Friday, December 29, 2023

Gravity Gets Stronger As We Age

Gravity is something that most of us take for granted. (Or, as some folks like to say, “Take for granite,” which is not a grammatical blunder if you are falling off a cliff in New Hampshire. In that case, both gravity and granite will be major aspects of the state police accident report.) 

Anyway, the force of gravity keeps everything on earth from floating off into space. If gravitational forces suddenly ceased and everyone started to float away, it would make it, among other things, very difficult to get to work on time. Although that might not be the first thing that pops into anyone’s mind while drifting into the sub-zero temperatures of the stratosphere.
Remember when astronauts went to the moon, and we learned that gravity on the moon is only one-sixth as strong compared to earth? Even though they were wearing heavy, bulky spacesuits, the astronauts were hopping across the lunar surface like kangaroos and hitting golf balls 500 yards with one-handed swings.

Scientists tell us that gravity on earth is essentially constant. There are actually some barely perceptible variations, and if you ever have trouble falling asleep at night, just read the detailed explanations in a science journal. 

Even though most scientists say that gravity on earth is constant, I have discovered that the scientists are missing something very important. The force of gravity increases as we get older.

Just look at the faces and bodies of elderly people. Everything is sagging. Why? Because gravity is much stronger for these people. 

What is a major worry for old folks? Falling down. And why do seniors fall so often? Too much gravity.
Remember when you were in your 20s and you could bound up a flight of stairs two steps at a time? What is it like going up those same stairs now? Right, you slowly plod your way upward, one step at a time, and then have to pause to catch your breath at the top. Did the stairs change? No, gravity changed.

While astronauts can hit a golf ball 500 yards on the moon, I can’t even hit a drive 180 anymore, while I used to hit my tee shots around 250 (never straight, though). What changed? Obviously my personal gravity has gotten much stronger with age.

The original equation for gravity was determined by Sir Isaac Newton, who declared: 

That is, the gravitational force between two bodies is equal to the mass of the first body times the mass of the second body, times a gravitational constant; all divided by the distance between the two bodies squared. If you understand any of that, then you paid attention in physics class — something I did not. I may be baffled by the formula for gravity, but I do know how to cut and paste from a website.
My new scientific breakthrough means we have to add another section to Newton’s equation. We have to multiply everything by “(A/30)”, with “A” being your current age, divided by 30, a peak-health constant. This means that when you are 20 years old, gravity is only about two-thirds as strong. When you are 30, gravity is what Newton said. When you are 45 years old, gravity is now about 50% stronger than when you were 30. And when you are 60 years old, gravity is twice as strong. What about age 90? Don’t even ask.

So, don’t take gravity for granted (or granite). We need gravity to keep us from floating off into space. But be aware, as you get older, gravity gets stronger. I don’t have detailed scientific data to back up my claim, just a lot of real world experience. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Holy Family Was No Picnic for St. Joseph 

On Sunday, December 31st, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is the model for all families because that household was filled with peace, serenity, and love. For 2,000 years, the Holy Family has been the shining example all families strive to emulate. 

But consider this: of the three people in the Holy Family, only Joseph was a sinner. That’s right. Jesus was sinless, of course. And the Church has always taught that Mary was uniquely blessed by God to be conceived without sin (the “Immaculate Conception”). Which means, when you boil it down, in that peaceful and loving household, only Joseph fit the biblical truth that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 
Wow! Talk about pressure! Anytime anything went wrong in that house, two sets of sinless eyes immediately turned and looked at the only family member who was NOT morally perfect. Poor ol’ Joseph must have struggled to maintain his self-esteem. 

Early in their marriage, I wonder if Joseph, like all husbands throughout history, often blurted out the phrase, “I didn’t do it.” For men, that phrase is an instinctive defense mechanism, as involuntary as flinching when someone suddenly throws something toward your face. When we husbands say, “I didn’t do it,” we are not actually declaring, “I. Did. Not. Do. It.” We are merely stalling for time so we can assess the situation and find out if we’re really in trouble or not. 

After a few years, I wonder if Joseph realized the futility of offering that phrase time after time, and just resigned himself to saying with a sigh, “Yeah, I did it, dear. I’m sorry.” 

Well, maybe that wasn’t exactly how it happened. Maybe I’m just imagining what it would’ve been like if I were Saint Joseph. However, since the Bible clearly tells us that Joseph was a righteous man, let’s just say all of Christendom is a lot better off that God did not pick someone to be the husband of Mary and the step-father of Jesus who spends way too much time hiding in a basement “man cave” watching sports on a big screen TV. 
Since Joseph was indeed a righteous man, the occasions when he did do something morally suspect were few and far between. (And by “morally suspect,” I don’t mean the kind of sins that are rampant in our culture today. I’m thinking of things like gossip, discouragement, and mildly profane utterances whenever he hit himself on the thumb with a hammer. You know, what we now call venial sins.) 

On the other hand, since Joseph was righteous, whenever he did do something wrong, he most likely admitted it right away and asked for forgiveness. And who better to ask forgiveness from than the two most merciful people in the history of the world? Can you imagine what it must’ve been like to have the Blessed Virgin Mary and/or Jesus say to you, “That’s OK. I forgive you. C’mere, big guy, gimme a hug!”? That must have been awesome. If I were Joseph, I’d be tempted to do things wrong on purpose, just to experience that unconditional forgiveness. (Yet another reason why God was so wise in not picking me for that job.) 

Actually, even though we are not a part of the Holy Family, we can experience the same kind of unconditional forgiveness and love Joseph experienced. All we need to do is go to Confession. (Also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.) After all, we’re not asking the priest to forgive us. He merely sits in place of Jesus, the One who pours out His unconditional and total mercy on us. 

The best way we can emulate the Holy Family is to do what Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did: share the love and mercy of God with each other. We won’t ever become sinless on this side of eternity, but we will be filled with peace and serenity and joy. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Wide Awake at 3 am — Again!

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about sleep. Thoughts of slumber usually twirl through my brain around 2 or 3 a.m., when I am most definitely not asleep and instead I’m staring at the ceiling wondering why I’m wide awake.

