Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm Getting Old

One of the things that I enjoy about Facebook is the ability to remember friends' birthdays as they are announced each day on the Home Page. Birthdays are still a cause for celebration; I look forward to mine as my "Once A Year Day" (cue in The Pajama Game). I also look forward to extending greetings, at least, with a virtual acknowledgment on the celebrant's Facebook Wall. In my experience, people like to be remembered. If they have taken the time to include their birthdays in their personal information utilized and distributed by Facebook, the odds are they share my enthusiasm for the annual festivities.

It is shortly after midnight on February 27th. I just noticed that four Facebook friends are celebrating their birthdays today. Robert Danielson, Stephen Berman, Nicholas Schaser and Terese Farr. While not unusual to have four Facebook friends sharing a birthday, a thought struck me as I reviewed these names, giving me pause, and generating some Prairie Pondering.

First of all, Happy Birthday, Bob, Steve, Nick and Terese! I hope you have a wonderful day and that you think of tonight's Oscar Awards as your very own birthday party thrown in your honor by Hollywood's elite. Don't worry about not being in attendance. Traffic is murder in Los Angeles. You're better off enjoying your party from the comfort of your home.

Moving on, I realized when I saw the names that each celebrant represents a different phase of my own life and, as I approach 59, there aren't a lot of phases left. I'm not being maudlin; I find it ironic that the every day routine of checking on the day's birthdays resulted in a mortality reality check.

Bob Danielson and I went to college together. We lived well. We were both street smart at a young age and enjoyed the anticipation of an endlessly unfolding future.

Steve Berman is one of my closest friends from law school and, later, Washington, D.C. He's been married the entire time I've known him. Holidays during law school were always celebrated at the Berman household because his spouse, Judy, was an early example of a full-time employee who somehow managed to also be a homemaker. We were still young, striving to reap the rewards, material and otherwise, that we were sure would follow once we successfully entered the legal profession.

Nick Schaser represents the era of my early parenting. His mother and my wife became best of friends attending parenting classes at the community center shortly after the arrivals of our respective first born sons. Nick and Phillip were best friends as toddlers. It was a time of life when I became acquainted with the concept of having a social circle that revolved around relationships in existence because of my children.

Terese Farr is the mother of a client. I met her only a couple of years ago when she accompanied her daughter to our initial meeting. Terese was there to take measure of me on behalf of her daughter, who was hiring an attorney for the first time. I knew I was connecting with the daughter. However, I wasn't sure I'd be representing her because I couldn't read Terese's reaction to how I was handling the meeting, particularly the parts about not speaking openly in front of her so as not to waive attorney-client privilege. Ultimately, I was retained and obtained a good result for the client.

Forty years have transpired since Bob Danielson and I first celebrated birthdays together. That's a lot of birthdays. It's as many as my mother celebrated during her entire visit to the planet. I can't imagine that I'll have another 40.

I'm no longer the youngster eager to meet the unknown. I've long ago given up fawning over the majesty of the law and all it offers. These days, I'm more likely to pine for a baseball bat to resolve conflict; the fighting that passes for legal wrangling is tiresome. Phillip is no longer a toddler. He'll be 28 in a couple of months. He and Nick have taken my place on the temporal merry-go-round, entitled to enjoy the ride on horses of their own choosing. My days as an attorney are waning. I can't imagine ever retiring but nor can I imagine maintaining the same pace of practice for another 10 years. In the scheme of things, 10 years is the blink of an eye. W was a month into his presidency 10 years ago.

The self-absorbed bottom line: Read the title of today's blog. I'm getting old. 60 may be the new 40, but that's just a reflection on how old we used to consider it to hit 40 (or 30 for that matter).

I'll still enjoy celebrating my birthday and the birthdays of my friends. But I expect that more and more experiences, like the simple reading of birthday announcements, will reflect the length and breadth of my worldly experience and, to be honest, a bittersweet tinge at the realization that the proverbial fat lady is gargling in anticipation.

The REAL bottom line: enjoy it while you can and don't forget to extend birthday wishes to those whose presence who have contributed to the memories that sustain you.

