Use It or Lose It … Really!

          I am living proof that the old saw is true: “Use it or lose it”. It is part of the progression of life that terrifies us all. It includes memory, stamina, the healthy enjoyment of food and drink (in moderation), and even the ability to perform the simplest and most basic tasks (from tying shoes to immersing oneself in the raptures of sexual fulfillment). And for most of us, certainly most men I know, there is the one thing we never expect to come close to losing.

          My mind still carries me in dreams to a time when I was strong and eager: When I could gaze at the object of my desires and know I was up to the challenge. That I would rise higher than necessary, arrow straight and taught as any bowman’s draw. I knew I would respond each and every time with the same fluid control of every muscle and sinew in my body, all perfectly coordinated in a single drive to the target.

          It was my one claim to glory, this beautiful, powerful, naturally explosive golf swing; and now it’s gone. No longer can I clear my hips precisely on cue. No longer reach back almost to infinity with the perfect back-swing and the seamlessly reverse and drive forward to meet the ball at exactly the right point in my swing’s arc to send the ball soaring skyward exactly as intended. The once infinitely repeatable smoothness of the swing now eludes me completely. As the arthritis eats away at joints that once felt no resistance; at knees that once walked for miles without ever even being noticed; at fingers that gripped clubs perfectly through 18 and even 36 holes of the holy game – it now reduces all to distorted, painful, uncooperative obstructions.

          Sadly, age and the fortunes of life itself have left me without a single round of golf to my name not for weeks, but for over 2 years. And the prospects are dim for any real reversal of the trend. My family’s annual Championship of the Universe, intended to bring the family together at least once each year to enjoy each other and the game has been sidelined by the necessary distractions of personal lives. And every attempt to keep some practice available has dwindled with the lack of willing partners with time to spend on the links. And although an outing is finally planned for the near future, my recent history of total abstinence from the game will probably rob me of any hope of performing as I once did. I have not used it properly, and all indications are that my swing is lost forever.

          Oh, there are solutions for some losses: There’s Viagra, of course, and Cialis if you have the stamina to drag 2 claw-foot, cast iron bath tubs onto a beach somewhere. But there is no pill for a lost swing. Ask Tiger Woods: Once it’s gone, the swing isn’t coming back. I only hope my intended partner for the upcoming round will take pity on me and not bring up my total lack of symmetry in motion. (Sigh!)

 

vince katarzynski

Thinking can Help, or Hurt

          Dudley was livid when I saw him yesterday, and not for the usual, petty things. It seems Mrs. Dudley (May) had been hospitalized recently for a potentially dangerous, serious complaint. HIPAA privacy laws prevent me from giving details here, but Dud was truly beside himself over May’s own reaction to the event. While under Emergency Room care, May began to have additional, seemingly unrelated problems as the doctors tried to address the original problem.

          Her vital signs, especially blood pressure, began to destabilize. She became short of breath and began to shiver uncontrollably. In the end, while being admitted to the hospital for the original problem she was also treated extensively for respiration and blood pressure problems. The resulting tumult, of course rattled Dudley to the core as he wondered whether he would lose her to the attack. Luckily, it turned out that the “side effects” she was feeling were the result of May’s own fears and reactions to being sick and in danger. Her mind told her body that things were worse than they really were, and the body reacted accordingly.

          But now that she’s home, May is still being treated for the blood pressure and breathing problems. They were first psychosomatically  induced, but are now very real medical challenges that must be addressed. “Damn woman wouldn’t listen when I told her ‘don’t worry, the docs have this covered’, and sure enough she made things worse.” I tried to tell him such things are common and quite natural when you’re frightened, but Dud wasn’t having any of it. “The trouble is: You people all think too darn much!” he said. “And I mean you, too. That woman thought herself into a hole that she can’t get out of and you all try to say it’s “normal”, or something. It’s like she can’t see the facts as they are and she keeps trying to think her way out of it!”

