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Christmas and Harry

12/29/2010 @ 1:53pm

My bones turned to liquid on Sunday. 

And then I read about Harry.  It was a good day.

We had a houseful of people for Christmas.  You probably know what that’s like – a few days of cleaning, juggling of sleeping quarters, fretting about a menu and trying to fit some actual Christmas spirit in amongst it all. 

I got up early on the 26th, rode 8 miles on our stationary bike, had some breakfast and a fairly fresh cup of coffee, then read three newspapers and restocked the wood burner.  By this time the rest of the house was starting to stir and there was someone in every room.  All people I love, you understand, but I’d been around people constantly for three days straight and that’s almost my limit.  I retreated into the bedroom to read and about ten seconds after I lay down my bones melted and I fell unconscious for about three hours.  I probably could have moved, but it would have taken a pretty compelling reason to test that theory. 

The last guest cleared out by late morning and I was recovered enough to decide to take the rest of the day off.  I had some more of that fairly fresh coffee, a box of cookies I’d received for Christmas, and a book I’ve read about 4,000 times.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

The book is titled “Plain Speaking,” sort of a biography of Harry Truman - and I do like Harry.  In fact, I just had to order another copy, because the one I have is falling apart. 

Now Harry was a pretty good president, but I haven’t read the book so many times because I’m that fascinated with presidential history.  I think I read it for a refresher course in what it means to be a man. I like that he lost a business and all his money in the Depression, but didn’t declare bankruptcy.  Instead, he lived with his mother-in-law to save money, worked harder, and spent a decade or so paying off all his creditors.

I like that he spent many years as one of the most powerful people in the world, but after he passed away they found a letter in his desk from the mother of a soldiers killed in WWII.  She didn’t like Harry very much; she blamed him for her son’s death, and you could tell by the creases and folds that the letter had been read many times.

I like that after he retired, he turned down many offers to be a spokesman or board member of any number of corporations.  He really could have used the money, but he said, “They didn’t want to hire me, they wanted to hire the former President of the United States, and I don’t think the President should be for hire.”

But what I really like is that once when he was asked what drove him to become the President, he thought for a bit, as if the question really had never occurred to him, and finally said, “I guess I always just wanted to grow up to be as good a man as my father.”

Copyright 2010 Brent Olson

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