Aunt Gilda’s Christmas Gift

The Geezer and I wish you all a very “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!”

It’s time for my annual Christmas and Holiday greeting to all my friends…four and two legged. The Geezer has written a new one that I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

 

Aunt Gilda’s Christmas Gift

 

If I could relive one day of my life…at one place…whenever I wished, it would be at my Aunt Gilda’s home on Christmas morning 1968. I learned something that morning; one of the most important bits of wisdom I’d ever receive.

The year 1968 had not been a good one for our family. My older brother went to Vietnam and died there, early in the year. Resulting stress took its toll on our whole family. My sisters, both older, were very close to Eddie. The loss nearly destroyed them both. Their wrath focused on my parents whom they believed allowed Eddie to enlist. My father’s health went from vibrant to precarious after a mysterious malady struck him. He would not find the cure in the bottle that caused it. Mother struggled to keep what she possessed in-tact. That was difficult. Both my sisters were in a state of uncontrollable rebellion, her husband a tottering drunk, and I…I had become convinced that love was something I didn’t want. From what I saw, love was simply a transitory, conditional thing that eventually caused pain.

Aunt Gilda was special to me. My mother’s sister, she was several years older than my parents. Gilda wasn’t a stranger to life’s disappointments and tragedies. Her husband died in World War Two. She had no children. She never remarried. After a brief period earning a living as a nightclub performer, she settled into first managing, then owning a small restaurant. It suited her. Despite a fire, hard economic times, and a violent robbery, she persevered and prospered. She was happy sharing life with friends and her two Golden Retrievers.

I was her surrogate child and she was my favorite aunt. So, when things reached a crises in our household that December, I was sent to stay with Aunt Gilda for the holidays. My mother needed fewer problems and I was one that could be removed from her over-stuffed basket. Two weeks before Christmas, my aunt greeted me with a warm smile as I walked out of the airport gate. My twelve-year-old mind only processed the material aspect of my stay. Gilda was a great cook, generous to a fault, and fun to be around. My first evening there, Aunt Gilda discovered that as we sat in front of her huge fireplace.

“I’m sorry you don’t have your parents and sisters here. I know you’ll miss their love.” Gilda shoved a plate of pecan pralines at me.

I greedily grabbed a few of the sweet candies and said, “Thanks, Aunt Gilda. These pralines are a good substitute.”

“Jerry, you don’t mean that! There is never a substitute for the love we share.”

I casually said what I felt, “I don’t know Aunt Gilda. It seems to me that love always has a string on it. If things go bad, it can be jerked away. It’s kind of like the way my sisters play with their cat. They tie a piece of paper on the end of a piece of string. They let the cat chase it until they get tired. That’s the end of it. If things go bad or get boring, love just goes away. Dad says love is just another four letter word.”

My aunt examined my face but said nothing for several seconds. Finally, she said, “I’ll have to think about that for a while.” I was to get her rebuttal Christmas morning.

“Get up, Jerry,” my aunt said as she pried me from the bed much earlier than I expected. Presents! What was I waiting for? I rolled out of bed and took a few steps toward the bedroom door before she stopped me. “Whoa!” She grinned and I noticed a sheet and a huge red bow draped over one of her arms. “I have to wrap you before I give you away,” she said.

“Huh?” I was surprised and confused.

Gilda smiled as she covered me with the sheet, grasping both hands so they would extend uncovered. When she finished, I was encased in a white cloth “package” with the red bow pinned to the sheet. “You’ll make a great present!” Was I really going to be someone’s gift? She said, “Come with me,” and led me to whatever awaited. I could smell the pine as we entered the living room and stood next to the Christmas tree.

I heard strange noises. After a few seconds, I decided they came from my Aunt’s two dogs. She asked, “Are you ready?”

No one answered, so I decided I should. I murmured, “I guess I am.”

“Good…Buster, meet Jerry. He’s your Christmas present.” Simultaneously, I felt something soft, warm, and furry being placed in my hands. And, it was moving around. My fingers circled a small body between four legs.  Aunt Gilda snatched the sheet away. I was staring into the eyes of a golden retriever pup.

Back when I was a puppy ……

Aunt Gilda spoke to the puppy, not me. “What do you think, Buster? Do you want to keep him? He’ll likely be a pain in the ass to train. He has no idea that to love something or someone it has to be unconditional. No strings…no if’s…no anything. He’ll need to learn to take you with him most everywhere he goes, the proper way to scratch behind your ears, and what your favorite treats are. Test him a time or two…leave a few messes for him to clean up. Want to give it a shot?”

