Friday, December 23, 2011

Catch-All and Crumbs

I celebrated another birthday, one far past the expected half-way point. It is always time for reflection when another year ticks off and all the things I had hoped to accomplish in life are yet another missed milestone. Sometimes I get angry at the way life escapes in the daily grind, the constant minutia and minor disappointments, and the way we certainly seem to be at the mercy of everything out of our control. I understand it is good that we wither and eventually die. If we just cease to exist, then it was hardly worth the trouble. But if we carry on in some manner, then I assume we awaken in fresh bodies, in fresh dreams. Not that I am ready to give up on this journey just yet.

I recently lost the ring with my mother's diamonds. It slipped off my hand one morning between the couch and arriving at work. It could be in the house, in the prairie, in the car, or in another dimension for all I know. It is a particularly poignant loss of something I had never in a million years thought I would be so careless as to lose. Like my parents, it is gone from me and there is not a goddamned thing I can do about it. Is that not just the perfect metaphor for our lives here? We are born but none of us can remember asking to be born. We live at the mercy of forces far out of our control - disease, natural disaster, genetics, politics, luck and calamity. We have intentions, but some force thwarts us. We are minding our own business when bad luck (and good luck) strikes. Then we die, whether we are ready to go or not.

There are a few things we can control in life. Last week, on my way to work, I was speeding in the left lane, almost ten over in a 65 mph zone, so it was not as if I were holding up traffic. The person behind me flashed for me to get out of his way but I was not ready to change lanes yet. I had to get closer to my exit. When I did not immediately clear the way, the driver behind me continued to flash his headlights and to speed closer to my tailgate. Apparently, the fool expected me to instantly slam over into the slower lane for no other reason than his insistence. Do I not have the same rights on this road as he does? The flashing indicated the driver was quite agitated and as I was approaching my exit, I attempted to grant the fool his wish, but it meant slowing down to fit between the slower cars on the right. As soon as a space became available, before I could merge right, the fool sped into that space so he could give me the finger. Of course, I replied in kind. It was an old white guy, in a black Cadillac Escalade. I think he was in a suit. It made me laugh. Based on his car, his clothing and his attitude, he has likely had his way all of his adult life. I was glad to be of service in reminding him that he does not rule the entire world and that he is not the boss of me. Ginger is. But the whole thing was mildly depressing. Almost six decades on this earth and I am still giving people the finger? Really?

In looking for my ring, I have scratched through all of the nooks and crannies in my house, my car, and the prairie between the house and the barn. I have found little items, pieces of broken jewelry and bits of junk, even rocks I picked up in my travels. Every item reminds me of something, of someone, of some place. Some pertain to my life stories, the ones I hope my children will recall long after I am gone. I know they have forgotten every story as soon as I told it, the way I forgot almost every story my mother told me about her life. Now I wish I could remember every fact and detail.

I wonder what goes with us when we leave this life. Upon my death, will I remember things like trading the great all-American insult with a fellow commuter? Will I see into his life and understand why he felt his travel on the shared highway was more important than mine? Will I suddenly see and understand where and why I lost my mother's diamonds? Will I remember the stone I carried home from Jackson Hole, Wyoming the summer my kids and I went camping in Yellowstone? Will I understand that my life, though it was merely an extended string of minutes and seconds of nothing great and nothing tragic - just a regular lifetime - was more than the sum of its parts? Will everything, every single second, be revealed as something profound? What if my only lesson was to refrain from giving the finger to jerks?


Anonymous said...

As long as your fingers work, you're still alive!

In the early 70's I was doing over 80 through western Kansas (my memory tells me there was an 80mph daytime speed limit). Out in the middle of nowhere, some clown in a cadillac convertible passed me like I was standing still with the driver and some lady whooping and waving with much leaning on horn. I watched them vanish before me. Somebody was in a hurry.

On the horizon in my rear-view mirror, I saw this faint light flickering. As I drove along it grew brighter and more distinct until I could see it was a flashing light on top of a car. A State Trooper sped passed me.

Several miles down the road I came upon a patrol car on the side of the road behind a cadillac convertible. I couldn't resist honking my horn and waving.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Happy Birthday!

Jackie said...

What is it about Cadillac drivers?

Anonymous said...

Apparently, they actually own the highways.

Just for grins, I googled the question, "do cadillac drivers own the road." The third result was an Urban Dictionary entry for "cadillac driver." which pretty much nails it down:

Li'l Ned said...

It's that thing of living one day at a time that is so sneaky. You live all these days, thinking there is an infinite number of them, and then suddenly decades have passed and your life is indeed the sum total of all those days, wherever they went. It's a head-scratcher.

Li'l Ned said...

and yeah, what is it about Cadillac drivers?