Uncle Joe: Couldn't You Spend Christmas With Us?

This past year has been a tough one for my father’s side of the family. We lost two of my aunts, Aunt Freda and Aunt Lempi in the winter and spring. The day before Christmas Eve we leaned that my Uncle Joe died. He had congestive heart failure and squeezed a great deal of life out his body; as a matter of fact he died after climbing a flight of stairs. The good news is that his nephew John was with him and told us that Uncle Joe didn’t suffer.

Even though he had a long life it’s still tough to lose someone right around the holidays. His death gave this Christmas a tinge of sadness. It’s also hard when it’s winter in Massachusetts. Uncle Joe’s wake is starting as I write this (from sunny and warm San Diego) and the current temperature in Gardner, MA is 11° F. I doubt that most of his family will even be able to attend.

My father is the youngest of seven, and one of four surviving. As a group they’ve been blessed with length of years, if not always good health. Uncle Joe was a case in point. He’s had heart failure for a number of years and needed to be on oxygen for a long time. Had he lived a hundred years ago it’s pretty clear that he wouldn’t have lived this long, and I sometimes wonder if his extra years were a blessing to him. It was certainly good to see him on my infrequent visits to Gardner and I’ll certainly miss him when I’m there next but I think it’s a fair question whether our current state of health care has served him well.

This is probably grist for another post, but our health care system is good at keeping our hearts beating, and moderately good at pain relief. We are also good at providing equipment to keep us mobile (e.g. oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, etc.). But we’re not as good at helping people stay healthy and avoid getting sick. Well, more later.

I've Elected to Have No Opinion

OK this goes against the very grain of writing a blog, but here goes: I have decided on some issues to have absolutely, completely, entirely no opinion. I hope this doesn’t put my American citizenship in peril.

There are certainly many issues where I will continue to have strong opinions and this is far from a decision to stop blogging. But I’ve noticed that I’m oftentimes asked to weigh in on an issue and I have a hard time either deciding on the issue or caring about it. I’m now electing to vocally have no opinion.

I’ve often used the 24 hour news channels as a scapegoat and will do so here. My problem with networks like CNN, Fox, and MSNBC is that every 24 hours they need to find 24 hours of content. One of the ways they fill this content is to pit pundits against each other and argue; they also bring viewers in to participate through real time emails and phone calls. This results in all of us feeling not that we have a right to an opinion, but that we have a duty to an opinion. I’ve decided to just say no to this duty. Here are some of the areas where I have chosen to have no opinion:

  • The Mt. Soledad Cross: There is a war memorial cross on a hill in La Jolla. For the last several years there have been lawsuits going back and forth regarding the appropriateness of having a religious symbol on public land. I’ve decided to have no opinion.
  • Every year at Christmas the level of moral outrage appears to spike up. Public displays of manger scenes (Christian) menorahs (Jewish) and the like provoke heat seemingly every year. Some complain that wishing a non-Christian “Merry Christmas” is offensive while others are offended with “Happy Holidays” and feel they are not allowed to say “Merry Christmas.” I’ve elected to have no opinion.
  • Last week I was listening to National Public Radio and they ran a story on chocolate milk in schools. It seems that some groups (like the dairy industry) like having chocolate milk in schools because more children will drink milk. They’ve outlined their arguments at a web page called Raise Your Hand For Milk. The other side argues that the added sugar in the chocolate makes it no better than sugared soda. They are led by Chef Ann Cooper who calls herself the “renegade lunch lady.” I’ve elected to have no opinion.

There will no doubt be other issues and I’ll keep the blog posted.