Monthly Archives: July 2010

Ellen and Henry…


Henry, the omnipresent back seat driver (when he's not sticking most of his frame out the window).

Ellen called last night as she and her 70 lb. bundle of joy Henry were tooling toward the dog food store to get the beast some chow.  Henry is one of those dogs that when you see him, you think to yourself ‘I’m glad I don’t have to feed that guy’.  But he’s a cutie.  A brute, but a cutie.  Ellen sent a quick pic of the furry pile of contentment as they neared the pet food depot.

She’d already scanned this week’s letter so now we had something to talk about.  We went quickly through recent events, what her hubby Tim was up to (softball and beer with the guys), holiday plans (they may visit Charlotte for T-Day), and a few other odds and ends.  In 10 minutes it was over.  It was great to hear from her.

Not that we went through the letter paragraph by paragraph (you’ll see it Monday) but there’s just enough structure that it puts things in context that she might never pick up from our random calls.  That’s satisfying in the sense that this is a sidelight of what letters can do.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say Reid tried to call last night, too.  But his attempt came at 10:27 p.m.  At risk of further embarrassing myself more than I already do on these pages, let’s leave it that he’s going to have to call a little earlier if he wants to talk to his old man.  A lot earlier.

—————–

Today is moving day for mom from Omaha to her new digs in Grand Island.  There is no letter since I’ve yet to talk to the staff at her new home to let them know what’s about to land in their mailbox.  It’s with mixed emotions that I watch this upheaval unfold.  She should be better off in both the near term and the long run.

In lieu of the letter, my niece in Chicago, Kristin, sent me this email earlier this week.  It was so sweet.  It didn’t come on paper, but it had the same effect.

Hi Dave!

I know this note is long over-due, but I hope you’ll excuse its tardiness.  You have been in my thoughts a lot the past month and I’ve gotten updates from EB when we connect and catch up, which seems to be harder in the summer.
I was so sorry to hear about Ralph. At the same time it was settling to know he was finally at peace and everyone had been able to say their good-bye’s to him.  It brought back many memories of our childhood and spending holidays with your parents 🙂  I miss those days.  I hope your mom is settling in and you can make frequent visits to see her.
What a downer when the job loss was relayed to me shortly after and I have also been following your blog daily.  I do believe something bigger, better and more desirable will come along, but having been there it never helps to hear “everything happens for a reason” or “change can be good” or “you will find something better.”  But, with your talent (and hidden talents) I know you will be able to utilize it somewhere other than ______.  How much longer will you be there or are you already done?  Take some trips you want to take (Chicago)!
I hope my email finds you on a good day and I want to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog.  It brings back so many memories and also gives me things to think about somedays.  So, please keep on posting when you can.
I’ve recently started a new gig at ______________ doing Investor Servicing for their _______________.  It’s been challenging and I’m not so sure this cut-throat corporate life is for me, but I need to give it a fair shot and move forward from there.  I had a month break in May between being let-go from my old position and being hired at ___________ and I can’t tell a lie, it was real nice 🙂  probably because it was nice weather and might be a different story if it was winter.  I haven’t seen Reid in a while, but I’ll get a few updates hear and there from Arik through ______!!  I am due for a trip to the Twin Cities.  I absolutely love getting there and especially to see EB and catch up.  She and Tim (and now Henry) are always refreshing.
Again, I’m so sorry for letting too much time pass before I reached out but please know I’ve been thinking about you.
Keep me posted on your contacts and thoughts for possible career opportunities.
Have a good week,
KC
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A royal mess…


By this point it was all to be so simple.

This blog would get back to its very roots: the whys and wherefores and joys of letters.  For months I looked forward to precisely this time of summer to kick off a big push for written pages.  The 80+ posts since January of this year were part of a concerted build up to lead parents to mount a campaign to write to their children in college.  And if their kids were already out of school, it was okay to keep writing, too.

The blueprint was to encourage you to tip off parents that this blog might help pave their way toward some week-to-week non-electronic contact with their studious children.  In post after post they’d get the inside scoop that took me so long to learn the hard way; how to start, what to say, how to organize thoughts, etc.  Moms and dads would rally to the cause and all but abandon their Blackberrys and iPhones as they warmed – quickly – to the idea that words on paper, once abandoned as passe and hopelessly old school, was a concept whose appeal and effectiveness has come full circle.

