Baldheaded Woman

So today is the 5th anniversary of my darling Dad’s passing. A day both happy and sad, a day when I cry easily and often but try to smile as well, remembering all of the joy he brought into so many lives. This is who my Dad was and is and always will be.

To his country, he was a hero who forged his birth certificate to make it appear he was 17 so he could enroll in the Navy and serve as a medical corpsman on a naval ship during World War II for almost 2-1/2 years. He went back again when America became embroiled in the Korean War and served the country he loved for another year. He flew the flag outside his house every holiday and was so proud to live in a country like ours. He is proud, I know, to be buried alongside his fellow soldiers and sailors in a beautiful Veterans cemetery not far from home, a place that brings me peace when I visit it.

To my Mom, he was her best friend, her partner in crime, her husband, the love of her life. The man who made her laugh every day. The man who – when she lost her own mother a few short months after they married – insisted that her father and her brother come and live with them in their tiny apartment. The man who – as my cousin Cooky rightfully points out – was there not only at the beginning of so many lives but also there at the end of so many lives as well. The guy who never met a chore he wouldn’t do, never met a person he couldn’t strike up a conversation with, never met anyone he couldn’t charm. He was her own special leprechaun. He couldn’t have survived without her had the circumstances been reversed. She was his sun, his moon, his stars, his everything.

To my sisters and me, he was what every kid dreams of as a child. A father who came to every event great and small. A dad who drove everyone else’s kids home after sporting events and school dances and parties. A man who left us notes, even after we were adults, encouraging us, telling us things would get better, assuring us that the Blessed Mother was watching over us and would protect us. A dad who came here to my tiny little condo to tidy up (one of his favorite phrases) when I had newly become a single parent raising a young child and working 50+ hours a week with a 2-hour round commute thrown in for good measure and trying to juggle it all. A man who painted my living room when he was 80 years old, filled up my gas tank whenever he noticed it was running on empty and raised himself up to his full 5’2″ of height and threatened to beat the crap out of the guy who had wronged me.

To my great kid and my niece and my nephew, he was the grandfather who would ask you to comb his hair and who thought rewarding you for doing so with a shiny new quarter was the best treat you could get. He came to all their school events. When I worked full time, he drove my son to swimming lessons and bowling tournaments and basketball games and always encouraged those activities (although, truth be told, sports was not my great kid’s thing). He went to amusement parks with them and rode on all the rides and ate hot dogs and fries and ice cream with them and then fell asleep alongside them as we headed home in the car. When my great kid was sick, he’d take the day off and stay home with him so I could go to work. And when my great kid’s own Dad walked away, he stepped in and showed him by both words and deeds what kind of man he could become. That my son is the man he is today is because my father laid the foundation.

To my cousins, he became their second Dad. He stepped in for them when others couldn’t or wouldn’t. He is godfather to more people than I can count and Uncle Bub to so many others. He loved being surrounded by his family and liked nothing more than a party that happened to fall on a day when the Kentucky Derby was being run so he could start a pool and get us all caught up in cheering on horses we had never heard of an hour before. He told them stories of growing up with their parents and aunts and uncles and passed on that oh-s0-valuable ancestral info that is far too seldom written down.

To his friends, he was loyal and true to the very end. His best friends – my Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Ed – were part of his life for over 50 years, people he and my Mom met when their son and I started kindergarden together. He loved tormenting my Uncle Ed by filling in applications for him to box in the Golden Gloves tournament or calling him on the phone to say he was the police coming to serve a warrant. When my Uncle Ed decided to convert to Catholicism as an adult, my Dad served as his godfather (although he did draw the line at having my Uncle get into a christening dress and having my Dad hold him over the baptismal font).

