Savannah Morning News column
Nov. 29, 2015
Last week without hesitation or doubt I dated a check 2005.
“That’s nothing,” a woman said when I told her this story. “The other day I wrote my maiden name on a check. I’ve been married 15 years.”
Who can keep up?
Some friends are visiting this week from Durham, N.C. I was sure it was less than four or five months since we had last seen one another.
“Nope,” said Gene. “It was on my birthday.”
That never changes. It was the end of August.
Sometimes it works in our favor, this memory thing. Was it my left knee I broke last summer in Tel Aviv or the right? Or is that just reinventing the past to keep from going crazy with the truth. Now I hear myself speaking of the month-long stay-at-home knee recovery period in almost glowing terms. “It wasn’t so bad. I read three books. I got to experience stillness.”
One thing’s for sure: It’s hard to remember pain. When I tell people my knee hurt so much when I tried to lift it over the threshold going to the bathroom that I had to literally pick up my leg it’s the truth. Not that I feel the pain. I don’t anymore. That ability to block out or forget the pain is, I’m pretty certain, a good thing, although I’ve always found disappointments carry a greater level of emotion than achievements, like submitting work to a writing contest and not winning anything – boo, hiss, rats – versus taking first, second or third (of course who wants to come in second, which is so close to first? Third is better than second). But the award? Whew, OK, I won. That’s good. All with little or no emotion.
Other things are certain too: war, homicide, suicide bombers, crooked politicians, decaying infrastructure, more bluster, more air strikes, more collateral damage. If you smudge out the date on today’s news you might just as well be reading yesterday’s news and not just news from 2015. Nothing new about regime change. Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Iraq, Afghanistan. Doesn’t work. Nations, like people, have to change themselves.
It’s a wonder we read anything at all in the news. Some people don’t. Some people on the drive to and from work listen to Mahler or Mendelssohn or Nine Inch Nails. News updates? Paris bombings? What Paris bombings? As far as I can see these people don’t seem to be missing out on anything.
I tried that one day. I left my phone at home (ok, not deliberately), but with it all vital information, camera, calendar, calculator, date, weather, connection to news updates, reminders, email and “notes”. I swear my shoulders dropped three inches. I stood taller. I sat and watched a hawk on my neighbor’s chimney (he was sitting very still, just waiting for me to open the chicken coop and let the girls out for some exercise, some worms). My arms swung a bit freer. My mind, well, it was just a little freer, too.
It didn’t last. I’m an addict. If it weren’t so serious, if so many people didn’t keep dying, I might as well regard the news as I do a serial television series. As it is I might as well just watch Homeland and get lost in the wily, worried eyes of Claire Danes aks Carrie Mathison (at least we know she won’t die. She can’t. She’s the main character) or Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson (he can’t die either; he’s another star and he’s the former head of the CIA; they don’t die, right?) At least we get to see what Berlin looks like.
At least, on Thanksgiving, we get to eat good, laugh good, be around good friends and feel good. That never changes.
I was talking to someone the other day when out of the blue he asked how long I have known a mutual friend of ours.
“Since 1989,” I said to Ben. “You probably weren’t even born yet.”
“I was 2,” he answered.
A few minutes later he asked me over to dinner. What’s a few years, anyway, I thought. Nothing. Nothing at all. It’s just time.