Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wayback Machine...A Sleep Interrupted on a Cold Winter Night

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 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?


Lee said...

I've had some thoughts about aging recently myself, as I approach my 51st birthday. A few days ago I waited at a bus stop with a bag full of groceries. There were three drunk kids in their twenties in the bus shelter, so I waited down on the corner, not wanting to get in any kind of problems with them. It didn't matter. They approached and demanded I give them my food. To make a short story even shorter one of them decided he would give me a beating- because he could. It was like something straight out of Clockwork Orange- the young droogs visiting a bit of the ulatraviolence on the old man. As I feel the pain in my back and the lumps on my head every morning now I feel very old.

Jim Bohannon (aka Maché Artist) said...

It's horrible that there are young people so callous that they could treat you so badly. It seems sometime that the older people get, the more inconsequential they become to those who are still in their prime. We do a worship service at a local nursing home every third Sunday, and I go around and give everyone there a hug or handshake and spend a few moments talking with them. I even talk with those who are unresponsive just as though they were able to respond. It's up to those of us who are still healthy and sound to teach out children to love and respect those who are older. When I was a boy, I used to love spending time with my elderly aunts and great-aunts, and today I miss them terribly.