Days of Love Forgotten

February 14th, 2017
Columbus, Georgia
9:00 PM

Last night, the fever seem to break on this viral fever I had (not flu, as it turned out). I felt well enough to go into work for a little bit, then came back home to work the rest of the day; however, by about 2:00 in the afternoon it was evident that my wife now had contracted this same illness.

I gave her a Valentine’s bag (her favorite Jelly Beans, some Chocolates, and her biggest wish, a bag of Logan’s Turnpike Mill Grits). After our daughter picked up her 20 month old, I ran out and got my wife some soup. She ate a few bites, then went to bed.

For all of you singles dreaming of Valentine’s day with the person you love – sometimes it’s like this.

We started a tradition of taking a vacation in January of last year (2016). We had something like 12 hours in the car on the way there. We talked the entire way.

She has a career, and she keeps our grandkids. Her career involves looking after people, as well, many of them elderly. I get up early, go to work early, go to bed early. We have had a Thursday date night every week straight for something like sixteen years, but still, there’s much going on with each of us we never get the chance to talk about.

Last year, I booked a special short trip for our Anniversary in August. There, she ate the aforementioned Turnpike Grits, informing me (as a grits connoisseur) that these were the best grits ever, and that she had to learn how to make them. Only I forgot to get them for her for Christmas.

The subject came up (gently) while we were in the car for this year’s January trip. It got taken care of.

It amazes her that, after sixteen years of marriage, we haven’t run out of things to talk about. Part of that is how rarely we actually get to talk. The other part is that when we are finally together, and can focus completely on each other, it’s like a new experience almost every time.

One of my favorite lines in any movie is in the old 1940’s film “The Best Years of Our Lives”. The daughter of this couple is telling her parents they couldn’t possibly understand her love for her (married) boyfriend, because they (her parents) never had any trouble. Her mother answers her daughter, while looking at her father, thus:

“We never had any trouble.” How many times have I told you I hated you and believed it in my heart? How many times have you said you were sick and tired of me; that we were all washed up? How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?

Having to fall in love all over again. That puts it perfectly.

I don’t have answers for people who are lonely on Valentine’s Day. I have empathy, however. Because I’m fortunate to be where I am, and I won’t be there forever. I don’t want days of love to become days of love forgotten.

Remember, love is like light: so much more than we give it credit for; able to find its way in through every crack and crevice, there for us when we least expect it.

You are loved, my friends. You are.

Happy days.

Infomercials

For 25 consecutive days now, I have made it to the gym that is exactly 1.4 miles from our house. Weekday mornings, I’ve been arriving there around 4:00 AM, a few hours later on the weekends. There are televisions on there, and, it being a time of morning officially designated as “Ungodly Early”, they are usually tuned to channels showing infomercials, i.e., commercials disguised as something like news stories. I never change the channels, no matter what channel they are on; I’m typically listening to music or stories, anyway. However, one can’t help but see them, and it has struck me that there is a lot to learn about people from infomercials, even if it isn’t exactly what the infomercials are selling.

The first thing you notice is exactly who companies think will be awake at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, and the answer appears to be (a) old people and (b) lonely people. If we happen to be both old and lonely, that’s just a marketing bonus for them, I suppose. They sell things like LifeAlert, and motorized wheelchairs, and miracle hearing aids for the aged; marketing to the lonely appears to be a little more gender-specific, other than the online dating (or even hookup) services.

With men, the marketers would have you believe that, if you are lonely, it’s clearly physical. They market weight loss pills, and testosterone boosters, and panacea workouts, and cleanses, and diets towards men, clearly implying that, with the right physique (or sexual performance, frankly), one need never be lonely. Since we men are prone to believe that (in spite of what women tell us) I’m sure that form of marketing works.

With women, there is some common ground (notably cleanses and diets) but there are also fabulous skincare products (usually being sold by recognizable, and good-looking, celebrities), innovative makeup application, and weight loss products that differ in emphasis from what is presented as being primarily for men. With women, the ubiquitous message seems to be: look young, no matter what age you are, because “looking young” has been deemed better by… somebody, I’m not sure who, why are you asking? Since the “look young at all costs” cultural norm seems hardest to question for women, I’m sure that it, too, is an effective marketing technique.

