More Jackson County Opinions...

FEBRUARY 4, 2004


Column

By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
February 4, 2004

He dumped the fish story for this?
Every morning, when I get up, I look in the mirror and catch myself almost saying, “Good morning, Daddy.” To tell the truth, I don’t always catch myself. Sometimes I say it. OK, I’m crazy.
It’s amazing how much I look like George Thomas Adams Sr. And how much I act like him. In truth, how much I really am like him — in most ways.
He brings back happy memories. I am thankful for that. My dad was a good man, a great role model. I regret that I was not fully aware of that before he died 25 years ago. And I am sorry I waited this long to write this. Why do we wait until we are old to appreciate what we had when we were young?
This may or may not be good news (I don’t want to frighten you) but regardless of your age, for better or worse, you are becoming more and more like your father or mother every day. Heredity (genes) is important. So are the environment, education, character, morality, spirituality, attitude and all those other good (and bad?) things that make us who and what we are.
Therefore, it behooves all of us who are parents to do the best we can with the hand (talents) God dealt us. Our kids are watching and copying, taking on the traits they see in us. Occasionally, one jumps the traces and becomes better — or worse — than Mama or Daddy. But for the most part, the die is cast. Like father, like son. Like mother, like daughter.
I wish I had realized that when I was a young man. I would not have done some of the things I did, and I would have done some of the things I didn’t do. Only later does one realize that the sins of omission can be as deadly as the sins of commission.
However, when I consider my three grown children and five wonderful grandkids, it appears that more good than bad rubbed off on them. They are not perfect, and my imperfections may account for some of their flaws.
Having said that, I am glad they are not perfect. My second son was perfect — or tried to be. He was the quintessential perfectionist. Doctors diagnosed him as obsessive-compulsive. That means he was obsessed with perfect goals and compelled to achieve them in perfect ways. It is tough, being a perfectionist in an imperfect world.
An honor graduate of The University of Georgia and Oregon State University, and with a promising career as a hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service, he died of clinical depression in 1981. That’s a polite euphemism for suicide. He was 25 years old. That brings back sad memories.
Sure, you ask questions. Why? What could I have done differently? What in his past, or my past, or his grandfather’s past — the past of any of his ancestors — triggered this permanent solution to a temporary problem? Or was it a temporary problem? Was it destined to be?
Various, sundry and assorted theologians, psychologist and psychiatrists have tried to answer those questions, but none of their answers rang a bell with me. If you know, I’d like to hear from you.
Of course, you look for answers. After a while you realize there are none, and if you keep asking unanswerable questions, they will drive you up the wall. Why? Why, indeed!
And so the healing process begins. Days, weeks and months pass, and the open wound becomes a scar. Over time, the scar becomes callus. The callus never goes away, but it doesn’t hurt so much anymore. Time — God’s time — is a wonderful healer.
* * *
I don’t believe this! I started out to tell the fish story I promised last week: how I caught my first large mouth bass, and how Daddy coached me the whole way. It is a light-hearted, fun story; yet I wind up on what some folks call “the dark side.”
How did that happen? Maybe I AM crazy.
Well, maybe you are, too. How many times have you started out on a fun trip, only to wind up off track, remembering and reflecting on unpleasant experiences? No, that doesn’t mean you are crazy.
Life is a journey, and the journey is not always smooth. There are bumps along the way. (Ever read Pilgrim’s Progress?)
I feel for people who live their entire lives on a plateau — neither high nor low, neither happy or sad. Sounds boring, doesn’t it?
How does one know happiness if he has not known sadness? How does he know if it’s light unless he knows what the dark is like?
Ask someone how he feels. If he says “good,” you know, at sometimes in his life, he has felt bad.
Just because I have seen and lived through bad times doesn’t make me morbid. Just because I have known and experienced happy times does not make me euphoric. Because I have been up — and down — both roads, I like to think I am a human being, realistic and balanced, not on the plateau, but sometimes above it and sometimes below it.
In his fabulous book, “Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth,” Richard Foster talks about “the dark night of the soul.” He writes:
“The ‘dark night’ to which He calls us is not something bad or destructive. On the contrary, it is an experience to be welcomed much as a sick person might welcome a surgery that promises health and wellbeing. The purpose of the darkness is not to punish us. It is to set us free. It is a divine appointment, a privileged opportunity to draw close to the divine Center.”
I make no apologies for dumping the fish story. It was therapy for me to go back in time and reflect on happy and sad experiences. I thank The Jackson Herald for providing the medium for me to do that. And I hope, dear reader, that I have not bored you to tears. If you have stayed with me this far, thank you.
I promise: the fish story is coming, probably next week — if I can remember. That is a problem. You know you are getting old when you can’t remember what it was you were trying to remember.
That doesn’t make me crazy, either. It’s just been a long journey. But the journey continues. Hallelujah!
Virgil Adams is former editor-owner of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column

