Stuff, by Rich Paschall

Only his neighbor Jorge knew the old guy was sick.  In fact, Mr. Casten had been failing for almost two years.  Whenever Jorge saw the old man, he asked if there was anything he could do to help.  When Mr. Casten was not seen for a week, Jorge would go knock on his door.  If the old guy felt well enough he would stand in the doorway and talk for a while.  If it was morning, he would invite Jorge in for a cup of coffee.

By the time Casten had passed away, Jorge probably knew him as well as anyone.  Their little chats on the stairs, in the doorway or at the kitchen table revealed a lot about an old guy who had lived alone in the same small apartment most of his adult life.  The place was stuffed with memories and memorabilia.

Mr. Casten had collected and saved things throughout life, but in the last few years he tried to de-clutter his small existence.  He gave things away to charity resale shops.  He sent pictures he had from his parents on to other relatives.  He even sold some items on eBay.  It was all too late to clean up the house, however.  Mr. Casten’s small efforts were not enough after a lifetime of accumulation.

Since there were no siblings, no children, no mate, the matter of cleanup and disposal was left to a crew of cousins.  Jorge know just who to call as Mr. Casten had prepared a list of contacts in case of his untimely demise.  Although Mr. Casten was only in his late 60’s, his death arrived right on schedule the way Jorge saw it.  Mr. Casten has gone as far as he could.

When the cousins arrived one Saturday morning to clean out the apartment, Jorge was waiting with the key that had been entrusted to him by Mr. Casten.  Four cousins and two of their teen age sons figured they would make fast work of the four room apartment.  They figured wrong.

“Oh my, who knew one person could collect so much stuff,” cousin Raymond declared.  “This could take all day!”

“Mr. Casten said to tell you guys to be sure to take for yourselves anything you want, then give anything else that is still good to charity.”

“And did you take something, Jorge?” cousin David said in a rather accusing tone.

“Yes,” Jorge replied calmly.  “I took the coffee cup he always gave me to drink out of.  It was the only thing I wanted.”

“Well, I heard he had a good baseball card collection,” cousin Jeff chimed in.  “I would like to have that if we can find it.”

“He’s got a lot of CDs here,” Raymond said in amazement.  “I think I will see what I need.”

“Hey dad,” one of the teenagers shouted out to David.  “He’s got a lot of DVDs. I am going to see if he has anything decent to watch”

As they randomly picked through the goods, cousin John grabbed one of the teenagers and said, “Let’s get to work.  With those guys working so hard out there, we will never get out of here!”

So John and a bored teenager went to the kitchen in search of large garbage bags.  “Under the sink,” Jorge instructed.

Armed with a box of bags, Jorge, John and the teenager went to the bedroom to empty closets and drawers.  John told the teenager to take everything in the closets and put it in bags for donation.  If it looked in bad shape, he should put it in a separate bag for the garbage.  John decided to do the same with the dresser.

As John and Jorge took items from the dresser, they found many new things in each drawer.  There were clothes with tags, new socks and underwear in packages, pajamas that were never worn and sweaters that looked new.

“I thought the old guy could not afford much,” John said in amazement.

“I think he was always afraid of running out of something,” Jorge said.  “He told me more than once that he was afraid to be poor and have nothing, so he kept everything and did not use anything until he needed it.”

“If he lived another 10 years he would not have to buy any clothes,” John said somewhat incredulously.

“Yeah, I think that was the idea,” Jorge noted.

Mr. Casten’s mother had grown up in the Great Depression.  She had nothing, so in her adult life she saved everything.  Anything that had value or possible use, she would save for whenever she might need it.  Of course, she had many things she never used, but they were there “just in case.”

When Casten was young, he knew they did not have much and he saw how his mother managed to get through the years with what they accumulated.  He naturally took on the same habits.  While everything may have seemed a jumbled mess to outside observers, especially cousins who never came to call, it was an organized home for Mr. Casten.

After many runs to the resale shop and the outside garbage cans, the crew had made a good deal of progress.  John declared he would return with one of the boys to finish the job the next day.

“That box in the corner marked pictures should also say ‘Cousins’ on the top,” Jorge remembered to tell them. “You should take that with you.”

