Feeling Needed

Photo of Barbra STREISANDIt’s taken a surprisingly…embarrassingly long time for me to connect the dots for this article.  About half an hour ago, Pamela said something which set into motion my connecting several seemingly unrelated events.  Once it started, it just kept going.  Pam said the following, rather offhandedly during dinner: “Barbra Streisand was wrong.”  I stopped chewing and took a sip.  I said, “Excuse me?”  Pam said, “Granted, it was a great song.  It sounds wise.  But she’s got it backwards. ”  Then Pamela sang the first two lines:  “People, people who need people…are the luckiest people in the world.   It’s just the opposite, Henry. People who are needed are the luckiest people in the world.  The needy ones…they need some help.  They need food or money or love, heating oil or an operation.”

What was strange was that one statement, yanked a lynch pin inside my brain and a whole slew of seemingly unrelated events began to unfold.  First one:

 Jane, the British gal at our pharmacy.  Her husband has been on a remote business assignment for a very, very long time.  With him gone, I empathized that it must be a real bitch having to take care of her farm and her horses, one of which is quite old.  She smiled politely, yet oddly.  “That’s not exactly right,” she said.  “The horses are what’s getting me through this.”  The words registered…but they didn’t really sink in at the time.

Pam in Autumn behind BarnThis year, Pamela got hammered, first with potentially lethal cancer…then with lymphedema.  We made it through the cancer together, raised our heads to get a breath…and got hammered with the lymphedema.  Unlike ever before in our decades together, Pam really, truly, permanently  needs me now.  No b.s.  The things she needs now she can’t do herself.  I think Pam was surprised just how quickly and completely I stepped up to the plate.  I told her I’m in it for the long, very long haul…the longest.   What I didn’t realize at the time was that this wasn’t completely altruistic.  At this point in my life, feeling needed is….  Words kind of escape me.  It’s reason enough for me to live.


boston with pallette knife and contrastDog people:  We have three small furry members in our family.  Scootie, Gigi and Moose.   They need us 1000%.  They know it and we know it, too.  What isn’t so obvious is what they give us in return.  Having had all kinds of breeds in my life, we finally hit the one that blows us away every single hour of the day.

The Bostons can not survive your being angry with them for even an instant.  You must make up immediately or they wilt.  Their raison d’etre  is to make you laugh, and to protect.   If you’re sad, they’re the first to sense it and to take action.  And feeling needed by these little people in funny black-and-white dog suits is just wondrous.  We talk to people who say having dogs is,  “too much work,  too much hassle.” They are missing out on the cheapest, best, most life-changing opportunity they could have.   We need these pups as much or more than they need us.  The farting…it’s still worth it 1000 times over.  The above image is something Pamela cobbled together on PhotoShop from an old photo.  It captures who they are.

Grandchildren:  I think for many couples, grandchildren supply them with what our pups supply us with.  Candor, humor, feeling needed, feeling unequivocally loved.  Bravo and Brava.  Won’t argue that one…except…we know that deep, deep down, you love having those grandkids over for a day…and then they’re gone!!!!   With our pups, we want ’em around us 24 hours a day.  They don’t talk back and they are always funny.  Possibly you can have both???


The blue butterfly is a symbol  that Lymphedema survivors often wear.

A small but important revelation:  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have a mild degree of manic-depressive-ness inside me.  I harness it.  I use it.  But I also suffer at times.  Four days ago, I felt that old familiar feeling, throat tightening, everything dimming in my mind, feeling sorry for myself.  Once that happens, it’s like a storm coming in and there’s not much you can do.  You batten down and wait for it to pass through you.

This time, however, Pam was having some trouble with her lymphedema symptoms.  She seriously needed a body massage and a forty-minute leg wrapping and she needed it right then.  We went upstairs.  I massaged.  We talked.   I wrapped.  It helped…a lot.  We hugged and as I stood up I realized that the “storm” had, for the first time, just passed over me.  It was gone.  Feeling needed, truly needed wiped out the depression almost instantly.

I could easily scroll back over the past year and see the places where I’ve been happy.  There’s a direct, connect-the-dots correlation.  I’m happy when I’m helping out, feeling like I’m doing something worthwhile.  It’s terrific symbiosis.  In helping, I am helped.