I never used to think about sleep. I would just do it. No matter when I went to bed — 10 p.m., midnight, 2 a.m. — I would zonk out for eight hours and wake up refreshed. Yeah, good times.
So, I was intrigued when I recently read an article about sleep problems, which had this headline: “If you follow these 5 sleeping habits, you’re 30% less likely to die from any cause.”

Here are the five sleeping habits that will help you live longer:
  1. Sleep for an average of seven or eight hours each night
  2. Fall asleep without difficulty at least five nights per week
  3. Sleep through the night at least five times per week
  4. Do not use any sleep medication
  5. Feel well rested upon waking up at least five times per week
Hmm, at best I only meet numbers 2 and 4. I never have any difficulty falling asleep. My major problem with going to bed is the fact I cannot get any reading done. Sometimes the Post-it note I use for a bookmark only gets moved to a different paragraph on the same page. I can’t even get one page turned before my eyes slam shut. But don’t worry, four hours later my eyes will be wide open and staring at the ceiling. 

Regarding item number 4, I don’t use any sleep medication and I don’t really want to start. Just do a Google search for the phrase “Lunesta side effects.” Of course I want to sleep through the night, but I don’t want to be groggy the whole next day. (I can do that without any help!) And I certainly don’t want a metallic taste in my mouth, headaches, dizziness, a runny nose, and the possibility of becoming addicted. 

Now, just for fun, do the same Google search, but for Ambien. My senior citizen Bingo card definitely does not list these items: “memory problems,” “sleep driving,” and “hallucinations.” And whatever you do, don’t even look up the definition of “sexsomnia.”
The article I originally referenced explained that a man’s life expectancy is 4.7 years greater if he does all of those five sleep habits. But after listing all the details of the study — 172,000 American adults, average age of 50, carefully studied from 2013 to 2018 — the article said NOTHING about how someone can do those five habits. 

The last sentence of the article was: “The researchers hope patients and doctors will start talking about sleep as part of their overall health assessment and disease management planning.” Just talk about it with a doctor? They might as well have said, “You’re on your own, pal.”

Most articles about medical research studies explain the findings of the study, and then give advice on how a person can change his or her behavior to produce a more favorable outcome. But not this one. It explained the findings and then said, in essence, “Have a nice life — and for those of you who don’t do the five sleep habits, a SHORTER nice life.”
The only thing that article did for me (besides giving me a topic for this column) was to provide one more thing I can worry about during my regular 3 a.m. “stare at the ceiling” adventures.

In addition, the article mentioned that sleeping too much is also bad for a person’s health. Well, I’m sure that’s true. But just for a change of pace, I wouldn’t mind finding out first-hand.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

The True Meaning of Christmas

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the land, not a creature was stirring – except for 330 million Americans who were scrambling frantically to prepare for the holiday by eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much, driving too much, and stressing out too much. In the process, they all were sleeping too little and meditating on the true meaning of Christmas not at all. 

In the greatest holiday special ever broadcast on TV, Charlie Brown pleads, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”
In reply, Linus walks out to the middle of the stage and starts reciting from Luke’s gospel. 

Well, I’d like to attempt to answer Charlie Brown’s question by citing John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through Him all things were made….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Christmas is a love story. The eternal, supernatural Creator of the Universe is a person, not an impersonal force. Therefore, He is able to enter into loving relationships with other persons. He created human beings for the sole purpose of entering into loving relationships with us.

In order for any relationship between persons to be truly loving, the persons involved must have the freedom to love or to walk away. If we are forced to love God – just as if anyone is forced to love someone else as in, say, an arranged marriage – it would not be true love. Love is only real if both parties enter into the relationship willingly.

If human beings were created as obedient robots, programmed to be devoted to the Lord no matter what, it would not be real love. So, God created us with free will. This has been, alas, the source of all the problems in the history of the world. Giving us free will was a very risky thing for God to do, but apparently He thought it worth the risk, as it was the only way to have true loving relationships.

Very early on, things started to go awry. Sin entered the world with Adam and Eve, when they freely chose to focus on themselves and ignore God. Ever since, humanity has been proclaiming, “My will be done,” rather than, “Thy will be done.”

In order to bridge the vast gulf that developed between sinful humanity and the holy Creator God, the Lord of Heaven came up with a shocking and scandalous plan. He decided to send a piece of Himself, what we call the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, to take on human flesh. This stunning event is called the Incarnation, when God’s only Son became human. That is what we celebrate at Christmas.
Jesus Christ is fully God and at the same time fully man. Why did God lower Himself to become one of us? Out of love. He knew we were incapable of restoring the fractured relationship with Him on our own. So, He decided to do it Himself.

Jesus is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Christmas is the celebration of this earth-shattering event that occurred approximately 2,000 years ago. That’s why Christmas is a love story. 

Here’s another quote from John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

That famous verse summarizes the Good News of the Gospel: 1) God loves everyone in the world. 2) He gave His only Son to heal the wounds caused by sin. 3) If we put our faith and trust in Jesus, we can 4) have eternal life in Heaven rather than perish.

The true meaning of Christmas is love. God so loved the world that He did not want to see us separated from Him for all eternity. So, He lowered Himself to become one of us. 

To quote Linus: “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” 

Christmas Smorgasbord Column

Whenever I think of something that might be a good topic for a column, I’ll write it down on a scrap of paper and add it to a fairly large pile of notes on my desk. When I sit down at my computer to write, but have no specific idea in mind, I’ll flip through the notes and hope some creative inspiration jumps out at me. A few months ago, a spider jumped out from the note pile, and so far that’s the only jumping that’s occurred. (Not counting the jumping I did when I saw the spider.)

Anyway, as I was flipping through my notes, I thought, “None of these topics are interesting enough for a full column, but maybe I can do a smorgasbord essay, a series of short, unrelated observations.”

Well, my deadline is tomorrow, so here goes:

Recently I had to drive from Manchester to Waterbury on Interstate-84. Along the way I saw seven trial lawyer billboards. Let me rephrase that: I saw billboards for seven different trial lawyer FIRMS. The total number of lawyer billboards along that stretch of highway had to be at least 20.

Why are roadside billboards now dominated by accident and injury lawyers? I think I know why. The attorneys want to distract as many drivers as possible, and when they bang into each other, boom! Brand new clients.

