Monday, March 13, 2017

Savage beast

"Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast, " said William Congreve way back in 1697.
His pithy saying still holds up today.  I am living proof of that.

Yesterday the UW Badgers played in the Big 10 Conference Basketball Championship game. Being a diehard fan of all things UW, I, of course, planned to watch that game and cheer on my favorite team.  There was a problem to overcome first, though. We would not be home in in time for the start of the game. I figured we would make it home from Zoe's 3rd birthday party about halftime.  Solution?  Record the game and watch it in its entirety while we had our dinner.  We just had to avoid hearing anything about the game until we had the chance to watch it.

As we got closer to home and our recorded version of the game, Mary got more and more anxious. I have to emphasize here that Mary is as big a basketball fan as I am.  She doesn't always understand the nuances of the game, but that doesn't dampen her enthusiasm and loyalty to her Badgers.  So as we approached home, and halftime of the game, she was threatening to turn on the TV the minute we walked in the door so she could allay her anxiety.  She really wanted to know the score.  She hates surprises.  I was getting more than a little pissed off at her for potentially ruining my enjoyment of the game.

What happened next she adamantly and vociferously claims was an accident.  She went online for something and the score was just there. She couldn't avoid hearing it, or avoid watching the recap of the game.  She was mesmerized by the information she was getting.  Of course she insisted on telling me what she had heard, mainly because she couldn't bear to suffer alone.  I begged her to keep her mouth shut and not ruin it for me, but she was so apologetic about what she had done and was begging my forgiveness for her reporting of the details.  She was in shock to realize that her beloved Badgers were in imminent danger of losing the game.  She was near tears as the game neared its conclusion, and I was nearing a murderous rage for her talking about the game that I wanted to experience, win or lose.

I was screaming and raging and nearly apoplectic as I stormed downstairs, trying not to hear what she was telling me. When she told me the final score, I was as angry at her for telling me as I was at the score.  I vowed then not to watch any of the game I had so looked forward to seeing.  Mary deleted the recording of the game, so I wouldn't be able to watch it anyway.  I was so upset and not coping very well with the entire situation that I needed to escape and get calmed down before I exploded.

So I headed for my workshop, the one place I could go and lose myself and forget about the trauma I had suffered.  Of course a key element of my escape was listening to music while I worked.  So I turned on Pandora, cranked my speaker up, and sang along with some of my favorite tunes.  I was fortunate that the first song playing was "Hey, Jude" by the Beatles which has a great sing along "na na na na na, hey Jude" that goes on and on, helping to release any tension you might have. Next up was Simon and Garfunkel's "the Boxer" and its long singalong, "li la lie, lie la la la li li lie, li la lie, li la li li li li lie" to close out the song.  I was feeling rejuvenated by then, so hearing Crosby, Stills, and Nash finish "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" with the long finishing "du du du du du, dit dou du du du du, du du du du du, dit du du du du du..." was like the frosting on Zoe's birthday cake.  Then when I heard The Beatles tell me to "Let it be" I knew everything would be alright.

Music does indeed sooth this savage beast.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Time out

Quiet contemplation seems appropriate when another birthday passes into the used column of the ledger that records such occurrences.  Those birthdays are inevitable.  Whether we celebrate them or deny them, the only way to really appreciate the gift they are, is to embrace them and accept each one as a milestone as it is entered into the diary of your life. Time waits for no man.  Those sometime dreaded birthdays are going to keep coming, but considering the alternative, we should welcome them as a mark of distinction.  We've made it this far navigating the twists and turns and directional choices we made when we came to each of the intersections along the road of life and that is quite an accomplishment.

