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Maybe I’m just a confused old man. Maybe my confusion has lead me to just this side of a Silver Alert. I really don’t know exactly what’s going on within each moment I live these days. But I know some things.

It puzzles me, too, why it is that I know what I know. “Why the hell did this happen to me?” I ask. “I’m not special. I don’t deserve this.”

We all have troubles of one sort or another. I am no different. And when it happens, like all of us, I question my very own worth. And I somehow find comfort in rumbling around in my own misery. For a while, anyway. Then it grows old, like me, and all I want is something younger and fresh.

I know folks like me who are basically loners at heart. I have heard some say that they don’t want or need friends. Honestly, I used to sort of feel that way as well. Mostly all I wanted was to be left alone. On a farm somewhere. A place where just my dog and I could live our seemingly happy and lonely lives in peace.

One thing I know, I have known for quite some time. There are some twisted folks out there who actually care about me and my well being. What’s really twisted is that they care about many folks who are not me. “What the hell is wrong with them?” I have asked.

Look, I really have been confused about life in general these days. None of it dangers my physical well being. It’s just external stuff that somehow disturbs an old man. Being the loner that I am, I have internalized most of it. “I am smart enough to figure this out on my own,” I tell myself. Eventually, I call myself a liar and ask God to take me where I need to be. He always delivers.

He has taken me to some old and dear friends, one of which is my only child. They have each tried their damnedest to put to rest, in simple and honest and compassionate words and ways, the confusions. They have mostly succeeded.

They made differences.

It’s very easy to argue religion and God and what’s right and what’s wrong with it all. It’s even easier to dismiss the value of friendships. But, damn it, when old friends come out of the woodwork to calm our fears and confusion, and when God leads them to simply make a difference in our lives, well….

Here’s what I really know. Making a difference, even a small one to a simple and confused old man, is what God and the universe demand. I am still confused and puzzled about why I seem to know such things, but not so much that I cannot say that’s absolutely why we are here on earth.

To simply make a difference.

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As we grow older, I suppose, we grow accustomed to our own patterns of life. We choose or not to follow some principled path of promise. If we don’t follow whatever trail we choose, we allow the prevailing winds to carry us to wherever we need to be. Even in the face of promise, winds often prevail for us all.

My hair was a mess. My skin was burning. The damned windy days and nights did that to me.

It happens.

Lately, I have found myself in a bit of turmoil. Things just don’t seem right. I have a good life. My health is good. My family is incredible. My closest and dearest friends are still in contact with me. New friends bless my life everyday. Still, I want something different. That single strong breeze has left me breathless. If I cannot have what I want and believe that I need, then what is wrong with me? What am I not doing right? These are windy questions. Very windy ones.

Today, I had what I would characterize as an eight-hour text conversation. It was with someone very dear to me. One of her texts read, “people can be so hurtful.” She is right. Lately, the most tumultuous parts of my days arose from my own thoughts of hurt. Hurt from not getting what I want and what I think I need. The thoughts were wind blown ones with no real foundation. Still. My hair was twisted and my skin hurt.

She encouraged me to share with her exactly how I deal with hurt. The moment I agreed, well… that was the moment found. Again.

I immediately returned to my path of promise, a path that was blown away somehow until our conversation. I told her that people are people. That we all screw up from time to time. But if we do what is right – the things that help create God’s heaven here on earth – then we should have no worries.

I told her about a time I was at a good friend’s house. We had just finished eating the breakfast he prepared, and he was cleaning up the mess we all left behind. I walked to the kitchen sink and began to wash the dishes. My friend yelled at me and said, “Don’t wash those dishes! There are others here just sitting around, doing nothing. They should be helping.” I just looked at him, smiled and said, “If they don’t feel the need to help, well… that’s their problem.” I cannot express the incredible reaction my friend had to that moment. He was kind of amazed.

I then continued with my text to tell my friend that as long as I feel I am doing the right thing, no one can harm me. No one can hurt my feelings. If I am doing what God expects of me, then how can I possibly be offended? I hope she understood.

