Rest In Peace Ron and Peggy Fredson

My 89 year-old father-in-law died Monday. My 90 year-old mother-in-law died today, less than 60 hours later. It wasn’t heartbreak as much as an inexplicable cosmic coincidence that they damn near crossed the finish line side-by-side.

How do you fill the void?

They were from Two Harbors, Minnesota, a ‘Grandma’s Marathon’ north of Duluth on the edge of Lake Superior. They spent most of their lives in Southern and Central California before moving to Washington State five years ago. They were married for 67 years.

I never saw them get angry at each other. It was a 1st Corinthians love. Somehow, they mastered the whole marriage thing, remaining extremely close until the end.

I couldn’t have asked for a better father-in-law. “It’s about time,” he said when I told him I was going to marry his daughter in a Marie Calendar’s bathroom in Long Beach, California.

Ron took me to a lot of good golf courses and always paid for my green fees. He would brag about my golf game even when it was nothing to brag about. He trusted me with his BMW which Lynn and I would take to the San Luis Obispo swimming pool. He loved that car and pushed it a little harder than I sometimes liked. He took great pride in his citrus trees and he was an oenophile. A rare, down-to-earth oenophile. Despite his professional and economic successes in California, he was always small town Minnesota. There wasn’t a pretentious bone in his body. Just. Like. My. Dad.

Peg never took me golfing. And if I’m being honest, I wasn’t as close to Peg as I was Ron, but we grew fond of each other in the last decade. And for that I’m grateful. I’m especially grateful for the childhood she provided Lynn. With Ron, she chose her in a Los Angeles hospital and sowed many of her clothes among innumerable other acts of love. Unlike me, she was quite formal and proper. So much so, Lynn’s brother absolutely lost it the first time I swore at their dinner table (must have been the red wine).

Less obvious was her physical and emotional toughness. I suppose it’s hard not to be tough growing up on the edge of Lake Superior. In that regard, she was Just. Like. My. Mom.

I am forever indebted to both Ron and Peg for picking Lynn and providing her an unconditional love that so obviously lives on in her. And I am forever indebted to them for the profound love they had for Alison and Jeanette. That lives on through them too.

Maybe that’s how we fill the void. By loving others as we have been loved.

Blessed be their memory.

Louisville’s Lakeside Swim Club

Dig the pictures. From the time I was 3 to 9 years-old, my family lived on Cardiff Road in Louisville, eight miles from this gem according to Google Maps.

I did not know LSC existed until stumbling upon this article. My fam frequented the much closer Plantation Country Club on a daily basis. Yes, you read that correctly, Plantation Country Club. Here’s some history on it. In short, it was an inexpensive, decidedly middle class public swim/tennis/golf club that no longer exists. My sister and a friend taught me to swim there. My brother was a 10-meter dare-devil jumping legend. I started playing golf there when I was 5 or 6. It was a nine hole executive course with lots of par 3s and short 4s. The first hole was about 75 yards long and I dominated it. My tennis greatness can also be traced back to Plantation. As well as my chronic skin cancer.

Hard to believe that when I was 6 and 7 years old, I’d lay a couple of clubs and a putter across my bicycle handlebars and ride to the course, crossing a very busy thoroughfare on the way. A benefit of being the fourth child I suppose.

My most vivid memory of those years—besides the Twinkies—was a family dinner after a long summer’s day on the links. I was a young Tommy Bolt. Earlier that evening, unbeknownst to me, my dad drove past the course on his way home from selling kitchen appliances at General Electric at the exact moment I let a club fly into the upper atmosphere. As dinner drew to a close, my dad said, “If I EVER see you toss another club, those will be your last ones!” And then it kinda ramped up from there.

My dinner plate overflowed with tears. And I never threw another club. Half of this paragraph is true.

Are You ‘Misliving’?

William Irvine’s The Guide To The Good Life is an attempt to reinvent Stoicism for the 21st Century. Irvine argues that everyone should have a philosophy of life that includes specific strategies for achieving their primary objective(s) in life. Absent an intentional plan, at the end of life, people will regret that they have “mislived”.

Put differently, one should live intentionally, not spontaneously. He acknowledges few people do so mostly because of the “endless stream of distractions” that keeps them from clarifying what’s most important. And he made that point before social media and streaming television both exploded.

If pressed though, I’m guessing Irvine would acknowledge rewarding times in his life when he acted spontaneously, when he said yes to an unexpected invitation or adventure.

