All Systems Go

By Jim Hagarty

The first time I saw little black shadows floating across my eyeballs, I thought I was in big trouble.

All of a sudden, spiders were living in my eyes, but when I would try to get a good look at them, by turning my eyeballs left or right, they would scamper away. I would just see a trace of them as they ran to hide.

Panic-stricken, I ran to the doctor. He explained that these were “floaters”, nothing to worry about. Just something that comes with age. I still have them, but I am so used to them now, I rarely see them any more.

The first time a 747 went roaring through my head as I settled into bed to try to sleep, I thought I was going deaf. It was tinnitus. Hearing damage from loud and prolonged excessive noise over many decades had left me with this ringing in my ears that will be there till I die. I barely notice it now.

Other lovely things awaited. Skin tags? Oh yay! Off to the doctor, onto a hospital bed, have them snipped off. They grew back, or at least, new ones showed up.

Skin damaged from too much sun exposure keeps my dermatologist in business.

I have been to all kinds of specialists with all kinds of complaints. I am glad they have been there for me.

But the other night, I had a telephone conversation with a woman who phoned me out of the blue, someone I hadn’t seen in years. She is 80 now. The entire conversation, from her end anyway, was about health and doctors and death. I couldn’t wait to get off the phone.

I met a neighbour the other day, also a senior. She asked me how I was doing.

“Well,” I said, only half jokingly, “I wake up in pain every morning. My whole body. From my toes to my nose.”

“What are you doing about it?” she asked, and was disgusted when I replied:

“Nothing. I want nature to take its course.”

She was not amused.

Maybe I have fibromyalgia or something like it. Maybe there’s a treatment or a pill or a yoga class …

But I feel like I wasted too much of my mid-life worrying about my health declining and now that it actually is slipping a bit, I don’t feel the need to pull out all the stops to reverse what is probably mostly irreversible.

I can walk, talk, see, hear, swallow.

I’m good.

That might be the thing about becoming a senior that can’t be anticipated. We know NASA is going to have to shut down some systems to keep the craft in orbit. But as long as we can look out that little window and see the beauty of the Universe …

It isn’t that the body would begin to degrade. We knew that. In my 40s and 50s, I thought that would be awful.

Now, it seems less of a big deal.

I’ve got a dreaded energy drink cooling in the fridge and a chocolate bar in the cookie jar. A lawn chair waiting for me in the back yard.

Things are fine.

Door Number Three

By Jim Hagarty

“Does anyone know where Luigi is,” is the oft-asked question in our house regarding the whereabouts of one of our elusive cats. His twin brother Mario conceals himself, all day long, in plain sight.

“Hang on, I’ll find him,” I call back.

Then I reach over from the computer table and lightly slam the door to the basement. In less than four seconds, Luigi will extricate himself from his hideout and appear at the door. He cannot stand to see that door closed. Beyond that door lies his food dish, waterbowl and that little enclosure we affectionately call (all us being Christmas Vacation fans) the shitter.

The opposite also works. If Luigi is in the basement, and I want him to come upstairs, I don’t bother calling him. I just close the door to the basement. Four seconds later, “Scratch, scratch, scratch.” And presto. There he is.

A friend told me many years ago the cat is always on the wrong side of the door.

What a wise woman she is.

Something Like Love

Me and My Uncle cover

By Jim Hagarty
Something Like Love was co-written by Michael “Earnie” Taylor and D. Adams. Included on the CD Me and My Uncle, available in the Corner Store. This is a lightness attached to Earnie Taylor’s material that is infectious.

Something Like Love by Earnie Taylor.

My Lottery Winnings

By Jim Hagarty

If I ever win a lottery
And I hope some day I do,
I’ll call your number on my phone
And give the prize to you.

I think you need it more than me.
I’d only waste the cash.
I’d buy a car I can’t afford
And put mine out for trash.

I’d buy a bigger house that comes
With hot tub and a pool.
I’d have flat screens everywhere
Like a big spendthrifty fool.

I’d hire two servants and a maid
To cater to my needs.
Produce a documentary
To broadcast my good deeds.

