Yes, another birthday is on the way. I know I am getting old because my hair is mostly silver (not gray, goddamn it!) I have to walk with a cane in an effort to relieve some of the pain in my knees. I am too stubborn to take the medication that is recommended by the doctor. I tried but there are so many side effects - headache, itching all over, my liver burns. The worst long-term side effects of this type of medication is sudden hemorrhaging to death and heart attack. Well, hell. Guess I'll just hobble along on these ruined old knees until I decide to burden my family and friends with helping me when I get reconstructive surgery. It sounds like a horrible ordeal in every way. A normal person would never have willingly suffered for so long. What is wrong with me? Aside from getting old, that is?
Though years of experience have smoothed many of my rough spots and I have learned patience - 87% of the time - I still feel as if I do not know what the hell I am doing. Does everyone just bumble along, blindly hoping for the best outcome in situations that actually require an experienced attorney, an economist with a PhD, a detective, a scientist, a master mechanic, or a psychic?! I thought people my age were supposed to be wise.
I am a bit wiser now than I was at age 21. I drive the speed limit. I yield the right of way. I pay the utility bills on time. Whenever possible, I avoid people who aggravate me. I try my best to not aggravate others though I can tell I am often unsuccessful. I avoid drugs and alcohol and people who abuse either. I try to mind my own business. I try to appear as if I know what the hell I am doing but I rarely fool anyone. It is a good thing that I have very low self-esteem because I make a fool of myself routinely. I no longer wake in the middle of the night groaning when I recall some embarrassing situation or something I should never have said. I am at last inured to that particular suffering simply because I have experienced it so many times. I know it is not going to kill me. I just think to myself: "Well, hell. It's not the first time and surely not the last."
Of course, there will be a last time. There is a last time for everything under the sun. That is not a sobering or somber thought to me any longer. We are the leaves of an infinite tree, and one by one the people we love drop away, never to be seen again. All the while a mighty pulse rushes through the tree, changing and renewing everything. At some point I will drop away, too.
Driving on a city street the other day I came across a drifting leaf. The stem, like a tail on a kite, stabilized its descent. The oak leaf itself, long dried and curled inwardly, slowly spun as it made a gentle arcing descent across all that moving traffic. I alone was in the right place, at the right time to witness its fall. As I rushed past at 40 miles an hour, the leaf surely fell beneath the tires of all oncoming traffic. In a very short time all the elements that made it an oak leaf will have returned to molecules and atoms. It will return to dust. No one knows what happens to its memory of being an oak leaf. No one can say for sure if it ever realized it was a seasonal leaf of an oak tree. It is a mystery - a mystery I am one year nearer to discovering for myself.