By: Oscar Weinmeister
The Jackson Herald
February 4, 2004

Evolution Of An Un-Cat Person
I am not what any half-brained individual would call a “cat person.” While I can trace my general distaste for cats to several factors, Millie Vaughn claims it is because deep down, there is a rat inside me. Maybe so, I did play Templeton once in a Children’s Theater production of Charlotte’s Web. It was fun.
I am tempted to believe that I started avoiding cats before I got on stage, back when I discovered they make me sneeze. During most of the time I was under 10, dander of the feline variety did not stand out as anything special in this regard. I was allergic to grass, dust, pollen, perfume, mildew, and just about anything else that could be considered organic except food. After I endured a year-long regimen of twice weekly shots and other medieval medical miracles, my symptoms generally ameliorated, but I still sneezed uncontrollably in the presence of cats, and thus the long-standing enmity commenced.
I may have also learned the behavior to some extent, since as I was growing up my family could accurately be characterized as a “dog family.” From pre-memory, my brother and I were watched over by protective, if individualistic, dachshunds, and later we witnessed the delivery of a litter of dachshunds in our garage. This imprinting theory is bolstered by the knowledge that my mother also remembers dogs from her childhood, in particular a cocker spaniel named Cookie. Incidentally, neither species is renowned for its compatibility with cats.
Tsali, my dog of almost 7 years old, learned to hate cats early, too. A mere puppy, Tsali accompanied me to a friend’s house. I refer to this person as my friend in spite of the fact that she had two cats, two morbidly obese cats. These cats were both so fat I was convinced for the first two months I knew them that they were pregnant with record numbers of kittens ready to land on their feet very soon. After a while, I learned the one named Betty was a male, and so couldn’t be pregnant. The one named Ed was a female, and she wasn’t pregnant, either, she was just fat.
At six weeks, Tsali must have looked like hors d’oeuvres to them both when we arrived. Betty soon smelled the enemy in my dog and took a swipe at him that sent him sliding across the wooden floor howling. He’s been a cat hater ever since, and I can’t say I blame him.
I’m not going to rummage through all the old plus-and-minus comparisons between cats and dogs, like independence versus loyalty, or self cleaning versus biologically compelled to roll in filth. I will however point out the fact that I have never seen anyone take his or her cat on a camping trip.
I generalize when denigrating cats, but to be honest there have been a few that I have actually admired. Mostly these are the small, short-haired kind that shun human presence. Tsali and his all-too-eager brother Doc, when he was around, even treed a few that I wish they hadn’t.
One stereotypical characteristic of cats that I actually do have a high regard for is their live and let live approach to life. In that spirit, I am completely comfortable with the concept of cat-human co-habitation, as long as it’s in a house other than mine. So if you happen to be a cat person, keep as many cats as you think you need, so long as I am left to eat my cheese in peace.
Oscar Weinmeister is the assistant administrator of BJC Medical Center. He lives in Commerce.


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