Tired Today

And so, a little automatic writing from whatever scrap of cloth and gristle I call my heart.

To be human is to be afraid. To seek comfort and to seek comfort in what cannot provide safety. Fearing what can do no ultimate harm – not death, but loss and lack threatening to unravel one’s hastily and unevenly seamed garment.

Nothing a good night’s sleep and an eye to the eternal verities won’t cure.

Life and Death

Earlier this month I wrote:

Humans – that is, the “being” part of the human – may arise out of the individual patterning of his or her biology and neurology. The “being’s” task is to remain aloft above the sum of his or her own parts, and not, through physical or neurological dysfunction or deficit sink back in to the morass of autonomic functioning unaware of anything beyond the instant.

I think that our lives – that is, whether we have life or are dead – don’t have much to do with our health.  They’re related but separate categories, if categories is the word I want.  People in terrible health seem to linger for months and, short of euthanasia or suicide, it doesn’t seem to matter much how how they feel about it.

For two weeks I’ve been thinking about human mortality and how to write about it.  My wife’s grandfather is in hospital and for several weeks has been expected to live no more than a few more days.  His brother died a few months ago, picking tomatoes.  My wife’s mother has spent almost every night in his hospital room with him because she does not want him to die alone.  Certainly he will never return to the home where he and his now three or so years deceased wife have lived since the 1940s.  For the first time this year as we drove by the old white farmhouse we didn’t honk the horn in greeting because there was no one in residence to hear it.

Old-White-Farmhouse

The man who married my late maternal grandmother in 1973 (I think it was that year), now 96, has seemed to be growing weaker over the past several months to a year.  About four, five weeks ago now, he fell for the second time, and because he was living independently and apparently lost consciousness, lay there for several hours until he was able to muster the strength to get to the telephone and call somebody, probably my mother, to help him.  Not long after that he agreed to daily help at home, and shortly after that determined it was time to hang up his car-keys.  Within a week or so afterward, he made some alteration to his medical regime without medical advice that seems to have altered his consciousness to such a degree he cannot remain at home at all.  Little likelihood remains that he will ever return to the home he built all those years ago for my grandmother.

A few days ago a man of my acquaintance died.  When we last spoke, he talked about how he wanted to reconnect with his son who’d been living homeless in a southwestern state suffering from pancreatitis attributable to chronic, long-term alcohol abuse.  He himself suffered from emphysema, but thought he had two or three years left to live.  A former high wage earner, this man had been reduced to a meager and fixed income.  He continued to find meaning in writing, recording, and performing music.  He said his father used to tell him, “You’ll never amount to anything.” 

After our parents die, the only people who have any idea who we are on the basis of who we were are our siblings, if we have any.  My son has no siblings, and as I think about my elders as they make their way through their final days, I think of my little boy as he wades into the first of his.  By the time my wife and I turn our toes skyward I hope our son will be happily established raising a family of his own.  Possibly these dolorous preoccupations are entirely my own and occur to no one else.

On the other hand, all this thought and feeling, much of it probably rooted in the experience and observations of fatherhood, motivates me to greater social interest and compassion for those who do not inhabit that little circle of caring made of wife, son, and a few others who comprise the people who matter most to me.

Back From Chattanooga

We drove down to Chattanooga Sunday afternoon/evening, and didn’t get too lost in town looking for the hotel.  It helps that we’ve been there a couple of times before.  After checking in, we walked across the street from the hotel to The City Cafe and overate.  Seventy-Six danced in his high-chair as he observed a group of teenagers dancing in line by the jukebox to a rap or hip-hop selection.  Somebody once explained to me the difference between rap and hip-hop, but the nicer distinctions were lost on me.  I guess as ‘music‘ it amuses at least the infant who inhabits our home.

First snapshot from one of our hotel room windows

First snapshot from one of our hotel room windows

I walked past that dome building on my way back to the cube-farm after lunch Monday

I walked past that dome building on my way back to the cube-farm after lunch Monday

Third snapshot from yet another of our hotel room's windows

Third snapshot from yet another of our hotel room's windows

That's The City Cafe down there mid-frame

That's The City Cafe down there mid-frame

Fifth view from one of the windows of our room

Fifth view from one of the windows of our room

Monday, my work activities fell out as scheduled, and parts of both reports are complete.  What a beautiful, warm, sunny, breezy day.

