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Tom Garrett

Stories by Tom

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What it takes is caring

Your Turn

Lolly and I are well into the ninth year of her illness, a rare form of Parkinsonism, which is debilitating, progressive, and — so they claim, and I do not believe — fatal. Once in a while someone will say that I must be a special person to have been a 24/7 caregiver all these years. I don’t really think that’s true.

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If you live long enough you can be all wrong

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Back in 1943 I discovered O. Henry, a writer famous for his surprise endings. I was just 11, and I liked his stories a lot. In fact, I started out to read every O. Henry book in the library.

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A blessing we don’t even realize we have

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As I write this, it is a Tuesday in early April. I drove from Pine to Payson this morning, something I do once a week when I go shopping for groceries.

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Sometimes ‘rest of the story’ is most important – Part II

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Last week I said it sometimes seems as if American history teachers forgot to tell us the “rest of the story.” What did they leave out? A major reason why American colonists were so often angry with England: Most colonies were the private property of absentee landlords who ran them as their personal cash cows.

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Sometimes the ‘rest of the story’ is the most important part

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Recently I was reading about the French and Indian War in Ben Franklin’s autobiography. Massachusetts was under imminent threat of attack and asked Pennsylvania and New York for help. Franklin set out to get a tax bill through the Pennsylvania Assembly to raise money for an army, but ran straight into a stone wall.

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Right and wrong can sometimes be a matter of viewpoint

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The 15 years right after 1958 were learning years for me.

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Invention sometimes is plain hard work, Part 2

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Were you surprised last week when Tom Edison was offered $100,000 for one of his earliest inventions — equal to $2,000,000 today — and said he would only accept it if it was paid to him at the rate of $6,000 a year over the 17 years of the patent?

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Invention isn’t always sudden inspiration; sometimes it’s plain hard work

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I recently stumbled upon a book about Thomas Edison that tells things that are usually left out. It’s called “Edison: His Life and Inventions.” Written in 1910 before people began taking for granted the wonderful things Edison invented, it is a great book, one you can get free online at the Gutenberg site.

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An unknown expression can be very confusing

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Ever find yourself wondering what someone is trying to say? I have.

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There’s a funny story I’d like to tell, but I don’t think I can ...

Your Turn

Well-l-l-l ... Maybe I can, Johnny. Maybe I just can. Had a brainstorm.

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There’s nothing worse than someone who plays word games

Your Turn

I’m not the kind of person who always thinks he’s right. How could I be? There have been plenty of times when I was wrong. So I’ve always felt that if someone had an opinion that was different from mine he had a right to it.

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What made Mom, Mom

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Several weeks ago I told you about the light-handed way that my Mom, a widow at the age of 39, raised four sons by herself during the tough years of the Great Depression.

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Do we really grow wiser when taught right and wrong?

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The question in the title of this column is something I’ve only begun to ask myself, and I’m still not too sure I know the answer.

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Some people are born with a natural sense of humor, Part 2

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I’ve already told you about Roger, one of the NCOs in my small outfit overseas in England. Roger had a knack for saying the right thing at the right time — and usually breaking everyone up with it.

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Some people are born with a natural sense of humor

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There is nothing as valuable on this stress-ridden planet as a man or woman with a natural sense of humor, someone who brings a smile to today and makes yesterday a thing to smile about. I’ve known a few people like that in my life, and I’d like to tell you about two of them.

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Sometimes the harder we try the more foolish we look, Part 2

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I left off last week where my National Guard outfit had arrived at Otis AFB, found it had one more company-size mess hall than it needed and turned the extra one into a break room equipped with a TV set.

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Sometimes the harder we try the more foolish we look

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I’ve already told you the funniest thing I’ve have ever seen in my life, which was me trying very hard to be smart and ending up doing the dumbest thing I’ve ever done — and the funniest. I’ve already told you about it, but I’ll do a quick repeat so that I can get to numbers two, three and four.

