Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Category: 2017

I Dreamed a Dream Where I Could Dream

Empty Dream Catcher

To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

In Act 3, Scene 1, as part of Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be?” soliloquy, Hamlet wonders if in death, which he assumes is only sleep, what dreams may come. And whether they are different from the dreams of the living after the distractions of daily life have been removed. He wonders if these dreams are to be feared, which, he posits, may be the reason we are unwilling to end life’s suffering at our own hand. Such are the thoughts of a plotting Danish prince who knows his uncle has recently murdered his father and married his mother to make himself king. But the premise upon which this fantastic speech is based is one I can appreciate but not experience. You see, Hamlet dreams.

I do not dream, and therefore, do not experience worlds beyond the one my eyes reflect. Reality is my only realm. The wondrous, stupefying, and horrific experiences of reality comprise all of my knowledge. I am not the unwitting audience of my imagination’s creation and performance each night. People’s wishes of “sweet dreams” are lost on me. So, too, any dread of nightmares. But is that a willing price, were I able to negotiate this? I think so. I wish I could dream. That is my waking dream. So why not me?

I’ve heard people say we all dream, it is merely a matter of when during the sleep cycle we awaken that allow us to recall dreams. However, I find it improbable that I can awaken every morning in any sequence of sleep other than that which will enable me to remember dreams. And this is in spite of the fact that I do not go to sleep at the same time every night and that my sleep is unnaturally interrupted each morning by an alarm clock rather than me surfacing from my slumber of my own volition. Of the 365 nights each year, I may recall five dreams, essentially one dream every two and a half months, meaning over 98% of the time I will not dream. By comparison, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern flipping a coin and it landing on heads 85 times in a row seems relatively unremarkable.

I can think of no higher representative of humanity than our imagination. It can be both terrible and beautiful. No other creature possesses this power. Schools and society attempt to beat imagination out of us, which is why children should be encouraged to maintain and develop their creativity separate from the societal structure and the constraints we place upon them. And in no realm other than sleep does imagination manifest itself freer than in our dreams.

This condition leaves me longing for (and angry about and jealous of) what others tell me from time to time. People will, on occasion tell me they dreamt about my late wife. How it was nice to see her, hear her, laugh with her, as if she had taken the train from heaven to spend a little time with them in some previously negotiated agreement with God in a place between heaven and earth called sleep. Please do not misunderstand. I am very happy for them if it brings them comfort and happiness. Perhaps, too, they have the obverse of that same coin. Maybe they have nightmares about her suffering and dying  (presumably not previously negotiated with God by Lisa) and they compassionately choose not to share those unwelcome dreams with me.

But I am left wondering if I am somehow not worthy of these almost tangible meetings. As if I am doing something wrong when I sleep. It leaves me lost in my waking conscience and subject to my limited imagination. Daydreams are malleable, but predictable in that they are rendered on the plane of consciousness, limited to reality’s laws of physics and rationale. Any comparative daydreams of mine are, in fact, nothing more than misremembered or subjective memories. Not so dreams. People dream of flying, falling, and, of course, spending time with people both famous and familiar who have died. Why not me?

A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh says, “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”

Nothing against anyone else, but why not me?

 

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Now?

Enough

Is it too soon to talk about gun violence prevention after the murders in a Texas church?

Too soon? Insensitive? Politicizing?

Then can we talk about it related to Las Vegas?

No? Still too soon?

What about Orlando? Still too soon?

Yes?

Charleston? Roseburg? San Bernardino?

Really?

Washington Navy Yard?

Still? Hmmmm.

Surely Aurora?

No?

Okay, Sandy Hook?

No? Really? 5 years ago, almost?

Okay, you tell me. What time frame needs to pass before we can discuss an incident?

 

 

 

Still waiting.

 

No other country ranks their mass killings like the United States. No other country needs to rank them! No other country needs to rank the mass murders in their churches like the United States. Something is very wrong here. Sorry, Mr. President, Americans are not any more mentally deranged than any other country. The difference is access to guns. When is enough enough? When will Congress address this? Why do we tolerate inaction? Oh, sorry. Still too soon?

