"How much time do we have left?"
The young boy asks, his parents shrug --
"Just enjoy the time while you can,"
His mom says,
While his dad looks on with a camera.
Sea touches sand like breath in lungs,
Clouds form their shapes, these whales, these ships --
Time flows and washes all away,
The mind will lurch and reach and slip.
We've traveled here, my love and I,
For she's now sick, and we don't know
How bad is it is, or how it ends:
The waters crash and ebb and flow
And I still don't know how much time
There is or can be, nor will I;
Awake I am, out on this shore,
While she is sleeping in, nearby,
Only so many days like this --
Only so many hours, smiles --
As I, like my father's camera try
To capture wind, and love,
I’m sixty years old, and I should be past this, but when I even casually go through any of my favorite social media, the overriding impression I come away with, regardless of the type of video I watching or picture I’m viewing, is that I lost life’s genetic lottery.
For some reason I cannot fathom now, when much of our entertainment focus moved from Hollywood to locally produced videos, I thought I’d be bombarded less with perfect faces and bodies of people who seem to live lives without financial (or any other) constraints. I could not have been more wrong.
For example, I watch an excellent Book Reviewer on YouTube named Merphy Napier. In a recent video, she and her husband are spending two weeks in Puerto Rico on exotic beaches doing exhilarating things while they both look amazing. She manages to read several books and manga while she is there and does her usual flawlessly professional job of reviewing them, but what strikes me more is their sort of casually perfect life.
Meanwhile, here, my wife had knee replacement surgery last week, and I’ve been helping her with what she needs, getting her back and forth to therapy, picking my grandchildren up from school and pre-school, walking around with my (usually sunny) 6-month-old granddaughter trying to get her to stop crying, working on huge projects at work (while running back and forth between working at an office and at home), and having my heart broken at work by seeing friends of mine in the organization being casually thrown away by people who don’t appreciate their work. I don’t really sleep much, unless I take over-the-counter sleeping aids, and I look more-and-more like an exhausted Santa Claus — if he really let himself go.
Meanwhile, back on YouTube, here are perfect looking people changing costumes, performing amazing athletic feats, and aging into even more flawless sex symbols — even the ones whose channels are strictly about intellectual pursuits. My body looks like it was made from Play-dough, then beaten with a baseball bat.
If you look at the picture of the insomniac woman I attached to the beginning of this essay, you see the modern view of insomnia: sad, desolate, tired — but still perfect looking. Neither Hollywood nor modern social media can conceive of people who look like I do, unless the plot requires someone to ridicule.
When you see what (and who) people spend all of their free time watching, whether in movies, television, or on social media, and you realize that you have none of the desirable qualities people apparently crave, it can get pretty depressing. For any of you out there who think that only women think this way — that is, that they feel unworthy given that they don’t meet the physical ideal they see around them — think again.
In summary: insomnia sucks, knee replacement surgery is horrible, being homely is no fun whatsoever, and it’s my own damn fault I watch good-looking people on YouTube — I mean, podcasts arguably exist specifically so we don’t have to look at the people speaking.
Hope you all are sleeping better than I am.
People tell me things. I find this to be strange, as my perception is that I rarely shut up long enough for the other person to get a word in edgewise. Yet hardly a day goes by that someone or other isn’t telling me some kind of secret, unsolicited.
Maybe I’m really a bartender, and just haven’t learned to accept it — possibly because I don’t drink alcohol.
Recently, a very young woman who works at our company cafe told me that she doesn’t understand guys at all, and wishes she could find one who actually saw her, and heard her, and liked-her-as-her, not for what they hoped they could get from her.
I told her that there are indeed guys like that out there.
Where? she asked.
The fact that I get a biscuit and a Coke Zero five mornings a week has apparently qualified me as a relationship counselor, so I gave her the most Dad-like advice I could think of, namely:
“Find activities you like to do with other people, both men and women, and where you aren’t there primarily for the purpose of meeting anyone. If you meet someone, great; if not, you should be able to have fun anyway.”
She said that was actually do-able, so she’d try it and let me know how it went. Then she gave me my biscuit for free.
Okay, I made up that last part.
I am not quite sure why it is people trust me; I don’t trust me, and I’ve known me quite a while. Maybe people mistake my predictability for reliability; getting the same breakfast every day isn’t the most accurate indicator of emotional stability, however.
I am sixty years old, so I would say there’s a grandfather thing going on, but truthfully, things have been like this since I was about sixteen years old. Choosing me as a confidant has never seemed like the wisest choice, to me; but people did it, do it, and will seemingly keep doing it, so, there you go.
Currently, I’ve driven a ways out of town to some farmland to watch the sun set. Sundays, I will often go out for drives in the country; it’s lovely around here, and particularly in the fall.
Thinking about what I wrote, above, I realize: I tell all of you who read this blog my secrets, it’s only fair that people in real life tell me theirs.
It’s some kind of balance.
I’m sitting in a waiting room
And choose to write this verse;
The snow is blowing hard outside
The wind keeps getting worse —
Winter once was magical
With castles made of snow;
But now the world is blank, and I
Can’t see which way to go —
The wait is over, and my child
Is here, so we depart;
We speak of senseless nothings as
We head into the heart
Of this relentless blizzard
Where we’re greeted by a blast:
Just two more people cold and lost
(“Waiting Room” – 1-26-2015)
At just eighteen, her shoulders start to droop: The drudgery of sub shop artistry’s Been rubbing off some of her natural shine, But hasn’t punctured all her buoyancy. I look, and wonder, at her haunted eyes, The father in me, I guess, coming out In wanting to be kind to her, some way: Some type of gentle affirmation. Sure As night turns into day, time into time, We gain connections we might make, or not, And feelings, deep as any we might find, O’er people barely known, and who don’t know We’ve ever given them ten seconds thought. Or even who may not connect with us, And to whom we may be as furniture: Mere objects they pass by, no more, no less. Elizabeth’s her name (she wears a tag) I cannot dawdle, for the line is long, And sometimes all that we can really do For anyone is not to make it worse. I take my sandwich, pay my bill and go, I may see her again, or maybe not. But if good feelings could build paradise, She would be on the beach, and not back here. And I would not be with her, but I’d be The owner of more kindness agency.
morning eager waits blushing still and heavy scent the carpet rolled out
Vestiges of industry
stacked along the water,
walking here and looking with
my wondering granddaughter
Signs of what was teeming life
veering off, exploring --
all of it seems magic to
four years old
My work might not seem difficult to those who lift or stand or strain, since most of it is sedentary using just my brain. It doesn't take an iron nerve, or being tough, or strong, or brave: but I assure you, it's enough to put me in the grave
I cannot say I understood how bad things were, and yet, I knew the look that came into her eyes when she would say the word: "poorhouse" -- an abject horror, and a dread, of what had been, and might yet be. This was her truth: and nothing mortals say or do, or ever said, or ever did, can take away the fear she knew, and knows, and goes to bed at night with, there in the nursing home, alone wondering, when she wakes in the dark if she is somehow way back there