Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Toast to Innocence

This is a day I always get wrong. Do I look back at everything I failed at this past year or failed to accomplish and attempt? That takes care of the sins of Commission and Omission that Father Costello used to warn us about in those uncomfortable lectures he did after Mass on First Fridays at St. Peter's Church

My other choice is to look forward, but to what and how far? Should I be preparing to celebrate a cure for the heartbreak of psoriasis or having a fruit cup with thick syrup? Don't trivialize my choice of alternatives, okay? But feel free to see them as a cautionary tale for yourself if not tonight then at some time.

Do you make resolutions and what are their subjects? I stopped a long time ago before I met my wife before we had our children (technically, she had them) and before we came to the Land of Round Doorknobs. The only resolution I can recall ever making, and the one I encouraged our two children to also make, is to do my best every day. I'd encourage you to do the same and I don't care what it is you do or don't.

We spend too much time every day interacting with people who did us a favor showing up, be it for work or for whatever the life event is. If you have no passion or reason for doing or being what you are, where you are, spending any amount of time with you is too much, at least for me. In the year that arrives on little cat's feet in less time than it takes to tell you about it, promise to never be that person, ever.

Be an exclamation, and not an explanation. Live out loud and at the top of your voice as more than one person I know is fond of saying. Be happy that you're here because you won't be here that long, and don't worry how others feel about you; that's their business, not yours. Leave nothing undone and even less unsaid. 

Some left us in the course of this year and I hope they were so marvelous we shall always feel their absence and miss them forever. Make it a point to toast absent friends, knowing that all of that is part of all of this and the dance goes on even as the partners change because they must. The same procedure this year? The same procedure as every year.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Out with the Old! (but then what?)

There're been a lot of words written in review about this year, rapidly ending, and between now and New Year’s Eve, there’ll be a few more, I suspect. These mutterings and murmurings should not be perceived as any of that. 

I confess to finding something disquieting about the neuralgia of nostalgia--seen through the prism of the past, events can often take on a rosy hue, far more in retrospect than you might recall they had at the time they were current.

If that proves to be the case, in a matter of weeks this, too, will be part of a 'Good Old Days' memory and perhaps that's good so. Meanwhile, in twenty-four hours we turn the page on the calendar and start anew. It’s not table rasa, nor need it be another link in a chain of tradition. We can and should create a new path with the understanding that when you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.

There are signposts enough along the way to the city and community we aspire to be if we choose to see them. November’s elections were a shift in how we govern ourselves at the most local of levels.

It was a start of a journey, but by no means not the journey in its entirety because I don’t think any of us actually know what our destination is. Instead of worrying or quarreling over who is holding the map or steering and who called shotgun, let’s keep our eyes on the shared road and all our hands on the wheel.

Let's promise one another to work with all elected officials, regardless of their political affiliation, or ours, as they work to do their best for all of us. It's not easy holding elected officer anywhere in the United States these days and I've often thought it's a little more challenging than it needs to be around here. I fear we tend towards a pessimistic mindset because that way we can only be surprised and never disappointed.

If Norwich were to have a mascot, it might be Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh's homefry. He embodies caution and caution is a good thing but always waiting for the other shoe to drop makes it much harder to dance in celebration. Maybe if the chance presents itself in 2016, we could trade him in for dancing shoes? Couldn’t hurt.

Not sure how you measure progress and our individual mileage probably varies, but as we’re assembling our 2016 resolutions let’s resolve to be a tick slower to anger and a heartbeat faster to give one another a benefit of the doubt. 

Maybe, just maybe, we'll realize the only way we can get to where we want to go is by going there together. That it's often not eaten as hot as it's served is both a truth and a truism and is valid for where you live as well as for where I live. Grab a napkin and tuck in.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Light Is Changing to Shadow

In English we say, "wait and see." In 2015, in looking at those who would be President a year from now, we should have used "seriously?" On both sides of the aisle, there was a lot of overstatement and hyperbole and outright bull$hit, though on the last of those, one of the two national parties comes to mind more readily and frequently, at least for me. 

So vexed have I become by dueling factoids, I offered a quip the other day elsewhere in the Ether to the effect that a good resolution for 2016, a/k/a this Friday, might be 'if you didn't hear it with your own ears, or see it with your own eyes, don't invent it with your small mind or share it with your big mouth.' 

I am more than chagrined to concede I will have in all likelihood probably ignored/renounced or otherwise obliterated both the spirit as well as the letter of that resolution no later than seven AM New Year's Day and that's only if I sleep in until 6:45.

In response to that post, a Facebook friend asked, "And how do we get people to research and thoroughly investigate before forming irreversible opinions?" 

And excellent question made more so by my inability to formulate an even pedestrian answer. I will agree it is the (choice of definite article deliberate) challenge we face in the 21st Century as connectivity and convergence allow each of us if we so choose, to create an info bubble that is really nothing more than info babble. 