          And in a way, I suppose, Dud’s right. May’s blood pressure, gasping for air, and even the “shivering” were caused by her inability to deal with the involuntary medical incident that brought her to the hospital in the first place. Fear of the unknown, even fear for one’s own life can be powerful forces that take over our consciousness and remove control from an already helpless victim. I told this to Dudley and he seemed to calm a little at being told he was right – a thing he doesn’t often hear. The trick, I told him, is going to be to get her to simply move on. She’ll have to learn to  accept the medical diagnosis, adopt the recommended treatments, and otherwise ignore the subject altogether. May will have to learn to focus on the next thing in her life without tying it to the past experience in the hospital.

          For example: The doctor said she would no longer be able to handle her present job. If she frets about that, the breathing and blood pressure will return to bad levels. Instead, she needs to learn to simply view that as her “old job”, and concentrate on a new, better one for her medical needs. Dud, of course, hadn’t gone that far in his thinking and wasn’t sure he agreed: “I don’t know about that! She loved that job and the docs should give her a break,” he said. “Don’t they understand she liked that job a lot?” “They do,” I assured him, “but if it’s harmful to her health they’re right in telling her to change. She’s intelligent and hard-working and loves to learn new things. May is much better off delving into a new career and new people than trying to make the old square peg fit into a new round hole.” (Dud really likes to hear me talk in clichés.)

          Finally he seemed to relax and begin to rethink the future. He was still not sure how “natural” May’s response to the illness had been, but he seemed OK with helping her focus on the future. Dud isn’t really as unfeeling as he sometimes sounds, he just needs to be reminded that he HAS feelings, after all.

vince katarzynski

Perceptions

          I saw Dudley at the gas station this morning and he made a comment that stuck with me. He said: “You look different, today. What’s up?” Well, what was “up” was that hadn’t had time for my morning wash-and-fold cleaning. I just rushed out the door with a hat (I hate hats and “never” wear them) on my head to cover the “bed head”. But what struck me about what Dud said was that we tend to think of people as being and looking as we last saw them.

          Two days ago, for example, my wife motioned to me in the grocery store to come over and see the person she was talking to: It was a very old man with what appeared to be his daughter, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out who he might be. It turned out he was her former doctor, a man I saw quite often at my place of work and at his office over a period of at least 30 years. But he had aged severely since I’d seen him last (probably 10 years), and he’d gone from a very young looking 60-something to a very old and withered 70-something… and he hadn’t checked in with me so that I could keep up with the changes.

          I know I’m stating the obvious, here, but a look at this morning’s obits brought all of this home to me. For about 2 1/2 years I delivered prescriptions for a local chain pharmacy store, and not 1 but 2 of my former customers were listed there. Now, common sense says that people using the delivery services of a pharmacy, especially those who are older and taking large numbers of prescriptions (as these two were when I knew them), can probably be expected to fall off their respective perches sooner or later.

          I guess what’s jolted me about this is that until this morning they were (in my mind) just two nicer elderly people who had their problems but were active and even spry in their own ways. Now they’re dead, and I didn’t expect to see their names in the obituaries yet. Just as I’d never have connected that rather shriveled old man with a guy I’d considered a contemporary. And before you ask: NO. I do not recognize that fat, wrinkled (though kind of handsome) old fart who lives in my bathroom mirror and watches me comb my hair, wash, etc… He must be lonely or nosy or something.

          I know none of this is news to anyone, nor is it an epiphany of any sort for me. It’s just that understanding all this doesn’t prevent it from startling you when you see a name in the paper or see an old friend after years or look in a mirror. The fact that what we see isn’t what we wanted to see is, I suppose, just the nature of the universe. The trick is to be willing to see it anyway.

 

vince katarzynski

It’s Kflembeauski Time

          No, folks, that’s not a strange, eastern European way of saying “Miller Time”. I guess the only way to explain it is a brief history lesson: Back in 2006 I was wrestling with a typically parental problem. One son had long since moved his family out of the area for professional reasons. A second son was making comments about moving, and a couple of grandchildren were talking about college and beyond. My family was spreading away from me, and for well-justified reasons that I had no right to challenge.

