One Lonely Day = 15 Cigarettes

This summer has been wonderful, and strange at the same time. Weather-wise I couldn’t ask for anything better, but Labor Day weekend was a big disappointment. It felt like Frankfort celebrated a weekend off. For forty years we have had a Fall Festival on Labor Day weekend. This year it was cancelled because of COVID. We will eventually recover from this shock, but it may take a long time, like several years.

Suddenly, fall is sneaking in and the weather is changing. Temperatures are dropping rapidly. It seems like I just got acclimated to living in ninety degrees when all of a sudden today it was sixty. Next week we will have some warm days but in general the temps will swing downward. Fall is in the air, the leaves are dropping from the trees and changing color too. Flowers and plant life are withering from the recent drought. I called it sneaking in, but it seems more like a thud, and its here.

The weather change has me thinking about wintering in a warm climate. I haven’t had that urge for several years, but now I do. I need to get away and shock my life into something new. The one problem I have with this plan is that it is the stress of distancing that has caused me to want to seek out a new life somewhere else, and COVID will be with me anywhere in the world I might want to escape to. I have a lot of thinking and researching to do before I make any reservations.

One scary thought is that my friend base in Phoenix is smaller now than it was six years ago. Being alone will not help to improve my attitude at all. I read a short article published in September, 2020 issue of Departures magazine titled “Happiness” by author Eviana Hartman on how happiness affects people’s lives and one sentence stunned me.

“Happy people are less likely to catch a virus, and loneliness can be as damaging to physical health as smoking fifteen cigarettes per day.”

I quit smoking forty-two years ago, and it scares me to know that I can wipe out the benefits by feeling lonely. Loneliness is one of the biggest problems I encountered after each of my life partners died. It took a long time to be happy again, and I worked hard at changing my life in order to reach a happy state. So far, I haven’t reached happiness after Peg’s passing, but it’s only been fourteen months.

All I can say is that I’m working on it, and that is all I want to say about that.

RUSH

At my age I never thought I would take the time to listen to a rock band, but I did. A few months ago I was in conversation with a friend at a pre-COVID gathering and we discussed road trips. The friend suggested I read a book by Neil Peart. “Who?” I asked. Please spell the name. Being really deaf I couldn’t’ make out the sound. P E A R T he spelled. “Just like it sounds,” I said. “Who is he?” He is the drummer for the rock band RUSH. “Who are they?”

Geddy Lee Neil Peart Alex Lifeson

“They were popular back in the eighties and nineties” was the reply.

“I never heard of them.” I made a note on my phone and several weeks later I ordered the book from the library. Then COVID hit and all things went into hiding including the library. A week ago, I got notice from the library that I had a book waiting. I was surprised when I picked it up that it was by Neil Peart. I had forgotten that I ordered it.

The book is called “Far and Wide, Bring That Horizon To Me,” by Neil Peart. I am now educated on who he is and what RUSH is. I can’t believe that after so many years I am still in the dark about this band. The book is a celebration of the band’s fortieth year together, their last road tour, and Neil’s last big motorcycle trip. The interesting thing about Neil is that he can’t stand spending his life on a tour bus while on tour. To make his life interesting he charts road trips in between concerts and rides the route on his BMW motorcycle. He has one travel companion who rides with him (Safety in Numbers).

To honor their forty years together RUSH did forty concerts on the R40 tour. The rationale was that the members are aging, and afraid that if they didn’t do it now they wouldn’t be capable of doing it later. Aging does have a way of changing minds and joints, and such. There is nothing like a guitarist with arthritic fingers and a drummer with tennis elbow. Then again it might have led to a completely new sound.

As I searched for photos of Neil and RUSH on Google Images I spotted a caption citing Neil’s obituary. What? I just found out about the guy and he died. Yes, he died this January 11, 2020 at age 67, four years after he published the book I just read. He must have learned of his brain cancer shortly after that last road trip. The Glioblastoma took him out of our lives. His goal in life was to be a person that people looked up to. I know I am one of his converts. I want to lead my life as he did, always learning, always seeking new information, always exploring the back ways of the world.

Hangover

Someday’s one wakes up and just drags the rest of the waking hours yawning, and desiring sleep even after eight hours of uninterrupted slumber. It is now four hours since hauling myself out of bed to take on a new day. Finally, it occurred to me that drinking a bottle of wine followed by a vodka chaser may not have been such a good idea last eve. When will I learn that mixing booze is not smart? Or maybe that too much booze is not healthy either.

Sunday, October 15, 1961

Writing should be easy today, but it isn’t. My fingers feel heavy and reluctant to find the keys. My mind seems to be in low gear struggling to climb the hill without any power. I need to downshift and get some torque going or I’ll never get to the peak. A memory pops into mind of my first long car trip in nineteen sixty-two when I drove a Volkswagen Bug across country. It was dark and I was tired, and I was passing through the high Sierras somewhere in northern California. This was before Interstate travel and limited grades. I screamed down hills at full speed headed toward pegging the speedometer at seventy-five. All thirty-nine horses were galloping full speed. Then, the tiny bug reached the vale and began the ascent of the next endless hill that extended into the black sky beyond the reach of the headlights. Passing anybody in the way until the speed dropped to sixty, then fifty, then down shifting into third gear to keep the engine pulling at max effort, then down to second and eventually into first gear and that is where the little bug that could stayed roaring away at full throttle and straining at fifteen mph eventually dropping to five miles per hour toward the apex. It seemed like eternity before reaching the crown, and the process reversed shifting through the gears to pick up speed and then bottoming at max speed before losing velocity up the next hill.

