Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Alive And Well

I was introduced to the idea of my own mortality at an early age. Ten to be specific. Don't get me wrong. I knew things died. I knew people died. It had just not occurred to me that I would die. And then I started wasting away...

I suffered from a childhood illness that, at the time, very nearly could have killed me. As a matter of fact, I was so impressed with my illness, the name[1], and the conversations that happened around me that I was certain my death was imminent. I lived each day just letting life happen around me. I immersed myself in fiction to escape the certain knowledge that ultimately nothing real was going to happen to me. But I was unexpectedly cured by the time I turned 18.[2]

I mean, for years, I was so certain death was near. I was a little unsure of myself (maybe even disappointed), that on the night of my 18th birthday I was a more than a bit distraught.

And then there was the surprise birthday party.[3]

My mother had organized a secret, surprise, shhhh!, party... And here I was conflicted about my continued existence while she was excited by it. Who can blame her!? Her first-born... weird disease... nearly dieing of a wasting illness and cured! 18! Hell, in her place I'd be freakin' ecstatic! But my 18-year old self couldn't wrap his immature mind around it. He suddenly had a future. His mind was warped with possibilities, responsibilities, he had to apply for college! He didn't do well at the party.

Mom felt bad. Real bad... I don't think I ever told her why.

I never pursued a girlfriend in high school because I WAS GOING TO DIE. I never tried very hard at anything BECAUSE I WAS GOING TO DIE. Fashion? I wore cheap jeans and Fruit of the Loom t-shirts because why waste money on clothes if I WAS GOING TO DIE? Weird thing is I graduated in the top 10% of my class... I think that more or less is a tell on the condition of public schools in Texas. I didn't have any plans after high school BECAUSE I WAS GOING TO DIE! Turning 18 and living on was unexpected.

My memories of my second half of the senior year have absolutely nothing to do with classes, learning, or grades. It was all about doing. The Belton dam overflowed! We had a flood! I enjoyed that distraction. Girls were suddenly far more interesting. My car! It needed to last a bit longer than I had thought I needed it. Money? I started working overtime. I only had like six months before I moved out!

Paradoxically, after that I looked at life as though I really didn't have all that much time on Earth. Even people living to the ripe old age of 70 didn't really spend that much time on earth when compared to the thousands and thousands of years people have been recording history.

I'm not even mentioning the events around my heart attack at age 20[4], nor my heart ache at 21. College was really just a blur to me. Work and school. Work and school. If I could do so much nothing with the time I had, how much nothing could I do if I had nothing but time?

To me it always seemed unbelievable people could accomplish anything worth while in the time they had.

After my cure I didn't really see every moment as precious and treasured. Those moments were like the reaper's hand reaching ever so slowly, but inexorably closer.

Depressing right?

So I never really developed an ambition. Never really was motivated to do anything significant. Or at least what I perceived as significant.

Now that I'm approaching 40, the reaper's sickle seems frozen in mid-swing. I realize that my definition of "significant" was way too grandiose. I have done "significant" things. I continue to do "significant" things. My genes, for what they're worth, are now guaranteed for another generation. And I'm now measuring my time on earth not in moments, but decades. I'm growing trees from seed, ya'll.

Kids. Houses. Grandchildren. Things you don't really think about when you are 20 and unmarried. But 40! Oh the things I wanna do that take longer that 30 minutes! I've bought tools, expensive ones, that I'll probably only use twice.[5]

So here I am with maybe 20... 30... maybe even 40! years of life ahead of me. How... unsettling. I've got two daughters... Totally worth watching grow up, mature, have children...

Oh crapsnacks. I'm maturing. I'm getting old. I'm... not... me.

Me is so not old.

Me is so not... kids.

Me is so not... ME!!!

Yet, here I am. Me. And I'm kind of glad to be here. I like this me better.

Oh! And Mom... thank you for the party. I may be 22 years too late for this, but thank you. I'm kind of glad to be alive.

I'm certain Zoey & Sara are glad for it too.

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