          And all of this left me searching for a way to hang on – at least once-a-year – to those I was losing. Sure, visiting was always in the plans, and trips are constantly in the works. But there needed to be (HAD to be in my mind) a way to get all of us together as a group. We needed a draw that made all return to a single spot at the same time  for a truly “family” moment each year. What I decided on was a golf outing – well, more than that, a must attend golf function. We would hold an annual “Championship of the Universe” ( open to any family member and any alien life for able to control and utilize human golf equipment) under the direction and supervision of our own golf association.

          And with that decision we formed the KFBGA: An association named for myself (Katarzynski), my children’s last name (Fleming) and my daughter and her boys (Beaumont), hence “The KFBGA” Our trophy, then. would be named by a combination of the member names: The Kflembeauski Cup, with a silent K.

          Now, the reason all this is important right now is that this is May. Summer plans and vacations are already filling calendars, and we have yet to pick a date for this year’s competition. I realize that most of my readers are KFBGA members, but they also need reminders that time is short. We have eligible participants living in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sylvania and Findley , Oh., Simpsonville, S.C., and soon in Seattle, Wa. We must somehow coordinate schedules and pick a location and date for the championship, which is usually contested in late July or early August.

          I admit I’ve seen each of the people involved this year, but the group is a different thing. The way we interact as a whole, the way our relationships blossom and renew each time we’re all together: That is why there’s a Kflembeauski Cup each year and that is why time is of the essence. I know full well that many readers have families that are far apart and have successfully kept in touch, but “in touch” simply won’t do it for this group. To this young family that lost a father much too soon in life, and for me, the second “dad” to show up, only the group being together, with kids and grandkids and now great grandkids all at once can fill the need.

          It is, indeed, Kflembeauski time.

 

Vince Katarzynski

 

A Happy Overdose

          It’s that time of year, again, when I usually hit a low spot in the world -half-empty feelings. It’s Lent (which always brings back the old “Catholic Guilt” about how my sins have caused His terrible suffering), the weather is gloomy, and the current “leader of the free world” is flirting heavily with 2 nuclear wars and an economic backlash that could put ALL of us 99-percenters in shanty towns across the country. But strangely, I haven’t (hit that low spot).

          For one thing, my wife of 39 years is finally coming out of a dark battle with psoriatic arthritis that had her in constant, debilitating pain. And  that @#&^)& tree that Dud complained about last year is now dropping its mess on a more reliable car when I visit his digs, since I replaced ours. The old bus gave up completely in February, and we were forced to get a newer one so we could continue to work and make car payments. (Sigh.) And a recent visit to the family doctor revealed what my belt had been suggesting for some time: I seem to have lost about 30 pounds in the last year-and-a-half without dieting. True, I’ve consciously tried to reduce the amount of  junk food and deserts I devour at one sitting. I’ve cut out nothing but my usual Lenten sacrifices, namely fresh tomatoes and liver (the lima beans were a new addition this year.)

          But the result of all this is that I’m finding more bright spots in my life. I’m counting more and more blessings lately, and I’m not sure  where it’s all coming from. For example, I spent last weekend playing with my 2 great grandchildren and nibbling at their toes to get them to laugh (a child’s giggle is the most musical sound on earth. I suspect that it’s the giggles of toddlers, not trumpets and harps, that greet us at the pearly gates.) Add my first granddaughter and her husband to this group and it was a perfect weekend.

          And now we’re preparing to fly to South Carolina for the first time in a couple of years to visit my son, daughter-in-law, and three grandkids down there. They visit Erie once  each year, but that’s not nearly enough face time with each of them to suit us. We’re also going to spend Easter weekend In the Toledo area with my other son, daughter-in-law, and their two children – one of whom is the mother of those great grandkids I mentioned. And after all the travel is over we’ll soon see another grandson graduate from college in May. What a spring this is turning out to be,

          I wouldn’t be me if there weren’t down-sides to some of this, of course. Like the fact that our former clunker induced my S.C. son to provide tickets for our visit. Parents are meant to help, not be helped. Or that visits to both places necessitate bunking in at our hosts’ houses, since we really can’t afford motel rooms. But hey, I’ll take it where I find it! The visits are the important points here, and I’m thrilled to pieces that I’m going to see all of this in the next two months. The world and it’s maker haven’t rewarded me like this for quite awhile.