Buster whimpered a little, took his eyes off me, stared at Aunt Gilda for a few seconds, then focused on me before issuing a baby bark, indicating he’d accept the challenge.

Aunt Gilda looked at me. “It seems Buster is willing to give it a try. How about you, Jerry?”

I would have the thought the smile on my face would have answered her question, but I enthusiastically answered, “Sure!”

“Hold him to your chest and let him enter your heart.” I did, and Aunt Gilda said words I’ve never forgotten.

“Jerry, when you take someone into your heart and decide to love them, it’s a decision you can’t cancel, though sometimes you may wish you could. That’s the reason you make the decision to love carefully. Buster will provide you with unconditional love if you do the same for him. Love wisely, love unbreakably and you will love happily.”

Merry Christmas Friends

 

~~~~~~~

 

Do I hear sleigh bells? Or is it Gobble, Gobble?

I’m thinking the season is coming. No, I don’t have a red nose. I do like turkey!

Okay. I’m rushing it. In my defense, it’s hard not to. The Geezer and I have made several social calls in the last few weeks. As far back as November 3rd, we observed multitudes of colored lights appearing on porches, around windows, on bushes, even circling palms in some of our neighbors’ yards. The Thanksgiving turkey hasn’t met the Guillotine and people already are checking the northern sky for the fat man in the red suit.

With all the stores dressing for Christmas right after the 4th of July, it’s no wonder you humans allow your ‘not always strong’ minds to wander ahead. Aaahhhhh, try to remember all those store owners decorate their home Christmas trees with dollar signs. Get a grip. Remember that holiday that comes before Santa?

It’s THANKSGIVING! …… Not turkey day, diet abstinence day, football forever day, or “oh, no, not Uncle Pete!” day.

In your rush to get to that ultimate season of joy, you humans have a tendency to brush past Thanksgiving like the first Salvation Army kettle you spy outside Walmart’s exit. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of reflection and appreciation for the good fortune that has entered our lives. At least, that was the jest of Lincoln’s reason for creating it as a formal holiday. What has it become to some of us?

Turkey’s dread it! With such an attractive, pleasant, ugly, face. Its hard, easy, to understand its murder.

The compulsory day of gluttony – can heartburn be far behind?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You humans consider it a day to eat enough to increase your waist size so you can justify that new Christmas wardrobe. Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, steaming baked biscuits, yams, wine, calorie-stuffed desserts, and…of course…turkey! Thanksgiving is a national day of mourning for the bird with the big chest. It’s been raised and hunted by men for that virtue (though some ladies can sympathize with that) since the pilgrims landed. When you think “Thanksgiving,” you have to think, “Fat!” with it.

To many, particularly men, it has become a day to participate in a marathon, a football watching marathon. The tube works overtime as you crush couches and consume untold unneeded calories. The potato chips, dip, little Smokies, and chocolate chip cookies are washed down with floods of Pepsi and Coors. Basketball has competed for a share of the audience. It won’t happen. Watching thin men in shorts works on the conscience more than watching fat men in pads. Humans don’t like to be reminded of their mistakes.

Fascinated by the tube, you human zombies eat snacks like a garbage disposal.

To those of us who reside with you humans, Thanksgiving is leftover appreciation day. Yes, it is a great day for pets. I’m less fussy than either the Geezer or Mrs. G. White meat, dark meat…frankly, I don’t give a damn. (I’ve always had a crush on old Clark Gable).

To the sound of music — “It was anticipation…”

Take your pick–“After the ball is over,” “Happy Days are here again!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To all of you have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! (And try to remember why we celebrate it!)

 

~~~~~~~

 

 

Why, a question we need to ask more frequently, but alas … don’t.

 

Here I am in the act of pondering why things are as they are. Anyone have an aspirin?

I wonder if there is a more powerful or disturbing word in any language than why. It’s a painful word. Why? (There’s that word) It makes us think. That is something many don’t like to do. I find thinking is particularly distressing for human’s to attempt.

Dogs’ “why” questions normally can be logically answered. Consider our questions and our answers.