Diamonds

Two Diamonds

 

Weightlifters are strong. Carbon fiber is strong. America is strong.

These are the things we are taught represent strength. But in my experience, these items are breakable. Weightlifters may be able to bench press a Buick, but given enough reps, they can lift no more. Carbon fiber has a known tensile strength beyond which it breaks. And America has shown itself corruptible at various times throughout its history for a variety of reprehensible reasons. Why aren’t we taught that it is the individual who is strong?

I have known many people in my life. Some I can unconditionally qualify as kind, decent people. Others prove their lack of knowledge and compassion every time they profess their intellect. Most of us are a homogenization of sound and poor traits, just trying to get through life without the benefit of a manual. And then there are those who personify strength and determination.

The first trait of the strong is honesty. Honesty is the best policy for everyone until the truth hurts. The honest person is often seen as someone’s best friend until the honest person is honest with the friend. Often, the friend wilts beneath the eye of truth and the relationship itself withers. This requires there be a certain amount of strength to befriend a strong person. And I am not equating a strong person with having a strong personality. The two are not always required to be linked. The strong person leads a determined life while the strong personality may only be projecting a determined life.

The second trait of the strong is their response to the inevitable appearance of obstacles in life. Whether they be health concerns, family crises, professional challenges, or some other impediment, the strong know no other response than to fight. I also believe they find it easier to fight for someone other than themselves. Indeed, I believe they often garner the will to face indescribable personal challenges by projecting the need for success on the impact failure will have on those they love. Lao Tzu said, “”Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

A third trait of the strong is the ability to let go. This may sound counterintuitive but bear with me. In her column, Ann Landers once wrote, “Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” Whether this is a response to a terminal illness after fighting for as long as possible or the self-preservation associated with ending a relationship, letting go requires its own hard decision and determination to see it through.

In each of the traits outlined above, the only people I have known who have incorporated each of them and lived their lives accordingly have been women. This is not to denigrate men or relegate them to some pile of the weak. Instead, it is merely a reflection on the strongest individuals I have encountered.

I lost another of these incredible, inspiring women last night when Cathy Nance passed away. Cathy leaves two small children and a loving husband. But that is only the beginning of her legacy. You see, the legacy of the strong is strength. A strength her husband Scott will need to draw on now to carry on and a force her family and friends will need to harness to continue her work.

I met Cathy in Texas as accidental activists moved to action by the gun murders of twenty elementary school students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Ignorance and acquiescence were no longer options for many people following that day in December. In the months that followed I met incredible people as we spoke out demanded better for our nation. To a person, everyone I met was a woman. It is hard enough being a woman given the male-dominated society we live in. We nod to some amorphous, chivalrous maxim while ignoring the sexism rampant in every facet of life. Imagine then how difficult it was to stand up and challenge gun violence and the gun culture in Texas where guns probably outnumber people.

I was only in Texas because we were seeking cancer treatment for my late wife. She was the strongest person I believe I will ever meet, encompassing every trait of the strong and radiating enough of it to allow me to survive her and continue living. Cathy’s own cancer diagnosis followed sometime after that. Why is it that the strongest people I know, people with the determination and courage to face any injustice or personal challenge, are hit with an unwinnable foe? It never seems to be a fair fight. I’ve known people who have beaten cancer, but their cancer was either caught early or of a nature that science had a remedy. That is not to say those survivors were not strong, they are, but why is it that the strongest are hit with something unbeatable? And what is it in these individuals that they continue to fight unabated? It is the embodiment of Faulkner’s line in Absalom, Absalom!, “If happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can.” That is the hallmark of the strong.

Weightlifters and carbon fiber and America may be strong (with limitations), but perhaps the best example of strength is, ironically, something associated with women. It is the diamond.

There is one more quote I would like to reference here, and it aptly references a gun. I can think of no better summation of my friend Cathy.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I have known several diamonds in my life, and we lost one last night. Thank you, Cathy, for showing us what strength looks like. May we all harness the strength you radiated to continue your work and to strengthen ourselves. A fitting legacy to another lost diamond.