But my situation made a royal mess of those plans.  My attention instead remains fixed on the here and now.  It has to be.  I wonder this morning how Ellen and Reid will take to all of this sour news.  As it is, I’ll meander to my college origins in the not-so-distant future, but not at this instant.  If – not when – my job search ends, then it will be Katy bar the door.

—————–

Another Wednesday.  Another old letter.

October 11, 2004

EB and Reid:

First, news on the Scooter front.  He was pretty lively this morning compared to the past couple of days.  Not quite his old self, but he’s eating some prescription canned food like there’s no tomorrow and he was running out in the backyard when I let him out an hour ago.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  But it was good to see him romping again, even if it was for only a few feet.  He was back to eating peas and TP, too.

Our weekend was pretty good.  Had Holly and Dana over Saturday night for dinner.  We all sat around the firepit bundled up in our fleeces and sleeping bags.  It was fun.  Dana need to down a bit of wine and laugh after his dad passed away a few days ago.  That firepit is really great.  We burned those old chairs from the original dining room set at the old house.  The _________’s thought it was funny to burn furniture and wondered if the couch was next.

Played golf Saturday, but there’s no need to bring up the ugly part of the weekend.  Man, Nebraska really got thumped by Texas Tech, 70-10.  Worst loss in Nebraska history.  I’d give your uncle a call but I want him to cool off for a few days before taking his pulse on things.  He’ll be cranky, no doubt.

Went out for about 200 miles yesterday with Scott _______.  The leaves and stuff were great and the Softail ran good.  Also went fishing in a farm pond with Mark __________, and caught a ton of huge crappies and bass.  When is the last time I fished in a farm pond?  Never, I think.  The cows in the field came on down to check us out and licked the road salt off Mark’s SUV.  They left a lot of ‘calling cards’ around his car that we had to be careful not to step in.

Off to NY later this week.  Then on to Chicago for the weekend with your mom and hopefully you guys.  What the heck is “Reading Break”?  Isn’t that just an excuse to get out of school and goof off?  Sounds like fun, if you ask me.

You guys can’t believe how clean the house is.  Your mom has been on a cleaning tear, vacuuming everything in sight and straightening out what was once cluttered.  She even vacuumed the closets.  That’s going a bit too far.  The woman has gone off the deep end.  Be sure to ask her about the new cabinet doors in the kitchen.  Ask her about the measurements.

Lots of work these days on the writing front.  My writer’s bloc has subsided a bit.  The trip to Oregon must’ve really sapped me because I was just flat-out tired for a couple of weeks.  Now I’m in the groove a little bit.  Emphasis on little.

Someone stuck a Bush/Chaney sign in the yard Saturday night.  I threw it in the street.  If it was paper, I would’ve used it to wipe.

Well, enough for now.  Gotta go.  You guys be good and I hope to see you in the Windy City.

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Smaller in my rear view mirror…


Today's job to-do list. It has already grown exponentially longer.

The world has begun to slowly rotate again and the seas have calmed since last week’s window-rattling news.

The kids have stepped up to check in on their old man; how are you holding up?, what leads do you have?, what are the job prospects locally?  As was mentioned a few posts ago, it’s important to me that they be good people.  They seem to have paid attention.

Today’s letter to Ellen and Reid won’t be posted until next Monday as per the tradition of this blog.  The nuts and bolts of what they will read is that it’s all about taking one step at a time and that regardless of what the near or medium range or long term future may hold, this is not the end of our world although it might seem like it.  It is a matter of perspective.  There is always someone worse off than you are.  What they won’t read is a senseless blame game; it’s a little bit me, a little bit others, a little bit economic.  The goal is to look forward, not obsess on what already looks smaller in my rear view mirror.

Already, well-meaning friends have rushed forward with names and suggestions and leads.  My inkling is the job hunt process is front loaded in just such a way.  As I told my two, if nothing pans out soon, if no company hands me the keys to a new cubicle, then the burden shifts to my shoulders in that you can’t go to the well too often to ask people for more help and yet more help.

But the big picture I must paint for them is that, like other tough times, this will fade away too.  I believe that to be true.