Q. Why do dogs chase cars?  A. We feel like bullies chasing squirrels.

Q. Why do dogs have to go outside for bathroom duties?  A. Humans put the toilet paper in places we can’t reach when sitting on the john.

Q. Why do dogs fetch balls or sticks when a human throws them.  A. Humans are too stupid to give treats to their dogs unless prompted.

Q. Why do dogs hate cats?  A. We don’t, but we have to pretend we do so humans think we’re normal … don’t humans all hate some group? Republicans? Democrats? I could go on forever.

Q. Why do dogs chase their tails? A. We only do this when we are bored and need exercise. This can be the result of watching too much television. It is also caused by trying to emulate Congress.

Notice that canines have straight-forward, logical answers to our “why” questions. Dogs admire logic. I’m sure a canine poll would disclose that Mr. Spock would be among our favorite media characters.

Dogs tend to admire strong minded, low key people who control their emotions. That’s why we bite so many TV commentators and politicians.

I think its interesting to consider some of the common “why” questions that humans struggle with.

Q.  Why did the chicken cross the road?  A.  Human’s actually debate this. My question is … Why is there any doubt? The damned chicken wants to get to the other side. So simple, yet humans wrestle with an answer. Who knew ………..

Q.  Why do humans cheat on their spouses?  A. They wear clothes. No one knows what they’re getting until its too late!  (Note: We dogs have a clear vision of what the “possibilities” are!)

Q.  Why do politicians lie?  A. Humans struggle with this and try to come up with all manner of explanations that have to do with ideology, character, etc. Come on humans! Politicians lie for 5 reasons: 1) They believe voters are stupid. (in some cases this is correct) 2) The shape of their tongue (forked) makes telling the truth impossible 3) Most have no idea what the truth is 4) They want to get elected and don’t care about honesty. 5) They will get their own health care plan and retirement if they lie convincingly and get elected. (kind of like puppies being fed by government mommy dog)

Q. Why do humans buy fancier cars and bigger homes than they can afford?  A. They need the space to contain and carry around their egos.

Q. Why do dogs develop conditioned responses while humans continue to repeat the same errors? A. Pavlov never had to try to teach a human.

Thinking is painful and difficult for homo sapiens. They do other things better. As an English poet once wrote, in part … “Ale man, ales the thing to drink … For all of you it hurts to think.”

#  #  #  #  #

 

 

The Geezer is on the move…

The audience at one of the Geezer’s presentations

 

DL at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County

The Geezer’s season has arrived. He’ll be busy giving presentations and signing books from now to the spring. He was a speaker at the Cocoa Village Book Fest last Saturday, sandwiched in a public service day Sunday servicing as “Mr. Fix It,” for a charity children’s fishing tournament, did two historical presentations and a luncheon at Southwest Florida College for LifeLong Learning, and will be at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County all this weekend.

No dogs allowed. That means I get stuck “cat-sitting” for Missy. Oh, well………

Mischievous Missy

Visit the Geezer. (DL Havlin) He’ll be at the Cultural Center Friday & Saturday 9 to 3 – That’s at 2800 Aaron Street, Port Charlotte, Florida.

~~~~~~

 

 

Okay! So enough with this heat!

One of the few places it’s cool – the tile floor.

 

I’m one of those canines who doesn’t typically complain about the weather. No matter how much you bark about it, nothing is going to change. Mother nature does things in her own good time. There must be a little Clark Gable in her because, “Frankly my dear(s) she doesn’t give a damn” how much we complain!

The Geezer and I watch the morning weather reports and hope some of the fall temperatures most of the country are experiencing will migrate south. No such luck! Temps in southwest Florida continue in the record setting nineties. The calendar says its almost November. August forgot to leave. The high for yesterday was 94, the low 78. Swelter, swelter, boil and bubble.

Mainstreet – Bokeelia, paradise’s thermometer is stuck on broil

 

I would appreciate some kind person in a northern clime sending me a box of cool air! I saw a picture on the net and it made me dream. I’ve made a copy of it and placed it here hoping the Geezer will buy me some ice.

“Ice! Ice! My country for some ice!

Hint, Geezer, hint!

~~~~~

“What’s in my head is what I’ve read!”

Reading makes me a better bear.

As you probably know, my human is an author. I call him the Geezer. I usually don’t talk much about his writing, because he does enough of that. However, one of the things the old boy does is really pretty cool. Why? Because he wants kids to develop an interest and love for reading. Even though he’s not a children’s author, he wrote and produces a short book for kids from preschool through 4th grade. The book’s title is, “Why reading makes me a better bear.”