 And I know personally that many of you help out in a wide variety of ways.  If you have a moment, share them with our readers.  You may help someone a lot more than you know.

Retiring:  I’ve mentioned this in previous essays.  For men in particular, retiring is a surprisingly dangerous time.  All your life you’ve been needed, as a man and as a bread-winner.  Much of that stops when you retire.  For your own benefit,  make yourself needed.  Make yourself indispensable.  I absolutely guarantee you, you’ll be twice as happy, possibly more.

mirror-1Our relationship:  Who?  What?  Am I talking to you?  Yes, YOU!  If there were a way I could embed a small (functioning) mirror inside this blog for you to look into, I’d do it now.  I spend more time than I’d like to admit each week, trying to come up with something that might help each of us.  No one sends me a check for this, no slaps on the back.  But once in a while someone writes in and says something like,  “Hey…I forwarded your article to my buddy” or “I showed this to my husband, or my wife ” or (this one nailed me): “I took your advice and brought in my Dad’s favorite music who has Alzheimers.  It really helped!!!  It was as if he woke up.  Thanks.”   When I get a letter like that, it’s the biggest payment in the world.  Better than bucks by far.  So thank each and every one of you.  With your e-mails, you make it all worthwhile.  Thank you.

People, people who are needed…are the luckiest people…in…the…world….

Henry with pipe  daubs croppedHenry

Apologies for an unusually long P.S.  If some of the above shots look a bit strange this week, Pam and I are experimenting with a small new hobby.  It happened fortuitously.  When my mom died, there were precious few photographs of her.  Not much I could do.  But a long-time friend by the nickname of Mo from the olden days sent me a picture of my mom when he’d flown up for Pam’s and my wedding.  It was a good shot, but it was damaged.  With micro-micro surgery I got it passable.  In doing so, it was as if I was scraping cobwebs from my memory.  It was pretty heavy for me.

MomWe went on together to save some other shots that were otherwise lost.  Then we took an old photograph of one of my furry buddies and….made an impressionistic “painting” out of it.  Strangely, it’s better than the photo.  Here’s the lost but repaired shot of my Mom.  She was much  prettier than the photo and a world-class classical pianist.  Love you, Mom.






16 Responses to "Feeling Needed"

  1. Sam Anderson says:

    I can’t recall one blog of yours that I didn’t get some nugget of info from. Sometimes I feel guilty that I take away so much and only on occasion respond, but please know your words of wisdom and the work you put in to make your message readable are greatly appreciated.

  2. henry harvey says:

    Hey Samantha,

    Thanks. It’s symbiosis, though. Communicating with you is inherently pleasurable. I learn from you as well.

    Don’t know if you scanned the rather lengthy P.S but it’s been seriously strange, putting an old old photo up on the monitor, scratched, coffee-stained, faded, ripped… and sometimes in the process of bringing out what was originally in the photo, other stuff comes out. The effect is very similar to what it does to my memory. Things pop up that haven’t been thought about in decades. Strange world. Strange brains we all have.

    Keep in touch!

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    Great shot of the Boston T. What’s missing is the owner or guest falling to the floor due to an effusion of hydrogen sulfide, or something similar. Great (even better) picture of your mom.
    Richard Rex

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    Ahhhh, yes. One becomes philosophical about such things. Turning lemons into lemonades, or farts into….fart blossoms is always challenging. Got a book out of it though: 37 Cents a Fart and Other Infamous Stories. I believe you did some cameo scenes in some of the chapters.


  5. Henry Harvey says:

    I swear I remember your mom from that picture.. I should ..I was at your house a lot..

    Not sure why, but this article really resonated… especially on behalf of my mom.. As she approaches 101 she has everything in the world she needs… but she often asks for things to do.. and the folks where she lives look for things for her (and the other residents) “TO DO” — with little success – movies, music, kids reading to them are appreciated, BUT… mom and many of the other folks need to be needed…. they need something to do that helps someone else in some way….