To those who had harmed him, he was forgiving and kind. When my Dad was in the Navy for his second tour, he asked my Mom if she had a friend who could write to a fellow he’d met on the ship who had no one writing him. My Mom’s best friend from childhood started writing to my Dad’s friend and they eventually met, fell in love and married. But when, after she died, his friend became hardened and hurtful and cut my Dad out of his life, my Dad mourned the loss and – when he had just a few days to live – asked my sister to initiate a phone conversation with his friend who had abandoned him. I was opposed to the call but my Dad  was nothing but kind and gracious in what he said to the man he still considered his friend. He was a bigger person than I was because I felt this person didn’t deserve my Dad’s forgiveness. But my Dad knew better and I learned a lesson from him that last Sunday before he left us, that it’s never too late to forgive someone and if you don’t seize the opportunity when it presents itself, you might not get another chance.

To all of the dogs and cats and various other pets we and others had along the way, he was the best friend they could ever hope for. He would stop and pet any dog that crossed his path. When I adopted a dog who was terrified of men, my Dad used to come to my house and lay on the floor as the dog barked at him, staying there sometimes for hours just so she could get used to him being there and learn he was not there to harm her. The dog eventually preferred him over all other men (my ex-husband included – what a good judge of character that dog turned out to be). Whenever any of us had to make that very tough decision to end our pet’s life, he would come with us, even if it meant driving hours from a remote location to get there. He’d sit with the dog or cat and hold it and tell it he’d see them one day on the other side of the rainbow bridge and then weep as he watched their life slip away.

And lastly he was the person who knew what mattered in life, what meant the most. That last night of his life he struggled mightily to breathe. As the night went on, it got more and more difficult and the options were few and not pleasant. About 5:00 am, he interrupted me as I was reading him passages from the Bible and said “Ask Mom to come to the hospital”. I almost didn’t call her. It was so early and I thought I’d wait an hour or so. But I didn’t wait and I called her and my sister and my son and told them he wanted them there. And they were there by a little past 6:00 am, the point where it became clear that the end was almost here. The doctors gave him something to help him be comfortable and we all held his hand and my Mom sang his favorite songs and my sister read from the Bible and we watched him be freed from the pain and the suffering. He knew, I’m positive, that he had so little time left and he wanted to be surrounded by everyone he loved. Not everyone gets that moment, gets that chance to see the people they love the most that one last time. He did and it is that knowledge that got me through those dark and terrible days.

So today I honor my Dad by reminding those who knew him how important they were to him and what a part they played in his life and by letting those of you who didn’t know him how lucky we were to have him. And in this Easter season, with the promise of the resurrection and life eternal taught to us again, I look forward to the day when I will see him again. I know that just because I can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not here but until I do see him again, thank you, Dad. I’m the luckiest girl on earth and I’ll love you forever.


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Everyone Has A Plate

So a while ago I had a talk with my sister who related a conversation she’d had with a co-worker. She was asking him if he could take care of something and prefaced the conversation with something we all probably have said at one time or another: “I know you have a lot on your plate”. And his response was “Barbara, we all have a plate”.

And those words really struck a chord in me because I have to believe that’s really true. We all have things we deal with every day on our plate, both great and small, challenging or mildly annoying, time-consuming or a blip on our radar. We all juggle a multitude of things that need handling or navigating or sometimes ignoring just to get through each day. A sick family member, a child who is struggling, an overdue bill, the stresses of our job. A fractured friendship, the person who looks past you as if you aren’t there. The passive-aggressive dialogue that someone pretends is a normal conversation, the I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong mentality that passes as civil discourse these days.

These things all pile up on our plate and some of us are better at not being overwhelmed by them than others. If you’re like me, you probably look at some people whose lives from your vantage point look pretty stress-free compared to yours. Plenty of people probably view your life and think you’ve got it pretty good. And compared to much of the world, we all should be doing much less complaining and much more giving thanks for our blessings.

I’ve got a plate with some things I wish I could get rid of. But every time I start to feel sorry for myself and ask the universe “why me?”, I think of all the people I know and the stories I’ve heard and the courage I’ve seen displayed and know that these people too have a plate that they’re dealing with, one with far more on it than mine could ever hold.

