Could’ve Skipped That

Dropped off the Honda at the local mechanic, an honest guy with a friendly smile. Walked a mile home on a hot morning. Felt a little vertigo (tight shoulders and neck, slight veering to the left), and the hips creaked with each step. Approached a middle school bus stop and saw two punks staring at me. One smirked to the other. They laughed up their sleeves as I came closer. Glared at them, but the bigger kid smirked again, whispered to his buddy and drew a laugh. Leaned in and barked, “Something must be real funny.” Silence.

Could have skipped that. Who cares what 13-year-olds think?

Ate breakfast, worked on the screened-in-porch door. Made lunch for Judy and me. Assembled the door. Glued and stapled the sections together.

Called the mechanic and walked back to the garage. Felt woozy as I got near. Had to cross Aloma ( a busy four-lane road). Vertigo came back as I stood on the median. Spread my feet wide apart to brace myself as traffic wooshed by in front and behind me. Considered sitting down. Could have skipped that.

Made it to the mechanic’s, and he offered me a cold drink. Must have looked wrung out from the heat.

The man had time to talk. We discussed fly-by-night service companies in Orlando. Agreed that we’d avoid any company sporting a Christian symbol on their ads. They’re usually the worst. Said, “Hey, Hitler was a Catholic, just not a good one.”

The mechanic said, “Speaking of Hitler, what about Trump?”

“You don’t like Trump?” I asked.

“Oh, I do,” the mechanic answered.

The conversation turned into a political debate. The mechanic’s assistant spouted conspiracy theories. Blamed Obama for Russian election interference. The mechanic floated the idea that Trump was a better choice than a career politician for defending social security. Business men manage money better. Trump is a business man.

Made a few counterpoints. The assistant identified me as a liberal moron, sneered, fell back on smug indignation. The mechanic enjoyed the debate, laughed frequently. (He must enjoy starting political fights when things get slow.)

Could’ve skipped that.

The Morning Call

I sometimes wake at dawn to a feeling of dread buried deep in the pit of my stomach.  Sometimes I know the source; other times I have no clue.

The morning calls began in February, 2008.  My sister called one night to tell me that her advancing struggles with lifting her feet and walking had been diagnosed:  Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Her callous neurologist delivered her death sentence just before Christmas.  He said, “You’ve got ALS.  Go home; quit your job; buy a wheelchair.”

Carla died in 2013.  My wife’s recovery from intense vertigo began, in the same month, to drift backward into a nasty, prolonged relapse.  From the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2014, I often woke up in the gray predawn to worries about my wife’s health and our financial future.  A gnawing feeling ate away at my stomach, and nothing made it go away until I gave up on sleep and got busy with the work of the day.

I woke up this morning with a similar sensation in my gut.  Nothing terribly bad is going on in my life at the moment, though worries about my parents nag from time to time.  I tried to pinpoint the trouble spot generating my discomfort, but came up blank.  I chalked it up at first to free floating anxiety, but became dissatisfied with an easy dismissal of the problem.

I thought about this possibility:  maybe fear is a form of emotional PTSD.  2013 endures in memory as the worst year of my life, and the waves of upheaval and unease I’m still experiencing are just late arrivals.  Starlight comes to us from eons ago.  Maybe the pain from a past event still approaches like a dissipating wave from a distant source.

Another possibility:  I’m approaching my sixtieth birthday, and my eventual demise no longer seems all that eventual.  My uncomfortable morning gut might just be my body and unconscious coming to grips with death.

One last possibility:  fear is the ground of existence.  I fear death.  I fear pain, emotional and physical.  I fear conflict and failure.  I fear losing whatever measure of love, comfort and success I’ve gained.  I fear dying alone.  Buddha said that the basic condition of life is suffering.  Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.  It feels more like fear to me.

Einstein reported that qualms of mortality had begun in old age to transform into another sensation, one of merging with nature.  As his body failed, so did the barriers between his ego and the cosmos.

Many claim that death is just the transformation of an energy signature into another form, an escape from the drudgeries of mortal life to an immortality of freedom and light.  That sounds pretty good to me…

But I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that I’m getting close to Albert’s state of transcendence.  Acknowledging that I’m afraid, paradoxically, makes fear more bearable.  If fear is a norm, there’s not much point worrying about it or even taking it too seriously.   Denying fear is like trying to avoid the effects of gravity.

Douglas Adams jokingly described a method of flying:  a person must throw themselves at the ground and miss.  Maybe courage and good cheer are gained by throwing oneself at fear and missing.

Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

Dog Quest 2017

 

Animal, Dog, Pet, Puppy, Cute, CanineNext Dog????

