a quality control inspector, etc. Most of all, they were once loving parents in the majority of cases.
Remember, someday, it could be you needing the comfort of a champion caregiver.
It would be a crime to suddenly think less of a loved one, suffering from this disorder or disease, who once knew how to care and love you without compromise. Certainly there are exceptions in every relationship. It could be you were a child of an abusive parent who now needs your love and care in the dark years of cognitive failure. It would be a treasure to know Jesus spoke about you…
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:7) KJV
An accurate Greek translation from the original text reads like this…
“Happy are the kind – – because they shall find kindness.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:7) YLT
So, Rikki, if you did lose that number, it’s okay. Maybe you ‘sent it off in a letter to yourself’. Come on, I’ll help you find it.
I am full, due to the fact God remembers the count of the hairs on my head. I found out while topping my tank with fuel for the race.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” – GOD From Isaiah 49:15 (NAS)
“…But time makes you bolder Even children get older And I’m gettin’ older, too….” (1975) “Landslide” Recorded by: Fleetwood Mac Composer: Stevie Nicks
Way before I was chronologically gifted, at 15 years old, Fleetwood Mac came out with the song “Landslide”. Being swept off my feet then, I find myself still mesmerized by it. In fact, about seven years ago, while on what we all thought was my deathbed, my rock star daughter flew in from New York to be by my side.
There in ICU, I indicated (I couldn’t speak with all the tubes down my throat.) I wanted her to sing the Fleetwood Mac song while holding my hand. She did. Nurses and doctors stopped out in the hallway, gathered at the door of my ICU room. I cried, she cried, they cried. You could’ve heard a pin drop. Afterwards, I asked her to sing it for my memorial service. Although I came back to life, after six weeks in the hospital, my request still remains.
My friend Ann from the blog entitled, “Muddling Through My Middle Age”, often speaks so well about getting older, complete with everyday events in her life, humor, while all laced in wisdom. I’m not sure I can do so well about this topic.
While doing so, allow me to age six decades right in front of your eyes.
Recently, a friend on social media asked what was the first television image you remember in childhood. Quickly I realized I was a tad older than her readers when answers tended to be, “The space shuttle explosion”, “When JR got shot on Dallas”, or “The Bill Clinton impeachment hearing.” Mine was easy. My first TV recollection (Black & white) was watching King Kong climb the Empire State Building when suddenly the old movie from the 1930’s was interrupted by Pres. Kennedy’s funeral march. It stuck out to me visually because there was a horse hitched to a wagon, with a coffin on the bed, wrapped in the American flag. No doubt, a sight very different from the norm. I was three years old.
I don’t say “chronologically challenged”, but rather I am “chronologically gifted”, so to speak. Have there been challenges in my winding road of life thus far? Sure, way too many. But I wish to lean into what has been good in my life, along with what taught me. Although I must remind myself to do so. Follow me on this. Perhaps you can identify with me.
You may be chronologically gifted if you recall the sound of the old rotary dial telephone.
You may be chronologically gifted if you rode a stingray bike with a banana seat.
You may be chronologically gifted if you ate candy cigarettes.
You may be chronologically gifted if you remember the theme song to the old television show, “Family Affair” with Buffy and Jody.
See what I mean? If none of the above makes sense, it could be you are not yet chronologically gifted.
They are all just little delights from an era gone by.
Thank you, Kodak for the film for special cherished moments in life. I bumped into rock legend, Roger Daltrey of The Who in north Dallas. He was cheery and didn’t mind me taking a picture. It was 1975, right after a run of the cinematic version of the rock opera, “Tommy”, as well as a new solo album, “Ride A Rock Horse”. Although 16 years my senior, he looked very…youthful at 31.
Another gift to recall, how it feels to hold your first born.
It’s a gift to recall holding HER firstborn, my first grandchild, 27 years later.
You’re pretty gifted if you have fond memories of your first full-time job.
You can be gifted if you can look back on loves, life, and lacerations and still smile.
You might be chronologically gifted if you are close to wrapping up mortgage payments.
You can be gifted even if you were known for playing elderly characters, and now you save money on the old-age stage make-up.
My old stage make-up bag is not that heavy anymore. It’s okay. Counting the worry lines isn’t what I do anymore.
There was a time, a few years back, while at the check-out counter in the grocery store, the attendant bagged-up four plastic grocery bags worth of essentials for me. Then the young lady at the scanner looked at me a couple of times and asked, “Sir, would you like help getting these bags out to your car?” Bless her little pointed head. There was a second or two of collecting my cobwebbed gray matter and replied, “Awe, no thanks. I think I can handle it.” I grumbled to myself like an old man all the way to the car.
But then, there are terrific gifts that come along when chronologically gifted. Like the very first time I approached the cinema box office window at a time I found it unnecessary to “act” like a senior citizen.
Of course, the unwanted gift of being a chronological surfer are the funerals added to the schedule. Too many come my way. Friends, family, and familiar ones on your street gone before me. A childhood pal, one of my very best friends, just spent his last day of suffering with ALS. His battle was only two years in length. That’s nothing but God’s grace and mercy..
