I Thought I’d Have More Time

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

You’ve been gone since January, 1976, when I was sixteen and a half years old. The cruel hand of death snatched you away long before any of us were ready. (Not that we ever are.)

I had only a few Mother’s Days with you. It’s been so long ago now, I barely remember them.

I barely remember you. I look at pictures of you now, and you’re almost a stranger to me.

Almost.

What I do remember, though, is a sweet, compassionate, fun-loving, beautiful-in-every-way person who loved life, family and friends. Who had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh.

Someone who loved playing with her grandkids, and card games with her friends. (Does anybody play Rook anymore?) Who enjoyed a good game of Mad Libs on long car trips. Who loved going to Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers games.

Someone who took care of her little boy whenever he was sick, which was pretty often early on. Lucky for me, you were a nurse.

Someone who catered to my finicky appetite when I was little. If only you could see what I like to eat now.

Someone who saw something in me that inspired you to sign me up for piano lessons, the idea of which initially repelled me, but that I eventually came to appreciate.

Someone who laughed when I laughed, held me when I cried, and disciplined me when necessary. (Although, between you and me, probably not enough. But I wasn’t ever gonna say that. 😉)

You never let me forget you loved me. If only I had worked up the nerve to say, “I love you” to you. Just once.

I thought I’d have more time, you know. I guess we always think that. You just take it for granted the people you love are always going to be here.

I wish we could have had a grownup-to-grownup conversation. I think you would have been fun to talk to on that level.

I wish you could have been here long enough to meet the wonderful woman I married. I think you would have approved.

I wish a lot of things with you that, unfortunately, will never be. But, I guess that’s life. I just know, I’m glad I had you as long as I did. It was a wonderful, if terribly brief, life with you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thank you for being so good to me in the time we had together. Thank you for all your love and care and support. You were the best mom I could have wished for.

I never said it, and I’m sorry for that, but I always felt it: I love you. ❤❤❤❤

Mes Frères

I have two brothers. Two older brothers.

Much older brothers, as I like to remind them.

See, I showed up a little late to the party. Guess I wasn’t part of the original family plan. Surprise!

So, my brothers and I didn’t have a lot of time together when I was little; they were practically grown already. I remember going to my oldest brother’s wedding when I was six. By the time they gave me three nieces and a nephew, I was twelve.

My brothers were my mentors when I was little, teaching me important things. Like curse words. Which I then repeated one day to Mom and her guest. Or so I was told.

Father was so proud. 😡

When they left home, they left behind some things for me. Like a small metal box packed full of their old 45’s. (Google it, kids.) Classic songs like “At the Hop”, “Jailhouse Rock” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” I still have ’em, in that same metal box, but I can’t listen to them; I ain’t got no record player anymore!

They also left me some comedy albums, by guys like Bill Cosby, Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory and Brother Dave Gardner. I memorized all their routines, and recited them to anyone who’d listen. (And a few who wouldn’t.) I’ve always loved an audience. My friends and relatives know this.

When my next oldest brother went away to college, he would often write to Mom and Dad at home, and at the end of every letter was a personal note to me. I always looked forward to those.

When I was a teenage piano player, he suggested I check out an artist named Elton John. Boy, did that have an impact! EJ has remained my man all these years. Thanks, bro.

Both my brothers made me laugh a lot when I was a kid. (Still do, in fact.) In my teenage years, I tried to make them laugh, too. I guess it was a way to make them think I was cool enough to hang with them. I didn’t want to be their kid brother; I wanted to be their peer. You know teenagers, they always wanna be grownups.

My next oldest brother has an artistic streak, like me. He wrote poetry, screenplays, a novel. He acted in community theaters. I used to play piano, and even wrote a few songs. I thought we were kindred spirits.

I didn’t connect with my oldest brother like that. I kinda felt he, like Dad, didn’t really get me. Maybe that was all in my head, I don’t know. We relate much better now. I’m proud of him; he gave up some unhealthy habits and is taking better care of himself, now. More so than me, for sure.

I know I’m just firing off random thoughts here; just writing these things as they come into my consciousness, things I hadn’t really thought of in a long time, until just recently.

The three of us got together last week. Twice. It was the first time in quite awhile that the oldest was here from Costa Rica, where he’s lived happily for 13 years now. I really enjoyed being with the two of them.

And as we all get older, I become more acutely aware of our dwindling opportunities to do that.

We are brothers. We may not have been as close as some brothers are due to our age difference, but the bond has always been there.

And I know the time will come when all three of us won’t be here. And I hate that.

So, while we are all here, I want to tell my brothers how much they mean to me.

How much they’ve always meant to me.

And how much I hope we’re all around for a good long time, yet.

Slim, Bubba, I love you. Always have, always will.

Your kid brother, Fat Boy. (AKA Stud)

Costa Ricans Live Longer Than We Do. What’s the Secret?

This is a long one, but since I have a brother living in Costa Rica, I thought he would find this interesting. I did; you might, too. And I think the U.S. could learn a thing or two from this article.
Larry

Stigmatis

In the United States and elsewhere, public health and medical care are largely separate enterprises. Costa Rica shows the benefits of integrating the two—it spends less than we do on health care and gets better results.Photographs by Fred Ramos for The New Yorker

We’ve starved our public-health sector. The Costa Rica model demonstrates what happens when you put it first.

The cemetery in Atenas, Costa Rica, a small town in the mountains that line the country’s lush Central Valley, contains hundreds of flat white crypt markers laid out in neat rows like mah-jongg tiles, extending in every direction. On a clear afternoon in April, Álvaro Salas Chaves, who was born in Atenas in 1950, guided me through the graves.

“As a child, I witnessed every day two, three, four funerals for kids,” he said. “The cemetery was divided into two. One side for adults, and the other side for…

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