How Did We Become So Broken?

By Sally Saville Hodge

We’ve stopped investing in ourselves and the resulting deterioration has become inescapable.

Driving on the expressway from Chicago’s South Side to the north during a heavy snowstorm, traffic was at a standstill. There was plenty of opportunity to survey the landscape. And what you see when you pay attention is not pretty.

The metal supporting the overpasses, beginning at the Jane Byrne Interchange to Hubbard’s Cave, are heavily corroded. Many are further discolored from the weeping of metal railings that are suffering the effects of time and wear. The concrete pillars holding up the structures go from bad to worse. Surfaces are marred by a heavy tracery of cracks. With others, huge gouges are exclamation points to the effect of our neglect.

That’s one sign of how lack of investment is impacting our physical infrastructure. Then there’s a different kind infrastructure that’s falling apart, as well. One that supports our society.

Our children, our future, are being gamed and left behind by a system that puts more emphasis on test scores than on the learning the scores are supposed to reflect. In some schools, children not being allowed to fail. It’s okay to read them the answers to the tests. And when they can’t cut it in the classroom beyond testing periods, failing grades are changed. Bonuses, after all, depend on hitting unilateral targets. And those targets may be unattainable for populations that have been neglected for so long that they have lost the will and interest in learning anyway, along with any respect for the teachers who would inspire them.

But that’s okay, because no one else respects teachers either. Why else would we constantly be asking them to give back on salary, benefits and pensions, while loading on more work, requiring more hours, weekdays and weekends, and expressing more expectations of miracle-working without giving them the resources it takes to bring miracles about? Even Jesus started with 12 loaves of bread and two fish to feed the multitudes.

The fact is that we’ve stopped investing in ourselves, and so we’re selling ourselves off, a little bit at a time, to delay the inevitable. We’ve sold off a tollway and our parking meters, not to mention public land – the latest for a tribute to a popular movie series and a university’s charter school. The latter is a sweet deal, land worth $755,000 that was sold for $1, and will not only not generate taxes, but will essentially rob those revenues from schools that are already starving.

The thing of it all is that Chicago is just a microcosm of a system that is deteriorating all around us. Just look at Flint and the price it’s paying for water poisoned by expedience. Consider the number of homes still standing empty throughout the country, twice abandoned – first by owners drowning in debt and then by the banks who encouraged them in the water and happily let them sink. Then, too, there’s our environment, which we’re killing with chemicals and carelessness. And above all, look at how the vested interests have gotten that way – through a system that quite literally has given us the very best leaders that money can buy.

How did we become so broken?




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The Handout

I tend to tuck away funny, unusual or “huh” experiences and mull them over now and then. How much better it is to find a way to make them into building blocks for stories, especially when you can expand on them by asking yourself “What if?” 

Sally Saville Hodge

One of the things that bothered Sofia about living in the city was the number of people who had their hands out, trying to get something for nothing in the name of homelessness, joblessness or just plain bad luck. It wasn’t only the sheer number of them, especially compared to the tony north suburbs of Chicago where she’d spent the majority of her life. It was the great variety of tactics they engaged in to part people with their money.

There were those who just thrust their cups in drivers’ faces as they ambled between the rows of cars trapped at traffic signals, not even bothering with the obligatory “Help a homeless person out?” Others, though not so common these days, would wash your car window whether you wanted them to or not, demanding change or preferably folding money for the service. The Streetwise guys at least tried to give some value – the latest edition of a flimsy so-called newspaper recounting developments affecting the homeless community in return for a buck.

It was those who were playing an outright con who bothered Sofia the most. Not long after departing the suburbs for city life a decade earlier, she’d given five dollars to a presentable young guy at her neighborhood gas station. His credit card had been denied, he woefully told her, and he needed enough gas to get home to the suburbs before his dad found out he’d taken the car to the city and grounded him for life. Right. When she went back the next night for her daily pack of cigarettes, he was still there, using the same story. “I gave you money last night,” she accused him, amazed at his gall…and that she had fallen for his act. He skulked off as the gas station attendant quietly appeared beside her to shoo him away.

It had all left Sofia feeling jaded and cynical. But that didn’t stop her from also feeling vaguely uncomfortable when she didn’t part with a handful of change every time someone approached her with a hand out and hard luck story. Once in a while, that discomfort outweighed her cynicism, especially if there was friendly banter involved, which often happened with, say, the Streetwise guys. But she had no rules, as some of her friends did, about circumstances under which she’d dig in her pockets or poke around her purse’s bottom for loose change. And often as not, she’d charge by, feigned deafness and blindness her protective gear.