And I hope she understands this. For what seems like the longest time lately, I have found ways to feel neglected and hurt. I have tried to place blame on others.  I have tried and failed at things that might make the hurt go away. I have told myself how ridiculous I am being. I have tried my best to simply forget what I imagine to be hurting me.  It has been an incredibly strong wind.

My hair has since settled back into place.  My skin feels cool and comfortable again. The blustering wind led me to a found moment – that single conversation that settled the air and that took my worries away. It brought back the calming breeze. And the windy path of hurtfulness disappeared…

once again, into one of nothing but promise.

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I call my higher power, “God.” And, until today, I did not totally trust Him. Or any higher power for that matter.

I think there are many of us going through such things. Folks of all ages. It just seems bizarre for someone my age to go through any of this. But, honestly, I kind of cherish the challenge.

I am one of those who believe that things happen for a reason – or for reasons. And that a higher power is out there somewhere, trying their best to make me understand what is or could be real. That power is challenging us – each of us – to make important decisions correctly. To somehow please that higher power.

Crunch time is when my higher power takes me to unfamiliar but beautiful places. He shows me things that bend and twist my thoughts enough to truly believe He is leading me to the beauty that awaits me somewhere. To the place I need to be.

Often, I am sure He is right. Just as often, I doubt my higher power. I fear making decisions in favor of the beautiful places His will seems to bring to my heart. I fear that my enamored thoughts of where I need to be are simply unachievable fantasies.

I learned something today. For the first time in sixty four years. I have no idea where this conclusion came from. It just happened. Unexpectedly.

Recently, God has presented many wonderful and vastly different opportunities. The vastness of it all has truly confused me. But each day, I ask God to take me where I need to be. And each day, He leads me to places that once seemed impossible. Still, the confusion lives on.

So, like us all, I suppose, I ask myself, “Is this really what God wants for me?” I say to myself, “This seems way too damned risky and impossible.” And then I ask, “So why is God leading me here? And what if this new life fails? And why is He doing this to me?” I have failed to trust Him. I have failed miserably.

Something came over me today.

If God is showing us opportunities to live, to love, to make differences in the lives of others and those we love the most, why shouldn’t we embrace all of that? And totally discount the notion of failure?

If we misread what God has in store for us, so what? We experienced some beautiful moments in His name. And we learned. We learned a great deal about ourselves, about others and about God’s ultimate plan for our futures.

If we know and love God and rediscover our faith in Him, surely we must find comfort in understanding that, should we fail, He has our back. And that there may be greater reasons for current failures.

God, forgive me for doubting you and your plans. And thanks for giving me the guts to simply follow your lead.

And for always having our backs.

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I always thought growing old would be easy. You know, you’re walking down a Florida boardwalk somewhere with nothing to do and nothing on your mind, and you trip on a beer can or something. You break a hip and doctors or nurses take care of your every need while you look out the window at Sunshine State seagulls flying by. You have no worries! You are taken care of, and you have a perfect window view – even in the home they send you to after the hip mostly heals.

Man, was I wrong.

I thought romances, at my age, would be with one or both of the widows in room 208 just up the floor from the blood pressure machine.

I thought I would be done with kids except for the times when my child and grandchildren pay me a visit in a home somewhere near Boca Raton just to rub an old man’s worn feet.

I thought that, at my age, my only decisions would be whether to ask for prunes or apple sauce from the Boca-home food servers.

So far, I have been way off base. The easiest thing I have these days is the decision as to whether or not wash dishes. Just to balance things in my old life, I usually decide to throw dirty dishes in the trash rather than wash them. It’s easy, it’s clear, and I see gulls in my mind when I throw them away.

Thanks for putting up with the bull I just wrote. I think giving up on real life in favor of sea gulls in a hip replacement center is, at the least, undesirable and, at the most, unachievable right now. There are way too many younger man things to deal with. And that’s what’s so crazy. I am not a young man.

Crazy work stuff. Meeting and knowing new folks I often mostly cannot understand. Friends who listen and talk while some who listen disappear and reappear. And…new kids and old romances. I guess all of that is what keeps me confused, but certainly out of the Boca mentality. In five months, I will be Medicare age. And as if Medicare isn’t confusing enough, this younger man stuff just ads to the confusion of my older age. Honestly, I don’t know whether to hate it or to cherish it.