By choosing outlet A over B, we construct a reflection and approximation of a reality that not only varies from each of us to the next of us but may also be at a variance to actual reality.

Pick a hot-button topic. Climate-change. The war on terrorism. The economy. Civil and equal rights. Wage equity. Every one of us has an opinion based on facts as we've chosen to gather them. But what is true? And what is right? With dueling factoids, who is to know if there is a way or is it the way?  

And are those terms still of any use in a world we started out to enhance and enrich through our technology and now we've corrupted and ensnared with grumpy cat memes, pseudo-news sites where private agendas masquerade as discussions of public policy.  

We have taken to looking at only one side of every ideological and political coin, based in part on our values and beliefs and in another part on the reinforcement of those values and beliefs by whom we choose to get our 'news' from, all the while insisting we are being even-handed and open-minded (when we may not actually be either). 

More information, I would submit, has made us less tolerant, not more. We have become intellectually more insular and insulated than our parents ever were with far fewer tools to deliver the world to us. 

We need to work harder, MUCH harder, to speak TO one another rather than AT one another (starting with me). There are people in all walks of life with whom each of us can disagree, but when we choose, as I have in some instances, to become disagreeable, the chances of dialogue replacing diatribe diminish and facts are forced to yield to nearly primal fears. And decisions made from, by or with fear always fail.

I don't have the answer to the 'how' question but I don't think we can pretend it wasn't asked or more ominously that no one has an answer. A lot to think about as the calendar pages turn and we turn away.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 28, 2015

I Pick Up Phones to Hear My History.....

This is from a long time ago, perhaps longer than I should remember but is as true today as when I wrote it originally.

Growing up, one of the things that stuck with me was the later in the day a phone call came, the less likely it was to be good news. In my parents' house, we knew better than to phone home after 8 PM, no matter what, and no matter where we were. 

Nearing (When I'm) 64,  I am, I suppose, all the adult I am ever going to be, but some things never change.

The growing old part worked far too well and the growing up part didn't seem to work at all. I still get nervous going into a darkened room and will search out the light switch even if I'm only passing through. And phone calls now? Even with, or perhaps especially because of, caller ID, when the phone rings in the evening, I am always startled (maybe wary is a better word). 

The phones we have take two rings to show me the number and name of the caller (and a voice chip somehow 'reads' this information and offers me an audio attempt at a name, sometimes to great comic effect; the caller is even displayed in the corner of my television screen) and I stand, transfixed, watching that little display. 

Despite 'do not call' registrations, I get a lot of callers from folks who technically don't want to sell me anything, which is prohibited by the registry, but rather only want to take a few minutes of my time for a survey on a multitude of issues, services and products which, many times, always seem to end in what sounds suspiciously like a sales pitch. All of those morons I can handle and do, with a tad more relish and enjoyment than I really should, truth be told. 

When I see the name and number of my son or daughter in the display, however, my bravado evaporates and I start making horror movies in my head. I mutter 'please don't be anything bad' at least three hundred kajillion times between the second ring, which displays their name, and the third ring that never comes because I answer the phone. 

Both of them think it's cute their old man breaks out in cold sweats when they call him after dark--if my wife answers the phone, I pace and fret within her eyesight and earshot, lest she were to forget to tell me of some cataclysmic catastrophe that has befallen one of them. 

When we brought them home from the hospital, and they still had that 'new baby smell', I would sit in the corner of their room and watch them sleep. I was hypnotized by their breathing and with any and every movement they made while in their cribs. I had no need of television-I had found my must-see and did so many times, for many hours, as they grew up. 

As an adult, I can understand and internalize the realization that I cannot protect my children, who are in fact, adults, themselves now, from every evil and misfortune in the world, but when the day draws down to darkness and the phone rings in the dying of the light, my inner grown-up is nowhere to be found.

And all the me that remains can do is to stare at the ringing phone and hope the monster under the bed has gone away by the time I answer it.

-bill kenny

Sunday, December 27, 2015

For the Last Sunday, Ever, of 2015

I was exchanging notes yesterday with someone on the other coast. Her observations are pithy and precise and so casually learned I need to keep Google open in the background to understand half the references.

My notes are far more are rushed and typed by a man who so obviously learned his native language via correspondence course during a mail strike. It's painfully unfair, but I'd imagine to a third party always amusing.

We were discussing resolutions, this being the season for them and the all-too-actual risk of many of them being in the dustbin of history by this time next week. I have given up on making them completely because for me they are truly a waste of time whereas she keeps progress and development incremental which (I think) helps make them more achievable.

In any event, however, she does make or keep her resolutions, it seems to work for her. And then I fell across this.

