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Hurrying To Go Where I Don’t Need To Be

It seems all my friends are sick and dying, but of course that’s not true. A lot of them are already dead. 

Many of those not gone are sad, frail and ailing. They shuffle, figuratively, in long lines, slowly moving forward to the inevitable end, assuming the end is “forward.”

Casualties have been high over the years and experts predict additional losses. No remedies are at hand though some recommend dietary adjustments and/or regular visits to a gymnasium. 

My social calendar is all about memorial services. Upon a recent return to Ukiah I immediately had three funerals (oops: “Celebrations of Life” the oft-repeated insult to those no longer here to dispute it) to attend within just a few days. 

Celebrate. Ha.

The problem with funerals, among many, is that the person I’d most like to talk to and spend time with is no longer speaking. Or blinking his eyes. Most funeral attendees don’t talk with me either, which works well for everyone, though on cold winter nights I’m prone to weeping bitter tears, along with an occasional moan in the general direction of the Cleveland Browns.

Beyond funerals causing distress there’s also the annoying loss of friends to drink with. I’m getting down to me, solo, alone, or in the words of the brilliant Ambrose Bierce, “In poor company.” 

No reason to wonder what’s going on with all the disappearing people, because what’s going on is what we were promised starting half a century ago, although now it isn’t “going on” quite so much as “going out,” meaning the lights. 

And yet I continue to live just like I did when my life was only half as long as it is now, which means I had twice as much time to not get things done back then, which I didn’t and don’t. I’d hustle along from one unimportant thing to another, always hurrying to get somewhere I didn’t need to be and when I got there I looked at my watch. 

I’m the mouse in a glass box sharing quarters with a disinterested boa constrictor: me frantic, zipping and bouncing from one corner to another until I finally realize that ol’ Mister Snake has absolutely no interest in me. Why don’t I just sit back, relax and have a nice cold beer?

SPOILER ALERT: This will not end well, depending on whose side you’re on.

By almost any measure our lives are brief. Laid next to planetary eons, the galaxies, the Ice Age, Willie Nelson, sea turtles or any other epoch our lives are a quick flicker and gone. As we get older we sense it imperfectly but with certainty. 

We are given limited time and yet we spend it churning through the hours and days as if to get them out of the way. We mark calendars, set clocks, then stand by while nervously chewing up the minute or the hour, the day or the week, the month or the year.

We waste our allotted time and we simultaneously plead and fight for more.

Then, prayers granted, health disaster averted, lightning bolt sidestepped, we make it our business to get down to Denny’s for the Early Bird Half-Price Dinner Special. And Happy Hour, 4 to 6 p.m. We gobble it down, wash it back, zip back home to watch the news, which is the same news they played for us last night and tomorrow.

We are a world of scattered maniacs stumbling through life in a rush to get it over with. Time is relentless, unswerving, steady in its mission, unstoppable in its goal. We know it in our marrow

But when the black-robed, depthless shadow drifts near, we’ll sob and sigh and remember the roses not smelled, the friends cut adrift, small pleasures exchanged for purchased entertainment, family time postponed, quiet reflection elbowed aside so we don't miss a televised docudrama based on a true life story.

We are forever in a rush to get in line so we can hurry to our next exciting destination: a rest stop. Just gimme a sec, wouldja? 

We spend all afternoon watching Florida State versus Texas A&M, not because we care or enjoy the game, but as a semi-conscious bridge to fill two hours until our microwaved dinner we’ll eat while watching TV.

We may hope for a merciful God, but we’ll probably get one with a sense of humor who snatches us up while we’re on the dream vacation we’ve been waiting for all our lives.

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