Things I Learned from R. B. (July 12th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4461)

Episode 23

The phone rang.

Startled, I rolled over and peered at the clock.

2:54 A. M.

A chill went down my spine all the way to my bowels. Nothing good comes from a call in the middle of the night.

Nervously I answered on the fourth ring, trying to stall from hearing the news. It was R. B. I could hear the tears in his voice.

Through his garbled explanation I was able to discern that he was at County Hospital and had been brought there by ambulance. He was suffering from severe stomach pains.

I wanted to ask more. I wanted to know what he expected of me. But the last thing he said was, “Please come.”

Then he hung up.

I couldn’t envision what kind of person I would be if I ignored the request. Yet I wasn’t particularly impressed with the person I was going to be, throwing on my clothes and driving out in the middle of the night at the bequest of an ailing friend.

I didn’t want to do it alone, so I called Janet and she agreed to join me on the journey to County Hospital to see what was troubling R. B.

We tried to chat on the way, speculating a bit on what the case might be, but finally decided some late-night music from the radio in the dark was preferable.

Fortunately, I was able to remember from the conversation that he had inserted that he was on the fourth floor.

Stepping off the elevator we walked over to the nurse’s station and told her who we were looking for. She asked the classic question. “Are you family?”

Without even blinking an eye, Janet replied, “Yes, we are. His only family here.”

I nodded. It wasn’t exactly true, but it was very accurate. The nurse led us down the hallway to an examination room, where we found R. B. on a bed, surrounded by machines, with an IV in his arm.

We discovered that the machines were not attached to him, except for the one pumping some sort of juice through his veins.

Before we could ask a single question, a young doctor, assigned to R. B.’s case, came walking into the enclosure. I don’t remember his name—just that he had red hair and freckles.

I looked to R. B. to offer an explanation. Instead, he nodded his head toward the doctor to provide the facts.

It seemed that R. B. had a belly full of trouble—a deteriorating stomach lining, an enflamed esophagus, some aggravation in his upper bowels which had created a blockage and therefore generated the horrible pain.

In the time it took us to get to the hospital, they had provided treatment which brought him some relief, so R. B. was feeling better—and ready to leave

The doctor was not quite as optimistic. He began, “I’m glad the both of you are here to listen to what I’m going to say to the patient. Even though he is not an aged man, his stomach and bowels are in horrible shape and I have suggested to him that he stop smoking and cease drinking any alcohol for a while.”

The young doctor stopped—I think more or less to gauge our reaction. We all looked over at R. B.

Uncharacteristically sheepish, R. B. replied, “I can do that.”

But the doctor was unsatisfied. “I know you can do that,” he said. “The question is—will you do that? You’re reaching the age where people die from stupid behavior.”

I was a little shocked at the doctor’s approach.

He pushed on. “I would like to have a nickel for every time I’ve had to give this speech to some patient that I know is not listening—who will go home and immediately feel better from the fluids and medication we gave him. Soon, they’re right back into self-destruction.”

Feeling the need to take some of the gloom off the room, I offered, “Well, we can help him, doctor. And R. B. has been known to turn a page or two and write another chapter.”

I was very pleased with my poetic answer.

R, B. was about to speak when the doctor interrupted, unimpressed. “Let me leave it at this,” he said. “If you continue to do what you do, you won’t live another five years.”

This last statement really surprised me, because whenever I talked to R. B., he was convinced he would outlive me because of my obesity. He always joked that he would steal everything I owned after I died—including my wife and kids.

So this last statement from the doctor changed R. B. from a willing patient to an impatient, willing fighter. “I told you I would do better,” he snarled.

I knew that voice. That was the lightning before the thunder of his temper. I asked the doctor if I could speak to him outside/ We wandered into the hall and stepped into a waiting room.

Before I could speak conciliatory words, the doctor looked me right in the eye and said, “He’s got to change—or he’s not gonna make it.”

My speech deserted me.

My attempts to reason with the young physician disappeared.

I felt tears come to my eyes.

