An interrupted sleep in the wee hours of a cold winter evening left me awake with my thoughts. One of the wonderful gifts of journaling is finding refuge at any moment to reflect on life - to analyze and record life in general, and my life in particular. The crisp early morning hours in an insomniac daze seem to nourish serious reflection unlike any other time of the day. Let's take The Wayback Machine to December 2004:
Thursday, December 2, 2004 (4:39 a.m.)
I woke up over an hour ago to the sound of a dog barking repeatedly. I wrestled myself through layers of sleep until I was aware of it. It sounded as if it were off in the distance, but not to far. At first I figured it was Carol’s black Lab, but then it sounded like Toby. I realized he must have gotten loose and was trapped somewhere.
I stumbled around and got blue jeans and a sweat shirt on, slipped on my tennis shoes without socks, and finally found two flashlights in the den where Patrick had them (it’s generally impossible to find one in an emergency). I headed out the door, but Toby had stopped barking by the time I got outside. I whistled and called, and he finally yipped a little. I traced where the sound had come from, and after a few false starts into the woods made my way into the thicket until I found him.
He had pulled the chain and post out of the ground, and it was wrapped around a sapling and undergrowth. It is miserably cold out – at least for stumbling through the night after being startled out of sleep – and my hands were stinging as I fumbled to unwrap the chain and retrieve the post. Toby and I made it out of the woods, and I got him established by his doghouse.
I came inside to look for something to put in his house to help him stay a little warmer. Cris roused long enough to go through the stack on the cedar chest and pulled out an old threadbare pink and white sheet with a hole ripped into it – I believe we’ve had that sheet since we got married. I took it to the doghouse and got Toby to go in. He’ll probably have it pulled out and ripped up by morning. Why is it that animals and children seem to rebel against anything you do to try and take care of them?
After I came back inside and got my hands washed in lots of hot water, I climbed into bed, but I couldn’t relax to go back to sleep. I lay there a while in the dark with Cris snuggled near – which is the only reason I didn’t go ahead and get back up. It’s hard for me just to lay in bed when I’m awake in the wee hours...my mind gets troubled with all sorts of thoughts.
One of the things that was going through my mind was what will it be like when I get too old to go stumbling through the woods for my animal in distress? Who will I turn to? Who will I depend on? Being old is a frightfully helpless state of existence, even worse, in my imagination, than the helplessness of an infant. At least the infant grows and matures and develops into a self-sufficient person. Aging leads into deeper stages of helplessness. Is that really all there is to look forward to, if you don’t die early enough? It’s a bleak thought, but one, I suppose, that I must keep studying. My hair is gray (albeit prematurely) and some wrinkles are already starting to settle here and there on my face. It will only get worse as time goes on. I’m on the other side. I’m in decline. How does one overcome the looming tragedy of that?