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.

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 :) 

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.

A Hard Pass On Psychedelics

Ever pressed pause and asked yourself why LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs are trending?

Here are some explanations from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs have been used for a variety of reasons (Bogenschutz, 2012; Bonson, 2001). Historically, hallucinogenic plants have been used for religious rituals to induce states of detachment from reality and precipitate ‘visions’ thought to provide mystical insight or enable contact with a spirit world or ‘higher power.’ More recently, people report using hallucinogenic drugs for more social or recreational purposes, including to have fun, help them deal with stress, or enable them to enter into what they perceive as a more enlightened sense of thinking or being. Hallucinogens have also been investigated as therapeutic agents to treat diseases associated with perceptual distortions, such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and dementia. Anecdotal reports and small studies have suggested that ayahuasca may be a potential treatment for substance use disorders and other mental health issues, but no large-scale research has verified its efficacy (Barbosa, 2012).”

Apart from the potential to help with substance abuse disorders and other mental health issues, I don’t find any of the other rationales convincing. Their appeal seems to speak to people’s discontentment with having more of their needs met than any other people at any other time in world history. 

Maybe this is just another case of Okay Boomerism, but I never wake up wishing for more mystical insight. More Sea Salt Caramel gelato in the freezer yes (or dark Raspberry Chocolate), but not a more enlightened sense of thinking or being. I’ll be sitting this one out because I’m content with my current anemic level of insight, thinking, and being. 

Clean Machine

I have no idea why I sporadically have to clean everything. Instead of picking away at things like a normal person, I tend to go whole hog. Just don’t get in my way when the tidying up spirit overtakes me.

Case in point, this morning I vacuumed the whole house at 6:30a.m. Sure, that coulda been on account of me delaying the morning run, but when I returned from my appointed rounds, I washed the car and then the road bike. Thoroughly.

In hindsight, yesterday’s bathroom top-to-bottoms foreshadowed today’s manic cleaning.

Everything can now get dirty.  The cleaning spirit departeth as mysteriously as it arriveth.

If You’re Not Looking Forward To It, You’re Doing it Wrong

I enjoy watching Lionel Sanders triathlon training videos on YouTube. I dig his honesty and no-nonsense competitiveness. He said something in a recent one that was particularly insightful. Tying his shoes before a track workout, he said, “If you’re not looking forward to it (meaning workouts generally), you’re doing it wrong.”

Great advice for any walker, hiker, tennis player, yoga aficionado, swimmer, cyclist, runner. Whether you’re looking forward to your activity is a great litmus test of whether you’re overtrained or just going through the motions out of habit. What would it be like to be fully present and genuinely appreciative each time you lace em’ up?

Last night, before expiring, my final thought was, “I’m fortunate I get to swim tomorrow morning.”

This Tuesday afternoon I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with Brett near the very end of the “Mostly Retired Lunch Hour” ride. Brett is the Presiding Judge at our County’s Courthouse and one of two regulars on the ride still working full-time (I’m half-time). In his mid-60’s, I asked him if he has an “end-date” in mind. He said he’s up for re-election in a year and a half and he’ll have another four-year term. Groovy confidence, but what I most digged was how much he enjoys his work. I told him it was really refreshing to hear since it seems to me that 8 to 9 out of every 10 of my peers are counting down the days until they can stop working.

Brett talked about the Court’s ‘rona inspired virtual proceedings and how engaging the associated intellectual challenges were. And about how much he enjoys working with young attorneys and other people. And about how no one will give a damn about what he thinks as soon as he unplugs. Irrespective of his age and all his peers exiting the stage, he looks forward to what the next several years of work will bring.

He also acknowledged that “we live in a beautiful spot” and that he can enjoy playing outdoors when not working. Because of that, he said he doesn’t feel compelled to move anywhere.

As we approached his Courthouse’s start and end point, he said to me, “It was great riding with you again Professor. It was nice to have a little infusion of intellect.” I think he emphasized little, but still, I’m concerned his judgement may be lacking.