         Anyway, that’s the situation with my mood this season. No matter how “down” I normally would be in the spring, this year is different. We even squeezed-in a lunch with the Ohio relatives we enjoy so much. It’s always such a pleasant and carefree time when we see them that the mood always lifts. And in view of all of these plans, I think this will be a spring for the record books. I hope I don’t    overdose on all this “happy”.

          (I just hope someone up there isn’t trying to tell me something!)

Vince Katarzynski

Dudley’s complaint

          Friend Dudley actually visited me the other day. We regularly cross paths in this or that store, on the street, or occasionally even in church, but he very rarely visits anyone, me included. It seems he was unhappy with me, and was rather adamant that I hear him out: “Really”, he said, “I have little enough distraction in this world without you getting lazy and not writing one of your ‘thingies'”. He meant my blog posts, which seem to average about one-a-month.

          “I can’t just sit down and write”, I said. “I have to have something to write ABOUT. Like when I wrote the first one, I was remembering a letter I’d written to fellow golfers in my family about the game I learned all those years ago. It related that I’d learned to use far fewer clubs than are common now and how the game was different back then.”  “Exactly!” he said. “THAT was entertaining. It distracted me from the humdrum for a while and I liked it. Why can’t you crank out a few more of those and send ’em on to me as soon as you can?”

          “It’s not that simple,” I told him. “It just doesn’t work that way. First I have to have a clear subject, something that interests me at the time. It has to mean something to me that I want to get across to my readers.” He, of course, wasn’t having any of this: “Oh! Come on! What about the one where the lady died and you wrote about how you misunderstood her the first time you met her and ignored her friendly greeting? You can’t tell me that was a pleasant memory or something that interested you!” And it wasn’t. It was a kind of spiritual farewell to a kind person I’d misread terribly, and wanted to square myself with her after her passing. I explained that to him, but Dud is far too removed from such things to accept that.

          “Well, what about the one about the tree! Or the one about being scared your wife had cancer? You hated the tree, and the scare over your wife couldn’t be that “interesting” but you wrote about them anyway.” “But writing those was cathartic: A release for me after an emotional experience,” I said. “They were something to write about that had real meaning to me. Like the one about words that people misuse constantly because they think it’s “cool”, or gives them a certain status. Words like “issues” or “iconic” are constantly used incorrectly by idiots who have no idea of what they mean.” It’s a pet peeve, I know, but it really riles me.

          I never did satisfy my friend about this, and I suppose I should be flattered: He seems to enjoy the blog, and that got him to stop bye to see me when he doesn’t like to venture to peoples’ homes. Dudley is one of those guys who always wears his grouchy heart on his sleeve , and I kind of admire that. At least Dud has a filter: an inate sense of what’s proper and what isn’t, and it’s always engagedand and working properly. If only that was the case with EVERYONE who effects our lives daily.

(Sigh!)

vince katarzynski

The Climate Change

          I ran into Dudley the other day as I was leaving a local grocery store. He was not his usual bubbly self. When I asked, he simply replied: “Can’t you feel it? Can’t you TASTE the change in the climate around us? I guess I’m just part of it.”

          “But Dud,” I said, “Just because it’s been a little warmer than usual…” He interrupted me immediately: “No, no, no, Dude, not that global warming stuff! I don’t care about that! If the weather changes you just have to deal with it.” I could tell he was really upset, because he called me “Dude”. He knows I hate it and he does, too. Dud would only let that slip if he was seriously distracted. “What I’m talking about is the climate around us. In the air. Between you and people you don’t even know. It hasn’t felt like this in years, and I tell you no good will come of it!”