Surprisingly enough, I had time for lunch.  I don’t, usually, when I work away from the office.  I walked a few blocks down MLK to a an open plaza and ate a vegetable sandwich from Subway near and in line of sight with the shiny tall building that bears the big red “Krystal” logo.  For those of you who don’t know, Krystal is a fast food company that franchise-store sells a variety of small, square hamburger like unto a very bland White Castle hamburger.  Both types of burger are detestable, and it is an abomination to eat one.

The Subway in which I spent about four bucks for a sandwich (I forgot and left in the hotel room the lunch I’d prepared beforehand) was crowded at about 11:45 am Eastern Standard Time, which is how Chattanoogans reckon time.  Most of the those behind whom I stood in line, and those who stood in line behind me as I moved forward, looked overweight, ill-complected, unhealthy.  It was about five degrees Fahrenheit warmer in the sandwich shop than it was outside, and not well enough ventilated  to suit me.  A miasma of sweat stinking softly, bearing aloft spice molecules from poorly cooked dishes hastily consumed on some prior occasion arose from those around me mixed with the aroma of scented soaps, laundry detergent, sour breath, and the restaurant’s own bake oven, sandwich fixings, and cleaning solutions.  My fellow diners all wore garments that fit them badly in some particular.  I suppose I was no exception, although I felt better in my clothes than any of them looked to me.

I was glad to finally get my sandwich, get my cup of ice-water, and get out the door.  I ate in the fresh air sitting on a park bench.  I got a speck of yellow mustard on my blue oxford-cloth shirt no bigger than a tiny stitched polo player’s noggin.  While not beside myself, I was annoyed.

I walked back a different way to the soulless looking cube-farm on a hillside.  I say soulless-looking deliberately, even though my hyphenation is inconsistent, because some of those laboring within do seem to have souls.  Souls grown in or inhabiting a small urban setting in the American South.

I met a woman who wept.  Tall, graceful though many years stricken the result a choice that one-time made sense to her.  Beautiful in her way, and lonely.  I could not comfort her.

I thought of my own wife and my own son and the small child full of potential I once was on sunny, warm, breezy days like the one in which I then found myself.  I thought of choices that made sense to me, of choices that may make sense to me in the future.  I thought of my wife and of women, and how they begin life as babies, are loved; how they are little girls, and loved; how they are loved for their beauty, grace, and the light of their smiles as they mature; how some of them marry and are loved by their husbands.  I thought of those women who are alive only when they are loved, and I thought about what is left over when love is gone.

As you might imagine, I had trouble keeping my own emotion at arm’s length, which is where it assuredly belongs.

I thought about the course of our lives as humans on earth in time, and the when-where constant motion of our existence.

I cannot write more about my thoughts about my son and wife and the woman I met only that once and keep my own emotion out of electronic type.  It’s proper place is somewhere in my own life finding some expression with the two people I love most lived out here in our home.

Some days feeling is unavoidable.

Something awful we saw while walking to the riverfront Monday evening - horrible-looking tiny MB car

Something awful we saw while walking to the riverfront Monday evening - horrible-looking tiny MB car

Monday evening after I got back to the hotel, I ate four pieces of what I’d consider a relatively small pizza my wife had saved for me from her lunch.  She, our son, a friend of ours and two small children of her own, had lunch in another part of downtown Chattanooga while I was working or walking or eating.  After eating the cold pizza – with an alfredo, as opposed to tomato, topping, chicken, artichoke hearts, and spinach – we put the little boy in his stroller.  I listened to my wife talk.  Together we walked down to the riverfront where we ate ice-cream and frozen yogurt.   and walked back to the hotel as the earth moved and shadows lengthened.

Tower on the Children's Museum - I'd like to live in a house that has a tower like that one

Tower on the Children's Museum - I'd like to live in a house that has a tower like that one

We didn't, not here at least - Playtime-esque bistro sign near Aquarium

We didn't, not here at least - Playtime-esque bistro sign near Aquarium

windows

facade

broad-street