Veteran’s Day 2020 – 20 Years, Where’d They Go?

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – November 13, 2020

by Columnist Tom Blake

Veteran’s Day 2020 – 20 Years, Where’d They Go?

This Tuesday, November 10, I completed the final edit to this week’s eNewsletter. Scheduled it for today. It felt good to be a little ahead of the game; I wouldn’t have to worry about the normal last-minute edits.

But then, Wednesday, November 11, Veteran’s Day, came along. The eNewsletter game-plan unexpectedly changed.

What happened on Wednesday?  

An email arrived in the morning from Champ Regina McGrath, of Dana Point, a special friend of Greta’s and mine.

Regina wrote: “I could have sworn I was wishing you a Happy Birthday about a month ago, so either in my old age I’m confusing dates, OR in my old age time really is going by that fast…conclusion being, I’m old!! Ha-ha!

“As always, I enjoy each and every eNewsletter you produce and as always, I miss you and Greta!

“I often wonder if you REALLY know how much you’re admired and appreciated?

“Have a wonderful Birthday & Veterans Day!”

Regina’s email stopped me in my tracks; it struck a chord. 

I responded: “Thanks for the birthday wishes. Yes, it’s today. Thanks for the “admired and appreciated” comment. Wow, it’s the appreciation from Champs and friends such as you that so truly matters to me.

“For some reason—probably because it’s another birthday–your words made me reflect on all the years I’ve lived and how fortunate I’ve been, particularly the last 20 years, in which Greta and I have lived together.

“Thinking of those 20 years reminded me of one of my all-time favorite songs, “Like a Rock” Bob Seger sang. (That song was used in one of the longest-running TV advertising campaigns in history, 1991 to 2004, which resulted in Chevy selling millions of trucks. Here is the verse from the song that triggered me to look back today and appreciate how blessed I’ve been.”

A verse from Like A Rock:

“Twenty years now
Where’d they go?
Twenty years
I don’t know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone
And sometimes late at night
When I’m bathed in the firelight
The moon comes callin’ a ghostly white
And I recall
I recall
Like a rock, standin’ arrow-straight
Like a rock, chargin’ from the gate
Like a rock, carryin’ the weight
Like a rock
Like a rock, the sun upon my skin
Like a rock, hard against the wind
Like a rock, I see myself again
Like a rock”

A few minutes after Regina’s email came in, my phone rang. It was Jaime and Larry Black, who live in Laguna Beach, just up the road from Dana Point. Jaime is our travel agent and Larry prepares my tax returns in my CPA’s office.

They wished me a Happy Birthday, and then Larry said, “Aren’t you a veteran?”

I said, “Yes, which makes November 11 even more special to me.”

Larry said, “You can probably enjoy a free meal at lots of restaurants because it’s your birthday and you’re a vet.”

I said, winking at Greta, “I think we’ve got that covered.”

Larry’s veteran comment reminded me of 2016, when Greta and I visited the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normany, France, and Omaha Beach itself, one of the many beaches used by the Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944, an event, I feel, that saved the world.

Being there made Greta and me feel even more grateful we are Americans. Below: “The Braves” Monument on Omaha Beach in honor of those who perished on D-Day 

The Braves Monument Omaha Beach
   (photo by Tom Blake 2016)

And speaking of D-Day, one of our Champs, Les Jones, age 94, was a part of the American forces on that invasion.

Champ Les Jones – WWII veteran

Les was also in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. A big salute and thanks to Les on November 11, and all days in fact.

Les is a close friend of Gary Sinise, whose foundation benefits veterans. This picture is of Gary and Les at a recent War Memorial visit in Washington D.C., It is very moving.

   Gary Sinise and Les 

And then, another email came in, which added to the emotional patriotism I was feeling on November 11. It was from Champ Ellen B, Seattle, sending a birthday greeting. What’s the patriotism-connection there?

I met Ellen at an Anaheim Angels baseball game in 1995. I first saw her on the pitcher’s mound, where she sang the National Anthem and introduced myself when she returned to her seat, near where I was sitting behind home plate.

I wrote my 63rd newspaper column about meeting her, which was published, August 30, 1995, titled, “Star-Spangled Night.” Wow, a quarter-century ago.

I responded to her Wednesday email with: “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…”

There is one more reason why November 11 is so special to me. I was born on my Mom’s birthday, so we shared that day together as often as possible. So, of course, that is another reason why Regina’s email struck such a chord.

