A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Happy Mother's Day as we think of our own mothers today and to all of the mothers of our children. A mother's day bouquet from 2010 photo archives that seemed like a beautiful way to remember our mothers.
Top photo is a picture of Dwight and Velna Blood in the spring of 2003 when their family celebrated their golden wedding anniversary of December 18 1952 sitting on a bench on the north side of the Jordan River UT LDS Temple. Yesterday I asked my wife to drive me through the temple grounds to see the flowers since I have been immobile and unable to walk around and take flower photos for several months now while recovering from vertigo. When my wife saw the bench where we posed eleven years ago, she asked me to take a picture of it, so I did. So much has happened, so many health issues, so many changes in eleven years. But at least we are still here and we remember with love and fondness when we sat for our Golden Wedding photos on that bright and wonderful day eleven years ago as well as that wondrous day in 1952 when we were married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple when I was 20 and Velna was 19. So many years, yet the wondrous moments always seem like they happened yesterday and remain forever imprinted on our minds and on our consciousness. And we remain forever thankful and touched by those special moments.
Not too many people make it to their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Some get married too late, some don't live that long, and not all marriages endure. That my wife and I married early, survived a few health crises, and that our marriage survived all led to the wonderful day on the 18th of December 2012 when we reached our sixtieth milestone. Here are a few thoughts on the occasion:
In some ways, sixty years is a long time. In other ways, sixty years doesn't seem long at all. Time passes so quickly, the days and months and years vanish into thin air.
Where are all the children? Christmas revolved around kids for so long, and now they all live lives of their own. No longer do we need to stay awake until late at night to play Santa Claus.
One of the reasons our marriage survived for so long is that my wife learned to pay little attention to my griping, whining, and complaining. She rarely reacted.
Another reason we survived is that my wife managed the finances. If I had listened to her, I would have avoided a financial business disaster or two and saved a lot of grief. My wife is much smarter than I am and has much sounder business sense than I have.
When you retire, you are spending more time together as spouses in a month than you may have spent together in years of both working, hectic schedules. If you don't learn to be friends, you may be in for a rocky retirement. We became friends. We shared family traditions, family and personal history. We comforted one another. We encouraged each other. And we said more prayers in the two years since my wife's illness began than we said in two decades before.
Upon retirement, you become sharply aware of all the things you have taken for granted or ignored for so many years. And you do your best to fix them.
My wife does not worry. I worry. She does not discuss her health problems. I discuss mine in detail. I complain about what I see or hear on TV. She ignores me and the TV. I am impatient. She is patient. She gets over little tiffs in a couple of minutes. I like to let them fester, but am learning to let them go more quickly.
My wife was a lovely nineteen-year old beautiful, innocent girl. I wonder some times if I did the right thing by asking her to spend her life with me. At the time, I don't think we realized what a life time, and beyond, of marriage entailed. We're beginning to figure it out now.
Our marriage and our years together are far more important than anything else we ever did, the jobs we had, the college degrees, the material accomplishments. Just being here together makes everything worth while.
And finally, we have two TV remotes. I told the TV installer he could save our marriage if he would go out to his little truck and bring in another remote. So he did. I'll let you figure the rest of this out.
Our family sent us beautiful flowers to brighten our sixtieth wedding anniversary. Our happiness was dimmed by the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, but we counted our blessings for surviving sixty years of marriage. The road has been long, with many hills to climb. Sixty years ago today we left Laramie WY for Salt Lake City to get married. I was a senior in college. I was 20, my soon-to-be wife was 19. We thought we could figure things out as we went along. And we did. Our journey led us to five universities, four college degrees, 45 years of teaching in four universities, numerous jobs for my wife, five children, nineteen grandchildren, and seventeen great grandchildren. My wife bravely and uncomplainingly went along with my journey through the halls of higher education and our complicated moves. We count our blessings. First, we give thanks for the fact that we are still here and still together to share our lives with one another. Second, we give thanks for our family. Third, we give thanks for the strength we derive from our religious faith. Fourth, we give thanks for the material resources we need for daily life. Fifth, we give thanks for the many health care professionals who have been so kind and supportive in taking care of our health.