“What would we want with a box of old pictures?” David said rather sarcastically.

So Jorge explained that collection.  “Mr. Casten thought that maybe someone would want to see them at a wake or service to remember how he looked, since he had not been invited to any family event in years.  I would guess you guys would be in a lot of those pictures from long ago.”

The cousins said nothing.  John grabbed the box on the way out.

Jorge closed the door.

See also: “The Accumulation of Stuff,” Reducing Clutter


Reducing Clutter, by Rich Paschall

When my grandfather retired and my grandparents moved back to Tennessee from Chicago where they had lived for close to twenty years, they gave away many items they felt they no longer needed.  Chief among them was a snow blower.  “What if it snows, grandpa?” I asked.  He explained that in the unlikely event of snow, it would melt off in a day or two.  There was no need for something they may never use again.

When he asked if I would like anything, I said I would take his nightstand if the plan was to leave it behind.  It was an inexpensive little piece with a small door on the front to hold just a few items inside.  It had a homemade quality and symbolized my grandfather to me.  I was probably in early teens.  I still have it today.  The item could be 100 years old by now.

Their home in small town Tennessee was remarkably uncluttered.  They had just what they needed for the next twenty years of their lives.  The house was always, neat, clean and orderly and I truly believe that it added to the relaxed and comfortable existence they enjoyed for many years.  They never seemed to lack for anything when I would visit.  I envy that simple existence now.

When my father retired and moved to Florida with his second wife (not my mom), he too left behind things he could not imagine using again.  He had decided to give away his winter outerwear and offered me a nice coat and other items.  “What if it gets cold, or you come back to visit in winter, dad?” He pointed out that it never gets that cold in Florida and while he may be back to visit, it would never be in winter.

Aside from taking this winter offering, I desired nothing else.  I had his World War II medals and discharge paper.  There was nothing else I wanted.  I have since passed the World War II memorabilia to my older brother.  He has children and may be able to pass them on.  By the way, I kept a Good Conduct medal for my “good conduct.”  Dad had more than one and I decided not to award my brother with several of these.

Mom was a collector of stuff.  I sometimes wondered if this was the result of growing up poor in the Depression.  Was the accumulation of items, no matter how little the value, important to someone who had nothing growing up?  Were many of us from the Baby Boomer generation collectors because we saw that our parents were?

Mom collected everything from coffee cups to shot glasses, refrigerator magnets to picture frames, swizzle sticks from hotels and restaurants, to match books from the same.  There were figurines and candle holders, tea services not to be used, special occasion kitchen ware that may never have seen the special occasion.  There were “knickknacks” of all sorts, or what her mother would have simply called “dust catchers.”  To me, most of these items did not have enough value to have to dust them every weekend.

After mom had reached her 80’s and could not care for all the stuff, or even recall all the stuff she had, I moved her to an apartment in the same building so we could watch over her a little more closely.  That lasted less than a year and she was in a hospital, then a nursing home.  I moved to the larger apartment to hold on to the “stuff” in case she recovered well enough to come home.  She lived almost 6 years at the home and I not only had a lifetime of my own stuff, I then inherited a mountain of stuff I would never have considered owning.  Worse yet, many of the dust collectors I owned were some of the same items I grew up looking at.  I can not explain how I did not want these things.  For whatever reason, I could not get rid of much of it in the years that followed.

In the past year, however, I decided it was time to start to eliminate many of these things.  I had shelves and cabinets overflowing with items that I would never use and in some cases never wanted.  What if I have to move?  I do not want to have to take a lot of these things.  What if I die?  Someone will just toss out most of it anyway.  Is this “stuff” adding anything to my life?  This really is the key question.  If I was not going to use it and it did not hold some great personal value, it was time to go.

It is hard to do an assessment of items that have been in your house for decades.  You may falsely conclude that they have a sentimental value when all they really enjoy is longevity.  Consider cleaning up and not leaving it to others.  I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your kids, or grandkids, do not want your stuff.  Yes, they may desire an item or two, but for the most part your stuff will end up being donated or tossed out, so you might as well do it yourself.  Consider how much of your parents or grandparents stuff you wanted?  I am not talking about family photos, I am talking about “stuff.”

