The Last One

mayWritten by the late James R. May. Originally published in the Oologah Lake Leader on October 13, 2005. This was the last column printed before his death. No title could be located.

Having always been a patient person, I assumed I would become even more mellow as I grew older. I looked forward to rocking on the front porch, sipping tea and listening to gentle music. I envisioned sharing my vast collection of worldly wisdom with any and all who sought my hard-won advice.

Alas, it seems not to be.

It is usually too hot or too cold to sit outside. If the weather cooperates, then there is danger of meeting up with the mosquito that is carrying West Nile virus. That limits most of my time to indoor pursuits.

I’ve pretty much given up on network television as a source of indoor entertainment. One-fifth of the broadcast time is given over to commercials. I do not see the need for advertising replacement body parts or reducing life to 10-second sound bites. Sports have never done it for me, either. The latest movies on TV make me blush. I hear words that I never heard in the Marine Corps, see senseless car crashes and try to mute the programs before the next explosion splashes simulated body parts across the screen. The Marine Corps let me blow up things for real and the police department exposed me to enough blood, bullets and battered bodies. I see no need to simulate such in my living room.

booksWhen I exclude television, modern movies and the manufactured crisis of professional sports, I find that more and more I turn to the indoors for my mental refreshment. I take pleasure in books and classical music. Despite having thinned my personal library by over a thousand volumes these past two years, I find that I still have a surfeit of knowledge-filled tomes stacked around on the shelves and tucked into the odd corner. Diligent study of Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking People is worthy of a degree in itself. A sincere reading of the Third Millennial Bible could fill a lifetime.

I have spent hours listening to Maria Callas singing the arias from La Boheme and Madame Butterfly. All of these aforementioned items bring great feeling and healing to my inner self.

Seeking knowledge has brought me great pleasure throughout my life. My mother taught me to memorize the children’s classics of Robert Louis Stevenson and saw to it that I always had access to books. My father taught me the power of prayer and the virtue of honesty. I find that such things are a lasting bedrock on which to build the balance of my remaining years. I have learned that less is more. Things are just that: things. Knowledge is priceless and yet requires only enough room to fit the otherwise empty space between my ears. If nothing else, as I grow older, I find it much easier to pack my worldly possessions.

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