Guys like me enjoy kind of living by the seats of our pants, but we need order and routine as well.

The only order I have these days is when I decide to actually throw away the dirty dishes.

The only routine is brushing the few teeth I have left. My work has lost all levels of routine lately. That’s difficult for an old man.

I am meeting some new folks – in work and elsewhere. They seem to need this old man even when I do not understand what they are saying. I certainly need them, if for no other reason than for their abilities to understand my nonverbal and nonsensical head nods.

My friends. There are a few very important ones who don’t mind the things I tell them. My son is one those. They listen, they advise and they center this old man, if even for just a few moments. One such friend recently told me that we were in a “non – judgmental zone” when I told her some stuff only she needed to hear.

That brings us to kids and romance. Kids keep us centered. Usually. My son and my daughter certainly do. But no more so than their children. An older and troubled kid who used to stay next door from time to time kept me centered for a while. Kids who center old guys have no age barriers.

There’s another kid. A five year old I just met a few weeks ago. He centers me, too. He and I talk by phone almost every day and many times during each day. He’s a great kid. Smart, funny, fun and honest. And troubled, as well. He calls me, “Moon.” But many times after I talk with him, I become confused and wistful. He was introduced to me by a dear friend I have loved for almost a quarter of a century and the one who disappears from time to time.  She’s the little guy’s neighbor. She’s the “non-judgmental” friend.

I can handle crazy work stuff. I love encountering new friends. And I couldn’t survive without my old friends and my grandchildren. But I cannot help myself here. Why did this wonderful young and troubled guy come into my life the way he did? And why I am feeling so much in love with the long time friend who introduced us?  And appeared again?

She may be set in her ways, like I have been for years. But why did this happen the way it did? And can we change our ways after all these years? And bring sea gulls into our views at every turn?

I don’t know. I guess old men like me easily become confused enough to ask such difficult questions at such a late life stage. But, as long as we are confused and still fighting, I guess we are doing the right things, don’t you think?

Especially when the alternative easy way out is a broken hip in Boca.

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I came to a realization of sorts this weekend. Last Thursday, I went with my son and his family to watch the University of North Carolina basketball team practice for their upcoming tournament games in the Charlotte arena. I was amazed at the genuine fun and joy that team’s players and coaches and former players shared with us that day. I think I knew, at that point, that this team’s value goes far beyond wins and losses.

Tonight’s loss verified that.

Carolina lost tonight’s tournament game by over twenty points at a time when they were only five wins away from winning another National Championship. In the later stages of that loss, I watched and saw the team’s two seniors. I also saw those kids’ head coach.

One of the seniors, Theo Pinson, seemed to become a bit emotional while still on the court with minutes to play.

The other senior, Joel Berry, seemed to rely on his strength to hold it all inside. But you could tell what he was thinking.

Then I saw Coach Roy! On the bench. I swear, I think the man was close to tears.

And I am convinced the apparent and hidden emotions had nothing at all to do with the loss. It had everything to do with saying goodbye to Theo and Joel. I think that crushed Coach Roy. I am sure Theo doesn’t like goodbyes. And, Joel? He’s a strong man. But I am sure he felt the same as coach and Theo.

After watching these guys practice and clown around and smile and laugh with each other. After watching the emotions of the seniors and their coach during the final game of the seniors, well – I have to say this. Heart and love overcome all!

Tonight, we won the National Championship.

And – Woody!

He knows this, too!


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(The original was written and posted about eight years ago, during football season.  Well, this is hoops time!  My revisions pretty much only deleted references to that strange oblong leather ball!)
It seems I have had a request from a friend of mine, Robin, to post a special “Beat Dook Lunar Report.”  So – Here ya go, Robin! Some Dook stuff with a personal touch.

Note to my Florida friends: This weekend will not compare with a drunken Gator-Bulldog affair, but Dook is the major rival of the University of North Carolina. The game is this Thursday.

