A Toddler’s Playground

That distinctive aroma of gravy and turkey spun its way around the corner of our old kitchen into a small dining room. A traditional Thankgiving meal was almost on the way. Mom, of course, would be the last to arrive at a table with an informally placed, odd selection of chairs seating a similarly odd hodgepodge of family members.

A typical family holiday. Mom insisting that everyone be seated before she sat down. Dad fussing over something of which we had no idea. Perhaps a fondue pot in the center of the table surrounded by dark green vegetable trays on top of a brown, yellow, and orange table cloth all set the tone for a 70’s Thanksgiving feast.

This particular year was different, however. Aside from all the normal scuffle-abouts, the children among us – myself included – were pre-instructed to be on our best behavior, if possible. My Uncle John was bringing a special guest home for the holiday .. a friend of his … a gentleman singer/associate he met while both sang as members of the elite US Army Chorus.

I don’t recall the specific year, however, I do remember where I sat and the specific quote. “Keep an eye on him,” Uncle John said, “…he’s going to be a big star some day and go places!”

Clint Holmes went on to be a major headliner in Vegas – and is to this day.

I can’t really wrap my mind around sitting next to him that Thanksgiving day fifty years ago. Only a few feet away sat a young man in a very humble house, in Hollidaysburg. His life unfolded in quite a magnificent way. Uncle John nailed it.

The other day, this picture roused up that memory.

“Playground in my Mind” was released in 1972. The Clint Holmes recording became one of his all-time biggest hits. I listened to the record over, and over, … and … over. “Where the children laugh and the children play / And we sing a song all day” are my favorite lyrics in this wonderful song. Doesn’t this picture speak that magic?

Kiddo magic – running into a playground to laugh, play, imagine, and dream. We forget, as astutely mature ones, what it was like to be inquisitive … to run into mysteriously fun places to touch a universe of unknowns, or examine tiny fascinations.

Look at these two little ones. If they could fly, they would. One foot off the ground and the other toe-tapping a ground barely in existence under their joyous toddler beings. Beyond the covered bridge is a magnificent playground in their mind … just as Clint Holmes loved and sang in his mind a half century ago.

I am so honored to span the generations with music. The power of music holding hands with memories is spectacular. In so many ways, we are connected – variations of words, music, and spirit.

In no small way, two little ones helped me re-live a memory I haven’t experienced in decades. Also, they reminded me to skip a bit easier through the challenging covered bridges in life.

As Clint sang, maybe try, “Living in a world I left behind…” once in a while.

It is a fantastic song. Look it up and dare to pass through the troubles in a moment’s time to experience a happy, giggling, peaceful, generational playground in your mind.

Those two above, and Clint, would have it no other way.

Angelic Happiness

Photo courtesy of P. Sachse

Mankind has searched for happiness. Satisfaction in life has been the elusive carrot at the end of millennial sticks held by so many. What, truly, IS the secret to contentment? I am close to two-thirds through this life experience of mine … and, I am not holding my stick any closer to that magical orange vegetable.

Life is difficult, right? Holding on to the stick – not letting go – I feel is success. I can extract some peace from this. The splinters heal in time and a loose grip can be tightened up with determination. All the while, happiness is at the end … still there, dangling, waiting. A bit blurry at the moment.

Why? Because I don’t look at happiness being something at the end. Happiness is here. It is holding on. It is trying, pushing forward, struggling, making tough decisions, and pulling daily emotional splinters out of my mind at the end of the day.

Cheerfulness is a state of mind. A hard path at times. Local driving challenges my vocal ability to keep a proper language and attitude in check, for example. I upset myself by acting out of character – when I know better – as another driver performs a circus act in my lane. He goes merrily on his way, as the remaining fifteen minutes of my journey is fraught with remnants of ire and rebuke.

This is why we need puppies. Puppies named, “Angel”, to be specific. Happy puppies who jump through pictures to hug our hearts. Crooked looking, twisted smile, flopping eared puppies help us hold on. They are our happiness now.