I wonder if those trial lawyers can be held liable for causing a motor vehicle accident? I’d love to see the big lady with spiked hair sue the guy who’s always on a motorcycle.
*   *   *

I don’t know about you, but on my 2023 Bingo Card, I definitely did not have: “Dolly Parton sings ‘Free Bird’ with the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.”

Dolly’s new album, “Rock Star,” is actually a lot of fun. The country music icon recorded dozens of classic rock n’ roll songs, many as duets with the original artists, including Steven Tyler, Elton John, Joan Jett, Peter Frampton, Paul McCartney, Sting, Pat Benatar, and Stevie Nicks. I recommend that you give it a spin.

*   *   *

I recently read that 25% of all Americans still have not finished paying off their holiday shopping debt from 2022. What are the odds these same people refrained from making any Christmas purchases this year, to give themselves time to get their fiscal houses in order? Yeah, I agree: zero.

*   *   *

It dawned on me recently that I have no idea what figgy pudding is. Each December, I hear those old Christmas carols that mention figgy pudding, and often I sing along. But what exactly is it? No clue.

As an American, I know that pudding is a creamy, sweet, dairy product, which used to be pitched on TV by he-who-shall-not-be-named. Remember the ads for “Jello puddin’ pops”? Everyone now is trying to forget, and rightfully so, that he used to be called “America’s dad.” 

Anyway, I looked it up, and it turns out figgy pudding is more like a dense cake filled with dried fruit, which sounds like a typical British culinary move: start with something that has the potential to be tasty and then ruin it.
According to USA Today, this holiday favorite in the UK “is traditionally made with suet (which is raw beef or mutton fat), eggs, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, spices, dried fruits and, last — but certainly not least — brandy.”

It seems like figgy pudding is just the British version of fruitcake. And we all know how joyful it is to receive a fruitcake for Christmas. Not!

OK, we’re finished. My pile of notes did the job this week. Have a wonderful Christmas, and we’ll see you back here next week. Hopefully I’ll think of something interesting by then.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

‘Hey, Not Fair! It's MY Turn to Clean the House!’

Here is a direct quote from a recent news story: “A survey of 2,000 adults explored their cleaning habits and found that the average person spends over five hours a week scrubbing, washing, and dusting their home.”

The “average” person does that? Really? This news story claims the average American adult spends five-and-a-half hours each week cleaning his or her home. So, in a typical household with a husband and wife, a full 11 hours of cleaning is done each week? Nah, I’m not buying that. Something is odd here.

So, instead of reading only the headline and first paragraph, I decided to do something out of the ordinary since I had a few spare minutes: I read the entire news story. It turns out the survey was not exactly random, since it had a “double opt-in” format. This means the people who answered questions first had to go through two levels of online scrutiny. In other words, the folks who took the survey REALLY wanted to express their views about home cleaning. 
Here are some of the other findings of this study:
  • 32 percent of respondents said they do not like cleaning. (Only 32%? This figure should be closer to 100%. In other words, two-thirds of the people who took the survey LIKE to clean. See, I told you it wasn’t random.)

  • 26 percent said they have missed out on social events because they needed to stay home and clean instead. (OK, now we’re starting to get a better understanding of the people who took this survey. Right, the term “neat freak” popped into my head, too.)

  • On average, respondents said they start cleaning three days before they have guests over for the holidays, while one in seven survey takers start cleaning at least a week in advance. (Yup, definitely neat freaks.)

  • 39 percent of survey respondents claim that they show up early to events they’re not hosting to help the host clean. (No doubt about it. These folks are all members of the Felix Unger Fan Club.)

By now, you’re probably wondering what the point is of this survey and news story. That’s what I was wondering about halfway through the article. Then I read this sentence: “Half of the respondents said they would be interested in having help with cleaning from a professional if it would help free up their time.”

The next paragraph contained the “money quote.” Raychel Leong-Sullins had this to say: “Professional cleaning helps to free up time for people to have fun building memories with friends and family rather than focusing on the dreaded task of cleaning up before and after events.”

Who is Ms. Leong-Sullins, you ask? She just happens to be the president of Maid Brigade, a house cleaning franchise company. 

You might also be wondering who commissioned this scientific survey? Well, lookee here, it happens to be the Maid Brigade firm. 

Oh, and who wrote a press release in the format of a news story, and then paid to have it appear all over the Internet? None other than the marketing department at Maid Brigade.
To be honest, I’m kind of impressed with Maid Brigade’s business acumen. I bet this advertising campaign masquerading as a news story will generate a lot of new customers for the company’s franchisees. 

On the other hand, this story has me very concerned. If this faux news story makes the claim that the average American adult does 5-1/2 hours of house cleaning each week, someone I know might see the story. Then this particular someone might say to me, “You’re about 5 hours and 27 minutes below average, dear.”

To get my average up, I might have to call those Maid Brigade people.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Daily Mass Is Truly a Gift

A few weeks ago, I took a vacation day from work. I still got up early that morning, because sleeping late is just a distant memory these days. Does anybody remember the good ol’ days, when if you stayed up until 2 am you would sleep until 10 am? Yeah, fun times. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter when I go to bed. I’ll still wake up at quarter to five — or earlier.

So, on my vacation day, I still went to the YMCA to swim laps. After that, instead of my usual scramble to get to work on time, I basked in the glow of having no pressing engagements. I looked forward to going to a nearby donut shop and enjoying a glass of prune juice and some broccoli. (Just so you know, “prune juice and broccoli” are my code words for coffee and a glazed cruller.)
As I was driving to the donut shop, I realized I was only about five minutes away from a Catholic church, and daily Mass was scheduled to begin in 10 minutes. I started having an animated conversation with my conscience.

“Going to daily Mass wasn’t on my to-do list today,” I explained. My conscience said, “So what? Go anyway.”

“But I was planning on going to the donut shop now,” I said. “Well, go there after Mass. It’ll still be open,” my conscience replied.

I struggled to make a decision. Then I remembered a comment made by one of the keynote speakers at the Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference back in September. I can’t remember which terrific speaker said this — I’m guessing it was Fr. Larry Richard. Here’s what was said: “If you have the opportunity to go to daily Mass, and you choose not to, you are an idiot!”