I’d own a helicopter
And a nice two-seater jet
And fly to Vegas twice a week
To toss the dice and bet.

I’d buy a ranch outside of town
With horses, cows and goats
And guard my special privacy
By installing great big moats.

Now that I think about it,
Though I’ve known you a long time.
If I ever win the lottery
I won’t give you a dime.

On Pespective

By Jim Hagarty

I never used to cry.

I think I went a whole decade or two in my earlier life without shedding so much as a tear.

Now, some days, I’m a blubbering idiot.

The other day, I wrote a poem about cattle and I bawled louder than a calf lookin’ for its mama all the way through the writing of it and for an hour after. I’m tearing up right now just remembering it.

The slightest thing can set me off.

But it’s the strangest thing. There doesn’t seem to be much sadness associated with the tearbursts that come over me like a sudden rainfall in spring. Maybe a bit. But it seems like the waterworks are associated more with gratitude than with regret.

I have been an incredibly fortunate man and have lived what seems to me to be five lifetimes in one. I am not sure what my goals were at 20, but I surely never imagined a life as good as the one I have been given. I used the word “given” on purpose. The Universe has been kind to me.

I spent a lot of years, I think, not feeling much. Hunkered down in the chase after all the things that are supposed to matter to a man in mid-life. Success, recognition, financial stability, accumulation of possessions, accumulation of experiences like the kind that travelling the world can bestow. Too busy living life to be absorbed with much reflection.

But now I remember moments. I remember people. I remember favourite pets and favourite trees and favourite places on Earth that have brought me joy.

And sometimes when I do, a tear or twenty escape their normally locked-tight holding cell.

These days, there seems no need to keep the door locked on my feelings.

That is the thing I am most grateful for.

Because mixed in between the tears is laughter, laughter like I have never known before.

Tears and Laughter originate from the same sacred holy ground called Perspective.

Whatever advantages young people have in life, and they have many, Perspective seems to be the prize waiting near the finish line.

Perspective is what causes old folks to declare …

I wouldn’t change a thing.

The Toys of Our Lives

By Jim Hagarty

There is a special pain reserved for the hearts of the parents of young children.

It has nothing to do with the stress of bringing them up safe, sane and sound but rather, with the certain knowledge that the children we see before us today, will have vanished forever by next month, or even next week.

Children change so rapidly that it seems that overnight, the boy who screamed from the back seat for his father to stop at every fire station on their route so he could be taken in to meet the chief and see the fire trucks, now can ride by the biggest firehalls without even a glance out the car window.

To see your child walk dismissively past toys that only last month captivated him for entire days or to have him protest, “I don’t want to play that game, Daddy!” when you try to resurrect an old routine, can leave a lump in your throat the size of ten of those toys. Because what it means is that you are losing him; he is one step closer to walking out your door for good. And to contemplate never again having that person you would literally die for around all the time is to peer into a future too lonesome to imagine.

The child, of course, has only one mission: to develop, to grow, to expand his horizons. It is a crime to hold him back. But as the length of those times during which he is content to sit in your lap and snuggle in front of a good cartoon on TV begins to shorten and now everything is baseball bats, bicycles and best friends, a Dad can be forgiven for wanting a few more uninterrupted hours curled up in the armchair with his son.

Any amateur psychologist will tell you that what the father is really mourning here is not so much the passing away of his boy’s childhood days but the ebbing away of his own life. It is himself he is crying for, not his son. And while I’m sure that’s right, I’ll bet that same psychologist never sat in the dark with his boy at bedtime playing, “I love you higher than the moon, much” and had that little boy fall asleep with that tiny cheek against his face.

Because if he had, he would know what he had lost when that boy, instead, climbs up by himself under his comforter covered with hockey team crests and says, “Will you scratch my back, Dad?”

Fortunately, each new stage of a child’s life is as interesting as the one he just left which is supposed to be compensation for your loss. But I will always remember those hugs that were tighter than the tightest wrestler’s hold and that little voice whispering in my ear, “I love you higher than the sky, much.”

No feeling I have experienced before or since, matches that one.

Unconditional love is a hard thing to put out of your mind.

I have never been able to do that.