Because I am a person of faith, a Jesus follower, getting older can be seen as a gift. I am just that much closer to entering His eternal promises than when I watched JFK’s funeral procession. He said He came to offer a life that was more abundant than what it would’ve been like without His provisions, His nurtures, His guiding hand. I have noticed His road signs. Too often, I ignored them, leading me down darker rocky roads. Signs like…
When you find yourself chronologically gifted, maybe a landslide in life will be more survivable. And when you find you are indeed chronologically gifted, and you look back and see your younger reflection in the snowy hills just before a landslide brings it down, there’s the Almighty’s Voice within stating the truth, “See, I brought you through that one, and that one, and this one.”
The finish line has promise when the tank is topped with fuel for the race.
” I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and save you.” Isaiah 46:4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
“…Your silvery beams will bring love’s dreams. We’ll be cuddlin’ soon by the silvery moon.” (1909 For Ziegfeld Follies) “By The Light Of The Silvery Moon” Composers: Gus Edwards & Edward Madden. Notable recording: Doris Day in 1953 for a movie by the same title.
If you are of a certain age, the cover photo above the title can be so relatable. Way too often I feel like an old rusty truck.
In fact, if you live close to the ocean, or a Great Lake, you know the ads for special pricing for rust-proofing your vehicle, especially if salt is used for wintry road conditions. But, aging doesn’t have to display rusty wear.
That blue denim shirt above was old when I wore it in 2004. It’s a 30+ year old shirt that is still in my closet today. Oh, sure, it has fallen victim to some minor raveling here and there, but I still wear it when mowing the lawn. It’s just that comfy to me. Why get rid of it?
Yes, wear and tear can show on almost anything, and everything. Which brings me to a news item blasting the journalistic arenas this week.
Our moon is showing signs of rusting! It’s true.
Can you see it? It looks a bit like someone with a gigantic bucket of red paint had their way with our moon.
Scientists are stunned. Apparently they are scrambling to find the answer as to why the airless lunar surface displays a growing rust. When you read some of the comments from scientists concerning this phenomenon, you will see sentences like, “At first I didn’t believe it…”, or, “…It can’t be happening, but it is.”
In layman’s terms some scientists are brave enough to give out theories on just why our moon is rusting like an old pick-up truck on the shores of Lake Michigan. I will try to hit a couple of interesting highlights.
There’s a theory, which takes us to nothing, that says “we” are doing it. (Have you noticed anything in nature that occurs which is deemed bad or hazardous, is never labelled as a natural event anymore? It’s always labelled as the fault of humanity.)
Rust must have oxygen and water to exist or spread. Earth’s magnetic field streams outward into space. For about six days a month, the moon crosses the magnetic field’s tail. Some oxygen lies within that tail, bringing bits of oxygen to the surface of the moon which faces the earth. In recent years an Indian space orbiter confirmed that some water molecules have been discovered on the moon’s surface, mainly the north and south poles. Thus, the right conditions for rust to develop where iron deposits in moon rocks are found.
Yet, there are some scientific facts pushing back on this theory placing us back to more head-scratching. Without going into lots of scientific jargon, spelling out NASAese, with 9-letter astronomical terms, I will be the blue-jean science translator.
Our moon is blasted, way more often than our magnetic field, with solar winds from our sun. Solar winds are rich in hydrogen filled with electrons bathing our moon’s surface. Rust is produced when oxygen (from earth’s 6-day a month delivery) removes electrons from iron. Yet, hydrogen does the opposite as it adds electrons to our lunar surface. This makes it almost impossible for oxidation to manifest on the hydrogen friendly lunar landscape. And if that wasn’t enough, the Indian science orbiter also confirmed oxidation belting the opposite side (non-earth-side) of our moon which never gets to enjoy our magnetic field monthly tail.
Then there would be the question of why now? Why hasn’t this process been going on for the last 6 thousand years or so? In that case, our moon would be covered in rust by now. Or, could it be our sun is getting so old that it no longer flings off the amounts of hydrogen any longer? “Hummmm, very interesting”, says the science community.
While the experts are spinning in their current wow-factors, those who have studied scripture understand it’s not “OUR” moon at all. It belongs to the One Who placed it there and commanded its orbit.
You have to be living in a cave if you are unaware that science is the new “god”. We have forgotten how the word, “science” is defined. Science is a search, a hunt for knowledge, not necessarily the answer to theory. Too often theory, without fully observing all evidence, or any at all, has been taught as factual, as if proven. Before you read on, or re-read the above, keep this in mind.
It very well could be you have been taught that you cannot have a telescopic view while holding to a biblical world view simultaneously. Go ahead, pick up that telescope, but search the scriptures as you explore. As many scientific theories age, many have to be amended, or re-written altogether. Have you noticed? In fact, the more knowledge we obtain, via modern advanced technology, the more accuracies we find in ancient text of scripture. Allow me to point a couple out. Dare you grab the nearest distraction for blog post escape?
As for a rusty old moon, we were told long ago our earth and heavenly bodies would show age, wear & tear.
“Lift up your eyes to the sky, Then look to the earth beneath; For the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment…” – Isaiah 51:6a (NAS)
Sounds like my old denim shirt.
“Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.” – Psalm 102:25-27 (NAS)
Sounds like the old rusty pick-up truck to me.
“All the stars of heaven will be dissolved. The skies will be rolled up like a scroll, and all their stars will fall like withered leaves on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree.” – Isaiah 34:4 (Berean Study Bible)
Sounds like a black hole, collapsed star event to come. The Hubble Telescope has revealed such out there.