I think it's enough incentive for each of us separately, and perhaps altogether, to dig a little deeper and try a little harder as one year ebbs into the next year's flow.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 26, 2015

For a Day of Many Unhappy Returns....

I'm not getting up early today to return anything I was happy to receive as a gift yesterday because I'm still happy. Some of the things I gave to others may have missed the mark. I like to think of that as my super power, but I could be wrong. 

If that's what you're up and about to do today good morning to you and I'll sit here quietly with my breakfast while you get your day started. I eat cold cereal in the mornings for breakfast. I realize, especially during the colder months, there are many nutritional positives to be offered in support of choosing oatmeal, grits, Wheatena or Maypo, but I've never been able to eat any of them. 

Make no mistake: I can prepare hot cereals just fine and without hesitation. I focus on the tasks at hand--heat the water, pour it into the container and stir it around with the spoon until it has achieved the consistency of wallpaper paste. So far, so good. Pause, dip in the spoon and slowly direct it towards my mouth. NO SALE.

I cannot be tricked into eating it, no matter how good it smells, no matter how much I 'know' after 30 days it'll lower my cholesterol, brighten my smile, heighten my IQ or no matter how it'll warm me up from the inside and get my day off to a bigger, brighter and faster start. Nope. That whole 'Here comes the airplane and you're the hanger......oh, it's yummy and delicious Maypo....' Sorry. Not happening. Not in this life and not in the next life. 

As a matter of fact, to the bemusement of my family, I eat cold cereal without milk and sugar, without bananas or strawberries or anything else. Just naked, the way it comes out of the box--exactly the way General Mills and Kellogg's (Kay e double L oh double good) intended it.

I had a boss years a lifetime ago tell me when breakfast cereals were introduced into post-war (West) Germany, Germans had NO idea how to eat them and poured orange juice onto the cereal, instead of milk and sugar. I guess these days it'd be 2% and Splenda.

My favorite cereal is and has always been Cheerios-just the way they are-NOT covered with yogurt, chocolate or flavored with apple whatevers, just plain brown Cheerios, looking like doughnut seeds. I never allowed myself as a kid to get seduced by the prize inside. 

Though the prizes are one of the reasons I dreaded growing up: adults ate cereals with NO prizes! What kind of a deal was that? With all due respect to Michael Jordan (the patron saint of sports figure product endorsement) and his marketing magic, what kind of a prize would you put in a Wheaties box? Sweatsocks? 

'Collect the whole pair! One inside of each specially marked box! Get yours today!'
-bill kenny

Friday, December 25, 2015

It's the What not the When We Celebrate

In some places, today is already tomorrow. 

And that's okay because in some places tomorrow is Second Christmas where you visit with friends (Christmas Day is for your family).

Not to worry, here in the Land of the Round Door Knobs, time's a wastin' and we'd never devote two days to a holiday when one day will do.

So whichever day of Christmas it is where you are, Frohe Weinachten.

-bill kenny

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Postcard from My First Blogmas

What follows is eight years old, about my current level of maturity (oh? You didn't think I heard you thinking that? Ha!) but in many ways still a pretty accurate reflection of my optimism on life here on the Ant Farm. 

We had been here a long time when I started writing this stuff, not long enough think some, but I work hard to pay them little to no mind which is about as much of my own that's left at the end of the day, so it all evens out, unless, like me, you're odd. In that case, cheers!

One of my favorite parts of Christmas, aside from amusing my wife and children with my ill-advised attempts to gift wrap presents, is watching "It's A Wonderful Life". I've watched it on television with commercial breaks built around celebrities recounting when they first saw it (one year I watched Garth Brooks talk about the first time he saw it and realized I had NO idea who he was, despite his success in selling records). 

It's on tonight and I'll watch it, even though we have it on DVD and I could watch it at any time, along with the original "Miracle on 34th Street". Truth be told, I have no idea on how to work the DVD, or the timer on the thermostat or the control for anything other than the popcorn setting on the microwave or most of the cell phone I own (it has a Blackberry in it and checks my commercial email accounts and vibrates to let me know I have e-mail. Scares the bejabbers out of me.). 

I was surprised to read when the movie was first released it was NOT hailed as a classic or celebrated for its art but was seen more as both a commercial and artistic failure. In the decades that have passed, as more of us have had an opportunity to look at its larger message and ponder the implications of the road not taken, the appeal of the movie has, I think, grown. 

When you examine your own life and think of all the choices you've made that have, in sum, resulted in your being here to read this (or to shake your head in dismay and double-click on to something else), that total number is (or should be) overwhelming. 