With all of these things happening Wednesday morning, I decided to place on hold the eNewsletter initially planned for today. A new message bubbled up inside of me. I wrote straight from my heart, in a stream-of-consciousness. It took about an hour.  As I read it to Greta for her comments, I had to stop a few times, I was emotionally overcome.

So, Regina, thanks for inspiring me to write today’s eNewsletter. And guess what? I already have next week’s column written. So,wow, a week off.

I appreciate all of you and the opportunity to reach out to you each week!


Link to Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock” Be sure to listen for the guitar solo that begins at around the 2:10 mark–incredible.

The importance of appreciation in relationships

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – November 1, 2019

by Thomas P Blake author and columnist

The importance of appreciation in relationships

Recently, a friend said to me, “It will be nice to be appreciated by someone rather than be taken for granted.”

He was referring to a romantic relationship that he had recently terminated. It was a difficult decision, one he pondered time and time again–because he cared about her—but each time he thought about it, he reached the same conclusion: he wasn’t being appreciated by her. He’s a good man with lots to give.

His comment struck a chord with me. I recalled that years ago, I had written a column titled, “Appreciation.” I didn’t recall when I specifically wrote that article, but remembered it was in the autumn of the year, a time when many people, who are in less-than-satisfying relationships, evaluate them. The holidays tend to do that to people.

In sorting through my column archives, I was amazed to locate the “Appreciation” article. I wrote it on November 16, 2000, based upon conversations with three people, who had independently commented to me about how appreciation can affect relationships, both positively and negatively.

Much of what I wrote is still applicable today. So, I’m going to quote a few of the observations from that 19-year-old article. The observations might help people who are feeling under-appreciated or unappreciated. Expressing appreciation is a pretty simple concept. Sometimes, however, we just need a little reminder of its power.

I wrote: “Life, day-in, and day-out, is trying on most of us. There are demands on our time. We’re so busy, we may not say ‘Thank You,’ to our mates often enough.

“Expressing appreciation to a mate, and actually, anyone, is a considerate, thoughtful and kind act. It shows respect and acknowledges to a partner that he or she is trying to put us first.

Appreciation and a smile work everywhere in the world. I asked these two Huatulco, Mexico, police officers to help me open a bottle of tequila. The officer in the raincoat whipped out a switch blade knife and pried off the top. I thanked him and his buddy profusely. My appreciation elicited this warm response from them. (photo courtesy of Tom)

“People like to be recognized. When they do something nice for a mate, or another person, regardless of how small or minor, it’s good to hear that what they did was appreciated. Appreciation goes a long way to strengthen relationships.

“When people are appreciated, they will keep looking for ways to please their mates; appreciation and recognition are positive taps on the shoulder.

“However, when people take their mates for granted, and don’t notice or appreciate the little things done for them, relationships can be adversely affected.

“A lack of appreciation from a mate might be a red flag that the mate doesn’t care enough about the relationship. That doesn’t mean the mate is a bad person, it could be as simple as the mate isn’t in love.”

The year 2000 article also stated, “When a mate doesn’t appreciate you, and that behavior repeats itself, you may say to yourself: ‘Screw it, I won’t take being treated that way anymore.’

“Lack of appreciation creates disappointment and disillusionment. When it happens too often to a person, he or she may slowly stop caring. The relationship suffers. It’s like decay in a tooth. Let it go along enough without remedial action, and you’ll lose it.

“Criticism of a mate and finding fault with him or her, is a form of anti-appreciation. It’s demeaning to the person being criticized. Perhaps the criticizing person wants out, but that’s a chicken way to handle it.

“I’ve written about new singles making a list of the qualities they require in a mate. High on their lists should be a partner who appreciates them. In return, they must do the same for the new partner.”

I ended that article from 19 years ago with these words: “One of the dangers in long-lasting relationships—marriage or otherwise–is that the appreciation for each other can start to wane. If that happens, watch out. Look at the divorce rate. Lack of appreciation is one of the factors.”

Such may have been the case with my friend who confided in me. In his case, the decision to move on, is, in my opinion, what’s best for him as well. Moving on is always hard, but when it’s best for you, you’ve got to do it.

Lesson learned from 19 years ago, and still applicable today: If you appreciate receiving appreciation, don’t overlook giving it. It’s a powerful love tool.