On this early fall evening, Sofia watched her fellow travelers cut a wide swath around the woman and child who partially blocked the bottom of the stairs exiting the El platform in her River North neighborhood. It had been a long day at work, dealing with her clients’ expectations and demands, reasonable and not, her employees’ expectations and demands, reasonable and not, and her own expectations and demands, which, of course, were always reasonable. She was tired and out of sorts and just wanted to sink into the embrace of her living room couch while mindless television played in the background. But she had a suspicion that the pair below her constituted just the first in the inevitable parade of beggars and street people that would mark her route home.

They did not, however, seem to be your typical street people. For starters, they were clean. And not badly dressed. The woman was wearing spotless white sneakers and tight black capris topped by a gauzy print blouse whose ends were tied at her waist. She tightly grasped the hand of a toddler wearing appliquéd overalls and a matching jean jacket. Nor were they unkempt. Both woman and child boasted matching, tightly woven cornrows. On the mother, they pulled her face into sharply angled planes. They pulled the child’s eyes up, giving her features a slightly oriental cast.

They also didn’t look as lethargic as most street people. The little girl’s curious gaze darted from her mother to pedestrians passing by and she almost broke loose to try to pet a pigeon that was pecking near her feet. The woman seemed more worried than anything else, and the big brown eyes that captured Sofia’s as she approached the sidewalk were beseeching, not calculating like street folk with a con, or vacant, like those who had been on the bottom too long.

Still. You couldn’t trust your impressions, as she had found with the gas station hustler long ago. Sofia shifted to the other side of the final stair to avoid the two as she finished her descent. Too late. She should know by now to never make eye contact.

The woman turned toward Sofia. “Lady…” she began.

“No,” Sofia said shortly, and tried to walk around her.

“I gist need a dollah, lady,” the woman said.


Sofia headed down the sidewalk. Three blocks to LaSalle Street, and she’d be past the worst of the homeless traffic that tended to cluster along Chicago Avenue. Funny, she thought, how passers-by sped up and averted their eyes. She wasn’t the only one who knew that eye contact with either the panhandler or her victim would get them ensnared themselves.

Sofia felt a tug on her sleeve. The woman, without relinquishing her grip on the child, had followed her.


Sofia was getting irritated.  “Look, no. I’m not going to give you money. I’m sorry if you lost your money and need bus fare to get home or if you need money for gas or if you need food for your little girl. I’m late for, ummm, an appointment. It’s just not my problem!”

By the time her rant was over, Sofia’s voice was one decibel below a shout. The child started to wail, which died down when her mother picked her up, parked her on her hip and began caressing her face. Sofia took that as her cue to walk away, but the woman grabbed her arm before she could take two steps.

“It’s a dollah, lady. Hep me out. Ah got my wallet stole. Ah need money t’git home wit’ my lil’ girl.  I ain’t no beggar!”

Sofia was assailed by feelings of violation at the physical contact and embarrassment at being involved in a public scene. The pedestrians who weren’t rushing by were looking at both of them with curiosity, but, of course, were not getting involved.

What overpowered it all, though, was, well, that she was feeling a little guilty. And kind of sorry for these two. She knew what the woman saw. A well-fed, well-dressed, well-coiffed older woman. One who wasn’t swimming in furs and jewels, but was certainly a few notches up the food chain. One who could certainly spare a dollar.

The aggravation, Sofia decided, was not worth the principle. She reached in the front pocket of her purse, where she usually stashed a few dollars, and pulled out a well-worn bill. It wasn’t a single, but a five, she saw. She sighed. Well, she hadn’t succumbed to a street person’s blandishments in a while. She supposed this would make up for it.

“Here.” She thrust it at the woman and turned away once again, heading back down Chicago, hopefully to get home without getting waylaid again.

On a late fall evening some weeks later, Sofia pulled up her jacket collar to fend off the chill as she walked down the stairs from the El platform after another long day of work. She was mentally checking off her evening’s to-do list as she cut around at the bottom of the stairs to head over for a quick stop at the Walgreen’s before heading home. Walking west on Chicago Avenue, she was going against the crowd and got a bit jostled for it by the occasional passer-by. What she wasn’t expecting, though, was to have someone pulling on the sleeve of her jacket. She turned. “What?”

