"And as the sunset came to meet the evening on the hill I told you I'd always love you I always did and I always will" Shane MacGowen
"Sometimes I just feel like dying."
"Mom, don't say stuff like that. It's freaking Christmas."
"I can't say that just because it's Christmas?"
"Yeah, something like that. It's supposed to be the happiest time of the year."
"Well, it ain't."
My mom will soon be entering into her 88th year of life. She expressed the sentiment above today after shoving a notice from a bill collector representing the Fresno Bee in my hand. In the notice, The Bee said that they had done everything in their power to collect the debt before turning it over to the collection agency. They hadn't. I had stopped delivery of the paper while she was in rehab for a broken hip, and she herself had told them to end her newspaper subscription about a month after she came home.
This is the second time recently that something like this has upset her. The first was when the property tax bill on her other property was sent to her post office box instead of her home. It was the 10th of December the day the bill was due before I figured out the problem. She complicated the matter by insisting that she had closed the post office box off years ago; I knew she hadn't because I had collected her mail from the box on several occasions.
I was late for work and didn't have time to argue and told her, "Mom, give me the key to the box. It's in the bottom of your purse on the big ring. " She started to argue again, so I just took the purse from her hands and pulled the key out. The tax bill was there, and I got a check in the mail in time to avoid the penalty.
These incidents are a big deal. There was once a time when they wouldn't have been, but now they are. My mom insists on handling her own bills. It has been one of her primary functions for over seventy years. She takes great pride in the fact that because of my dad's work efforts and her bill paying skills they never missed a payment and never defaulted on a debt.
She knows the implications of what the collection agency letter means, and it upsets her beyond measure. She also knows that the fact that she kept on arguing that she had no PO box even after I held up the key to show her means. It scares her. That last one supset her so much she barely talked to me for a couple of days.
There was time when she would have ripped the Fresno Bee people a new anal orifice. There was a time when her stern gaze alone would have made me regret holding up that PO box key. Those day are gone. Now, she just longs for comfort of such times.
To tell the truth, I long for them too.
I woke up this morning thinking that all I had to do was put an ending to a story, but when I sat down to write it, I discovered I hadn't even started. I had dreamt all night about writing a phrase describing a situation where our opposite natures, the one below and the one above, " collide in their headlong rush from the extremities to form a mirror with which we are forced to see the true version of ourselves."
I don't know where the phrase came from; I was deep in sleep when it made its appearance. All I do know is that I have a thing about intersections and interfaces, those places where two worlds meet and try their best to make do of an uncomfortable situation. Our modern world has really no clue of what interesting places these intersections are, how powerful the work is that they do, or just how prevalent they are.
When I was young, I used to think that our consciousness was as big as the material universe and that, conversely, our subconsciousness could be contained within the capacity of our skulls. Boy was I wrong. One day the flood waters of my subconscious came bursting through the holes in the membrane that separates the two, holes that had been caused by the erosion of wind and rain and the depression created by the deaths of my ex-wife and dad.
I knew instantly that I was going need a new container.
Jesus gave us a heads up on this when he said, "And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles." I knew that day that it was the knowledge of material universe that was contained within the confines of our brain, and that I was going to, at the very least, need to lay hold of something the size of a large swimming pool to handle the subconscious overflow, maybe even a lake or an ocean or two.
As we ate breakfast, Mom and I started thinking of things that we should be thankful about. Our Christmases since dad's death seem to have gotten a little bleak. We always try to remind each other that we actually have it better than most of the people in the world, and that we need to be grateful for the many blessings that we share.
She led off with, "I'm thankful that your dad worked so hard that we never had to worry about food, or shelter, or paying our bills."
Being in a more humorous mood, I countered with, "I'm glad that Hillary ain't president."
She laughed and said, "I'm glad that my grandkids turned out to be such good human beings."
"I'm thankful that that PO Box key was in your purse otherwise I would have looked pretty stupid grabbing your purse out of your hands."
She threw a napkin at me and gave me the mother's version of a look that would've said, "Fuck you," coming from anyone else.
I should have told her how thankful I was for still being able to have breakfast with the woman who had gathered up all my particles from the corners of an infinite universe and channeled them through her body to bring me out kicking and screaming into this big ole crazy world.
Life is such a wondrous thing. It has its share of warts, blemishes, and abrasions but even at its ugliest; it can be sublime. And I worry that we are all to willing to forget this essential truth in our headlong rush towards oblivion.
It is an absolute fucking miracle that we are alive and occupying this place and time. A wonder of wonders that we have eyes and ears with which to explore all the mysteries of universe. We can not only see and hear its glories, but we can break off small chunks of it to taste and smell. We are separated from infinity by the thinnest layer of an epidermis that not only distinguishes us from the rest of the universe but also allows us to feel a wide range and multitude of sensations, some pleasurable and others not so much.
Richard Dawkins, the world famous atheist, once said, "What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody?" Later on, he admitted that atheism provides no foundation for morality. In so doing, he answered his own question.
I don't understand how people would even want to believe that there is no God. It would make our life meaningless and turn the entire history of humanity into a macabre dance of death, the greatest achievements of mankind into meaningless acts of defiance, the words of Shakespeare into the blatherings of a fool, the soaring majesty of Mozart into a muddled mewling, and the Sistine Chapel into hideous looking graffiti on an LA overpass.
Somewhere in the Bible it says something to the effect that when chaos comes to rule the day that we are supposed to retreat to the highest ground. I've heard it explained as a place within us where we keep our most sacred beliefs separate from the profane. Pity the foolish people who have lowered the walls of their temple to let in the statue of Caesar.
I get it. It's hard to hold on to truth sometimes. Life constantly strews our paths with pain and sorrow. But it will be our ability to hold our heads upright and keep our gaze upon the horizon in steady expectation of the rising sun that will allow us to meet what lies ahead with with dignity and courage.
I used to fall asleep on Christmas Eve at my aunt's house in between Taft and Bakersfield listening for the sounds of reindeer hooves and worrying that Santa would just fly away when he discovered there was no chimney there.
Had my uncle and my father been so inclined, they could've climbed upon the roof and made scratching sounds and loudly rang some bells. If they had done so, I would probably still be writing letters addressed to the North Pole and closely watching my steps.