I have nothing against any of these companies or products; having tried none of them, I could not reasonably opine as to their efficacy as a class. I’m not really at the gym to try to improve my appearance, I’m there to try to improve my mood, as regular exercise seems to have that effect, and it is a busy and stressful time at work and elsewhere.

I read out here on the blogosphere all the time that the way for men to reach women is more mental (or emotional) than physical — yet, men (as evidenced by infomercials) clearly believe the opposite to be true. If I search my own mind for reasons for this disconnect, I find that many men believe grown women will act the same way as girls. When I was a boy, it was hard to escape the observation that most girls preferred the same exact guys, frequently on either a physical or social basis. Over time, however, girls become women, and their criteria typically matures as well. Many men, however, think about women like boys do about girls.

There is also the rather more obvious deal where men expect women to think about men the way men think about women.

It’s always interesting when an idea or practice becomes widespread even though there is no evidence whatsoever that it actually works: for example, men yelling at women from cars. I feel pretty confident saying, that doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop it from happening though. I suspect the same is true of many of the online overtures men make towards women as well. They don’t work, but we do them anyway. Which is strange.

Of course, the whole business of marketing is built on the oddity that human beings can be maneuvered into continuing to do things even after they realize that those things don’t work. Which is another lesson from infomercials, I suppose.

I’m typically back home from the gym around 5:00 AM, give or take a few minutes. If I’m going to write at all, that’s when I have time to do it, because I am usually at work from around 7:00 in the morning until 6:00 to 9:00 at night. It will shock no one who reads this or my other blog to know, I write at speed and do absolutely no editing whatsoever; I only edit a piece if I happen to repost it. This piece has actually been accumulated over a few days of a paragraph here and a paragraph there.

I sometimes think my various blog posts are essentially infomercials, only I’m “selling” my own thoughts and feelings, portraying myself as more objective and thoughtful than I really am. In truth, I’m just a middle-aged man, huffing and puffing on a treadmill at 4:15 in the morning, trying half-heartedly to lead something like a healthy life, dreaming up ways of saying something out here so clever that people might remember it for a few minutes, if I’m lucky.

But maybe if I took Super Beta Prostate…

Reasons

[Originally posted March 24th, 2017. My mother passed away December of 2019. – Owen]

One of the things I love about abstract classical music is that the listener is free to graft any meaning onto the notes they choose. The last three times I have been out to Arizona to visit my aging mother, I have ended up listening to one piece of music or another that seems to capture what I’m feeling or experiencing. This particular time, it is the following, “joined in progress” as they say:

The Setup

On Monday of this week, I had the following text conversation with my sister:

I had called my mother and she told me she was tired of living the way she was, and was eating less as a way of gradually “letting go”. After our conversation, I told my wife that I was going to fly out and see her, texted my sister words to that effect, who told me to please keep her posted.

My mother has been, throughout her adult life, a fervent believer in the right-to-die movement, as was my father — one of the few things they agreed on, politically. I was not surprised by her actions as much as intensely saddened to realize how unhappy she was.

To outward appearance, my mother has everything a person could want. She in no way wants for money. She lives in an extremely affluent assisted living facility. She is universally beloved by the other residents and staff. She has a boyfriend she loves who loves her. She is a young looking 85 years old. Even though she has Parkinson’s and other health issues, she had appeared to be handling them all with as much humor as a person could manage.

However, the warning signs were there to see. She told me when I visited here three months ago that she had been struggling with depression. That the sheer number of medications she was on left her befuddled.

When I spoke to her on the phone, she told me that one particular health issue she had was so embarrassing that she’d rather not go on than have to live with it, as it had ruined her life.

As I spoke to my wife about flying out to see her, tears formed in my eyes. My mother was so unhappy she wanted to die: that’s about as unhappy as it gets. Maybe I had been kidding myself about what a great life she had.