There are no carrots at the end of their sticks they chase and grab in the moment. That joy is returned to us over and over. It is their now given to us without any expectations. Angel is almost jumping joyously out of the frame. Her enthusiasm is outstretching the high grassy lush tickling a furry underbelly not to be denied.

She is delight in flight. A lesson, and confirmation, of choosing happiness today – not the carrot, the “better job”, other person, different choice that seems greater than now.

Hold on. Life may require change. Be sure happiness is at the center of what you are holding on to – not what is at the end of the stick … Then consider changing.

This, possibly, is a lesson from a special Angel. Not me, of course. Trust me on this: I’m not nearly as cute, or young, as one who jumps so effortlessly through a field of healthy, green grass.

Wilson, the Furry Volleyball

Gotta ask. When you saw that title, did the movie, “Cast Away”, come to mind? If I’m the only one who – after being introduced to this little fluff ball – immediately thought of the red-handed, partially deflated volleyball, then I will humanely bask gladly, alone, on a solitary island … as long as she is by my side, of course.

I don’t believe the owner will allow it, however. As he shouldn’t. As an aside here, I can’t see myself surviving on a deserted island more than a few hours because pianist skills don’t translate well when building shelters and hunting for food.

Wilson pranced and danced proudly inside the store where we met … so much so that requests for a picture, from a 50-ish guy on his knees, went unrecognized for a good half-hour. She twisted away minutes over minutes. Her limberish self was almost too much for me, but I endured. For the sake of all puppy picture prosperities, I endured.

Boy, do puppies lift one’s spirits? Yep. She is a feisty little thing who joyfully came inside nestled in the arms of her owner. My good friend, who runs the little hobby shop, was happy to see Wilson … and she was just as delighted to allow him to stroke her soft, golden fur coat a few times. All of us in the store left out a sigh of cuteness. Everyone’s day, … all of our problems to that moment … appeared to disappear into a few pounds of fur running tirelessly around in circles.

I did manage to sneak in a few hugs, however. She was, err, somewhat reluctant because I scooped her up mid-35th lap around the small hobby store arena. If you look in really close, our smiles match … but you need to focus!😊

Nobody expected to meet Wilson during a routine visit with a friend. I didn’t. Driving a few miles east to see what’s new and happening in the life of someone I haven’t seen for a few weeks was to be catch-up conversation at best. We talk over “the hobby”, life, and general common interest things. Between us, the bridge between two “how have you been” lives is short and takes all of about 5 minutes to cross. So, when Wilson entered after a couple customers already came in after me, …

… We were done with the average lives of two dudes discussing shop and so elated to pet, hug, and dote over a velvety, licky, fun-size little furry volleyball.

Ah, Wilson. The enjoyable puppy who handed a couple dudes and customers a few moments of joy.

Sometimes feeling stranded in a world surrounded by thousands of people, we are. Maybe we allow ourselves to step aside from what has to be done to avoid making tough decisions? Avoidance behavior, – i.e. wanting to be alone on an island – can be rehab … but it has to be a healthy escape.

Guilty as charged here. This hobby shop is my escape. I love going there. It is, in a sense, my island. The other? A piano. The former … sometimes healthy. The latter, always healthy.

To scoop up Wilson on that day, I realized it was a momentary solace just at Wilson, the volleyball, was for Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”. And, just as in the movie, I had to say good-bye. However, ours wasn’t a sad float-away with tears. It was a kiss on my cheek – with a little, assuring yip from a tiny puppy – giving me glorious hope we will meet again.

They say, “No man is an island”. I agree. As long as a squishy, soft volleyball with four legs is served up in my life.

A Vase and a Friend

The only words I could find? “She was blessed to have you”. The news came as a shock, but wasn’t unexpected because I knew the person who sent the text kept me, somewhat, in the loop over the last few months.

Loss is hard. When a wonderful friend dies, our many great memories don’t soften the blow. That sudden void is huge. Their calming words and silent assurances will not longer be here for us. We can no longer cook for them, hug them during a thunderstorm, or laugh together at a silly joke. They are not here anymore.

