I just read Eva’s contribution and fell all over in love with her again. She is such a positive influence on me that I may almost be able to survive Grinchhood. Like the family dog, Coco, who is almost 72 dog years she tells of the family car with great reverence. It took me back 15 years to the day we brought little Sam home in a blue blanket in a Toyota Celica and realized our life was taking a big turn and we would need a Soccer Mom van.

Although Sam recently vowed he would never, ever drive such an uncool set of wheels, I think he will eventually come around. He is getting big, really tall, especially for us pint-size people who have spent our lives around folks of our own size.

The Good Book states, “Judge not, that ye not be judged”. This of course is a warning not to be critical, but I find it a challenge at my age not to be impressed with the people I have chosen to be surrounded by. To put it another way, I am really impressed with the people I am surrounded by. I feel I live in the center of a “Fount of every Blessing”. Within a one mile radius I have met cowboy poets, a Navy Seal who set the charges on the beach at Normandy, a corporate security agent who negotiates hostage releases all over the world and sports weapons James Bond would be proud of. I helped write the memoirs of a man who designed, built and flew a flying wing and who consulted with John Northrop to build the Stealth bomber using a similar design.

In addition to that, the musical talent in this neighborhood is incredible. Like the Osmonds, there are families here with great musical talent. The last Ward adjustment brought us one family with three violinists ages 4, 6 and 7 who fiddled Christmas music, plus enough extra string players to make an 8 piece string orchestra for Thanksgiving.

The Christmas program today was enough to bring tears to my eyes. One of our neighbors, a mother with four children fiddles and sings in a Blue Grass country band known as “Strings of Fire”. She also plays piano and this morning accompanied by a cello and herself on violin sang “Oh, Holy Night” in a sweet clear operatic voice without a mike for a full house plus overflow congregation.

I so appreciate music now, even as my hearing is deteriorating. I am thrilled by people whose brains are musical. I can remember in grade school that I could not tell the difference between pitch and volume and I am still not much better at it. I am so thankful I still have my eyes, or at least one good one that lines up with a camera viewfinder. I treated myself to the newest Nikon camera and was able to use it for the most recent photo phone directory for the church. I love making good clear images of happy looking people.

This was the year of passing over for many people we know. Some I have already mentioned. My Mother finally shucked off this mortal coil and was freed from the indignity of mental demise which lasted 10+ years before her physical demise. I look upon the future with fear and hope. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by younger people, most notably by my beautiful wife Eva. Then there is Sam, that has unwittingly fallen in love with technology and is beginning to experience some of the things that drew me into my life’s work. He is being plunged into technology he will master in months what took me many years to discover.

The plus side of getting old is that all the women are getting more beautiful and some still have a little girl in their smile. Some of the fruits of aging are that your dreams get more sophisticated and intricate and sometimes the experiences are so pleasant and real that you just don’t want to leave whatever state you are in. Speaking of states you are in, I had to go back to Texas to complete the internment of my Mother. The people who knew her were very supportive and remember Mom as the one who taught them to dance and helped them with their problems. I went back to the old tamale factory in Ysleta and it was a third world country. Although there are some sparks of the beautiful and the wonderful, the area is dying and the human vultures are taking over. The new wealth of the Southern Border is drug related. There are murders by the thousand and the violence has eclipsed the major US cities of New York and Chicago combined. The family-owned funeral home and cemetery where my parents are buried have been purchased by Mexican National Cartels and have been given Mexican names and symbols such as Funeraria del Angel (pronounced ahn-hel) with a winged angel flying on a black limousine. They also surprised me with a $1600 bill for picking up the casket at the airport six miles away. To paraphrase an old country song, “Happiness is seeing El Paso, Texas in my rear view mirror.”

Oh, and the tamales were good but not as good as I remembered. See, the Grinch part only took one paragraph.

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