I took a sleeping pill that night to get some rest. The next morning, I spoke to my boss about taking the time off, got it, then made plane, hotel and car reservations. I called my mom and told her I was coming for five days, then left my sister a message to that effect.

The Conundrum

Before I began availing myself of the wireless access on the plane, I sat thinking: what reasons do you give to someone to go on living when they do not want to? What reasons are there?

My own experience is that we don’t live for “reasons” we live because we feel like living. The desire to live is just that – a desire. You either have it, or you don’t.

My mother had deliberately chosen to live across the country from any of her children so as not to be a burden on any of us. Even though the three of us had each been to see her in the last three months, we all had very short (two day) stays. My feeling was, she missed seeing us, so maybe just going to see her would make her feel better. (The fact that she said “You’re coming for five days? Well, that should cheer me up,” was a pretty good clue.)

Reason is just a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant. That’s another quote from a book I read recently, making the point that reason is only there to serve the emotions. My mother’s elephant was getting tired, she wanted to lay down.

All I knew was, I was going, and I was going to stay almost a week. What I’d find I wasn’t sure, but I thought sure it would be bad, whatever it was.

What I Found

What I found, upon arriving, getting my rental (which was torture) and driving down to where she lived was entirely baffling.

She seems fine.

We’ve now eaten four meals together. She has eaten at all of them. Her health does not seem any worse than last December; although her memory is poor, it seems better than most people there.

Her boyfriend, on the other had, who also has Parkinson’s, has degenerated horribly. He is also very temperate and good-natured — a “roll with the punches” kind of guy, as they say. It made me think that maybe part of her depression is realizing she’s liable to lose him, but I don’t know. She has made several oblique or direct references to “what she’s doing” as in, “The staff here don’t approve, of course, of what I’m doing.” – indicating that she is still in that gradually letting go process she described to me over the phone.

Still, we’ve laughed and talked about various things. We looked at pictures of her great-grandchildren, neither of whom she’s ever seen in person. We talked to my brother on the phone. We watched five hours worth of westerns yesterday – she had not been able to watch movies lately, as she cannot remember how to operate her DVD player. I taped instructions to the remote with labels to help, and she practiced several times while I was there. However, I know enough about short-term memory loss to know that this is unlikely to help once I’m gone.

Either her boyfriend or the staff would be happy to help anytime, and the staff is always available. She would have to think to call, though. What she’d been doing was stare helplessly at her DVD player,  overwhelmed with the realization that she could not figure out how to operate it.

When I texted my sister again, I said that at the rate she was going, she will have finished herself off (physically) by the year 2043. However, there is more to life than just our physical capability. She’s having a hard time remembering how to do simple things, things she’s done for years. She can’t really go anywhere. Even though she has company, this isn’t the life she wants, as she mentioned last night…

About Last Night…

“Moving from Florida to Arizona, leaving [35 years worth of] friends behind, was one thing. Losing your father [11 years ago], was another. Deciding to move here [into an Independent Living apartment within the retirement community she is part of 10 years ago] was still another. But moving from Independent Living to Assisted Living [14 months ago] was the biggest single change I’ve been through.

It’s now been more than 3 years since I had to stop driving; Ed [her boyfriend] had to stop last year. Do you know what it is like when you can’t drive? Even though they have people here who will take you places, you have to schedule it, and you may have to wait if other people are already using the drivers. Driving gives you so much power, and you don’t realize it until… until you lose it.”

Of everything you’ve lost, personally, I mean, in the way of capability — what do you miss most?

“Singing. I can’t even sing in the shower now. I can barely talk, my voice is so shaky.”

I’ll bet you can still recite hours of poetry, though.

[Ed indicated with vigorous nodding and that indeed she could.]

“Yes, well the number of people who want to hear ‘The Highwayman’ is surprisingly low,” she said, archly.

I looked around the dining room of the Assisted Living facility. The difference in the walker or wheelchair bound residents there versus the hale, healthy, tanned group from the Independent Living facility two blocks away was stark.