          I began to get a glimmer, but I asked him to elaborate just to make sure I was on the same page as Dud. “Take today, for example,” he said. “I was driving down a street with one of those turning lanes: You know, where you get in the center to turn left from either direction you might be facing? Well, it was in a school zone, and I was trying to find the drive that lead to an apartment building, but there were several other drives in a row along this stretch.” He paused long enough to mumble a few unpleasant expletives and then continued: Well, I slowed a couple of times and edged left, only to have to pull back to the right behind the car ahead of me, and finally followed that car into the right drive.”

          This all bored me until he finally made his point. “WELL,” he is a great one for the loud gesture. “WELL, doesn’t some 90-year-old bat climb out of the other car and start scolding me. ‘I saw you!’ she said, ‘I saw you trying to pass me in a school zone, You maniac!’ Damned old goat mistook what I was doing, and instead of flipping me off as is proper, she YELLED at me to my face. Who does that?” Dud was furious now, gesturing wildly and raising his voice an octave for emphasis. “It’s part of the climate change. People are more distrustful, more rude and disrespectful of everything and everyone they encounter.”

          And now ol’ Dudley was hitting his stride: “You MUST have noticed it! People are suspicious of everything you say and do. They concoct stories in their heads that would explain what they see and assume it’s the Gospel Truth of the day. They actively look for evil and dishonesty in every one around them, and they usually find it – at least to their own satisfaction.” H was so excited that he had to stop and take a few breaths.

          “Now calm yourself,” I said. “I’m sure you’re exaggerating the problem. Just because some old lady misunderstood you erratic driving is no reason to suspect the world is somehow different.” I was actually fudging a little, here, but I didn’t want to get into my own explanation for the phenomenon. Dud, of course, would have none of it:

          “Oh, you’ll see! It’s everywhere and you don’t want to recognize it. People are more hostile, all of a sudden, than at any time in memory. They assume the clerk in the store is trying to cheat them. They think anyone much younger than they are is violent and needs watching. They judge every person in the street by their appearance and are leery of any noticeable difference between themselves and the other guy.” And sadly, Dud was right to a certain extent.

          It has occurred to me for some time now that the examples set by our leaders (both political and civil, both professional and spiritual) have suggested to us all that America has become an “Us against Them” kind of society. We are Dems against Reps; cops against civilians ; my religion against yours; men against women; fat against disgustingly fit and trim (ok, that might be personal, but it’s MY blog); etc. The truth is that I wasn’t able to sooth Dud’s anxiety very well, because I haven’t soothed my own.

          There HAS been a recent and profound climate change in America, and I don’t like it one bit. And I refuse to take the easy shot and point to one person as being responsible. No. It really is the media as well as the politicians; the business moguls as well as the union leaders. It’s all the races disliking the others. It’s folks of every sexual orientation pointing at the others. And the worst part of all of this is that as real and as palpable as this all is, I haven’t heard of anyone with even a clue as to how we go about fixing it.

vince k.

A Respite

          Every now and again things start to get to me (and yes, I realize that this is the understatement of at least this new century). I mean there are times when Murphy’s Law seem to target me and can be oppressive. I probably shouldn’t, but to better explain my line of thought I will list a few of the highlights:

          My car is 14 years old, and has served me well for all but the last 2 or 3 years. After about $6,000 in repairs over the last couple, I find I no longer have the money or the patience to pour into it. Currently I’ve been told it needs a head gasket (an item which I was once able to replace myself, but with computerized engines and electronic sensors everywhere, I couldn’t begin to try.) The shop man cheerfully informed me that the “book” says it’s a 12-hour job to begin with (at $75-per-hour) and that if the cylinder head is warped we could be talking $3000 before it’s finished. As a result, the car is splashing oil into the cylinders, burning a quart of oil every 50-60 miles. This makes the plugs foul, causing the engine to sputter and miss like crazy.

