“I’m having that dream again,” Ralph thought, “the one where I’m wandering so aimlessly.”
He could never figure out where he even was, whether it was Purgatory or maybe even Hell. All he knew was that whenever he had that dream he was always so bitterly inconsolably sad. By now he was accustomed to it-the bleak lonely terrain, the sense of helplessness and loss. Lately he’d been having the dream so frequently. At the same time his wife Mabel was making funeral arrangements with the undertaker.
“I’m so sick and tired of it all!” Ralph gasped.
If I were ever to receive the ability to foretell the future, on the condition that each time I use it I shall lose an entire day of my life, I might just as well take advantage of it. Of course considering how intense the consequences of my actions would be I should only be willing to employ it under absolutely the direst of all possible circumstances. Since no one can possibly foretell the day of his death anyway, I should take quite a casual attitude toward that provision of the deal. Exactly how could such a thing possibly be put into practice? It would be understandable if I could say with certitude that I’m going to die on some certain specific day. Then I could simply subtract a day from that and be ready for it. Who could possibly be in charge of calculating such an obscure thing? First and foremost I should have to predict the day of my death. Would that be possible? If that’s not one of the things I could foresee then the rest is just irrelevant. Of course there’s also the question of the moral ramifications of such a thing. Wouldn’t that be cheating? The future is hidden from mankind for a very good reason. Why should I try to tamper with it? All sorts of questions of the true nature of freedom would come into play. Unlike the liberal totalitarians I should very much let reality take its course. Every time someone opens Pandora’s box it leads to nothing but extremely big trouble with irrevocable consequences.
When I was still only a youngster, still obligated to go to school, I’d always so thoroughly enjoyed it. Although, of course, it meant having to put a stop to all the uninterrupted enjoyment of summer, going back to school in September was always quite an interesting experience. The only time I truly let it bother me a little was at the beginning of the seventh grade, when, having moved from Jackson Heights to Lindenhurst, I was forced to spend two weeks in Copiague Junior High School, after which I went to O.L.P.H. in Lindenhurst for the rest of my time in grammar school. That was only because they were both new to me. Now that I’m an adult man, my feelings toward the end of the summer each year ultimately amount to mere passive resignation. Imo’ve always been quite smitten with symbolism and autumn and winter always abound with it. The last few months of each year always bring with them cold weather and dark gloomy skies. For a while autumn is quite nice. I’ve always quite enjoyed Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was especially nice when I was in the habit of visiting my cousins in North Tonawanda. Eventually, though, the last few months of the year turn into a seemingly endless succession of mandatory concessions to all sorts of inevitable trouble. My mother died last September and my father died last November so from now on those times will also have quite a particularly sad twist to them.
Julius and Ethel Weidermeyer were trying to get ready to deal with the news about his father’s death. The eighty year old grandfather had been ill with cancer for most of the past five years. When the inevitable finally came to pass, they made the one hundred and eighty five mile drive to his house in northeastern Pennsylvania in order to make the arrangements for his funeral, as well as to sort through all his belongings. When they arrived they were confronted with quite an adventure. They’d always known he was a notoriously sentimental character as well as a bit of a pack rat but their discovery was absolutely amazing. Going through his dad’s basement was like having a time machine. They found a bottomless pit of boxes, bags and cases of artifacts from literally the very beginning of his lifetime. He’d even saved souvenirs of people like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. His parents must have gotten all these things for him before he was even old enough to walk. As they went along they found clothes and memorabilia with all his old schools’ insignias on them. It appeared as if the old fellow had felt somehow unrelentingly compelled to save all sorts of relics of each successive era throughout his entire lifetime. The more they found the more awe smitten they were. “I just don’t get it!” gasped Ethel. “It’s not exactly as if there’s anything exceptionally valuable here. They’re all just very old pictures, records, clothes and things like that.” Eventually, though, they wised up to the fact that it was quite an interesting discovery. The more they thought it through, the more they recognized that there was quite an entire lifetime’s supply of profound history here. Besides its being a miniature lecture on all the history and pop culture of most of the twentieth century, it was also an indirect source of insight into all sorts of background about Mr. Weidermeyer, things they could never have otherwise found out. Over the course of his very long lifetime he’d told a lot of stories and seemed to have been quite knowledgeable about all sorts of offbeat things. It turns out, though, that he must truly have been quite devoted to all those long ago milestones. “I can imagine how Mom must have felt,” complained Julius. “He must have driven her out of her mind, nice though all this stuff is.” Anyone who wanted a lesson on things like the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict and Viet Nam could have the time of his life in such an environment. They could rake in an absolute mint, they thought, by charging admission for a guided tour. Soon they started having the time of their lives enjoying all the silliness of their adventure. Understandably they were sorry to have lost him. They would have really enjoyed talking to him about all these things. At his wake, they mentioned his treasure trove to all their family and his friends. It added quite a dimension of joy and relief to the otherwise somber occasion.