Last year I tossed out a lot of stuff.  I did not want them and could not imagine anyone paying 25 cents for them, so they finally hit the trash. I gave a lot of stuff away to various charities, depending on the type of item.  I also listed things on eBay if I thought they had a value.  I sell about a half-dozen items a month.  At this pace I could sell stuff for the next 25 years and still have a lot of things.  When I retire, I will likely increase my eBay offerings or my donations to resale shops, probably both. If anyone wants stuff, I will be happy to oblige.


A pop star profile by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

What comes to mind when I say “rock star” or “pop star?”  Do you think of your favorite singers?  Do you hear their music in your head?  Can you sing along with their songs?  Have you gone to their concerts?  What if I was to say that I am not talking about stars of the past, just stars of today?  Now who do you think of?

Perhaps Justin Bieber and all the little “beliebers” come to mind.  Perhaps you think of Miley Cyrus and the strange antics that have surrounded her career.  Lady Gaga with all of her wild outfits might be the next image in your head.  There are plenty of stars that stand out as much for their behavior or arrests as they do for their music.

So what about qualities?  Humanitarian efforts are probably not among the list.  Self promotion might be at the top.  Self gratification might seem like a top quality of many.  Don’t you wonder how underage stars take an entourage to a night club and then get drunk?  Who finds it OK to condone the drinking, drag racing and egg throwing?

By DavidArchuletaLover101 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 ]
Don’t get me wrong, I think there are plenty of good new rock and pop performers out there trying to do their best without making fools of themselves.  So what do you do when you get near the top?  Perhaps you put out You Tube “vlogs.”  Maybe you get a Tumblr, Twitter and facebook account.  You can do lots of radio interviews and public appearances.  If you’re a young guy, you can even date Taylor Swift.  She likes young guys.  Or you can stun the public and do something totally different.

As a teenager, David Archuleta made a name for himself on Season Seven of American Idol.  His pleasant personality and angelic voice captured the imagination of the viewers and the final episode went down to the battle of the two Davids, with David Cook.  While the more versatile rocker David Cook seemed the odds on favorite in the final weeks, the cute teenager from Utah was quietly impressing everyone, including the not easily impressed Simon Cowell.

If you watched the above, you saw the entire panel praise Archuleta, with Cowell saying after this performance, “You’re the one to beat.”  In the final night of singing, reviewers would tell you Archuleta was clearly the better performer.  The public, however, went with the rocker who showed great musical skills and was the best on many of the shows.  Archuleta received 44 percent of the over 97 million votes cast (an Idol record).  It was an emotional ending with Cook grabbing Archuleta and keeping him in the spotlight.  It was an Idol finish at its best.

From there Archuleta went on to make records, go on tours, make public appearances. He appeared on a PBS Christmas special, made a separate Christmas album and built a fan base like many other young stars.  He filmed a mini series in the Philippines and recorded traditional songs.  Then one night he told a sold out performance in Salt Lake City, “I would like to make a special announcement: that I have chosen to serve a full-time mission.”  It was not going to be one where he would be doing photo ops and promotional work.  He was going to really do missionary work.  So he left for Chile.

As you can imagine, it was a bit of a conflict for the popular young member of the Mormon Church.  Of course, he was encouraged to stay.  He was told he was doing a lot of good here.  He had a very positive public imagine.  His appearance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas show was very successful.  They had more ticket requests than ever before.  He could travel the world giving performances.  Indeed he made many international appearances.  It was not enough.

“I needed to do something that has nothing to do with me,” he later explained.  While his fans (Archie’s Army) and website released whatever they could, David was doing what he wanted to do.  Occasionally, a video of David would pop up on his You Tube channel, not much more than David saying Merry Christmas or some other greeting.  Meanwhile, he walked the dusty back roads of San Vincente, praying, studying and helping strangers.  It was not the life of a pop star.

David returned home after two years away.  He felt blessed to have helped others.  He visited, he preached and he sang, feeling more comfortable in song than in his Spanish language skills.  He learned more about life than any pop star on tour will ever know.  When you think of pop star qualities, you would not typically think of those his vocal coach used to describe David: “purity and wholesomeness.”