The woman we met on a vacation last summer, sitting on the curb outside a movie theater with her service dog, struggling to get herself inside to watch a movie. Her dog was an emotional support dog and she needed him to get through each day, to be able to get out there and function in a world not always welcoming of someone overwhelmed by life. (And into the movie she eventually got, sitting in the row behind us with her service dog in the seat next to her, him appearing to enjoy the movie as much as she did).

The son of my friend and classmate, Patrice, who was hit by a speeding and uninsured driver and ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down, his life changed forever because of the stupid and careless actions of someone he didn’t know. I don’t know this young man at all but in every picture I see of Kenny he is always happy and smiling and radiating joy and his mother tells me he is so appreciative of the life he still now has that you’d be a coldhearted fool not to be in awe of his strength and positive attitude.

The young man I know for whom life has never been easy. Abandoned by someone he loved and depended on, struggling with issues no one his age should have to, working hard and harder to achieve what he dreamed, accomplishing great things despite all he had been through and instead of being hardened to life becoming more empathetic and caring and sensitive to those around him.

A woman who has been betrayed by those she trusted to the point where she is reluctant to trust anyone again because she doesn’t think she can survive more betrayal, more lies, more self-criticism for making another bad choice, and who faces anxiety-filled days where all she longs for is the sleep that will stop her from thinking, bookended by nights where the sleep she craves eludes her.

The friends who have faced down cancer and beaten it only to come out the other side stronger and more focused. And the high school classmate and her family who – having lost a daughter to a terrible disease – now make it their mission to honor their brave daughter every year by holding a huge fundraiser to support the organization created to eradicate this awful disease.

We all fail and we all fall. We look outward at others when we should be looking inward at ourselves. We judge others’ circumstances and compare them to our own which is an exercise in futility. Sometimes our circumstances look better than others; more often than not we may envy the life we think others lead without knowing truly what is on their plate. We monitor and measure our accomplishments against those of others as if life was a contest and coming in second place was not an option. We think our troubles are more important, more burdensome, more overwhelming than someone else’s. And maybe they are and maybe they’re not. But the next time you think you’ve got too much on your plate, remember that we’ve all got a plate. All we can do is manage our own. And try to help someone else with theirs.


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Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?

So with apologies to Freddie Mercury and Queen, I can’t seem to get these words out my head these days. For about 6 months now, I’ve been sort of doing a social media withdrawal. At first it was just to ride out a storm and then it was to stop being part of too much drama and then it morphed into not enough time nor interest and now my social media activities have evolved more into a minor hobby than a 24/7 event. I don’t miss it. And here’s why.

More and more I was being bombarded (a strong word, I know, but that’s how I felt sometimes) with stuff I didn’t care about or topics I couldn’t or wouldn’t engage with others on or countless photos of women, teenagers and young girls with the ever-present hand on their hip. (And, as a side note, is the hand-on-the-hip now a chromosome that all women are born with? Discuss amongst yourselves).

I saw people posting dozens of selfies a day. Some people look good although the mouth-open-to-make-it-look-like-I’m-laughing-and-having-a-fabulous-time pose is not a good look on anyone. I have taken 2 decent selfies in my life and I’m grateful I even have that many. I’m OK with stopping there.

I am online friends (a term I use loosely because most times a Facebook friend is not a real friend at all) with people who have too much time on their hands and have decided their new calling in life is to provide non-stop political commentary every day. I get it; we should all be involved and care about out country and its future. But after your tenth post of the day proclaiming Hillary Clinton the devil or reminding me that Donald Trump is the anti-Christ, I don’t care any more. Your world is black and white and there’s no convincing you otherwise. My world – and I suspect a lot of people’s world – is grey but that doesn’t make good copy online.

There’s one person in particular who fancies himself a political pundit and who I only wish had displayed a tiny bit of the passion and commitment he does pushing his agenda online towards his job when he was a former co-worker. There’s a former classmate, who I truly didn’t know at all when we went to school together, who vilified me and threatened me so awfully and publicly on social media to the point where she had to be reported. And then there are just the plain old drama queens. Life is hard; I get it. But everyone’s life is hard to some extent and if you were to hold up your set of problems and compare them to any given person, you’d be ashamed at what we complain about. Sometimes less is more and silence can certainly be golden. But social media means more is not enough and noise generates interest.

