Month: June 2018

Bills, Pills and Hearing Aid Batteries

I was told I had a hearing problem at the young age of 6.

But it really wasn’t until a full year after my wife started shouting at me in earnest that I decided to finally give in and get my first set of hearing aids.  That would have been approximately 42 years after I was told I had a hearing problem.

I may be a little stubborn.

You’d be surprised at how much you can understand with 10% hearing in one ear Image result for Hearing Aidsand 40% in the other. You simply have to pay attention, lean in, and look people in the eye. Sound advice for us all. The fact is, there are all sorts of lessons about hearing which I have had to learn.

So, by all means, if you happen to see me out in the world, come on up and say hello. I can hear you fine. Unless we’re in a crowded restaurant or at a loud party, then I’ll just give you a fake smile. Don’t worry; I’ll laugh at all your jokes. You’ll think you’re really funny, too. You might even walk away thinking what a great audience I am, thinking, “I’ve got to talk to David more often.” Of course, it’s just as likely that I laughed at your story about how your grandmother got hit by an ice cream truck, in which case, I apologize now in advance.

Now, when it comes to poor hearing, I’m not alone. Far from it.

26.7 million people over age 50 have a hearing impairment, and only 1 in 7, a meager 14%, use a hearing aid.

And when you get to 70, that number only increases to 1 in 3.

Across all ages, about 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.

I don’t know about you, but I think those are crazy statistics. I can’t tell you how many people I personally know who say they’re hard of hearing, and yet do nothing about it. I’d give you the statistics, but it would only point out how few people I know…and then you’d just feel sorry for me.

I’m not a shrink, but outside of the cost issue, the main reason people don’t get hearing aids comes down to vanity. That ship sailed a long time ago for me. I proudly wear my hearing aids and I don’t give it a second thought.

Why do people get so caught up in the worrying about how they look? Maybe it is an issue with accepting that they are growing older. It’s hard to accept that you are not 23 anymore.

I guess I have to admit that thoughts of growing older have filled my thoughts lately as well.

Growing old is not something that I ever thought would fill my thoughts. I am Image result for Billskeenly aware of the fact that I am not dealing with it with grace and dignity.

But… here I am, one week from my birthday and I have no choice but to accept the challenges that come with thoughts of bills, pills and hearing aid batteries.

It’s a slippery slope, my friends. Because when it comes to getting older, every day seems to be about accepting or rejecting some new normal in life. It could be knee caps that don’t quite bend the same, bladders that have minds of their own, backs that spasm when it starts to rain. It could be memory loss, declining agility, or muscle weakness. Maybe it’s diabetes with neuropathy in your feet and hands, or it could be your work life, thoughts of retirement, chronic pain, or anxiety.

These experiences and thoughts are the new normal… and they are everywhere.

Of course, we all have new challenges that come with aging. No one comes out unscathed. My own children will soon find out that they are not 23 anymore. They will soon accept that life is made up of having a comfortable chair to sit in, worrying about having enough money to pay the bills, having your prescription pills readily available anImage result for BIlls, Pills and HEaring Aid Batteriesd an ample supply of hearing aid batteries.  

I am learning to adapt to this life of growing older. I’m not dead yet. 

There still is more life to be lived… for all of us.

And we can begin that by embracing the fact that our bodies are not what they once were.  And sometimes there is nothing we can do about it. But, sometimes we can do a lot, or we can do a little that feels like a lot, or enough to make a difference in the quality of our lives. Personally, my hearing aids are game-changers for which I will be forever grateful.

And tonight while I am sitting in my comfy chair, I still will worry about having enough money for the bills. 

But life is good… I have my prescription pills on the ready and I do indeed have an ample supply of hearing aid batteries.

 

 

I Remain Restless

When I completed my book in early 2018, I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment.

I am proud of what it represents – not just for the woImage result for restlessrk I put into it, but the period of my life it captured.

Memories forever captured on paper.

But it has never felt like it would be my last accomplishment in this life.

I feel adamant that it is not.

And while so many people say they are going to write a book. Possibly one that would be “good enough” for people to want to purchase and to read. Most people never do it.

I did.  

However, I am convinced that there will be something else that will define me more than what I had done (or in this case, written).

Prior to writing the acknowledgments section of my book, I read so many “Acknowledgment” pages from so many other books. By and large, the authors of those books wrote about the labor of love that had been their book. They wrote in great detail about what others had meant to them in the process. Their acknowledgments sections suggested a sense of finality. Obviously for their accomplishment of finishing their book, but beyond that too. I didn’t have a desire to offer the same.

Accordingly, my acknowledgments section was short, direct. I thanked who I wanted to thank.