“When I went on my mission, it kind of gave me a step away from everything, and I was able to grow up a little bit, on my own, without everyone watching me,” Archuleta said recently.  David is now 27.  He has moved to Nashville and concentrates on making music that is meaningful to him.  He may not have the huge pop star success he might have had, but is still a big concert draw.  Now he is not looking for pop hits as much as songs that are more adult, more important, more David.

Sources include: “David Archuleta,” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 17, 2017,

“I would like to make a special announcement: that I’ve chosen to serve a full-time mission.”
“I would like to make a special announcement: that I’ve chosen to serve a full-time mission.”
“I would like to make a special announcement: that I’ve chosen to serve a full-time mission.”


Travelling to America, Rich Paschall

You might think that anyone who moves to a new country might be in for a bit of culture shock.  If the person is coming to America from a wealthy Western European nation, Norway let’s say, you may not expect the shock to be too great.  After all, aren’t we as advanced as any of the other leading nations of the world?  Would we not seem as modern and progressive as anywhere else?  If we leave the political situations out of the equation, you might think those from the most prosperous of countries would feel at home here.  Of course, if their nations are modern, prosperous and progressive, you might wonder if there is much interest in emigrating here.  I have not met any new Norwegians in the neighborhood.

Arriving at Chicago O’Hare

What of those coming from South or Central America, for example? Would the architecture astound? Would the museums and parks enthrall?  Would the restaurants, night clubs and bars amaze? Would the typical tourists spots excite?  Let’s say you are coming to Chicago. Would you be blown away by the skyline? Would the Planetarium be out of this world? Perhaps the things that we would think provide culture shock are not those things at all. So we have a giant bean in the park (Cloud gate, actually), will this surprise a new resident?

In a world where the internet is just about everywhere, a new resident, no matter what part of the planet he or she comes from, would likely have researched the new destination. The immigrant would have seen the famous locales, and then it is only a matter of visiting in person what has been seen online. The tourists spots and infamous towers were already known. They may provide some momentary amazement but no surprise and certainly no culture shock. No, it is other things that brought shock to my new South American roommate. Surprisingly, they were in my home.

Adler Planetarium

For a couple of months I saw my roommate peel potatoes with a large knife. I never thought much of it until one day I realized he should be using the potato peeler. So I got it out of the drawer and took a potato from him and showed him how I do it. Yes, this was one of the many culture shock moments. My kitchen was filled with little gadgets that were not common to a poor household in South America. Imagine what you have in your kitchen that would be a surprise, even a shock to others.

“Rich!” my mate called out one day.  I came running, so to speak, (OK, I wasn’t actually running) as if something was wrong in the kitchen. We had recently been to the supermarket, another culture shock, where roomie had picked out some cans of tuna in oil. He showed me the can and his face told me the problem. They just did not buy canned goods in his area. Getting into a can was a mystery. I handed him a can opener but he returned it with the best “What the hell do I do with this?” look. This gave me the opportunity to demonstrate the fine art of the can opener. While we now know how to open cans, we also had to learn that we do not drain off the oil into the sink. This is why I save certain jars.

While the kitchen is filled with unique gadgets, I did not expect that the coffee maker was one of them. I guess what I have is non-traditional. It is a Hamilton Beach that has a reservoir on top and you dispense the coffee like a pop machine by depressing the lever. Roomie told a neighbor I did not have a coffee maker with a coffee pot. The nice neighbor gave him one for Christmas.  Now we have two perfectly fine coffee makers. I was shocked to find a guy from Colombia who does not know how to make good coffee. Fortunately he does not read me so I can continue to insist his weak efforts at coffee-making are just fine. I have tried to buy coffee that mentions “Colombia” on the package as one of us thinks it is the only good coffee in the world. I do not wish to shock him with coffee from other lands.

He has, of course, seen microwaves, but never actually had one. He had a television with a remote, but not multiple remotes for multiple devices. I am still trying to get him to use the on and off buttons for the satellite remote. The “on” button will turn on the satellite box and TV and when you hit it again it will turn off the television. I frequently find the box is still on while the TV is off. Getting television from other countries was no surprise, but I guess the amount of them is a bit of a shock.