I know. It’s not what some might call inspiring. It depends upon which side of the stained glass you look through. Yet, to be armed with other views is the beginning of wisdom. To cancel out other views is like “wishing them away”.
Because of my biblical world view, my mind went to some promises spelled out by an old Hebrew prophetical passage. This prophet wrote down the words he heard from God’s voice at the time, approximately 835 BC. He writes much in imagery, or does he? it speaks of a new chapter the earth has not yet seen. Take note of the 5th word for emphasis.
“The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” – Joel 2:31 (NAS)
The word “turned” sets up the never-before changes in the sun and the moon. It’s a Hebrew word which is used in a sentence when a chef is “turning” a cake in an oven. The original Hebrew word used here has been utilized to describe “convert”, or “overturn”. In all instances it can be an action of speed or gradual conversion in change. The highlight for me is the color of red, like blood that Joel used.
Over 800 years later, while the Apostle John was placed in a Roman penal colony for teaching about the life and message of Jesus , John was given a vision of events to be had for the ending of days on God’s timeline. It’s strangely similar in imagery to Joel’s writing. Note the word “became”. Check this out:
” I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moonbecame like blood…” – Revelation 6:12 (NAS)
The moon not so silvery.
The Greek word John wrote, which translates to “became”, is virtually the same definition as the Hebrew word Joel used. It literally means to “grow”, “made to be”, “to be turned”.
So, yes, one day the “whole” surface of the moon, as seen from earth, will be made to convert to the color of red. Not like the blood moon shade we see every so often, but to a shade of red we have never seen in the moon before.
But the most outstanding passage concerning this conversion of the surface of the moon comes from a promise from Jesus Himself. If you read the entire chapter in context, it seems as if Jesus wasn’t going to speak about the following without a prompt. As it turns out, his disciples point blank asked Him when the ending of days would be and how will they (we) know what to look for warning. As Jesus spells specifics out for their following years, and the times in earth’s future, He gives snapshots, like a painter, or cartoon artist building his/her frames in a newspaper. Notice specifically the response of humanity as they will see these things come about in frequency and an escalation in force. Keep in mind Who is describing the events here.
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken…” – Jesus – Luke 21:25-26
And they spout out that “WE” are turning the moon red.
Anytime you read the word “signs” in scripture, it dictates “changes”, or “a changing” seen as abnormalities of increased activity our past recent generations did not see. So when Jesus said watch for “signs” in the moon, and such, He literally meant unusual overturnings, events that WILL BE noticed.
Blatantly we see events in the news that have made our jaws drop. So we say things like, “I don’t believe that happened.” Or, “What on earth is going on?” Or, “Why is all this happening?” Or, “More of the icecaps melting?” Or, “Is the whole west coast of America going to burn?” Or, “Here comes another 400 year hurricane, just like the one last month.” Or, like in recent days in the halls of NASA, “At first I didn’t believe it…”, or, “…It can’t be happening, but it is.”
You don’t have to be an eschatology student to see the connection. Please don’t misunderstand what I am writing about in this post. I’m not saying we are in the final days of earth as we know it. Maybe we are seeing the foothills of what is to come. However, I do believe that when I see “signs” of things uniquely coming upon our world, society and culture which have been spoken of as warnings in ancient biblical text, I will point it out.
However, on this side of the stained glass, my faith has found a resting place only tried and tested in fuel for the race.
“…day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” – Rev 4:8b (NAS)
This was not the post I was planning for upload today. Literally, I sat down at my desk to construct a post I’ve mulled over for three weeks now, when suddenly I remembered to try again to reach my mom on the phone. It would be the fourth attempt today. This time it worked. She answered. We spoke. Afterward I felt the sliding of my emotions which tends to be the norm of late.
In the past, on Mother’s Day weekend, I have told her story. Each year I gained morsels of bravery to shed more light on our tapestry. It’s a unique, heroic recounting of a strong, courageous single mom.
At 15, she found herself fighting off, or attempted to fight off, her rapist. I was the product of that violent attack. Being out of her crushed mind, heart, and spirit, she attempted suicide twice while pregnant with me, but survived. She was unaware God had His plans of destiny beyond the messy road she was on. I told this story with a great amount of reveals a year ago. I invite you to look at May’s archives from last year to get a sharper camera angle of her torn life. (“If I Were…” From May 10, 2019)
In the last 20 years she took-on the role of caregiver for her parents, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Nancy Reagan called this disease, “The Long Good-bye”. She was right. My mom retired as early as she could to move-in with her ailing parents, giving up her life to hold them up, as best as she could, as they faced the monster of this disease. My granddad passed away first with complications of dementia in 2008. My grandmother had full-blown Alzheimer’s, struggling with it for about 14 years before she passed.
My mom aged quickly while being a soldier for her folks. It was difficult to see her own physical health decline during those years of tremendous servanthood. I was never more proud of her battling away in those times.
Around 2014, her oldest brother, 4 years older than her, began to show signs of the same disease. Today, he is deep in the jaws of the struggle, rendering him to a shell of a man, vacant in many ways. A couple of years ago, my mom’s other brother, 2 years her senior, began to mentally deteriorate with the same invader of the body. Trust me, it is no respecter of persons, or brilliance.
