Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thank You, God!

Of course, this is a scene from Animal House - where one of the good looking girls from a float was launched into the young boy's room just as he was perusing Hugh Hefner's contribution to our culture. His dream came true.

When I was eighteen, it was a milestone. I could buy beer. Wowee. Legally, at any rate. Naturally, I celebrated. The twenty first birthday was a blowout. I had a big party at the house I rented with some other guys. A couple kegs and "Jet Fuel" were mixed up. Jet Fuel is all the clear liquors you can imagine (why we didn't just go with Everclear I don't understand, but that was the recipe), concentrated orange juice with oranges, lemons and limes cut into it, and maybe some other juice. That part has kinda faded over the years. At any rate, some complained that it was too stout. I didn't think so because I'd been mixing it up, diluting it for some time, and sampling the results for excessive bite. Apparently, the rigorous testing regimen had unduly influenced the "bite" tasting ability I may have had at one time or another.

So, this sort of attitude didn't exactly serve me well. When my thirtieth birthday rolled around, I was pretty depressed. I'd pissed away a couple college educations, and I was "just" a truck driver. Woo hoo. Woe was me. I had a laundry list of things I could point to and say I could have done better. Never trust anyone over thirty rolled around in those thoughts. I was depressed, but not paralyzingly so - it just bothered me at the time.

By the time I hit forty, the ol' attitude had improved. Getting a bit older had taught me that I was a decent guy in my own skin, and I really was contributing to society. I was working for the USPS at the time - eventually becoming desperately unhappy there - but I was a cog in the machine. A good cog. Decent pay and benefits.

The next decade was full of major milestones in my health - and none of them were good. Working at the Postal Service was actually causing poor health - the heart attack was a clue. So I finally quit and tried a different job - the "tech" guy at a car dealership. I had no certification, but I'd taught myself quite a bit. I found selling cars was not my calling, and found my way back into a truck. While I was "under" during a kidney stone zapping, my EKG alarmed the staff, so I ended up getting shipped to a heart hospital. Four bypasses later, and a five month recovery period trying to regain feeling and use of my arms and hands, I ended up back in a truck.

So, I find myself at fifty today. Am I gonna cure the common cold? Not bloody likely. Am I gonna be rich and famous? Equally unlikely. More importantly - do I want all that? Not really. I'm working for a company that treats me quite well - the pay isn't up to Postal Service standards, but I'm not just my Social Security number to them. There are other less tangible benefits to a job like I have. It's a good job.

I've found that living in this area might not be "cool enough" for some - it lacks a lot of what more urban areas offer. However, that strikes me as a plus rather than a loss - because many of the associated problems with larger populations avoid us out here in flyover country. If I want to see a cross soaking in urine, well, I can always go to the big city. Otherwise, not so much.

I've learned quite a few things, really. It is a cliche that the little things in life matter, but there is truth in that statement. The songs of the chickadees over the hot gusty winds - yeah, it's blowing out, but there is something there to be appreciated. The smile of a friend - a neighbor - genuinely glad to see you. Livestock frolicking in the cool of a morning. Running some farm machinery (or a truck) - enjoying the challenge and the music made by well engineered parts working together.

Plus there are other little things that show us we matter. The eulogy I wrote a few days ago was read yesterday at the funeral. One of my best friends read it, since I couldn't be there. Sid's family called to thank me for writing it, and asked if they could use it. Of course I was honored and agreed wholeheartedly. So, even in this small manner, I made a difference.

And I couldn't have written that twenty or thirty years ago. I didn't have the life experiences necessary to read people like I do now, and appreciate the motivations that drive us all. What makes us tick. I'm certainly not claiming to read perfectly, no, far from that. Enough to get by, and enough to tell if someone is real or not. That is sufficient, I think.

So, on this, the half century mark, I find myself more thankful and grateful than pretty much any other emotions. I'm tickled I'm still here, for one thing. Who knows what tomorrow brings? I'm not worried about it - it's gonna come with or without me. I'd prefer that tomorrow involved me, but if it doesn't, I'm comfortable with it.

I'm saddled with an ironic brain. Every time I think: "Thank you, God" I hear that kid pictured above, and wryly consider how I, too, wouldn't have minded having a glittery babe drop into my bedroom. Actually, I still wouldn't mind. It would be like the dog that finally caught the car - what would he do with it?

But, another thing I've learned is that just because a thing is possible doesn't make it probable. The moments in the margins where the world shakers can't see - that's where I'll be. Stay tuned, it's only ten more years til I hit sixty.


Anonymous said...

"Stay tuned, it's only ten more years til I hit sixty."

And another five or six after that til your Chiefs have a winning season...... I'll stay tuned.


Jerry in Texas said...

Great reflective post. Hope I can hobble together one half that good next year. Fifty? Bah! It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, today. Kinda like persimmon. I imagine I'll grow to like it though.

Congratulations, and Happy Birthday!

threecollie said...

That is a beautiful post. You write very, very well and there are plenty of us who enjoy it every post. Happy Birthday!

Jeffro said...

Thanks, everybody!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!

drjim said...

Happy belated birthday!

ptg said...

Fine post, Jeffro. Your readers are grateful for your continued earthly existence as well.

We used to make the same giant cocktail you called "Jet Fuel", except we called it Whompadoola or Whomp for short.

RT said...

Glad you made 50, now onward to 100! :)

Bob's Blog said...

Belated Happy Birthday. I'm quite a ways ahead of you, but just as grateful to be here!