———————-

My circle of recipients continues to grow wider.  Here’s what was mailed to one of my oldest and dearest friends Pete, who, when the hours got progressively dark earlier this month, really came to the fore for no reason.  He and I go way back, but his kindness closed that gap of years.

July 7, 2010

Pete: I got up early on Sunday with the intention of heading up to Tryon for a surprise visit but then it dawned on me that I knew neither the name of the camp nor its location.  Even my last go-round of there had me ill equipped to re-find it.  There weren’t enough bread crumbs on the road to navigate the way.  You guys were probably better off without a Harley with loud pipes to max-out the tranquility of a summer camp.  That’s not what the parents pay for.

Hey, I did want to thank you for everything you’ve done over the past few weeks.  You really went above and beyond, especially when you picked me up knowing full well that you’d get little or no sleep before herding your cats toward the airport the next morning.  The lift was very much appreciated.  It was great to have you at the visitation and the service.  That in and of itself was also above and beyond.

Things went pretty peacefully for dad.  No discernable pain or discomfort.  The Hospice folks had a good handle on that although it’s not a job for the timid or faint-hearted.  We got into a couple of stories from the Hospice nurses, and man, they really get put through the mill.  Dad was on minimal drugs until the very end when the time came for him to ultimately relax and let go.  Even though dad appeared asleep for hours and hours, I guess patients can hear and are aware throughout the entire ordeal.  I think it’s interesting that they (the nurses) actually encourage the family to talk to – and encourage – patients that’s its fine for them to move on.   The thinking is that some folks need to be told that it’s okay to see what is on the other side.  We talked to him until the very end.  Some of us talked more than others.

I don’t think we have anywhere near the same travails that you and Nancy had in terms of ‘stuff.’  Most of it has already been cherry picked but what they did hoard was paper.  Stacks and stacks of it; records of bills paid, photos and documents, family histories.  Incredible to sort through all of it.  But he did a pretty good job of cataloging things but there was a just a hell of a lot of it.  Why we needed property tax records from 1963 through 1999 is beyond me, but it is what it is.  He saved no trees but then that was before people went green.

Do keep me up to speed on your biking travels when you come down toward Greenville.  This is pretty much a biker haven down here although you’d have a hard time finding me on two wheels without a motor.  To be blunt about it, the drivers down here don’t have a lot of tolerance for cyclists.  There are ‘Share the Road’ signs plastered along the roads and streets but I guarantee folks pay them no mind.  The locals sure as hell don’t practice sharing in any way, shape or form.  That’s especially true when you’re out in the boonies.  Yet I’ve thought about getting a bike for leisurely rides around on the green belts and such.  You won’t find me tooling around most of the local roadways.  Bikers are always getting crunched.

Thanks again, Pete, for stepping up.  I’ve done a particularly lousy job of staying in touch over the years, and literally have no – zero – relationships with any of our fraternity bros.  That’s bothered me, so I appreciate that you’ve rekindled things.  Hey, if you and your bride ever need a non-camp base closer to the more civilized parts of North and South Carolina, you know who to call.

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When it rains, it pours…


Every letter to mom ends the same way

So far July has not shaped up as my favorite month.

First, we laid my father to rest, and now I’ve lost my job at the bank.  I seem to remember seeing somewhere that lumped among life’s big stressors are moving, job loss, divorce, family death, etc.  Hey, I’ve got two of the big ones covered.  A proverbial double whammy.  When it rains, it pours.  In Niagara-like proportions.

A hopelessly optimistic letter writer would say this is just more fodder for the cannon, which I suppose it is, but not in the way any scribe would hope for.  Ellen and Reid were informed last night in dreary calls.  There were no details supplied beyond the utter shock.  Some of that will be left to the pages which will be, at least for me, a sounding board to explain how I reached this juncture along with where – and how – to go forward from this point.  Feelings of self-doubt and what-if-I-had-done-this-differently thoughts are the antidote if you suffer from sound sleep.  At least you now know what keeps me awake.

Irony is at work here.  The cell phone photo of the sticky note affixed to my office wall that was posted just the other day is the final time I’ll ever keep a note in that locale.  I’ll just have to find a suitable replacement surface at home.  If you thought the past few months made for gloomy paragraphs in my letters, well, I never promised you a rose garden of pleasant information.  The kids will see all, read all.  More to come.