          Well, in my usual meek and mild way I threw a tantrum 2 weeks ago that I was sure would lead me to at least the third or fourth ring of hell, depending on exactly how personally my Maker took my rants – directed at Him, of course. To my utter shock, after running so rough I thought the car was on it’s way to the crusher, it suddenly started to IMPROVE. First, the frantic flashing of the “Service Engine Soon” light slowed and eventually stopped. The car ran smoother and smoother, until about 4 days ago the light went out! Now unless it’s possible for cars to HEAL over time, I was flabbergasted. It actually spooked me.

          The light is back, now, but only sporadically; and the car is still running rather smoothly. To this frustrating string of events, add the weather that has accompanied my new job (delivering prescriptions for a local pharmacy). I’ve delivered in sub-zero wind chills, in white-out storms, in driving rains, and due to the timing of the job (1:00 until done) it is largely done by driving through school zones and behind school busses that stop every six-and-a-half feet. Plus: My lovely wife has been dogged by some of the worst arthritis complications I’ve ever seen and I can’t do ANYTHING to help her or lessen her pain. Frankly, I desperately needed a respite.

          And this afternoon it came out of the blue: Carole and Dale asked if we’d like company on Thursday! You have to understand this relationship to understand how welcome this is: Carole is my wife’s cousin, and they’ve been close since childhood. Dale is her constant companion (now that he’s retired) and one of the most unassuming, most pleasant guys to be around that I’ve ever met. When we see them (a 2-hour drive that is rarely compatible with our schedules) it’s like we just left them yesterday. Conversations center on family and recent activities, and they seem instantly to understand and contribute to any personal goal or achievement. There are no pretexts, “airs”, or judgements here, just close friendship.

          So, while the “miracle of the car” was nice while it lasted, the real relief will be to completely forget car, job, arthritis, and even my eventual “reward” for that outburst at the Big Guy. For an afternoon we’ll just enjoy the company and celebrate these two people, and that is, in the final analysis, the real importance of life: People.

The Cookie Lady

          My wife has had many titles in her life, most assigned to her, and some engineered by her for her own reasons. “The Peanut Lady” comes to mind as an example: There are three rather large squirrels, several chipmunks, a flock of blue jays and at least one bold rabbit who haunt my back porch pretty much all year round. This is because several years ago my loving wife spotted a chipmunk scouring the landscape for something to eat, and she automatically tossed out some peanuts for him to “find”. She decided to buy more and feed him regularly, and of course the critter couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Soon there were more critters than food, and the whole thing grew into a regular relationship between my “peanut lady” and the wildlife of Willow Wood Village (where we live).

          A similar phenomenon has emerged with cookies: When we first moved into our apartment, (it’s in a large complex of apartments with a whole staff of employees maintaining the property for the landlord) we naturally found small things to be corrected in our townhouse as we settled in. On one of these maintenance visits my wife offered some homemade cookies to the young fellow who was helping us. H e accepted, and raved over the taste of the cookies. shortly thereafter we discovered that crew members were jostling each other for a chance to service OUR place, in hopes of more goodies. And she was flattered enough to see that we usually had a few cookies around for the guys.

          That winter she took a tray of cookies to the office girls when we paid our rent. Soon we were getting calls at home thanking us for the gift, and raving about the many kinds of cookies we’d brought them. I’m sure you can see what’s next. As my wife increased each year’s cookies contribution to the office people, with admonitions to share them with the maintenance crew, her reputation grew and grew. Until this year, when the young woman who first rented us our apartment spotted us coming in with trays held high she literally ran to the desk to greet us. When her co-workers frowned at her enthusiasm, we saw her mouth “Cookie Lady!” and they instantly beamed hellos at us.