The stove is rather interesting, I guess. It is not two burners hooked to a giant propane tank. It is five gas burners  I have been unsuccessful in explaining that the flame is not just on or off, but you can control the level. Everything is cooked with a high flame which usually means we have another in-home annoyance. The smoke detector is shocking every time it goes off, which is just about every time roomie cooks.

The biggest shock to date is the weather and the temperature indoors and out. The house is not a comfortable 85 degrees during the day as it is in his homeland. Now that my warm weather room-mate has figured out what the up and down arrows on the thermostat are for, I am usually in for a shock when I come in the house from outside. Thankfully it is a programmable thermostat and resets periodically. Wait until he finds out how 85 feels in Chicago in July or August when the humidity is high. Yes, the culture shock will keep coming.



When Pain Decides, by Rich Paschall

There are many powerful motivators in life.  Money is at the top of some lists.  It certainly seems to be the main motivation for many leaders of corporations and governments.  Doing good, rather than doing evil or even just doing nothing, inspires people to do good works that will benefit their community and their world, however large that may be.  Fear can also be a motivator to get you to do things or to avoid people, places, things .  What motivates you to act in a certain way?

Pain is clearly a strong motivator.  People will generally avoid things that cause pain.  At least, they will when they know better.  My earliest memory involves broken glass.  I was barely more than a toddler when glass broke on the floor and my father and grandfather were yelling at me to stay put.  This of course frightened me and I ran across the floor to one of them.  I was barefoot at the time.  The next thing I knew one of them was carrying me down to the doctor’s office, conveniently on the same street.  The other hurried along side.  I guess the good doctor picked a little glass out of me and sent me home.  I knew never to run through broken glass again, at least not barefoot.

Sometimes we learn about pain the hard way.  The oven is hot. The radiator is hot.  The campfire is hot.  Heavy objects will hurt if they fall on us.  Knives will cut.  Scissors will cut.  Razor blades are for an adult to carefully handle.  Falling off your bike is bad. Falling down stairs is bad.  Falling on the ice is bad.  Being hit by a car…  Well, some things are very bad.

All of these tragedies and possible tragedies motivate us to lead a safer life.  No matter how well our parents try to “child-proof” the house, there are still painful lessons to be learned.  From them, we discover how to stay safe and avoid pain.

Sometimes pain may keep you off your bike, off the ski slope or off the golf course.  The aches and pains of age may stop you from doing things you used to love.  You may see the roller coaster at Great America, but decide your back will not take such a jolt.  A sore knee may keep you from hiking or a headache may keep you out of the sun.  You may be motivated to keep away from many activities.

No matter how carefully you live your life, however, other factors may intrude that cause pain and painful decisions.   A whole encyclopedia of maladies may force you into the doctor’s office in search of relief from pain.  Have you ever heard yourself ask the doctor to give you something for the pain?

There are plenty of “some things” to be had.  I know. I have many of them on hand.

If you consider the health of your family and friends over the years, you may see a lot of pain and suffering.  Sometimes people’s lives become an exercise in treating pain.  Some doctors are wary of treating the pain, which is a symptom, rather than the problem.  Getting something for the pain and going home is not often a good route to take.

In  the middle of last year, neck pain and arm and shoulder numbness caused me to go to the doctor.  My manager in the freight forwarding world was concerned I was having a stroke.  I assured him I was just having a lot of pain.  A stroke will cause numbness on one side and usually a severe headache as well.  Know the warning signs of stroke.  It is a different kind of pain.

Without going through all of the steps and studies along the way, I can say I ended up at a pain doctor who realized there was more than a pain in the neck.  He treated that pain but also caused for a lower back problem to be found.  Rather than deal with the neck problem, I had an operation on the lower back which alleviated pain and numbness, but not the original problem.

Why did I avoid the original problem?  Because the back surgery sounded like it could be solved with a minimally invasive procedure while the neck surgery sounded scary and painful.  It was pain that caused me to opt for one surgery over what was actually a bigger problem.

While I was looking into options for the neck, I finally picked a neurosurgeon and scheduled surgery.  Why would I let someone cut into my neck because of a couple herniated discs?  What motivates me to have the procedure I had been avoiding?

When I was much younger I had a procedure that caused for a spinal injection.  When I awoke, I found a weird feeling in the spine and numbness from the waist down.  It went away in a short time, but the back was sore and I swore then, I would never let anyone touch my spine again.  What happened to change that?  Pain.