Just so you know, this was a boisterous conference with over 500 men in attendance, and the language was far more blunt than you normally would hear during, say, a homily at Sunday Mass. So, none of the guys present were offended by the word “idiot.” It was just the speaker’s way of vividly making a point.

And it is a very good point. Because after all, what is the Mass? Is it merely a ceremony we engage in to remind ourselves that we’re Catholic and to keep our religious traditions alive? 

No, at every Mass Jesus Christ becomes fully present — body, blood, soul, and divinity. The Mass is the closest thing to Heaven on earth. The Lord Himself is truly present at Mass, in a much more powerful way compared to praying or reading Scripture. (Don’t get me wrong. Prayer and Scripture are phenomenal. It’s just that Mass is another level greater than those important spiritual exercises.) The bottom line is this: at Mass we have the opportunity to receive genuine supernatural grace and enter into a mystical, loving relationship with Christ. 
Think of it this way: Imagine if someone had not eaten for two full days, and therefore was feeling really faint. And imagine this person was invited to an all-you-can-eat buffet at no charge. Then imagine this person said, “No, I’m not obligated to go today, so I’ll wait four more days until Sunday.”

Not a very smart decision, right? Well, Mass is like a spiritual buffet for our famished souls. Why wait until Sunday, when we’re “obligated” to go? Why not attend the spiritual feast on a Tuesday or Thursday? 

So, I finally decided to drive past the donut shop and go to daily Mass. It was a surprisingly agonizing decision. (You know how much I like broccoli.)

Well, of course, it was the right choice. Mass was wonderful. I drew much closer to the Lord in prayer, and then when I received the Eucharist I could feel His presence inside me. It turned out to be the highlight of my vacation day.
I’m not going to go so far as to call someone an idiot if he or she has the chance to attend daily Mass but chooses not to. But I at least ask that you prayerfully ponder what Mass is before making your decision.

Oh, and by the way, when Mass concluded, the donut shop, just as my conscience assured me, was still open for business. I arrived about 40 minutes later than planned. And the "prune juice and broccoli" were more tasty than ever.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

New Survey on the Eucharist Is More Encouraging

You might remember a Pew Research study a few years ago that shockingly claimed that less than one-third of Catholics in the U.S. believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. This meant fully two-thirds of all Americans who identify as Catholic do not accept one of the Church’s most important doctrines: that the bread and wine are truly transformed at Mass into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Christ. This doctrine has been proclaimed by faithful Christians since the first century. It goes all the way back to John, chapter 6, and 1 Corinthians, chapter 11.

That Pew study has been cited quite often as proof that the Church is, to use an old expression, going to hell in a handbasket. I cited that study multiple times in these Merry Catholic essays, essays that weren’t exactly merry, considering the sad findings of the survey.

Well, a new study has just been published, which shows that things are not quite so dire. Georgetown University’s Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) conducted a new survey, and the results challenge the methodology of the 2019 Pew study.

The CARA study shows that almost two-thirds of adult Catholics in the U.S. believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Wow, that is quite a difference, and much more encouraging than the previous survey.

The people at CARA claim that the questions in the original Pew Research study were not phrased very well, which led to the surprisingly low percentage. For example, in the Pew study, this question was asked: “Regardless of the official teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you personally believe about the bread and wine used for Communion?”

Then there were options that could be chosen regarding the bread and wine:
  1. Actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
  2. Are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
  3. No answer.
The problem is, even though the Church has always taught that the bread and wine are truly transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, the Church also has taught that the Eucharist is both “substance and symbol.”
The Pew study only counted people who picked option #1 as accepting the Church’s historic teaching. However, someone who actually believes in the Real Presence may have remembered Sr. Mary Margaret mentioning in 9th grade theology class decades ago that the Eucharist is substance and symbol, and picked option #2.

The people at CARA think the wording of the Pew survey caused the percentage to be too low. Their new survey question was much more direct: “Just to clarify, do you personally believe that after Consecration during a Catholic Mass, that Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine upon the altar?”  

This yes-or-no question revealed that 64% of U.S. Catholics said, “Yes.” 

So, slightly less than two-thirds is way better than slightly less than one-third. On the other hand, it still means there are millions of people in this country who call themselves faithful Catholics who do not accept the core doctrine that the Church has defined as the “source and summit of the Christian life.”

The idea of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was not invented by some medieval pope a thousand years after Jesus walked the earth. It was taught by Jesus Himself, written about by St. Paul, and preached by Christian missionaries from the very beginning. 

There’s a good reason the Church calls the Eucharist the “source and summit of the Christian life.” It is truly Jesus in the flesh. And even though two-thirds of Catholics believe this, which is much better than only one-third, there are still so many people who are missing out.
Therefore, we still have a lot of work to do, and the clergy can’t do it alone. We all have to pitch in and remind our friends and loved ones about the doctrine of the Eucharist. The first thing we should do is go back and re-read the gospel of John, chapter 6, and St. Paul’s first epistle to the church at Corinth, chapter 11.

The Eucharist is a doctrine worth talking about. After all, it’s the closest we can get to Jesus while still here on earth.

(For more info on this topic, click here.)

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Is Classic Rock Now Dinosaur Music?

The other day I read an article that claimed classic rock is now a dinosaur musical genre, which soon will be relegated to the dustbin of history, along with Glenn Miller-type big band music from the 1930s and ‘40s.

The writer of the article, who obviously was some smart-aleck whippersnapper no older than age 40, pointed out that all the famous classic rock musicians are either dead, or will be dead in less than a decade. (I won’t mention the writer’s name here — mostly because I forgot it.)

It’s true that many of the artists who created rock n’ roll music, from the mid-1960s through the early ‘90s, are gone now. But on the other hand, some of them are still going strong. For example, the Rolling Stones just released a new album and the following senior citizen singers have performed in concert during the past year or so: Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Elton John, and Pete Townsend.
I think what annoyed me most about the snarky “classic rock is dead” article is the way the writer almost gleefully pointed out that Baby Boomers, those of us who are the biggest fans of classic rock, have entered into the final phase of our journey here on earth. He seemed anxious to be rid of us, so he would no longer be subjected to “old fogey” music from artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Joan Jett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Petty, Boston, Led Zeppelin, etc.