My mom is only 16 years older than I. (I’m turning 60 in a few short days.) Over the last 2 years, I became aware my mom was changing, and not for the better. She lives alone about 70 minutes from me in the house she grew-up in. At first, I felt the changes I observed were simple gaffs of the aging process. Our communication often left me scratching my head. There were occasions where she got lost while traveling to our part of the Dallas Metroplex, a way she knows like the back of her hand. About 2 years ago we were to meet at a halfway point, as we have done many times before. Her sense of direction was totally absent. She had to call me for help to walk her through which way to turn at each intersection. When I instructed her to turn left, she would turn right, not understanding the mistake. It was on that day I realized she…we had a problem. It would be a problem that would grow.
Recently, almost overnight, she found herself unable to spell the simplest words. Her cell phone texts became more difficult to read as the days rolled on. She began having issues with sentence construction and word retrieval during our conversations. Items would come up missing in her house. She blames it on her dog. Asking if I can help is a loss. She no longer allows me in the house. Her excuse is it’s too messy for company. In the last few months, she has had losing battles in operating her cell phone, including prompts, icons, and modes. Today, in our telephone exchange, she expressed an urge to give it up and order a simple landline phone. I hope it helps because she has trouble answering the phone these days.
There are also other health issues of concern I recognize as side symptoms of dementia. She is a proud, independent woman, and holds these cards close to her chest as I attempt to decipher how her daily life is changing.
Frankly, I know where this is going. As she shrugs it off as amusing, even humorous, I am accepting the fact that my mom is fading before my eyes.
Somewhere in the thicket of my mind, I knew this day was coming. Although there was a 20 year span as my grandparents experienced massive declining health, there were also wonderful times of mysterious joy in the midst of it all. I must remember this as I tend to my mom’s needs today and tomorrow. Currently, I just don’t know how, or where to begin.
So, what’s the purpose of this particular post? Unaware of the true answer, all I can do is display brutal honesty of how I feel on this Mother’s Day weekend. Because I didn’t have a dad around, most of the time in my life, I saw her as my touchstone. I liken it to a small child in a swimming pool, with an inflatable tube around his/her torso. He/she feels much safer holding on to the side of the pool with his/her waterlogged wrinkled hand grasping tightly to the concrete edge.
I’m turning 60 years old now. It’s time to let go of the concrete edge. Scripture tells us not to hold too tightly to this world, especially what we deem as “concrete”. Even concrete crumbles.
As the concrete crumbles in my grasp, I am reminded once again, God is the life-saving tube around my torso.
My days are filled with the reminder that I need to top off my tank every day with fuel for the race.
“So I said: ‘Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.'” – Psalm 102: 24-27 (NIV)
“…Well I thought about it, you know I’m not playing. You better listen to me, every word I’ve been saying. Hot is cold, what’s cold is hot. I’m a little mixed up, but I’ll give it everything I’ve got. Don’t want your money, don’t need your car. I’m doing all right, doing all right so far. I’m givin’ it up for your love – everything.” (1980) – “Givin’ It Up For Your Love” – Composer & Recorded: Delbert McClinton
Merriam-Webster defines “Invest” with three different entries. The third is this: “To involve or engage especially emotionally.”
Most see it like this…
I was given a gift when I was about 10 years old. It was a piggy bank, but not in the traditional. It wasn’t in a “piggy” shape at all. It was transparent glass cylinders melded side-by-side. There were four of these cylinders, each just the size of each denomination of American coins. Much like a rain measurement gauge, the cylinders were marked-off to indicate how much was accumulated, depending upon how high the stack of coins. Unlike the old piggy bank, I could see and count how much my investments added up to based on my deposits. What a great teaching tool for a little kid. Within this profile of the man below, I will get back to the transparent bank of deposits.
Today, the north Dallas suburb where I live has a population of around 140, 000 citizens. When my mom and I moved here in the summer of ’73, it was far smaller. The suburb is clustered with other suburbs to the point of not knowing which one you are driving through if you are unaware of the borders. It’s always been a busy place with lots to do for whatever interests you might have.
Perry Road was between our apartment complex at the time, and the school I went to. It was explored the first week we arrived so we would know the route to my school. I walked that road every day during my 8th grade school year. Later, I would consider it my jogging street.
I often saw a little old African-American man walking down Perry next to the curb in a brisk gate. At first I didn’t really pay much attention to the man as we drove by. After seeing him a few more times, as the summer went on, I took a bit more notice of the old man. Once I got a good look, he appeared to be a vagrant, a poor homeless man, with weathered skin like leather. He looked to be in his 70’s. The idea of “Mr. Bojangles” came to mind. His thin faded shirt was oversized, ragged and dirty. His pants were either old cotton khakis, or worn-out bluejeans, complete with holes in various spots. There were times he was seen wearing a postal carrier’s uniform, but it was old and frayed. I always wondered where he got it, as I knew he wasn’t working for the post office. He always wore an old sweat-stained baseball cap. After awhile, it was the norm to see him with a burlap bag, or an old army duffle bag, swung over his shoulder with a couple of baseball bats sticking out. Being new in town, and knowing I would be walking to school, my mom was hoping we had moved to a neighborhood where transients wouldn’t be an issue. Seeing this old man caused her pause.
After the school year started, from time to time I would see this old man at my school’s baseball diamond swinging bats, hitting old lopsided beat-up baseballs with the stitching unraveling. There were always kids around him, from 6 year olds to teenagers. One day, I watched him from behind the backstop knocking one ball after another to whatever part of the field he pointed to.
