16. Ivan: My Russian blue cat, my son, my dear boy, lived off and on with me for twenty years. He loved me dearly and I him. On December 17, 2010 he passed away from kidney failure. He was playful and kind, handsome and majestic, devoted and noble as he aged towards his end. I miss him every day and look forward to seeing him at some point in the future. I am so grateful we had our twenty years of fun together.
17. Max: In the late 1970s/early 1980s for 3 ½ years we had a beautiful Harlequin Great Dane named Max. He was my best friend and sometimes I think he might be the best friend I’ll ever have. Protective and smart, and as handsome as they come, Max looked after me, slept by my bedside, walked me when I needed it, and taught me the ways of a gentleman. There is never a day that I don’t miss him, his protection and his gentle guidance. He and I had far too few years together and I hope that we are someday reunited.
18. Cyril Stretansky: As Director of Choral Activities at Susquehanna University, Cyril Stretansky took me under his wing and never abandoned me despite being at times harsh taskmaster. An inscrutable man, artist, politician, uncle to be, and at times tyrant, Cy taught me what being an artist and what being a man of passion was all about. Like his instructor, Robert Page before him, Cy took no prisoners where it came to his art. He was always in charge and you never doubted his authority even when he was flat-out wrong about something, but he could also be incredibly kind, gracious, and encouraging when things were not at their best. He is and remains the single greatest professor I’ve ever had and I love him like a very distant uncle.
19. As a Man Thinketh: I came across a little volume of James Allen’s classic some ten or eleven years ago and I think it’s perhaps one of the most important books ever written. What hundreds of other self-help writers take volumes to say Allen says in just a few short pages. His distillation of self-help thought was both prescient and brilliant and I read his book again and again and often. If anyone reading this does not own As a Man Thinketh you should immediately go get yourself a copy. It will change your life.
20. My Health: I have been very blessed with good health despite my very nature which is opposed to exercise and healthy eating. I’m trying to change that but at forty years old it is hard to change old habits. Still I live without any health insurance, do eat anything that I want, and other than some excessive weight tending me towards obesity I have no immediate problems. Health deserves to be much higher on my list than now but it is something that we take for granted on an almost daily basis. So roundig out my top twenty I wanted to make sure that I expressed gratitude for forty years of relatively excellent health.