Thanksgiving – 2010

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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There have been bleak seasons this year during which I have been able to find little for which to be thankful. I think that this is the nature of such horrible times. These episodes reduce our capacity to appreciate all of the joys of life and beat us into a numbness which blinds us to our blessings. I am still trudging cold and lonely through that wintry landscape. Nevertheless, I recognise that things could be a lot worse. In fact, If I am honest with myself, I can see that regardless of what is to me a great tragedy in my life I have much for which I should be thankful.

This is going to be a therapy session for me. Stick around if you like.

Time seems to fall naturally for me now into two distinct segments, my life before 2010 and this year. If I had a choice in the matter, I’d delete this year and start it over with a new script. However, that’s not my department. I’m but an actor, not a very good one. I tend to want to change the lines.

As for my life before 2010, I have no major complaints. I certainly have some regrets, but they are all of my own creation. Beginning in 1964 my life changed drastically for the better and it only improved with time for forty-six years. The agent of that amazing  change was my wife, Eunice Mae Messersmith, know to us as Eunie. I can’t imagine receiving a greater gift if I lived for a thousand years. Life may someday be good again for me, but it will never be the same.

I am in excellent health and I have a strong, fit body. I have all of my teeth and all of my hair. I have a comfortable house to live in and adequate income from my work to sustain me. I can’t imagine having friends who are more loving and supportive. They have kept me alive for the last few months. I have family who care for me, though I have long been a black sheep.

Before this year my life was unscathed by disaster, untouched by tragedy. It is as if it was all being saved up for 2010. At least that’s the way it seems to me from this seat. Everything goes along so very fine and then WHAM – it’s the big one. We all know it’s coming, but we’re never in the least prepared for it. Having had no previous experience with such utter desolation, I was less prepared than most. A charmed life does not teach one much about submitting to such crushing blows.

Nevertheless, not everything was bad. Some very good things happened. Some blessings were poured out. It’s time to count them.

The year began with an event for which I had been wishing for years. Eunie was elected as the Director of Pioneer Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea. Given a thousand words to place here I still could not tell you how much this meant to me. I’ll only say that it was something that I had been hoping to happen for my dear wife, something which gave her a tangible reward for her many years of faithful service. This was a blessing.

When Eunie was assigned to go to Fiji as a representative of the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry I was very happy for her, but I had decided not to go with her because of the expense. I would have to pay for my airline tickets. At the last minute I changed my mind because  I simply did not want to be separated from her for three weeks. I am very glad now that I did decide to go. It was our last holiday together. I’ll remember it always. This was a blessing.

The episode of Eunie’s illness and death was horrible. I’ve told it all here in previous posts, so I won’t relive the misery now.

Friends came to our aid with comfort and support of all kinds. We had a home away from home. We had the best medical care available. The cancer which took Eunie, though nearly always fatal, does not force the victim to languish in pain without hope. We knew early on that it was a matter of weeks or days. It was astonishingly quick going about its filthy task. There is a time for everything under heaven. There is a time to die. Eunie hated pain and wanted no part of suffering. She experienced very little of either. She didn’t have to suffer through chemo and radiation therapy with very little hope. She didn’t have to lose her beautiful white hair. Even in this, there was a blessing.

I have now, mostly due to the hard work of my great friend Trevor, sent in the last of the health insurance claims. Because Eunie departed so hastily, I am not destroyed financially, as many survivors are. I have successfully claimed Eunie’s modest life insurance benefit and the money is in my bank account. As uncomfortable as I feel in saying so, I must admit that these are blessings.

I have sold Eunie’s Spitfire to a cousin in Indiana. It is still in the family. This is a blessing.

I have received a favourable evaluation of my house in Brownsburg and it is now listed for sale. This is a blessing – one which might grow bigger if the sale price is to my benefit and it sells quickly.

I have finally found a suitable grave marker and am negotiating to get it up here from Australia.

I have begun to learn to manage my personal finances and am beginning to take control. I will have more peace of mind and be better able to live frugally and sensibly when I complete this process. This is a blessing.

Though I have undoubtedly neglected to mention many more blessings, that brings me more or less up to date.

My most recent blessing arrived yesterday – Thanksgiving Day 2010. To tell about this I must first visit the past.

Eunie started one of our Madang Family traditions more than twenty-five years ago. It was her great pleasure to invite as many guests from as many nations as possible to fill our home to its maximum capacity and feed them a delicious traditional American Thanksgiving Day meal. The price of admission to the love feast was to listen to Eunie’s lecture about the history of the holiday. Some people have heard that lecture many times. Nobody has ever complained.

When I received an invitation to the home of Chris and Ruth for an American Thanksgiving feast I was happy to hear that someone was celebrating the holiday, but I did not know how I would handle it. I am still very unsure of my emotional reactions. Some things which I reckoned would be very difficult for me have turned out to be less troublesome. Other situations which seemed to be innocuous have sent me reeling. I did not respond to the invitation.

Then Michaela, a friend from one of my favourite cities, Vienna, scolded me one evening when she told me that Eunie would be very angry if I did not go to the celebration. Sometimes it is a very good thing for me to be scolded.

This is Ruth, my lovely hostess for Thanksgiving Day:

I had it in mind to take many photos yesterday evening. The setting sun dappled Ruth with its light and warmth in this shot. It was the only picture that I took. I was too busy soaking up the love to bother with my camera.

Chris delivered a Thanksgiving Day lecture which would have made Eunie proud of him. Some said that it was virtually word-for-word the same as they had nearly memorised by now from hearing Eunie’s speeches. Then Richard Jones spoke of the long Madang tradition of  Eunie’s Thanksgiving Day feasts. I was reduced to tears once again – so many tears in 2010. The difference was that these were tears of joy – the first of that kind which I have shed this year.

