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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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Readers Blog: Dobie Maxwell's 'Dented Can' Diary

A Change Of Seasons

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Friday March 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The seasons of life are changing, and I feel it. On the calendar, spring is just around the corner. In life, it’s just the opposite. I’m starting to feel the chill of autumn, and I’d better prepare myself for the inevitable or it’s going to be a nasty winter. Like it or not, summer’s heat is over forever.

   There are a lot of disappointments floating around in my head, but most of them I’ll never have a chance to make good on no matter how much I’d like to. Some were my fault, others weren’t. I wish I could go back in time and make corrections, but it’s too late now. Forward progress only.

   “The past is the past” is easy to throw out there as a catch all to make everything new and right again, but that past also made waves of repercussion that reached into the future which now turns out to be the present. In other words, science was right. There are reactions for all of our actions.

   Bad choices we make without thinking in our youth can come back to haunt us years later, just as the better ones can pay dividends over a lifetime. I see kids in their twenties with ugly tattoos all over and a dozen face piercings and am grateful I didn’t do that. My mistakes were subtler.

   All I want to do now is finish strong and salvage a life that was worth all the trouble that went into living it. I’ve paid some serious dues in my day and then some. What good would any of all those hard lessons I may have learned be if I don’t use them for good to help others? Not a thing.

   What’s becoming crystal clear as I get older is that life is all about giving back. My grandfather did some of his best work in life with me, and he was 52 when I showed up on the scene. He told me years later that raising me was a satisfying challenge and his efforts are still paying off today.

   Coincidentally, he also finished his college education at age 52 and I have a picture of him that always inspires me to keep going. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about something he said or did when I was a kid that helps me get through a situation now. His influence still exists.

   Gramps really made a lasting difference in my life, and that makes me want to turn around and be that same positive force in as many other lives as I can. C. Cardell Willis was also a powerful mentor figure comedy wise as was and is Gene Perret. These names may not be famous to many, but their work is golden and I won’t forget any of them ever. I want to pass their work to others.

   That’s why teaching comedy classes means so much to me. I still love to perform, but there’s a different kind of satisfaction that comes from teaching and mentoring. Seeing that twinkle in the eye of someone who latches on to a concept and it works is a tremendous feeling I never get sick of. Hopefully my students will see me fondly years from now as I see Gramps, Cardell and Gene.

   I wish I could go back and change some of the bad choices I made, but we’ve all got things we aren’t proud of in our past. Pressing on and maintaining forward momentum is the correct way to proceed, but that can be easier said than done. Life is a roller coaster ride, and when there’s a hill to climb it can get steep and that forward momentum stops. Life sure has a lot for us to deal with.

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