Finally, I give my own thanks for my college friend who set me up with a blind date the first week I was in Laramie to attend the University of Wyoming with a 16-year old blonde with blue eyes who was then a junior at Laramie High School. I was 17 when I left home with no money and a cardboard box full of belongings thinking I could make my way through the University. Three years later, we decided to get married. We never really questioned whether we could make it. We just figured things out from day to day and, miraculously, everything worked out, and here we are. We owe many people, many friends, debts of love and gratitude. But my biggest debt I owe to a cute, kind, and gentle girl who cast her lot with me and who has loyally and patiently persevered with me through all of life's trials and joys.
My wife is a woman of relatively few words, on most occasions. Here is a list of her favorite words and sayings:
Really? Spoken with a variety of inflections in response to authoritative statements I make.
Whatever! Spoken with a tinge, from minor to major, of sarcasm in response to statements I make with which she may disagree or find obnoxious.
Is that right? Words spoken as an alternative to "really."
"Oh goody," when reminded that we are married forever.
"Wow! I'm really impressed!" when I reminded her I was a Doctor of Philosophy.
"When do you plan to throw out the pile of magazines in the magazine stand that has been there a year and a half?" Self explanatory. I threw them away this summer, though some were of historical interest. She is now searching for a replacement question.
"That's really tough," in reply to my desperate pleadings about how parched I am and need a cold, refreshing beverage.
"Third and eight and you're running the ball up the middle? How stupid can you get?" Self explanatory.
"I'm not bringing you to (WalMart, Costco, wherever) any more," spoken for a variety of reasons which I feel are invalid.
"Do you have to be so rude?" Spoken for reasons totally unknown to me.
"Just show me one," Spoken in response to my statement that if she gets tired of me there are millions of women waiting for me.
As I think up other favorite words and sayings that my dear wife speaks frequently to me, I will add them to the list. She refuses to play "Name That Tune" with me, which is played by tapping out the rhythm of a song on the wall or the bedstead, even though I have offered her upwards of at least a million dollars if she gets it right. She also refuses to rate me on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of being polite and having good manners, just so I will be aware of those areas in which self improvement is required. I did tell her the other day, though, that I was really thankful for her, and that I thought every husband should tell their wives that at least once every 40 years if they intended to have a happy marriage.
Here are a few words we always love to hear, but which often go unspoken:
I love you.
You look really nice.
Can I help you?
What would you like me to do?
You look tired. Why don't you let me finish?
Excuse me, I didn't mean to do or say that.
Tell me what's troubling you.
How do you feel about such and such?
Where would you like to go?
What TV program would you like to watch?
Don't worry about (it). We'll find a way to work it out.
And I'm sure there are others. But a few of these used liberally can smooth over many a troubled moment and bring far more smiles than moments of resentment for being ignored, unappreciated, and feeling unloved. Best of all, none of them cost a penny. Just a moment of consideration and love.
For 57 years, I have thought we were married on December 22 1952, and this causes no end of consternation and negative thoughts for my wife, who alleges annually we were actually married on December 18, today. Fifty seven years is a long time to live with one person, and when you add the three years of dating, beginning when I was 17 and my then-girl friend was 16, that adds up to 60 years. In that length of time, one would think one would have an adequate opportunity to learn all there is to know about one's spouse. Actually, however, spouses reserve many surprises to prevent complete acquaintance from ever happening. Besides, for many decades, the breadwinner is away from home winning bread, working feverishly night and day to provide roofs over heads, fish sticks on the table, and avoid, insofar as possible, the time to fix stuff around home. During these decades, the wife, usually, becomes Queen of the Domicile, with no one else around, and pretty much assumes this dominant role will continue unchallenged when Daddy cleans off his desk at the office, hauls out a few unsharpened pencils and non-functioning ball-point pens, while the vultures await his leaving with glee so they can move into his prime office space. However, Daddy will be in for a few surprises as he has a golden opportunity perhaps, for the first time in decades, to get acquainted with his dear wife. One hears stories of long marriages actually breaking up, with one or more offending parties to the marriage, being shown the door.