If I were to wake up tomorrow morning and to find out that I have somehow aged a decade from out of nowhere, I should have to start making some very significant changes to my approach to health care. The older someone gets the more careful he has to be about all matters relating his diet and exercise. The grey hair and wrinkles will force me into quite a major adjustment too. I shall also have to take a closer look at the reality of death because the more time that passes by the closer the ultimate moment of truth inevitably gets. Assuming this odd stroke of fate will have happened to me, I should be forced to make up quite an interesting story to explain it all to my contemporaries. Maybe I could even start wearing old-man clothes and affecting old-man speech patterns, habits and mannerisms. Since no real time will have lapsed, I shall have missed out on an entire decade’s worth of stories to tell and experiences to capitalize on. Knowing my imagination, with its tendency to go into all sorts of offbeat directions, I shall have quite a time pondering all the wild twists and turns that I shall be subjected to. Since, throughout my lifetime, I’ve always been so knowledgeable about the 1960’s I could take advantage of the twist of fate by blending in with people who are a decade older than I. It would be quite an interesting experience to be able to see who notices that there is something awfully wrong with my particular circumstances. Because of my advanced years I could feel quite free to make inappropriate remarks, to engage in inappropriate behavior and to flirt with really pretty young girls. So far I still get into quite an awful lot of trouble for things like that, but since I’ll be so old everyone will be happy to humor the harmless old guy.
Unfortunately I didn’t respond to the prompt that asked what day 211 would be like. My parents both died last autumn so I’ve been subjected to quite a few very significant changes this year. It’s turned out to be quite a nice uneventful year for me though in most respects. I’ve been having quite a nice time getting used to life in Long Beach. Nothing has gone especially wrong for me. I’ve always had a hard time adjusting to change anyway. I’ve been meeting new people here and figuring out how to find my way around. The people at St. Mary of the Isle and the nearby Coffee Nut Cafe have been getting used to having me around by now. It gets me quite crazy but I’ve been able to handle it. Sometimes I go to the beach or at least walk toward its general direction. I make sure I go to Mass most days during the week. I can’t stand cold weather here but I can’t stand cold weather in general anyway. Now that it’s warm and sunny out I’ve truly been having the time of my life. My feet hurt quite a lot though so I have one very minor complaint that seems not to have any kind of a solution.
Generous thoughtful strangers are constantly passing through each individual’s life so it’s kind of difficult for me to single one out for his having done something especially kind and selfless for me. My mother died on September 23, 2o13 and then my father died on November 7. Friends, acquaintances and strangers were always going out of their way to be exceptionally considerate throughout all my mother’s last illness, starting from the time she first got sick in November of 2012. Everyone knows that old people can be difficult to handle, even at their best. My parents needed a lot of help in their last days. People at the Geisinger, General and Veteran’s Hospitals, and at the Mercy Hospice, in Wilkes Barre, were all quite helpful. They were constantly trying to explain things, and to make things as easy as possible, with food and parking among other necessary things. People always helped with transportation and running errands. The hospital and hospice personnel did all they could. Even though technically they were only doing their jobs anyway, they were exceptionally good. Other strangers were very conscientious too. It’s very good to know that there are a lot of people who can be relied upon to do the right thing. Often over the course of my lifetime I’ve tended to get a bit too cynical about mankind’s nasty side but ultimately there are quite a lot of good people in the world.
For whatever reason, I haven’t ever bothered to go to the trouble of coming up with a bucket list. Perhaps it’s because it simply isn’t all that important to me anyway. Unless you count Canada, I’ve never been to a foreign country, but how important is that in the grand scheme of things? There are some things I should really like to do but most may be entirely impossible. I should truly like to eradicate liberalism entirely from the face of the earth but that’s impossible because there’s a liberal born every minute, as the old saying goes. Since I was only a kid I’ve always wanted to see, in person, some of the great singers, musicians and bands I’ve enjoyed throughout the years. That’s not possible though because of the mere passage of time. All the great bands have broken up. Most of their members have died. The ones who are still among the living are as old as the hills. Everything that interests me is always entirely out of reach. As far as I can tell the entire concept of a bucket list, or a desert island list, or whatever else someone may want to call it is just a cliche’, nice in a way, but by now it’s simply gotten to the point where it’s a boring reference. Conveniently my tastes have always been quite plain and simple. My approach to things may seem, at first, somewhat apathetic, but it’s not really. I prefer to think of it as being realistic. Nothing has ever struck me as quite that irresistibly interesting that I simply can’t possibly run the risk of dying without my having gotten around to it. By that standard I’m quite free of any risk of my being inordinately smitten by anything. It’s a commendable idea to be able to take things or to leave them.
In the early 1990’s I was working at Citicorp Retail Services, in the Sales Processing department, on Route 109 in Farmingdale, New York. Eventually we moved to Old Country Road in Melville, New York. My immediate supervisors were named Carole and Yolanda. All the people in that department were really good and likable. I enjoyed working with them. During the time we were still in Farmingdale Yolanda’s husband Stanley died. We all went to Stanley’s wake. Unfortunately one day while at work, only a fairly short time after Stanley’s death-it wasn’t any more than a few months later-something came up and I made a casual flippant remark about death. It was an otherwise entirely harmless thing and under much better circumstances no one would have even bothered to think twice about it. Because of Stanley’s recent death, though, Yolanda’s feelings were badly hurt. She was visibly shaken. The other people in the department told me that I never should have said such a thing. Fortunately it didn’t put any permanent strain on my relationship with either Yolanda or anyone else in the department. I felt truly bad for quite a while afterward though. I’ve always been a bit hypersensitive anyway and have never been able to handle being subjected to any extra strain. Another character defect of mine is the fact that I’ve always been prone toward saying things without first considering the context of the circumstances and how people may be counted on to react. That time, because of my having inadvertently said something that dealt with such a very personal matter, it led to a lot of trouble.