When did I move to the front of the line?
Not so long ago I was playing softball, riding bikes and buying far more wedding gifts than sympathy arrangements. Then both parents died within a couple years of one another suddenly leaving me holding the eldest branch of my family tree, unprepared and at more of my own doctor visits than walks in the park.
I started being more careful climbing ladders and began taking fewer risks and chances with the advancing march of mortality. It all came more clearly into view and way sooner than expected. And I wasn’t alone. Coffee conversation with peers and friends became more talk of empty nests, punctuated by pill counts and nagging pains like nomads that shift and move with the weather or for no reason at all. When did I move to the front of the line where the old people used to stand? You can’t even take a number here anymore. I suppose they just call when the luck runs out and yours is up.
He never planned it this way.
He’d served his country four years and three tours and had expected a little more in return. But it’s a windy winter morning and if he’s gonna get anything remotely fresh today, he needs to arrive early. Dozens like him will be traveling in cars but he lost his a couple winters back to a “payday” loan joint in exchange for a month of keeping his heat on. He laughs at the irony. He hasn’t had an actual payday in over 20 years. At 81 now, he moves more slowly. Partly due to the cold. Partly to the wage of aging. Slipping on the tattered gloves and coat he’d received last year at the passing of his older friend, he heads out the door into the biting wind for the long walk he makes twice weekly. He gets $20 in coupons to the farmer’s market from the charity down the street. It’s his only shot at a bag of fresh produce to complement the $16 in food stamps and the assortment of cans of whatever the church food pantry has on the shelves that day. Over time he’s learned there’s a better than even chance for hamburger on Tuesdays. When I first met John, I was naïve to his plight and asked if it was difficult being old. “No, it’s difficult being hungry.” For an entire generation of people just like him who’d once dreamed of a retirement of travel or at the very least, a front porch, this is normal. It’s how they wake up and what they take to bed at night. This is the entirety of every lonely day. The fortunate ones like John, still muster an occasional smile through it all and reminisce about their blessed lives if you give them an audience.
I had a delicious full breakfast for $4.40 including coffee at a nearby hospital cafeteria. It reminded me of when, having quit Meth, two felonies rendered me unemployed and unemployable, living on a dwindling jar of coins and did this every morning back when it was a buck cheaper, then visited with grieving families in the chapel afterward. Later at 945pm just before closing, I’d go to Panera and they’d give me all their leftover soups they would have otherwise tossed. KFC sometimes gave me the leftover chicken pieces if I came when a certain manager was working.
The things I did to survive back then are some of the creative advices I now offer hungry clients down on their luck. Experience in personal hardship is life’s best instructor.
Well, it’s begun. My handsome, fit 25 year old son has had just about enough of me. He moved in with me last September at the behest of his siblings because I’d developed a frequent hospitalization habit fueled by diabetes, obesity and a buffet of other disorders. Charged with the task of creating change in my diet and exercise—to no avail, he refused to concede that his purpose had been reduced to just watching me die slowly under the same roof, far enough for privacy, near enough to someday phone the coroner before I start to smell. So following a heart to heart yesterday, we began a home workout routine today at 11am. It was a grueling 20 minutes that left my legs and arms limp and shaky but put my head back in the game of living my best life for my remaining years. I’ll let you know how it’s going along the way. Your thoughts, prayers and energy might be timely in the coming weeks. I’m a pro at making excuses.
When you grow up with a famous artist you learn early on how best to hang a wall of art. Be first concerned with placement and position of the big picture and the remaining pieces will infinitely fall in place around it. Eyes are drawn to the largest, directing the alignment of others that follow. Dad taught me to live life with a hammer, a nail, a purpose, and something beautiful to share with others.
Everyone has a line.
Some are drawn boldface in red for advance warning, others are thin, blue or dashed to be regarded as inconsequentially permeable.
Most dangerous are those invisibly inked to ensnare freedom’s advocates, all unbeknownst to them until it’s too late. They adjust positions of their lines without warning by personal convenience depending on a perceived threat to their narrative. Their unprincipled advance or retreat serves the purpose of censoring and punishing antagonists who innocently stumble across and into a web from which few escape.
Everyone has a line, the crossing of which merits no forgiveness nor good reason for it to exist in the first place.
But they do and they are the grounds on which freedoms breathe their last.
That’s it. I’m starting a lottery.The odds of us winning are 100%.Not only do you win, but so does everyone around you.Everyone puts in $20 and promises to spend it on all of us.When the numbers are called and the winners awarded, you begin to notice some serious changes all around you. Your life changes.Everyone’s life changes.Half of the winnings don’t go to taxes right off the top because it’s a private venture.$500 million dollars….all of it…is spent on direct transformation of your surroundings. Overnight, every person in your city suddenly has a place to live, food to eat and a job to work.Your quality of life drastically improves.Your business booms. Everyone’s business booms.Your income skyrockets.Shelters close for lack of homeless.Food banks close for lack of need.Your family is safer, crime is rare.Parks are plentiful, streets are clear,and you notice people are a lot happier for the $20.Are you in?If you’re willing to spend $20 on a long shot,aren’t you willing to spend $20 on a sure thing?
I’ve finished all Netflix
and done most of Prime,
I’m thru with you Hulu
and YouTube online.
10 months you’ve drained me,
Of shows left to watch,
Consumed all your content
Both the bad and top notch.
Now I’m needing a feeding
Of something much more
Cuz pandemically speaking,
I’m a television whore.
Reminiscing about childhood New Years eves, Mom and Dad threw the biggest and best parties hands down each year. Hundreds and hundreds anticipated their invitations.They were incredible at crowd matching, menu planning and making certain that friends had fun. However they were horrible at cleanup so each year they would wake us three kids about 4am after everyone left. They would go to bed while we worked for hours to make the house spotless and they would wake up around noon so amazed and thankful for our work. Their words of appreciation every New Year’s Day warmed our little hearts so much and always started our family off on the right foot for the new year. I sure miss them and how fun it was to be their kid so many years ago.
The worst loneliness at the holidays is less about when you’re just alone and more about when you’re entirely unsought.