Without You, Again

Wedding Photo

We were denied our 26th anniversary two years ago when cancer took you a week before. Now I’ve had to endure what should have been our 27th and 28th without you. If our vows said “until death do us part,” why does it feel as though part of me died when cancer took you? Happy anniversary, Lisa. I’m doing the best I can without you. Thank goodness for the kids. And fuck cancer.

25

Trump Twitter

The President of the United States yesterday showed the world who he really is. However, instead of revealing a wizard behind the curtain, this reveal was no reveal at all. Many believed the mantle of the presidency would temper Trump’s showmanship, believing there was a measured, intelligent individual behind the bluster; that he used television and social media to gain the position but that he would eventually perform some hairpin pivot. Yesterday proved once again that his use of social media simply displayed the real man in plain sight. To appropriate his apologists’ favorite phrase, “there is no there, there.”

Yesterday’s rambling press conference essentially threw a grenade on the measured clarification (read: hostage tape video) he issued Monday to the outrageous, equivocating statement he made on Saturday. The statement on Saturday was, as written, not offensive. It did not call out the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or KKK by name, but it was not unseemly. How low a bar we have set for this president! Instead, he went off script and injected his actual position by asserting blame be placed “on many sides, many sides.”

While Robert Mueller continues his investigation, whispers have once again been heard of invoking the 25th Amendment. For that to work, for America to cast off a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, pathological liar, three individuals and the majority of the Cabinet would have to summon true courage (and face withering condemnation from Trump). Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (numbers two, three, and four in the line of presidential succession) would need to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. It reads:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

However, if today’s Republican reaction to yesterday’s press conference is any indication, nothing will happen. Republicans, on congressional recess, are harder to uncover today than white truffles in an Italian forest. That silence is in itself a statement. Perhaps it is fear of being the “victim” of a Trump Twitter tirade, maybe it is the fear of being out front on such an issue, or perhaps it is because they do not want to anger their base, which includes some pleased with Trump’s comments yesterday. Nevertheless, it is just these people, emboldened by Trump’s comments, who need to be brought to task and this is just the time to be out front. All politicians fancy themselves historical figures who changed the world. Has there ever been an easier softball for them to hit? So, where are they?

Just as politicians envision themselves historical figures, the average citizen must have wondered what they would have done during historical events. What would you have done during the Revolutionary War? How would I have acted during the civil rights movement? It is against that backdrop that we must ask ourselves, what do we do now? Moreover, looking toward the future, when this week’s events are indeed history, how do we respond to our children and grandchildren when they ask what we did when President Trump defended bigotry? History and our descendants will ask.

Publius ad absurdum

 

“Bill rejected coverage for my new knee,” bemoaned Karen as she read the form letter with the very personalized facsimile of Bill’s signature.

“You’re kidding!” exclaimed Harry. “And after I sent him that Bundt cake and paid for his lawn to be thatched!”

“I know!” continued Karen. “What is this country coming to if the head of the homeowner’s association can’t see his way clear to providing coverage for necessary medical procedures. And just because I told his wife, Claire, that I liked their old flowerbed better than that mulch monstrosity they now have!”

“I liked it better when the cities and towns used to control healthcare,” said Harry, wistfully.

“Me, too,” Karen said softly. “The Henderson’s moved from Cypress Heaven to Wimbledon Estates and Ken lost coverage for his cancer treatment. A “pre-existing condition” they said. Remember when the city used to cover healthcare?”

“Remember? I can remember when the state used to provide coverage! And my parents remember when the federal government used to cover it! Something called Obamacare, after that old guy, Brock Obama. Used to be president.”

“My parents remember that too! They said it provided coverage for the majority of those who didn’t have coverage, but then something called the Tea Party obstructed Obama on everything he tried to do, just so they could prevent him from succeeding. That was standing up for your principles! Of course, then Supreme Leader Trump was elected, isn’t that quaint! They used to elect leaders! And in order to make the federal government smaller, he transitioned most essential services to the states, who in turn, transitioned it to the cities and towns, who, ultimately, transitioned it to the homeowner’s associations.”