My father’s memory had started to go the last year of his life, and my mother always said it was a “blessing” that he didn’t have to live through the complete loss of the mental powers he had always been so proud of. She on the other hand, was living through her loss. Who was I to say she should want to?

On the other hand, who could really tell she was trying to end her life? The process was so subtle and gradual (eating less rather than not eating is what most people call “dieting”), and the only meds she was refusing were those that exacerbated her “embarrassing condition”.

Reasons

I rose at 4:00 this morning (don’t be alarmed, I always do that) and went for a three mile walk, listening to the Bartok String Quartet referenced at the beginning of this piece. After a period of harmony and disharmony, it ends with two voices together, much like my mother is ending her life.

I wish I understood anything about life. My own emotional elephant feels like its rider is blind, aimlessly trying to pull this way and that, not really knowing where he’s going. I love my mother, yet, throughout much of my life, I resented her for the degree of emotional distance she kept from me, or us. I realized with age that she was the product of a horrendously poor and violent upbringing, and had made the most possible out of it; and that she loved us according to the best she had to offer. Love is all the reasons: all the reasons there are, or could be.

I will be eating with her again, in an hour, and will we tell more stories, and laugh, and, yes, eat.

Because even tired elephants have to eat.

 

 

At Cemetery Ridge

[Originally published November 6th, 2016. S.R.]

I’m not alone at Cemetery Ridge this morning. There’s a thirty-year-old man here with what appears to be his ten-year-old daughter.

She lays a bouquet of bright yellow roses on a grave. As gray as the morning is, they stand out all the more. The only other color is the girl’s deep red coat.

He puts his hand on her shoulder, as she begins to cry, uncontrollably. He puts his arm all the way around her, as she sinks to her knees, and he follows.

I can’t stare at them anymore, it feels indecent. Instead I wander on from where I was visiting (my father-in-law’s grave) to some of the other friends we’ve lost these last years. One grave, a particular woman who I knew as a singer, is over where the trees grow thorny and wild. The gray and desolate morning only makes the trees look wilder.

This cemetery has a name, of course, but for as long as I can remember, people have called it “Cemetery Ridge”. This hill slopes down on the other side of the trees, and I can see the gray town in the distance. I visit this grave, and then two others, finally heading back to my car.

In the parking lot, I see the man and his daughter approaching their car. To my surprise, there is a woman wearing sunglasses waiting for them within it. I had assumed from what I saw that the man had lost his wife and the girl her mother; but, apparently not, as the woman has obviously been crying in the car. She’s holding a sort of shapeless stuffed animal.

Oh my God, she lost a child. The little girl lost a sibling: a sister, maybe, or a brother.

Now, my eyes are filling with tears. At that exact moment, just as the man finishes helping his daughter into the car and the arms of her mother, he turns and sees me, tears streaming down my face; and I could tell, in that brief moment, that he was concerned about me, and whatever grief might have brought me to this place.

His grief was my grief. My grief was his grief.

They leave within moments, driving slowly away. I stand by my car as a gray wind blows across the ridge, moving the leafless trees.

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.

 

The Solace of Imagination

When imagination is the only thing in your life you can control, it can become everything.

Everything. And, anything.


When I was young, I first perceived “imagination” as a consolation adults offer to children when they’re unable to find other kids to play with. “Use your imagination,” they’d say.

“Think of ways to amuse yourself without bothering me,” they meant.

After a time, however, I realized that, even with friends to play with, imagination was needed. Otherwise, you play only the same old games, the same old way, which gets boring, frankly.


I started reading very young. As people who like reading instinctively know, a book is a like a friend, and one with a very good imagination, to boot. In addition, books spurred my imagination, although they also revealed a deficit in my particular imagination, namely, my inability to “picture” things in my head. Children’s books provide pictures, however, as do comic books, so for years — possibly including this year — children’s books comprise many to most of my favorite books.

It’s one of the reasons I use a photography service in my blogging. I’m inspired by the visual imagery of others, but unable to generate much on my own.