She is not here anymore.

This particular lady was special. I didn’t know her nearly as well as her dear friend. They were, however, two flowers in the same vase when I saw them. Inseparable, one would say. Years apart in age, but so close in personality, outlook, and smiley humor. They laughed inseparably and shared a common, liturgical seat most Saturdays.

These past few years saw loss in all our lives. We laughed with so many who are not with us anymore. We shared a last hug … and then they were whisked away to mysterious spaces beyond our understanding.

I don’t have any pure, perfect answer to that place past the here and now. What I do have is my reply back to my friend who is experiencing the grief: “I don’t know what else there is … except to accept what is. Loss is sad.
I am thankful every day – this is what gets me past (the recent events in my life).
We can be so grateful for best friends (and loved ones) who walked with us …
…and will continue to inspire our grasp of this world and the hopes we have of what is to come”.

She was kind to point out two words – Thankful and Grateful – with the added phrase, “two wonderful takes in life”.

She is right to pull those two from my reply. If we can, simply, be thankful and grateful for who we are and what we have THROUGH knowing the life of the friend who died, …

… this is gain, not loss.

It was joy to know her. She was special. I can imagine how wonderful and magical it must have been to be her best friend. To, now, experience the loss is certainly heartbreaking. It should be. To care deeply means to grieve profoundly as well.

I closed my phone thinking about that text. It urged me forward toward this entry. After a chicken/bacon/ranch salad at Eat N’Park an hour after the news, tossed words formed into some clarity. I think, anyway.

Over the past six months, loss has been winning over gain here; however, I’ve never given up on being grateful or thankful.

No matter the circumstance, we can find a reason to be both.

Today, the loss weighs heavy and a bare, solitary stem rests in the vase. I am sure my friend will water each memory as the hours and days pass. In time, however, the seeds of reflection will sprout and a now empty vase will once again be filled with flowers, … surrounding her with forever scents of her best friend.

There will be no more loss and, at that time, both will be blessed to have each other. Again.

Hat’s Off

I am me, and I wear many hats. So writes my elegant friend on a day when I really needed to read those eight words.

She is one who ended a personal message to all her friends with the words, “All I wanted to say was, if you’re struggling with ANY aspect of yourself, your life, the hats you wear, please don’t give up”. I love this sentence. Honestly, I wish words at my disposal could imprint a deeper impression on my “now”. They can’t.

I have too many hats that don’t fit … and overcoming THIS challenge is her victory. She is the gold medal winner of the race I am just now starting to run.

She writes: “I wear many hats: mother, teacher, partner, coach, friend, sister, daughter, woman, creator, artist, student …” By her passionate admission, each hat is worn well some days, other times? Not so.

Like a Dr. Seuss book, as I would characterize, one hat, two hats, this hat, that … Hats may have looked good, but inside? Not ‘dat. Her hats felt, well, uncomfortable. The roles – the toppers personified – were cute to the adoring public, however, quite tight and constraining … possibly itchy to the soul. Perhaps, an itch that couldn’t be scratched until time and motivation were aligned with her tipping point of self-discovery.

This finally happened. She tossed her old, worn, uncomfortable hats over onto a rack and prepared new labels and beautiful bows for them.

In her words, as only she could write (after all, it is her victory life lap to pace herself after stepping off the podium): “So here I am, roughly 15 months into the deepest, rawest, most painful and most rewarding self-discovery telling anyone who cares to stop & read this amidst their scrolling time… I’ve ditched the hat”.

To clarify, she refuses (now) to place hats on her head labeled, “You were so selfish”, “You should be ashamed of yourself”, or, “Look what you’ve done to everyone else”. Instead – if I may take some liberties here – those hats are being replaced with, “I am ____” labeled toppers followed by “myself”, “original”, and “damn happy”. These aren’t selfish ambitions. They are, as she says, bringing you joy, igniting your fire, and driving you forward.

I’ve known her – and three first name variations – for some time. Your knowing her name isn’t necessary, but knowing this little slice of her life’s pie, I believe, is.