I arrived here because we won the Cold War and NATO cut the overhead. I had lived in Germany since 1976 and had a wife and two children. We had a gemutlich existence in the heart of a moderate sized German city. Our two children were old enough to realize Dad's German wasn't as good as theirs (actually, it was about as good as my daughter, Michelle's if you forgot that I was in my late thirties and she wasn't quite four). And then the Evil Empire held a Going Out of Business Sale and we thought the Age of Aquarius had dawned. Turns out it hadn't and it still hasn't, but that doesn't mean someday it won't get here; just not today.

There were hundreds and thousands of decisions that had to be made (or not made) in order for us to reside in The Rose of Norwich. I cannot imagine how my life has been enriched by the neighbors alongside whom I've lived, by the people I've worked with on a school building and technology committee, the baseball stadium authority, a charter review commission and on the ethics review committee (not all at the same time, but close to it!). 

I'd hope I've added something to their lives but know better. I am humbled and grateful for what they have shared with me and realize I am who I am because of every person I have ever met on the way to where I am now. 

For some, knowing me has been more of trial and error (emphasis on the latter) than either of us wish to admit. For others, a little contact goes a long way and absence makes the heart grow fonder (and so they are waiting for me to leave so they can like me). 
I lack the grace and style of Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey though I've often attempted to lasso the moon for the love of my life. 

I'm not sure I could stand up to Potter the way George did and that whole 'angel gets his wings' thing gets me confused. The first Clarence I knew of growing up was a cross-eyed lion, so child of the video age that I am, the programs sometimes get edited together and the meanings get diffused. 

As 2007 begins its final week--this time next week is New Year's Eve, I find myself looking forward to 2008 with hope because of what we have endured, persevered and triumphed over in 2007 and hope it allows you and yours a moment of pause in the next few days to look at where you are and how you got here and to perhaps concede, trials and tribulations to the contrary, indeed, "It's A Wonderful Life."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Have Yourself....

Recognizing that Friday is Christmas, by my math, today is the Eve before Christmas Eve. I just wanted to get that fact in there before offering the most traditional of seasonal salutations. Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine. If you don't observe the holiday, I apologize for the salutation but not the sentiment. 

As I've gotten older, I've discovered there are many different customs and beliefs, but so often they come down to different ways to say and to celebrate similar situations, so however you observe, best wishes.

Based on how my life has gone for nearly 63 Christmases (so far and looking forward to more), I don't need (or miss) snow or frosty weather or sparkling lights and boughs of holly or gift wrap and holiday cards--though all of those are very nice and help complement a contented and contemplative state of mind.

I've spent a lot of this year being sick, and more time struggling to get well and realize I'm rounding the big bend in the road where that ratio rarely evens out, so I'm grateful for the love of a woman for thirty-eight years of marriage in sickness and in health, though neither of us ever thought those circumstances would ever include Norwich, Connecticut. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

I'm filled with gratitude for the presents of the presence of our two children, Patrick and Michelle. From memories of walking the floor of a hospital delivery room in Central Germany with a newborn son while singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad" for hours, to holding our infant daughter, her feet in my hand and her head in the crook of my arm as she clicked her tongue just moments after being born.

He is now 33 and she is 28. The adults they have each grown to be are as wonderful and extraordinary as the children who blessed my life when I so needed those blessings. Through a move from a faraway and very different country and culture that all three, my two children and my wife, had known to a  somewhat dour folk and rocky near-seacoast of Southeastern Connecticut, with customs and a lifestyle unlike any that we’d known, we have exchanged many gifts over many years among ourselves--and as families in Germany still do, we’ll open our presents and our hearts to one another on Christmas Eve.  

I'm told there's no such things as strangers, only friends we haven't met. If this true, and it is, after all, Christmas, when miracles can and do happen, as you head home at whatever time today or tonight from that last gift shopping expedition, rather than follow The Star, seek out the sound of the ringing bell and collection kettle and share some of the change, paper and coins, in your trouser and jacket pockets.

You'll never miss it, and someone you'll never meet will be grateful for a moment of peace on the ground.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Scrooged Again?

We just observed the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and in its honor (not at all) please enjoy Christmas Light Hero, because nothing says 'let's commemorate the season marking the birth of the Savior of Mankind' better than over the top conspicuous consumption and ostentatious displays of excess. And many of us wonder across these United States, why so many people in other places around the globe don't like us. It is a puzzlement to me as well. 

At one level this, it may be argued, is harmless and "American" in every positive sense of the word. After all, check the wording in our Declaration of Independence, "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." F-U-N. Who else lives in a country founded on fun? Anyone? Judging from the footage I've seen of Mardi Gras Rio, maybe Brazil, but that's about it. And admittedly, no one's getting hurt and it's all lighthearted and that's fair enough I suppose. 