—————–

Here is today’s letter to my mother.  She won’t know of this week’s events; her plate is already full enough.  She doesn’t need a side dish of bad news.

July 23, 2010

Mom: The newspaper shows that you guys have had some hot temperatures up there, but there’s no word about the humidity.  It cannot be as bad and bleak as it is here.  The daily minimum of showers is at least two.  When you mix the dampness with the sheer hot sun (we’ve been in the mid-90s at least) it is a very uncomfortable situation.

Andy sent some photos of you and baby Ann.  They were great shots.  I should print some off and include those in the next letter.  It was good to see you smiling in the pictures, and I suppose a baby will make you do that.  She’s kind of a rolly-polly little thing but she sure is cute.

Reid is heading to New York City today to see a buddy from Des Moines who lives in Brooklyn.  No telling what they will be up to but it sounds like a lot of fun.  He called this morning once he reached the airport in Chicago, and I told him New York is a great town for kids his age or for people who have a lot of money.  There’s really no middle ground.  He wants to do a little sightseeing and visit some of the local hot spots.  I asked him to call me this weekend to give me a status report.

Ellen and Tim now have a dog.  His name is Henry and he’s a behemoth.  He’s a mix of poodle and retriever.  A fun dog but a real handful.  He probably weighs something over 100 lbs. and I wouldn’t want to be the one to feed him every day.  Ellen texts me on her phone every couple of days so that’s my main line of communication with her.  She and Reid still get weekly letters from me.  Habit forming, I guess.

Hope you’re getting enough exercise.  It was fun to hear the piano in the background the other day when we were on the phone.  We have to hand it to the staff there; they really try to keep you guys busy.  I wouldn’t worry too much about watching TV since there isn’t anything good on most channels.  I watched some history show last night on ancient Egyptian architecture.  That shows you how bored I was.  They don’t show enough baseball games for some goofy reason.

Things are kind of quiet here in Charlotte.  Not a lot going on.  Must be the dog days of summer.  Everyone, me included, has the doldrums.  It doesn’t look like I’ll be playing golf this weekend.  My game stinks, and I’ve put it on the shelf for the time being.  I wish I had your swing, but I wouldn’t wish mine on anyone.  Saturday morning I’ll probably take the Harley out for a spin before the worst of the heat descends on us.  There are plenty of breakfast spots to get to.

Well, you be good, we’re thinking of you all the time, and I just want to remind you that Ellen, Reid and I love you very, very much.  You’re out of sight, but not out of mind.

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Inner workings…


Each week a new 'cheat sheet' hits the wall, literally

In a departure from the norm (Wednesdays are usually reserved for letters from long ago), here are two items somewhat out of place but share a symbiotic relationship: the sticky note cheat sheet which functioned as the inner workings of this week’s letter to Ellen and Reid (posted five days early).  The sheets are typically adhered to my office wall.  Although my penmanship rivals that of a doctor scribbling a prescription, you should be able to see that most of what shows on the sheet indeed appeared in print.

Nothing fancy or adorned, the yellow note is where random thoughts go to be reborn as a topic or paragraph each week.  When things got tough in recent months, each roughly 2″ by 2″ sheet was my go-to resource.  A yellow pad hit the road with me to the Midwest, and when an idea or tidbit crossed my mind, I whipped out my pen.

No long sentences, no lengthy phrases.  Just a few words as my guidepost from week to week.

———————-

July 19, 2010

Ellen/Reid: I’ve been trying to wrap up a few things related to grandma and grandpa.  Reid, as you saw firsthand the hospice people did a really fine, humane job tending to your grandfather, so I sent them a ‘thank you’ note last week to praise the nurses.  I suppose they hear such things from time to time but I wanted them to hear personally about our situation.

Looks like your grandmother will move to Grand Island sometime before the end of the month.  It will be something of a jolt to her but it will be the right move.  There is no right time for it so it might as well be now.  From what your uncle and aunt have relayed, the place is attractive and suited to her memory loss.  This will probably be dismaying to her friends who have made a habit of visiting her at the Glen, but you wonder how long they can continue to do that as their own lives move along.  Your uncle is somewhat concerned that if your grandmother has ongoing anger issues it may get her booted out.  The fallback plan, Plan B, would be the Vet’s Home which is also in Grand Island and that would not likely be the best for her so we’ll have to cross our fingers.  She gets in because she was the spouse of a veteran.