“Yeah, I’ve read about that. Back when Supreme Leader Trump was just the president he said the federal government should only be responsible for dealing with things like North Korea. Of course, that was back before we had a coalition with North Korea, Russia, and China against the aggressors from South Korea, Australia, and Canada.”

“Strange, though, the federal budget still runs a deficit. I wonder what might cause that?”

“In fact, I looked it up on EuroGoogle, the illegal search engine not associated with the officially mandated WikiLeaks search engine, and the federal budget in 2016 was half the budget of 2020. It seems that when essential services were transitioned to the states, the budget for the military doubled. I guess that’s why they make us drive half-tracks and tanks now instead of sedans and SUVs.”

“I guess. But back then you didn’t get free upgrades on handguns, rifles, and silencers. Talk about pre-existing conditions! Can you imagine living in a country where it wasn’t mandated that everyone openly carry his or her firearm? How barbaric! What were people supposed to do? Talk to one another? Trust people? Come on!”

“Anyway, I guess I’ll have to continue using this wheelchair. We can’t afford the surgery and maybe Ken’s cancer will just go away.”

“Let’s pray it does.”

“Did you hear about Madge?”

“No! Is she okay?”

“She’s fine, but was raped.”

“I don’t understand. Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“I’m afraid so. She’s now got a pre-existing condition and will lose her health coverage.”

“That doesn’t seem fair! I mean, I could understand it when Claire lost her coverage after she left David because of the domestic violence. After all, she used to wear those jeans that showed almost all of her ankle, but Madge? She didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Well, to paraphrase that great statesman, Mo Brooks, why should all of the good people, who’ve led good lives pay for those who haven’t.”

“Will she be okay?”

“Oh, sure. She’s still got her job. Although teaching over at Glen Estates Heaven Cypresswood isn’t what it used to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean, that subdivision lost quite a few residents after the deportation squads cleaned the Others out.”

“Oh, right. They had non-Christians over there. Yikes!”

“Well, at least if she loses her coverage and her job she’ll be among those like her.”

“Hey, like the Supreme Leader had inscribed on Trump Patriot Lady after he had that silly Statue of Liberty renovated, “Made America Great Again.”

“Thank God for Trump!”

Hard Drive

My heart, like a hard drive, is permanently partitioned. Part of it comprises my 26-year marriage, the raising of my children, the hopes and dreams I had, and the sickness and death of my wife. The other part is unwritten upon, ready for a future I can’t even begin to understand. The problem is that at any given point it can switch between partitioned sections rendering my personal operating system glitchy and subject to crashes.

Such was the case this past week. While performing within normal parameters, my system suddenly switched to the hidden partition, and it has left me grief stricken and paralyzed. There was no warning. I understand that this switch was not the result of bugs or a virus. It is the result of a significant loss and the fact that I know I will never be whole again.

The hard part of all of this is that while attempting to begin a relationship with a woman, my first since I was 22, this wave of grief has me questioning whether I am being unfair to this woman; if I am incapable of giving myself wholly to another given my permanently partitioned heart. The grief tsunami that hit me this week, like all others before it, came without warning. There needn’t be a trigger. More likely, it was a thousand paper cuts, memories rising up during the past few weeks, poking me in the heart, not causing any immediate damage but collectively, over time, shattering my heart again. Now I am emotionally frozen, inextricably operating in a painful past, and incapable of addressing the present or the future.

I like to write because, while I assume that no one will ever read what I write, it usually helps me to understand my position on a topic or my underlying feelings if I put them down on paper (or up on a computer screen). However, while this usually is the case, dealing with grief is a topic no reasoning or processing can vanquish. I was incredibly sad for several days over the past week. It seems that every small event over the past few weeks correlated to something either my wife did, we did together, involved our kids, or it was something we planned to do together. Today I find myself bridging the realms of sadness and anger, perhaps on the path toward processing this wave and getting on with life, perhaps not. Perhaps these steps lead nowhere. Perhaps I will transition back to sadness, or onto negotiation, maybe even onto acceptance. I don’t know how to end this note. All I know is that I am stuck where I am, and no good wishes or caring hugs can hope to dislodge me.