Speaking of being “subjected to” music, I attended a college football game back in November, and during halftime the PA system played rap music for 20 minutes straight. My seat was really close to a large speaker, and after about 10 minutes I turned to no one in particular and said out loud, “Any chance they can play some Beatles or Queen, ya know, something that actually has a melody?”
Two students nearby heard me, and turned and stared at me as if I had suggested the PA system should play Mozart’s Fugue in G minor. I smiled and shrugged. Over the next few minutes I noticed those two students were singing along with the rap songs. (Or is it reciting along with? Shouting along with? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure “singing” is not the correct word.) Anyway, they knew every word of the songs being played — in the same way I know every word of “Hey Jude” and “Born to Run” and a gazillion other classic rock tunes.

I thought I felt old during my recent annual physical, when the young whippersnapper doctor kept asking me questions like, “Have you noticed that you’re becoming more forgetful?” and, “Do you ever feel unsteady while walking?” However, that was nothing compared to the rap music halftime experience. When those two students stared at me with completely baffled expressions on their faces, I felt like saying, “And yes, I did meet Abraham Lincoln in person. He was a nice guy.”

To quote Joan Jett: “I love rock n’ roll, so put another dime in the jukebox, baby!”
Hmm, the phrase “put another dime in the jukebox” is actually rather archaic. After all, jukeboxes were popular even before another musical relic, the beloved 8-track tape player. So, I guess for people who are in their 30s today, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n’ Roll” is pretty much the same thing as Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

Well, I don’t care if classic rock is now a dinosaur musical genre, as long as I have my collection of tunes that put a smile on my face. As Bob Seger put it: “Today's music ain’t got the same soul / I like that old time rock n’ roll!” 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Readers Reply with Favorite Disney Movies

Recently, I asked readers to tell me their favorite Disney animated movie. I received an avalanche of emails, the most ever in response to any column I’ve ever written, including the infamous Bagpipes Fiasco of 2018. If you missed that one, I wrote a snarky essay about bagpipes, and within minutes of it appearing in print I started receiving really angry emails, including some from people in foreign countries, such as Scotland, Australia, and Naugatuck. Most of the notes expressed the writers’ strong desire to shove various components of a bagpipe — bass drone, tenor drone, chanter, etc. — up my nose.
Anyway, my request that readers tell me their favorite Disney animated movie, plus the reason why, actually generated more email replies, none of which, thankfully, mentioned the desire to shove large, noisy objects up my nose.

Many people wrote that their favorite Disney movie is the same as mine, and for the same reason. “The Little Mermaid” was released when my two daughters were young, and we had a wonderful time watching that film together a couple of times. (I am using, of course, the definition of the phrase “a couple of times” that means: more numerous than the stars in the sky.)

Others had similar daddy-daughter experiences, but with different Disney “princess” movies, such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “Frozen.”

Here are other Disney films mentioned multiple times by readers as their favorite: “Fantasia,” “Jungle Book,” “Pinocchio,” “Lady & the Tramp,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” Peter Pan,” “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” and “The Lion King.”
It’s interesting to note that most of the movies mentioned are from the so-called golden age of Disney animation, that is, the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. This means one of two things: either the Disney studios produced more heart-warming, family-friendly films back in those days, or the average age of my readers is, um, let’s call it “middle-aged.” (I am using, of course, the definition of the term “middle-aged” that means: been collecting Social Security for at least two decades.)

Another interesting aspect of all the emails I received is the fact that I quickly recognized the titles of all of the golden age Disney movies, but I’ve never actually watched them. I’ve seen short clips from the films on TV or the Internet, but back when I was a kid the only way to watch an entire film was to buy a ticket at a movie theater. Raising five kids on a puny teacher’s salary meant my dad’s stock answer whenever we asked to go to the movies was, “Go out in the backyard and run around. It’s free.”

So, I’ve got a daunting assignment this winter: I need to watch a couple dozen classic Disney films. Since I’m already paying $20 per month for the Disney+ streaming service, it won’t even cost me anything extra. At my age, it makes a lot more sense to watch movies indoors than to go out in the backyard and run around, which won’t be free once I include the co-pays and deductibles for the inevitable visits to orthopedic specialists.
One final observation. A reader sent an email and explained that her favorite animated movie is not from Disney, but from Warner Brothers: “The Iron Giant.” (Never heard of it, but online reviews are positive. I’ll have to track it down.)

Then, this reader made my day by noting that her favorite animated character is Bugs Bunny. Yes! Bugs has been my hero since I was 10 years old. He taught me the art of sarcasm (which my 5th grade teacher did not appreciate).

Well, I think we’ve all got a lot of work to do. Those movies are not going to watch themselves. 

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Advent!

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. The word “advent” means arrival. During the liturgical season of Advent we prepare to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah — both His arrival as a baby in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and His other arrival, when He returns to earth at the promised Second Coming.

Each year for the past three decades or so I’ve encouraged people to avoid getting caught up in the Christmas rush so early in December, and instead make some time to enjoy the season of Advent. (Did I just type “so early in December”? What am I thinking?! It’s more like “so early in November”!)
Not surprisingly, my efforts to convince people to focus on Advent have been about as successful as a guy trying to cut a 4 x 4 wooden post in half with a plastic butter knife. But I’m going to keep trying anyway, because it really is an important issue.

Advent is a wonderful prayerful season. Also, it’s the perfect antidote to all the hoopla and folderol of the modern Christmas season. (How often do you see the words “hoopla” and “folderol” in a sentence that was written after 1942?)

Let’s face it: 99% of our modern holiday traditions have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. I mean, think about it. A singing snowman? Reindeer, with or without a blinking nose? Chopping down a tree and bringing it (along with a few dozen spiders) into the house? Installing enough flashing lights so your house can be seen from outer space? Eggnog? Figgy pudding (which is what, exactly? I have no idea)? Getting blind drunk at office parties? 

The list goes on and on. And, of course, there is the main focus of the modern holiday season: maxing out your credit cards to buy expensive items that more often than not wind up in a cluttered corner of the basement by late March.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally bad-mouthing all of our modern holiday traditions. Many of them are harmless fun that evoke nostalgic memories of childhood Christmases from long ago. Despite popular opinion, I am not a Puritan who wants to outlaw Christmas. I’m just a Catholic who thinks we ought to pay a little attention to an important season on the liturgical calendar: Advent.