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Living for 80 years means a lot more today than it used to – Part III

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Last week I warned you that you might think I was out of my mind when you read what I have to say about what may going to happen to information technology — and when.

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Living for 80 years means a lot more today than it used to, Part II

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Last week we talked about how even the most wild-eyed science-fiction fan back in 1939 would not have dared to predict that some of the changes we have seen in recent years arrive here so soon.

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Living for 80 years means a lot more today than it used to

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As of last week I have lived 82 years. That’s not so unusual; many people live that long or longer, but living that long is different from what it was in the past. We live in a world of accelerating change.

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Another birthday coming up

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You are reading this, God willing, on Feb. 28, 2014, but I wrote it on the evening of Dec. 24, 2013, the evening before the day of the birth of Our Lord and a time, I felt, for reflection and a counting of blessings because my birthday was coming up soon.

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Meditation is not for all of us

I’ve always believed that since we’re all different it’s only natural that we like different things, but I also believe there’s a natural overlap among us, and when someone says he hates something other people seem to love, he may be missing out on a good thing.

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A promise is a promise – sometimes, Part 2

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Last week, I left off at the point where George Dasch and Pete Burger had landed on a Long Island beach as part of a four-man German sabotage team.

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A promise is a promise — sometimes

Your Turn

Although you will read this at a different time, I am writing it on Thanksgiving Day, a day when you and I are focused on things we are thankful for.

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The flip side of ‘free’ is ‘broke’

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Last week I talked about the way we jumped at a chance to get anything free during the Depression. The reason was simple; most of the time it was the only price we could afford. Everything is so different today.

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Back when a buck was a buck – ‘free’ sounded mighty good

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Because people had almost no cash during the Depression, anything that was free, or almost free, got a lot of attention.

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Lucky, lucky, lucky me

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In 1952, along with the rest of my Air National Guard outfit, I waited at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey to board a troop ship for Iceland. A male vocalist on a live radio program sang a song that made me think. It was called “Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me.” The words really stuck in my head.

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When someone really loves you

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I’ll bet that humans, both male and female, have asked that question from the beginning of time. It’s a good one. I don’t even pretend to have the answer, of course, but 81 years of observing my fellow man — and woman — have led me to suspect that there are part answers.

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Movies and TV programs have strange effects on some people

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Back when I was a kid of 8 or 9, just old enough to go to the movies by myself, it was exciting to listen to my brother Frankie each time he came home from the Victory Theatre and told about the latest adventure film.

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At 21 even the greatest among us may not be done growing up – Part 3

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In 1895, arriving from New York City, Winston Churchill landed on the sweltering island of Cuba where a revolution had dragged on for more than 30 years. Churchill’s goal in going to Cuba was twofold: He was a soldier and wanted to see what war looked like, but a second problem nagged at him.

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At 21 even the greatest among us may not be done growing up – Part 2

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Last week we left 21-year-old Winston Churchill gazing landward as his ship approached New York City, where he was about to learn that there was more to life than the stodgy attitudes he had absorbed during his then short and aristocratically sequestered life.

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Even the greatest among us may not be done growing up at age 21

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I mean no irreverence to Winston Churchill in writing this. I use him as an example because it seems so impossible that he, of all people, could have said some of the things he said when he was young.

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Some parents have the knack of raising children with a light hand

Your Turn

I was writing about Mom last week when something intriguing popped into my head. We were talking about the questions I asked Mom. I could only remember a couple of important ones; probably because I’ve forgotten the simple ones all kids ask when they’re young.

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What is happiness?

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My mother, God bless her, was quite ordinary the way we ordinarily judge people. And yet, every time anyone ever said anything about Mom it was always more than just a nice comment, it was a rave review.

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It pays to live a life that fits who and what you are

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Several weeks ago I read an article that spoke of a Australian nurse who collects the things people most often say as they reach the end of their lives. No. 1 on the list was, “I wish I had lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected.” I agree with that. It’s the secret to happiness. 