Just a couple of side bars here. When my brother was a toddler, he lived with my parents in Victory Village, the married student housing on the UNC campus at the time. Word has it that his first words were, “Beat Dook.”

Granddaddy Mangum and Dickie

 Two days after my son was born, the wife and I drove him through the UNC campus and past the Dean Dome. We told him that if he decided to attend NC State, we would disown him. But that if he chose Dook, we would shoot him.

Dean Dome!!

Now to the meat of all this. The UNC-Dook rivalry actually began way before either school had a basketball team. It began with a major dispute that involved land and bastard children between the Duke family and my family, the Mangums. (My Mom is a Mangum.) There are details in an article written in the Raleigh News and Observer about 23 years ago. The entire article is below.

Mangum Dormitory

At any rate, the Duke family money went to Trinity College (now Duke University), and the Mangum money went to UNC. And the rivalry began. And it all started with MY family and that miserable Duke family.

One more thing. As they say around here, “Go to hell, Dook!”


The News & Observer (includes Chapel Hill News) (Raleigh, NC)

The News & ObserverMarch 5, 1994

The UNC-Duke rivalry’s hidden side.  Leading families feuded for years
Edition: FINALSection: NEWSPage: B1Index
Terms:UNC-CH; Duke;

Washington Duke, Willie P. Mangum HISTORY

Article Text:

It happened long ago, in the year 1794, but just as lustful folks are prone to do these days, Taylor Duke ignored the risks and seduced a local gal by the name of Chaney Mangum.  Duke, a weather-beaten Orange County farmer, figured nobody would learn about the indiscretion, least of all his wife. But when Mangum bore his bastard son nine months later, it blew his cover.

It also ignited one of the most enduring blood feuds ever seen in these parts.  The Dukes, for whom the university is named, and the Mangums, some of the University of North Carolina’s biggest benefactors, have been at loggerheads ever since, with the vendetta spreading to the worlds of business and politics.  And more recently, basketball.  

Tonight, the feud resumes in all its glory when the UNC Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils take the court in Durham.  The winner not only will claim basketball supremacy, but will momentarily gain the upper hand in a family feud that has boiled for 200 years.  

Both clans are rooted in the rural villages of Red Mountain and Bahama, in what is now northern Durham County.  On the surface, the backgrounds are similar.  Both families grew tobacco.  Both thrived in business and influenced politics.But family members, particularly during the 19th century, shuddered at the thought that the Dukes or Mangums had anything in common.   Over the years, they’ve battled over politics, competed for higher social standing and, on occasion, lusted after one another.  

William Preston Mangum II, a family historian, says the two sides don’t fuss as viciously as, say, the gunslinging Hatfields and McCoys.   But they don’t exactly get together for Sunday dinner either.”  I don’t want to say hatred, but underlying these two families is a desire to get the better of each other,” he said in a recent interview at, appropriately, the Washington Duke Inn in Durham.   “There definitely are ill feelings.”

Especially noteworthy is how the families took their rivalry to the rarefied arena of higher education.  The Dukes nurtured fledgling Trinity College in Durham, pumping so much tobacco money into the school that its trustees renamed it Duke University in 1929.  Less publicized is how the Mangums directed their generosity to the state university nine miles away in Chapel Hill.  The Mangums were crucial in helping the university survive its first century.   Willie P. Mangum served on the board of trustees for 43 years.   Adolphus Mangum, a professor, helped reopen the school after the Civil War.   Charles Staples Mangum founded the UNC School of Public Health.   Countless other Mangums graduated from UNC.   A dormitory and several academic awards are named after the family.

The campus connection is where the basketball game fits in.  Both teams have jockeyed all season for the country’s top ranking.   Between them, they’ve won the last three national championships and are two of the most successful programs of all time.  All told, it’s one of the most deep-seated and unforgiving rivalries in the nation.