I have no idea what a display like this cost in terms of money and material or into the service of how many other uses all of that could have been placed, but I suspect whatever amount, it would have disappeared without a trace into the chasm of need we have on this planet, or just in this country. The (unconditional) War on Poverty declared by then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson began five decades ago. How do you suppose that's going? Perhaps we could ask one of the homeless who shuffle from abandoned threshold to threshold in my downtown, and yours, trying to get a break from the winter wind--or inquire of the poor who sleep on heating grates as people step over them on their way to work every day in every major city in this country. 

I don't pretend to know the intricacies of the most recent census or the truer meanings of the New Testament (the non-Republican Party version at least), so I'm not sure how many unwed, pregnant women we have living in barns across Connecticut or the nation it's a part of, and in many respects it makes no difference. As a culture and a country, I fear, we've not only come to expect the giant government program, we rely on it.

Instead of neighbors helping neighbors in a thousand small ways, we group together to form advisories to draft a plan and organize a feasibility study. We've gone from the preamble of the Constitution, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...." to the far more succinct and direct "Greed is Good."

If I'm distressed by anything I've seen or known in my sixty-three years (and counting!) on this Big Blue Marble, it's that we keep having to choose between extremes. There's never any way to lift all the boats. Coming out of the local Stop and Shop stores earlier this week, the ringing of the kettle collector's bell prompted me to offer a dollar bill to a foot soldier in the Salvation Army. This has been another tough year for many of us, but, hand on my heart, a buck is nothing. If each of us gave a buck, how many people could that money help but, before we get too euphoric, how many would remain to be helped? 

Enjoy the success of excess but try to remember, as covered in Santa suits and reindeer poop and Black Fridays and best deals of the year distractions that all of it seems to come with, the reason for the season. 

Others around us may not celebrate Christmas, but their holiday and ours always share so much of the same values that it's hard to believe after all the work we've invested in helping those of us less fortunate that there's still so much yet to be done. So go ahead, double click on the YouTube funny clips about holiday lights-but reach into your pocket today, or one of the very few days remaining before Christmas this Friday, and give of yourself to someone else. Their smile of gratitude will light the world
-bill kenny

Monday, December 21, 2015

Make a Noise and Make It Clear

Happy shortest day of the year, from here on out until late June it's onwards and upwards (I hope) in terms of daylight. Realizing this is Christmas Week and anything that takes too long to read, look at or listen to will be utterly ignored and quickly forgotten, let me offer you in the spirit of the season this from yesterday's CBS Sunday Morning.

And before you say another word, you're welcome.

Puts it all into perspective doesn't it?

"You're the voice, try to understand it.
Make a noise and make it clear.
We're not gonna sit in silence.
We're not gonna live with fear."

You can choose: be an exclamation, not an explanation.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Blunt Is the Pain of Hunger

This is the fourth Sunday of Advent, and for many (more importantly) the 'so many days until Christmas' countdown continues to dwindle! (exclamatory marks sold separately at fine stores everywhere)

Maybe today is a good day to see someone in a corner of our  lives we normally see through on our way to the many important things we each do and never really acknowledge. We're a pretty crowded ant farm with beepers and briefcases and sometimes the person next to us falls through a crack and we never notice.

Anglicans (Church of England in the UK) call this Stir-up Sunday, not as in get agitated or become more forcefully engaged in the world around us, but for more quiet and comfortable reasons, but I do like that name and the possibilities and connotations.

For some of us, this is the best of the Season of Joy and for others, it's really nothing more than the next to last Sunday in 2015. We are the choices we make and the lives and love we share. We are the reason for this season.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Men Only Get Better One by One

I wrote this a long time ago, hoping that by speaking/typing the unease I carried with me I could free myself of it and from it. Six years after I first offered it in this space, I must concede I have a better chance of jumping over my own shadow. Some memories are larger than life and longer as well. 

I don't ever remember celebrating my father's birthday as I grew up. Logic dictates we, our mother (his wife) and my brothers and sisters (his children) must have done so as we did for everyone in our family, and yet every year I struggle and fail to find a single memory of a single moment of that day.

I mention that because had he lived, today would be his ninety-second birthday (he died thirty-four years ago) and I'd like to think he would be something I never felt he was while we shared the earth, proud of something, anything, I'd ever done. In this case, as was so true in our shared lives, I would be cheating (oh so slightly) as I'd hope he'd be proud of his grandchildren, Patrick and Michelle, who are the children my wife, Sigrid, and I have.

My most lasting memory of my father isn't really a memory of him at all, but a reminder of how life goes on within you and without you. Many years ago, still living in Germany Sigrid found what she assured me was 'the perfect card for you to send to your dad for Father's Day.' This was pre-Internet and global village connectivity days, remember. Actually, it was back when it was only she and I and my work (and sadly, not always in that order). 

I don't remember the card, though this would be a better lesson for me if I had (and would add a sparkle to this story), but I signed it after Sigrid had addressed it, put a stamp on it and had me throw it in my work bag (a shoulder-strapped book bag that carried, judging from its remembered weight, most of the world's most curious and heaviest items).