“Lady.” Sofia searched the speaker’s face. It was, in fact, the same woman who had relentlessly pushed her for a handout some weeks earlier. This time, she was without the child.

“You.” Sofia said flatly. “Need money again?”

The woman shook her head. She wordlessly thrust out her hand and pushed money into Sofia’s. Sofia gaped at seeing the five dollar bill, and looked at the woman questioningly.

“Thanks.” The woman turned and disappeared into the crowd.



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Letting go of superfluous family baggage

Sally Saville Hodge

A friend recently recounted to me the story of her sister-in-law, who died a month ago. The woman had been quietly declining with a rare form of cancer and it was only when the end was literally hours away that certain family members and friends were told of her illness by way of an invitation to the hospital to say their good-byes.

One sister, however, was expressly forbidden. Their relationship was that damaged.

Family dynamics are always interesting, and tend to become more pronounced in terms of both their positive and negative aspects over time. Consider yourself blessed if you, like I, have been able to forge bonds that go beyond blood and you can consider at least some of your siblings as among your best friends.

It’s, unfortunately, far more human to hold onto grudges and resentments.

That would characterize the nature of the relationship between my older sister and me. My attitude was colored by her incessant stories of feeding me worms when I was too young to know any better. By her habit, in our teen years, of dragging me into town for company at the local drug store soda fountain only to ditch me when her boyfriend of the moment showed up. As adults, she fanned the flames at family gatherings by barely acknowledging me, resolutely ignoring my husband, but still delighting in our son. And I’m certain she harbored her own resentments against me.

Over time, we came to a tacit understanding that we could be cordial, and sometimes even friendly. We were satisfied with seeing each other a couple of times a year and otherwise keeping up through the always active family grapevine.

And then things changed. For one thing, we’re all getting older. For another, her health, never great during her entire adult life, seems to be deteriorating even faster of late.

It all makes me want to try a little harder.  So I have. And so has she. Because the reality is that today we can laugh and move on to positive memories that were equally important in shaping our relationship.  Singing in harmony while we cleaned up the kitchen after meals as kids. Squabbling over who got Phil as a boyfriend and who got Don (as in the Everly Brothers) for our little girl imaginings. Sneaking cigarettes from our dad to hurry up adulthood.

My older sister continues to drive me crazy at times, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. But she’s still an important part of my personal history. She’s the last one left who has known me my entire life. That’s something you have to honor and celebrate, and a reason to let go of all the superfluous baggage – while you still have the opportunity to do so.



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Saville Farm Memoir: A homecoming

Sally Saville Hodge

The Farm. It wasn’t so much the way everything smelled out here in the country, with subtle differences each time we came, depending on the time of year. That was part of it, though. Now, as darkness was descending on a pre-fall evening, the rich odors of earth and crops on the verge of harvesting were strong enough you could almost touch them. A riot of roses climbing the trellis by the back door added a fragile sweetness to the mix. And the tantalizing yeastiness of Gramma’s fresh-baked bread teased us as it wafted from the open kitchen window.

The sounds, too, marked a world totally apart from the rumbles and horns of commuter trains, cars whishing by, and kids yelling at play in suburbia. When we could be still enough to hear it, we could take in the symphony of quiet harmonies that carried through the air – the wind rustling through the trees and cornstalks, birds crying their joy of flight, crickets chirruping from the grass, the plop of frogs playing in the pond.

To us, the farm represented the wonders of a world that stayed constant and yet, with every trip, managed to unveil new secrets of life before, when this quiet setting bustled with horses and lambs and pigs and dogs and cats and the lively, sometimes lonely life of a young couple scratching out a living and raising their child who would grow up to become our mother.

The nearly hidden path to the henhouse that you ventured on alone at your own risk of attack by overgrown trees and shrubs, not to mention mosquitoes and gnats during the height of summer.

The ramshackle storage shed out by the West Forty field that Gramma would sometimes let us rummage through for hidden treasures. Sharon wouldn’t go near it even before she turned into a teenager and acquired more sedate, boy-oriented interests. I think it was because Grampa told her it was riddled with rats and snakes, plus she just hated to get dirty and the dust in there was piled so high it was impossible to come out clean. But Debbie, girly girl that she was, would pretty much follow me anywhere and loved being able to emerge from our explorations with some treasure in hand. One time, we found an old wooden wagon in the shed that had been Mom’s when she was little. We showed it to Daddy, who brought it home, fixed it up and painted it white, and gave it to Mom for a present. She cried a little (it brought back memories, she said), and used it for a plant stand.

