Saturday, May 30, 2009

An old saying resurfaces

God doesn't call the prepared.
He prepares the called.

I first heard that saying many years ago, and for some reason it's been resurfacing in my thoughts lately. Perhaps it's God's way of telling me to relax and trust Him more.

Perhaps it's a reminder to look back and see how life's events and my experiences have prepared me for challenges and opportunities that later beckoned. It's easy enough to do that. One of the most obvious was the trips I took to Europe in the '90s -- both of which seemed to magically fall into place for me; circumstances just came together to allow me to go on trips that were memorable and marvelous.

But those trips also gave me the knowledge and experience to be there for Dad when his counselors encouraged him to revisit his combat path as part of his journey toward healing from the post-traumatic stress he endured in his '70s dating back to his time as an infantry soldier in World War II.

Writing my fiction book may be viewed by some as a failure, since I have not found an agent for it yet, let alone a publisher. But writing that book taught me a great deal about the process, so when the opportunity blossomed to co-author a nonfiction book, I was not fazed by the prospect.

There are more such examples, but I won't bore those who gaze upon these words with them; it would be more fruitful for them to look into the archives of their own lives for similar links. They are undoubtedly present and apparent to a discerning eye.

That saying has, perhaps, yet another element of wisdom to it: whatever challenges we may be facing at present may simply be God preparing us for something bigger down the road. That perspective may ease our burdens....ever so slightly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What, one lane isn't enough?

What's happened to drivers today? It's like they have no idea how to drive anymore.

The latest reflection of that? I've lost count of the number of drivers ahead of me preparing to turn right onto a four-lane street. They wait...and wait...and wait to turn right --- even when no one is coming in the right-hand lane.

It's become common for drivers to wait until BOTH lanes are extensively clear before turning right. Why? Because they swing out wide into the left-hand lane...even when they aren't planning to make an immediate left.

Give me a break....

Monday, May 18, 2009

75 movies every man should see*

*Or so the June issue of Esquire claims.

I don't agree with every film on this list, but I'll share it anyway. Having not seen many movies lately, I expected only about one-third to be flicks I've watched. But I was wrong: I've seen two-thirds of them.

I'll have to add several to my Netflix list. Here they are, with an asterisk by the ones I've seen and an occasional comment:

1. In the Heat of the Night* Poitier and Steiger - movie magic
2. Slap Shot*
3. Iron Man
4. Jaws*
5. Save the Tiger*
6. Twelve Angry Men* Henry Fonda takes on a room full of bigotry, impatience and anger. Brilliant.
7. Fast Times at Ridgemont High* Eh. Not sure I buy this
8. Chinatown*
9. The Godfather* "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse."
10. Fitzcarraldo
11. Ghostbusters*
12. Glory* Denzel Washington's first Oscar
13. Wall Street* "Greed is good"
14. Runaway Train
15. Rosemary's Baby
16. North by Northwest* Esquire calls this 'the first Bond movie' -- love that description
17. Lone Star
18. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly*
19. The Conversation
20. The Thin Blue Line
21. Johnny Dangerously
22. The French Connection*
23. Miller's Crossing
24. The Great Escape* Steve McQueen in the cooler with a ball and a glove
25. Dawn of the Dead
26. Shaun of the Dead
27. Hate
28. First Blood* Sly the Survivalist
29. Bottle Rocket
30. Bad Day at Black Rock* Spencer Tracy takes on racism - with one arm
31. Tootsie* Nope. Doesn't belong
32. Broadcast News*
33. The Terminator*
34. Shakes the Clown
35. Dirty Harry* "Do ya feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?"
36. Straw Dogs
37. Raging Bull* Robert DeNiro played Jake LaMotta better than Jake LaMotta
38. Citizen Kane* "Rosebud"
39. The Shining*
40. Fatal Attraction* A new take on rabbit stew
41. The Incredibles
42. Blade Runner* Darryl Hannah, without fins
43. Sling Blade* Depicted the ugliness of domestic violence so truthfully people walked out
44. Giant* Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean...giants
45. Glengarry Glen Ross* Depicted the ugliness of business so truthfully I nearly walked out
46. Serpico* A bad cop gone good - or is it the other way around?
47. Double Indemnity
48. Down by Law
49. The Searchers* John Wayne in one of his most heroic - and hate-filled - roles
50. Do the Right Thing
51. Gone Baby Gone* A journey from nightmare to hope and back again
52. The Big Kahuna
53. M*A*S*H * It spawned an even funnier, and now classic, television series
54. The Verdict* On any short list of Paul Newman's best performances
55. The Warriors
56. Alien* Sigourney Weaver, our hero
57. Stalag 17* I have yet to see a better POW (or prison) movie
58. The Bridge on the River Kwai* Classic theme song, compelling morality tale
59. The Misfits* The last movie for both Gable and Monroe
60. Reservoir Dogs
61. The Maltese Falcon* Bogart takes on the mob. Who do you think wins?
62. Dr. No* Bond. James Bond.
63. Cool Hand Luke* "What we have here is failure to communicate"
64. The Road Warrior
65. Patton* The role George C. Scott was born to play
66. True Romance
67. Run Silent, Run Deep* Classic submarine warfare - who's the bad guy?
68. All Quiet on the Western Front* One of the strongest anti-war movies ever made
69. Platoon* Vietnam, unplugged
70. Caddyshack* "Nnnnnnnnnooonan!"
71. Hud* Paul Newman spelled 'cool' with three letters
72. Blazing Saddles* Singlehandedly killed westerns for more than 20 years
73. Three Kings* Doesn't belong on this list
74. Paths of Glory* Another powerful indictment of the militant mentality
75. On the Waterfront* Most men, at some point, have said or thought, "I coulda been a contendah! I coulda been somebody!"