Why? Because any friend of mine, who can render me speechless simply by posting seven short paragraphs on Facebook, deserves to be recognized.

I’ve had challenging times lately. This isn’t the space for details. Life is complicated. Hats are placed on our heads – by us or others – to demand our attention. They want us to fill roles we may not want to act out, but we do anyway out of a sense of obligation. These ill-fitted hats restrict our true self, and yet we keep them on week after week – month over month … Possibly years at a time.

When the noggin’ gets too burdened with numerous family fedoras, and heads sag because beanies piles upon the brain, it’s time for these hats to, in her words, (massive literary license here), “fly off into some Wizard of Oz adventure” of their own.

No more flying monkey hats for me. I’m thinking new brain toppers.

With her permission, I am honored to say the hats I wear at this moment are being re-evaluated.

It’s just as simple as that.

And as she ended, so shall I. As well, I extend the same to all of you, my friends and readers:

“I’m here if you need an ear. You are loved💗”

My hat’s off to you, L.T.

George

I didn’t know George well enough to post a picture. Knowing his wife through her heartful writings lately and our pianistic connections in the past, I can feel her pain. George is gone.

Pamela writes, publicly, of their love. Leading up that difficult decision to end his life, her words tearfully expressed an inevitable finish to a beautiful story. Today, I read – and watched – why that story had to be told. George was a master lyricist and romantic. He had charm.

Usually, my entries are longer, fuller – a bountiful basket loaded with more paragraphs. Today, however, I am satisfied to let George’s words rest with him and on our hearts. More reading time is not necessary. I was moved by his poem, “A Rainbow In My Rain”.

… and his eternal energy is enough for me today.

All of us can be thankful to meet these unexpected talents. Sometimes, they come disguised as sadness in the lives of others. I am in mourning with Pamela.

As you read his poem, may you extend positive, healing thoughts in Pamela’s direction as she begins a new life without her George.

http://www.georgewertman.weebly.com

It’s Crystal Clear

Crystal Clear Wellness, 517 Allegheny Street, Hollidaysburg Pa.

Someone very special in my life walked a few steps ahead of me the first time I stepped into this store. On that day, leaves didn’t sweep across a cold concrete sidewalk and a fall nip wasn’t in the air. It was a truly beautiful day. It was a day when excitement swirling about her matched the sun shining through a few mid-afternoon trees outside – welcoming our visit.

She was so glad to be there. A store so close to her heart.

“Oh, look at that … I need to have it!”, proclaimed the one to whom the crystals, wiccan wares, books, and various fascinations spoke. I saw a light shine from her soul that filled every little nook; without exception, all darkness hidden became available for all to see. She filled the small, quaint store with her sincerity and love for all things energetic and mysterious.

This was crystal clear. This was Greta.

I couldn’t help but think of her when walking by on a seasonally cold day. Honestly, I can’t recall a day since her passing when I don’t think of her. This Sunday past was no exception. Maybe it was the crunching of the leaves? Possibly a small puff of breeze at my feet that snagged my interest? I don’t know. Whatever the reason, stopping to take a picture and remember that wonderful day – while standing in the energy that was Greta – held another grateful memory moment in my heart.

This is Crystal Clear Wellness, too. Energetic and mysteriously wonderful. It is a place where I’ve been since … to check in – to see my friend Tony and all the other wonderful personnel so graciously willing to help out where – and when – they can. I have my special items from the store that mean so much now … more than ever. Understanding, in a very limited scope, the different edges of life previously undiscovered, I can start to appreciate the crystal that is my life. I am starting to appreciate the connection Greta had with vibrancy and vitality in the universe.

Was it perfect? Certainly not. Her body failed her at the end. We lost a beautiful person to a disease that ravaged and taunted her. All the healing vibes and energy didn’t save her. That same vibrancy and vitality wasn’t enough. The universe had other plans.

Those other plans are unfolding and I have a suspicion she set them in motion.

