By Bruce A. Smith
As we enter the middle days of December we are cloaked with the twenty shortest days of the year. Coupled with the ever-present rain clouds, the darkness of our days begins about 3:30 pm or so in the afternoon and I think, Well, at least we don’t live in Alaska were the sun doesn’t shine at all this time of year.
I have mixed feelings about the gloom and drippiness of December – it’s good for being a writer, but it’s also discouraging to my soul. I’ve just read a story in the New York Times based in LA, and when I finished it I unconsciously sighed and wished I was there, even if I had to deal with gang warfare.
I’m even yearning about moving to Florida, which was an anathema to me in my twenties when I zoomed through the night to get there during spring break and go snorkeling in Key West.
You must be getting old, Bruce, or at least I understand why old folks don’t want to fight the winds and chill of winter anymore.
But the dark of December means something special to me this year. I have just spent my first year living off my social security and have received numerous supports both financial and emotional in my recovery from a February heart attack. My December this year is very quiet, as my life has become very concentrated, condensed. I have no wheels and if I did I don’t have any money for gas, so I don’t go anywhere. When I do go somewhere, by bus, I don’t have much money to spend once I get there. So, my life is simple, comprised of little chores in the garden, a doctor’s visit, and writing an occasional essay for the Mountain News or editing a submission from a fledgling writer.
It’s been a wonderful time, though, and I feel very blessed. In fact, I don’t think I would trade it for a Mega Millions jackpot, because I have learned so much about the generosity of others.
I am grateful to the many writers who have sent me their literary offerings at no pay – Judy, Josh, and Paula. Tari, Cate, Beverly and BJ, too; and now Milt. Thank you. I hope my editorial assistance and the exposure provided by the Mountain News is equal to the sweat and tears you’ve poured into your submissions. Judy, I hope you’ve forgiven me for our screaming match at midnight long ago, but I knew you could do better, and you did. I beam with pride and joy seeing the stellar work you are posting on your website.
Across the driveway, Dave and Jo continue to keep a roof over my head for a mere pittance in return, and I am supremely grateful for the home that I have. Thank you.
All the young people who have jobs and pay gobs of taxes – I thank you, as your payments are what is fueling my social security and Medicaid benefits, and keeping the wheels of Paratransit rolling. Free meds, too, is one of the true joys of Brotherhood, I can tell you that!
Of course, I see the Wheel of Life turning as I realized that the FICA taxes I paid long ago went to pay for other people and the government never saved a dime of it for me, knowing that they could take your contributions and use them to pay for my expenses. Oh, well. What goes around, comes around, I hope for your sake.
When I needed a lot of rides – more than Paratransit could provide – to get me to cardiac rehab, the Graham-Kapowsin Community Council came up with a hundred bucks to create a gas fund, along with a driver to ferry me to South Hill two or three times a week in March, April and May. Thanks, Lisa; and I supremely enjoyed our conversations – to think that I was being chauffeured by a woman who grew up in my old bailiwick of Easton, PA.
Then, once the gas fund was depleted Wayne called from out of the blue to announce that his wife needed chemo, and hence they weren’t using their 1995 Ford van. “If you ever need to borrow it for a couple of days, it’s available,” he told me.
“How about today,” I replied. “I need to do laundry.”
“Sure,” Wayne responded, and he came down to my place within the hour to deliver the vehicle. Ever since then, Wayne and I have become road buddies – going off to visit families, attending funerals, or helping each other get to doctors or pick-up meds.
Prior to Wayne’s beneficence, my laundry was done by Pat, who graciously informed me that although I was welcome to spend the day at her house and use the washer and dryer, it actually would be more convenient if she just picked up my laundry , did it, and returned it in a day or two. I agreed, so I had an impromptu laundry service, too.
I’ve also received a new level of care from my mom. I have written a lot about my dad, but my relationship with my mom is more complex and I’ve been quieter about it. My mom and I run hot and cold – very hot and cold at times.
But she has found a new way to reach out to me, and offer some care by funding over ten-thousand dollars worth of dental work. Over the past two years or so, eight teeth have broken and no one seems to know why, other than some biochemical change in my mouth triggered by the aging process. Nevertheless, there is a lot of root canal and crown work to be done, and after much hand-wringing mom is ponying up. Thanks, Mom.
Plus, there have been innumerable well-wishing phone calls and emails. One came from a woman named Carolyn, who asked to come over and do a kind of energetic healing on me that involved old coins placed on my forehead. Kinda strange, but I liked it, and afterwards I walked with a lilt in my step.
Speaking of which, a colleague from the Graham Business Association, a young woman named Nancy, would come by my place once or twice a week and stroll with me for exercise. If it wasn’t for Nance, I’m not sure I would have had the determination to push through the fatigue and chilly rains of May and June to get my heart pumping and the blood running through my legs and arms. Thank you, Nancy. And thanks for the soup and tacos, too!
Prayers and Blue Body Healings have been sent my way, and I am sure they have helped me recover, and adapt to my new life. Thanks to everyone.
So, I have been royally blessed and it gives me great joy to realise it all. Merry Christmas to each and every one of us!