Living in the Now

Lately, I live more happily in my memories. I revel in them, albeit briefly. The present offers little, aside from attending to life’s routines. Some friends are far, a world away. None are near. Few, I daresay, are close.

I fell in love a few times.
—scratch that. Too much pain. Far from enough love.

But the cars! Oh, the cars, those magic machines that brought such joy!

I remember driving the big Opel wagon in Holland, and how European it all felt. Hurtling along the motorway, not a clue where I was or where I was headed.
Big German cars make you want to go very fast.

Exhilaration.

Brightest of all was the first time I drove the very car that would be my first car, (my only car for more than ten years) on a warm spring day in North Carolina. That sparkling Fiat 124 Spider, so Italian, so svelte, so lovely still, captured my imagination.

I cherished it. To keep its delicate flanks pristine, I never parked it near other, mere mortal machines. Even in winter—sometimes—I drove it with the top folded down.

Sublime happiness.

There was a second Fiat, too, the red wedge with the engine in the middle and trunks on both ends. After I bought it, I’d sneak outside in the early morning just to make sure it was still there, and that it was really my own. At first it wasn’t. It was the bank’s, because the bank lent me the money to buy it. After a while—how long I can’t recall—I repaid the loan.

Independence.

That second Fiat brought my 14 pound cat Tigger home from the pet shop. He wasn’t 14 pounds at first, except for his MIAOW, which implored me to release him from his prison.

Riding in the Fiat, secure in the knowledge of a great new home (with a yard), he became quiet and well-mannered, which he always was thereafter. He was that sort of cat, large, strong, and accommodating almost to a fault. He was a pushover for his mate Squeaker, who ate from Tigger’s bowl after he’d emptied his own. Tigger disappeared one day, 16 months after we’d moved to small-town Iowa. I was very sad. I loved him so.

The local pet psychic was no help at all. Her wacky stories of his nightly excursions to be with other cats in a park were just fodder for my devastation. I found them unbelievable, and, really, unbearable. These furry animals we love so much are hard to lose.

Loss.

I like to remember the shining evenings after I heard the NY symphony. I walked alone on Central Park West toward Columbus Circle, under the lights of the great city. The air, with the huge green Park nearby, was the best in New York.

My friends came for a visit from down South. One rainy night as we walked toward Union Square, our lone umbrella suddenly gave up and closed. “Put $5 in the handle,” I told them. They laughed. Then I saw that digital counter high up on a building, counting something worth 15 digits. They laughed again when I said, “That’s the number of salt granules in a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips.” I loved them both very much. But that is all I will say, except that laughter was not their stock in trade. I guess I got lucky, though it hurt.

Bittersweet.

Twice I thought I’d lost a hearing aid. Though the search was successful each time, each search was fraught with a ragged, disconcerting anxiety. Getting old is challenging. 

You somehow pass through all youth’s clever attempts to derail you. Youth does its best to fool you into thinking you’ll always be around. Then mortality meets you at the door. It looks you right in your eyes at times, as it did me yesterday, when the dentist told me that my big ol’ right side molar was beyond repair. The hygienist said, “You have a huge cavity there.” I wanted to ask her if it was a big as a car, but my mouth was busy. My dentist didn’t want to tackle the job. She sent me to another dentist, an Asian man with a very Anglo first name. The extraction was surprisingly painless, amazingly fast, and incredibly expensive. I’d never had laughing gas. American Express sent me an email saying that I had made a “large purchase.” I did not find humor there. The laughing gas had gone away.

Ouch…but Over and Done.

There are other hangers-on that have been with me for far too long. I wish dropping them could be as easy as throwing confetti at a passing parade from a window high in the sky, and watching the little bits swirl down to be swallowed by the earth.

I hope that day will arrive.

About Russ Wollman

My feet are finally in the water, and I want to keep them there.
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