A few weeks ago I found myself in a total social media blackout, by chance rather than design. After spending another lovely day with my Mom (me driving her car), I got home and discovered I had left my cell phone in her car’s cupholder. I haven’t had a landline in years so I did a little research and found I could make a call to her through my iPad. Problem solved. But the next morning, when I was going to call her again on the iPad to arrange where we’d meet up, I couldn’t get a connection online. I couldn’t imagine what had happened until I got a lovely pop-up window on my computer from my benevolent cable company telling me my service had been shut off.  Somehow I had forgotten to pay my monthly bill (and, by the way, Comcast deserves their reputation as one of the worst companies in America for customer service but that’s another story for another day). I couldn’t pay them until I got my phone back so, once that happened, I had to hop in my car and search my neighborhood to find a WiFi hotspot so I could set up an electronic payment. And even after I paid them, it took a good long time to get my connections back. I was shipwrecked on a social media-free island.

Aside from being an annoyance, the longer it lasted the more liberating it felt. I read a book. I took a nap. I cleaned out my closets. I wrapped my Christmas gifts that need to be shipped off soon. I caught up on laundry. It was great; it was productive; it was a blessing in disguise because having a cell phone is both a blessing and a curse. The blessings are obvious; the curse perhaps less so. Getting into the habit of checking e-mail, looking at Instagram, reading a tweet is a time-sucking and usually non-fulfilling exercise. Not being able to do it was freeing. I was almost sorry when I had access again.

Many of you (and I love you all who have) have e-mailed or texted me privately and asked me why I am less active on social media. I have, of course, other reasons for scaling back, reasons I have shared with those who’ve asked. But ultimately I looked at the time I was spending on all types of social media and weighed it against my priorities, my goals, my downtime, my dreams. And it didn’t even come close. My time left in this world is a running clock and I don’t want to live it behind a screen. It’s not your real life and it’s not mine either. So I’ll happily cheer your success, like your picture, wish you happy birthday, pray for you or your loved ones when you ask. But for now, my real world is out there, not in here and I’m going to do my best to embrace what lives beyond the screen.

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2:08 AM

So today is my great kid’s birthday, his 23rd in fact. A number that is astonishing to me in so many ways because I know it was just yesterday that I was in the great and lamented St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan celebrating this miracle that I had been given. (His other parent was there too but he gets no part in this story because of his actions and inactions since then).

Every year since he was born, I have celebrated his exact moment of birth – 2:08 am – by setting my alarm and sneaking into his room when he was a toddler, a young boy, a teenager and a college freshman and giving him a kiss and telling him how much he was loved. He never woke up once in all the years I did this, even though he knew it was coming. (He is blessed with the gift of deep sleep, that kid is).

Since he flew the coop to Sin City and his new college, I’ve still set my alarm for the middle of the night but nowadays I call him and settle for reminding him that he is and was the one I loved above all. My sun, my moon, my stars.

So as I did a few months ago for my Mom, my words are (part of) my gift to my great kid this year. Because I want you all to know what a special person he is.

From the time he was young, he had a soft spot for the mistreated, the underdog, the down-on-their-luck folks he encountered. I like to think this was learned from being blessed with having my darling Dad as his grandfather. A man who adored his first-born grandson, who – with my Mom – turned their lives upside down to relocate back here to be part of and a presence in his life every day. He learned how to play – and cheat at, truth be told – miniature golf when he was young from my Dad. When he was sick and I just had to go to work, he would spend the day with one or both of my parents, learning that caring for someone you love is just what you do no matter what.

The very first time I really thought I was watching the spirit of my Dad come through him was one Christmas Eve when we were at Mass, waiting for the service to start. For any of you who’ve done Christmas Eve services, you know that if you want a seat for the 5:00 service, you need to be there at 4:00. And that’s what we had done, patiently waiting for Mass to start. A classmate of my great kid and his Mom were directly across the aisle from us, in a small row saving some seats for the Dad and his classmate’s autistic sister who wouldn’t arrive until right before Mass started.