And that's where the card stayed. 
Months later and well past Father's Day, she was rooting through my bag, in search of something I had promised to bring home. Her theory, more often right than I'd like, was that whatever it was, it could be found in my bag. The body of Jimmy Hoffa, other gunmen on the grassy knoll, reasons to be cheerful--check in the bag. 

What she found that day, and registered a quiet note of disappointment with me because of it, was the card we both thought I had mailed months earlier for Father's Day. Faced with the reality that I hadn't, all I could do was mumble a promise to do so 'next year'. 

You've guessed, of course, that my father died before 'next year' ever happened. As a self-centered oldest child, stiff-necked and incapable of bending, I had clashed with him nearly every day of life. I think from the time I could talk, all I said to him was 'no.'

I don't recall what we fought about or why, but they were bitter arguments, often ending in physical contact that made me fully appreciate the weight of his hands, but I refused to yield anything at any time and we passed months, and longer, exchanging as few words as possible for as long as possible. I had, as a child, wished the worst for him countless times and when notified by the Red Cross (I was still on active duty in the Air Force) that he was dead, my reaction was overwhelming guilt at the power that child had somehow exercised. 

We three oldest had moved out and away by that time, but our two youngest sisters and a brother were left to be raised by our mother in circumstances vastly different from ours when we were their age, and that I made no effort to ever learn or to attempt to improve is more weight I’ll never rid myself of.

I've never spoken to them about those times and I know I never shall. Family secrets, if you have the former you learn to live with the latter all the while being eaten alive by them. More casualties in a war that should have ended decades ago, but continues even as I type this and feel the gorge rise in my veins as if "enough" weren't already, and finally, truly enough. 

I am, like it or not, my father's son in ways neither of us could have ever imagined. Perhaps he'd be proud of that, and yet I truly hope not. Life is a sum of all your moments--waking and dreaming; everything you've done or left undone; every word, said and unsaid and first and finally, of all of your prayers, answered but, most especially,unanswered.
-bill kenny 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Let's Let Bygones Be Forgotten

I love rock and roll (don’t give me that ‘Joan Jett on line two’ stuff. Seriously? Play her this while she’s on hold) though how I define rock and roll and how you hear it may be two, or more, very different things. 

I’ve no idea where I read it (when you’re old, that happens) but I know I did, “Rock and roll is the music your parents love to hate.” Mission accomplished. My dad hated The Beatles until She’s Leaving Home from SGT Pepper and when that happened, I get weirded out. I don’t recall him having a warm spot for anything by The Rolling Stones. Funny, innit?

Fast forward a generation. Try as I might to be open-minded as a parent, it was sadly apparent  to me my children listened to abject crap, nothing at all like the good music I had when I was their age. 

I still am impressed by the irony of that observation and take solace that they, too, will find it funny when/if they have children and go through the same struggle. Ahh,  first world problems-it’s a hard rain that’s gonna fall (and leave water spots on the freshly waxed Beamer [sigh]).

Music, as all art should and does, builds bridges between and among different nations, politics, and generations but each of us has to cross or burn those bridges. Our choice and consequences. That’s why I smiled yesterday reading about the 2016 crop of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

I believe I own all the records each inductee ever released, and, lack of modesty conceded in advance, I interviewed just about everyone in every act, either in the band or as a solo artist, who's scheduled to be inducted, some more than once (Rick Nielsen, Bobby Lamm and Ian Gillan, I’m looking at you). 

That may be the only saving grace about growing old: we had all the best music. Just ask us (pretty sure Pete and Roger were joshing, based on how events worked out for them; we could ask Keith and The Ox but due to circumstances within their control....).

Or maybe not, if you ask our parents. And definitely not, if you ask our children. And when I look at who’s going in and who’s already there, maybe it’s human nature, I wonder about those not included, our forgotten friends. #ReconsiderMe.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wearin’ Yesterday’s Misfortunes Like a Smile

A week from today we’ll be knee-deep in Christmas Eve (believers and non, alike; weather believes in you whether or not you believe in it. Did you see what I did there?). Your time is short and your attention span grows even shorter, what with chestnuts roasting and five golden rings and all.

Thought about resurrecting the Pause of Mr. Claus, but if you’re a cat-lover, you’re spelling it paws and that’s not necessarily the one that refreshes. Someone one assured me not that long ago that ‘we are all pilots, learning to fly. Because we crash doesn’t mean we’re no longer pilots; it just means sometimes the ground wins.’

Trying to be holly and jolly because those around me are, I think I agree with that notion even if I see myself less as a pilot and more as a pilgrim.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Calling All Angels

A couple of days ago, wandering on the highways and by-ways of online Social Media, I fell across a graphic that puckishly summed up a lot of places each of us may have frequented. It seemed at the time I came across it to capture a less than happy aspect of so many of our Norwich Neighbors.