She was a friend of Tony’s and, by extension, the Crystal Clear Wellness family. Because of this, it’s a challenge for me to be in there and not think of her attachment to all of our collective lives. After thinking it over a bit, this is how it should be after all.

Places exist as memorials to those we loved. Everywhere we go – where they were – is a reminder, in some small or large way, of their passions and energies. We need to hug those places and embrace the folks who connect with us while we’re there. A small emporium universe or marketplace in which they visited is still part of ours. Experiencing them, without being able to hold a warm hand or touch a soft face, is still o.k.. We can be there alone. We can stand outside on a seasonally cold Sunday and still feel them beside us.

This is a special place. I will always know Greta is there. The last time in, I bought a small, decorative purple cloth with a pentagram design. It sits on my dresser underneath a few items. Representing the elements of Spirit, Air, Earth, Water and Fire, it is there as a reminder for me to ground myself in what will last beyond my years.

My life does goes on, of course. All of us have this path forward and we do what we can to heal after losing someone special.

It may seems like the energy goes away, but it doesn’t. A few moments outside a special store – remembering a time when I was inside with someone I saw “Oh, looking…” at everything – helped me realize this place is special. It was crystal clear to me when we were there together … and it’s very apparent, now, special wonderful widget stores can hold our broken hearts together as well.

If you’ve lost someone, find a place. They will be glad you came by. Even if it’s a bit cooler than the last time you were there with them, remembering your time together will warm up the rest of your journey forward.

Perfect Beginning

Sunrises are appearing before me lately. New days are happening. One star out of 100 thousand million in our Milky Way galaxy didn’t have me in mind when it exploded into existence 4.6 billion years ago. To be fair, I wasn’t thinking about the sun too much until early Thursday morning inside the Black Dog café. It’s been brightening my thoughts since that wonderful morning 48 hours ago.

Today, the heavenly, horizontal line of morning glow in this picture caught my attention. No wonder. It’s through the camera eye of a friend who captures the most amazing pictures of her children. If there’s one among many reasons for sunrises, this is it. As per her description: “This moment was perfection.”

I agree with her as far as I am able. Little ones of my own have not blessed my life. Apple juice and coffee moments with children who would call me “dad” aren’t part of my life’s story. Blanketed ripples – covering small yet-to-be exploring legs – reflect a unique morning warmth between a parent and child. I can imagine that warmth, but have not nestled in its presence.

Off in the distance, our sun understands this moment. Huggable light surrounds a mug of apple juice and a little one who appreciates the joy in a simple sip of morning pleasure. She gets it. Her mom sees it as well, … the delight in a child’s simplicity and innocence – a sit-in-a-chair life that will, someday, experience difficult shadows through which she will need to step.

For now, however, a perfect moment.

An effortless, tree-protected frame when all of time stops just long enough for a mom to appreciate what surrounds her. A daughter. A sun’s 92 million miles morning hug and her own warm mug of coffee. Connections to what matters between a daughter and mom. A now moment. A portrait of perfection for two forever friends who will continue to capture more early morning sunrises in golden hair.

We can look forward to our own sit down times – a sunrise in the distance and a mug of tea between our palms. Moments when our challenging adult life shuts down and we can simply be “us” again … connecting with someone we loved who is no longer with us, but standing there taking a picture. A gentle heart who knew us, cared about our realness, and nurtured our goodness stands by our side to appreciate the perfection of the moment. We may not see it, but it’s there. We, ourselves, aren’t perfect. The moment is. The connection is.

In as much as loss has been hard lately for me and some of my close friends, all of us know connections are not lost. We may find ourselves at ease with a warm cup of coffee and, maybe, seek comfort in sweet apple juice inside a mug. We take comfort knowing that other person is by our side as we close our eyes and remember their time with us. They are never gone. That is perfection.

A mother and daughter have a long life together, now. It is to be cherished and hugged for as many sunrises allow. The sun gave it to them as the day unfolded. Tree branches protected her the whole way across the sky and the fog stayed off in the distance to show reverence of the moment. Morning was unfolding for two. The day had a beginning. Perfect.