The usher kept trying to seat people in that row while the Mom kept trying to explain why she was saving the seats. The usher, I know, was only trying to get people seated but he became increasingly frustrated and a bit rude to her, telling her she couldn’t save the seats. After the last time he did this, my great kid looked over at her and grabbed my hand to get my attention. The Mom was weeping, embarrassed and upset that she’d have to let someone else sit there and that her husband and daughter wouldn’t have a place to sit when they arrived.

And – without a word from me – my great kid got up, walked across the aisle and sat with her and his classmate to fill up the row so that the usher wouldn’t bother her anymore. She looked over at me and mouthed “thank you” but I had nothing to do with it. It was Brendan’s kind heart and compassionate soul, qualities he had learned from my Dad, that had made that happen. What he did mattered in her life and to her family and to me too, so much so that I still remember it as clearly today – 15 or so years later – as if it had just happened.

He’s hopped on a plane on more than one occasion to surprise me, often at the time I’ve needed him the most. When my Mom was hospitalized last year, he flew home – after begging and pleading with his college professors to let him work remotely for a few days – and ended up staying for 10 days until my Mom got home and started to get better. To spare my Mom the agony of having to put my Dad’s cat to sleep when he became so ill he couldn’t even walk any more, he and my sister took the cat to our vet and then – after it was over – walked in the house, hugged me and wept over the loss. Because it was one of his last links to my Dad and it broke his heart. But it was more important to him to spare my Mom that experience than to worry about his own reaction to it.

He is loyal and true, standing up for people when they need an advocate or a friend. He is passionate about what he believes in and smart as a whip. He’s a hard worker, a good friend, a boy – a man now – with a heart of gold, a heart I can only hope no one ever breaks (or they’ll have to answer to me). He makes me want to be a better person and a better mother every day. He inspires me, he loves me and supports me and believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

So as his birthday starts to wind down, I will tell you what I tell him all the time, quoting from the great book and movie, The Help. Brendan, you is kind, you is smart, you is important. And I am blessed.

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The Last Time I Saw You Was The Last Time I Saw You

So – to quote one of the few soap operas still on television – like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. As you get older, everything seems to be speeding up. Hours fly by in the blink of an eye, days are gone without you even noticing, holidays seem to arrive sooner and sooner and then, once again, it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re wherever you normally are and thinking how did this year fly by so fast. And, if you’re like me, remembering so many things, so many times, so many people and taking stock of your life.

A few weeks ago, my darling Dad’s younger brother died, the last of the three Burke brothers to go. A man whose life was very difficult when he was young. A disinterested mother, an alcoholic father, a home life filled with struggle to put food on the table and keep the lights on in the house. He often said that if it weren’t for my father – who kept an eye out for him, took him under his wing, got him his first job delivering papers, bought him his first television – he wouldn’t have survived. But survive he did and blossom as well,   overcoming his own demons to marry and raise 3 daughters of his own, just as my Dad had. He always called my Dad his Bubba, a holdover from the days when he was young and couldn’t pronounce the word brother. And Bubba became shortened to Bub and – to this day – some people still refer to my Dad as Uncle Bub.

The last time I saw my uncle was at my Dad’s funeral almost 5 years ago. He was as heartbroken as much as we were because he was the person there who had known my Dad the longest. We spoke at length, consoling each other, sharing stories and when I left him saying that I missed my Dad so much already, he said that he missed him too. And those were the last words he ever said to me and that was the last time I ever saw him.

So when he passed away, it got me thinking that you never truly can know if the last time you see someone will ultimately be the last time you ever see them. If we knew it would be the last time, could we bear it? I don’t think I could. Would you try to say everything you should have but haven’t? Would you pull them in for a hug and not let go? Would you hope that your mind would take all those lovely snapshots of them and store them so you can call upon them when you need to see that person again, even if it’s just as a memory?