As I enter into the 70th year of my current life, I am able to look back with amazement that I have made it this far down my life's timeline. I don't come from a family whose longevity is anything to brag about. My father died at the age of 58 and my mother lived to nearly seventy, but using them to gauge my anticipated life span would be making a mistake since neither one of them died of "natural" causes. Both died after lengthy illnesses and much suffering. If we look at both sides of my extended family, the picture isn't bleak, filled with short lived people, nor is it exceptional for containing above average life spans. My father had two older brothers, one who lived into his late seventies and died of heart failure (I think), and one who was murdered when he was about 73 ( that is a fascinating story, one I will share with you some other time) I had one cousin among my paternal relatives who died in his sixties (at least I think that's correct.) But using him as a judge of life expectancy wouldn't work, since he was a smoker and a heavy drinker, and we all know what those two bad habits can skew the average Iife-time equation of the rest of the family.  On my mother's side of the family we find a similar pattern of shortened lifespans that will make the average skew lower than we would hope it to be.  My mother was one of six siblings, all of whom died after a bout with cancer of one kind or another.  Both of my maternal grandparents lived long and mostly healthy lives--my grandfather, I think, was in his late seventies when he died and grandma lived to age 93. Given their long lives it is comforting to think that my two older sisters and I could expect to live long lives as long as we avoid the bad habits and illnesses that claimed the generation before us.

Time marches on ignoring our complaint that time isn't marching, it is flying.  We would like to call a time out on occasion just to get some rest and get our timing back.  We can look back in time and see where we went wrong, or right, while we have no choice but to realize that hindsight is always 20/20.  Sometimes  20/20 agrees with our memories of time gone by. But often our memories are at odds with our hindsight, leaving us to wade through the ever growing pile of regret every time we look back in time.

When I think of all the decisions I've made during my tenure among the current crop of beings, I can't help wondering how different my life would have been if I had made a left turn instead of a right turn back at that intersection I encountered when I was 12, or maybe it was when I was 16, or 18.  The point is that we all make decisions every day that have a bearing on the rest of our lives. Hundreds, no thousands, of like decisions that followed that one fateful turn in the road and made me into the creature that stands, for good or bad, before you now.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

But, you

I have a wife who is everything a good wife should be.  She takes wonderful care of me, even when she is pissed off at me for some imagined problem that she assumes is all my fault.  In fact now that I think about it, I get blamed for everything that goes wrong around here.  Blaming me is her default setting when there is blame to be administered. I know she loves me because she repeatedly tells me so.  Many times each day she will preface her remarks to me by telling me "Bob, I love you dearly." It's when she gets past that preface that the real reason she wants to talk to me becomes clear.  After saying "I love you dearly," she always follows up with a BUT phrase that tells what is really on her mind. As in "Bob I love you dearly, BUT you are an idiot."
Or she will say, "BUT you are so stupid."
Or, BUT you drive me crazy."
......BUT you never do what you're told.
......BUT I can't count on you for anything.
......BUT you never follow directions.
......BUT you can be such a slob
......BUT you always ignore the list of things I want you to do
......BUT you never turn off the lights when you leave the room
......BUT you are so inefficient
......BUT you are a lousy shopper
......BUT you don't know your limits
......BUT you always forget a towel or two when you do the laundry
......BUT you always manage to do only 90% of the task at hand.
......BUT you always make such a mess when you are cooking.
......BUT you always make too much noise when I am trying to take a nap
......BUT you never put your clothes away.
......BUT you always grab the last cookie.
......BUT you never vacuum under the furniture.
......BUT you always disappear in the store when we are shopping
......BUT you always find a bunch of things to buy when you sneak away from me in the store.
......BUT you never need the stuff you insist on buying
......BUT you are so full of shit.

But you get the idea. I could probably go on and on finding and listing all my transgressions, faults, proclivities, idiosyncrasies, and peccadilloes and they would all be true.  My wonderful wife is absolutely justified in her criticisms because she is right. I am guilty on all counts.
But that's me.  It tells a lot about her character and loving nature that she is willing to spend so much time and effort helping me to become a better man.

BUT for me to become all the man she wants me to be, I will have to first learn to listen to her when she is talking to me.