Mine was a conscious, stubborn move. It was symbolic – the equivalent of skipping the “press conference” after you won the Championship game.

I actually took more time to thank the artists that made the music that inspired me to write. 

My book is a milestone in my life, but it is nothing that will define me.

Something “else” will.

That aspect has been discussed many times on this site. The fact remains that I still remain unsure that I will ever find what that something “else” might be.

I have remained patient.

I want to be used of God in a greater way and I want to be used in a teaching role again one day.  

In the meantime, I am exploring opportunities with my job and hopefully get involved with corporate training.

Still, I remain restless.

Yes… my first book has been out for a few months.

I use “first” by design. Maybe there will be another one… maybe not.

Any book that I would write, after all, does not reflect my ultimate interest, ambition or passion for that matter.

A book should not represent my life’s work; rather, it should only represent a portion from a particular period of my life.

Related imageI continue to feel that there is something more… something “else”… that will define me more than what I have done.

I look towards the horizon. There is more for me to do.

I remain restless.

My Hometown Remains Resilient

I’ve witnessed wonderful things that come from living in a small town. I am amazed at how much everyone feels the same way when we go through things together. When the high school team wins a tough game, we all are excited. We rally around the team. The cheerleaders decorate the halls of the school to promote school spirit and support for the team. It stirs up hometown pride and we feel like we are a part of the team too.Image may contain: sky and outdoor

But the most remarkable thing I’ve ever witnessed is how we dealt with loss, grief, and pain. If you grew up in a small town, I am sure you’ll be able to relate to the things I’m about to say.

The accident that took the lives of my brother, his best friend and my cousin was a defining moment in my life. Its impact was significant. It changed my family. It changed me forever.

My life moved in a different direction because of the tragedy.

However, it did not take long for me to realize that I was not alone in suffering from the grief and guilt of losing someone so young and so much a part of your life.

If you pause for just a moment and think about it, our little town has had so much more than its fair share of loss. Especially when it comes to losing young people. We have lost so many teenagers long before they ever had a chance to experience all the good that this life can bring. While these tragic losses have been surrounded by many wonderful things like sports wins, proms, and graduations, the times of loss always seemed to outweigh the good.

Anybody from a small town can attest to the fact that if someone in your town experiences a loss, it somehow becomes your loss. Why is that? In no way do we feel the hurt that the family and friends of this individual feel, but we sImage result for Oak Harbor water toweree our community hurting and we empathize. It quickly takes us back to that time we experienced the loss of a loved one. Whether it was a sister, brother, cousin, friend, classmate, or significant other. We remember, and we hurt for the person going through the same thing.

This is a reminder that we are all connected in some way. You may not have known the person personally, but may remember them singing with the choir at church, or remember them coming to your house to play with your child. Your child may have ridden the bus with them, you may know their aunt from work, or their mom through a family friend. Either way, there’s a connection, and when you think about all that person could have been or had been while here on earth, you’re saddened.

When a loved one passes away in our small community, news travels fast. Tragic news from a single phone call spreads quickly. Hundreds of people across the area mourn because everyone knows everyone and is connected in some way.

Small towns have a reputation for everybody knowing your business, and for everyone being related in some way, but that’s not always a bad thing. While people usually respond to this issue with an eye roll, this kind of connection results in a stronger community than I have been able to find anywhere else. At the end of the day, we stick together and support one another in times of crisis.

The list of children, teenagers and young adults from Oak Harbor that have died is devastating. I do not have a complete list, but I know that during my life, at least 40 young people have passed on from our small town. There may have been more. Many of them died after I left Oak Harbor, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t affect me. The list is so long that I could not mention them all. I fear that I would inadvertently leave one off the list. I never want to treat a life lived with so little concern that I might possibly offend one of the affected families.

So, I can only speak to those that had an impact on me during my time living in Oak Harbor. Again, please know this, I have no intention of offending any family or having anyone feeling slighted because I missed mentioning someone.

Regardless of how old or how they have passed on, each loss of a loved one is hard. However, the loss when they are young is the hardest. You don’t expect people to be taken away from you so soon.

This chapter has been hard to write, but I remember being at the baseball diamond at R.C. Waters School waiting for the game to start when we were told to gather around the bench. Our coach told us that there would be no game that night due to a farming accident that took the life of our teammate, Jeff Hurrell.

I know exactly where I was when I was told that our classmate, Danny Neitz, had passed away. It was the first time I had ever known someone who died of cancer.

The September morning in 1974 after Scott Harder and Tom Apling were killed in a car accident was surreal because just a few days before I had talked to them about my brother Bobby’s accident.