My sister had a collection of marionettes when we were growing up. Puppetry is still alive, of course, both as a practice and an art form. Still, in decades and centuries past, it would have been a necessarily larger part of the imaginative life of children.

When my sister left home for college, I temporarily moved into what had been her room; in it, I found boxes of marionettes. I didn’t remember ever seeing them before; being seven years younger than she was, it was quite possible she had enjoyed them most in times before me, or at least, my memory.

I remember that the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood show made extensive use of puppets. So did Sesame Street, of course; but somehow, I never thought of the Muppets as puppets. The Mr. Rogers puppets were more old school traditional puppets.

I remember trying out some of my sister’s marionettes, but I couldn’t seem to create any sort of life in my manipulation of the strings and wires. My father saw me doing it, and boxed the valuable marionettes back up before I could do them mortal damage.

Which I no doubt would have.


A year and a half after my sister left home for college, my brother left for the army.

Even though he was five years my senior, we had been pretty close; or, at least, we had a good relationship. Now he was grown up and gone, and I was thirteen and very unsure of how family life was going to go, being the only kid left at home.

Books and comic books (particularly the latter, by this point) were my great solace. I had a hard time making friends at school, because, bluntly, I was a jerk. Gradually, I met other jerks (just kidding, I met kids with similar interests who tolerated my misanthropy), but most of them, too, loved books and comic books.

I was interested in girls by that point, as well, but few of them that I could find had much enthusiasm for comics, or indeed, for me. So now, imagination started serving another purpose, one I couldn’t really help at first. I found myself beginning to imagine being with girls.


You’ll often hear superhero stories described as “adolescent fantasies”, and believe me, for me, they were. I wanted to be impressive to girls, but reality wasn’t permitting that. However, in the world of my imagination, I could be.

It was all I had.

I remember my favorite fantasy, although I’m sort of embarrassed to tell it. I would imagine having the power to stop the rest of the world, i.e., to freeze everyone except me and the girl. Somehow, in my fantasies, if the rest of the world was just “stopped”, the girl would fall for me.

A better story, of course, would be her immediate and passionate attempts to get the rest of the world turned back on so she could continue her own fantasies, ones about pop stars and football players. Because she wasn’t having them about me.


Real life rarely goes exactly like we want it to, but made-up stories can. This is one of the chief solaces of imagination. As adults, we are expected to understand the difference between fantasy and reality, however.

In real life, we don’t have superhero powers. We’re all just human beings, presumably dealing with each other respectfully and as equals.

Or we should be.


A young woman friend of mine asked me, just two days ago, if couples that had been together as long as my wife and I have been still have troubles. I laughed.

“Yes, we do,” I said.

“Somehow, I always imagined that, when you get past a certain point, everything kind of smooths out.”

“I like that picture,” I said. “Yeah, it was touch-and-go there for a minute, but I hit, like,  fifty, and, now, everything’s great.

Now, she was laughing. “Are you saying what I imagined was silly?”

“Nothing we imagine is ever silly. Not really.”

Not really, indeed.

 

Memory Road

I lead a sort of Twilight Zone existence, in that I frequently think, as I’m turning onto a road I’ve never been on before, that I will, by turning there, get to visit a different time period of my life.

I found one such road today. Seeing scenery and homes and people for the first time reminds me of all the other first times I’ve had, when people long gone were still here, or when life was mostly a future thing.

We lived in Florida when I grew up; I now live in Georgia. However, my dad had a once a year trip here (where I am as I write this). He used to bring home photographs of this place, a beautiful set of gardens.

I am always expecting to see him on these drives, and I pull over to look at the flowers, which are stunning.

Many of you have lost a parent, or both parents; my dad is gone, but my mom is still here, just far away. I realized, recently, that both of them gave us (my sister, my brother, and me) everything they could of themselves, inside and out, and that I carry them around everywhere I go, really.

