MY DAY: Optimism… wherefore art thou?

I was raised in an optimistic home and Mother always insisted we stick to our optimism no matter how severe the blow. Mother demonstrated confidence often masking the weight she carried at times.

This has been a week of “some not so good news comes in threes,” challenging my optimism.

Two family friends moved beyond this life and a friend, as dear as a brother, has been diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer.



Until earlier this week, I’d never known a day that Jack Barnes was not a part of my world, somehow. I don’t ever remember meeting him as he knew my family long before I was born.

Judy & Jack Barnes with Anne

Jack and Judy Barnes have three children: Kevin, who was a year ahead of me in school; Scott, a fellow high school drum-major, trumpeter, and thespian; Anne, another marching band member with my sister, a high school girlfriend of my brother, and who offered a beautiful, tender tribute to Mother at her funeral.

I rarely saw any of the Barnes trio without seeing Jack and Judy Barnes present, not only to cheer on their children, but everyone else’s kid, as well. After moving to Ohio, I often saw Jack and Judy upon returns to Elwood for events or when we were out to eat.

Over the past several years, I’ve remained in touch with Mr. & Mrs. Barnes through Anne who has been a true angel in every way to aide her parents’ declining health. The photos with her dad are priceless as she coaxed that familiar smile and chuckle.

Anne and her Daddy

Mr. Barnes was kind-hearted and an all-embracing gentleman that knew no stranger and always warmed the world around him, and beyond, simply be being Jack Barnes.

Thank you, Mr. Barnes, for being a part of my life.


May, 1984, I was on a 747 flying over the Atlantic Ocean with fellow members of The Ball State University Singers (show choir), en route to Greece, when I mentioned to my seat mate, Monty Kuskye, that I needed to purchase something special for my mother whose birthday was in April. He asked my mother’s age and I said, “thirty nine.”

Jan & Rod Richard

The lady in front of us rose from her seat and said, “Thirty nine?? Ugh. I’m officially old enough to be the mom of a college student.”

A kindly looking gentleman peeked through the seats and said, “Don’t worry about my wife; she won’t ‘mother’ any of you on this trip. She’s just as young as all of you.”

Rod & Jan Richard with Ted Hughes; Greece

And that was how I met Jan and Rod Richard.

Jan was a 1964 charter member of The Ball State University Singers and joined the ensemble on the overseas trips. She’s still the heart of the group with her generosity and devotion.

At our Athens, Greece hotel.

Rod and Jan’s hotel rooms were often near mine and I got to know Rod who I found charming and fascinating.

On the return flight from Greece, I had my fellow travelers write in my trip journal. Rod wrote the most touching and still, much treasured note:

Through the remainder of the 1980s I saw Rod numerous times at campus events, running into him unexpectedly throughout Muncie, or fondly remembering a lovely evening at Jan and Rod’s home where we dined with friends and enjoyed wonderful conversations.

Rod battled Parkinson’s Disease and passed away yesterday with Jan by his side.

Thank you, Rod, for being a part of my life.


This afternoon delivererd a shocking blow when I learned that a very dear friend has Stage 4 throat cancer.

Upon learning the news, I sat in numbing stillness not knowing what to do nor how to react. This news affects so many folks who’ve become my bonus family.

After a few text messages with his wife, I was calmed by her/their own optimism, that I must admit had crumbled.


This has been a dramatic week both personally and on a national scope. However, while friends are grieving the loss of the loved ones, they’re also celebrating two wonderful lives lived and beloved by so many.

And, my dear Ohio family has reminded me that we move onward, making the most of every moment.

I shout the phrase, daily, but I often need to be reminded to “make it a great day.”

Thank you, Friends… know you are loved…

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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