I’ve been thinking about, and sometimes talking to, your grandfather.  He was a pretty good guy all the way around.  It’s odd that memories of him are jogged by the slightest thing; I saw a plane on approach to the Charlotte airport on Saturday and it moved me about how much he liked to fly.  When I was logging all those miles when you were little kids and was somewhat leery of bumpy plane rides, I’d think about the flak and shells and Messerschmitts the Germans sent up to knock his B-17 out of the sky, and it made turbulence a little more palatable.  I miss him now.  That’s just the way it goes.

Head to Pinehurst the final weekend in July for a golf-a-thon with a friend from the bank and a dozen other guys.  My game is really on the rocks, and if I can’t get myself rid of ‘swing anxiety’ before then it will be a very long, trying weekend indeed.  Pinehurst is about two hours due east of Charlotte, and it should be a fun weekend.  I dread the golf, however.

Tried to play Saturday but the round was a near-total washout.  The skies literally opened up and dumped who-knows-how-much water on the course.  It was unreal in how fast, and how much, and how long the rain came down.  But a few miles south of the course it was bone dry.  They won’t need to water for a month.

Reid, can’t wait to see your blog.  Give me the address so I can subscribe and read it.  My hunch is that the keys are lots of postings and lots of promotion.  I’ve got the first half of that covered but not the latter.  It will be interesting to see how you approach that.  If you end up with more subscribers than I do – it won’t take much – then you’ll know what you’re doing.

EP, so now Henry is your dog full time?  Why doesn’t your mother want to take him to California?  He seems like a great dog.  Fun to hear about him.  Hope he doesn’t scratch up your nice wood floors but you can always get them re-sanded and re-varnished.  Right now there’s only one dog in my house, and from time to time I wish I had the canine variety.  Send me a few pics so to apprise me of his size.  He’s got to be a handful.

Well, I’m outta here.  Let me know of some travel plans with you either coming here or me there.  I’ll keep an eye on internet specials.  One thing that won’t make the trip are my golf clubs.

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A walk down the aisle…


You’ve read a near-unending avalanche of sad messages these past few months.  It’s time to throw in something to lift our collective spirits.

Ellen celebrated her first wedding anniversary just a few weeks ago.  I intended to post this letter to mark her first year as a bride, but other events correctly trumped the best laid plans.

This letter, however, was never mailed.  I carried it with me on the plane ride to Des Moines and quietly slid it under her hotel door the morning of her wedding.  Daughters and their dads have many opportunities for special moments in life, but few can top a joyous walk down the aisle.

—————

June 15, 2009

Ellen: I must admit that when you were a peanut I never once imagined walking you down the aisle.  Now that time has come and you will be a beautiful, exuberant and composed (okay, let’s reserve judgment on the composed part for a little while longer) bride.

In the grand scheme of things, what all of this says is that you are mature, you are ready, and you have everything it takes to begin a loving family.  For a long time, you have been incredibly responsible in just about every aspect of your life; work, play, finances, and more.  If anything, that entitles you to the day you are about to enjoy and treasure.  That you took your sweet time on this deal says a lot about who you are and how you approach things.

Your mom and I, and Reid and your grandparents and Nancy and Gordie and Kristin and Jeff and Ralph and Gayle, Joe and Andy, are incredibly proud of you.  As you take that longest walk that will be over so quickly, be sure to soak in the admiring views and stares because what it means is that people love and respect you.  And that is both friends and family alike.  Just look at the “response rate” on your invitations; if that isn’t some sort of record, I don’t know what is.  That is the sure sign of how people ultimately view you and Tim.  They want to be with you both on your day of triumph.  Not all couples can say that.

In no way shape or form do I view this as losing a daughter, but rather, it is gaining a family that includes a still-wonderful daughter and a great, great son-in-law.  That is probably the best any dad and mom can ever hope for.  Your mom and I could not be happier for you and your new life.  Nothing I will ever experience will make me smile any more or make me any happier than walking you down the center line and then answering Angie: “Her mother and I.”

Way to go, kid.  We love you.

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A place for ‘thank you’s’…


Every so often, I send a ‘thank you’ to someone for a special kindness or some other effort worth recognition.  Not so much a note, but as you would expect, a letter.  In most cases a note just doesn’t give me enough space to say all that needs to be said.  (Every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I think of my buddy Betsy who is the Queen of high-volume and well done thank you’s.  She has single handedly revived this sadly fading art.)