Speaking up honestly in the military can at times be costly – Part 2

Your Turn

Last week we were talking about making a choice between earning brownie points in the military by staying quiet, or speaking up and taking your lumps.

Speaking up honestly in the military can at times be costly

Your Turn

If 21 years in the Air Force taught me anything it was that there are times when you have to stand up and be counted. There were times when I found myself faced with a choice: Either ignore the oath I swore and play the brownie-points game, or do what was right and take my lumps. 

And then there was the time I almost killed my brother-in-law

Your Turn

Three years spent in Pakistan, combined with four in the UK, have firmly convinced me that there is no such thing as “English.” There’s Britspeak and there’s American, and Bob’s your uncle!

Before you get too excited about something, it pays to go look at it – Part 2

YOUR TURN

Last week, my outfit shipped out to Iceland, where in 1952 many people were card-carrying Communists. In those days the Communist world was a mess as countries like Russia and North Korea ran like clocks with broken mainsprings, but wide-eyed dreamers outside the Iron Curtain world didn’t know that; they believed that everything inside was peachy keen. The result? Friction between Ameri­can troops and those who fell for Communist lies.

Before you get too excited about something, it pays to go look at it

YOUR TURN

People sometimes ask me why I am so dead set against Communism. The answer? In 1952 and 1953 I had a couple of run-ins with wannabe Commies who thought that Communism was great. The run-ins didn’t amount to much, but they taught me what “misinformed fanatic” means.

Some jobs are harder than they look, Part 2

YOUR TURN

Last week I told you the sad tale of a mother and her six young children who had to spend an entire month living in transient quarters while they each received two shots that had to be given two weeks apart.

Some jobs are harder than they look

You know a big problem with being young, Johnny? When we’re young we lack the experience to recognize that what looks like an easy job may turn out to be a lot harder. A great deal depends on an unpredictable human factor.

The greatest mistake of my life

A few weeks ago I ran across a news story about an Australian nurse who recorded the most common regrets expressed by people who were nearing the end of their lives. As I read the article I was not surprised to find that the greatest regret of my life was one of the top five.

It’s surprising how many cars we own in a lifetime, Part II

In 1957, two Air Force bases and two more stripes after I went back into the service, I spent 50 bucks for a mud-green 1950 Plymouth which quickly found its way to its natural home — the junkyard. Then came a solidly built Chrysler Saratoga two-door with a metallic green finish and a Red Ram V-8 that whizzed me over halfway across the country from Texas to New Jersey.

It’s surprising how many cars we own in a lifetime

It’s often said that America has a love affair with the automobile, and I have to tell you that I have no argument with that, none at all. How could I? I just did a count. I’ve owned 14 of the little puppies.

Learning by doing is not always the best way, Part 2

Last week I told you how Lolly and I had forded the fabled Indus River in my Jeep on our way to see an archaeological dig. We had climbed a low range of mountains, reached part of the road that curved around a mountain, with a drop of 50 feet on our left, and one of 2,000 feet on our right. Suddenly, just as we topped a low rise at 35 miles per hour, we came upon an old man strolling down the middle of the narrow road with a 7-foot-long lathi, or quarterstaff, stuck under his arms — and no way to get around him.

Learning by doing not always best method

We all learn by doing. In fact, many leading authorities believe it is the best way to learn. As someone who taught for quite a while, I would agree — with just one teeny, tiny caveat.

On rare occasion we are privileged to live a dream - Part 3

Last week I had finally given up all hope of seeing New Delhi in the few short hours I had during our overnight stay there, and had gone back to my room.

On rare occasion we are privileged to live a dream – Part 2

Last week I was just leaving Bangkok, Thailand, on the Navy C-121 Super Constellation, which in the 1950s through 1960s flew the Embassy Run along Southeast Asia once each week.

On rare occasion we are privileged to live a dream

I had always dreamt of seeing India, so my eyes stayed glued to the window as our aircraft touched down on the New Delhi runway on a hot Saturday afternoon of October 1959.