I wasn’t into baseball, but this old man was surprisingly talented at the sport. They say from time to time a kid would beg him to hit one over the fence. A crooked grin would launch from his sweating weathered face, followed by a soft chuckle, then pick up a ball and at will, knock it over the fence. Two things come to mind. First, he did it with ease. Secondly, he looked far too skinny and old to put one over the fence. Like a finely tuned choir, the kids would say, “Wow! Cool! Far-out!” I could’ve hung around longer but, there were other things to do, places to go, people to see. Plus, baseball just wasn’t my sport.
The kids in the community knew him simply as, Jimmy. You could say he was like the Pied Piper, leading countless boys and girls to home plate and the pitcher’s mound. He was well-known for walking to various elementary schools, as well as the Jr. High schools, and city parks to start pick-up games for whoever wanted to play.
Little did I know he had been doing this for the neighborhood kids since the 1960’s. This mysterious old black man would come walking to these various baseball fields from seemingly out of nowhere. Out of his old worn-out bag came a couple of old baseball bats which he held together with screws and nails after being split or cracked. An armload of old baseballs, three or four ancient left-handed baseball gloves would fall out of the bag. He coached. He taught. He umpired. He pitched. He chose players for the teams. It didn’t matter to him if girls showed up. Jimmy saw them as no different than the boys. They all played their roles on the diamond, or outfield. If there was a kid who struggled at the game, he spent more time with them for encouragement and personal growth. Many an afternoon was spent teaching the art of baseball to the young community of our suburb. He loved the kids. They truly idolized the man. Jimmy would stay until the very last child had to go home. After waving the last player homeward, he would gather his baseball equipment in the bag and off down Perry Road he would go.
A few of my friends grew up being coached by Jimmy in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It’s amazing to me that I never really learned about Jimmy until I became an adult. Little did I know we had a baseball star in our midst.
Jimmy Porter was born September 2, 1900 somewhere in Tennessee. For some unknown reason, Jimmy Porter came to Carrollton, Texas in the 1920’s. Prior to his journey he had played for the old Negro Baseball League in St. Louis. When he arrived in Carrollton, he was unemployed, uneducated, and didn’t have a dime to his name. Considering the times, he was what they called a “hobo”, destined for a pauper’s life out on the streets. On top of that, being a black man in the south, life was not promising in the 1920’s. At the same time, he was rich in talent with a higher vision.
Shortly after he set foot in our community in the 1920’s, he formed a black semipro baseball team known as, The Carrollton Cats. He played and coached The Cats for several years until they eventually disbanded. Later, Jimmy convinced the leaders of the community to found a Carrollton Little League for the children. As expected, Jimmy coached the league for many years. Even after the Little League grew way beyond what it was in the beginning, after he no longer was the “official” coach, he continued to coach outside the league through pick-up games, not only in Carrollton, but also in the neighboring suburb, Farmers Branch, Texas. The games were casual, friendly, and educational. Jimmy was a small man, so he always made sure the smallest kids got to bat first. Everyone was welcome to use his old baseball supplies. Often at the end of the games, he hugged all the players with the warmth of approval. They say he always left them with a wave and yelled out, “Everybody just love everybody”. It’s ironic in that his motto described who he was.
Jimmy’s coaching grew some fruit. For many years, our high school’s baseball team was considered one of the best in all of Texas. In the trophy-case on campus, you can check out the championship trophies racked-up through the years. Some players went on to terrific college teams and minor league teams across the nation.
Although he was poor, he didn’t ask for money for any of his work with the kids. He was never seen begging in the streets. Jimmy did receive high praise from the community through the decades of his selfless work. Many offered him jobs. He was known for odd-jobs when he could get them. He did yard work, janitorial jobs, and grunt-work nobody wanted.
Despite his state in life, there would be awards of honor given, parades where he would be featured, as well as, a front row seat just behind home plate at all Little League games where he would hoop & holler encouragement to the players. In 1973 a city park, named in his honor with a beautiful baseball field, was built which included a Jimmy Porter monument. Jimmy didn’t have a family, so in 1977, Jimmy was awarded a lifetime membership by the Texas PTA. He was featured in several newspapers, local television, as well as, the NBC Today Show in 1982. Each year there is a recipient who is elected to receive The Jimmy Porter Award for outstanding community service. Today, some of Jimmy’s old baseballs, caps, bats, and gloves can be seen under glass at the Carrollton Historical Museum.
Little did I know at the time, Jimmy Porter lived in an abandoned railroad boxcar just off the depot about 3 miles from most of the ball-fields he visited. Frankly, I don’t believe most of the town knew where he lived. In the early 1980’s, Jimmy’s health began to decline. A few civic leaders, who once were under Jimmy’s wing in the dugout, built him a small frame house. It was way overdue. This old, quite hero shed a tear or two as the keys to the humble house were given to him.
At this point, I must admit I have some lingering anger. It spews from the fact that decades went by before this community offered Mr. Porter decent room and board. Think of it. In 1973, when he was 73 years old, they built a city park for the man and named it Jimmy Porter Park. Afterward the ceremony, they watched him walk back to his boxcar. I’ll leave the subject here.
Mr. Jimmy Porter softly left us December 11, 1984, just about a year after moving into his new home. He was 84 years old. The community purchased a modest plot in one of our cemeteries, on Perry Road, where he wore out his shoes walking to and fro the school’s ball-fields. His humble headstone features two baseball bats crossed.