I am just saying, men, if you want your marriage to last longer than the last day you spend at the office, mind your p's and q's, as my mother used to say, when you arrive home with your briefcase and the 50 cents worth of loot you pirated as your just deserts on your way out the door at the office. I have done little surveys and find that women do not fix lunch or breakfast for their long-suffering husbands, who must fend for themselves as a reward for supporting the spousal unit for decades. Wives also do not need instructions, nor will they tolerate them, on where to put stuff, which egregious soap operas they have been watching while you were whiling away your day on the internet, discussing the latest football game during coffee break (diet decaf Coke break at BYU), grading papers, BSing with drop in traffic, and saving all your work so you can work all night to finish what you should have got your sorry self doing during the day. Whatever. You may have been the CEO of IBM during your heyday, brother, but you are peon number 1 on north elm street. I reminded my wife one day that, after all, I am a Doctor of Philosophy, to which she replied, "Wow, boy am I impressed." See there. You are number 2, or lower, when you go home. My advice is buy two or three computers, so you always have at least one that is working, watch Matlock, do crossword puzzles, take long naps, and listen selectively to the warnings and instructions you are receiving from the Dear One in charge. In this manner, your marriage might be extended indefinitely. And you can go grocery shopping and buy all the goodies and stuff your wife wouldn't buy during your years of servitude in the Labor Force, enhancing the GDP.
But then wives certainly have put up with more than their share of stuff, to put it politely, from husbands who tend to be rude, crude, ill-mannered, and discuss unseemly topics when two or more of the male species band together, topics that need not be mentioned on a family-orientated blog. In my case, I intended to get a job out of college at the age of 20, but opted, instead, for four and a half years of grad school to get three more degrees, which meant my wife had to work since we had zero funds otherwise except a pittance for grad assistantships. I still have images of her hauling three yowling kids out the door in the icy winter at student apartments in Ann Arbor to go to the babysitter so she could go to her enjoyable job while I studied marginal costs and marginal revenues and the econometric analyses of snail movements in Bulgaria and other stimulating things one learns in grad school.
Our most useful implement during those days was a U-Haul trailer, which we loaded up whenever I decided I was ticked off at some dean, or needed a change of scenery, or another college degree, as we went from Laramie at the University of Wyoming, to Bozeman MT for a masters in Ag Econ, to Colo A & M for a job as instructor in Ag Econ, to Michigan for a master's and completion of prelims and advancement to candidacy, back to Colo St U (renamed), to Cheyenne to be director of the Legislative Council, to D.C. to work in Office of Secretary Office of Tax Analysis, to Ann Arbor to finish Ph.D. since couldn't stand working for govt, to Penn State for asst prof of ag econ, to U of Wyo to be Prof and director of business research, to Colo St U to be Prof of econ, and, gasp, at last, to BYU, a school I had vowed I would never go to, for the last 20 some years of my intellectual odyssey. As you can see, I was fortunate, indeed, I did not get left to my own devices, but then we had 4 kids, and finally 5, and I'm not sure my wife knew what she would do with them without my munificent college teacher's paycheck.
Life was a merry ride, with ups and downs, heartaches and medical crises, financial disasters, piles of books and newspapers and magazines strewn around to my wife's displeasure, hard work by everyone. But we did manage to raise five pretty decent kids, all of whom have raised pretty decent families and produced an ever burgeoning crop of great grandchildren. All of these positive results are due to the firm, yet gentle and calm and patient, hand my wife maintained throughout all the crises of child rearing and teenage obstreperousness, and despite our dear children hiding her little spanking board, which she never used, merely used to threaten, in the freezer, where it went undiscovered for some time. She worked from the time we were married, then took classes in five universities to complete her bachelor's degree with honors in education, which, sadly, would not produce a teaching job for her, ran a pre-school, ran two book stores, supervised our student apartments we owned, paid the bills with fine-tuned nuances, and rarely, ever complained, and became a licensed realtor. I saw tears only twice, and that was not until I asked her how she was doing during her last months before she got her hip replacement six weeks ago to relieve her excruciating pain. And that was enough to make me cry.