I can't argue with many of these choices, but I'd add "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Gallipoli" and subtract "Three Kings" and "Tootsie" --- and I say that despite the fact that I fall in love with Jessica Lange every time I stumble across it on cable. And I think I'd substitute "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" or "Risky Business" for "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

I welcome any nominations readers of my blog may offer, just to see what they are...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Teddy's all grown up

For the second time in two days, I went to a niece's high school graduation. This one was for Lauren, my second-oldest brother's youngest daughter, who attended Andover High School.

The ceremony was at Century II, and couldn't have been much different from the commencement for Hutchinson Trinity on Saturday than the earth is to Pluto.

Trinity's program was a folded piece of lightweight cardboard with little more than the schedule on one page and the names of the students on the other. Andover's was a 20-page glossy with photographs of each student, their destinations after graduation, and lists of the faculty, administration and board members.

Trinity's speakers were filled with gratitude for their parents and their teachers and coaches.

One student even referred to a coach as his second father, and talked about how teammates and classmates helped him grow as a person.

I think I heard one Andover speaker thank all the parents of the students once, along with faculty and staff, in the way you roll the credits at the end of a movie.

But, boy, was Trojan Night a blast --- and they BEAT ANDOVER CENTRAL FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER in football.

This is a class that will be remembered for using hundreds of zip ties to seal lockers shut around the school. Oh, and they BEAT ANDOVER CENTRAL FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

This is a group that won Class of the Year for three straight years --- and they BEAT ANDOVER CENTRAL FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

Depth? Substance? Humility? Not on this night. Perhaps that can be forgiven on a high school graduate's big night, as they stand on the summit of secondary education. College - and life itself - will soon enough remind them how much they have yet to learn.

But the contrast to the tone at Trinity was still striking. Almost startling.

Yet it still made me smile to see Lauren peform a piece of music with the rest of the instrumental band during the ceremony, and to walk across the stage to receive her diploma in bright red shoes (I immediately thought of Dorothy from 'The Wizard of Oz').

And I couldn't help but beam when I saw the name Theodore Herbert Bamford IV on the list of graduates. I first met him when he was just a small boy fighting cancer, and his parents feared he would never get a chance to grow up.

