Attitude, by Larry Sceurman

The other day, I was at a gathering of old friends. You might say folks of the same spirits. Most of the men and women there were older than sixty-five. I would say seventy plus was the majority. When I walked into the room, the first person I noticed was Old Kenny. I haven’t seen him for at least three years, before the pandemic. He was seated in the chair with his walker by his side.
I walked over and said, “Kenny, how are you? I haven’t seen you for a while. You’re looking good.”
Kenny leaned forward, pointing his finger at me. “ You’re a friend of Ray and Mary Ellen’s.”
I nodded yes. “That’s right.”
He continued: “I’m 100 years old. I’ll be 101 in June. I was thinking of starting a college course in aging. Calling it Aging 101. The first thing we would talk about is memory loss. So, what is your name?”
We laughed. I told him ‘Larry’ and the friendship picked up where it left off.
As I observed Kenny off and on throughout the afternoon, I thought to myself, what a great attitude he has. One hundred years old and he smiles and laughs like a man of sixty-five. Come to think of it, Kenny always had a good attitude. Now, grant you, I met Kenny when he was seventy-years-old. By that time I would guess most of his rough edges of attitude were worn away.
This was a fun gathering of friends. I enjoyed myself. I even sold two copies of my book, The Death of Big Butch. Kenny and other friends prompt me to think of attitude.
Cambridge Dictionary says that attitude is, “A feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that is caused by this.” The word attitude comes from the Latin word “Aptos” meaning fitness. I started to think about what types of attitude there are.
Of course, there is a positive attitude and a negative attitude. Sayings for the negative came out much quicker, sayings like: “that’s a crappy attitude,” “your attitude sucks,” “don’t display a bad attitude with me,” “a bad attitude will get you nowhere.” The positive sayings came second: “having a good attitude is important,” “they have a great attitude,” “an attitude of gratitude.”
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “attitude adjustment?” Do you think of somebody having a martini or eating a piece of chocolate or dessert? Do you think of somebody getting bonked on the head or slapped in the face? Do you think of prayer and forgiveness?
I have this vision, that one could go to an attitude specialist. Something like an auto mechanic for a front wheel alignment or a chiropractor for a spinal adjustment. You would go in and lie down on a table. The attitude specialist would hook up some electrodes at strategic parts of your body and information would come on a computer screen.

“Oh, I see that your attitude sucks,” he says. “The reason is that your negative filter is clogged, which causes too much suction in the negative chamber and too much negative thinking is going on.”
“Also,” the specialist says, “I see you are tight ass, too. The technical name is repressed thought flow, all we have to do is to adjust the excessively conventional valve. While we’re here we can adjust the smart ass and dumb ass outputs as well. The good news is that your positive attitude energy flow is running very well, we don’t want it to be too rich because that will boost your excessive pride and ego drive.”
You pay the man, he stamps your attitude card, and off you go.
Our attitudes can fluctuate between positive and negative. Also there is a neutral attitude, that is when we don’t give a crap. Why is it some days we can wear the world as a loose garment and other days we are full of resentment and mistrust? I believe it’s all part of the human condition. That our negative attitudes come from fears and that fear is a survival instinct.
We are traveling along the road of life and then out of nowhere there’s a roadblock or detour, instantly, fear pops into our emotional makeup and we become defensive which sparks the negative flame in our thoughts. What is the antidote that will quench that flame?
The first thing that pops in my head is acceptance. The acceptance is that we have no control over the situation and we have to deal with it. Then faith, not just in God or some supreme entity, but faith in ourselves, faith in others, faith in the system, and the faith that whatever happens eventually will turn out okay.
The next thing is prayer or asking for help. To admit that one cannot do it by themselves is a huge step.
The thing that gets me to change my attitude from negative to positive is usually a story. If I’m in a quandary about something, or I’m angry and not trusting, a story can draw out the positive within me without me even realizing it.
Now the story can be heard or read or even told, it doesn’t matter which way the story has been presented. The important thing is that the story has to be positive. Let me give you an example of the story that I told myself.
My mother was afflicted with Alzheimer’s and she didn’t drive a car anymore. She asked me to drive her to the bank and of course I said yes. As we are driving my mom was giving me directions on how to get to the bank.
“Turn left at the stop sign, go a little ways and then you turn again.”
I learned a long time ago not to argue with her, so I just did what she asked. Now I knew we were not going to the bank and I must admit I was curious to see where she was taking us, and we ended up at the post office.
My mom became very worked up and started to swear.
“Where the hell is the bank? I know the GdD**ed bank was here.”
She was right. Twenty-five years ago there was a bank here, but there was no explaining it to her. My mom started to cry and asked what was wrong with her.
I reassured her that I knew where the bank was and off we went. As I’m driving to the bank, my mom was swearing and then crying and I was praying, asking God to help my mother.
When we get to the bank my mom is somewhat calmed down. I tell her I will go into the bank with her. Very insistently she says, “no.”
Once again I yield to her. As I watch her cross the parking lot and go into the bank, it hits me like a ton of bricks. I am the answer to my prayer. I’m asking God to help my mother, and I am the one that has to help my mother.
I told that story to myself before I ever told it to anybody else. And that story changed my attitude completely and gave me the opportunity to know and love my mother like I never did before.
If you’re a writer, keep writing. If you’re a reader keep reading. If you’re a listener, keep listening. If you’re a teller, keep telling. I think little by little, we will all have a better attitude.

Larry Sceurman wrote the Parisian Phoenix nostalgic novella, The Death of Big Butch, and the upcoming short story collection, Coffee in the Morning. Larry will be one of our authors at the National Independent Bookstore Day on April 29 at Easton’s Book and Puppet.

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