Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Dolphins, arctic seals and a gasping Curmudgeon

I don't know why the marine allusions spring so readily to mind; I've only been in the vicinity of an actual ocean five times, and one of these was for a document inspection and another for a deposition.

Perhaps it stems from nearly 40 years of reading the National Geographic. Like the fictional George Bailey, I keep dreaming of places to which I might escape.

See, for years now, I've seen myself as a dolphin, swimming in the ocean, avoiding tuna nets, and looking for my opportunity to leap above the waves. It's my way of thinking about getting ahead -- getting all the bills paid on time, putting a little money aside, having enough left over to splurge on a new pair of shoes or getting my suits drycleaned.

The dolphin will fall back into the ocean quickly -- nothing good in this life lasts forever -- but there is always the chance that he'll be able to breach again.

In the last several years there have been so many times when I've reached the ocean surface, ready to leap heavenward, only to be pulled back at the last moment by an unforeseen contingency.

Actually, few of my contingencies can really qualify as "unforeseen." I run my life like a politician, focusing on keeping up appearances for my constituents while neglecting to maintain the infrastructure. Politicians have roads and bridges. I have brakes and air conditioners and tires and... well, lots of things.

And I shouldn't complain. Not this year. While the world is crumbling around me, I've been paying down my enormous credit card debt (a side effect of my 2007 brush with cancer) and, mostly, keeping current with everything new. I have two appeals due this month -- and I don't know how the heck I'll do either one -- but I'm hoping to muddle through somehow.

In the meantime, there are distractions aplenty. Older Daughter's wedding, which she and her fiance are largely handling themselves, has nevertheless cost me $5,000 so far -- most of it in dresses -- and also, arguably, one of the two family cars. But for her distraction with Wedding Frenzy, Long Suffering Spouse would never have let Youngest Son drive to school last week on his own... and he'd have never been tempted to take the car on an entirely unauthorized trip to a game about which we knew nothing... and he would never have been able to attempt an ill-advised left turn. Yes, that car is a total loss -- and I'm waiting by the phone this morning for word from the insurer.

And there were repairs to the surviving family vehicle, our van, a couple of thousand worth of work on the brakes and air conditioning." After recent events, I owned up to the fact that I could no longer defer new tires for the van either, and these were installed this week. That bill will arrive with the hotel bills for the wedding.

Everyone has problems, I know. But I take no comfort in the fact, if it is a fact, that your problems are currently greater than my own. (Conversely, if you're doing well, I am truly happy for you. I am.)

And things could be much worse for me, I know. Long Suffering Spouse has pointed out what a close thing it was for Youngest Son to escape serious injury in last week's crash. He did well to avoid being spun into a light pole. He might have been killed. His passengers might have been killed. Any of them might have been seriously injured. I am grateful they were not. But I must deal with what did happen, and that is problem enough right now.

I probably can't replace that car. Under Illinois law (which I've had to look up) I'm apparently not entitled to fix the car, even on a salvage title. By statute, as a total loss, the insurer becomes the owner. At best, if I attempt replacement, it would be from the proceeds of the total loss check... and that will buy something far short of a comparable vehicle, even in this depressed market. And, no matter what, if I buy a used car I buy someone else's troubles.

At this point, I'm supposed to be gearing up for Older Daughter's wedding (Saturday). But I'll be operating from a hotel room in a strange city, attending an unfamiliar church, a church to which I don't belong. Even if it's not exactly the case, I feel like the groom's family has taken over the entire affair. I have promised to relax and enjoy it anyway... but the easiest promises to break are those we make to ourselves.

And then, this morning, on my voice mail, I had a message from my sister Betty. She had two items of business. First, she won't need the hotel room we procured for her for Friday, only for Saturday. And, oh, by the way, her son, my nephew, has been arrested for aggravated battery. He's had mental health issues for years and my sister has been advocating with increasing desperation to have him placed in some sort of residential facility where he can get the treatment he so badly needs. He's going to hurt somebody some day, she's been telling anyone who would listen -- and quite a few who wouldn't. Now, apparently, she's been proved correct.

On days like today, the dolphin analogy just doesn't work. I'm more like an arctic seal, swimming under the ice, making widows and orphans out of the fish I can't quite catch. What's important for me is to remember where the air holes are in the ice, and not to let myself wander too far away. At the moment, I can't see where the next air hole is. Eventually, of course, I'll work through my self-pity and be entertaining again.

I hope.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

this, too, shall pass. i promise. but it stinks that the groom's family have taken over the bride's wedding. that would tick me off totally curmy. it's a very good time to be retired, and i am grateful.

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The wsdding will always be a wallet drain!

Dave said...

I'm going to ignore the aquatic references and remind you that you have a pretty good family, which you know. Families are expensive, which you surely know. But, they sometimes provide fringe benefits, you know that one too, one of which you are about to be on your way to.

Enjoy! Wearing a tux? Everyone looks good in a tux.