Friday, January 27, 2012

One Last Time

One day, barring an accident or sudden debilitating event, we’ll all sit in disbelief, with the family gathered; looking around incredulously, wondering how this moment could already be here.
Visitors will be reduced to puddles of emotion and lots of good memories, in some cases, while others will drop by out of obligation. Some may wonder if anything is in it for them.

My appointment. Can’t say I’ll make things better next year because the end is now. All of the thoughts running through my head are overwhelming; I don’t have time to say them all. Should have written them down, now the stories will be slowly diluted until they either have no meaning or they’ll simply be forgotten altogether.

What was my legacy? Hopefully I helped mold others into something better so my thoughts and beliefs will last a while longer, at least another generation.

I look down at my spotted, wrinkled hands that have simply run out of hours. It’s been a good run, but now it’s time. Wish I could have another good five years. Or even five days. A work week would seem a lifetime. Sometimes I’m really tired of the fight, but I still long to make a difference. I’d like to try one more time to talk to that knot-headed grandson; maybe something would click this time and turn him around. They’ve all been on their own for years, but now… more help from me.

Memories are flooding my mind, saturating this tired old head that needs to rest. My last trip to see the kids at Thanksgiving, it really was the last. It’s hard to let go of everything so familiar, but so it is.

As I gaze beyond the familiar faces, the window seems empty, as if it goes on forever. I feel like there are so many things I haven’t accomplished, I feel like crying. I’m looking past the people so dear to me, and I’m grasping for everything in sight.

Pain runs down my shoulder and into my back, and then settles in the hip. Tears well up all over again.

I know how to start my life over, only better, but I no longer have the time. Why did it take me so long to figure it all out?

Did I remember to tell her how much I love her? When? Last night? My memory is fading.

Songs run through my mind; wish I had them to listen to, here, now. They’re like a scrapbook of old photos. Each chorus brings up another picture, as vivid as the day it was taken. Everyone seems so much younger when the right song is playing.

Now, I will finally take those dark secrets with me. That’s enough to put a smile on my face. No one has to ever know, and that’s how I want it.

The light shining into the window is getting brighter. My recollections are becoming small.

I lay here, as my mind comes and goes. Next week the grandkid’s school will be in full session and they’ll be busy, thinking about the summer that will last forever, and a lifetime ahead of them. Live for the moment, their future is as wide as the horizon. Or so it seems. They’ll soon forget about me, until someone opens up an old photo album. Or maybe they’ll repeat something I always said, and then scratch their head, wondering where it came from. I can only hope.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Could Be Worse

I am not normally inclined to sleep in on a Saturday, but this morning’s steady, soaking rain, added to the January chill in the air made for a perfect match between me and the warm confines of the bed. Problem was, we needed to go find a new washing machine.

Our washer gets enough use that it’s probably 110, in dog years. Five adults in a household make for lots of clothes washing, and that’s where we’re at these days, with a son taking local college courses and two teenage daughters. A few months back we knew the washer was on its last legs. Sometimes my wife had to run the clothes through the spin cycle four or five times, and a couple of weeks back we were given a used but working washing machine. It worked well for two weeks before the shock of being run around the clock accelerated its degeneration to the point it died a quick and painless death. No struggling to spin clothes out, it just said no more, I quit.

So, we got to go out and look for a new washer on a rainy Saturday morning with a tornado watch and flash flood watch in effect. We managed to find a good deal, and the clothes washing will be up and running again in three days.

I’m actually thankful that we’re in a position to buy one, lots of people aren’t these days.

While we were in the appliance store my cell phone rang, and my son spoke. He informed me that his basement room was flooded. All sorts of thoughts ran through my head, and I began asking questions. I found the adjacent rooms were fine, but the water had managed to reach his bed, and the rugs were saturated. I found out later how saturated they were, I think one must have been holding fifty pounds of water.

Nothing like an unusual rain to bring out the worst in something, whether it’s a house’s roof or basement, or a convertible top on a car. I have experienced problems with all three at one time or another.

What we discovered after pulling saturated rugs outside, moving furniture to higher ground, and mopping the room was that water was still coming in through the walls that separated his room from a long, narrow closet. Beyond the closet is a dirt crawlspace that has a section dug out the depth of the bedroom. We found later it had nine inches of water standing, and as we mopped water up it kept seeping in through the walls. I climbed over the wall and down into the crawlspace and began filling a five gallon trash can, and handing it to my son to go empty outside. In all, we emptied about 30 gallons from his room, and around 100 from the crawlspace.
Quite a tiring three hours.

I’m thankful this did not happen right after we left to go out of town a month ago.