Therefore, here is some reverse psychology. Because of the way the calendar lands this year, the 4-week season of Advent is going to last exactly three weeks and one day. And the final day, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, is Christmas Eve. So guess how much Adventing is going to take place on that day? Right. Exactly zero.

(By the way, is “adventing” an actual word? I have no idea, and I suppose it doesn’t matter in our spelling-and-grammar-don’t-matter-anymore culture.)

So, here’s the reverse psychology: the season of Advent is so brief this year, you are going to completely miss it unless you make some effort right away to enjoy it. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Yeah, you’re right. That is some seriously pathetic reverse psychology. As if people are going to scramble to acknowledge something they always ignore anyway.

Well, let me instead go back to my usual sales pitch this time of year. We really ought to pay attention to Advent because it is a major season on the liturgical calendar. If we do focus some of our time on Advent, two wonderful things will happen. First, when Christmas does finally arrive, it will be really exciting, rather than anti-climactic after six weeks of non-stop hoopla and folderol. (There are those words again!)
Second, if we spend time honoring Advent during the first weeks of December — and let Christmas wait until it actually arrives — we just might use our credit cards more sparingly, rather than going into total max-out mode. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pay for a tank of gas on, say, December 28th because we still have a little credit available on the card? Would that be a Christmas miracle, or what?

Therefore, take some time to enjoy Advent this year. If you have to, pretend the Advent wreath with candles is a mini Christmas tree. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it, even if there is very little hoopla and folderol. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

It’s the Most Hectic Time of the Year

This is a very hectic week. Thanksgiving is on Thursday, November 23rd, which means this is the busiest travel week of the entire year. If there is anything more soul-crushing than the ordeal of modern air travel, it is the ordeal of modern air travel during Thanksgiving week. 

Most years, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the first Sunday of Advent. Ah yes, good ol’ Advent. The Church has been trying for years to convince people — to no avail — that we should enjoy this wonderful season of prayerful anticipation that comes before the official Christmas season.
Unfortunately, no one is listening. Our culture kicks off the Christmas season in earnest the moment Thanksgiving dinner is finished or when it’s halftime during the Detroit Lions football game on TV, whichever comes first. This is different compared to the corporate retail industry, which kicks off the Christmas season in earnest on September 20th — at least based on what I saw filling the shelves at Walmart two months ago. Once Thanksgiving Day is about half over, the nonstop ho-ho-ho juggernaut steamrolls through the following four-plus weeks until everyone collapses with exhaustion on December 25th.

 There is an interesting situation this year. Thanksgiving comes very early — the 23rd of November. Therefore, the Sunday following Thanksgiving is not the first Sunday of Advent, which instead occurs this year on December 3rd. The Sunday right after Thanksgiving is the final Sunday on the Church calendar: the Feast of Christ the King.

So, we have a wonderful opportunity this year. We can enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday the way it was originally intended, that is, by giving thanks. (You would think the name kind of gives it away, but far too many people have no clue.)

As a quick refresher course: In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26 of that year as a national day of thanksgiving to recognize the role of providence in creating the new United States and the new federal Constitution. (By the way, George’s use of the word “providence” referred to the care and guidance provided by Almighty God, not the capital of Rhode Island.)
Then, in 1863, as the Civil War raged on, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November. Lincoln’s proclamation urged the nation to heal its wounds and restore "peace, harmony, tranquility and Union." 

This might come as a shock to those folks who think the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday is eating until you can’t move, watching football on TV, and making a list for your Black Friday shopping excursion that begins before sunrise the following day.

Nope, the meaning of Thanksgiving is to give thanks, specifically to God Almighty for all that He does to provide for us. I admit that’s not quite as exciting as installing 4 billion watts of holiday lighting in your yard or getting into a fistfight at the mall. But thanking God has never been really flashy — it’s simply the right thing to do.

If we could enjoy Thanksgiving this year with a heart of gratitude, understanding that Christmas is more than a month away, it could really improve our peace of mind. Then if we go to Mass on Sunday and worship Christ the King, understanding that Advent is still a week away, we’ll have our hearts in the right place.
And maybe, just maybe, a few people next week might realize that Advent is not synonymous with Christmas and is instead its own special Liturgical season. If that actually happened—  Well, I admit it sounds kind of preposterous nowadays. But never say never. After all, we’re heading into the season of miracles. With God, all things are possible!

I hope you have a great and grateful Thanksgiving holiday. Have a holy season of Advent, too. Then have a wonderful Chris—  No wait, I’m not even gonna say it. It’s way too early! 

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Retirement Is Looming on the Horizon

Now that my expected retirement date is only a couple of years away, I find that I have way less tolerance for workplace stupidity. Don't get me wrong. Quite often the stupid workplace incidents are caused by me. In the past, when I made a bonehead move at work, I would offer a sheepish grin and say, “Well, here’s another opportunity to learn a way NOT to do it.” Or once in a while I would quote Bruce Springsteen: “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.” (Which prompted the rest of “Rosalita” to start playing in my head: “But now you’re sad! Your momma’s mad! And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money…”)

However, nowadays I seem to get really frustrated really quickly. My new favorite expression is, “I’m too old for this stuff!” (Except sometimes I might not use the word stuff.)
When something goes wrong at work, and my co-workers can measure my stress level based on which word I tack on to the “I’m too old…” declaration, I start thinking seriously about moving up my official retirement date. Instead of my current date, a vague “sometime in a couple of years,” I have an urge to set a new retirement date: “Exactly one hour ago! See ya!”

It’s not that I’m desperately longing to retire. I like my job, and the lively work environment allows me to pretend that I’m not quite yet an old geezer. 

Just as it’s true there are some days at the office that make me want to retire immediately, there are other incidents that make me very glad that I’m not retired. For example, recently I was in the locker room of the YMCA at about 6:45 in the morning.

In case you’re wondering, I go to the Y three days each week and swim laps for a half hour. Someone asked me why I do that, and I replied, “Because I want to delay, plus minimize the impact of, my first heart attack.” He said, “Oh come on. How do you know you’re gonna have a heart attack?”