I don’t know what emotion was trying to come to the surface. Was it pity? Was it anger?

I shook the doctor’s hand and thanked him, dried the moisture in my eyes and headed into R. B.’s room with a cheery spark.

We left him alone to put on his clothes and drove him home, stopping off to get some vanilla ice cream and 7-Up, which he said sounded good to him. Once he was situated in his own bed, he was overtaken by sleepiness, so we excused ourselves, drove home and tried to grab a little sleep from the remaining night.

The next day I called R. B. but there was no answer.

Two days later, he called me and said he wanted to have one of our sessions. Speculating on the purpose for the meeting, I said, “Are we going to chat about your health problems?”

He went silent.

So I asked him again, “I mean, are we going to discuss what happened the other night?”

While admitting that he had been in the hospital, R. B. refused to agree that it was meaningful. Rather, it was an over-reaction by him, due to gas.

I wasn’t sure what to do.

I knew the doctor would want me to challenge him.

Maybe I should have. I don’t know.

There are times when, to be a friend, you have to pretend that things are not the way they actually appear.

 

The F Word … March 12th, 2019

THE

WORD

I was there, live and in person, when “golly” surrendered, without a shot, to “OMG.” Oh, My God.

Likewise, when “Geez” transformed into “Jesus H. Christ.”

Darn it, after that, “heck” didn’t have a chance. “Damn” and “hell” reigned supreme for quite a season.

Then people stopped referring to the “butt of a joke” and screamed at you to “get off your ass.”

Time passed.

It seemed like “give a shit” would hang around, but the times, they are a’changin’.

Here comes “what the fuck.”

“Fuck” is like an old friend who got lost in the wilderness but came back into the house, was ready to sleep on the sofa and willing to throw in a few bucks for pizza.

It stuck closer than a brother.

It became a noun, an adjective, a verb, an interjection—and I do believe I have even heard it used, from time to time, as an adverb: (“…he said fuckily…”)

This disturbs many people, who yearn for the time when language was carefully watched by censoring forces who desired that anything untoward would not cross the ears of young children, or even mature adults.

We most certainly know that Rhett Butler would never say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” if he was able to let Scarlett know that he didn’t “give a fuck.”

It is not the profanity of f-u-c-k that makes it particularly nasty. Although overused, it is not the foulness of the word that creates a problem. It’s just that on the journey from “golly” to “fuck” we got angrier.

We’re not using the language to be clever or cute. We’re using the word because we’re more pissed off than we used to be.

We even tease with a friendly “fuck” to remind people that just beneath the surface is a bubbling oil, ready to spill out and burn anyone in sight if they dare cross our path.

It would be absolutely fine if we could “fuck this, fuck that” and “fuck the other” if it was accompanied by a smile instead of gritting teeth.

It may be necessary to back off the language just to give us the chance to regain some civility. Because you can tell me I’m dumb all day long and I may not like it, but if you tell me to go fuck myself, we’re at war.

So let us not be childish.

First, let’s not be Puritans, pretending that language can be controlled and taken back to an 1853 purity.

But also, let’s not be so idiotic as to assume that the rampant use of more and more “fucks” in our society does not mean that we’ve lost control and no longer have the ability to deal rationally with each other, without tempers flaring.

So the F word is “fuck”

This is not because it’s particularly profane, but because it is a precursor to violent behavior.


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1 Thing You Can Do This Week To Be More Appealing


Avoid Your Temper

Temper is what happens when we ignore our anger.

Temper is the brat we thought was expelled—exiled far away—but suddenly shows up with a tantrum.

Temper is the frustration that spills out on the wrong person.

Temper is when we look like we have a short fuse and a big bomb.

Temper is caused by trying to keep from being angry.

Wisdom tells us that the lack of anger is a sin 

The inability to articulate what is displeasing causes us to swallow our resentment, and then vomit it through our temper.

But nobody takes our temper seriously, assuming we are sleepy, stressed, or the new excuse—”hangry.”

If it comes to your mind and you find it distasteful, before your brain develops a plot against the world around you, speak it.