I’m trying to play catch up with correspondence to well-deserving folks who made the last few months bearable (i.e. last week’s letters to Pete and Bob) for me, my family and, of course, my dad.  Yesterday was one of those instances.  The target was at the very top of my must-write list: the nurses and staff at Odyssey Health Care in Omaha who played the key role in helping my father make a painless, comfortable and dignified passing.  The letter is addressed to the lead hospice nurse who first counseled my dad on the realities of the situation and what he could expect.  She was a gem.  They all were.

My one regret with hospice was that, in my addled state of mind, I neglected to record the name of each of the nurses who, in turn, sat with us, tended caringly for dad, and supplied huge amounts of physical and mental relief.  The letter sent July 15 is shown below.

And just below that ‘thank you’ is today’s letter to my mother.  She’s having a tough go of things, and the intent of this letter is much the same as all the others she and dad received over the years: assure her that things will be okay, keep her spirits up, and remind her she is in my thoughts and prayers.

———————

July 15, 2010

Su: My father, Ralph Bradley, passed away on June 28 at Lakeside while under the care of your Odyssey hospice nurses, and I couldn’t let the chance go by to thank all of you for what a wonderful, caring job your staff did for him.

From the first time we met with you, it was just a good experience.  No punches were pulled, and there was no gray area on your explanation that your goal was a comfortable, painless – and to me, dignified – end.  You accomplished that on all scores.  We should all be so fortunate to pass on in such a painless manner.

I wish I knew all the names of the nurses involved.  Kristin (sp?) is the one name I recall, but there were others, too.  It was incredible how you all handled a grieving family with a dying father and you made that portion of the journey much easier for us.  For that, I am very grateful.

Yours is the job you could not pay me enough money to do, but your special breed of staff appears to have the empathy and compassion that enables you to treat each patient in the manner they deserve.  Thanks again for all you did for my dad.

Best regards-

Dave Bradley

Charlotte, North Carolina

————————-

July 16, 2010

Mom: I hope this finds you well and able to tough out the summer heat.  Omaha doesn’t have anything on Charlotte on that score.  You walk outside here and you sweat.  That’s just the way it is.  We have to deal with it in these parts.

Some ground squirrels are doing a number on my tomatoes.  If I had my wits about me – and dad’s pellet gun – we could do something about it.  But I’m full of bluster and will probably let them chomp away.  I’ve raised some of the low hanging vines off the ground and perhaps that will deter them from making a mess of my tomato crop.  At least they’re eating the small ones.  Heck, they’re all small tomatoes.

I sent a note the other morning to the staff at hospice to thank them for the job they did with dad.  They really knew what they were doing, and they made him as comfortable as they possibly could, and I think that deserved at least a short letter with our gratitude.  They really did things in the best possible way, and for that we ought to be very thankful.

Neither of the kids has said a peep this past week.  I guess Ellen has texted me once or twice.  Her 27th birthday is coming up here in a week.  She feels pretty old but I told her to get a grip and tell someone who cares because that wouldn’t be me.  Some of us are way ahead of her on the age thing.  She’s doing pretty well.

It’s good that you and Henry have had a chance to talk.  They now have the direct line to the Glen so I suspect he’s going to be a regular visit by phone with you.  He seems to be holding his own, although he and Mary are very concerned about your well being, as we all are.  Keep your chin up.

Watched a little bit of the British Open this morning as I ate my standard breakfast of cereal and South Carolina peaches, and the golfers were having their way with the course.  I don’t understand how they can hit it so far and so straight every single time.  And then when they have a short shot, they stick it right next to the pin.  Even Tiger is doing okay on the course.  I’ll try to play this weekend but something tells me my results won’t be nearly as good.

Had dinner with Betsy and Bob last Friday night, and both inquired about how you are doing.  I told them pretty well under the circumstances.  They are both pretty good souls and good buddies of mine.  I hear you’ve had some visitors there, too.  I’m glad your friends are stopping by to tell you hello.

Well, I’d better go and get some work done.  One thing you can count on around here is yet another conference call.  But that’s okay.  Better to have a call rather than none.

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