Mr. Porter had no idea how important he would be to Carrollton and Farmers Branch, Texas. Sure, he was a pauper, an uneducated man, a man seen as a vagrant in the eyes of the misled and misdirected. Yet, as poor as he was, he gave. Much like the Apostle Paul in scripture, he was willing to be poured out for others, and the generations to come. Jimmy Porter gave of his personal value, the God-given special wealth inside of him. Like a transparent piggy bank, he lived long enough to see the dividends of a lifetime of deposits from his heart and talents. Multitudes who are now between 40-70 years old, who were raised in my neck of the woods, were, and are, his treasures. His investment was enormous. I would say, not so poor.
Like any good teacher, Jimmy Porter left an indelible mark on young lives that can be seen to this day.
Often I drive down Perry Road for old-time sake. It never fails, I admit to looking down the street for an old tattered black man with worn-out baseball bats slung over his shoulder.
Investing in the lives of others, without seeking anything in return, pours out in fuel for the race.
“Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.’ – Ecclesiastes 11:1 – King Solomon (New American Standard Bible)
A special thanks to Dave Henderson for some of Jimmy Porter’s memories.
“If you start me up, if you start me up I’ll never stop…” (1981) Start Me Up. Recorded in 1978 & 1981 by: The Rolling Stones. Composers: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards.
From a radio/record perspective of Start me Up, it truly has one of the biggest hooks in rock & roll history. It sticks to the ear. Even now you probably are hearing it in your head. From a rock composer’s perspective, the instrumental is carefully crafted.
Recently, I have been astonished at the musical icons still on tour, or performing stop-and-go dates. The Stones are a great example. 76 year old Mick, along with Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie are still cranking it on stage across the planet. Then there’s Roger and Pete from The Who continue kickin’ the boards worldwide. Of course, Barry Manilow, Joan Baez, Willie Nelson (86), and Ann (69) & Nancy (65) Wilson of Heart are like well oiled machines. Brian and Roger of Queen are dotting the world in song still. I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention Mick, John, Stevie, and Christine of Fleetwood Mac raising the arena roofs. Gene Simmons of KISS recently stated that he will be 70 in August. By the time their End of The Road Tour wraps, he will be 72 and believes he will be cooked well-done by then. There’s no way I would leave out Elton, Paul and Ringo wowing concert goers on every continent.
Photo: Joan Baez in Spain. Concert by the sea, July 2019. Photo by my friend, Grace Stumberg from upstage.
A buddy of mine, near Green Bay, WI, worked part-time in security for major concert events. One recent night he found himself in charge of the green room back stage for the band, Kansas. While they were on stage performing Dust In The Wind, he got a good look at all their drugs sitting out, completely exposed. He was surprised to find a mix of Levemir, asthma inhalers, an assortment of beta blockers for blood pressure, and statins for cholesterol. Signs of the times? (LOL) Most all of the above, with a few of exceptions, are artists who range from 75 years old and older. Mick Jagger made major news, not long ago, with heart surgery holding back the current tour. He got through it nicely and is hopping around on stage like a young rabbit. Being an old performer myself, I know how tough it is to be on your energetic stage toes as you get older. There’s just certain things I just can’t do as well as I once did.
Vocally, I’m fine. But too many times lately, I find I lean on my mic stand for support, or sit on a bar stool to finish a set of music. After decades of performances, I know I could probably never take on a major role in a musical again.
Or, it could be these are photos of my imaginary son. (LOL)
The truth bites. Honestly, I don’t know how these long-in-the-tooth artists are able to take the wear & tear of concert touring. Most all of these acts have 15 years minimum jump on my age. I guess Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine was right with the lyric, Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.
All of this came to mind earlier this month when it was 120f degrees inside my 2008 Nissan Xterra. It’s been a terrific vehicle since I bought it about 9 years ago. One July afternoon I got in the oven…uh, rather the SUV, turned the key as it tried to start, but was denied. Knowing it wasn’t the starter or the battery, it left me bewildered, and hot. Try, try again they say. After the third attempt, it turned over. So, off to the auto shop it went for diagnosis. Right away they gave me the bad news. It was the actual crankshaft, and with it, crankshaft sensors. If the crankshaft doesn’t spin, the pistons won’t engage. Arg!
I hate car trouble. After a couple of days, and $750.00 later, it drove as if right off the assembly line. On the way back home, I heard Start Me Up on a classic rock radio station. I thought it was most coincidental. The laughter came tumbling out of my mouth. Wouldn’t you know, I turned it up and sang along, using my best Jagger accent, of course.
Some say age is all in the mind. Maybe that’s true to a certain extent. Then again, why isn’t 79 year old Chuck Norris competing in the MMA? I certainly see how the mind can overcome many rusty, slow-moving items in life. On the flip-side, there are times when the mind says, “I know how to do this. I’ve always done this.” Yet, the body doesn’t get that memo. Parts rust, wear and tear, and the muscles weaken with stiffness to boot. Age is what it is…age.
So, for now, I will grab the energy God gives in His installment plan. He does say to rely on Him for strength, even physically. The One who makes all things new is the best physical trainer. My job is to nurture and exercise this aging earthsuit while I’m still in it. The turning of the key to Divinity is all about trusting what He promised to those who acknowledge and follow Him.
Wisdom says, get to know your body and its limits. It’s prudent to explore the boundaries when starting up the day. Who knows, maybe you’ll never stop.