And, of course, the barn. It was a rambling, weatherbeaten old thing, with doors that hung crookedly and a few gaping holes where planks had rotted and fallen off. A stone’s throw from the house – or a hop, skip and a jump from the back door and through the barnyard gate by four exuberant kids – it was large enough to have once housed four horses in one annex and a milking barn for four cows in another. We weren’t supposed to explore the long vacant horse stalls, but sometimes I did anyway. Grampa seemed to have this thing about critters, and said too many of them made their homes in the stalls to make them anyplace where kids should play. The only critters I ever saw were farm cats that would sometimes pop out from between the abandoned stalls. Unless you count the still-wiggling mouse that some would be carrying in their jaws. I think it was more the junk piled in the stalls that worried Grampa – the old farm tools, rusted buckets and metal wheels and the like that would likely cause serious damage if they collapsed on some curious little kid.

It was the milking barn that was bigger attraction anyway, holding not only Grampa’s two milk cows, but the occasional litter of new kittens and, of course, Grampa himself. Everyone loved Grampa, but we kids were confident in the knowledge that he was ours – the kind of comfortable grandparent you read about in books, only a hundred times better.  He made us think of Santa Claus, if Santa had been balding and beardless, wore faded overalls tucked into tall black rubber boots, and smelled unmistakably of Lifebuoy soap and sweetish-sour sweat, with Old Spice added for occasions like church on Sunday.

On this trip, we’d pulled in right between chores and dinner, and the milking was going on. Gramma came out the back door to greet us, wisps of faded brown hair pulled loose from her bun and her cheeks rosy from the kitchen. A smile on her normally stern face, she wiped her hands on the ever-present apron, stuck her hands in her dress pockets and pulled out a stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum for each of us. “The sooner you let your grandfather finish the milking, the sooner we can eat,” she warned, and put out her arms to give us her bony hug and kisses of welcome.

We chased off down the dirt path, through the barnyard gate and into the barnyard itself. A beacon of light from the milking barn spilled out of the doorway to mark our way. We arrived to find Grampa well into the job of the evening’s milking. He sat on the three-legged stool, his eyes half closed as he leaned into Bossy’s flank and pulled first on one long udder, then another, with long, practiced and fluid strokes. We could tell by the milk-hitting-milk sound that this bucket was almost full. Maybe he’d let us try milking her or Bessie for the next bucket.

As a chattering group, we burst through the open double doorway, shattering the tranquility. Bossy turned her head, anchored on either side by wooden stanchions, and her tail twitched as if in aggravation. And though he didn’t shift position or miss a beat, we could see a broad smile spread across Grampa’s face at the instant mayhem we were creating as we talked over each other to get his attention.

From Debbie…“We get to stay for a whole week! Can we ride the tractor tomorrow?”

Brucie excitedly shared, “Grampa, Grampa, I seen 100 buffalos…”

“Are there any new kittens?” chimed in Sharon, her eyes darting to nooks in the barn where they might be hiding.

My contribution? “Can we help milk the cows?”

It was our challenge, each time we visited: Who would be successful at actually making the milk come out? Grampa made it look easy, but we all knew from experience that it wasn’t.

He turned his head to look at us, missing just a quick beat of his milking to bat aside Bossy’s tail that continued to swish aggrievedly at his head.

“I get to go first. I’m oldest,” Sharon asserted.

“So what? I’m smarter. I should go first,” I told her, punctuating my irritation with a punch to her arm. It immediately advanced to a shoving match, with her calling me a brat and me calling her bossy, but ended abruptly thanks to several well-aimed shots of warm milk in our faces.

Sharon’s shriek of protest was drowned out by Grampa’s booming laugh, and it was hard to resist joining in. “Oh, the looks on your faces…” he said, and now everyone wanted in on the action. “Squirt me, too, Grampa,” Brucie begged, scrunching his face in anticipation. “Me, too!” cried Debbie.

And as the milk and laughter flew through the barn, so another deposit was placed in our collective memory bank.