Tony Webster, the protagonist in Julian Barnes’ excellent book The Sense of an Ending comments at one point that he “avoided being hurt and called it a capacity for survival” and “for whom ecstasy and despair soon became just words once read in novels.” He is a character who, like all of us, has a faulty memory, and has used Time to smooth out the jagged parts of an ordinary life to put meaning to his existence. I have never been one to live in the past. In fact, because of a terrible memory, I remember very little about my past. You would think that would force me to live in the present, to appreciate those around me, to smell the roses and embrace those around me. However, while I did not live in the past, I neither lived in the present. I did not appreciate those around me and assumed daily events had no significant bearing on my expectations of the future I believed would exist. No, I tended to live in the future. Everything I did was for some future date. At 15, I had figured out that in the incredibly far off year 2000, I would be 35, imagining what life would be like. I have always faithfully contributed to my 401(k) in the expectation that I would cash it out at some point and travel the world with Lisa or buy a two-room shack on a beach somewhere to live out our lives together. Now I find that I live in the past. Not the archetypical love of any lost high school glory, but of my life with Lisa. Even after eight years of caring for her as she underwent one barbaric medical treatment after another, and experiencing her withering and eventually dying while our children and I sat around her, I cannot help but to relive the life we lived together as a couple and a family and lament paradise lost and a future that will never be.

And so, awash in memories and residing in the past, my permanently fractured hard drive (my heart) is expected to give over control of the operating system to a brain that understands that life goes on. A mind that knows that while these waves of grief will never recede and will continue to destroy me forever, the troughs between them will, over time, expand, and it is in these troughs that I am expected to forge a new life and build a new future. It all seems so logical for a computer system, but my heart bleeds blood, and my eyes cry tears, not bits and bytes. Makes me wish I were a computer sometimes. I don’t know how to end this note. It just is what it is.

Sonny and Pam

When we first moved to Texas in 2008, it was for the worst possible reason, and naively, we thought, only for a short time. We rented a house thirty minutes north of Houston. It was a cute house, and it had a pool. To be honest, the only reason we rented it was because we needed a rental period of less than a year and finding a property owner willing to agree to that was becoming a problem. My wife had recently been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer and, after witnessing the confusion regarding her treatment here in Rhode Island, I had done my homework online and found that her best chance of survival was if she was treated at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. We broke the news to the kids, and within weeks found ourselves living in Texas. We rented furniture and swam in the pool. The kids were enrolled in a high school four times the size of their Rhode Island school, I was working remotely from the house, and we were constantly on I-45 between Spring and the Texas Medical Center in downtown Houston.

The house was on a busy neighborhood street. Cars were always speeding by, and it seemed the police were always pulling someone over right in front of the house. When we moved in, the people who lived directly across the street came over to introduce themselves. They were older than we were and had lived in the neighborhood for many years. They could not have been nicer to all of us. Pam, like thousands in Houston, worked for a company involved in the energy sector. Sonny was an artist. Not the paint or clay kind, but in leather. He was a master bootmaker. He only worked a few days a week, but he loved it and was helping his nephew get his cobbler business established by teaching him how to use several of the dedicated machines in the shop. Lisa and Pam hit it off immediately, laughing as much as talking. Pam and I also shared an interest. We both loved To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Sonny and I also hit it off, and soon he was inviting me to go fishing with him to a secret spot on an estate his friend had access to. I cannot overemphasize how kind they were to us and how much it put us at ease having moved our family to a new state for the worst reason.

