I’m Legal! – Sept. 22, 2021

I have seen in person how protective a mother grizzly bear can be of her cubs. The Fam was on a two-week Alaska vacation between my seventh- and eighth-grade years, a trip on which my voice changed and I enjoyed the company of twin 14-year-old sisters from Alabama, which is a story for another day. Anywho, we were driving through Denali National Park when we saw two bear cubs bounding down a hillside toward our bus. From out of nowhere, Momma Grizzly came flying into the picture to get between her little ones and us. There she stood, imposing and ferocious, ready to add a seriously memorable event to the life of anyone who dared step outside into the 40-degree July afternoon.

I was that Momma Grizzly (oh, and while we’re at it, what ever happened to Sarah Palin? Never mind. I don’t want to know) at the DMV this morning.

As I have detailed in previous Puzzle Pieces, I have tried three times to renew my license plates at the local DMV in an attempt to get Woo-Woo (my super-snazzy 2017 Nissan Versa) legal again. Each time, I’ve been thwarted.

Not today.

I pulled into the parking lot at 8:05, beating all but one employee whose life must really suck to have to arrive an hour before the opening bell. It was a beautiful first-day-of-fall morning, so I plopped myself in front of the door, put my earbuds in and started to write in my journal.

That’s when People started to come. The first possible interloper arrived at shortly after 8:30. I growled. He went away. But it wasn’t to return to the safety of his home. It was to go get more of his kind. By 8:45, a line had formed to my left, and I was edgy. It wasn’t because each could be carrying the Modern Day Plague. It was because they were threatening My Spot.

Woo-Woo has been illegal since Aug. 1. That’s not going to get me thrown in any secret CIA prison and subjected to Advanced Interrogation Techniques, but it’s enough to give a cop in a bad mood a reason to spread his lack of cheer to me. I haven’t had a whole lot of “sure-I-can-wait-in-a-two-hour-DMV-line” time lately, so being First was vitally important to me this morning.

Important enough that I would have shanked anyone who tried to take My Spot.

At precisely 9 a.m., a dude unlocked and opened the door. I stepped forward to go inside. “Hold on a second,” he told me. So I held. “Is anyone elderly or in need of special assistance?” he screamed.

I’m not above shanking an elderly person or someone in need of special instance.

Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.

I walked in, went right to the counter and met Rich, who, within five minutes, issued me not only the required stickers to make me and Woo-Woo legal again but also gave me the bonus present of new license plates because of some “Situation” when I bought the car four years ago. I don’t know the details of the Situation, and I don’t really care. I have new plates. I have the stickers. I’m legal for another two years. Finally.

Poor Grandma

My lone surviving grandparent is 90-something years old and not doing well. Grandma C. has been slowly going downhill for a few years now, as is common, I would think, in those who reach their 90s. The reality is, she’s not going to live much longer. She’s got portable oxygen she refuses to use. The stated reason appears much to do with vanity, though I don’t know what a 90-something-year-old woman has to be vain about, and besides, I don’t really think that’s the issue. Grandma is just tired. She’s done this whole life thing, and, truthfully, it hasn’t been the best ride. She was dealt a pretty shitty hand from the get-go and has made the best of it. She’s had a tremendous run. And I think she’s just done.

All this does not mix well with my recent deep thinking on life and death. I spent this evening after Boy The Younger’s baseball game (a 24-0 whitewashing that does not need to be talked about) on the deck thinking that we’re not doing ourselves too many favors in the endless pursuit of living longer. You hear all this talk about “life expectancy” and not a whole lot about exactly why we want to live longer. Oh, I get that it’s a good thing to see your kids grow up and to experience the joy of grandkids. I get that this world has its moments. But I also think that if you checked in with Grandma tonight, she might wish her life expectancy had been a few years less.

The ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Say It’ of the Day

‘What can I do when I’m not friends with my reflection? When I don’t understand affection like you do?’

Jonah Kagen, from his song ‘broken

This song is currently heavy in my rotation right now.

Talkin’ Longhaul

I checked in today on a co-worker who has COVID. She’s doing well but is extremely tired. We got to talking a bit about my own Longhauler experience. I told her how much writing about the journey helped me deal with it. She thanked me for reaching out to her and said how lonely she’s felt in quarantine this past week-and-a-half. I get how isolating COVID can be.

Ever since my first son, Jacob, died in 2000, I’ve pursued the reason why people suffer. I could never reconcile the God I believed in with the senseless suffering in the world, with the reality that little babies die while tonight killers and child molesters and Red Sox fans roam free. I long ago blew past the Christian platitudes that were thrown at me with such good intentions but that are so unbelievably shallow and unhelpful. If the answer to why people suffer is because God has some mystical plan that involved the death of my child and the breaking of my spirit or that Jesus needed another angel in heaven or that it helped me appreciate more when my next son was born, well, I’m marking that test paper “incomplete.”

The reality is, I think we suffer because everyone suffers, which means that someone is going to follow you on the pain path and, if you do it right, you can help clear the way for them a little bit so that when they pass where you were, there aren’t quite so many thorny branches reaching out to tear at them. I know the people who went before me helped ease my journey, if only just a little bit, and I hope there are folks somewhere behind me who can say the same about me.

Which is why I reached out to my co-worker. The chance that she’s going to end up in the same Longhaul hell I found myself is small. But if she does, now she knows she’s not alone.

Today’s Reasons To Keep Living

  1. This fall weather. Tomorrow promises to be much like today, and for however long the air feels like this when I step outside, I’d like to stick around.
  2. Silhouetted birds against a darkening sky as the sun sets.
  3. When singers scream things like “YEAH!” or “UH-HUH!” during the middle of a song. Eddie Vedder excels at this.

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