Here’s a question for you: What do you do with your inherent anxiety and sense of dread after you’ve retired and life calms to the point where you have no dread, no anxiety – you’ve sort of outlived those silly and useless emotions?
Are they still in there, buried in the trunk of the tree, like an axe? Because, frankly, not feeling them much anymore, a year since I left the little paper I worked at for 30 long years.
I was never overtly anxious. I would just still hear my parents’ voices when I slacked a little. They weren’t big on lectures and scolding. They set good examples. They rarely sat still.
To this day, I can barely sit still. It’s a Puritan/Calvinist/Cub kind of fan trait. Not quite a curse, not quite a perk.
My son Smartacus was scolding me the other day – now he’s the one looking out for me. He was scolding me because I can’t sit around doing nothing as well as he can. Hey, I’m learning! He has an edge – he’s a teenager. But he’s hardly inert.
When I was his age, I hung out with the kind of people who go to horse shows. I wore Izod shirts and Top-Siders. I was very happy.
As I got a little older, I went broke, then more broke. We ate a lot of pasta. We bought a lot of “pre-owned” cars.
Sure, you can make decent money in journalism, unless you’re me, or marry a princess – both those things dogged us financially.
Money was almost always my first worry in the morning, which is a crappy way to start the day. But join the club. The only people who tell you money doesn’t matter are those with tons of it. Trust me, it matters. Till food is free, or I move back in with my parents, money matters.
Now, the lovely and patient older daughter is talking about moving to New York, where houses are more affordable. I really can’t argue otherwise. California seems to repel working people, and the middle-class more than ever.
This has been building for 40 years.
“Get out now,” I want to tell her. “Run! Go to a place where public policy might, once in a while, be made with you in mind.”
I don’t mean always. Just once in a while.
I’m a big California booster. The healing powers of the sun alone make it worthwhile, and what movie stars we have! The common folk are even better — calmer and more decent, with hearty good-morning hellos.
Such bitchin’ beaches too.
But why would a young couple pay a million bucks for an overcooked starter home in the Valley, when strangers with blue tarps and cardboard boxes might be moving in on your thistled lawn?
In the lush suburbs of New York, hardly a bargain, a million bucks still buys something. And my new grandbaby, Catty Cakes, would have her other grandpa to look after her. And glorious autumns where she’d kick through leaves while she trick-or-treats. On Christmas Eve, it snows.
Love that she would have all that, even as it breaks my heart she might move.
Now, after a year of carefree living, I have something very real to worry about.
Yep, Catty Cakes might be leaving. Hey, didn’t she just get here?
Change sucks, unless you’re some aging Pollyanna, which I just happen to be. I see each day as half full, not half empty, and am grateful to have what I have.
There’ll be other LA-based grandkids, I’m sure. For years, I thought Smartacus was my grandkid, based on the age difference alone. He was my mid-life crisis. Some guys get sports cars. I got Smartacus, a gritty second baseman with a bubble-gum arm.
“Kids are everything,” my dad used to say.
“I wasn’t talking about you specifically,” he explained.
“Just kids as a concept,” he said.
“Still, thanks Dad,” I said.
Life is rich, isn’t it? I think how much my late dad, a good man who adored children other than his own, would swoon over this new doe-eyed granddaughter. I can see the twinkle in his eyes, the same glint he had when he held the lovely and patient older daughter for the very first time almost 40 years ago.
By the way, here’s what I figured out the other day: Catty Cakes is the first daughter of Posh’s first daughter. Posh was also a first daughter, and her mother (Charlotte) was also the first daughter. Props to her, my late mother-in-law Charlotte, for starting this daisy chain of baby girls with gingerbread hair.
Life has symmetry, life has joy. Life has a lot of very good firsts. And a fair bit of hurt.
Put a quarter in the slot. Ride the carousel. Put another quarter in. Ride again.
Round and round we go till you’re a little queasy, and a little high, and you can’t figure out life’s unexpected twists, or where exactly to jump off.
Then, go ahead: Ride it again.
Thanks to all those who got silly with me Wednesday night at Avignone’s, my little escape hatch in Montrose. As is typical of these things, a bunch of strangers got together and left as friends. I hope you’ll put that watering hole on your go-to list. We need friendly neighborhood hangouts like that. Stay tuned for more summer get-togethers in the near future. Meanwhile, have a safe and semi-sane holiday weekend. Keep your fluids up. Hugs.