Retirement, what is it good for?

D. Brent Miller

It seems I have been fighting this for some time. A realization. People would ask me if I am retired, and I would give them my standard answer, “I am semi-retired, but I still do a little writing and photography.” If they asked my wife, she would say, “Oh yeah. He’s retired.”

And that 1970 song by Edwin Starr keeps ringing in my head, “War! What is it good for? … Absolutely nothing.” Maybe that song sticks in my head because I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1970 and went to Vietnam in 1971. I did my best. I served my country. But, what exactly was that war all about?

I kind of feel like that about retirement. What is retirement really all about? What is it good for? There is some reality that must be faced, and it comes with new opportunities and challenges. First, there is a lot of freedom in retirement. No schedule that you have to keep. You can sleep in, or get up every morning before 6:30 like I do with or without an alarm clock. You can do the things you want and go to places you have always wanted to see. Of course, there are financial considerations.

You can do things for others. Put others first. Serve others. There can be a lot of joy in serving others, and it’s not like work in a dreary job, where no one or few appreciate your efforts.

In retirement, I have found joy in volunteering. To serve others. To help bring someone else along or lift them up. To share skills and knowledge. Yes, there are some schedules to keep, and accountability, but there is joy. Fulfillment. Happiness.

I have concluded that I am actually not retired. I am 68 years old and a Volunteer. And, I will keep writing and photographing, but just for me. You can read along, if you want, here in these pages.

D. Brent Miller

See you on the highway.

Brent

Stones River National Battlefield

On a recent trip to Nashville, I took the time to visit the Stones River National Battlefield, at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, one of the Civil War’s biggest and bloodiest battles.

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Like many others, I am a student of the Civil War. It was a dark moment in our history, but one that set the course for our united nation. And so, I like to visit Civil War sites when I get the chance. The Stones River battle lasted three days, beginning December 31, 1862 and ending January 2, 1863. Three days. Union and Confederate forces numbered about 81,000. According to Stone River Battlefield information, the Union had 13,249 casualties and the Confederate forces suffered 10,266, with the Union declaring victory as the Confederates retreated.

That’s nearly 24,000 casualties in three days of fierce battle. To put that in perspective, there were about 58,000 military fatal casualties in the entirety of the Vietnam Conflict, 1955-1975.

24,000 in three days. It was a blood bath on both sides with each side losing about one-third of their troops. Many of the Union soldiers who died are buried across the street from the Visitor’s Center in the National Cemetery.

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It is a somber place to visit. Hallowed ground.

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Until next time.

See you on the highway.

Brent

A Quilt of Valor in Progress

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There is a mixture of pride and amazement watching my wife make a quilt. And, I am honored that she will ask me to lend my eye to the design and layout. Perhaps it is my photographic eye, or just that she enjoys having me participate.

I have asked her on several occasions if I could write a story of her making a quilt from start to finish, and she has agreed, but this one quilt, this Quilt of Valor, is not that one. This quilt was started a year ago before I asked.

Lin had attended a Quilt of Valor workshop to learn more about these special quilts. A Quilt of Valor is made for loved ones who are members of the military or veterans. At that workshop, she cut strips and sewed blocks. Later, at home, she put those pieces in a box to store the quilt pieces. After a while, it became a UFO, that’s Unfinished Object in sewing speak. Over the weekend, the pieces came out of the box, and were laid out on the floor to start the process of quilt making again. This is where the actual layout comes together and corrections are made. Ideas for borders are contemplated and different fabrics and designs tested.

The quilt pieces laid on the floor for a day or so before going back into the quilt box. How long will it be before this one is finished? Don’t know. But some veteran, somewhere, is going to enjoy the comfort of this quilt. Stay tuned.

You may be asking if this quilt is for me. No. I have seen Lin’s design idea for my Quilt of Valor. It’s going to be incredible because it will be made with a whole lot of love.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Grandma’s Quilt

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During the recent cold snap, when night time temperatures were near zero, I decided to throw on an extra layer of warmth. I grabbed Grandma’s quilt and laid it on top of the bed. That’s when I began to reminisce.

Grandma Arvilla passed away in 1962 of cancer. She was survived by Grandpa Archie, and four children, Betty, Dorothy, my Mom Jolene, and Charles. The story Mom told was that Grandma, a quilter, had made quilts for each of the daughters and a close family friend. Quite a few years back, Mom gave me the quilt she had, worn and quite used. It was probably made in the late 1950s when Grandma was healthy, which makes it at least 60 years old.

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As I ran my hands over the surface of the quilt, as if spreading it evenly atop the bed, I could feel the texture of the individual pieces of cloth, and the stitches applied by hand. The design is a Double Wedding Ring, and there is some symmetry to the choice of pieces of cloth, but the selection of pieces that make up each ring have no uniformity to them. On one ring, a pink might be next to a purple, but on another ring, the same pink might be next to a floral design.

The authority on quilts and quilting in our family, my wife Lin, says the quilt is definitely hand-stitched, even though the lines seem so precise. The fabric pieces could be pieces from clothing or even sack cloth. Remnants of clothing in a life that was anything but glamorous. The cloth could have come from a favorite shirt, or hand-me downs no longer used. The quilt reeks with love from the maker. From loving hands. From family history.

I can still picture that little frame house, sitting on a corner, with a dining room that was really more of a room for everything including quilting. Grandma’s quilt frame stood along one wall, and I vaguely recall seeing quilts-in-progress draped over its frame.

I don’t know how many quilts Grandma made. I know she made one and it is in my possession. When I lay under it at night, I sleep with its warmth and the love of family.

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See you on the highway.

Brent

Riding like there’s no tomorrow

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I was corresponding with a friend recently about motorcycling, and I mentioned that I’m riding now more than I did 20 years ago. “I’m riding like there’s no tomorrow.”

After reflecting on that statement, It gave me pause for thought.

I’m 68 years old. Is this ‘riding like there’s no tomorrow’ an issue? A symptom? Acting younger than my age? Fear of growing old?

Two riding buddies and I had this conversation recently during our Wednesday morning coffee meeting. “When do you think you will quit riding?” Frankly, I don’t see myself quitting. Not for quite some time. But, I realize that a time will come when I cannot ride the taller bikes like the V-Strom or the KLR. I already feel the struggle of swinging a leg over them. I have to mount them like a horse. Left foot on the foot peg like the stirrup of a saddle. Push myself up and swing the right leg over. I’m on.

So, why keep riding? I could go fishing. Or, I could load the fishing gear on the motorcycle and go fishing. I could travel more. Or, I could load some gear on the motorcycle and travel. I could clean the house … or … I could go motorcycling. Okay, I really don’t shirk my household responsibilities. I help clean the house. Then I go riding.

I have enjoyed the two wheel transportation ever since my dad brought that Lambretta motor scooter home when I was 15. It’s something about being in the wind, the out of doors, traveling to destinations near and far. For me, those rides are therapy. I call it helmet time. An opportunity to think things through outside of my household box. AND, I am so thankful for a spouse, my wife Lin, who understands the importance of motorcycling to me. She will often say, “Why don’t you take a ride.” And I usually do.

Yes, I am riding like there’s no tomorrow. But, I do have to wait for the snow to melt. Smile

See you on the highway.

Brent