We both laughed at our circumstances. When the Great COVID Crash of ‘21 hits... we’ve decided we will ride around on the roofs of trains looking for work. We talked about the allure of cooking canned beans over a garbage fire in a 45 gallon drum in the train yards, and smoking old discarded cigar butts. We were yukking it up and when the chuckling died away... something in me just let go and my mouth ran off on it’s own accord.
“Al,” I said, “I don’t get it. We did all the right things. I went back to school. I paid my bills. I kept my nose clean. When others were screwing off at work, I did my job. When others were throwing out their morals and ethics I played by the rules. I worked as hard as you did... and still...I ended up here. I am beginning to get the feeling that my Maker wants me here, so that I can learn something... and I just ain’t getting it. What in bloody hell are we supposed to be doing here?” Sometimes it still perplexes the shit out of me and for some reason, being around Al just brought it all out.
“Well,” he says, “If you’re like me... ya tried the best you could. You made mistakes like everyone else, and you owned them too. Every time we did that, events and times pushed us this way. We tried to be good fathers, good husbands, and good men... and all that led us right smack dab here - guzzling this swill that Tim Horton calls coffee.” Al was all grins.
“It isn’t our world anymore. We tried our best, for the most part we failed... maybe it’s time to accept that too and get out of the way and let others run things. We’ll do what we’ve always done: take our lumps, make the best of it, and stick around until we see how this shit show ends...”
“What else are ya gonna do?” I sighed. I’m with Forrest Gump when he says that sometimes shit just happens, and other times they happen accidentally on purpose. But - Lord, it is so hard. In my old world I made things happen. I calmed angry customers and begged, pleaded, threatened and cajoled our own to try and keep them that way. I wrapped up packages and helped the shipper/receiver. I worked in the cal labs when the boys got swamped. When I needed a break to think and regroup, I’d push a broom or a mop. I did things. I worked mostly on my own outside of that, and my company left me alone to handle my customers as I saw fit.
“Exactly!” Al said. “We drink coffee, we stay the hell out of the way, and try not to get any on us when the shakers and movers collide...!” I dunno how he does it. Al’s family imploded as mine did - only worse. When he got run out of his family for having the wrong opinions and ideas, he got divorced too, and taken to the cleaners in divorce court. I admire his serenity.
Maybe that is how it works? In your last years you aren’t any good to anyone but yourself. The kids are grown up, they’re strong, you yourself are slowing down... and if you aren’t careful you will slow the kids down if you meddle in their affairs. Maybe this is the time to smooth out the rough spots in your character and clean yourself up before you shuffle off this mortal coil...? I have never been a patient or serene man. You put an obstacle in my path, and I will go around it, under it, over it or through it if I have to. Maybe that’s my lot? To accept that some obstacles aren’t meant to be passed? Maybe they are there for a reason, and I have accept it and deal with it...? I can’t help but feel that Al is right. I watch current events and issues and I feel like I am on another planet sometimes. The obstacles fall from the sky so fast now. When they hit the earth they throw up a pile of debris and detritus and I can’t even fathom a way around or through it.
Maybe I will do as Al does. Hunker down, watch out for falling pig shite, and hold out for a break. Hopefully some kind of sanity breaks out soon.