Reflections on A Day Taken Off

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June 6, 2021- Thirty-nine years ago, today, Penny and I formalized our commitment to one another-and the marriage would last, through thick and thin, for twenty-nine years. I was hoping for at least forty, but we take what we are given. Some people are married for fifty years plus, and are inwardly miserable. We were not either. Speaking of which, as an aside, an indie artist, at a gathering on Saturday night, played a clip of his, on which a local philosopher opined: “”One who claims to be miserable, and at the same time insists he is right, is stating the impossible. It can never happen.”

Processing the loss of one of my closest cousins, I received word that a fellow member of the American Legion Post to which I belong had suffered a heart attack and is in hospital, facing the now de rigeur bypass surgery. He is one of the regulars, at our Sunday morning breakfasts, holding court and waxing eloquent about everything under the sun, in the style of an English aristocrat. That he is of Sicilian descent matters not. T’s heart and soul are rooted in the Merry Old Isle.

My day was otherwise occupied with the mundane-getting laundry done, gluing the front right quarter panel of my Hyundai, with the same substance that’s kept the back left in place, for nearly three years and watching episodes of “The Underground Railroad” and “Peaky Blinders”. Five of us pondered another set of quotes from the Universal House of Justice’s (Baha’i Governing Body) compilation on Social Action. I got in another workout.

In all this, I am looking at what is going on in the wider world, and just shaking my head, keeping up with it all, yet feeling as if it’s all a dream. The most important things in my life are all revolving around family, friends and the children-always, the children.

One of the traits that my cousin, John, had was presence, centering on who was in front of him, for as long as the person needed. That has not been my strong suit, though I am getting better at it. I am still not great at the perfunctory- greetings or conversation for their own sakes, especially online or long-distance. Birthdays and anniversaries are different; they draw my attention, because they matter so much. The rest of it-well, maybe my agenda is too broad and the next thing is always on my horizon. Still, I am making progress at being present, with someone who is in front of me, at any given time.

Twenty-nine years did teach me something.

The Road to 65, Mile 147: The Appointed Hour

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April 24, 2015, Prescott- A friend of twenty-three years passed on, last night, after a three year battle with cancer.  She had brought our then homeless family into the loop of our community’s activities, in the harsh winter and spring of 1992, while not lowering her standards of decorum and good taste.  She never wavered in that regard, over the years.

An Anglophile of the highest order, M.  kept her home immaculate, knew and practiced the art of High Tea, on a regular basis, and always served refreshments in/on ceramic ware, to be enjoyed using either silver or stainless steel, never plastic.  We were all made well aware of the distinction between the first two, as well.

She spent all her adult married life in the same house, not far from where she grew up, though she was well-traveled and had familiarity with just about every place I mentioned I had been.  She felt as much at  home in Tokyo as in Prescott, or Savannah, GA.  A daughter of a military man, she nonetheless shuddered at the carnage amok in the world, and would not suffer crudeness or profanity in her presence. Her own speech was clear, concise and polished.

M. could have been viewed as an anachronism, but she mastered technology, and was a regular presence on Facebook and my e-mail network.  I felt I could discuss virtually any subject with her, as well as with her husband of nearly forty years.

She weathered the vicissitudes  of her disease quite well, all things considered, and would be aghast if she were to hear anyone cast blame for her condition upon the physicians, support staff, or her family members.  Her family were exemplary, and as far as I can tell, so were most of the hospital and medical staff.

M.’s last great enjoyment was connecting with her newborn fifth grandson, and the last photograph of her that was shared by the family showed her and the infant reaching towards one another, and holding hands, as they lay facing one another, at opposite ends of her in-home sick bed.

The impact of such a soul, on each and every person who entered her presence, was one of abiding reassurance and confirmation.  I feel that now, as ever I felt it over the past twenty-three years.  As we lay her body to rest, tomorrow afternoon, I will also feel another soul at the side of my wife, gone homeward, at the appointed hour.