By Tim McGrath
We were comfortably ensconced in the house turned seminar facility on the Aquinas College campus ready to be lifelong learners. Like many colleges, they realize the oldster set is a hot market to tap. We baby boomers aren’t ready to shuffle off to shuffleboard while watching our chin turn to chins, and our bellies become cup holders. No sir, we’re ready for action. Hit the gym in the morning, golf course or pickleball (and naps) after lunch. But wait, there’s more. We’re not going to be mental loafers, either. Keep the brain nimble; ready to juke and jive at a moment’s notice. At least, that’s what the brochure said. So, there we were feeding our gray matter.
There were about twenty of us in the living room turned to cozy meeting space. The day’s seminar was led by a very engaging priest from the community whom I’ll call Father Tom. Can’t remember what the theme of the session was, but I vividly recall the part where Father Tom broke us off into groups of five or six people to discuss whatever it was we were supposed to be discussing. While we were busy at it, Father Tom quietly crept about the room listening in on the groups. Smiles, gentle laughter, encouraging remarks; all very nice, indeed. As we were discussing, I casually remarked to someone in our group: “Well, maybe you should…”. Didn’t get another word out.
“We don’t should on people here”, Father Tom not so casually remarked. “No shoulding allowed”.
“Now, let’s rephrase that without shoulding on him”, he encouraged with a smile and a gentle chuckle. So, that’s what I did. “Much better this time,” he remarked. Everyone in the group seemed satisfied the menace had got his comeuppance. Yet, I had this nagging feeling I’d be required to stay after the seminar and write one hundred times: “I won’t should on Billy ever again”. Thankful it didn’t happen, but I sure beat feet out of there at the conclusion. No way I wanted to get caught short disappointing a priest.
I had just been schooled on do-overs. Father Tom was making a valid point. Most of us don’t want someone telling us what we should do unless asked. It grates on my nerves when it happens to me, and here I was offering up to a complete stranger what I thought would, obviously, improve their life if they’d just do what I said. So, in retrospect Father Tom, thank you for letting me have a do-over here. In fact, Cheryl and I have a running joke/rule in our home about it: no shoulding allowed!
Sometimes, however, do-overs take an unexpected turn. My Cub Scout troop was scheduled to appear on The Buck Barry Show in a couple weeks. Buck Barry was a local celebrity in Grand Rapids during the 50’s and 60’s. He was our version of Gene Autry and The Lone Ranger, and he had a live weekly TV show one afternoon a week, along with his Saturday morning Buckaroo Rodeo broadcast. We’d been asked to do a little square dancing with the local Brownie troop on that afternoon’s show.
I don’t think any of us had the slightest clue how to square dance, but our den mother (my mom) thought it’d be a great opportunity. Plus, Buck assured mom he’d teach us everything we needed to know; we just had to show up about an hour before the show aired, and we’d have it down pat in no time. Sounds plausible that a bunch of eight year olds could learn to square dance on live TV in sixty minutes, right?
Buck was right; he showed us a few moves, and, in no time we were sashaying around the studio with our little Brownie partners in fine form. Buck introduced our piece of the show, we took our places, the music started, and what had been a mostly well oiled dancing machine broke down into chaos. It probably would have been hilarious to see this unfolding while watching at home, but not for us dancers. Thankfully, Buck realized quickly what was happening, and stopped us.
“Well, buckaroos, let’s try this again; I know you can do it. Everybody get with your partners, and let’s take it from the top!” We all quickly reorganized, the music started, Buck started calling out the moves. And, just as we were starting to promenade, I looked at my little Brownie partner. Something wasn’t right. Her face had turned the color of paper.
“Are you OK?” I mouthed. She looked back at me, shook her head no. And, in that same moment, she vomited – all over me. Not just a petite little throw up; this was volcanic. Our do-over on live TV quickly devolved into the stuff producers of live TV get hives over. Have to hand it to Buck, though; he was made of sterner stuff. He was used to his little buckaroos going off script from time to time.
“Well, buckaroos, looks like we’ll need to watch some of our favorite cartoons for a little bit while we get cleaned up. But, first, let’s go to commercial!” Not much else to report, other than as we were heading out of the studio, I spotted Buck sitting off camera fanning himself with his Stetson as he took a drag on his cigarette.
I like do-overs, in spite of there being no guarantees of anything better happening than the first (or second, third…) time. Depending on the situation, it could be simply a futile gesture, or a life changer. I keep reminding my golfing pals of this. “C’mon, guys, we get mulligans on this hole, too, right?”
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