Share it. You can always be wrong.

On the other hand, temper will never allow you to admit your fallacy. Once temper decides to raise its ugly head, it demands that you defend it.

It is not defensible.

Because temper is too cowardly to simply be angry.


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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … April 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3268)

Crumbling Dream

Hot temper, bitter words

Flying insults, dirty birds

Pent-up snarl from the soul

Heard the half, now here’s the whole

Feelings raw from being hidden

Hell erupts as pain is bidden

To share the anguish of being slighted

Fussy memories, unrequited

Shocked to perceive and be accused

Vehemently denying, yet still refused

Layer upon layer, vicious sound

As our home burns to the ground

Can’t we cease this devastation

And abandon all retaliation?

Or must we struggle to the end

And watch the truth gradually descend

To overwrought exaggeration

White noise buzzing from every station

If no one listens, how can we hear?

Violence threatens, we tremble in fear

Stop the madness, no logic impresses

By ranting about the current messes

I need breath–just some air

You’re so mean, completely unfair

I once loved you with all my heart

So much damage–where can we start?

Yet in the midst of the emotional debris

I still desire a way to be

Your heart again, sweet and real

A tender caress, a path to feel

God forgive us as we scream

And help us save our crumbling dream. 

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An Eye for a Tooth… July 17, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1946)

eyeballGenerally speaking, I make a practice of avoiding anything that Hitler liked. Matter of fact, sometimes I’m a little uncomfortable about sporting a mustache.

Adolf despised gypsies, spirituality, homosexuals and let us not forget … Jews.

But ironically, considering his disdain for Abraham’s seed, he was a faithful follower of the Law of Moses–at least in the sense that he fervently applied the discipline of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” If a German soldier was killed in occupied lands, it was the edict in the Nazi Party to have ten locals murdered in retribution.

So even though the concept of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is included in what we refer to as “holy writ,” I know that it never came from the mind of any God who created human beings and understands our chemistry.

As a race, we are completely and totally devoid of the ability to be even. So what we always end up doing is plucking out an eye … for a tooth.

For instance, if we had actually gone in to Afghanistan after 9/11 and used specially trained troops to hunt down Osama bin Laden and twenty-eight hundred of his cult members and punished them for what they did in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., and then departed, we would have demonstrated the literal application of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

But that’s not what we did.

Infuriated, bruised, energized and over-wrought, we launched ourselves into twelve years of war, costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

Why? Because human beings can’t measure. Even though Jesus warned us that the “meter we measure out” to other people will come right back to us, we become enraged and inflict too much punishment for what has happened to us.

So are you telling me that God didn’t KNOW this about the emotional human beings He created?

  • Are you telling me He would have told Moses to unleash vengeful people on their enemies, hoping for some restraint?
  • How about this–did we really need to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of people, to end the war–pay back for Pearl Harbor?

What might seem to be an unpatriotic questioning of our country’s dealings is actually just a microscope placed on human character, explaining WHY retribution never works.

If you punch me in the face, I am much too explosive to immediately respond to you because I am completely capable of losing control and taking more from you than you gave to me–even to the point of destroying your life.

The purpose of turning the other cheek is not to be a loser. It is to give yourself a chance to keep from losing control and doing something that you truly should regret, but end up rationalizing.

It is astounding to me that our heartland citizens always espouse that we are “a Christian nation,” when we continue to follow the principles of Judaism, Islam and even Adolf Hitler. Someone has to grow up.

If we really could be even and take “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” then who knows? Maybe the system would be a deterrent to evil. But historically, dastardly acts have always stirred formerly reasonable people to flirt with darkness.

So what IS the answer?

We need to admit that an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and any attempt to initiate punishment on our own is not only going to perpetuate the problem, but will actually accelerate it.

I turn the other cheek because I don’t want my temper to control my future.

There you go.

After all, if you don’t do it that way, you find yourself defeated–with the world turned against you, stuck in a bunker, too frightened to swallow the pill and too much of a coward to put the gun to your head.

 

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