Dedicated to Richard Diamond, Mensch
(Nov 21, 1947 - Feb 14, 2011)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Time to Own Up and Admit a Mistake

Why aren't the neo-cons, who MUST now admit that Saddam had neither WMD nor ties to Al-Qaida, either (a.) apologizing for jumping the gun and invading Iraq, or (b.) clamoring for an invasion of Libya to overthrow a deranged dictator who has oppressed his people for decades, is murdering his opponents in the streets and is culpable in one of the largest terrorist attacks on Americans in history (i.e., PanAm/Lockerbie) prior to 2001? It just seems to me that their chest-thumping defense of the Iraq war is irreconcilable with their silence on Libya. Could it be that they were wrong in 2003?

If you watch the recent 60 Minutes interview of Donald Rumsfeld, you'll see that the former Secretary of Defense still cannot bring himself to admit that, knowing what he knows now, it was a mistake to invade Iraq on the pretext of preventing Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction. According to Rumsfeld, the world and the Iraqi people are better off without Hussein, justifying the U.S. invasion leading to his overthrow.

All things being equal, Rumsfeld may be right. The world may very well be better off without Saddam Hussein. I just believe this view misses the point. There are many evil-doers (President Bush's term, not mine) whose demise would shift the cosmic balance towards love and harmony. That, in and of itself, does not give the United States the legal or moral authority to act unilaterally to bring about such a shift. If Rumsfeld and his supporters believe otherwise, they should be pressing for U.S. intervention in Libya to remove the murderous Khadaffi from power.

If, in the alternatve, they recognize that the 2003 invasion was ill-conceived, relying on questionable intelligence from uncredible sources, and not justified in light of the absence of WMD, they should have the decency to admit it. They have an affirmative moral obligation to use the mistakes of President George W. Bush's administration to persuade those they blinded with patriotic rhetoric that the consensus building approaches of President George H.W. Bush and President Obama make more sense in the short term and in the long run.

Diplomacy, not pre-emptive war-mongering, needs to be the standard by which we exist in the community of nations.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Got Shorty

This past couple of weeks have been rough ones at Meadow Breeze Farm. Our 6-1/2 year old Bassett/Terrier cross, Shorty, spent last week in the Metropolitan Veterinary Referral Services clinic, fighting for his life. He came home last Friday, brightening everyone's mood, including that of his brother, a 6-1/2 year old Bassett/German Shepard cross, CJ. And while it will be some weeks before Shorty recovers fully, the panic, fear, helplessness, depression and emotional roller coaster experienced since January 25th, will make those weeks, and all the weeks beyond, all the more precious.

The threat of losing Shorty brought several life lessons into sharp focus. Besides the usual "hug your kids", "hug your spouse/significant other", "call Mom and Dad while you can", and "live each day as if it were your last", I was again reminded of how blessed I am to have an extensive network of friends and family who took the time to offer emotional and spiritual support when the need arouse. The comfort garnered from reading comments posted on Facebook (where I chronicled Shorty's struggles) wishing Shorty well is indescribable.

I've also come to realize the truth of another life lesson. Taking responsibility for the well-being of another of God's creatures puts you all in. All the times that I longed for no more than to be home with my dogs, trading their unconditional love for the stress of the real world, came home to roost. Since he was asymptomatic, it took us a week too long to bring Shorty to the vet. But once we realized that his condition was life-threatening and the odds were against our little guy, there was no turning back. Treatment was expensive; medical miracles always are. We were fortunate to have actual miracle workers, Dr. Goullaud and Dr. Reinker, applying all of their considerable training and skills to keep Shorty around for us.

Today, Shorty seems to have beaten the odds. His jaundice is dissipating. He's starting to eat more regularly. The days of roaming the countryside on his own are a thing of the past. There's no sense letting him find another meal on one of those sojourns that will shut down what's left of his liver. I am less inclined to take Shorty for granted. The spectre of losing him shut me down for a week. In the end, his unconditional love comes with a condition. "Love me back".