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Kind Woman

Rushing to go pick up Andrew in Truckee, I found myself stuck in a huge traffic jam once I got into Reno. Hoping that this would soon pass, I was briefly entertained by the man in the Mercedes in front of me. Every few minutes he would break out into some violent hand gesturing as if he was angrily pleading to someone, but I couldn’t see anyone else in his car.

As the traffic moved ahead I noticed that my car was starting to feel sick. A few minutes later I noticed that smoke was coming from the Mini’s bonnet. I immediately turned off the air conditioning, opened the windows and started to make my way over from the far left lane to the emergency lane, four long lanes away. I desperately made my way into the other lanes, testing the patience of other drivers, as the smoke coming from bonnet thickened. Finally, I got over to the emergency lane, turned off the car, and made plans to walk to the Burger King within sight of where the Mini was parked.

As I started walking in the late afternoon heat, someone softly shouted from their car and asked if I needed a ride. Looking up I saw the voice came from a grandmotherly looking lady. I told her most certainly and hopped into her car. We had a short pleasantly awkward conversation. Not sure what the etiquette is for talking to strangers who do you a solid. I mean I thought about asking her the standard questions about work, family, and her background, but thought that would that be too intrusive for people who hadn’t known each other from Adam five minutes ago and would surely never see each other again. Ah well, we did our best for the brief time we were together.

Finally, we got to BK and she dropped me off and as sincerely as I could muster I thanked her and off she rode into the distance, probably to help another stranger. Whoever that lady was— she did tell me her name but like the oblivious person I am I forgot her name as soon as she told it to me—I have to say thank you again. You didn’t have to offer me a ride— a complete stranger. You had no idea what was going to happen, especially given how dangerous and mysterious I look with my goatee, but you did it anyways. You reached out to a sinner, who hadn’t changed the fluids in his car in a while and gave me a lift when I surely needed one. Thanks kind woman.

The rest of the evening went okay. We were able to get the car, gasping, to a repair shop. We were able to pick up Andrew at our normal spot, the McDonald’s in Truckee. Unbeknownst to many, McDonald’s parking lots are popular exchange spots for kids of divorced parents because it’s normally safe, it has clean bathrooms, and if your kids are hungry you can get them a cheap meal. Having said all of this, now that my kids are much, much older they really hate eating at McDonald’s and I think I finally get why.

Because my wife had made plans to take the grandkids to Yellowstone the following day, I had to rent a car at the airport. My car rental professional showed me my rental car and as I started to inspect the car, I heard my professional mumble that I was only to report scratches the size of a dollar or dents that were golf ball sized but it was too late, I had already pointed out a dent about half the size of a golf ball. My car rental professional was clearly annoyed that I had not listened, and repeated in a lecturing tone what he had said. At that point—five hours into what is normally a two hour journey— I was past feeling and could care less that junior was bugged by my thoroughness. Happy with my cheap rental car, I cranked on the AC and drove out of the airport parking lot like a bat out of heck, eager for another opportunity to abuse the tar out of another rental car.

Family History

My new favorite family name belongs to Zibiah “Sibby” McCarley McDonald Birdino. She was literally born somewhere in the state of Pennsylvania in 1786 and passed away in Calhoun, Iowa in 1860, a town that is only slightly bigger than when she passed away with a population of about 10,000. She is our 4th great grandmother through Grandma Hansen’s family.

The other day I was going through some stuff in the garage and came across some family histories. One of which was my Uncle Harold’s memories of Grandma Hansen. For a man that seemed a little gruff when I was kid, this guy is a big teddy bear inside. He is a straight shooter when he writes but very sincere. As a side note, we used to joke about his hair when we were kids, but it now looks like I inherited Harold’s mighty head of hair. Sometimes when my hair is getting tall and I comb it back and look in the mirror and start to ponder where I’ve seen hair like that before and it dawns upon me it is Uncle Harold.

The one thing Harold touches upon in his history is the Hansen way of showing of emotion. I always wondered where this came from and apparently it’s generational. I no longer feel like freak. I do loathe goodbyes because it requires a lot of awkward hugging stuff and having to be outwardly sincere. I prefer Harold’s take on all of this:

“While I was in the Navy (about 1945/1946) I saw Mom only occasionally. To me she seemed no better or worse during this time. I was always glad to come home and see her. There was not a lot of outward emotion shown, but I knew she was happy to see me. I guess it was just kind of an understanding.

Even though there was not a lot of outward display of emotion or affection in our family, I think we love one another and we have some very close ties. I feel strongly that real love must be sincere and not just a public show. When I feel, I say it or show it in my own way. This may sound like the Hansen philosophy to some…”

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Like I have always said just know I love you, do I have to always say it or show it. Holy cheese and crackers! How many hugs do you need to know that I love or like you? You know how I know my siblings love me? It’s when they joke about one of my many troubling handicaps or bring up some painful moments from my past that I have only just begun to get over on my long, dark journey to become an emotionally stable adult. That’s when I know they care.

Of course, that philosophy doesn’t work so well with my wife and kids. So to deal with that I have developed the following formula: for every insult I have to say at least five kind or encouraging things. Once I hit the magic number of five, I get to insult them again. So far it’s been pretty successful. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.

Speaking of family: congratulations to my cousin Erin who got married in Anchorage, Alaska the other day. Make it a good one! We miss your Dad too! He was good man.

Suggested Music

1. Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down by Eric Bibb, Maria Muldaur & Rory Block
2. All I Do is Dream of You sung by the incomparable Dean Martin
3. Those Memories of You by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris
4. Through the Years by Kenny Rogers

The Death of Celebrities

Don’t get me wrong I thought Muhammed Ali was great just like most everyone else, and have a deep appreciation for most of David Bowie and Prince’s music. But Good Golly! Why does the media try to shove down our throats how much these people impacted our lives and try so hard to make these mortals and their works immortal. It’s like they are trying to force us to idol worship, force us to fall down and worship the big heads like they did on Easter Island. The worst was Michael Jackson whose life had become for quite a while a joke in the media up until his death. And then all of the sudden we are supposed to feel like our meager lives will never be the same because Michael Jackson was no longer in it, when his life had become one big mess.

Maybe it’s Baby Boomer thing. A desperation to have things or people they have always put their faith in from their generation last forever. Realizing too late as Dean Inge said that “he who marries the spirit of the age soon finds himself a widower”.

Or maybe it’s a celebrity thing and we are truly surprised when celebrities of our generation, whose works have been slowly fading in the background, pass away. Do we really believe they are not like us and are immune to decay, aging, illness, and death? I don’t know? It’s hard to put a finger on the media’s obsession with the death of celebrities and the hyperbole about their impact on our lives. And the irony is that the media are the ones usually leading the charge to destroy our heroes when they are alive, eager to show us just how mortal they are. Muhammed Ali would have been eaten up by the chattering class on Twitter if he were in his prime today and he would have been subject to hours upon hours of analysis by ESPN on why he isn’t doing this or that. My biggest take away from Prince’s death was his distrust of the media.

Last Thoughts

“In the last resort, man should not ask, ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ but should realize that he himself is being questioned. Life is putting its problems to him, and it is up to him to respond to these questions by being responsible; he can only answer to life by answering for his life. Life is…a mission.”-Viktor Frankl