I stopped at a convenience store, really to use the bathroom, but I always try to buy something when I do. A very young woman was the only one working; their ice machine was broken and customers were complaining (it is almost 100 degrees today). I asked her how she was when I got to the front of the line (there was no one in line behind me) and she said she was having an anxiety attack. So I told her, if it would help, that (1) I didn’t need any ice (she laughed, which was a good sign) and (2) I could stand outside a few minutes and warn customers the ice machine was broken. She thanked me with a sort of watery smile. After about 15 minutes, when there was a lull, she came out and thanked me, and that she was feeling a little better.

“Hang in there,” I said. “You, too, sir,” she said.

Love is the recognition, I think, that we are really all the same. We live in time, people come and go, but all of us, everywhere and in every age, look for our loved ones, remember the best days, gain life by breathing in a garden, and need a little help, every so often.

So, maybe one day, you’ll be out driving in the country, and you’ll find a highway new to you, and we might see each other there. I’m the crew cut guy with giant sunglasses, you can’t miss me. Come up and say hi.

Then I’ll have a new first time to remember.

– Owen

My Real Life

“My Real Life”

3:00 in the morning, and I wake up like a shot. I look down at the time, then see that my wife is just now finishing up getting ready to come to bed. That happens fairly often with us; I’m getting up as she’s coming to bed.

I cough a few times, which is awkward, because I sleep hooked up to a CPAP machine. I don’t even know what “CPAP” stands for; I think it’s something like “Survival Kit for Fat People”, except it’s in Cyrillic. I disconnect myself from it and sit up, rubbing my eyes. Since I went to bed at 9:00, I got six hours sleep, and that will have to do.

I put on my glasses, disconnect my iPad and trudge off to the other end of the house. I see that I got a message from an online friend during the night, but my brain isn’t really functioning yet, so I say something inane back to her via text, then my wife comes in.

“Did I wake you up?”

“No, I was coughing.”

She tells me about the rough night one of our grandkids had (he got sick and threw up) and how she was on the phone with our daughter much of the night. We hold on to each other for a few moments, then she’s off to bed.

It’s 3:20 or so by this time, and I have a morning workout to do; however, I put that off for a few minutes while I ingest some caffeine and get caught up on my blog reader. I also edit my post that went up during the night (I changed the title for clarity), and repost that.

I also check my (two) Facebook accounts; I posted a video of me playing a piano piece on one of them, and I’m looking at comments and such. I once posted a video of one of my daughters and me playing a piece (she plays the cello) and that got, like, 100 likes; just me playing gets something like 12. This is what the system of “likes” does to you: it turns everything into a weird sort of contest. My stepdaughters, like my wife, are all ridiculously beautiful, which never hurts when you are posting pictures and videos: if it is both them and their kids, the response is even more enthusiastic.

This, in turn, leads to me to the recognition I had, years ago, that pictures of attractive women or beautiful scenery (or both) seem to attract more people to reading blog posts than anything else; hence, my frequent use of each. Which seems cheap and manipulative, now that I think of it in those terms.

Around 4:30, having delayed as long as I could, I change into my workout clothes and do today’s workout. It’s a short one, only about half an hour long, but it seems to be doing its job, as I feel terrible doing it, but pretty good afterwards.

I go back to the other end of the house and get out some clothes for work (being careful not to wake up my wife, who is sleeping blissfully) and then go back to shower in the bathroom near where I worked out.

I only shave the bottom of my neck, so that doesn’t take long; however, the sheer number of shaving mistakes I can make in a small area defies statistical likelihood.

I work as an officer at a large Fortune 500 company; this week is employee recognition week. Having dressed for work, and realizing it’s not even 6:00, I sit down to write, deciding, in this instance, to post the poem on Instagram.

Before leaving home around 6:30, I open the blinds so she wakes up to sunlight (her preference), take out the garbage, and bring in the newspaper. I also heard from the online friend I said something stupid to earlier (for those of you wondering about that particular plot thread). Online conversations can be odd in that they don’t necessarily have real beginnings or endings, and you never know if the other person is even there; or you just send your words out into the ether and rely on others to eventually respond.

My wife packs me a lunch most days. It’s really very good of her; it’s also really healthy. I pick it up (some of it is in the refrigerator, and some on the counter) and head off to work.