Reasons for Unanswered Prayers

With the opportunity to read a friend’s blog post on Facebook last night, I affirmed what was already known: all of us have life stories unique to us.

She’s one who’s been emotionally in and out of both a tragic, untimely loss and a questioning faith life. Personal struggles, by her own public admission, were difficult to push through at times, but being here – today – is evidence of her ability to overcome. Her story. Unique to her.

Is it, though?

After reading the post last night, I sent her the following in support (and I don’t think she’d mind me sharing):

“Your journey is interesting. Read it last night. Keep pen to paper. People need to know what must be said – from all of us who live life surviving in the lanes they do … and need to understand “being alone” there doesn’t exist. Well done!”

Awkwardly written, of course, because my mind and hands were semi-preoccupied with a half-peeled banana, 3 chips-ahoys, ham and tomato sandwich, and diet pepsi surrounding this phone as I typed with two less-then agile fingers. She needed the support, regardless of the uneasiness of the prose. When someone bares their past like she did publicly with class, the pupils in the room eyeballing the effort must applaud in return…

… Not insincerely by many means. Her words were effective.

Questioning a God is no small task. In the midst of silence, it’s fair to ask, “Where are you?”. Asking for connections to a specific relative – when none was possible – was a daunting query in the midst of that elusive emotion called, “love”. Unexpected life situations being dumped into her lap causing plans to change immediately when a path forward, “just yesterday”, was the right thing to do.

All of these written in a shared blog to highlight a life, now, on the right path. A story being told with the following beginning:

SUPER LONG POST WARNING
“On October 26, 2020, I sat down to write my next post for my new Blog. I intended to write about my unique and incredible relationship with my dad, but at the last minute I decided to write about my journey to, from and back …”

Ending with:

“…And I do believe there are reasons for unanswered prayers.”

It is her story. She survived in a lane others are driving in now. This is why her story, and others, need to be shared.

Stories are important. Non-fiction, and fiction for sure. Both help us think our way through what we are living through at the moment and, perhaps, solve life’s little buggers … and, maybe, some of the bigger problems.

I don’t know a lot of things. However, it was nice for me to read her “Super Long Post” even after the fair warning 😉😊. Struggles, sadness, and loss are all parts of this spinny planet and we have to find our way across the rough water in front of us at times.

Having word bridges to walk over together – built by friends – makes the journey a bit easier.

Thanks, ASW. Keep on writing!

70 Degrees and Flourescent

Really cool conversations can happen when we least expect them, right? Unforced words between strangers standing across from one another in an elevator hallway, for example, are times of unexplained awe-ness. I find these moments refreshing – which is why I take every opportunity to turn those awkward silences on their head. Any opening, any nugget or trait visible on which to latch, is a chance to learn about someone else’s day … life … struggle … happy dance they are living.

Can I do this all the time? No, of course. I do have situational awareness. Bad hair days and other leave-me-alone times are easily recognizable. Additionally, cell phone usage is close to 100% which makes the art of, say, elevator elocution nearly impossible. Nearly is not completely, however, and there are times when someone’s down can be reversed – albeit momentarily – inside a sterile, vertical, metal clangy people transport box.

I met a man. A pharmacist. Not so easily recognized as such because of all the files tucked under his arm covering a medical ID badge. The paperwork was thick. Responsibility as stocky as the inches of paper coming out of manila folders. He and I, both weary from a different set of burdens upon our shoulders inside a very busy hospital, stood waiting for the elevator to arrive.

This stand by, as I necessarily had to understand during the previous week, just is … There are three elevators in use for that particular wing, but only two are available for visitors, doctors, etc … The third is reserved for construction and maintenance folk.

At present, as was then, possessed elevator #2 sometimes feels going down takes higher priority, thus bypasses all going up button orders. Additionally, to the hospital’s credit, there is a standing rule everyone must exit the elevator if a patient – in whatever condition or transport – needs use of the elevator. All of this was going on as a slightly taller, same-aged man with a lot in his mind and I began a pleasant conversation while standing in a sterile, busy hospital hallway … waiting.