          Now all of this is fine. I’m secretly proud to be associated with the cookie lady of our complex, and although she won’t let me sample the wares as she makes the house smell like heaven every day for weeks, I understand what drives her. Fiest, she has come to honestly believe that Christmas and the general feeling of the season would actually suffer without her cookies. The people in the landlord’s employ really do anticipate her yearly gift, as do our kids and grandkids and their friends. (One young girl in South Carolina, when told my granddaughters’ Gram was comming to visit, asked excitedly: “COOKIE GRANDMA???”) Second, she is trying with all her heart to fend off the inevitable time when she can no longer put smiles on the faces of those she loves. I see her limp her way into the kitchen, muttering unprintable things on her way to take a tray out of the oven and replace it with another. The psoriatic arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy, and frankly years of use are beginning to take their toll on muscles and joints and nerve endings that just never seemed to care before.

          Whether justified or self-deluded, she has come to believe that supplying peanuts to her “critters” and cookies to those around her is an almost sacred obligation, not a choice. “How can I disappoint the kids?”  “Where will the chippies and squirrells eat?” “What kind of christmas will the office girls have if I don’t brighten their day?” These are things she actually asks herself. And I know in my heart that while none would die, or be emotionally scarred, if she was not able to provide, they really WOULD feel the loss in a substantial way. I love my cookie lady more than I know how to say. And I know it will break my heart as much as it will hers the day she can no longer bake the cookies and show her love.

Christmas Cards and Post Cards

       I can remember my father sitting down at the desk in our home on E. 13th St. in Erie, back in the days when telephones were heavy, black, and had rotary dials, and writing out the Christmas cards for that year. The important things to remember here are that this was the only family related function he ever chose to engage in ( except, of course, the administering of punishments – which he relished entirely too much), and he did it only because some internal sense of propriety told him that only a card signed by the householder himself had any value or meaning. The irony, here, is that by the mid-fifties (uh…nineteen fifties) Christmas cards had become sort of the emojis of the communication of the time.

          You see, hand written or typed letters were the equivalent of today’s emails. Anything the writer held to be of importance was committed to paper and sent off through the post to be delivered in meer days to the intended reader. They contained no advertisements and were generally considered to be important communications because the sender had invested 3 (and later 4 or 5) cents in postage to ensure his reader received the message.

          Post cards, on the other hand, while being at once more personal and direct, were very much the modern day text messages we all send with an almost diuretic frequency. I remember being totally awed by a post card my mom received from a neighbor who was lucky enough to be vacationing in Washington D.C.! Imagine! The card was a picture or trees (cherry trees) in full bloom in front of a view of the Washington monument (Washington the President, I was told, not the City). I quick note of some of the sights they’d seen was written on the back, along with a personal “hi” to all of us. I remember being astounded that anyone having so great an experience would take the time to”dash off” a note to a friend in the middle of all that fun! Of course the unwritten “look at ME!” would not have been lost on my parents.

          And if these quick, simple greetings, these “hellos” from far away were texts, the Christmas card could only serve as an emoji: a simple symbol of a commonly felt emotion or impression we’ve all felt and recognize. “I wish you the Joy and Warmth of the season”. “Merry Christmas from my home to yours”. “May you feel the Wonder of the Birth of Christ”. Etc.  These trite sounding greetings seem canned and insincere, but they are actually direct  reminder of the season, and actually quite sweet and effective if only you take them as intended. Where once my father ticked off the names of people who sent cards in return, scratching out any who did NOT send a card, we now (I hope) simply send cards to those who mean something to us. Personally. We send the a smile and a heartfelt blessing because we want to, and we want them to feel the same childlike delight and blessing that we feel in sending our christmas smiley face.

          But when all is said and done, I must admit I miss the postcard days. Think how much more personal a Christmas post card would be, with it’s short private missive on the back and the Santa or Snowy scene or Mother and child on the front. It would be the same reminder, the same greeting, but it would also have that suggestion that I picked this for you because I was actually thinking of you in the middle of all this fun! I think that if they still made Christmas oriented post cards (and if the USPS actually humbled itself to deliver post cards) I would start using them again. (or, to be honest, I’d ask my wife to use them, since without a keyboard my handwriting is unreadable – even to me.)

           Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas.

Vince Katarzynski