The surgery I avoided became inevitable.  Pain made the decision for me.  It is time to go forward with an attempt to replace a couple herniated discs and put C5 back in place.  I absolutely do not want to do it.  A larger motivating factor came into play.

This will take me away from my computer for a day or two or three.  Hopefully I will be able to answers any comments in a timely fashion.  If not, I guess you will know what motivating factor kept me away from my appointed rounds.


Your Obituary, by Rich Paschall

Taken on ‎September‎ ‎03‎, ‎2012, Viewminder

“Karen Lewis was fearless.” It was the opening line of her obituary on the Chicago Sun-Times  website.  The Chicago Teachers Union President had endured treatment for brain cancer in 2015.  In October of 2017 she had suffered a stroke.  She had surgery for a malignant brain tumor.  Through it all she battled on, and was widely respected for her tenacity and survival.

It was no surprise that her death would highlight the courage of her struggles.  There was just one little problem with the story as was mentioned on Lewis’ Facebook page, “Contrary to an unfortunate slip, I am not dead.”

Yes, the 64-year-old labor leader and brain cancer survivor is alive and living in Chicago.

Did you ever wonder how a periodical could publish a lengthy story on a famous person’s life just moments after they die?  Obituaries for prominent people are usually written before their deaths.  They may be updated from time to time and only need minor edits when a famous person finally goes to the great beyond  (or wherever it is you think people go for an “after life”) .  When celebrities drop dead, it is no time to start researching the details of their lives.  Pre-written obituaries are a common practice.  Publishing them while the person is still alive is not.

Few get to learn of their own death while they are still alive.  Apparently Lewis took the error in good humor.  The obituary, which was online for a few hours, was taken down before Lewis or family members had seen it.  She did learn of the opening line, however.  Apparently believing the long time Chicago publication would have to say nice things of the dead, Lewis commented, “I think it’s a mitzvah…but I’m not sure it’s true.”

“James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness.  The report of my death was an exaggeration.”  – Mark Twain

While Mark Twain was on a world speaking tour in 1897, a London-based reporter was sent learn of the condition of Twain’s health.  If Twain was dead, the reporter, Frank Marshall White, should send back 1000 words to the New York Journal.  If alive, apparently 500 words would do.  Meanwhile, according to legend, one paper had indeed printed an obituary for Twain.  Was the great American humorist amused by this?

White wrote an article that appeared in the NY Journal in June of 1897.  In part he said:

“Mark Twain was undecided whether to be more amused or annoyed when a Journal representative informed him today of the report in New York that he was dying in poverty in London …” 

Twain had sent back in writing what is now an often misquoted response.  Twain’s hand-written response is restated above.

What if your obituary appeared online?  What would it say?  Would it recount that you are “fearless?”  Would it see you as a great humorist?  Would it recount the highlights of your life?  Or would there be little to say?  Would anything written be supplied by relatives after your death?

If someone was charged with writing a thousand words about your life, and you could read them now, how would this influence you?  If the words were kind and encouraging, would this lead you to a better life?  Would you try to live up to the words someone was about to supply upon your death?  Would you try to have all the qualities relayed about you?  Would you try to build on that legacy?

What if the words were not at all flattering?  Would that inspire you to change your ways?  Would you have a Scrooge-like awakening and live a better life?  Would you be more kind?  More generous?  More loving?

We probably do not think much about our own obituaries.  Those who do not have much public standing in the community will not get much more than the standard newspaper notice that includes a list of relatives and the time of funeral services.  But what if you have a little bit of notoriety?  Do you care what is written as your legacy when you are gone?  What influence would there be on your life if you could read your obituary as it would be published today?

Even without online or social media notices, or publication in the local or national newspapers, we will all get an obituary, so to speak, in eulogies at funerals or memorial services.  If these do not exist for you (and why not?) then there are the comments of your family and friends when they gather to honor your memory.  If cousin Lewis is likely to sing your praises, having been a drinking buddy and travel companion, Aunt Bertha might just come along and upset the gladioli cart with her honest opinions of your character.