So now I have one other challenge that I may tackle tomorrow, I’m not sure. Something recently built a nest in our fireplace, right above the chute, and from the smell that hits you on entering the room it must have died. I’ll put a box or some type of papers down and open the chute, then react to whatever drops out. My fertile imagination has it all figured out. I’ll see a big half eaten rat drop out, covered by a cloud of debris as the contents of the chimney hit the gas logs, then the ravenous rodents that were enjoying the meal will all hit the ground and scatter throughout the house. Then we’ll hear clicking in all the shadowy places, especially at night when we’re trying to not think about things running across the bed.

I know this won’t really happen, and that’s why I need to go ahead and clean out the chute. And do something about the fireplace cap that must be awry. Things rarely end as badly as I imagine them, and that’s a good thing. I would never want to be a character in my mind; I have to get past the first layer of imagination before I expect things to happen for the good. Human nature at work? Or is it just me?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Without a Catch

At some point in our lives we all experience change. That mind altering shock, the moment everything we thought within reason goes out the window.

Things we thought were etched in stone are blown away in an instant, like a dandelion hit by a gale force wind. Nothing was as it seemed, and you figure nothing will ever be as it should be. We're on the wheel of fortune, and where it stops nobody knows. You look from side to side frantically, looking for something familiar to grab hold of, something that you can call home.

Do you define a true friend as someone who agrees with you regardless? Someone who slobbers over your ideals to make you happy? What if they disagree?

Ever stop and think about what a true, lifelong friend means? For me, “Without a Catch” creates an image of that elusive person. One whose friendship doesn’t waver with life’s changes of direction, differences of opinion, and lifestyle changes, at least up to a point.

Acquaintances come and go, floating in and out of our lives with the changing winds. A disagreement on this or that, befriending someone who doesn’t meet their criteria, or a number of other life events can turn what we thought to be a close friend into someone we despise, and it can happen overnight. One phone call can do it. And they can turn on you with such a vengeance it’s tough to trust again. It’s just the way some people are, they’re looking for a band of followers or a gaggle of people to agree with everything they believe. They expect it, and won’t accept anything less. Their way or no way. Cross their road on the wrong side and see what happens.

People have a natural tendency, especially kids, to gang up on the dissident. It happens in the animal world; their version is called survival of the fittest. In this case I don’t mean someone who resists authority and paves a new road to travel on, but I’m talking about the one who is singled out, vulnerable, and easy pickings for a group. Riding this wave of popularity isn’t fulfilling; they’ll turn on you at some point too. It seems so cruel looking from afar, but it’s human nature at work.
Games are laid out with a simple pattern for children to understand, but the game playing doesn’t stop with our youth; the results simply become more scornful and vicious as we supposedly mature into adults. The games we played in school had the same basic rules as the ones later on, but with different paths to follow and different lines drawn in the sand. Divisions are created over family wealth, color, background, what school we attended, etc.

We all have parameters we want to stay within. Who we surround ourselves with will have a big effect on how we talk, think, and exist. One bad influence can turn our children into something we never though could happen, and it can be difficult to pull them back. I remember something my grandmother said to my parents years ago, when I wasn’t being the best of kids. She said if you put good things in them, it will come out in the end. I agree that if it’s put in at the critical influential years it will always be there to either guide or condemn us; it’s our choice which path is followed.

Despite this, a true friend stays a friend through good and bad. Love doesn’t come and go like the flip of a light switch, it’s something that saturates our whole being, once it’s there. A true friend may not agree with us or even hang around when we’re bad; we probably cross the boundaries of their convictions and they can’t let us pull them into our pit of despair. Our families need our protection, and this shield may be from the words and influence of a long time friend that has gone astray because of their decisions, changing convictions, or simply a life event that creates a divide. However, the deep seeded love and caring is there, no matter what. And a true friend will be there to help pick us up after our failures. It may be a phone call or a visit away, but he/she will be there to do what can be done, and you know it’s with a caring heart.

A true friend is that special person you would contact if your life was at a crossroads, with dire consequences hanging in the balance; the one you know would offer the best hope and advice, based solely on your well being. And, that doesn’t mean always hearing what you want to hear. Often it won’t be. When we’re under duress we can’t always make rational decisions, but someone who loves us can offer the tough advice that’s needed.

Other times we need a shoulder to lean on, someone who cares enough to be there when we hurt. Someone who cares deeply about our well being, and we know they care, without having to wonder.

We like people because, and love them although.Sort of like comparing acquaintances and true friends.

And, a true friend can keep your secrets. They can’t help you if you’re afraid to reveal to them your vulnerabilities. They can look at you without a blink and you know they know, but it’s okay .And you want them to know things no one else knows. A true friend can learn how we think, if they’re around us enough. And they can sometimes finish a sentence we start, and don’t know how to finish it ourselves. Our words and thoughts need to be created, and put in their proper place. It’s in us, but a true friend can bring it out. They get you, when others don’t.

A true, lifelong friend can often times say a few words and make your heart feel warm, and help put life’s perspectives back in their proper place. And you look forward to hearing their voice, even when you don’t really like what they’re saying. But you still listen.