Thanksgiving Thoughts from Our Writers Guild

The prompt–in 50 words or less, share a Thanksgiving thought.  As always, our thoughts tend to cover quite a range…

Why I Don’t Cook Thanksgiving Dinner Anymore

by Donna Johns

Family was coming in three hours.

Turkey was going in to roast.

Oven door fell off.

Duct tape didn’t work.

Gave thanks for Ken’s Steak House

And prime rib for Thanksgiving.

 IN THE SOUP

by Betsey Ansin

Several friends know to save the turkey carcasses for me.  Bedded atop marrow bones, stock, veggies, and herbs to suit any culture, a soup is born.  Thanksgiving is frozen in time.  And, like memories, can be recalled as needed.

Turkey carcass proud
The family feast simmers
If a cook stirs.

from Marjorie Roemer

This mandated time of giving thanks.  Massachusetts vying with Virginia for its origin.  Presidents changing the date, claiming each for a different cause.  Still, it’s turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie that linger in the mind, the bounty of this American feast.  It’s families and plenty, having enough and sharing it.

ON THANKSGIVING

Two-Part Haiku by Dennis Greene

The walk to football,

With my neighbors and my friends,

Felt warm…I belonged.

 

I hope that our young

Can experience that warmth

On this Thanksgiving.

from Steve Goldfinger

In a memoir, Teddy White describes his older brother, a recent immigrant, at a school play reenacting Thanksgiving. Dressed as an Indian, the brother is handed food. His hilarious response: “Vos is dos traif?”

I wonder if recent immigrants like White’s brother are “traif” to some in America today.

Every Year,  They Make Me More Nervous

Thanksgiving Haiku by Sue Wurster

Hmm…this Thanksgiving

The wild turkeys in my yard

Are toting pitchforks…

THANKSGIVING MIRACLE

by Lydia Bogar

Bride’s First Thanksgiving

Her turkey roasts as snow falls–

The power stays on!

and from Larry Schwirian

I’m thankful to live in a country that is still perceived by many to be a beacon of hope in a state that values truth, justice, and the rule of law–and in a community that embraces racial, social, and religious diversity.

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S ON LARRY’S MIND? FEAR

FEAR

By Lawrence Schwirian

Fear is perhaps the most primal of all human instincts…we are, all of us, brought into this world pre-programed to react to perceived threats by fleeing or fighting. Our initial response to a perceived threat might mean the difference between success or failure or even life or death. Fortunately, in this modern-age, many threats are not so immediate that our health and well-being are in instant jeopardy. But that does not mean dangers that are more protracted or abstruse should be regarded as any less menacing. Fortunately or unfortunately, fear itself can be used by those who brandish power to bend the will of their followers for practical benefit or protracted harm.

Consider and contrast the presidencies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Donald J. Trump. In March of 1933, in his first inaugural address, President Roosevelt sought to assure the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This was at a time when the USA was experiencing an unemployment rate of roughly 25% during the heart of the Depression. Over the next seven years, with the help of the New Deal, the unemployment rate would continue to decline until the US entered World War II in December 1941 when unemployment became a non-issue. In contrast, Donald J. Trump, in a campaign event in Texas, recently sought to instill fear into his loyal base by lying to his constituency that there were many middle-easterners, terrorists, MS-13 gang members, drug dealers, and rapists in a migrant caravan now making its way from southern Mexico to the US border. This at a time when the unemployment rate in the United States is at a historic low and migrant workers are needed in many parts of the country.

Clearly, Mr. Trump’s comments were intended to energize his base and not meant to unify the country, by pacifying disparate raging political dialog.  The recent bombing attempts of Trump opponents by an ardent Trump supporter as well as the recent mass murders at a Jewish Temple in Pittsburgh are clear examples of how crude, baseless remarks meant to generate “fear and hatred” can result in real-life tragedy.  This current president is the antithesis of FDR; his methods and objectives are more in keeping with historical precedents set by unscrupulous demagogues like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

My greatest fear is that our democracy is slipping away…that those who believe in compromise that results in positive change will not be sufficient in number or have the force of will to rise up to confront those who fight to maintain the status quo and who believe that winning is everything…even if it stands for nothing.  I, for one, plan to fight and to keep fighting until I am too weak to fight any longer.