Why she kept me will be forever a mystery. But I can tell her, on our 57th Wedding Anniversary today, in the words of the song sung by Neil Diamond, "The story of my life begins and ends with you." Happy Anniversary. I hope the road hasn't been too bumpy and that you have forgiven me for all past, current, and potential future errors. No one could expect more than you have endured and accomplished with such sparse finances and a problematic husband. And I know you will have a fit when you read this on the blog, but I was short of topics to write about today.
The Curmudgeonly Professor has a whole bunch of gorgeous, bright granddaughters. He does not wish to single one out over all of the others and, in due time, he will get around to saying something about all of them. However, special circumstances merit consideration today of Michelle.
Michelle was raised by goodly parents with considerable righteous influence bestowed by her grandfather. She is a world traveler, having already been to umpteen foreign nations with several more this year. She claims to be in the second year of studying for an MBA, having received an honors degreee in psychology and having decided that she would not make any money selling her psychology honors degree. She also has a marvelous soprano voice and sang a solo in front of millions at commencement, thus entitling grandma and I a special front row seat. She is supposed to be studying debits, credits, business strategy, and whatever else MBAs are supposed to be studying. Now she is off in Denver doing an internship.
Michelle has only one flaw. She is a misguided LA Lakers fan. To show how far she is willing to take this aberrant behavior, she posted a picture of none other than Kobe Bryant on the Summer Morning (linked at right) family blog. She is deliberately trying to incite a riot, knowing there are few things in the world that raise her grandfather's blood pressure higher than does Kobe Bryant. Our family blog is supposed to be for photos of our dear extended family. Kobe is not now, never was, and never will be, a member of our dear extended family. All we want is for Kobe, Phil, and assistant supervisory coach Jack Nicholson to ride off into the sunset and disappear. Sooner would I cheer the Clips or, heaven forbid, the University of Utah Utes. One can only begin to perceive the shocking reality of that latter statement. But we hope Michelle will go through a 12 step Laker recovery program and that her higher education will lead her to assess objective evidence more clearly in the future. Like sinning Republicans who ask Rush Limbaugh's humble forgiveness for dissing him, perhaps Michelle will soon see the light. One can only hope. We love her anyways, as we say here in Utah.
The Professor has been reluctant to bring up a topic that, ahem, is a tad indelicate, but which must, in the interests of securing happy marital circumstances be broached, even for those of tender sensitivies. The rule is simple, men: Do not make bodily noises. You rude ignorant slobs know whereof I speak. This topic is one, I know, that generates a great deal of male pride and is a topic of frequent masculine conversations and tee-heeing. However, if you want to have a happy marriage, it is now time to behave yourselves and control yourselves. You have probably already influenced your children for the worse in these regards, so to speak.
After all, men, when you were courting your little girl-bride, and trying to impress her and avoid offending her mother, did you perform such egregious acts? No, no, not in a thousand hours of courtship, no matter how difficult the situation became. How long after your marriage did you begin such offensive behavior, explainiing that even in the presence of the Queen of England you would have had to gracefully acknowledge that you had a slight problem?
You may not want to stop all at once, since that could cause suspicion. But you might consider a twelve-step phase out program, ending up a totally reformed man, who vows never to make another bodily noise again. You can no longer blame it on the dog, or the beans, or on someone else who committed this sin first. You are totally responsible for your own actions. Your spousal unit will be much less likely to send you out of the house and down to the pool hall if you behave yourself in polite society. She is probably wondering why she ever married such an uncouth, rude, ignoramus in the first place. Now she will be proud of you and your marriage may last years longer. The Curmudgeonly Professor is always happy to be of service in the interests of happier marital circumstances. Have a nice day.
My wife began laughing while reading the comics this morning and handed me the comic "Pickles." For those of you who are uneducated, comics-wise so to speak, Pickles is the perfect replication of two old retired folks in the person of Opal and Earl. Earl is busy explaining to Opal that he shaved and put on a clean shirt, that they drove together somewhere, spent the evening together and had a bite to eat, and questioned Opal thusly: "So?" To which Opal replied: "A trip to Costco is NOT a date, Earl."