On December 4, 1971, five students were killed in a single car accident coming home from Penta County Vocational School. Those students, Jim Foreman, Tom Shanteau, Donald Whiting, Jim Pierson and Earle Douglas were all getting ready to graduate that spring.

Combined with my brother’s accident, these represent 12 teenagers taken from a town of 2,500 in population in less than four years (1970 – 1974).

Again, there may have been more but these are the ones I remember.

There was another event that took place during those four short years of the early 70’s that had a profound influence on me and on our little town.

I think it was about 9:00 AM when I heard the helicopter. It was loud and it sounded like it was landing right outside the window of our 8th grade Ohio History class. Mr. Morse stopped teaching and we all looked out the window of our classroom to see if we could see where it landed. We knew it was close because of the sound but we could not see it. Mr. Morse told us to stay in the classroom as he stepped outside to investigate.

After a few minutes, Mr. Morse returned and said that the helicopter landed on the Related imagepractice field right next to the high school. He told us that a police car picked up a few people from the helicopter and they had left.

In a small town like ours, this was big news. I had never heard of a helicopter landing on the high school practice field before and we all were wondering what was going on.

As the day wore on there were rumors and stories floating around about who was in the helicopter. Some were saying it was someone famous and others were saying it was just someone visiting the mayor. What we would find out about why this helicopter landed in Oak Harbor would change how I slept at night.

In the early hours of November 12, 1974, a few area young men broke into a local bar in downtown Oak Harbor. They broke into a few coin machines at the bar and took a few bottles of alcohol. They left that bar and went driving around and after they finished off the bottles, they drove to the Northland Bait and Sporting Goods store located on North Locust Street.

Around 4:00 AM, they removed a side window and entered the store. They were going to steal some guns and ammunition and during that process a hunting decoy was knocked over. This woke up the owner’s dog and it started to bark.

After the dog started to bark, Mrs. Musser, the owner, came down the stairs to see why. Unknowingly, she walked into an ongoing burglary. The young men that were involved immediately pulled out the handguns and rifle they had just stolen and pointed them at her. She was then led to the back of the store where they took a scarf and made it into a blindfold and covered her eyes. They had been in the store before and they were afraid that she could identify them.

Gretchen Musser, along with her husband, was the owner of the bait store. I knew Mrs. Musser and she knew me. Also, she knew my brother Bobby before he died.

I used to go to the store often. Sometimes to buy a pop or some candy after playing football or baseball games with the kids that lived at the north end of town. Also, I would go to the store when Kenny Wheeler, our next-door neighbor, would take me fishing with him. We would stop in the store and buy worms and tackle for our Image result for fishing tacklefishing trips. She wasn’t always working in the store, but she was there enough for her to know that I was the youngest Lee boy.

These men kidnapped her and took her with them when they left the store.

The helicopter that landed just outside of the school that morning was the FBI that came to assist the local police in finding Mrs. Musser. All the authorities knew was that there had been a robbery and that she was missing. For our little town, this was devastating. We never even considered locking the doors to our house, let alone comprehending the horror of someone kidnapping another person.

News travels fast in a small town. It wasn’t long before the whole town was aware of the situation and the shock wave of fear had made its way to each home. Suddenly, people were locking their doors and keeping their lights on all night.

Everyone was on alert. Questions that this small town never had to face before were on the mind of every person. Who could have done this? Why did they do it and most importantly, where was Mrs. Musser?

Those questions would be answered three days later when one of the young men who was involved confessed to the police what happened.

Within a half-hour after breaking into the store, they took Mrs. Musser to a barn a few miles away and took her life.

For the first time, I realized the evil that people can do. Up to this point in my life, I had never known evil in our small town. Sure, I had endured and experienced tragedy and loss, but not pure evil. Those things happened in big towns, cities and other places. It was something that you heard on the news, or read in the newspaper. It wasn’t found a few blocks from your home.

I think of Mrs. Musser often. I have not forgotten a wonderful woman that just wanted to live long enough to see her grandchildren. She was cheated out of that. She was cheated out of a full life by the hands of a few young men.

For a long time, there is no doubt that the events that took the life of Mrs. Musser, porch Lightchanged our town. Suddenly, people withdrew and kept to themselves. I stopped knowing all the names of people that moved into my neighborhood. Porch lights that once offered warm invitations for everyone to visit, were now burning cold and protective. They were now used as shields of defense to keep people away.

It took a while for it to get back to normal, or should I say, the “new normal.” I am not sure we ever “got back” to how it was before that November day in 1974.

Once innocence is shattered, it cannot be put back as it once was.

Most people never stopped locking their doors and porch lights still functioned as security lights. As a community, we have withdrawn and do not know the person that lives down the street.