Your homework assignment before we convene here again next Sunday is to write your obituary.  Pick out the highlights and significant life events.  Write it all down. Is that really what someone would write in your obituary?  Seriously?  If it is not exactly what you want, dear Ebenezer, it may not be too late to change, as the report of your death has been grossly exaggerated.

“Reports of Mark Twain’s Quip about his death…” May 31, 2015
“Karen Lewis See Funny Side Of Her Erroneously Published Obituary,” January 8, 2018



By Richard Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Sunday was the day to stay near the telephone, the computer too for that matter.  Robert was not about to go anywhere before receiving his phone call.  He always stayed where he could hear the phone.  The computer was also a possibility for calls but in truth Robert only received one call on it and that was more in the way of a test.  His son, Corey, set him up with Skype and then called him when he got home just so they could test it out.  That was the only time Corey called him via Skype in the six months since their brief trial run.  Now he either called on the landline or not at all.


Robert tried diligently to be a good father to Corey after his divorce from Corey’s mom.  Corey was in his mid teens then and the boy seemed to follow the divorce with making his own plans and avoiding family obligations.  Robert could never figure out whether this was a teenage thing or a reaction to the divorce, but either way Robert did his best to be a dad whenever Corey needed him.  Corey needed him less and less as time went on.

Now that Corey was in his twenties, Robert and Corey had hatched a plan to keep in touch.  This was more Robert’s doing, of course.  If they did not get together on the weekend, then they would at least share a call on Sunday afternoon.  The problem with this plan was Corey rarely called and he preferred that dear old dad not call him as he was usually “busy.”  So Robert waited patiently in his small four room apartment for a call that was not likely to come. Perhaps if Robert had been more outspoken, even demanding, maybe Corey would be more dependable.  At least that is what Robert thought.  But it was not in Robert’s demeanor to be pushy so he waited patiently every Sunday for the call.

In Robert’s own mind he had convinced himself that waiting on Sunday’s was a good thing.  It would keep him at home to take care of the often neglected chores.  He did the dishes, made the bed, swept the floor, looked at all that junk mail he tossed aside all week, but he never took out the garbage.  That would mean leaving the apartment for a few minutes and Robert certainly did not want to do that.  What if the phone should ring and he did not hear it?

Finally in late afternoon on this super cold, super Sunday the phone rang.  Robert was on it like a shot.  “Hello,” Robert announced in his cheeriest voice.

“Robert, it’s Bill.  How about we go somewhere to watch the game?  You know, wings and beer!”

“Uh, OK,” Robert said reluctantly.

“Good, I can be there in a half an hour.”

“No,” Robert said quickly, “I am in the middle of something.  Give me at least an hour.”

“Fine,” Bill replied.  “I will be there in about an hour.”

In truth, Robert was not in the middle of anything.  He just wanted to leave extra time for Corey to call.  He never gave a thought to the possibility that Corey had already gotten together with his friends to watch the big game.  He just figured that if he left too soon, he would miss his Sunday call.  So he placed his coat, scarf and hat on a chair near the door and sat down to wait for Corey.  Robert worried about missing the call and not having enough time to talk.  He thought of the most important things he should say if they only had a short time.  He thought of nice questions to ask, without prying too much into Corey’s personal life.  After all, Corey was all grown up now and he needed to be treated like an adult.  At least, that was the thought running through Robert’s head.

When just over an hour had elapsed, the phone finally rang again.  “Hello?” Robert said tentatively, fearing it was not Corey but actually Bill again.  “It’s Bill.  I’m out front.  Are you ready?”  “That darn Bill,” Robert thought.  “He’s always rushing me.”

“Yes,” Robert said.  “I will be out in a minute.”  “Poor Corey,” Robert mumbled.  “If he calls I won’t be here.”  Although he felt a little guilty, Robert threw on his outer wear and headed out the door.

When Robert got in Bill’s car, Bill immediately started talking about the game.  “This should be a great game this year.  The teams seem evenly matched.  Whoever has the hot hand will win.  It could be either one.  What do you think?”

“Yes,” Robert replied.  “I think so too.”  He obviously was not listening to Robert, his mind was on Corey.

As they drove away, Robert did not hear the phone ring in his apartment.  It rang seven times before it went silent.  Robert never even knew there was a call as the caller did not leave a message.