I personally felt Opal was a tad harsh on Costco, since Costco is my favorite form of entertainment now that I no longer can make the noon trek at BYU from the Marriott School to the adjacent Wendy's lunch establishment with my fellow faculty Wendy's addicts. In fact, my wife and I just visited Costco the other day where I even bought her another paperback book to read. I feel that Earl was much maligned. Just consider the number of old geezers who probably don't take their wives anywhere. Then think about a trip to Costco. If you go up and down every aisle, get free samples at all of the food tasting stations, check through all of the book and DVD displays, check out all of the fresh produce, look for the irresistable surprise specials, dodge all of the mommies with five kids, evaluate all of the other shoppers, stop to visit with anyone wearing either a University of Utah or a BYU cap, check out all of the flat-screen TV super deals, get your glasses straightened at the optical counter, print some photos at the photo counter, chat with the checkers, go to the restroom, look for the cheap bananas and consider whether you should buy the green ones or the ripe ones, spend $100 more than you intended to, and escape out the front door while the door-checker makes sure you didn't sneak something in your cart you're not supposed to have (or that you got everything you paid for), you have had a wonderful, timely, fun, and uplifting experience. Far more fun for a date than going, for instance, to the egregious movie "Mama Mia." Of course, my wife ordinarily can't stand going to Costco but maybe in a few years she will catch on and realize that a trip to Costco is better than no date at all. Or maybe not.
As I was reading John Bowe's article in the first of a new series on Salon titled Americans Talk About Love, I couldn't help but think about our own long marriage. Bowe tells the story of Paul Pesce, now 83 with a wife suffering from Alzheimer's and Pesce's adventures through the life of a long marriage. This story is one of the most moving and poignant stories about marriage I have ever read and is worth spending a few moments reading. I predict the message will stay with you for a long, long time. You can go here to read the entire article.
Pesce's story begins by telling about his late night subway ride home in New York. No one else was on the train except a woman. Pesce asked her, "Could I take you to your home?" Her reply: "If you got a quarter you can go anywhere you want?" Pesce got off at the next station and followed her. After another encounter, he asks her if she would like some coffee. Then he asks for a date and they went to a play. So he asks her "Will you marry me?" And she looks at him, pauses, and says "OK."
Thus began a long adventure of married life as Pesce went from being a pharmacist to becoming a physician. Reminiscing about his marriage, Pesce comments:
Out of the 56 years we've been married, I've only been away from her for two weeks. I think it has something to do with my generation. Because I think the natural thing for my generation is to stay with it.
And he concludes:
I'm not sure that the Bible is anything real about heaven. I think that there is something or somebody, something that created us. I think of as a guy who made, like a little miniature railroad track with a town and a train. And he watches what's happening as it runs. If there is such a thing in the afterlife, I hope I can spend it with her.
I asked my wife the other day if she realized that January day in 1950 when I rang the doorbell to her home to take her on a blind date that she would be spending the rest of her life with me--59 years total, three years courting, 56 years of marriage. Of course, that is a silly question, but it is rather mind boggling and reminds me of Pesce's impulsive proposal for marriage after a chance encounter on a subway train. When I rang her doorbell, I was 17, she was all of 16.
Now we mostly enjoy our lives, interspersed with a few doctor's visits, medications, aches and pains. But I don't think either one of us would quite know what to do without the other, despite my own multiple idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. I met my neighbor at the mailbox the other day, a retired pathologist-physician, as I retrieved my income tax forms from the mailbox. I commented that I needed to hurry home and give the envelope to my wife. He said, "You too? I've never figured out how to deal with things like that." I've done that all of our married life. I've given "the envelope," including all of the bills, 90% of the responsibility for running the house, raising the kids, cooking the meals, running our bookstores, running her pre school, being a real estate agent, and a myriad other things. And, unlike me, she never complained. I have to go through "Twenty Questions" to find out how she is feeling. As Pesce said about his own long marriage, "Day to day, it's always been in my mind, how lucky I am." And, of course, I echo those sentiments because I'm not sure how I would have ever survived without her.