    I really think my days are super these days because twice a week I have to go over to my mothers, and twice a week have to visit her, Liz makes sure she has all the things we supply, I bitch to the folks there when something bothers me in the way she is being cared for, and on and on… I am needed and yeah, it feels good.. I get it in Barbershop by volunteering to attend too many meetings, take on too many jobs etc… all more for my benefit than for the organizations…

    THANKS FOR THIS ARTICLE… absolutely top of the list so far… (you’ve set a high benchmark… )…

    And, finally, I’ve never met her, but let Pam know our thoughts are with her…. My cancer bout was not problematic for me and for that I knock on wood…. My favorite Colon Cancer Alliance tee shirt reads (quote Bob Marley) – ‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.’ …

    Hope to see you in Mt Olive next year!!!!


    • Henry Harvey says:

      First time Pam and I went to Jamaica, something musically invaded my brain in a very very nice way.
      Heard Reggae up-close and real and was utterly hooked. Bob Marley was an unlikely king and the quote you sent put it just perfectly. Thanks.

      For Pam, most recently, it was a throw-away song in a movie. It’s appropriately titled: “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” Gets Pam back in the groove some days. Here it is:

      And yes, I remember your mom as well, though I don’t remember any of the other kid’s moms…not even my girlfriend’s moms. I think we were both extremely lucky to have such moms. What I learned early about women, I learned from my mom. Boy there’s a lot to learn! You never ever get it completely right, you just keep learning.

      Glad you’ve won your battle thus far with the C word. I’m knockin’ on wood for ya….I do the same thing.

      Hope to see you next year as well.


  6. Henry Harvey says:

    Henry I do forward your blogs often.
    I’ve opened conversation with friends and relative that were inspired by your writings.

    Being needed by many though has a wearing effect on me. Although I enjoy helping people this wears me out quickly.

    You helped put it into perspective for me now if I could persuade my stomach to chill I would totally agree with you.


  7. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Carol,
    They say that charity begins at home and I believe it. First of all, YOU have to survive. It’s like those oxygen masks that drop down in an airplane. First you put yours on…then you put your kid’s one on.

  8. Henry Harvey says:

    I have enjoyed reading this blog, it is very informative for me.
    Thank you,

  9. Henry Harvey says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Nancy!

  10. Henry Harvey says:

    Your mom is beautiful and as you probably know, Pamela looks sooooo much like her.
    You are so lucky to have/had two beautiful women in your life.
    I think this thanks goes to Pamela for inspiring this article.

  11. Henry Harvey says:

    You certainly got that right! When I first brought Pam home, she and my mom bonded completely. I didn’t have a chance. And from a very early age, Mom set about to teaching me about women, how they think, how they feel about things. It’s been a life-long process.

    Thanks, Pam!

  12. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi, Henry and Pam.
    First of all, I am sorry to hear that your medical issues continue on, Pam. Hopefully, they will be manageable, and, over time, prove to be more of an annoyance than anything. Still, I’m sad that you now have this to contend with. On the bright side, you have that handsome live-in masseur at your beck and call. My advice, girl – take advantage!

    As for the ’needing’ thing – I couldn’t agree with you more.

    And, don’t get me started on the value of animals in this equation! I now have my third therapy dog, Lance, and it is something that I really need for my own sense of self-worth. The good work these animals do is astonishing – and they don’t even have a clue as to their impact. Two weeks ago, I took him into a nursing home/rehab facility, where I engaged in a very brief interchange with a woman who barely spoke above a whisper while she petted Lance. We moved on to do our rounds, and, when I was ready to leave, an employee stopped me at the door. She told me that this woman was totally non-verbal – until she spoke to me about her cat. Granted, it was a mere few sentences, but – wow! That sent chills up my back.


  13. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Nan,

    Thanks for the kind words. They are appreciated. I think that what the therapy dogs do is nothing short of magical. Recently on a TED lecture I saw them bringing dogs into prisons, to be taught the basics by selected people serving time. The change in every single one of the convicts was just flat-out amazing!
    Yup, keep up the good work, Nan!

  14. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Henry –

    Jan Marabito forwarded to me your recent blog “Feeling Needed” from 10/28.

    And I’m so sorry to hear that Pamela has been ill.

    My best wishes to Pamela for a speedy and complete recovery.


  15. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Harry,
    Good to hear and thanks for the kind words. It has been a very interesting year.

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