Instead of showing me his box of toys, tiny Teddy showed me his green tackle box filled with everything needed to keep clean his Hickman catheter - the device inserted into his chest so the chemo and medications could be administered more efficiently and with fewer scars from needle sticks. He knew the purpose of every item in that box, and carefully explained it to me. He was so small, and yet so spirited.

He recovered from his kidney cancer, and he remembered "Mr. Newspaper Man" when I approached him in the crowd afterward. "Wow, you came! That's cool!" he said, and then it was off with one of his classmates.

He's headed to the University of Kansas to study music - but I wouldn't be surprised if I see him on television or the big screen some day. He's got a knack for acting, too.

He's already achieved one role that seemed unlikely several years ago: adulthood.


Here's the story I wrote in 1995, chronicling Teddy's fight against cancer:


Friday, March 3, 1995

Section: LIVING

Edition: CITY

Page: 1C

By Stan Finger, The Wichita Eagle

"OK, Teddy, it's your turn."

Teddy Bamford made a beeline for the first barber chair within reach at
the Fantastic Sam's hair salon on South Rock Road.

"He's been excited about this all day," Trey Bamford said with a grin
after his 3-year-old son had clambered up the chair and plopped on the

This was Teddy's first haircut in 13 months, his first since a tumor the
size of an orange had been found on his kidney, surgery had been
performed and chemotherapy had robbed him of his hair.

For Teddy and his parents, this haircut was a visible sign that he is
getting better. It will take another 18 months of clean check-ups before
Teddy is considered cured, but the night at the hair salon was another
milestone in his long road back to recovery.

Kellie Bamford pulled a small envelope from her purse and carefully
unfolded it.

''I don't want them to throw away any of his hair," she said softly.

She handed the envelope to Linda Blythe, the hair stylist who would cut
her son's hair, and said, "Don't cut it too short. We've gone with the
ol' no-hair look for so long."

Silence fell onto the shop as every eye in the place became riveted on
the little boy getting a touch-up on the flaxen-colored mop that had
sprouted since his chemotherapy sessions ended more than six months ago.

Even though Teddy had received a first-haircut certificate from
Fantastic Sam's a couple of years before, Blythe filled out another
certificate for him. ''The first haircut for the rest of his life,"
Kellie Bamford said happily as the family walked out into the winter

Her mood changed within seconds, however.

''I'm so scared," she said suddenly, grabbing a friend's arm.
"Everything seems to be going just fine. But everything seemed to be
going just fine then, too."

Kellie had suspected nothing more than a run-of-the-mill pediatric
malady when Teddy developed a fever in late December of 1993. A check-up
revealed a heart murmur.

When he was re-checked two weeks later, the murmur was still there. The
couple took Teddy to a pediatric heart specialist, who found no heart
murmur. Teddy's blood pressure was alarmingly high for a toddler,
however: 135 over 95. A sonogram revealed a mass, and a computed
tomography (CT) scan identified it as a tumor on the left kidney. The
tumor, called a Wilms tumor, is a type of cancer that strikes about
7,000 children each year.

The next day, Teddy waited in the small holding area next to the
operating room with his parents, along with other patients awaiting
surgery and their family members. The anesthesiologist, a friend of
Kellie's, came out to get Teddy.

''She said, 'Let's skip on out of here,' and they left," Kellie said. "I
hit the floor. He skipped out of there like he was going to go play. I
don't even know how we got out of the holding room. I was thinking, 'Oh
my God, they just took my kid.'

''Everyone in that waiting room was bawling. He was so cute. And he was
only 2 1/2 years old."

Doctors successfully removed the tumor, along with most of Teddy's left
kidney. The Bamfords were told that Teddy had only a 30 percent chance
of survival without chemotherapy. With it, he had a 90 percent chance of
being cured.

There was no hesitation in the family's choice. But chemotherapy's
impact on Teddy was profound.

Before the tumor was discovered, Teddy was able to rattle off the
alphabet with ease. He soon lost the letters from his memory, and his
speech development slowed to a virtual halt.

He began stuttering, a common side-effect of chemotherapy. The sessions
drained his immune system, forcing him to stay at home in virtual
isolation. Kellie put a homemade quarantine sign on the front door to
warn visitors of Teddy's delicate state.

