Dr. Don Newbury

They were words my old mamma used sparingly — when she encountered situations meriting expressions of profound disbelief.

Once they rolled from her tongue repeatedly when she experienced a pair of “firsts.” She licked away at her first soft-serve ice cream cone while watching (and hearing) her first electronic bug zapper.

“This beats anything I’ve seen in all my ‘put-together’,” she exclaimed in utter amazement. What a deal — soft ice cream streaming from a machine, and bugs done in electronically without a fly swatter. Age 10, I was likewise wide-eyed at such wonders…

Now, six decades later, I am blessed by a longtime friend who sent a gift that calls to mind my departed mamma’s expression.

It’s as fine a gift as I’ve ever received — the kind the IRS would like to tax.

I shan’t reveal her name since doing so might tempt burglars. They’d likely “burgle” her home if they knew she kept valuable gifts lying around…

The gift is a ballpoint pen. Made in Germany, it came with a 150-page manual written in five languages. (I don’t look for it to break.)

I’ve shown it to a few friends who are well-versed in writing instruments. There has been much “oooohing and aaaaahing.”

They’ve never seen finer pens in “all their ‘put-togethers’.”…

I could have used it professionally when signing contracts, agreements, letters and diplomas.

But if I’d had it then, what if folks had seen me using it?

Donors might have thought, “If he can afford a pen like that, the university doesn’t need my gift.” And trustees might have theorized that I was making too much money, or wondered if the pen had been purchased with institutional funds…

In retirement, there is time to contemplate this magnificent pen, even to salivate (and then to clean up the salivation). I will forthwith write letters by hand and look for reasons to brandish my new pen, sort of like men who keep their shirt sleeves pulled up a bit so folks can better see their Rolexes.

It will never leave my person and likely will be chained to the bib pocket of my overalls.

In the past, I have used “freebie” pens — the kind priced by the dozen that don’t even cost one figure. Since I’m now the owner of a three-figured pen, be advised that my pen is NOT for lending. Hocking, maybe, but not lending…

One fleeting thought concerning possible use has perished. It called for the addition of an asterisk after my signature, indicating the acronym “SWAM.”

“Signed With A Montblanc.”

Then it occurred to me that most folks (including me until now) don’t know a Montblanc from a hay baler. Such a foolish practice would plop me into the muddled puddle of Rolex owners who are forever preoccupied with sleeve-shortening…

It will be a helpful tool for my wife, though. Each day it is hers to determine if I still have reasonable wits about me.

When I arise, usually about the crack of 8:30, she will ask, “Do you have your pen?”

I’ll either whip it out of my pajama pocket, or retrieve it from under my pillow. Then, I’ll start the grocery list, now on monogrammed stationery instead of the Big Chief tablet…

Do you suppose U. S. Presidents have such fine pens? I doubt it, since they seem intent on giving them away after document signings.

Reminds me of the yardman picking up litter on the White House lawn during the Johnson Administration. A puff of wind blew a piece of paper into the oval office.

He was told to retrieve it. “I tried, but LBJ’s already signed it,” the man lamented…

Back to my friend. She sent the gift with a note, explaining that another commitment makes it impossible for her to attend commencement exercises at Howard Payne University, my alma mater. It was where my 40-year career in higher education concluded and where I served a dozen years in the presidency. (I am scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate there on May 10.)

Her “other commitment” is her grandson’s high school graduation ceremonies.

She has her priorities well-ordered…

When HPU President Lanny Hall drops the doctoral hood over my head, I’ll be misty-eyed, groping for words to lighten the moment. Aha! I’ll tell him that the degree is not being conferred in vain.

I’ll explain that we are lucky that my friend couldn’t come. Otherwise, I likely wouldn’t have the fancy gift.

Then, I’ll inform him that I’m re-writing my will. The addendum will be signed with my new pen — the one I am leaving to Howard Payne. But NOT until the will is probated…

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Send email to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. His website: www.speakerdoc.com