I said, “Unless I get hit by a truck or a stray bullet, it seems inevitable to me. I just want to make sure when it happens the doctor uses the sentence, ‘It was a mild incident,’ rather than the sentence, ‘I’m sorry, we did everything we could.’”
Anyway, when I was at the Y the other day, two retired guys were getting dressed after swimming. I estimated they were about my age, maybe a little bit older. One of them said, “So, will you be here tomorrow?”

The other guy replied, “Oh sure. If it wasn’t for this place, we wouldn’t have much of a life, would we?”
I was in the middle of tying one of my shoes, and I wanted to stand up and yell, “Hey, if you really believe swimming at the Y at 6 a.m. is the highlight of your life, then you are NOT doing retirement properly!”

Of course, I didn’t say anything. I just shook my head and thought to myself, “I’m glad I actually have to hustle now to get to work on time. That’s a whole lot better than the YMCA being the defining aspect of my existence.”
When I do retire, I’m not sure exactly what I will do to keep busy each day. But I’m going to make darn sure my morning visit to the YMCA is the start of my day, not the highlight of my day. 

In the meantime, I’ll keep hustling to get to work on time, so I can contribute my fair share of workplace stupidity. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Spending Way Too Much Time On Work Emails

A recent survey of 8,000 office workers discovered something I’ve suspected for many years: people spend way too much time writing email messages, most of which are either never read or quickly skimmed.

The survey was commissioned by Slack and conducted by OnePoll. To be honest, I’ve never heard of either of those organizations — if they even are organizations. Their names kind of sound like pop singers or Hershey’s new line of candy bars.

Anyway, the survey found that the average office worker spends 11 hours each week composing 112 separate work-related emails. Of these 112 emails, only about 40 are fully read and understood by the recipient.
It’s hard to determine exactly how many emails are fully read and understood, so the survey people calculated this number based on the fact that 62% of questions asked in an email go unanswered, while 49% of email senders get asked questions they previously answered.

That sounds about right. For my job, I send out about 130 emails each week. (I actually added them up from each of the previous four weeks to find out.) And I’m certain I spend way more than 11 hours each week composing emails. I’ve never had a stopwatch clicking on and off all day long as I write emails to find out — mostly because that would slow me down as I scramble to address the avalanche of messages I have to deal with each day. 

My full-time job is engineering sales for a commercial HVAC equipment distributor — a job description that does not fit all that well on a business card. For my work, it’s very important that I properly convey a lot of crucial technical information in my emails. There are so many little details, if communicated incorrectly, that could cause a major disaster at some point during a construction project. I know from experience that if a key piece of equipment is delivered to the jobsite on the wrong date, or with the wrong voltage, or the wrong dimensions, or the wrong direction of rotation of the blower — plus any of a hundred other things — it can be a really expensive mistake. I also know from experience that it’s not very pleasant to have a stressed-out contractor screaming at you over the phone and vowing to hunt you down and strangle you with his bare hands. 
So, yeah, I spend a lot of time carefully double-checking all my facts and figures and then crafting each sentence in an email to be as clear and concise as possible. (Something I obviously don’t bother to do when writing these newspaper columns.)

Another reason I take extra time to carefully craft each sentence in my email messages is the fact that many people in my industry have heard that I write a weekly newspaper column. That’s not to say they’ve ever read my column; they’ve only heard about it. You see, the people I work with day in and day out are really smart. But it’s the kind of smart where they can do long division in their heads down to the fourth decimal place. However, to them, being able to write complete sentences with proper grammar is kind of like being able to juggle: it’s a curious and interesting skill, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the real world. 

Even though I receive dozens of emails each day from very intelligent people that appear to have been written by a cat walking across a computer and stepping on random keys, I want to make sure my emails are grammatically correct. Irregardless of whether the recipients actually read them, my emails gots to be excellently goodly in the writing composition thingee. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Just Imagine There Is No God

Recently a friend said to me, “Hey Bill, here’s a hypothetical for you: Just imagine scientists are able to prove beyond a doubt that God does not exist. If that happened, what would you do?”

I replied, “Hmm, if that actually happened, I would go to Mass this Sunday and keep praying the Rosary everyday.”
His surprised expression made it clear that I needed to explain. This is what I told him: It’s actually very simple. If it somehow happened that so-called experts proved beyond a doubt that God does not exist, that would mean faith in God is a delusion. Well, for me personally, I would call it a very beneficial delusion. For example, my faith in God has made me sober, more loving and kind, a better husband and father, a more reliable and effective employee, more joyful, more compassionate, and much more optimistic than I ever was before I became a believer.

By the way, I’m far from perfect. But I am way better than I used to be.

While we’re playing this game of “Just Imagine,” just imagine if a pharmaceutical company like Pfizer developed a drug that made people more loving, kind, responsible, joyful, and optimistic. And even better, imagine this new drug had no adverse side-effects. No nausea, no hair loss, no constipation, no rashes, no toenail fungus, no double-vision, no headaches. And no lethargy, apathy, or any other reduction in the person’s drive, initiative, or focus.

If there was such a drug, doctors would be prescribing it to virtually everyone because it would improve the entire nation’s frame of mind, which, if you haven’t noticed, is not in such good shape right now.
If it could be proven that God does not exist, why would I want to go back to those old miserable days when I was a self-centered atheist? (Before you fire off a nasty note, I’m not saying all atheists are self-centered and unhappy. There are plenty of unbelievers who are kind and compassionate. But I wasn’t one of them when I was convinced God was a myth. That’s all I’m saying.)

People delude themselves all the time nowadays in an attempt to feel better. Why would I want to abandon something, even if it was a “delusion,” if it had such a positive impact on my life with no negative side effects?

Here’s some good news: it is impossible for scientists to prove that God does not exist. Science is only capable of making observations and drawing conclusions about natural phenomena. God, by definition, is supernatural, and therefore outside the realm of science. Expecting science to make any useful comment about God would be like using a plastic spoon to pound a nail into a 2 x 4 piece of wood. It is simply the wrong tool.

Now, here is even better good news: God is real. So, we’ll never have to deal with the “Just Imagine” scenario and be faced with the decision of whether or not to continue with a beneficial delusion. 

