Tuesday, January 10, 2017
I remember when I wasn't afraid of anything. Well, not counting rattlesnakes and tornadoes, which were prevalent enough in Oklahoma where I grew up. But I'd say being afraid of those two things is more prudent than cowardly, wouldn't you?
Okay, I had another fear. When I was very young, my older brother told me there was a Man in the Closet (in our bedroom), and as soon as I fell asleep, the Man in the Closet would come out and Get Me. So I didn't sleep at all for a year or so. (I still check closets before I got to bed ... not.)
But riding around on my bike on my boyhood Enid, Okla., streets, I feared nothing else. Well, except bigger kids, and since I'm not all that big myself, most other boys in our neighborhood were Bigger Kids. One day--a rare Oklahoma snowfall/ice storm--I made an ice ball and fired it at a Big Kid, never really thinking I'd hit him. But I did. Right in the face. We were about a block from my house, and the Big Kid chased me the entire way, and it was then, I suppose, that I learned about the benefits of adrenaline. Jesse Owens could not have caught me that day, so that Oklahoma Big Kid had no chance. None. Subsequently, I avoided him for a few years, at which time we moved to Ohio. Whew. (By the way, I'd looked out the window at him when I got home; he gave me the finger; he mouthed some words I didn't need to hear to understand; I admired the stream of blood coming from his big fat nose.)
Later on, a young man in Ohio, I was still fairly fearless. I drove too fast (a practice that ended when I got married, and some switch in my heart and head turned on, and I realized that something very, very precious was riding alongside me). I went off and did stupid things.
One summer (still single) I drove, by myself, from Des Moines, Iowa (where I was visiting my parents), to Lander, Wyo., to see a college friend who was living out there. Almost exactly 900 miles. Didn't think anything of it. Piece of cake. Drove the same distance on the way home. And, of course, there was the Des Moines to Aurora, Ohio, stint--another 700 miles. Nowadays, I couldn't possibly do that. Nor would I want to.
I also drove in whatever weather. Stay home because of snow!?! Don't be ridiculous! Begin a 600-mile trip in the afternoon? Sure! Why not?
Years passed. I aged. Mellowed. Took it easier. I can no longer drive those great distances now. Not possible.
And just this morning ... I walked home from the coffee shop (about a quarter mile away), shuffling along like ... like ... like an Old Man. We have freezing rain and snow. The sidewalks are more fitting today for figure skating than walking. I was sure I was going to Go Down on the way home. But I shuffled along, thinking of the Man in the Closet, and I made it safely.
Joyce was there, and I told her I was not going outside again today. She thought that was wise. So did the Man in the Closet, who whispered to me--just now--that if I go outside again today, he'll Get Me.