He could not go anywhere large groups of people gathered or he would
risk infection and a stay in the hospital.

''He's getting used to drive-throughs," Kellie said last fall as Teddy's
white-cell count, reflecting the strength of his immune system,
stubbornly refused to climb.

The chemotherapy made his jaw hurt and his tummy ache, particularly at
night. On many nights, Kellie could count the amount of sleep she got in

''He's afraid of going to sleep," Kellie said. "He fights it so hard.
It's like he's afraid he's going to miss something."

Trey's workload at Beech Aircraft required frequent overtime shifts,
meaning he would often get home just in time to tell Teddy good-night.

''They've been very good through all of this," he said of Beech, "but,
yeah, it's been hard."

Kellie eventually had to leave her nursing job in the pediatric
intensive care unit of Wesley Medical Center because she missed so many
days tending to Teddy. She held onto her job as a school nurse in
Andover only because a friend with a medical background agreed to fill
in for her on the days she couldn't make it.

Kellie talked of seeing two Teddys as the weeks crawled by. There was
the one who scampered around the ranch-style home where he lives much
like any rambunctious 3-year-old. And there was the one who would curl
up on the floor, knees drawn up to protect his ailing tummy, his clothes
so loose on his drawn body they seem ready to fall off, his bald head
shining against the dark carpet.

The days of the chest X-rays and CT scans are anxious ones.

Teddy brings candy, hugs and kisses for the staff of Dr. David Rosen,
his pediatric oncologist, at each visit. On his way to the examining
room, he walks past the "wall of fame" rows and rows of photos of Rosen

Some of the children on the wall are dead now. Others have recovered and
now lead healthy, normal lives.

Teddy's picture is up there, and he can find it within seconds.

''He looks for it every time we go in there," Kellie said.

Rosen said Teddy has tolerated the chemotherapy well.

''Kids tolerate it much better than adults," he said. "They don't know
they're supposed to be sick. That's why they are great to work with.
They might feel sick and throw up, but then after that they're ready to
go play again. They don't know it's supposed to be any different."

Routines have helped the family deal with the chemotherapy and its

The entire family is involved with Teddy's medical care. Teddy drags out
the green tackle box that holds his medication, syringes and bandages
and shows it off the way other children display the contents of their
toy boxes.

He knows what heparin and betadine are, and what roles the medications
play in his treatment. He knew that he had to keep sharp objects away
from "Freddy," the Hickman catheter that was inserted into a blood
vessel and fed out his chest following the cancer surgery.

Often it would be Aubrey, Teddy's 6-year-old sister, who would take a
large cotton swab and sterilize the skin around the catheter with the
betadine, swirling a large burnt-orange circle on her brother's chest.

Getting Aubrey involved in Teddy's care has helped her feel like she is
still an important part of the family, her parents said. But there are
still times she rebels, angry that Teddy is getting attention she feels
she deserves. Teachers tell the Bamfords that she has been acting out
more in school to draw attention to herself, and Kellie said her
daughter has feigned illness more than once in the past year usually
when Teddy's treatment has required the parents to be with him a lot.

She was angry by the time the family had returned home from Teddy's
special haircut at Fantastic Sam's a few weeks ago, pouting, stalling
and scuffing her shoes when her mother asked her to get some gauze and
medicine from the green tackle box.

''I know you're angry, but you still have to help," Kellie said.

''But I'm not the one with cancer!" Aubrey protested loudly.

''No, but you're in a family with cancer," Kellie said, "so we all have

Mother and son often pass the long, sleepless nights by putting jigsaw
puzzles together. Kellie estimates that she has completed more than 60
puzzles in the seven months since Teddy's chemotherapy ended, while
Teddy has put together his children's puzzles more times than she can

When Teddy's not in the mood for puzzles, Kellie rocks him and reads to

Sometimes she gets out the letters.

There are hundreds and hundreds of them, sent from school children all
over the region. St. James Catholic School in Augusta has pictures of
Teddy hanging in its halls, and students there write to him regularly.