Personally, I have locked my doors every day since that day.

However, this truth remains… in difficult times, our small town remains resilient.

We rally around each other in times of tragedy and the loss of loved ones, regardless of age.

My hope and prayer is that even with our differences and perspectives, the values and way of life that was established when the village of Hartford was founded will forever be found in the people of Oak Harbor.Oak-Harbor-Residences-Logo

The Measure of a Life Lived

My dad tImage may contain: David Michael Lee and Doug Randlett, people smiling, people standing, eyeglasses and beardurned 89 yesterday. 

He was born June 8, 1929.

For my dad, it’s the kind of age where people who don’t even know him say things to me like “oh that’s a good age”, or “they had a good life”.  

Other than a few issues he had a number of years ago he is in good health. I love the fact that he has lived a long life. I hope he has many years left to live this precious thing we call life.

Today is my brother’s birthday.

He was born on June 9, 1956.

He would have turned 62 today.

He didn’t live past the age of 14.  

When I talk of my brother Bobby, I tell them he died at 14.  People immediately change their demeanor and they say how tragic. They end up saying something about how his life was cheated and it was too young.  

Bobby
My brother, Bobby.

I get it.  I understand what they mean.

However it causes me to pause and one of these days I will respond, instead of with a smile (the just-nod-and-smile type of smile), with what I really want to ask, which is “what was bad about only living to 14? or what is so good about living to 89? what makes you say that?”

This isn’t a suggestion that either had a bad life… or necessarily a good life.  I’m not going to go there.

The value of a life lived is not for me to determine.

Society tends to judge the value of a life simply by its length.  

A complete stranger who couldn’t even tell you my father’s name, let alone anything about him, could make a comment about him having had ‘a good life’, seeing it as good simply for its length.

Imagine if we judged everything this way!

“How is that book you’re reading?”

    “Well it’s 1321 pages”

“Wow, sounds amazing – I’ll have to borrow it after you!”

The question remains….1321 pages of what? Meaningless drivel?

The length of a book has no impact on the value of that book.

Now… in no way am I implying that my dad’s life has not been a good one.  I believe he has and will continue to live a good life. But simply because of my dad’s age, doesn’t mean that a life lived into their 90’s was a good life.  Nor does it mean that because my brother died at 14 that his life wasn’t good either.

I’m not interested in the length of someone’s life. 100 years, 89 years, 57 years, 14 years. This tells you nothing.  It doesn’t tell you if they had a ‘good life’ or not.

I want to know the breadth of their life.  I want to know how wide they lived, not how long.  How much did they take from life? How much did they give? How much did they love? How true were they to themselves?  How true were they to their dreams and what mattered to them?

People struggle with accepting death because anything less than 80 or so years is considered not enough or unfair somehow – but this is no way to measure living.    

It’s time to stop measuring the value and worth of a life by the time it has occupied.

We ought to measure life… not by how many years were lived… but by how the days of their life were lived.

After the Words are Written

I recently finished writing a book. For the first time in over a year, my weekends, nights, and early mornings haven’t being spent obsessing over writing.

Image result for The end typewriterI thought the completion of a major project would result in a feeling of elation, but by placing that one last period on the page, I created a vast empty space in my life.

I feel empty and my mind as has been blank of ideas to write about and I can’t seem to get past these feelings.

It has taken me a month to even feel enough creativity to put these words down on a page.

I don’t know what to do with myself, and since the release of my book on Amazon, I have nothing but a fear of rejection and wondering if people would read it, not to mention would they enjoy it they did.

But none of it has anything to do with reality, it’s just in my head.

The truth is, I have had some wonderful feedback. However, for the record, I know not everyone thinks that the book as good as some other people have expressed. Some responses have been kind because they want to be nice and are friends of my family.

I bounce between wonderful, encouraging comments from people, to negative thoughts of why I didn’t sell a book today and why aren’t people putting feedback on the Amazon website.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions.

There were moments when I was working on this project and it felt endless, it felt like it could go on forever, and it would never end. And then there is an end, and I wonder if I have it in me to ever write another word again.

I have done some research and I have found that I’m not the only one who has experienced the post-project-completion blues.

One writer recRelated imageently wrote that “Finishing writing a book is like taking all of your possessions and clothes out in the backyard and burning them.  You now are exposed for the world to see and you have nothing left that is yours.”

I can relate.

For me, the only thing that is worse than after the words are written for your book is when you feel there is nothing else to write about.

So, if you see me walking around, looking a bit grieved the next few months, be gentle. I am probably still mourning and dealing with coming up with new projects after the words have been written.