As someone who is accused at times of being a "cheerleader," a label I wear as a badge of honor, by the way, I shared it to a Facebook page I created so long ago there were only three Fast & Furious movies, Celebrating Norwich Connecticut, and started listing points of interest and businesses I've found on my hikes to and from various places here in The Rose of New England.

I could have included the infamous (in my house at that time) 'bit off more than he could chew' walk to and from the Occum Playground for an event that was over by the time I got there.

I did mention my more recent miscalculation that our daughter had to endure when she accompanied me after I had decided on a Sunday to 'walk to Poppy & Rye' in Taftville, from our house on Lincoln Avenue. The rye bread and the pastries were worth the hike, trust me on that.

But I missed the biggest thing: us. We who live here. Brighten yourself up tonight, or any night in the next two weeks or so and walk (okay, drive if you must) around a neighborhood, any neighborhood and check out the lights on houses and shops, and without getting too creepy about it, the living rooms with trees groaning with garland and dazzling with decorations.

Or, as I did over the weekend at a local grocery, casually watch the number of other shoppers bringing bags of donated canned goods and other items to the community volunteers collecting out in front or who added a box of pasta or dry cereal to a belt full of grocery purchases but dropped off an item or two (or three) at the collection point at the front of the store.

It happens all over our city every year at this season, and throughout the rest of the year whenever anyone asks for help. I keep reading "the recession' ended quite some time ago, so I'm confused a lot by what so many of us here are struggling with now.

I don't know what it's called but I've heard names my mom would be surprised I know (come to think of it, how does Mom know 'em?). But no matter how tight times are, or we feel they are, we are always here for one another.

When I worry and wonder about finding our better angels, I have a good idea about the first zip code in which to look.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Should Be in Circus, Circus

Tonight starting at six (undercard) with the main event at half past nine on CNN and a plethora  of social platforms it’s The Last GOP Debate. Of. This. Year.

My heart skipped a beat with joy when I first caught the ads on early morning CNN for this thing until I listened closely for the last three seconds or so and then I just sighed.

As I said, it starts at six. I’m not sure when it ends but suspect I can guess how.

-bill kenny

Monday, December 14, 2015

Revisiting a Dark Day

When I first offered this, part of me wanted to believe we’d stop doing this to one another. I saw a graphic the other day on the number of Americans who have died in gun violence since the tragic murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on this date three years ago. The number was so large I think my brain refused to remember it.

That’s NOT the saddest part, as San Bernardino underscores.  For me, it’s that we choose to mourn those whose lives are ended suddenly and senselessly instead of attempting to work to keep it from happening again or over and over again. With that as a wind at your back….

As an oldest child, I spend a lot of time fretting over what is and what could have been, often failing badly to see my role and responsibility in moving from the former to the latter.

Today is an anniversary of sorts for something so many of us couldn't grasp when it happened, and, I confess, I still didn't "get" any better than when we observed its first anniversary. Today I don't think we're any closer to understanding.

I'm not any smarter today than I was except to realize that I'm not any smarter. And I am also no closer to understanding now than I was then. All I can offer are words I offered, this time, last year and they remain as inadequate as they were in marking that gruesome anniversary at that time.

I cannot imagine how long this day is for a parent who suffered the loss of a child, a husband of a wife, a son or daughter of a parent, but I do know that today in Newtown, Connecticut, everyone trying to heal will hurt all over again.

Everywhere we turn today will be accounts recounting everything that everyone will ever know about an unthinkable tragedy that happened one year ago today but there is one thing we, with all of our research and analysis, will never know.

For a small town whose residents will always have broken hearts that can never heal, today is just the next day in a tragedy that will only end when all memory of what happened has gone. And that will never happen.

Even if you have a problem with God, or in my case S/He with me, perhaps a truce is in order so that you can remember the twenty-six angels who entered heaven this day three years ago.
- bill kenny

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Though Dark Our Days May Be

Despite the recent days of hate and hate-filled utterances some public figures have had in this Season of Hope, today, Gaudete Sunday remains a favorite of mine (since my earliest school days).

A lot of the warmth of our human hearts regardless of your beliefs is reflected by the holiday seasons that fall together this time of year somehow reminding us, I hope, that we are beyond our differences very much the same people.

Underscoring that is the life of Tibor "Teddy" Rubin, who though he passed on Friday before we reached the Third Sunday of Lent is I think the embodiment of someone we should and could aspire to become.

We have too many horns in the cacophony of life and can most certainly use another light, especially in this, the most hopeful of seasons.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Remembrances Great and Small

At some point, I found a posting, probably on Facebook (‘what else is there?’ Life) that noted one dies twice-once when you physically die and the second time when your name is said out loud by another human being for the final time on this earth. 

