A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


See that drawer in the filing cabinet over there?

No, not that one.  The bottom one.  The one that doesn’t quite close all the way.

Don’t tell anyone, but that’s where Anita and I stash our secret treats – you know, the ones we savor and that young, voracious appetites simply can’t appreciate?  Like cashews, for example.  Anita and I can make a can of cashews last for days.  But let the children and grandchildren know that there are nuts in the house and their life span is reduced to minutes.

The nuts’, not the kids’.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not opposed to sharing with my offspring.  But why waste good cashews on them when they’ll be perfectly satisfied with peanuts?  Or sunflower seeds.  Or nacho-flavored cardboard.  I mean, it’s all the same to them.  Everyone knows human taste buds don’t mature until their owners start buying food for themselves.  Until then, they are simply masticating machines, eating anything without regard to flavor, expense or the fact that all day long Dad has been looking forward to kicking back and watching the game with a glass of soda and a handful of cashews.

Which are now gone.

Of course, it usually isn’t difficult to figure out who the culprit is.  Like the time I walked in on then-2-year-old Jonathan, who was standing beside the open “stash drawer” with a mouthful – and two fists-full – of evidence.

“Jonathan!” I intoned sternly (back in those days we sternly intoned the word “Jonathan” quite a lot around our house).  “What are you doing?”

He looked at me, wide-eyed and – believe it or not – innocent.  “I not eat pie-nuts,” he said, spewing nut fragments with the “p” in “pie-nuts.”

“That’s right, Jon,” I said.  “You’re not supposed to eat the peanuts . . er, cashews.”

“I ask firs.”

“That’s right – you’re supposed to ask first.”

He looked at me for a moment.  Then he smiled and popped another nut into his mouth.

The little stinker knew the rules.  He just wasn’t following them.  I really should have gotten after him for that.  But I couldn’t help thinking how much he was like his old man in that respect.  How often do I choose to violate the rules in my life?

I know I should always wear a seat belt.  I know I should get more exercise.  I know I should drink less Dr Pepper.  I know I shouldn’t stay up so late.  I know I should be more thoughtful, more generous and write more letters.  I know I should worry less about my favorite sports teams and more about my cholesterol.  I know, I know, I know.

But I don’t.  Or I do.  Even though I know better.  Just like Jonathan.  At least he had an excuse: he was only 2 years old at the time.

As for me . . . well, I’m tempted to say, “That’s just the way I am.”  But let’s be honest: we both know that’s a cop-out.  I’m a victim of my own lack of self-discipline.  Anyone who chooses to do that which he or she knows they oughtn’t do has no one to blame for the consequences of their choices but themselves.  If I’m too tired to work coherently, it’s because I choose to stay up too late, so I don’t have the right to take out my exhaustion on anyone else.  If all my money goes to paying off bills that I ran up, I can’t complain about the money-grubbing stores and lenders.  And if I haven’t done a thing to keep myself in shape, I’m not going to be able to keep up with Jon.

No matter how many of my cashews he eats.

# # #

— © Joseph Walker

For more ValueSpeak, please visit

E-mail Joseph at: 

Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through