David Letterman was one of the kings of late-night television for years. His offbeat sense of humor gave him a prime spot in America's entertainment constellation for a long time. But one day, suddenly everybody stopped laughing. David Letterman, whose family had a bad history when it came to heart problems apparently, went in for some seemingly routine cardiac tests. Suddenly, this comic king was rushed into surgery by his doctor and given a multiple bypass operation on his heart. The doctor saw major blockage in David Letterman's heart and he took radical action to save him.
Our friend, Vicki, is one very happy woman. For many years now, she has carried a heavy load of nagging credit card debt. If you've ever been in debt for a while, you know how it always weighs you down like this heavy backpack on your back. Well, Vicki recently came into some money through an inheritance, and you know what she did with it! She had a party-a check writing party! All the debts are paid, and you can tell she feels like she just got out of prison!
It was the house Grandma and Granddad built with a little help from their granddaughter, who happened to turn out to be my wife. That was over forty years ago. Grandma and Granddad are gone, and the house was in the hands of renters for a number of years. And the landlord, my wife's dad, lived hours away, and his age and his health prevented him from keeping up with what was happening. And man, I'll tell you, the house and the land around it, not good stuff was happening. When he deeded that house to the rest of the family, they weren't real pleased with what had happened over the years. The house was rundown; the carpet was infested with bugs; various encroachments had slowly whittled away about three acres of the property, and fences had been moved. That's a long list. And nobody in the family had to do anything to accumulate this mess. All we had to do was do nothing.
I know this is going to come as a shock to you, but there were a lot of rumors in college that I was behind some practical jokes and pranks that happened while I was there. That's hard to imagine, huh? I mean, it probably wouldn't come as a total surprise to some of those folks if finally I ended up in the penitentiary. Fortunately, my sentence was only about four hours, because I did end up at Alcatraz. Yep! Now, we had taken some young people out to that famous prison in the middle of San Francisco Bay to do a special radio program. Of course, it's been some years since any prisoners were held there on what they called The Rock, but it is still quite a place to see. While we were there, we experienced this awful claustrophobia of being locked in one of those little cells; the isolation of being in solitary confinement. For the closing segment of the program, we walked out of one of the prison gates and down to the rocks outside that overlook the bay. One of the young people with us was walking out with me, and he made quite an observation, because it was really a tremendously commanding view. He said, "Just think, there was only a wall between them and all this beauty."
As your parents get older, they love to tell those stories again, and again, and again. We've enjoyed hearing some of the family stories that my wife's Dad had to tell. And, you know what? It filled in a lot of blanks, as we tried to put together the history of the last couple of generations. We asked him once about that little girl named Ada. My wife's grandfather, Granddad Glenn, had one child – her Dad. And he wanted a sister! So, Granddad Glenn traveled from their small town to a major city to check out the adoption possibilities at an orphanage there. I don't know if he was prepared for the reception he got there. Everywhere he went, children asked him if they could go home with him. But there was this one dark-haired, dark-eyed little girl who just would not leave his side. Her name was Ada. She wouldn't let go of Granddad's hand, and she kept looking up at him with her big brown eyes and begging him, "Please let me go home with you. Please take me." He did. And my wife's Dad got his sister.
It was before Christmas, and I went shopping for toys for my kids. Now you might not think there's anything unusual about that – unless you happen to know that all my kids are grown up now. But that doesn't mean they can't have one little spark of childhood left in them, right? For example, I always buy my daughter a doll for Christmas; I always have, I always will. And we've got one son who for a long time was a big fan of a certain Sesame Street character, and he had a collection of everything Ernie. Yeah, believe it or not! Well, there came a time when this Ernie toy was one of the hottest Christmas items on the market, and I wanted one for my son, the Ernie enthusiast. I discovered the toy in September in a store before it became an officially hot item. I held it in my hand. I could have bought it, but I said, "Naw, Christmas is a long way off. I can always get it later." Wrong! When "later" came, no more Ernies to be found.
I was learning to ride a bicycle, and my dad was my teacher. Across the street from our apartment was a schoolyard as big as a city block. Like most city schoolyards, it was all concrete, no grass. In the middle of that big expanse was the only obstacle for a bike-riding rookie-a big old metal flagpole. But how could anyone run into that when he had the whole schoolyard to learn in, right? It can be done. Yeah, there I was, wobbling along, trying to learn to keep my balance on two wheels with my dad just behind me. Suddenly I heard him saying, "Turn, boy." My hands were frozen to the handlebars. I was sure turning either way meant crashing on that hard concrete. Again, "Turn, son!" I was closing in on the flagpole. Now it was a desperate cry from the lips of a disbelieving father, "Turn or you're going to hit the pole!" Bonngggg! I hit the pole. I still have the chipped tooth to prove it.
When I was growing up, Christmas was a double-header for me, because my birthday is just a few days before Christmas. Just in case you care, it's on the date that the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane successfully. So, with all the time I've spent on airplanes in my life, you gotta wonder if that's some kind of destiny thing. That's also the date of the Battle of the Bulge. Wait, no. Destiny again? But I've never had a complaint about when my birthday is. Nope! As a kid, I tried to turn that into an advantage by asking for a gift that would be too much for just Christmas but not for Christmas and your birthday. And besides cleaning up in the gift department, it's just neat to have a birthday at a time when all the world seems to be celebrating. I mean, I know they're not celebrating my birthday obviously, but it's just the best time of year!
It's been used by many a parent to intimidate their children into being good for at least one month of the year. It's that list, you know, the one immortalized in the song, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." You know the line: "He's making a list, checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty and nice." I never wanted to be on that naughty list. (Warning: Cover your child's ears at this point.) Then I found out there's no such list.
If you made a list of places you might like to be for Christmas, I'm guessing the hospital emergency room wouldn't be on your list. No, mine either. But I was. Yeah, it happened the Christmas that our sons got a new football. It was this extraordinary 60-degree Christmas day. Of course, we had to go out and play with that new ball. I went deep for a pass, and I caught it on the end of my finger! The next thing I knew, I was spending a painful Christmas in the emergency room getting a broken finger repaired. Nice way to spend Christmas, huh?