That was a long night driving that road, but I made it through in good shape because I knew how to shift gears and change with the need. Eventually, the little bug that could made it across America and back to Illinois. I learned why I wanted a car with more horsepower on that trip, thirty-nine horses is not enough to pull a lightweight car like the bug up those endless long hills. My gas mileage was great, but I paid for it with time and effort shifting gears. I didn’t learn my lesson too quickly however because I traded my bug for a high powered forty horsepower VW Karmann Ghia.

Hangovers are the body’s way of sending the owner a message about the dangers of pushing life limits too far. Although I am enjoying the solitude of this day my body is screaming at me with a warning to sl-o-o-ow down. My heart pump is working overtime trying to transport oxygen to all the sister components needed to sustain life. No doubt the fluid of life flowing within is also altered with too much alcohol and thus is not as effective as it could be. Brain power is severely limited and response to suggestion is sluggish. Like the little bug that could I feel like I am roaring at max effort to climb an imaginary hill that is seemingly endless. Hopefully, as the day wears on the crest will appear and the effort required to climb will ease a bit.

In the meantime, I don’t think I am going to drink like that again.

The Final Touches

Sunday was a day of rest. I felt lethargic most of the day. Toward evening I garnered enough energy to take a walk. It was hot, humid and somewhat breezy. The bugs kept to themselves to make the walk enjoyable. I came home and showered, plopped onto the couch and fired up an episode of Heartland. Thankfully, the big TV responded and it only took about two minutes for the episode to stream. I am losing faith in streaming from Amazon Prime. Often it takes me twenty to thirty minutes to make it work. The last time I had problems, I fired up my laptop and got the picture immediately. Last night I added Prime Video to my phone and it too fired up immediately. Is there a message here?

On Monday it was time to box the garage sale left overs for a drive to the thrift store. It took about an hour to pack seven boxes with miscellaneous glassware and knick knacks. It filled my trunk and the back seat. I arrived at the charity door at 2:45 pm. and rang the bell for service. The man who opened the door told me I was lucky because they were closing at 3:00. “The website said you were open until six.”

“The store is open until six, we stop taking donations at three.” It took the two of us five minutes to unload and I was on my way.

I looked forward to meeting with my masked friends at the Lions Club meeting that evening. In the afternoon about four o’clock, a huge storm came through and I watched the wind whip my flag pole about twenty degrees from side to side and in a rotation too. Rain fell at an almost horizontal attitude. At 4:30 I shaved and came out to find a message that the Lions meeting was cancelled. The storm passed through Frankfort felling some big trees across power lines. rendering Frankfort powerless and also somewhat treeless. My yard was littered with small branches from the poplar trees behind me. They took the full brunt of the wind while only shedding some leaves and small branches. Later I learned that the entire neighborhood was littered with the detritus of the storm.

Today, Tuesday, I did the same with the remaining pieces left unsold. My eyes teared as I carried the boxes to the trunk of the Death-Star. The relationship between me and my stuff has been long and faithful, but the time has arrived when we must separate and move on. This time I will follow a different rule; there will be no more new stuff, unless it is something I can digest, or it is a fantastic piece of art that I can’t live without.

I have at least one more purge to undertake, i.e. the cleaning and moving of my woodshop. The tears will be alligator sized for that job. Men like physical hobbies and wood working is certainly a hands on activity. Since I have developed an art form that utilizes wood and wood working I really don’t want to part ways just yet. I think perhaps I will down-size the shop to the barest minimum as the next step. What happens will depend on how quickly my number comes up at the place I want to move into. I’ve been on the waiting list for five years now, and have been called twice. Each time I was not ready to move because I was still actively caring for Peggy and there was no possibility of my leaving her. Now that she is gone, I will accept the next offer when it arrives.

In the meantime, I will chase loose women, dodge COVID-19, and drink lots of virus killing alcoholic beverages to stay virus free.

What Do I Do Now?

This afternoon I had a pleasant conversation with a dear friend that lasted over an hour. I am not a chatty guy, but I must be a good listener. During this talk she guilted me into going to a memorial service for a Lion friends sister. After some mind wrestling I decided I will get an atta-boy if I go. Nothing beats an atta-boy. Although one awe-shit erases ten atta-boys. That is why I felt it critical to go to this service. I am sorely in need of atta-boys.

I raced through supper, took a shower, shaved, and dressed for a memorial service, only to find a text saying the service is on August 20 not July 20, grrrr!. So here I sit all dressed up and clean wondering how to save the evening. Guys at my age don’t have black books that can lead to a memorable night. In fact, I haven’t had a black book in sixty-five years. I don’t think it would be of any use if I still had it.

During our conversation we discussed my lack of contact of late. It seems my friends are wondering why I don’t return texts and phone calls. I’ve been wondering about that myself. In the shower it came to me, it is grief. Grief is a strange emotion and it strikes at strange times in strange ways. I was thinking it was depression, but grief is a better explanation. The only way out is to deal with it, which is why I finally consented to go to the wake.

I will take the car out for a drive and watch the sunset, maybe that will compensate. I am truly suffering sexual grief which is what happens when a partner loses a longtime loving bedmate. No one ever talks about it though, they just trudge on through. I on the other hand, having diagnosed my problem, like to discuss it, except no one wants to listen.

So driving off to the sunset is my cure. It’ll give me a chance too think clearly about my next move in life.

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