The very fact that we exist is strong evidence that there is a God. If there is a creature (us), then there must be a Creator (Him). In addition, our ultra complex biological systems, working with perfect precision, are also powerful evidence that we are the product of supreme intelligence and unfathomable design. Do you really think something that is more complicated and intricate than computer software code – DNA molecules, the blueprints of life – just wrote themselves by accident? C’mon, you’re smarter than that!

So, we’ll never have to play “Just Imagine” regarding God’s existence. Science has nothing to say on that topic. Putting your faith in God brings a plethora of good benefits – even more so, since He is real. So, go to Mass this Sunday and pray the Rosary. The positive impact of faith is not a delusion. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Be Prepared for the Most Important Day 

In this week’s gospel reading at Mass, Jesus offered a parable about being prepared. He used a wedding feast to symbolize Heaven, and a bridegroom to symbolize Himself. No one knew when the bridegroom would arrive and begin the feast. Half the people were ready; the other half were not. 

When the bridegroom finally came, Jesus explained, “Those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.” 

Later on, those who were unprepared came to the feast and tried to get in. They yelled, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” The bridegroom replied, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” 
Although we may not fully understand 1st century, middle-eastern wedding customs, we can understand Jesus’ main message. He is telling us we do not know when the most important day of our lives will come, but when it does come we had better be ready. If we’re ready, we’ll be invited to an awesome party. If we’re not ready, the door will be locked and Jesus will say to us, “I do not know you.” 

The most important day of our lives is a day most people dread, and a day many people can’t even admit will occur. It is the day we end our journey here on earth and stand face-to-face with God. It is the day of our death. 

The letter to the Hebrews is crystal clear: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” 
More often than not, people do not know when this most important day will arrive. It sometimes comes without warning, maybe with a deafening crash on the Interstate or chest pains while shoveling snow. For others, this most important day arrives with a quiet whimper, such as a bedside vigil at a hospice facility. Whichever way it comes, that day will arrive for every single one of us. And when it does arrive, we either will be ready or we will not be ready. 

Now, here’s the most important question: What exactly does it mean to be ready? Jesus gives us a major clue in Matthew, chapter seven. While discussing this most important day, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father.” Jesus then went on to offer the most chilling words in all of Scripture, which will be spoken to many people begging to be let in: “I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” 

Yikes! Not a pretty picture for those who are not ready. 

There are two clear aspects to being ready. The first is knowing Jesus. Not knowing ABOUT Him, but rather, having a personal relationship WITH Him. God created us in the first place to be in fellowship with Him, as the Baltimore Catechism said: to know Him, love Him, and serve Him. 

The second aspect of being ready is putting that relationship—that trusting faith—into action. This is not to say we have to work our way into Heaven, since no one is holy enough to do it on his or her own. It means instead that our gratitude toward God—our joyful response to His incredible love and mercy—transforms our hearts and minds, and is expressed in righteous living. We do good things because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to.
Ironically, the more we understand that our time here on earth is exceedingly brief and the more we are prepared to meet God, the more we can relax and enjoy these precious days and years. It’s a win-win situation: joy and peace during this life, and a heavenly feast for all of eternity in the next life. 

We don’t need to be frightened of that most important day. If we have a relationship with Jesus—if we put our trust and faith in Him and let the Holy Spirit guide our lives—we can be confident the door will be opened and we will be invited in to enjoy the Heavenly banquet.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Mermaid Movie Makes Moving Memories

Last week I described a work-related dinner with 12 men from the HVAC industry. The highlight of the evening was when one guy insisted that everyone share their favorite Disney animated movie. As I wrote last time, my favorite is “The Little Mermaid.”

It had been a while since I watched that film. So, wanting to make sure I got my money’s worth from my $20 monthly Disney-plus subscription, I watched the movie. Twice.

First, I watched the live-action film that was released earlier this year. I heard that some people didn’t care for it, especially since the actress in the starring role is Black. I read a comment online where a person exclaimed, “It just didn’t seem believable with her being Black.” Um, you mean as opposed to it being believable that from the waist down ... she is a fish?!
Anyway, redneck sentiments aside, I thought the live-action version was pretty good. But in my mind, nothing will ever top the original 1989 animated film. It is without a doubt a genuine classic. I know exactly why I am so fond of that movie. You see, a while after it was released, I purchased a copy on VHS tape and then watched it countless times while sitting in the middle of the couch with my six-year-old daughter on my left and my three-year-old daughter on my right. We had such fun laughing and singing along with the music.

To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t even finish typing that last sentence without getting teary-eyed. That was a very special moment in my life, when my girls were young and excitable and filled with wide-eyed wonder, and I was their indestructible, all-knowing, super-dad. Now, over 30 years later, they both are grown up, married, and living in other states, and I could best be described as the destructible, all-forgetting, stupor-dad. 

I suppose my brain could have decided to associate something else with that cherished time when my girls were young, such as a favorite TV show, a special family vacation, or a particular holiday. But in my case, my brain chose to connect an animated Disney movie to that special time. I had almost forgotten until I watched the film again. 
Right after a rousing crescendo, Ariel quietly, desperately pours out her heart while singing the concluding words, “Wish I could be / Part of that world.” Just then my wife walked into the living room and said, “Are you crying?”

“No, hon,” I mumbled. “Uh, a bug flew in my eye.” 

“Really? What kind of bug?” she asked.

“Umm, mermaid.”

One of my favorite words is nostalgia. It comes from the Greek nostos, which means “return home,” and algos, which means “pain.” When you think about wonderful days gone by, and realize you can never go back, it produces a little twinge of sorrow. But those memories also produce more than a little joy. Yes, it’s sad those special moments are over, but it’s joyful that they are forever etched into your memory.
The next time I visit my daughters, I think I’ll show up with a beat-up old VHS tape in my hand. Of course, they won’t have to watch me cry for two hours because who owns a VHS tape player anymore?

I wasn’t expecting an animated movie and its soundtrack to unleash a torrent of fond memories from the days when my kids were young and my hair was brown. I really “wish I could be … part of that world” one more time, just for an hour. But I know that won’t happen on this side of Heaven. But that’s fine, as long as those memories bring a smile — and a tear — to my face.