In the car, I’m listening to an audiobook of “The World as Will and Idea” by Schopenhauer. I just started it a few days ago. I loved this book when I read it, years ago; audiobooks seem to work better for me these days, so I will probably be listening to this for weeks.

It’s about a fifteen minute drive to work; I park in a parking garage and walk into work. The company I work for is rather large, but the location I’m at only has about eight or nine-hundred people. Most of the rest are in a larger facility across town, not counting ones spread across the country or concentrated overseas. I have a team of about 10 people who report to me; I’m responsible for doing financial forecasting for the company. I am an actuary by profession, according to the certificates beside my desk, and a mathematician by education, according to the degrees I have on the shelf behind it.

The short version of what I do is that I’m supposed to know what’s going on all over the company before it happens, so we can take appropriate actions and inform investors. I’m also supposed to remember everything that ever happened.

Now, at this point in time, you might be wondering: wait – you post (on NoTalentForCertainty.com) something like five poems a day. When do you find time to write?

I write mostly in the mornings; sometimes at night before bed, and at lunchtime, which I can do, having usually brought a lunch. I also write at speed (with frequent mistakes being the tell-tale sign) and usually edit only when I get around to reposting.

But, back to the company I work for. I was attracted to it, years ago (I’ve been here more than twenty years) because it did something I believed in (help people financially who are sick or injured) and because I like the company’s ethical stance, where the people running the company are genuinely more interested in doing the right thing than maximizing their own incomes.

I realized years ago, being “backstage” at this company as I have been, that no company like it has ever been described in any literature I’ve ever read. The art of politics, sadly, is often little more than organized calumny – and highly effective calumny, I might add. Most writing is shaped by some political viewpoint or another, and people in a large company being concerned about ethical issues just doesn’t seem to fit anyone’s idea of what companies do in the real world. But at least one does.

I don’t really have a “normal working day”, per se. I have a great deal of independence in terms of what I do, but I’m asked to analyze and answer a lot of questions of differing sorts, plus I’m just curious about other things, and spend a lot of time researching, analyzing, or synthesizing information that seems important to me to look at. I spend a fair amount of time discussing or conducting that work with others. My daughter (the same one that plays the cello) has now worked here more than five years; she commented, when she first started here, that everyone here seems to know me, which was pretty fair at the time. My job since then is much more insular and public; still, I know many hundreds of the thousands of people here, and work in some rotation with virtually all of them.

Incidentally, I missed saying it earlier, but I ate the lunch my wife packed me for breakfast on the way to work. So, at lunch time, I take a drive, listening to more Schopenhauer, dashing off one poem to post on NTFC, and eating in my car.

Back to work, and I work steadily until about 6:30, with one break around 2:15 when the little group of us went outside for a team photo. I look like a whale in the photos.

Alas for the merciless realism of the camera.

I get home st 7:00 pm and my eldest daughter is still there with her 2 year old boy and 7 month old girl my wife watches almost every day. They leave around 8, a few minutes later, my middle daughter drops off her 4 year old son, who has been sick, do she can run an errand. My wife watches him 5 days a week.

He’s just pitiful. He clings to my wife.

My wife, by the way, is something like a miracle. She’s a minister: teaching classes, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving, and yes, preaching sermons. I play the piano and organ at the church she works for — which is where we officially met, 20 years ago this fall.

I took a shower and am writing this sitting on our bed. I realize, reading over what I just wrote, that I left off the part, during lunch, where my son texted me, asking for help with rent and electric.

Which I did.

I also finished my conversation with my online friend, to the degree text conversations ever really end. I’ve only made three or four friends from blogging, but they are all inspirational to me in different ways. My natural personality seems to largely consist of being very positive, except in reference to myself; every one of these friends have noted this trait and been puzzled by it.

As am I. I’m just more used to it.

When I go out to say goodnight, my grandson is asleep and my wife is sprawled across the sofa on her stomach, looking up remedies to send home with our daughter in a few minutes.

I’m very lucky to have her, my kids, my grandkids, my job, and all of you, for that matter.

This is my real life.