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Saville Farm Memoir: A homecoming

Sally Saville Hodge

Heading up the rise of the dusty dirt road, we could see the grey-shingled roof of the old clapboard farmhouse peek over the horizon. Even our tired old Woody seemed to pick up steam, as though fueled by the eagerness the two adults, four kids and one Dalmation within it had about the homecoming. The latter five were all eagerly jockeying for prime viewing space out the side windows of the station wagon.

“Buffalos!” crowed Brucie happily as he tugged at the red cowboy hat that parted from his head only when significant bribery was involved.

“Dope. Those are cows,” I told him.

“No, they’re buffalos,” he insisted, persistent with a four-year-old’s stubbornness. “Grampa’s gonna help me rope one!”

“They’re Black Angus cows, stupid…” As I elbowed him lightly to remind him who was older and smarter, I got a smack on my head from across the front seat by Mom. She shook her head and her lips pursed into the straight line that signaled extreme irritation. Her patience with what we kids considered the normal ups and downs of sibling relationships was never great to begin with, but tended to be stretched to the limit after several hours of forced togetherness.

“I do not want to spend the week listening to you kids bickering,” she said. “You’re four years older, Sally. Act like it. Buffalos, cows, whatever. Indulge him.”

Our family was making its twice-annual visit to the small farm in central Illinois where Mom had grown up. It was a long, three- to four-hour drive from our home in Chicago’s north suburbs. It always seemed longer because of the anticipation of what awaited us at the end of the trip, if not the hours of forced inactivity in cramped quarters.

It didn’t seem to be so bad for Sharon. She did what she usually did – pretty much tried to ignore the rest of us “children” (an attitude adopted more frequently since she’d attained teenagerhood a few months ago). She’d curl against the door, lean her head against the window and bury herself in beauty tips and movie stars or whatever she found so interesting in the Seventeen and other magazines she’d stock up on for the trip. When I tried to tease her into talking, she’d roll her eyes behind her thick cats-eye glasses. “Shut up, Sally,” she’d say wearily.

At 6 and 4, Debbie and Brucie were much easier to deal with. They’d sit in the very back seat of our station wagon with Princess nestled between them. I shared the middle with Sharon. Debbie and I would play with dolls across the seats for awhile, and Brucie, who always had little plastic cowboys, Indians and horses in his fists and pockets, engaged them in action on the back of the aging and long suffering dog. Breaking the monotony were the periodic squabble and the collective gagging and fart jokes when Princess shared the fruits of a notoriously sensitive digestive system.

What usually stretched the trip out, though, was our inability to make it through without a potty break. Since this usually happened when we were well into the country with, as my father would say with exasperation, not a gas station in sight, he’d pull off the road and gesture to the tall grass growing alongside. “Have at it,” he’d tell us, pulling a Winston from his shirt pocket to while away the wait. He was supposed to be our lookout, but on his good days, he was such a tease that we knew we couldn’t trust him. He’d drag on his cigarette, and casually run his fingers through his blondish, pompadoured hair, then freeze us in place with an urgent, “Hurry! Car’s coming down the road!” Then he’d burst out laughing at our squeals as we tried to finish up fast.

We only did the outdoor bathroom break because we absolutely had to. Well, Debbie and I, anyway. (Sharon made a point of not drinking or eating anything an hour before our trips because the absolute last thing she wanted to do was pull down her panties in front of us and anyone else who might happen to drive by.) The only one who didn’t mind these stops was Brucie. He was little, and so must have had a bladder the size of a pea for as often as he had to go. But I always thought that he really liked to stop because of the enjoyment he took in pulling out his weenie and seeing how far he could spray.

It wasn’t so easy or comfortable for us girls, of course. Well, Debbie was a girly girl and usually wearing a dress, giving her fewer layers to wrestle with. Even so, she’d shriek loudly and jump up from her crouch each time a stray sprig of grass – or a bug – brushed against her bare bottom. And once we got moving again, she’d be all fidgety for awhile like she could still feel ants in her pants. My uniform was usually blue jeans, comfortable and practical for climbing trees, playing Kick the Can or chasing after baseballs, but not so easily shed for an outdoor toilet. Once I got everything down, I’d balance on one hand and use the other to hold my clothes away from my privates, but something would usually give way in mid-stream. And I’d have to spend the remainder of the drive sitting in uncomfortably damp and smelly clothes.