Frequent “BOLLI Matters” contributor Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry Schwirian  has been an active BOLLI member for nearly three years–taking a variety of classes, leading architecture courses with his wife Caroline, co-leading the Writers Guild, and serving on BOLLI’s Journal committee.  

 

NOVEMBER LINES FROM LYDIA: SAD NUMBERS…

SAD NUMBERS–NOT WRONG.  JUST SAD.

By Lydia Bogar

I am very proud that my hometown of Worcester is host to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Green Hill Park.

The Place of Flags, at the entrance to the Memorial, hosts the American flag, the flag of the Commonwealth, and, of course, the black and white Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag that has become a universal symbol of the wounds and strife of the twenty years that our troops were in Southeast Asia.  1955 to 1975.

The Place of Names, in the deepest section of the Memorial,  is surrounded by a wall that can serve as seating for the young and old who come to this sacred place. The names of the dead and missing are first listed on “The Wall” in Washington before they are accepted onto these local granite guardians next to the flags and words.

The Place of Words is the most powerful on these four acres. Etched into these gray monoliths are letters written from thirteen service members to their mothers and fathers, girlfriends, and younger brothers. You must see these words yourself; I could never do justice to them in this small space.

One thousand five hundred forty-seven Americans.

One thousand five hundred forty-six men from Massachusetts who died in combat or later from their combat injuries.

One woman, Second Lt. Pamela Donovon, R.N. from Brighton MA.

Nor should we forget the two hundred thirty-five thousand service members from Massachusetts who came home from that conflict. Do they walk these paths? Do the parents and siblings come to this hallowed place, or does it continue to be too difficult to bear?

Construction cost: One point four million dollars.

Dedicated: June 9, 2002.

On September 18, 2011, the War Dog Monument was dedicated to the four thousand dogs–search dogs, guard dogs, tunnel dogs, bomb dogs–who served between 1965 and 1975.

“HE IS YOUR FRIEND, YOUR PARTNER, YOUR DEFENDER, YOUR DOG.  YOU ARE HIS LIFE, HIS LOVE, HIS LEADER.  HE WILL BE YOURS, FAITHFUL AND TRUE, TO THE LAST BEAT OF HIS HEART.
YOU OWE IT TO HIM TO BE WORTHY OF SUCH DEVOTION.”

These dogs were classified as equipment and were routinely euthanized or left behind when our troops came home. It is a conservative estimate that these canine warriors saved over ten thousand lives during their ten years of service. When federal law changed seventeen years ago, retired military dogs could be adopted by law enforcement agencies. The first civilian adoption took place in Massachusetts in 2002.

I’ve used numerals only for dates in this piece.  I have written out the numbers representing our fellow Americans, the casualties of that conflict, who should never be considered just numbers.

For more information or to provide a donation, go to  http://massvvm.org/

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

WHAT’S ON DENNIS GREENE’S MIND? HUMILITY…

HUMILITY

by Dennis Greene

When things are going great and I feel smugly pleased with myself, I try to remember the famous words of Golda Meir:  Don’t be so humble–you are not that great.

And, because I save stuff, I have the documentary evidence to remind me just how not great I am.

In 1969, five years after compiling an abysmal academic record at Lafayette College, I decided to stop being a mediocre engineer and become a lawyer. I took the LSAT, did reasonably well, and applied to most of the best law schools in the country. Two of these schools, Harvard and Columbia, each required a recommendation from the applicant’s undergraduate institution. I had no contacts at Lafayette who might remember me favorably, but I nevertheless forwarded the forms to Dean Chase with a letter acknowledging that he might not remember me but nevertheless requesting that he complete and return the required recommendation forms. I had been one of only seven students in my class on the Dean’s List in our first semester, and I hoped that he would notice that and overlook that, later, I was on both academic and disciplinary probation. But nothing slipped by Dean Chase, and he replied as follows:

Contrary to the first paragraph in your letter, I do indeed remember you. In fact, I  remember writing to you a letter, perhaps it was prior to your sophomore year,  explaining why it was not wise for a student to have an automobile. I believe I  pointed out that academic difficulties often arose when this became the case.

