A few years ago I was in line to renew my driver's license. Right in front of me, an elderly guy (he made me look downright juvenile, which, I guess, is more fitting with my psychological profile). He was not doing well on his eye test. The clerk was shaking her head, all nonverbal cues declaring: This is the end, Sir.
He noticed. And, voice quavering, he said, "All I do is drive to church and the store. That's all, Ma'am." His voice throbbed with the sound of imminent tears.
She passed him.
I all but cheered. But also made a mental note not to be anywhere near him on Sunday mornings.
Church. The store. His routines.
My father, as he aged out in Oregon, had settled into some very fixed routines, too. He would rise early (5-ish), then go to his water-therapy class. (I once commented to my mom how faithful he was to his sessions. She looked at me as if my bulb were not screwed all the way in: He likes to look at the women, she said. Well, I thought ... if it keeps him on his feet ...?) Afterwards, he would come home, clean up, read the paper for a while, then drive down to the local coffee shop in Cannon Beach (the Lemon Tree) where he would grouse with other Old Timers about the damn tourists (me among them?) and eat whole-wheat toast with berry jam and wait for ten o'clock, at which time the mail would be ready. And over to the Post Office he went, picked up the mail from his box, drove home, and handed the pieces to Mom, one at a time, announcing what each one was. (Oh, did that annoy her!) Then he would read through magazines till lunch. After lunch--nap in his chair. Awake: read some more magazines, maybe a book one of his sons had given him. Then supper. Then TV news. Bed. Up at five for water therapy ... The only change: If any football game of any kind were on, he'd watch it. And I mean any kind. If they telecast games between teams of five-year-olds, he would watch till the final gun.
May I note here that my mother was not ... charmed ... by any of this? On the other hand--she always knew where he was and what he was doing. A hit man would need to offer a discount to off someone as routine-manacled as my father.
And now ... am I becoming my father? Our Sundays have become very rigid. I should say "my Sundays": Joyce endures as much as she can, then roars off somewhere in search of sanity.
May I note that Joyce is not always ... charmed ... by any of this?
But as I grow older, I find myself more and more in love with my routines. More and more, they control me. Comfort me.
But I'm starting to think that routines offer more than comfort. They offer a kind of immortality.