As the family passes one milestone after another on Teddy's road to
recovery the end of chemotherapy; his first haircut since cancer was
discovered and chemotherapy was completed; the string of clean
check-ups; the removal last week of Freddy, his chest catheter a sense
of confidence in the future has begun to take hold.

''He told me on the way here that he was not going to be all well until
Freddy was out," Kellie said of Teddy last week after the catheter had
been removed.

Watching Teddy bouncing around the family room one recent evening,
showing off for company the way so many children do, Trey caught himself
making plans for the rest of his son's life, as if the medical crisis of
cancer had passed. ''Yeah, because it's over, pretty much," he said.

The little boy laughing and screaming while he wrestled with his sister
was a far cry from the pale, gaunt child dressed as a cowboy in a photo
hanging on the wall, a cowboy hat not entirely hiding his bald head, his
earnest smile not masking the haunted, serious gaze from brown eyes that
reflect a deeper grasp of pain, hospitals and sadness than any
3-year-old should have to have.

Trey watched the cancer and chemotherapy slow down his son's
development, and now he's watching Teddy make up for lost time.

''He's midway through his 'Terrible Twos' now," he said of Teddy, who
will turn 4 next month.

Even as they plan for a future free of cancer, however, the fear is
never very far away.

''It's just so scary," Kellie said. "How do I know that the next chest
X-ray, there won't be a blip in it?"

All content (c) 1995 THE WICHITA EAGLE
and may not be republished without permission.

All archives are stored on a SAVE (tm) newspaper library system from
MediaStream Inc., a Knight-Ridder Inc. company.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pomp and Circumstances

I went to the high school graduation of one of my nieces today in Hutchinson. She attended Hutch Trinity, a small Catholic high school - small enough that her graduating class of 49 was the largest (or so I remember hearing) in the school's history.

Bishop Michael Jackels was the commencement speaker, and he began his remarks with the opening words of the classic Catholic before-meal prayer: "Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts..."

And then he paused, with what from my seat in the back appeared to be a bit of an impish grin, almost to gauge the crowd's reaction. I couldn't help it - I laughed out loud. He had taken those words and used them in a different way; I instinctively recognized the "gifts" in this case were the students.

The point he went on to make was a salient one: that each of the students was a gift, yet the homes and educations and values they had been blessed with were gifts as well...provided out of love and devotion...and not products to which they were automatically entitled. Likewise the talents and intelligence they have begun to discover and utilize are gifts best used to make the world a better place and to help our fellow man; conversely, a life swept up in the endless pursuit of pleasure is a journey to emptiness.

I don't know how much of that message struck home with the giddy seniors, but its core truth resonated with at least a few of the audience members whose own high school graduations are but distant memories. We've had that truth drilled home by the hard and happy times that have come since the day we transferred the tassel on our mortar board.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

This sounds like something I would have said

"If Borg's parents hadn't liked the name, he might never have been Bjorn."

Marty Indik

Bjorn Borg was one of the greatest tennis players of all time, winning Wimbledon five times and the French Open six times.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reflections on a glowing moon

When the moon is so full and so bright you wonder if the sun is using a dimmer switch and all other stars have abandoned the evening stage in deference to the lunar magnificence, do you ponder what might have been, or what still could be?

Do you linger on loves lost or lives ended or life yet to come?

When broken wisps of cottony clouds whisk past the vibrant orb so quickly it appears that the Man in the Moon is winking at you, do you wink back?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The last time a tornado touched Wichita

Meteorologists had been warning that this could be a dangerous night for storms, but it didn't feel like it.

Not until I left the newsroom for an awards banquet early on that first Monday in May a decade ago now. After a rather warm, tranquil day, the air suddenly felt super-heated and oh, so sticky.

It didn't have the same swirling, unsettled feel as April 26, 1991, when my first reaction to stepping outside in the morning was "Uh-oh." But that hot, humid surge was enough for me to abandon any thoughts that the forecasters had whiffed with their words of warning.

Tornadoes had already touched down in Oklahoma by the time I headed to the banquet, and I kept my acceptance remarks to little more than "Thank you," and a hasty departure to monitor the increasingly stormy conditions.