This trip, there’d been a minimum of stops, I had thankfully kept my balance, Debbie had stopped fidgeting, and the end was in sight. We pulled onto the farmhouse’s gravel drive and alongside the simple ranch structure. We all tumbled out of the car, Princess instantly bounding off, surely to seek out a mound of fresh manure to roll in. The rest of us stretched after the long ride and took in the magic that never seemed to fade.


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Saville Farm Memoir

This introduction leads into a two-part memoir of our family farm, to be continued Tuesday, 9/20.

Sally Saville Hodge

By the time my mother died in 1998, some 60 years had gone by since she had departed the farm where she’d been raised for college, then marriage and the making of a whole new life, raising a family and helping her children raise theirs in suburbia. Throughout those years, though, she never stopped referring to the farm and its environs as “home.” And there was never any question that when she died, she would come home for good.

Indeed, when she passed, there was no service at the grand church in the suburb north of Chicago where Sibyl and Bill Saville had taught Sunday school, run rummage sales, coached church-sponsored basketball teams and had otherwise contributed to the fabric of this and the wider community. There was no wake at the funeral home that was almost kitty-corner from the spacious house on the tree-lined street where she had spent 40 of the intervening years since departing the farm. Although her neighbors on either side were aware of and saddened by her death, her world had shrunk as she aged to the extent where family and farm were pretty much the core of her existence. Few were left locally to notice the hole left in our lives when she was gone.

Instead, we celebrated Sibyl’s life in the humble church in the middle of the country that had been a fixture in our grandparents’ life, that we all had attended as a family on our visits, and where many of our children and their children in turn had been baptized. Many people, from a few remaining high school classmates to neighboring farm families, joined us there to pay respects to the woman they never stopped considering one of their own, despite the separation of years and geography.

Sibyl Arlene Anderson Saville was buried in the church’s small, well-tended cemetery, next to where her husband, William Bruce Saville had been laid to rest more than a decade earlier.

On a clear day when the crops weren’t standing, you could almost see the family farm’s grain bin and barn roof from her gravesite. It was fitting. Home for good, at last.

I can’t say that all five of the children who comprised our generation of the Saville brood shared quite the same connection to the small farm that occupies 150 acres not far from Danville, Illinois.

I can only say for certain what it’s meant to me.

While not “home,” as it had been for my mother, it has always been an anchor in my life. It serves to keep me tethered. To my past. To my family. To a pace and presence that renew me, often when I need it the most.

It’s been a constant in my life. And I can only hope that, long after I’m gone, others who follow me will grow their own special relationships with what it represents. That my son, and someday his children, will delight in the magic that can be found there on any given day. Whether it’s the sweeping expanse of constellations brightly dotting the cloudless nighttime skies, or the sight of two frisky foxes tumbling together in a bare field as they enjoy spring’s promise. The dusty scent of air rich with fall harvest or the perfume of flowers and earth after a soft rain. The sound of leaves rustling as the unfettered wind sweeps through branches or the chorus of frogs, crickets and cicadas serenading a warm summer’s night.

Every life should be blessed with a special someplace that creates stories worth sharing. For our family, it was the Saville Farm.


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The bucket bet

My father and his younger sister placed a morbid sort of bet with each other when they had reached an age and were both experiencing health that was going from bad to worse: Who was going to die first?

I was never certain what the payoff was supposed to be. Not that it really mattered. Death, in and of itself, was probably its own reward given the misery each was experiencing in everyday living.

Their bucket bet was only one instance of what I considered my father’s sad preoccupation with death. He talked about it often as he got older. Of course, it was always couched in dark humor – hence the bet.

My feeling was that his negativity only guaranteed that it would happen sooner. Of course, it was easy for me to have that attitude. I was flush with youth, happy in my marriage, enjoying the raising of my son and saw years ahead and nowhere but up for my career.

My father died when he was only a few years older than I am now. Always the competitor, he won the bet.

I’m a lot more understanding of his attitude these days, as, I’m sure, are many of my fellow baby boomers.

I get why people are more likely to go on anti-depressants as they age in an attempt to balance out the bleak reality of an ever-shortening horizon.

I get why people turn to sleeping pills in an attempt to bypass the dark thoughts that accompany wakefulness in the early morning hours.

But I also get that we need to take joy and excitement in writing the remaining chapters before our books come to a close. We still have time to create stories worth telling.

My father was ready, eager even, to place and win the bucket bet. I say, why push it?

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