Taylor Duke couldn’t have known at the time that his amorous urges would cause such a long-lasting fuss.   All he knew was that a comely maiden, Chaney Mangum, had caught his eye.  As can happen when such desires manifest themselves, Chaney Mangum bore a son.   At first, the father’s identity was kept quiet and the adulterous Duke was spared any public shame.   But the secret didn’t last long.  The couple had difficulty containing their affection.   One thing led to another, and the still-unmarried Chaney Mangum had another child.  This time, the Mangums identified Duke as the suspected father in both cases.  Angered by his cavalier attitude, they took him to court and forced him to pay $5 a year in child support.   The judgment was no small debt for the prolific Duke, who had 10 other children.

In the 1800s, the feud extended beyond the bedroom and into the! politic al realm.   For a time, the Mangums reigned supreme, although the Dukes did their best to discredit their neighbors.  Willie P. Mangum was the most famous of the bunch.   An 1815 UNC graduate, he served 23 years in Congress.   He was also a founder of the Whig party and ran for president in 1836.   He carried South Carolina in the election, but not his home state — thanks to opposition from people like the Dukes.  The Dukes were fervent Democratic Republicans and were vocal about it, something that caused Willie Mangum no small amount of consternation.

In the 1830s, a supporter wrote Mangum in Washington to report on the political troublemakers back home.   The writer singled out the Dukes, calling them, with uncanny foresight, part of “a Devilish clan.”  The Mangums weren’t above making fun of the Dukes, either.   One 19th century Mangum noted in his will that he owned a horse named Duke.

After the Civil War, the families’ fortunes changed. The Mangums, part of the Old South’s aristocracy, lost virtually everything. The Dukes, on the other hand, made the most of Reconstruction, thanks to tobacco.  Washington Duke, a legitimate son of Taylor Duke, raised bright leaf tobacco and entered the manufacturing side of the business.   Soon he and his three sons had created a fabulously profitable enterprise.  

Suddenly flush with money, the Dukes didn’t hesitate to throw their weight around.  In 1881, for example, residents of eastern Orange County wanted to split off and form a new county.   The leading proposal was to name it after Willie P. Mangum, the former lawmaker.  But Washington Duke nixed the idea.   He vowed to yank the Dukes’ considerable assets from the area if he had to live in Mangum County.   The threat worked: The jurisdiction became known as Durham County.  

The mostly forgotten conflict is detailed in Willie Mangum’s papers, stored at the Southern Histo! rical Collection in Chapel Hill.  “A lot of people have never heard that before,” says William Preston Mangum, the family historian. “But it’s a true story.”

After two centuries, the feud has cooled somewhat, no longer colored by nasty court battles or political fights.   But the two families remain ever loyal to their respective schools.   The Duke kids still go to their university.   And virtually all the Mangums go to UNC.  The bumper sticker on William P. Mangum’s Oldsmobile reveals as much: “Tar Heel by birth, Carolinian by the grace of God.”

Copyright 1994 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.Record Number: RNOB172307

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Christmas is such a wonderful time of joy. Of life. Of promise. Of God given love.

But fears and regrets and fears of possible future regrets seem to dominate this joyous season. I see it every day in other folks. And I feel it most days around this time of year.

I should be writing about happy things right now. I really should. But this is intended for folks like me. Folks who feel anxious and regretful at this time of year.

I will be honest here. I have been in a real sort of funk lately. Part of me wants to engage in the season. But a major part of me wants to just fall asleep until I awaken on January 2. For me, this seems to happen every year at this time.

I have very fond memories of waking up as a child to find that Santa left for me a red Rollfast. Or a basketball. A baseball glove. Or a watch or underwear!

My favorite gift may have been the belt my brother hung on the tree for me one year. He didn’t even wrap it. I hope he does not regret the delivery of that gift. It’s definitely one of my favorite Christmas memories.

I also have memories of my mom and her incredibly stressful moments. Like most moms back then, all she wanted was a Norman Rockwell kind of real life image on Christmas day. Like most moms, she never really achieved that goal.

I don’t know. Maybe the same pressure my mom felt all those years ago is the same pressure that drags many of us down.

I was never a Rockwell guy, but I do remember being extremely diligent, regardless of my anxiety, in trying to find or create the perfect gifts for my young son. I failed miserably. And the regrets are abundant. Thank God my son’s mom was more diligent!

