As we grow older, we get to a point where we realize that if we want to maintain our sanity, we must accept each new challenge that we face as an opportunity for growth. We learn that each time we conquer a new challenge, there’s always going to be a new and greater challenge that we will have to deal with in the future. While each new challenge is always personal in nature, it also sometimes includes one or more of our family members or friends.
There’s an emotional roller coaster that people have been on since March of this year. That’s when our country was locked down because of the COVID-19 virus. During the first couple of months of the lockdown, the roller coaster took people down into the depths of uncertainty and doubt. Then it seemed as though it was heading toward what appeared to be a light at the end of a tunnel. But last week, the roller coaster took a sharp turn and catapulted toward a new abyss of fear and uncertainty.
I’ve written before about how my wife and I raised seven children — one boy and six girls. An interesting thing happened with some of my children. When they turned 18, they got tired of me telling them what I thought they should be doing and declared that because they were 18, they were now adults who could make their own decisions. The first time I heard that proclamation, I laughed and asked what happened on their 18th birthday that transformed them into the type of person who no longer needed to listen to their parents. The response I got was, “I’m an adult now and I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”
You may have heard of Charles Mackey (1814-1889), a Scottish poet, journalist, and author who was best known for his book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Mackey’s book, which was published in 1841, was critical of public manias, such as economic bubbles, fortune-telling, haunted houses, and other manias that were occurring at the time that he wrote his book.
After I started my law practice in January 1983, one of my first clients was Donna Schmidt. I had met Donna several years earlier when my mom introduced me to her. I don’t remember where we were introduced, but I do remember that it was at a Catholic religious event. Donna was a year younger than my mom. They had known each other since they were teenagers, when they both attended the same high school — the Academy of Our Lady, in Peoria, Illinois.
There are several ugly truths about life that most of us ignore. I want to cover two of those ugly truths today. The first is that the path through life is fraught with uncertainty. The second is that by the time we’re mature adults, we have had experience with the first truth, but most of the time, we tuck it away into a deep dark corner of our minds. Then we go on with our lives behaving as though the first truth does not exist.
When I was 12 years old (1969), I experienced two events that changed the course of my life: I got my own paper route, and my mom drove me to the bank and opened a checking account in my name. The reason she opened the account was because she didn’t want the job of writing a check every week to the company that owned the newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star. When we got home from the bank, she taught me how to write checks. When the first bank statement arrived in the mail, she taught me how to reconcile the account.
When I was growing up during the 1960s and 1970s, there was one TV in my parents’ home, and there were only three television stations to choose from. The stations were affiliated with the three national networks — ABC, NBC, and CBS. The programming for each of the stations ran from 6:00 AM in the morning until 1:00 AM the following morning. After the last TV program ended at 1:00 AM, there was usually an instrumental patriotic song that was played and then the images on the station were replaced with several thick, horizontal, colored lines that appeared while an annoying audio tone played in the background.