The last time I saw the love of my life we were leaving a hotel after spending some time together. He was headed towards his car, I was headed towards the airport. I missed him, of course, as soon as he was out of sight but our time apart wouldn’t be forever. And he knew how much I loved him and I knew no one had ever or would ever love me or get me the way he did. And then life got in the way and we weren’t able to see each other for a while but we talked every day, hours every day. That would do until our lives, our schedules, our daily commitments cooperated.

They never did, of course. And then he got sick, very sick, very quickly. He was gone in a few months and I was and I am and I always will be heartbroken. And I look back and think if I had only known that was the last time I would ever see him, what more would I have said? What dreams would I have shared? I don’t know but I have to hope that he knew, that he knows that I said everything in my heart, everything that mattered to him when I had the chance. I have to hope that he left this world knowing how much he was loved.

There are other people, of course, that if I knew that the last time I saw them was going to be the last time I saw them I would confront them and ask them why they had wounded me with their words, hurt me with their deeds, scarred me with their total lack of empathy or self-awareness or compassion. If I knew that seeing them again was not going to be an option and that their absence from my life would be the period to their chapter in my story, I’d have perhaps been angrier or demanded explanations or asked them why. I’ll never know most of the answers and some days, many days that is a very tough place to inhabit. Is knowing worse than not knowing? I wish I had the answer.

So I’d rather focus on the good stuff and try to live my life in such a way that – if tomorrow is the last time I see someone, or the last time they see me – our memories are happy ones with no words unsaid, no hugs not shared, no hands not held, no dreams not chased, no plans not made. I want to remember those I love with happy thoughts, no matter how long we haven’t talked or how much distance separates us. And I want them to remember that I loved them, I cherished them, I counted on them, I prayed for them, I wanted only good things for them. If that happens for us, then I know I will never regret this life I’ve lived and it won’t matter that the last time they saw me was going to be the last time they saw me. Because we said it all and that’s all any of us can hope for.

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Make America Great Again

So even though it’s 432 days (I counted, really I did) until the next Presidential election, we’re already in the thick of it with every Sunday talking head show, every news broadcast, every magazine cover already promoting or bemoaning or posturing or pontificating about that uniquely American method of the slash-and-burn, bullying and slick-talking process we engage in to elect the person who leads our country. Already I’m tired of it.

And Donald Trump is, not surprisingly, sucking up all the air and energy out of this beauty pageant of candidates. Trump always follows the golden rule: he who has the gold rules. So that he can garner attention by speaking louder than anyone else is not a surprise. He’s on offense; everyone else is playing defense, probably as well as the New York Jets play defense. And his big catchphrase is that we need to make America great again.

I object.

My America is great and always has been. No matter what your financial situation is, we’re better off than many millions of people around the world. We have clean water to drink, we have food to eat, we have fresh air to breathe. We have freedoms like few other countries: to speak our minds without fear of retribution, to worship our God freely, to travel without fear of detainment, to prosper and succeed when given the opportunity.

But we – individually and as a country – can be greater because growth is always a good thing. Here are some good ideas (at least I think they are) about how we can start.

Let’s bring back civility into our world. Please and thank you go a long way whether you’re dealing with the guy who serves your coffee or the cleaning person in your office or your child’s teacher or the police officer who protects your neighborhood every day.

Let’s stop calling each other names. Every immigrant is not a rapist or a drug lord. Women are not cows or beasts. Senator John McCain is a war hero, not a dummy. I could go on but you get the gist of what I’m saying. This is what passes for intelligent dialogue from someone running for the greatest position in our country. But why would we want to be that person or have that person represent us so that we have a President who believes insulting people is how you achieve maximum results?

We should be celebrating people, being kind to each other, lifting each other up. Every day I try to pay my blessings forward, whether it’s telling someone I like the way they look to thanking the stranger for opening a door when my arms are full of packages to waving my gratitude at the person who lets me merge in to a busy lane of traffic to the acquaintance who I give a shoutout to for liking something I said on social media. It makes me feel better and I hope it makes them feel good too. And it costs you nothing, save a few moments of your time, and can be a defining moment in that person’s day, or maybe even their life.