This morning, I saw one of my grandsons, his brother and mom. That simple and innocent engagement brought me back from the doldrums. There were no gifts exchanged. Just hugs and smiles and laughs and the God driven words, “I love you.”

Maybe others feel the same as me. Maybe the regrets and fears of future ones hamper us all. But God has sort of lead me down a path that makes me less anxious for January 2 these days. It’s become a tradition for me.

Every Christmas Eve, for almost a decade, I have visited a Walgreens or Dollar General and bought simple gifts that my grandchildren might enjoy. Then I find, as I have for decades, a local bar, have two drinks, toast my dad and mom, and thank God for the opportunity to share just a few moments with a bartender I don’t even know.

And my grandchildren? They love the stupid ten-dollar gifts from Walgreens and Dollar General.

Their responses show me the joy and promise of life.

And their God given love, on every Christmas morning, replaces all of my fears and regrets.

All of them.

Merry Christmas, y’all! And cheers!

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Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. But I will be honest with you.  Today I really didn’t much feel like driving the thirty minutes to my son’s house to spend just a few hours with him, his wife, their children and her family.

But I did. And the trip validated my thankful list.

Big time.

We all are or should be extremely thankful for many things. Not just on this holiday, but every day. This past week, I have tried to mentally compose a list of all the things for which I do and need to thank God.

It’s an impossible task that always seems to frustrate me.

This afternoon, when I arrived at my son’s house and after doing our usual handshake and hug, my son kind of laid down the law on things. He said something like, “Look, you can only have one serving of food today. No seconds.”

That stunned me a bit, and I wondered why. My first thought was that maybe he and his wife couldn’t afford to feed us all, and yet his wife, just the day before, turned down my offer to bring something. I was confused a bit. But, whatever was going on, I thought to myself, “Well, hell. I don’t eat that damned much anyway!”

Then my son said, “Of course, you don’t eat that much anyway.” After we both arrived at one of the same conclusions, I realized there were some uncertain ones as well. Then he explained things.

Late on the night before Thanksgiving, my son met a homeless man while doing some Uber driving in Charlotte. He promised the man that he would bring some of our Thanksgiving food to him and his homeless friends.

As I was preparing to leave and go home, my son was preparing plates of foil wrapped Thanksgiving food to drive to Charlotte. Shortly after I left, he and his wife left as well. To share some damned good food with some folks who really needed it.

Look, it is difficult to compose a “thankful list” of all of the wonderful things God and others have given us. But, damn! My son and his wife, on this very Thanksgiving day, solidified the number one and number two spots on that list. Of that I am sure.

I am also suddenly and totally aware of the number three thankful item on that list.

That God removed me from my easy chair and delivered me to witness, in person, my number one and two.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, son and daughter.

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Less than 24 hours after my son and I had a rather heated discussion about the many divisions in our country right now, the Texas church killings happened. The heat happened last night when I somehow allowed a sort of “political nerve” to be triggered. All day long, I had been regretting that nerve allowance. Later today, the reasons that discussion, that nerve and everything we discussed last night suddenly became clear to me.

My son’s words that somehow bypassed my ears last night somehow found a place in my heart on this night.

We are a divided country right now. For whatever reasons. There will likely be more domestic and other terrorism to come our way. There will continue to be hate words spewing from the mouths and keyboards we all posses. And it is a certainty that politicians and select groups and others who benefit from the divisiveness will continue to drag us all down.

So, what did I learn from my insightful son last night and the Texas deaths of today?

I learned that, damn it, there has been no better time for us to all rid ourselves of the shackles of divisiveness. There has been no better time for us to all, through God or through just human decency, meld our hearts and souls into one. And to do whatever the hell we can to just make all of the lives that God created have eternally loving meanings.

There are way too many folks – folks like us, who simply cherish God and life and the lives of each other – to allow our divisiveness to continue to fester. And for those who are not at all like us? They deserve the eternal embraces and love that God allows us to share.  Without inhibition.  Without obligatory notions.

Thank you, son. For your words that I chose not to hear last night. You made a real difference, my friend.