After the banquet, I headed to a housewarming party in south Wichita for a couple from my parish. They were newcomers to Kansas, and didn't know what to make of all this talk about tornadoes.

"Should we be scared?" Kathleen asked me.

"No," I told her, "just alert and aware."

I had rolled down a window on the drive over to Marty and Kathleen's house on South Waco to stave off the stifling heat and humidity. I was in such a hurry to be there when we presented them with their housewarming gift that I left the windows down on my blue Corsica.

I didn't realize that until it began to rain - and rain hard. I dashed out to my car and shut the windows, but by the time I made it back inside my suit was soaked. I think I made some comment about being grateful that I wasn't related to the Wicked Witch of the West, but the jokes ended when huge hail stones began pounding the ground...the car....and other vehicles parked along the street. Many of the stones were at least the size of baseballs, and I was torn between wincing at what hail stones that large meant - we were being pummeled by a dangerous storm - and marveling at what nature was unleashing.

"Our neighbors have a basement," Kathleen said. "Shouldn't we go over there?"

They had young children, including an infant, and I recoiled at the thought of what might happen if one or more of those large hail stones hit them.

"Not with it hailing like this," I said. "I think you'd be safer staying here - at least for now."

Almost before we knew it, the television and radio were reporting that a tornado was on the ground and it was moving through Haysville. I found myself studying the radar for the track of the tornado, searching for the textbook hook echo that betrayed its location.

We talked about pulling a mattress off a bed to cover Kathleen and the children, but there were a lot of people still at the gathering, and I wasn't sure what the rest of us would do for protection. I knew an interior room away from windows was best, and we discussed what else we might use to shield ourselves from debris.

I'm sure the tornado sirens went off, but I never heard them. We should have already been "in safety positions," but I found myself watching the radar and hoping the tornado would miss us. It had hit Haysville and moved into south Wichita...and was shifting to the east, away from where we were.

If it had stayed on its original course as it moved through Haysville and came up Broadway in Wichita, it may have hit where we were. But it shifted course at I-235 and began moving northeast. We were safe.

Except for Kathleen and her children, I don't think any of the rest of us took cover. As soon as I heard the tornado had lifted, I called the office, told them I would be coming in - but first I wanted to go home and change clothes. I was still sopping wet.

A long night followed as we began piecing together details of the devastation. It would be morning before I realized how badly dented my car had been by the large hail stones. But that was an afterthought as I made my way to Haysville to help cover the destruction there.

What would be remembered as the Haysville/Wichita tornado killed 6 people and injured dozens more. I remember it as the tornado I look back on and think "I wish I'd handled that differently."

Our housewarming gift for Marty and Kathleen that night was a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As one member of our party later put it, we must have been protected by a higher power. I'm not about to disagree with them.

A tip of the hat to spring

Spring has finally arrived here in southern Kansas.

How do I know? Today was the first time I wore a straw fedora to work. It's strictly warm-weather apparel.

I have more than a half-dozen hats, most of them made of felt. Almost all of them are fedoras, because I love the classic look of them.

They've become a personal trademark, though that wasn't my intent when I bought my first one more than 20 years ago. I just wanted a stylish way to keep my head warm in the fall and winter. Then, of course, I needed something to shield my face from the merciless summer sun. That's where the straw fedoras stepped in.

Oh, I have other hats for summer labor, including one I call my Aussie outback hat. The "breezer," which has a mesh crown to allow air to keep your head cool, is another warm-weather favorite.

Hopefully I won't have to buy any for a while, because I already fill a couple of hat racks with my horde of haberdashery.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Tao of Oreo

My Twitter friend Amy found poetry in the instructions on how to open a package of Oreo cookies:

To open - slide finger
under flap and
loosen gently.

As I pondered those words, I realized that in many ways it's how I love to approach relationships of all definitions: reach beneath the "flap" of the public personna and get to know the real person...gently, casually, over time.

I've learned it's the best way to get beyond the hard shell of the outside to the best part of the person: within.