I’m sixty-seven now, and one of life’s lessons hard to learn is to be present.
To be in the moment, aware of the people around you, present to that moment.
As a writer (at least sometimes a writer) I spend a lot of time in my head, banging around nouns and verbs stacked haphazardly in a disorganized warehouse, seeing connections, reaching for sentences and God forbid, whole paragraphs, only to see them evaporate before my (internal) eyes.
I seem to visit there even when I’m not writing, and that can be difficult for those who are close to me.
Case in point, this morning.
I was sorting out my day (in my head, go figure), getting dressed for playing a little guitar in the hospital, and Tracy got some breakfast ready, sorting out her own morning.
She always seems much more organized than me, with lists listed, stops planned, almost to the minute. Me, not so much.
But I’m often inclined to lend a hand with tasks as I can, this morning no exception.
She wanted to soak a white comforter that was no longer white, and had a question about the soaking tub in our laundry/utility room, that is not yet hooked up to a drain. (On my list, somewhere.)
The plug we have for the drain doesn’t fit well enough to actually earn the name “plug.” It would better serve its designation as a “leak.”
But we didn’t know that until we started filling the tub.
So we switched gears…and Tracy thought of the bathroom tub. (My mind tracking some other threads of thought, things to be done.) Problem solved!
So she filled while our dog Chunk, slunk into the kitchen looking dispirited, anxious…she apparently thinking, Oh my God, a Bath! Noooooooo!
But no. Tracy threw in the comforter and Chunk was immediately relieved, wagging her tail. Yessss!
But the comforter bloomed with captured air, and being a tight weave, floated on top instead of sinking nicely into the water. My mind still wandering into things to do and the clock ticking away, I returned to the bathroom, got down on my knees and attempted to push the billowing fabric under the water.
Just as I felt my knees getting wet through my trousers, Tracy said to be careful because the water had bleach in it to help whiten the fabric.
I stood up, the knees on my khaki pants dark with water. Bleach water.
“Goddamn it,” I said. “Fuck.”
I’ve tried to come up with some rational excuses for that outburst, but, I really haven’t one. I’m generally fairly levelheaded, even tempered.
But that just popped out, and I stripped off my pants, and put them to soak in the kitchen sink, hoping the bleach wouldn’t take. I changed into my other khakis, as that’s what volunteers are asked to wear at the hospital, and we went about our morning, Tracy and I.
She never had a hard word for me. Not one.
I love this lady more than I can find words to sing, and in no way did she deserve to bear the brunt of my adolescent outburst, but she did, with grace and calm.
And I got to thinking about that, and the way of the world today, the way of our discourse, and I thought of the essay I had written such a short time ago about loving one another, and seeing the good in people and I was ashamed.
But that too is the way we are, we people.
We blow up sometimes, sometimes unaccountably.
We are all of us very complicated, distracted, conflicted, emotional creatures. But how we react to one another, even when emotion overrides intellect is one true sign of a loving heart.
I am a lucky man in having in my life, Tracy.