Let’s help each other when we can. If you’ve never been down on your luck, bravo to you and remember to count your blessings. But that doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on someone who needs some temporary help because of a situation that may or may not be anything they have any control over. Don’t blame or shame someone who has to ask for help because if you take away their pride, you might be taking away all they have left. It takes a very strong person to humble themselves and ask for help. Let’s honor their strength, instead of labeling them with stereotypical words. Believe me, I have been in the position of having to ask for help when I found myself in dire straits. That I had angels who supported me in every way made all the difference in my ability to face my challenges the next day with a renewed determination to move forward.

Let’s educate ourselves and our children to make this world and our country a better place. Read a book to your kids, write a poem, listen to your parents tell their stories again and again and write them down so you’ll remember them when they’re gone. Pick up the phone and call your friends, walk your dog and say hi to your neighbors, write a check to your favorite charity. Donate your old clothes, listen to your cubicle mate’s problems without judging, thank a veteran. Hug someone, kiss someone, tell them you love them before they’re gone and the chance has vanished like the sun setting.

Make your life count. Make a difference. Make America greater. But you’re wrong, Mr. Trump; America is already great and you can’t convince me otherwise.

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Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

So I’ve been taking a social media break for a while for reasons important only to me and not worth wasting your time with. In the past, I might have commented long and loud about that insufferable creature, Donald Trump, and the particular brand of divisiveness and hate and insulting rhetoric he has been spewing. But no one really cares what I think about this and my opinion is not going to change your opinion on this or any other subject if we’re on opposites sides of a topic. Still, this whole Trump debacle really irks me and made me wonder why he – and others too, lots of others – don’t apologize or say they’re sorry or mask a faux apology by offering it up in a passive-aggressive package to you when you’ve been wronged. Since when did “sorry” become a four-letter word?

It’s neither political nor partisan to call John McCain a war hero and Trump disrespected not only the Senator but all veterans when he once again let his mouth go into auto drive before he had turned his brain on to engage mode. But instead of saying “I misspoke. I was wrong. I chose my words carelessly. I’m sorry”, we got lots of posturing and demands that the Senator apologize to him.

And it got me wondering whether Trump has ever apologized to anyone in his adult life. Did he apologize to any of his wives when he (allegedly) cheated on them and moved on to the next younger model? Did he apologize to his creditors as they were forced to write off his company’s bad debts when he filed for corporate bankruptcy not once, not twice but four times? Did he apologize to the President when he accused him of having a fake birth certificate? If he offered an apology on any of these occasions, I must have missed it.

I have spent more time than I care to recall apologizing to people for imagined slights, most specifically the other person in my ill-advised marriage who – like Trump – was never wrong about anything. It was easier to apologize and keep the peace then be honest and try to present rational arguments to someone for whom rationality was the equivalent of learning Greek; it wasn’t ever going to happen.

But I have also apologized many times when I have hurt – mostly unintentionally, I hope – not only people I loved and cared about but also some I knew only casually. I’ve said I’m sorry to people for saying something that offended or bothered them. I’ve apologized to friends for unintentionally creating a tempest in a teapot by mentioning an idea in passing. I’ve regretted the times I’ve been impatient or short-tempered with my great kid, the person I love more than any other, and told him so many times over. And I do apologize when I know I have wronged someone because words wound, particularly words said in haste without benefit of being filtered through your common sense before they’re uttered.

An unkind word, a misspoken phrase, a passive-aggressive posting on social media – they’re all like a pealing bell. Because once said, they can’t be taken back; the bell can’t be unrung. So when – not if (because we all inadvertently say or do the wrong thing occasionally and hurt someone) – you cause pain or anguish or sadness to someone with your words, please say you’re sorry. With a nod to the great Elton John, sorry shouldn’t be the hardest word.

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