I wonder if the answer to the dilemma of just how intentional to be in planning one’s life lies in the tides, meaning there should be some sort of natural ebb and flow between intentionality and spontaneity.

The older other people and I get, the more set we become in our daily routines. Losing some of our youthful spontaneity, we should carefully consider the improvisors’ dictum of always saying YES. Okay, “always” is unrealistic, but what about “more often”?

A LOT of my acquaintances and friends have died lately, almost all of them from cancer, a scourge we may be sleeping on amidst the endemic. Being my age, their deaths have got me thinking about my own.

Despite not having an explicit philosophy of life, if I die sometime soon, and have time to reflect on my six decades*, I wouldn’t at all think I had mislived. Quite the opposite. I would be grateful for all the meaningful friendships; all the socially redeeming work; and all the fond memories of things including athletics, traveling, and especially family.

Lately, I’ve felt a deep and profound sense of contentment for most everything including my new and improved health, our home, and the natural environment in which it sits.

That very spiritual sense of contentment doesn’t have to conspire against saying YES to new invitations and adventures does it? To continual growth?

Presently, I’m most interested in personal growth. Professionally there’s nothing I feel a need to accomplish. My plan is to spend my remaining days learning to listen more patiently and empathetically to others—whether the Good Wife, my daughters, you, my students, everyone. That could easily take several more decades. Guess I should keep exercising and eating healthily.

*meaning not on my bike :) 

The Irrelevance of Other People’s Feelings

The title of Ruth Whippman’s newest essay is “What We Are Not Teaching Boys About Being Human”. I’ve long been perplexed by why my female students are, on average, so much more successful than my male ones. Whippman’s insights strike me as the beginning of what inevitably is a multifaceted answer.

The heart of the matter, according to Whippman:

“The lack of positive people-focused stories for boys has consequences both for them and girls. In the narratives they consume, as well as the broader cultural landscape in which they operate, girls get a huge head start on relational skills, in the day-to-day thorniness and complexity of emotional life. Story by story, girls are getting the message that other people’s feelings are their concern and their responsibility. Boys are learning that these things have nothing to do with them.”

What I’m Watching

Not counting the just completed Open Championship and the Tour de France, overlapping highlights of the sporting calendar that seriously taxed my DVR and remote control skills.

I’m deep into Shtisel on Netflix. I may as well be living in Jerusalem. The three season series was a huge hit among American Jews, but this gentile digs it too.

Tonight I watched Season 1, Episode 11 which is my favorite so far. The series beautifully depicts the costs and benefits of strict religious community. And also, the costs and benefits of extremely close families.

The slower pacing, the incredible background music, the covert sexuality all make for an incredibly unique and rewarding experience.

Unless you’re hopelessly modern, book your flight for Jerusalem soon, you won’t be disappointed.

‘I Want To Play For You’

ESPN reports that five-star basketball recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. has committed to Milwaukee of the Horizon League, spurning offers from the likes of Duke, Georgetown and Virginia to join his father Patrick Baldwin Sr., the Panthers’ head coach since 2017.

I’ve never heard of the Milwaukee Panthers, but I’m a fan of the Baldwins now.

“Baldwin recalled the moment he told his parents he was staying home and playing for Milwaukee.

‘I walked in the room and said, ‘I have something to share with you. I want to play for you.’ He gave me a hug, started crying and left the room,” Baldwin said. “My mom and dad left the decision up to me. They gave me insight during the process but left the decision up to me.'”

At 6’10”, Baldwin is a passer, ball handler, and perimeter shooter. Basketball is of course a team game; still, I expect the Panthers to win more than they lose next season.

Why Bill And Melinda Are Calling It Quits

Melinda can’t take it anymore.

Instead of making his own lattes, Bill drives through Starbucks every damn day. Instead of walking public golf courses, he rents carts at private country clubs. Instead of parking his own car at those clubs, he uses valets. Instead of buying pre-owned cars that use regular gas, he buys new ones that require premium. Instead of investing in low cost index funds, he invests in expensive, actively managed mutual funds. Instead of making dinner at home, he frequents a diverse rotation of restaurants. Instead of having his bond funds in tax-free accounts, he has them in taxable ones. Instead of buying groceries in bulk at Costco, he makes repeated trips to Whole Foods. Instead of lifting and running with the boys, he uses a personal trainer. Instead of checking books out from the library, he buys hardbacks. Instead of mowing the lawn, he uses a “landscape service”.

It’s enough to drive any woman crazy.