I have to take part of the credit for “Better Bear.” The Geezer would often mutter and complain to me after making one of his many, many historical presentations. His standard complaint was as follows: It drives me crazy! Parents and grandparents bring their young ones up after I speak. I ask the kids what the last book they read is, and they look at me like I’m a Martian! Don’t the parents and kids understand reading is the foundation for all learning? I got tired of listening to it, so I told him, “Stop talking and start doing.”

One of the unique things about this children’s book are the last two pages. They don’t finish this book, they are what the Geezer hopes will be the beginning of adults working with, and encouraging their loved ones to read! Giving a child the gift of love for, and appreciation of, reading, is one of the greatest acts a parent or grandparent can perform to insure the youths success in life. It doesn’t cost the adult a thing! A friend who has a doctorate in education helped him with those two pages. That friend’s specialty is reading retention.

What he does with the the book, is what I consider the best part. He gives them away to libraries and elementary schools. When he makes public appearances, he sells a few…all the funds collected from these sales are used to print more “Better Bears.” He has distributed close to 1500 to schools, libraries, and teachers to date.

One page from the book.

When I told the Geezer I was going to write about “Why reading makes me a better bear,” he said I could offer a free book to individuals who’d like a copy for their personal use. So I can send up to 200 out on a first-come-first-serve basis, after September 30th, 2019. Here’s how to get one:

Go to his web page at     www.dlhavlin.com

Under Inside the World (right side) – click on Contact

Complete the form required information –

Write in the comments section – “Send me a copy of Better Bear.”  Write the address to where you want it shipped.

~~~~~~

 

 

Tap those paws! Bluegrass is Florida tradition!

Keith Bass – one fine banjo picker & and a true Florida cowboy

 

Yee – Haw! I sure like to go to hear some down home pickin’ & singin’. So do my human’s! The photo and video clip in this blog are from a trip to one of our neighboring towns, Okeechobee. The Geezer and Mrs. G went to see the “Kieth Bass & Florida Bluegrass Express,” a band that they have enjoyed listening to and visiting for years.

Many who live in the Sunshine State aren’t aware that bluegrass and country music are part of Florida’s frontier heritage. Florida? Frontier heritage? Many will be skeptical when told Florida was part of the frontier well past 1900. It was, and still is, one of the leading cattle producing states in the US. Many of Florida’s early inhabitants were Scotch-Irish from Georgia and the Carolinas. Most of these hardy souls were “cow hunters” or were  associated with them in some way. They brought their instruments and music with them.

I remember my parents going square dancing on Friday nights when I was in elementary school in Fort Myers. Dancing to banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and bass was a deep tradition, not only in Florida, but throughout the  South and the frontier West. There is great artistry in the “pickin” of these instruments that have no electric assists to make the musicians sound better than they are. If you want to hear the sounds of our American roots there are two places to do it. Find black blues, jazz, and soul music in an off-the-main-street  lounge or bar. Find a country, bluegrass, or folk music show in a rural location that is its home.

If you’re worried about the welcome you might receive, don’t be. The folk who attend bluegrass events are among some of the friendliest you’ll find. Don’t go formal…no one else will be. Just brush the straw off your Stetson, be sure there’s no manure on your boots and you’re ready to go!

Kieth Bass & The Florida Bluegrass Express is representative of the bands that play this traditional music. They play it because they love it. Bluegrass (and country/folk) tell the story of the life these people led. Mule Skinner Blues, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Tom Dooley, Fox on the Run, and I’m So Lonely I Could Cry are tidbits torn from the fabric of their every-day living. Below is a clip of the KBFBE band playing at the get-together my humans went to.

 

 

If you’d like more information and get a chance to enjoy some real traditional music visit the face book link below. It has schedules and all you need to know to have a thoroughly fun time!

Keith Bass & the Florida Bluegrass Express Band

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Geezer (or DL Havlin as you humans call him) starts his fall and winter speaking schedule on September 21st., at The Landings Yacht, Golf, & Tennis Club in Ft Myers. He’ll be speaking to the American Association of University Women about Florida’s “Patriot War.” To find when, where, and what DL is presenting visit http://www.dlhavlin.com and click on his schedule of events.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~