Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When It Came Time To Sit It Out Or Dance, Aunt Geraldine Danced

  When you live nearly 100 years, you have a lot of opportunity to do just that…to live.
  My Aunt Geraldine certainly took advantage of it. She lived a full life, inspiring others as she went. I went to college with one of the co-writers of award-winning song, “I Hope You Dance.” Geraldine certainly lived out the song’s lyric that reads, “When you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance…”
  I doubt Geraldine ever sat out a dance. Following doctor’s advice she danced, danced, danced…and danced some more. (But somehow, knowing her, I think she would have danced regardless of the doctor’s advice!)
  She figuratively and literally danced through life, through good times and bad, leaving in her wake a wealth of admirers, friends, memories and inspiration.
  Aunt Geraldine once told me she was on the dance floor the night Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Carl Perkins heard a young man say to his dance partner, “Don’t step on my suedes!” This was the inspiration for a rock classic. Later in life, I interviewed Perkins while working for a newspaper, and her story and his story were the same. So in my mind, I always thought it was kind of cool that my Great Aunt Geraldine was witness to rock and roll history.
  Of course, my aunt was kind of a rock star, too. Wherever she went, she had “a look,” a style that was all her own, which I also thought to be cool. Now, she would have stood out anyway, but by having her own image, even added to the magic that was my aunt.
  She really was one of a kind. I always marveled at how such a BIG personality could fit into such a small frame. She defined the word outgoing. People loved her and she loved them. She enjoyed life, and it was so obvious that strangers would want to meet her…and this happened a lot.
  “How do you do it?” they would ask. “I hope I can do that too when I’m your age.”
   When I reflect on it…she really was a big deal! (You know those, "I'm kind of a big deal" T-shirts? She coulda worn one with all honesty.)
  I think they/we were drawn to her energy like a moth to a flame. If only we could all be so lucky, to have a Geraldine Williams in our lives, an inspiration…a figure that claims: Hey, folks, this is how it’s done!
  For 40-plus years, Geraldine worked at the Corner Drug Store and believed in giving customer service with a smile. She cared for people and made them feel better just by being who she was. What a perfect match for her. It’s funny how God tends to put people where they need to be for the greatest impact.
  She successfully lived the term “single mom” before it was something on the radar of our social consciousness. Her love and loyalty to her family will always stand as an example of how it’s done. She told me of her struggles to make ends meet. Sometimes her life played songs that weren’t easy to dance to, but she never lost her step.
  Her house was always a special place for me and all other visitors. It was always wall-papered with photos of family and friends. She made you feel at home. She played baseball with me when I was young. And later in life when she was still young, in her 80’s, she played baseball with my son, Landon. The aged baseball player, Satchel Paige, often pondered, “How old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you were?” I think Geraldine would agree…one is as old as they want to be.
  She never wanted anyone to leave her home without having had something to eat or drink; and friends and family rarely left her home without hearing, “I love you,” called from the porch.
  Rest assured, I will always remember Aunt Geraldine’s dancing, but since, by no stretch of the leotard, am I a dancer. I am much more likely to first remember her laughter. It was infectious. And she told us her face had laugh lines and not wrinkles. And I hope her laughter and love for fun will haunt mine and the hearts of many for years.
  Some have told me the measure of life is how many ripples you make in The Pond. Aunt Geraldine made a lot of ripples. Her life touched so many others.
  Science tells us that all stars burn out…and it’s true. But…but, even in this death, a star’s light continues to travel through space and be seen light years away. Well, our own star Geraldine is no longer here to shine among us…but the light she left, continues to shine here on earth and in heaven. And I really think if we look for it, even in our memories, it will always help show us The Way.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Be A Muse, Inspire!

By Taylor Wilson

   It's a powerful word. In fact, it's up there atop my list of favorites, along with courage and create.
But back to inspire. It's something everyone can do. We can all do things that might inspire others. However, we seldom set that as a daily goal. Can you imagine if we were able to attack the day with the notion that, "Today, I am going to do something inspiring?"
   Can it be done day in, day out? If so, it's no easy task. Sometimes it is as songwriter Guy Clark says, "It's tough out there, a good muse is hard to find." Inspiration doesn't linger everywhere.
   But take heart, even though it isn't always hitting us all in the nose like oxygen. Inspiration can happen, and when it does...well, for lack of a better onomatopoeia, WOW! Maybe we need to be more aware? I'm certain we need to share it more. My guess is an inkling of inspiration--a small spark--in the right place, at the right time, could make all the difference in the world.
   You see, I'm a ponderer, good thing, 'cause I'm not much good at anything else. But as I do what I'm good at (pondering), I often wonder if one of the reasons we spin 'round on the famed 3rd, water-covered rock is not to do just that--inspire. Is it why we are here? (I am one of those that fails to believe we are here by accident. We are here for a reason, and just maybe that reason is to inspire someone else?)
   Stories of inspiration abound among us, and I have always thought they were worth collecting, me being an old journalist and all.
   For example:
   "On July 11th, 1936 at the Olympic Trials in New York City, famed Olympian Jesse Owens

breezed to victory in the 100 meter, the 200 meter and the long jump. The next day he met Babe Ruth at a dinner honoring the Olympic athletes. When Ruth asked Owens if he was going to win at the Olympics, Owens replied, 'I will try.'

  "The Bambino told The Buckeye Bullet, 'Everybody tries, I succeed. Why? Because I know I’m going to hit a home run just about every time I swing the bat. I’m surprised when I don’t. Because I know it, the pitchers, they know it too. KNOW, Jesse, that you will win!'"
Owens went on to Olympic fame...four gold medals in Berlin. Sure, he might have done it with or without The Babe's inspirational words, but who knows? I believe some inspiration was at work.
(Note, Star Wars fans, the similarity between what Ruth told Owens and a scene in one of the sci-fi films, the part where Yoda tells Luke, "Do or do not. There is no try!"


  The clip can make you wonder if the above story did not also inspire writer/producer George Lucas? Again, we are all linked, some philosophers say, and perhaps so are our inspirations, life lessons, and influences?)

   Again, inspiring others doesn't cost us anything. And too, it can be done by deeds as well as words or maybe, simply by a well-placed hint now and then.
   In his biography, Life, Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards tells of his grandfather, Gus's, inspirational influence.
  "...Gus was leading me subtly into getting interested in playing, rather than shoving something into

my hand and saying, 'It goes like this.' The guitar was totally out of reach. It was something you looked at, thought about, but never got your hands on. I'll never forget the guitar on top of his upright piano every time I would go visit, starting maybe from the age of five. I thought that was where the thing lived. I thought it was always there. And I just kept looking at it, and he didn't say anything, and a few years later I was still looking at it. 'Hey, when you get tall enough, you can have a go at it,' he said. I didn't find out until after he was dead that he only brought that out and put it up there when he knew I was coming to visit..." Richards wrote.

    Mortality belongs to all of us. Yet, still so many of us go to the grave having left not one ounce of inspiration behind.
   That's a shame.
   Inspire. It's a powerful word and an excellent goal for this day and all the days that follow.