In those first few weeks, it amazed me how quickly life finds ways to get us to go about our routine, even in the face of devastating news and life-changing decisions. Groceries still need to be purchased, dirty dishes still need to be cleaned, and the grass continued to grow. We had handled the first two eventualities in our new life, but the third one stumped me. I knew we were not going to be in Texas forever. The plan was chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and we’d move back home to Rhode Island, cancer-free and ready to resume life as we knew it. Why would I buy a lawn mower for such a short time? Lisa suggested I ask Sonny if I could borrow his mower for the brief period we expected to be there. I looked across the street and saw Sonny sitting in a lawn chair in his garage looking out over the street. I walked over and asked him if I could borrow his mower – weekly! He never hesitated in saying yes. He got up from his chair, walked me through the side yard into his back yard, and showed me where he hid the key to his shed where he kept the mower, gas can, and all manner of lawn equipment. And so it was that once a week, I would walk across the street, help myself to Sonny’s lawn mower and mow my lawn.

Having grown up on an island, I had done my share of fishing. Either from the causeway connecting Goat Island to downtown Newport, or at the piers where the Navy used to keep its ships, I caught mackerel, choggies, and basically whatever was running. Sometimes I would take a choggie, still on my line and cast it onto the pier where a seagull would swoop down and take it. I would then battle the gull with my fishing pole, reeling it in until it would release the fish and fly away. I used to take the squid I’d caught and bring them to my grandparent’s house where I would clean them for my great-grandmother to cook. I once went deep-sea fishing with my college roommate on his father’s charter fishing boat. I was allowed, between vomiting and violent seasickness, to fight and reel in a 636 pound Bluefin tuna. I share this background in fishing because the one time I was able to go fishing with Sonny, you would have thought I’d never seen a pole before, much less what to do when I caught a fish. Everything I did that day was a disaster. I jammed my reel trying to cast. I dropped fish I’d caught. I almost fell into the lake trying to put a fish onto the string we had set up in the water to hold the caught fish. But it didn’t matter. I was spending time with one of the gentlest, kindest men I had ever met, deep in the unknown parts of Texas. I had a beautiful day. One of those days that you know, while it’s happening, that you are creating a memory that will last forever.

When we returned to Texas because Lisa’s cancer had returned, this time not temporarily, but until the end, we moved back to the same town, but not the same subdivision. Such were the vagaries of real estate options available to us. And while we lived across town from Sonny and Pam, we still kept in touch and were always invited to their family Christmas Eve party. I no longer needed Sonny’s lawnmower. Having moved permanently, I bought a mower. As Lisa became sicker, we limited our time visiting and when Lisa died the kids and I knew it was time to go back home to Rhode Island.

I can’t say I liked much about Texas. But meeting Sonny and Pam was one of the great highlights from our eight years there. I heard from Pam the other day that Sonny isn’t doing too well these days. I can only hope that he continues to do as well as possible for as long as possible. This world needs people like Sonny and Pam, perhaps now more than ever before. I count them among the nicest people I have ever met. I can’t thank them enough for how well they treated Lisa and the kids during the most difficult time in their lives. There are very few people we encounter in life who show us the grace and compassion we wish we could display at all times and for which we would like to be remembered. Sonny and Pam are two of those people.

My Christmas Wish List

tree

Before some of us had taken down our Christmas trees and we were familiar enough with 2016 to write it without first having written 2015, swearing, and changing it to 2016, David Bowie (1/10), Alan Rickman (1/14), and Glen Frey (1/18) had died. 2016 has, by most accounts, been a dreadful year. And after the awful 2014 and 2015, my family and I endured, 2016 seems like a fitting ending to a trio of personally miserable years, the melancholy of which somehow leached into the world in 2016.

My children say it is difficult to buy gifts for me. I agree. My Christmas wish list keeps getting shorter every year, and the items populating it more impossible to purchase. I want more time with my wife. I want more time with those whom I love and still surround me. I want 2017 celebrated for finding a cure for cancer and an end to war and hunger. I want a return toward admiring intelligence and compassion, rather than insipid popularity and uninformed conceit.

I don’t want to make America great again. I want us to want to make the world great now. And that begins by understanding the real problems facing the world and the real issues affecting its people. Not the top issues paid for by lobbyists and bought by elected officials.

We don’t seem to have found the answers to those problems and, thus, they remain on my wish list year after year. Perhaps 2017 will be the year. Anyway, that’s what I want for Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.