This was truly a blessing.

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The Shoes of Happiness and Some Scary Cops

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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A couple of nights ago I was awakened by an employee (no names in this post) who told me that he was watching armed robbers rampaging through the house of a prominent Madang resident. He said that he had tried to get the police on the phone, but there was no answer. This is not an uncommon complaint. I tried several times and was just about to jump in the car to drive to the station when an officer answered who recognised my voice. He is the same cop who caught the kid who stole my camera from me on the street in front of my office.

I reported the ongoing incident and then drove to the station to make sure that a vehicle had been dispatched. I met there a somewhat scraggly looking guy, who I presumed (hoped) was a policeman. He said that a ten-seater had been sent to the scene. He opened a door to retrieve what appeard to me to be an ancient Enfield .303 army rifle from WWI. He then indicated that he wanted a ride in my car to the scene.

By the time we got there, the assailants had apparently fled. The police were walking around wishing that they had some light. I drove back home to fetch two powerful lights (Yanks call them flashlights. Here they are called torches.).  When I got back, there were reports that some of the horrible creeps who beat up a woman in her house were hiding out in the surrounding garden waiting for a chance to escape.

The cops took my lights and left me walking around with a big rock in each hand. I find it very strange how reason departs and leaves one fearless (or foolhardy) if the anger level is sufficiently high. I was there with two mates who had heard from the victim and responded to help get things moving. We were all furious at the incident. I was going around looking for someone to bash and sincerely hoping that I would not find anyone. The guys had guns, but there are few manufactured weapons about. The homemade guns usually associated with our thugs are of dubious utility. Nevertheless, I’m not interested in testing their efficacy on myself.

What may be of interest to you is this photograph of the police officers who responded to the call (there were others). Meaning no disrespect at all to our Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, I can image that certain readers might be alarmed by their appearance. They are simply not what one expects to see when the cops show up at your house in the middle of the night:

PNG Cops

In fact, they are nearly as scary as the criminals. It does help to understand that these guys really are here to protect us. Most of us are not in disagreement with the general operational procedure of, “Shoot them if you can. Capture and prosecute if you must.” There are a lot of very dangerous people around here. These fellows are our only defence, God bless ’em. But they are pretty scary looking for cops.

It hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that Madang is becoming an increasingly dirty, disheveled, poorly governed and dangerous place. The question remains: Is anybody going to do anything about it or do we simply hang on and enjoy the ride to hell?

Okay, enough of that. The victim is recovering well, heavily bruised, but otherwise unhurt. I just heard from a friend that two of the assailants are now in custody. This means that the remaining three will probably soon be caught, since the cops are very persuasive in their techniques of extracting information.

Let’s move to a happier subject. Last Saturday evening we had an American Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We’ve been doing this for many, many years. It’s always a good party. All of our guests arrived by boat. They then marched up through the yard to our house, leaving their shoes outside on the veranda, as is the local custom. Here are the happy shoes of the happy people inside our happy house:The Shoes of HappinessLest we all develop diabetes from this sugary moment, let’s move on to some sun.

Here is yesterday morning’s sunrise:Sunrise PanoramaQuite pretty, even by our standards.

I like this telephoto shot from the middle because, if you click to enlarge, you can see many Flying Foxes returning from their nightly raid on the local gardens and rain-forest:Sunrise with Flying Foxes
They will spend the day resting in the trees, screeching and droping fragrant fruit bombs on the unwary.

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Being Thankful

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 30th, 2008 by MadDog
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I reckon that that are more people in the world than we would like to think about who have little to be thankful for.

Sure, you can always point out that being alive in these dangerous times is a blessing – compared to so many who so recently aren’t – alive, that is.

But, if you look at the human misery so common in these days when it seems that we have the means to alleviate at least some of it, sometimes just being alive doesn’t appear to be much of a blessing.

Therefore, if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re not such an unfortunate that you’re denied by fate the simple capability to connect to the internet. If you think about that, you might realize that that alone puts you in a class of elite persons.

You probably don’t need to worry if you’ll have enough to eat tomorrow. You’re likely not in so dangerous or desolate a place that you have no basic facilities.

In other words, compared to much of humanity, you have a lot to be thankful for.

Oddly, the simplest things often evoke immense gratitude in my thoughts. For instance – this morning’s sunrise:

Thanksgiving Day sunrise

I look around my empty house – Eunie in the kitchen making last preparations for our annual Thanksgiving party – guests having not yet arrived:

The empty lounge

It’s not a mansion. But, it’s better than I ever thought I’d have. It’s more luxurious than (I’m certain) more than a small part of humanity is fortunate enough to enjoy:

The dining area is prepared

Should this make me feel smug delight? It might at times. Mostly, however, it shames me a bit. Why should I be blessed with such abundance when others, as worthy or worthier, must mine their happiness from poorer ground.

Friends arrive. Eunie gives her annual “Thanksgiving Day Lecture.” I say a few words about how we all have different faiths – some little or none – but we all, on this special night, can take time to appreciate our great fortune and possibly find a bit of humility when we consider why we enjoy abundance while others have nothing:

Eunie's annual Thanksgiving Day Lecture

And then it’s time for the feasting. Nobody turns down an offer to come to eat at our house. Eunie is an excellent cook, among her many other accomplishments:

Guests enjoying Eunie's feast

Our Thanksgiving Day dinner is one of my favourite times of each year. We’ve been doing it for twenty-five years or more. I’d like to do it for another twenty-five.

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

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