Perhaps that's what motivates me to reprise some notes from quite some time ago, colored by a growing disquiet I feel when I look at a calendar and stare at that haggard mug that greets me in my morning mirror. Both remind me that it's much later than I think.

Which is why I wanted to post a few words on, Wreaths Across America, happening at noon here today  in Norwich, at Sacred Heart Cemetery, and also across the United States. The observance here in Norwich is all I'm familiar with, so with (and/or without) your kindest indulgence, I'll work from the familiar to the less than. 

The Norwich Area Veterans Council in Norwich takes the lead on many of the recognition and remembrance observances held here. This image is from a previous year’s ceremony.

Your mileage may vary in terms of staging and participation. Residents here turn out in goodly numbers, pleasing the organizers and doing a terrific job of representing The Rose City. That said, there’s always room for one more and if you stand next to me, I promise to not talk to you non-stop throughout the whole ceremony (quite a deal; you can ask anyone here).

If you check your city or town's website calendar of activities you'll probably get enough details to help get you to your ceremony on time and have enough background to better appreciate what's going on.

As the name suggests, Wreaths Across America is all across the United States today with close to half a million wreaths placed by volunteers who found a few moments in the hectic of the holiday season to honor those who directly (and sometimes) indirectly allow us to enjoy what we have today.

It's a mere moment to recognize a life and often a life's work. It's only an eye blink, perhaps, but perhaps it's another link forged in a chain of immortality.
-bill kenny

Friday, December 11, 2015

We're Built for Speed not Distance

I’m a pretty poor sailor on the ocean of life in terms of my navigational prowess with the USS Friendship. I’m not good at making or keeping friends but, pleading my case for a moment, I’m consistent since even as a child I wasn’t very good at any of it.

Since I take forever to get comfortable enough to consider someone a friend it takes something extraordinary to change or break that relationship up. The coalescing and convergence of technologies so that entities like Social Media, which we (at least I) regard as appliances now, but that didn’t exist twenty or so years ago, makes renewing acquaintances a lot easier. 

Friend requests or adding someone to a circle is a mouse-click-as is ending those relationships. I mention all of that because my computer which had let me down, I thought, the other day, redeemed itself just yesterday by sharing with me something I feared I had lost.

Some time ago we upgraded systems at work (I’m no smarter than I was the first day the first computer showed up but time and technology march on) and not really understanding how to archive electronic correspondence to transfer it to the new machine, I lost all my exchanges with the last person I considered a friend, Bob, who died very suddenly the summer before last.

We were only friends because he worked very hard at it. Actually, he refused to not let me be his friend, I guess. We had little in common except an interaction as equals at work and the fact we were both dads. I’m pretty sure that’s all of it. But that was enough for Bob and became enough for me, too.

It was not unusual in the course of a day, any day, for the phone to ring and I'd hear a slight pause and then, "Hey, BK, this is Bob...." And a phone call would turn into a magical mystery tour of topics and interests, thoroughly examined, dusted for prints (or the artist formerly known as prints) and returned to their proper place. There are only two other people who have ever called me by my initials and I keep them both in my heart. 

He was a very devout Protestant; I am a very guilt-ridden FARC. He gave everyone he met the benefit of the doubt every single time; I give everyone I meet a piece of my mind so often, it’s amazing I have any left by the end of the day. He is why you are reading this. He suggested quite often in the years of our friendship I should write. So this is all on him.

When he died, I was incredulous and in a way very angry. He was the picture of health. He was happy at work and in his personal life. He was generous with his time and talents with friends and strangers alike. He should have lived another full lifetime, and he would have known what to do with those years.

Bob was, for me, a lifeboat for my sanity when others might have been fitting me for a straightjacket. I don't think I served a reciprocal function. There wasn’t a ledge professionally or personally he couldn’t talk me down from and in the decade and a half we knew each other, he had far more opportunities to do that anyone should have ever had. 

I felt as if I’d lost my driving wheel leaving his memorial service. I couldn’t bring myself to speak with his family afterwards (and still can't) to offer my condolences; in a way, my grief (as self-centered as this reads) was as profound to me as theirs to them.

And then, like I said, after I had archived our correspondence on my old machine, I was heartbroken to discover I had somehow vaporized all of our words. It felt like losing him all over again. But clicking on a thingamabob tab yesterday in e-mail that I’d never noticed, there it all was again!

It was a great afternoon-reading again all the news and notes we had shared between us. I laughed so hard at one of his points I started to reach for the phone to call and ask him how that situation had finally worked out but stopped myself before dialling because……well, because when we became friends we both knew we would know one another for the rest of our lives.
Only one of us was right.
-bill kenny