In light of what happened to your academic record at Lafayette afterwards, I am  appalled at my success as a prophet. While I am sorry I was accurate in your case, I can only wish that my track record were as good with everybody else.

These somewhat garbled comments were followed by rejections from Harvard and Columbia. I also received rejection letters from Stanford, Penn, NYU, Berkeley, and  Michigan. The Stanford letter, received only weeks after my application had been submitted, was the most crushing.

I am aware that we have not yet received all the documents required to      complete your application…. however, the Admissions Committee… acts on  applications whenever in its judgement the information available is sufficient to  permit a decision to be made.

I had received an “early decision” rejection years before such actions became routine.

Happily (and luckily), I was admitted to BU Law School, but just barely. My application for financial aid was denied. When I met with the Dean of Admissions to discuss this decision, he informed me, with little warmth, that I should feel fortunate to have been admitted at all, as I had the lowest undergraduate GPA of any student who had applied that year.  He then repeated, with emphasis:  I don’t mean the lowest who was admitted, I mean the lowest of anyone who applied.

I asked if I could defer admission for a year so that I could  earn enough to pay tuition, and he coldly informed me that he would not recommend it.  I would be required to re-apply, and the way the BU applicant pool was improving, my board scores might not be enough to gain me admittance again.

I accepted admission in the class of 1973 and figured out how to make it work.  I finished the first year near the top of my class, worked hard,  got some breaks,  and have had a wonderful life, so far. But I might just as easily have ended up spending my life scraping the barnacles off the hulls of rich people’s sailboats.

I’m not that great.

Prolific “BOLLI Matters” writer Dennis Greene

Whether it’s pop culture, sci fi, memoir, or whatever is on his mind at the moment, Dennis provides us with his own blend of humble humor–which is, of course, great!

 

 

 

STORIES FROM STEVE: ON MIRACLES

On…

by Steve Goldfinger

“A miracle is a violation of nature,” wrote David Hume, the dour 18th century Scot philosopher.  He virtually demolished the possibility of a miracle ever happening by posing the following question double-edged question.  Which is more likely–that the event took place, or that the testimony describing it was fallacious?

It is easy to dismiss Jonah and the whale, but it may not be so easy to dismiss the Hanukah story of an oil lamp of burning for eight days rather than one.  But if archeologists could somehow recover a like oil, give it to scientists who could then identify an ingredient that increased burning longevity, would we still think of it as a miracle?  I don’t know.

Anyway, I began to think about Hume’s argument, asking whether his logic was too dismissive of those who believe in divine intervention, too oblivious of the realm of faith and hope in our lives.This was all occasioned by learning of a recent experience of a close friend.

Late in life, she struggled with advanced renal failure, the possibility of going on hemodialysis hinging on a blood test drawn each week. Then, completely unexpectably, a donor kidney became available, one that was extremely well-matched to her immune system.

Following its engraftment within her body, a couple of remarkable things happened. Her high blood pressure–which had required five drugs, around the clock, to obtain some semblance of control–settled into the normal range without any.  But the second remarkable thing, the one that defied belief, was this: her hair–which had long been colored by a beautician–began to grow out in its natural shade.  Yes, there it was–as auburn as when she was in her twenties!

No one could explain it.  Experts in developmental biology, immunology, dermatology and all other relevant fields were at a loss. Nor, I discovered,  had such a phenomenon ever been observed by others.

So, as banal as her hair story might be when compared to Jonah and the whale, was this a miracle?  Did my eyes deceive me when I sat across from her at dinner? Did she really sneak off to her colorist on the sly after she had her new kidney? Am I, in writing this, giving false testimony?  I know her well and cannot believe she would do such a thing.

When she and her husband describe the blessing that has enfolded for them during the past few months, they are not loathe to speak of a miracle in their lives.  No, not the hair.  The successful transplant, the avoidance of impending dialysis, the cure of her hypertension.

So where does this leave David Hume?

In the 18th century, in musty philosophy books, and in my own ruminations.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI two years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.