If I do sing and dance on stage when I’m 76 years old, it will only be because I consumed fuel for the race.
“Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.” – God Isaiah 46:4 (NAS)
“Farewell, Irene, where your dreams abound…You dream of the north, Irene. Well then that’s where you oughta be…” (2016) Irene. Recorded and composed by: Courtney Marie Andrews
As I introduce you to my fabulous cousin, Irene, allow me to lay down a teaser right here. In a few lines I will deliver a shocker, a twist in my spotlighting of this precious and beloved lady.
When I think of cousins, my memory projects mental Super 8 footage of summer days chasing each other with water guns. I have snapshots in my childhood haze riding double on horses, bareback through the pastures. Notably, there’s always visions of playground swings, chasing the ice cream truck down the street, family reunions in the park, and visiting our grandparents together. Cousins were, and are, so much fun.
Entering stage left, my cousin, Irene.
When I was little, I had trouble calling her, “Irene”. My understanding the word, “Ring” came out of my mouth. I was able to overcome that problem.
Over the Easter weekend, the old band got together for a bit of a reunion performance for a Messianic Passover event way north of our home in Dallas. For a Texan, Oklahoma is north-enough. I drove myself up to Enid, Oklahoma, in the northwestern part of the state, for our musical adventure. The long drive gave me lots of time to freshen up my vocals before arriving at the venue in the late afternoon. We had played there two years ago. At that time, after a Facebook posting about the gig in Enid, my cousin, Irene, replied with a tad of chastisement for not informing her. It was my mistake in that I was under the impression she and her husband resided in southwestern Oklahoma, closer to Altus where her mom lived. Turns out, she lives closer to the Kansas/Oklahoma border, in Tonkawa, OK, just another thirty miles or so north of my turn-off for Enid. So, I promised her then I would contact her ahead of time if I’m in that area again. As you can see, we finally got together. Here’s the beauty with two of her pals and my ugly mug.
(We have Cherokee in our family tree. The features show up so much more through her branch of the family. Her mother, my Aunt Evelyn, was very much the same way.)
Although we had kept in touch over the decades, it was always through emails, texts, and Facebook. Rarely were we hanging out for family picnics. Literally, the last time we physically sat together was at our uncle’s memorial service in 1977. It’s such a shame to only see the ones you love at times of sorrow. Do you know what I mean?
What a terrific visit. It’s amazing what you can learn about others when you actually sit and talk face to face. I knew she was an artist, photographer, and an avid activist, a gifted musician, but there’s so much more to my cousin, Irene than I once knew. Part of her artwork is landscaping. Her property is a testament to the fact.
I must say, it’s vastly different from the natural brush country in that part of the state. She’s turned it into a showplace. It reminded me so much of the Dallas Arboretum Park. (Google for photos.) Truly a professional would be amazed.
Part of her array of gifts surrounds being active in charity work and fundraisers. She has donated many items for local charity auctions. One of the things she is known for is her artwork on chairs. You saw the cover photo at the top, by the title, of her in action. Here’s another example of her artsy eye on old unwanted furnishings.
(Collaboration Art by: Irene Ackerson & Gene Doughtery)
These chairs go for a few hundred dollars at various auctions. You can see why.
Irene stays very busy. She is well traveled and well educated. She and her husband were teachers, loving the craft of education. She is a talented canvas painter. An active animal lover, Irene rescues dogs, as well as, dog-sitting for others in the community. Somehow she walks multiple dogs at the same time. I struggle walking two of them. My dear cousin collects items of interest, much in the realm of artwork, from all over the world, decorating her home with such. She’s a volunteer for civic and church events. She can be found in the throws of various social and charitable occasions. She probably makes animal balloons, too. These are just some of the things I have missed out on in not getting to know her better.
We both have a good sense of humor, which has been handed down through our family tree. One day, back in the 90’s, she got a real kick when I called her the “Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels) of our family.” The resemblance was authentic. There was a lot of truth to my title for her when we were younger.
(Irene with her oldest son, Jeff.)
Now for the twister of this story about my cousin, Irene. We never played in the playground swings together. We never rode bareback horses through the Texas pastures. We never chased down the ice cream truck. Irene and I never once shot each other with water guns. It’s certainly not because she lived so far north from my stomping grounds. So what’s the mystery?
If you have seen my Facebook page, (Connect with me anytime – Alan Brown, Carrollton, Texas.) then you know she’s not shy about her age. In a recent public post on my Facebook page, Irene mentioned the occasion where we first met. In fact, there is a photo of the moment, which currently I cannot locate in my stacks of family photos. It was 1964. I was four years old, shaking hands with Irene, the beautiful bride!!! (YES, scroll back up for another look at us from Easter weekend.) Irene is actually my mom’s cousin, my 2nd cousin. Not willing to publish her actual age, I will reveal that I will turn 59 in a few days, and Irene is two years older than my mom! Maybe I should add, she’s never had work done. (Haha)
Let it be known, she can run circles around me. We had a very sharp aunt who lived to be 103 who walked faster than I did.
Truly, there’s lots to be said about staying active. There’s lots to be said about keeping the mind youthful and open. There’s lots to be said about nurturing the body, and keeping it moving. Irene has done all of that, and more.
I also think love has much to do with the “youthening” process. Do you agree? Have you noticed? Irene pours out love for others as a way of life, including the animal kingdom. I believe those who chew on hate have bitter, shortened lives. Frankly, that is a biblical concept.