Our dog Sammi died in the fall of 2003.  As a black, white and tan rat terrier she was eight pounds of guile, cunning and nervous agitation.  When she ran down the street her legs moved so fast they blurred.  The neighborhood kids called her “The Hover Dog”.

At times her terrier level of anxious energy was too much for me, and I swore a few days after I buried her in our back yard that I’d never get another dog.  But my daughter and her fiance’ visited over Christmas with their two pups, and my wife Judy and I found ourselves talking about the possibility of getting one.  Our house seems large and empty after our visitors leave, and we feel an urge to fill up the open spaces with an active presence.  And Judy and I are somewhat tied to staying close at home.  We have spells when direct contact with friends and family is limited, and we feel a need for extra companionship.

My sister had an Australian Shepherd the last few years of her life when she suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and Charlie was an intelligent, very loyal mid sized dog.  He was a consistently hopeful and cheerful presence.  However he was extremely protective of Carla and would butt anyone with his nose who came too near to her.  Once he got me in the side of the neck when I attempted to arrange Carla’s feet on the foot rests of her motorized chair.  And my Dad had bruises up and down his forearms from similarly misguided interventions.  Judy has vertigo and sometimes walks with difficulty, and while I liked Charlie a lot I don’t want to get a dog who protects her from me.

Our search is complicated by our allergies to dog dander, so Judy is looking up hypoallergenic breeds.  We’re discovering that most of these are expensive.  And we want a more mellow dog, but one not too large and dull witted like a Lab.  We may have to find a mixed breed mutt to suit our needs.  And we’ll probably have to wait until after our daughter gets married in May to get serious about finding a dog.  We don’t want to deal with new routines and dog training while planning a wedding.

On Sunday we went to Central Park in downtown Winter Park.  Judy wanted to see something beside the insides of our house and our yard.  We sat in the shade and watched a squirrel digging up nuts, toddlers chased by parents, a guy making balloon animals for children, and two lovers kissing and caressing on a blanket.  And we saw dogs, dogs, dogs.  We commented on the size, shape and personalities of the ones we saw, and I turned to Judy and said, “It really does sound like we’re getting a dog.”  And I thought about all the happy possibilities.

 

Road Rage Follies: Driving in Orlando

I drove my wife home from an appointment the other day and we pulled into the left hand turn lane leading from Aloma onto Eastbrook. My wife suffers from vertigo, and sudden turns and accelerations aggravate her condition. There were spaces between the cars coming from the opposite direction, but they were all roaring along at high speed. Any attempt at making the turn would require me to floor the accelerator. I was willing to patiently wait, but the guy behind me was not. Every time a car passed and there was a brief opening in the traffic he tooted his horn at me. After the fourth toot the light turned yellow. I edged into the middle of the intersection and ever so slowly crept to the left as several cars ran the light. When the light turned red I made the turn like a doddery old man in an attempt to strand the horn happy driver in the turn lane. I succeeded.

I usually feel anxious when another driver decides to give me the finger, cut me off, lean on his horn, or swear at me, but this time I felt strangely elated. Screwing that guy felt right. And his behavior seemed more childish than threatening. If he wanted to raise his blood pressure by getting angry then that was his choice.

That evening I went to a Publix in Casselberry to pick up some things for the weekend. The exit lane had a traffic light, and there were five cars stacked up ahead of me. The driver in front of my car had pulled over to the far right and had her right hand turn signal on. There was room enough for me to slide ahead of her and get into the left hand turn lane. However when I passed her she looked up from her cell phone and shouted, “Hey!” She sounded offended as if I had jumped her place in line. I wondered if she had flipped the wrong turn signal and wanted to make a left hand turn. When the light turned green I waited to let her pass ahead of me in case she wanted to go left. She didn’t. When she reached the light she turned right.  I hadn’t impeded her progress in any fashion.  But before she exited the lot and as she passed by me she leaned out the window and cursed. “You fucker!” she screamed at me.

I felt a little quiver of excitement as her verbal assault fully registered, and on the way home I got that strange feeling of elation again. I felt both amused and full of energy as if the woman’s curse had somehow worked in reverse and had become a blessing.

I’ve been driving in Orlando for 24 years. Prolonged exposure to congested roads, tourists wandering lost from lane to lane, and impatient creeps who truly don’t care how recklessly they drive, may have inured me to normal feelings of outrage. Or perhaps I’ve developed a sense of detachment that borders on a state of Zen awareness…or maybe I’ve become a sadistic creep who enjoys the self-inflicted misery of my fellow drivers.

I think that the last one sounds about right.