I began, “It looks like you may need to step outside for a few minutes. It’s a beautiful day. I think you have time … These elevators aren’t our friends again today.”

“I’d love to, but this is what I do …” as he used his head to direct my attention to the large stack of folders under his arms. “…All the time. Up and down. Trying to keep up with the demands of everyone.”

“I assume you are a doctor?… I have to apologize, but I am a piano-playing hot dawg salesman, so every white lab coat wearer I kinda start off with the doctor-thing…”

With a bit of a chuckle, he replied, “Well, I’m a pharmacist. These are all the orders I need to verify and check, … Always running floor to floor.”

“Wow. That’s a lot of work … especially with these wonky elevators.”

“Yeah”

“Gotta say, though, I’ve been over here four days now and am so impressed with all the work everyone has done with the reason I am here. Everyone doing the work most of us aren’t either willing, or capable, of doing. Thanks for what you do…”

“It takes a team working together … Not just one.”

“So, don’t you ever get a chance to step outside … enjoy even a few seconds of a nice August day like today?”

“Not really. So many floors are understaffed lately and I need to stay alert and inside. Besides, in here it’s always 70-degrees and flourescent.”

As he finished up that phrase, elevator #1 arrived. He and I tried to continue our conversation during a very brief ride to the third floor where he made a quick exit. I remember few words spoken while we rode rapidly from one to three. A few seconds inside a temperamental elevator didn’t allow for an overflow of information. We ended a very brief acquaintance as it began – surrounded by busyness and shuffles of dozens of white coats and scrubs.

This is the work life of one person … one pharmacist who can’t carve two minutes out of his day to enjoy a beautiful, sunny, warm August day. He’s a wonderful guy. I believe this. A few minutes and a few words … I know this to be the case. Health care, especially now, demands extra special people doing extra special things. He is one of them. He is, admittedly, one in a team.

Steady, consistent, … 70-degrees and flourescent, right? This is his environment. This is how he weathers through.

As I finished up yesterday – leaving the hospital after nearly a week of stress, exhaustion, driving, …. and all the tag-alongs that go along with caring for someone in the hospital, his settled phrase calmed my nerves. The empty wheelchair back in its place, my final steps back to the parking garage for a 2 hour trip home were slow and metronomic. I breathed in the 70-degree air one last time as I left the East Wing. Flourescent lights of UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, in my body’s rearview one last time and a welcoming, very familiar, Honda only two floors up awaited my key.

I understand. Not everything is easy. This past week was extremely difficult. Decisions had to be made that were hard on everyone.

This is why I smoosh in friendly conversations everywhere I can. Invigorating talk-abouts with strangers – when appropriate – enliven my spirit. We have to talk to each other in order to keep ourselves alive. Words must flow back and forth – not solely over texts and voicemails.

I understood what helps my pharmacist friend get through his days. I know what helps me. 70-degree and flourescent isn’t my thing. Music, your interesting life in digestible pieces, sunny days in August, … and loving, caring people in my life all make my 24-7’s worth the wait.

… and holding back time in front of moody elevators a few days ago deserved my attention. He never knew my name. “Doug” was never mentioned and a distant memory that never was in his busy, overworked medicinal mind. As we spoke, he never moved the files from in front of his badge. I will never know his name, either. What a wonderful conversation, nonetheless.

Find a stranger today and say, “Hi!”, if you are comfortable doing so. I have some practice and very little shame 🤔 … Seriously, though, … If you can ask about their day, you’ll be surprised what most folks will tell you. Think about what you’d say if asked(?).. Look in the mirror and practice.

I have fun engaging with folks. It’s not always the way to enlightenment, but sure beats the downs in life, I say. Ride as many elevators you can with as many folks as possible for an uplifting experience. If you are adverse to that idea, but need a positive boost in life, look for the usual elevator alternative …

It’s not a moody elevator, but a step in the right direction, anyway.