Jesus taught to love one another as we love ourselves. He also went further. He taught we should love the ones we perceive as outcasts, or socially despised. He said so because that is how God loves. In following suit, we find life to be more palatable altogether. Life is sweeter when my mind chooses to love those I normally might not even notice.
Maybe Irene’s teaching days aren’t over. Turns out, I’ve learned a few things observing our Irene.
Love and youthful endurance are grand products of fuel for the race.
“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.” – Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)
“I remember you from a long time ago, when my eyes were new…” (1998) “I Remember U”, Recorded by: Chaka Khan. Composers: Prince, Yvette M. Stevens, Larry Graham.
Confession here: I am so glad the above yearbook shot is in black and white. It was a 1975 double-knit, burnt orange suit, with white-trim stitching. Oh, and bell-bottoms with white high-heel platforms. (OUCH!) I was just, “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.”
This particular post is here for one simple purpose. I’ve experienced a phenomenon of late. It’s been a refreshed observation, at least for me. I’ll explain in a bit.
For several months, I have been looking forward to my high school reunion. Finally, in late October, the two-day event came. Many times I heard the comforting phrase, “I would know you anywhere!” Among the festivities, a golf tournament, and a casual ice-breaker at a local club, which went into the wee hours, from what I’ve heard. Plus, us vocalists put together a gathering of choral department alumni. (Complete with singing some of our favorites from our choir days.)
After 40 years, (yes, I typed 40 years), here are some of us from the tenor section preparing to do some harmonies right off the page. The “young” man on the left, with the water bottle, is yours truly. (Ha-ha-ha)
Our sore aged feet could testify how a few of us enjoyed a tour of the old high school. (Lots of additions and remodeling had occurred.) Then, at a local country club, the semi-formal gala with dinner, drinks, and dancing wrapped up the benchmark hang-out. Let me tell you, I was exhausted after the weekend was over. Maybe not so young.
Hundreds attended our long-awaited reunion. No surprise there, almost 900 people walked across the stage during our graduation ceremony that year. Unfortunately, about 60 of us are deceased now, including some very dear friends.
There was the unexpected. A few classmates, I reconnected with, had gone through huge changes. I found strangers, who were my old friends. For example: An old goat-roper who is now part in the upper-class of millionaire strata. I bumped into old known substance-abusers who are now on the straight and narrow. And sadly, some who are still chasing the dragon, among other indulgences. Stunned would be the word describing how I felt when a cowboy, who once was a long-haired, stoned, hippie-type, hugged my neck. What a change!
Of course, there were many deep-level, intellectual debates concerning how to change the world….NOT!
Being an old actor/singer, there is just something to be said about the unexplained bondings of former fellow cast members, and show-people in general.
Even fellow artists who recognize you before the shave and haircut.
I’ve said this before, there’s just something special about “old love”. Do you agree?
DNA can be a wonderful thing to some, and cruel to others. Unrecognizable were a few who looked at least 20 years older than most of us. Then there were others who had barely changed at all over the last 4 decades. One of the more humorous lines I heard at the gala was, “Hey, at our age, we NEED these name tags.” Yes, without the name tags there would be too much time spent at guessing who was who, and fearing some feelings might be injured. Above all, what was so evident, too many now look like their parents from back in the day.
You know what was amazing to me? Beyond the wrinkles, weight-gain, baldness, and hair color, it was the spirit of the individual which had the outstanding identity stamp. It’s true! The persona of each person jumped out, as if to say, “Hey, Alan…It’s me!”
Although the words, “Spirit” and “Soul” are often interchangeable, there really is a difference. No doubt there have been times you’ve connected with someone even before you recognized their appearance. Unlike a bald spot, you can’t put your finger on it, and that’s the point…you can’t.
Think back on your real-world life experience. Have you ever been drawn to someone’s very soul? Maybe there was nothing to attract your eyes or ears, but drawn none-the-less. Maybe it was a perfect stranger passing by on the street. Maybe it was a chance meeting, done in a casual manner, but the spirit of that individual radiated out toward you, like waves on the beach. Have you been there? I must admit, I have kindred spirits in my life. How about you?
We are triune beings. Much like an egg with the albumen (white/clear), yoke, and shell, all three separate, yet all in one. Our body is separate from the personality, and the personality is separate from the core essence of ourselves. You recognize the core when gauging the turns of the heart to the right or left, up or down, and backward and forward. THAT essence, the eternal part us, which longs for a connection with something bigger outside of ourselves, outlasts both persona and body. THAT segment of the individual has the ability to bond with The Supreme One, a relationship which can extend beyond time and space, as we know it. What a way to be put together.
As you know, even voices change with age, but the spirit/soul of a person will go on. It shouldn’t surprise me in the least. After all, Celine Dion’s, “My Heart Will Go On”, from the movie, “Titanic” reminded us. Then there’s the Apostle Paul alluding to it about 2000 years ago. Concerning the mystery of the afterlife, when considering his existence, outside of the physical body. It was recited during the memorial service for Pres. George H.W. Bush. Paul wrote…
“For NOW we see in a mirror dimly, but THEN face to face; NOW I know in part, but THEN I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NAS)
Turns out, I just might know you anywhere!
The Ancient Of Days, the Inventor of “old love”, pours it out liberally in fuel for the race.
“I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.” – Job 19:27 (CSB)