The other night I listened to someone give a talk about the differences between men and women. Yesterday I listed frequent comments my wife repeatedly makes. My wife, in turn, was afraid I had made her out to be an ogre, but I assured her it was just a spoof. My daughter told her mom to keep up the good work. My wife's sister told me that my wife is a saint. My granddaughter said this post was the funniest thing she had read in a long time. I assured my wife I had meant no harm, that I was merely making historically accurate observations not intended to be harmful.
As I contemplated where I should go from there, or whether I had already stuck my foot in my mouth far too far, so to speak, the words of the Professor Higgins-Colonel Pickering exchange came to mind: "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" Men are described as being honest, eternally noble, pleasant, easy to please, friendly, good natured, and kind.
I am not an expert on the female gender, although I grew up in a household with four sisters and a mother, where my dad and I were outvoted five to two, until my little brother came along way too late to do me any good or offer any protection. I have had one wife for nearly fifty-six years, employed an endless succession of secretaries and research assistants, and taught thousands of young women in my classes.
To enter the analytical phase of this discussion, I will list some basic differences between me and my wife and perhaps some other females.
1. My wife is neat, orderly, and well organized. I am messy, disorderly, and poorly organized. I am a slob.
2. My wife does things on schedule. I procrastinate forever.
3. My wife is always dependable, and can always be counted on. My dependability is a bit iffy.
4. My wife can finish the hard parts of the New York Times crossword puzzle after I have given up.
5. My wife has memorized every birthday of our 30 or so birthdays in our multi-level family downline; I have trouble remember two or three.
6. My wife knows the date of our wedding anniversary; I am usually off by two or three days and have been known to hustle to the stores in the late afternoon for a gift. One year I produced a new dust buster. I am still hearing about that one.
7. My wife rarely worries about her health, even when she has cause to worry about it. I am always just a hairs-breadth away from death's door with many fatal ailments. I told my oldest daughter one day, who is as bad a hypochondriac as I am, that the life forces were waning. My son-in-law told her to tell me it was just gas.
8. My wife never complains about her aches and pains, which, with arthritis, are often considerable. I moan and groan loudly over every little twinge and extra heartbeat, seeking sympathy and compassion.
9. My wife never, never uses a bad word, although I do recall she got mad at a referee once while watching a basketball game. I am trying to improve my language to a higher standard. I have been working on this since I was 12 years old, and am making progress.
10. My wife never says she is parched and asks me to get a drink of water. However, I always volunteer, showing what a good sport I am.
11. On the plus side, my wife started going to athletic events with me soon after we were married, so we have no differences in wasting half of our time on the Utah Jazz, the BYU Cougars, the NCAA playoffs, the NBA finals (which last six months or so), the Olympics, and other sports events. She does, however, tend to get excited. All this is in direct and stark contrast to other females in my extended family who suffer deficiencies in this regard.
12. My wife never complains about going to Church. I make a comment now and then, depending on what happens there. She is infinitely more righteous than I am and probably wouldn't have married me if she had known I was an infidel.
13. My wife raised five kids, ran a bookstore, ran a day-care, completed her bachelor's degree at age 35, worked while I pursued three graduate degrees, cleaned house, cooked,
did the laundry, hauled the kids around, while I was a lazy professor. I still feel guilty, but am making up for it a little by doing more household chores.
14. I tend to say yes or no when asked a question. I have to look at her when I ask her a question, since yes is answered by an up and down nod of the head, no is answered by a back and forth lateral nod of the head, and "who knows" or "whatever" by a shoulder shrug.
15. My wife says she reads a book when she buys one; I pile up endless stacks of unread books.
16. My wife hasn't tossed me out the front door in nearly 56 years. I don't think she thinks it is worth the effort at this juncture, so to speak.
I haven't even gotten around to the differences between myself and all of the other females who have been in my life, such as my four sisters who are looking out for me daily as I have become elderly. Maybe I will pursue this line of thinking later on.