Guy and Judy, Lon and Mara

Mara, Jim and Lon. c. 1992

Mara, Jim and Lon. c. 1992

Recently we celebrated one of my medical challenges at dinner with friends. They asked me to propose a toast. After a few minutes I offered the following:

I’m thankful for being alive. It’s not often that I am able to express my gratitude to the people around me. Saying “Thank you” and “I love you” has always been difficult for me. Thank you for being here. I love you.

As difficult as it is to offer love or thankfulness, it’s at least as hard for me to be on the receiving end of those sentiments. Jim didn’t hesitate to express his feelings, nor does my wife Judy. Whenever they start down this path, I dig my toe into the sand, with that “Aw, shucks” feeling. I’d rather not be there.

That feeling hit hard as I discovered this letter in the stack from Jim. I almost didn’t include it for publication, because it’s so “embarrassing.” Grace raised me to do the right thing, but she didn’t give me the talent to accept the kudos when things went right. As I age I realize that expressing thanks and love is a two-way street. Rejecting an expression of love is a rejection of the other. Turning away thanks turns away a fellow human. To be a friend means both giving and receiving emotion, even the best kinds of emotion.

I’ll never be as good as Jim in expressing my thanks or love. He set the bar pretty high and I’m still learning. Earlier this month I put that learning to the test. One of my friends was planning an incredibly generous gift for me. I rehearsed for hours, knowing I had to thank him. When the moment came my statement was a simple “Thank you. I appreciate this.” I watched as if looking into a mirror as he stumbled around trying to accept the gratitude. Now I need to work on how to coach him to accept a thank you, just like Jim coached me.

Thank you for your patience as I learn this skill.

Jim writes:

Usually one looks to an older person for inspiration and example … but in this case Guy was always the inspiration for me … I was an older person looking up to a much younger one … as a teenager he exhibited a unique quality … that of a serious goal oriented person. At fifteen he knew what career he wanted to pursue … and he set his mind to it … graduated high school … on to four years of college plus an additional year of study for a Masters Degree … then on to IBM where he has built  his career for some nineteen years … what is unique about this?

I know of very few people who early in life have decided what course they want to set their sights on and then work to achieve that goal. In comparison I as a teenager and after WWII never really had a goal in mind … Guy was always resolute and steadfast in his commitments.

Most of us have specific dates or one that holds a great deal of significance and will always be most special. An honor accorded me was one which will always remain close and fond in my memory and that was when Guy asked me to be his “Best Man” at his forthcoming wedding. I have looked back to that day often and how much it still means to me.

June 19th will be their 21st wedding anniversary … when I reflect back on those years past I am suffused with a warm, proud feeling … It is very rare when one gets to share the love and friendship of anothers family and be welcomed into the “fold” as they say. Sharing in the growing experience of Lon and Mara … learning by the example they have continued to set for them in their daily lives.

Very, very few are privileged to share the love and warmth of a family such as Guy and Judy’s. Over the years all of my occasions to visit and be with them are highlights in my life. Their happiness and successes can only be an inspiration to their friends and especially to me.

Sometimes it is easier to set your thoughts on paper rather than the spoken word … We are often reluctant to show our true feelings and emotions to others … My letters would never be complete if I didn’t set forth my feelings for Guy, Judy, Lon and Mara … My best favorite people of all time!!

Jim Letter048

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