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Happy talk

By Robert Owens
web posted April 13, 2009

Usually my goal is to write a column that's informative and thought-provoking.  Today my goal is to write a column that's uplifting and inspirational.  If we look only at the wider-world, it's hard not to get depressed.  Recessions have a way of becoming depressing.  Empires rise and empires fall and though rising can be exhilarating and fun falling unless it's accompanied by barbarians swarming the gates and crashing social institutions is often hard to recognize and even harder to admit. 

As I said, my goal is to write a column that's uplifting and inspirational, so sad to say we must leave the daily contemplation of current events and the surrender of America for the more understandable relationships of our private lives. 

I have two grandchildren and they bring me joy just thinking about them.  The oldest is now four and has begun calling us on the phone.  What a joy it is to answer and hear that little voice say, Gampa Bob!  As a Robert of course I've had a lifetime of people assuming my name is really Bob.  I've never liked that name.  It just starts and stops, B-O-B, like a period.  Besides, growing up I was never voluntarily a Bob.  I was Bobby Ray to my family, a name that makes you smile just saying it.  However, when my little baby-girl says it I get a smile so big I think it might crack my head.

At my desk, here at the Owens Family Compound I have a dated picture of myself and the Best-Wife-in-the-Whole-World and our son long ago before he gave us our grandchildren back when he was a boy and I had hair and a black beard.  I look at that picture multiple times during the day and it always makes me smile.  We were poor, living in a one bedroom flat on the Lower Eastside of Mesa Arizona next to an apartment house full of rough-necks and dope-heads with only an alley and a dumpster between.  Nevertheless, we were happy.  Our son then only 12 years old slung hash at his school to help pay for his lunches.  I worked long hours in construction and we had a hose running from the neighbor's so we could have running water but we were together and we were happy. 

Long before email, the internet or Google we managed to stay in touch with far away relatives and we never had to worry if we left the house and forgot our cell phone.   Sometimes I wonder if this instant connectivity hasn't driven us further apart rather than bringing us together.  I don't know how it's effected you but what it's done for me is extended my work week and my work hours. 

I jumped on the new wave; working from home as soon as I could and now that's the majority of what I do.  That has its positives and its negatives.  The positive is that my work station is 20 feet from my bed and the negative is that my work station is 20 feet from my bed.  The lines have blurred and I've lost track of when I'm working and when I'm not.  But then again since I work online, I can take a vacation whenever I want since as long as I have internet access I can get my work done which also means I get to work on all my vacations.  I'm not complaining.  I wouldn't trade this set-up for anything less than no work with direct-deposit and since that option withered away with my 401-K I'm thankful I have work and that such a sweet deal has come my way.

Back there on the Lower East side when I was getting laid-off every other week and struggling to make ends meet I never could have imagined the life I live today.  If someone had told me, "In twenty-five years you will be a college professor, a published author, a serialized writer, working from home through a computer," I would've asked, "What're you smoking?"  However, here I am meandering through a page looking at another picture I have conveniently near my desk.  This one's from 20 years ago.  It's the Best-Wife-in-the-Whole-World and me, skinny and smiling, happy just because we were together.  As I think of my son and his wonderful wife, of my two beautiful grandchildren and of my loving supportive wife I know that no matter how dark the age, no matter how dire the times God has given me a good life and I'm thankful.  My prayer is that everyone will take a moment aside, get their mind off the tragic circumstances we face as a nation and appreciate what they have while they have it because as the tipping-points are passed I believe we'll all look back on this summer of our discontent as the Good Old Days.   Love your family, enjoy the peace, and trust in God. ESR

Dr. Robert Owens teaches History, Political Science, Religion, and Leadership for Southside Virginia Community College.

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