Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hello In There

I took a day off yesterday to celebrate my own holiday, the 6th of July, and to actually give me a break from my routine work-a-day life. I am fortunate in that I enjoy what I do for a living (I'm not sure the people with whom I come into contact feel that way) but sometimes, probably like you, I get so caught up in the 'doing' I stop seeing the reason or I supply different reasons than the ones that brought me here in the first place (and making enough and having enough money is certainly a valid reason for working, it's just a lousy reason for excelling at work; sorry).

If you're a shift or a flex-time worker you've already discovered this, but I'm always surprised when I'm off on a 'regular' work day as to how much of life goes on within you and and without you. I went for a walk around the Norwich Free Academy track, which I try to do normally in the early evening,and there are always a considerable number of other folks out and about, but at 9:15 in the morning, I pretty much had it to myself.

This morning, because I was home, I had the luxury of being to read both morning daily newspapers at my kitchen table instead of on-line, and that means I read everything to include the obituaries. Suspect if you read them, you feel the same way sometimes: I'm always impressed with how long so many people live these days (and hope I and everyone I know and love will be in that number for quite some time to come). Yesterday's papers had folks passing who were in their nineties and all of their families were far away, if listed at all. That so many had so few made me wonder if the parents had outlived their children and suspected they had.

That got me thinking back to something from a long time ago in the third or fourth grade at Saint Peter's School in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Sister Thomas Ann. What happens to you, I asked her, when the last person on Earth who knew of you during your life dies as well after your death? I don't recall thinking I'd nailed anything to cathedral doors in Wittenburg (I'm pretty sure I didn't even know where that was at the time) but I found out when you ask questions like that you spend the afternoon in Sister Immaculata's office (she was the principal) and your mom gets a call at home and your father has to write a note, actually a letter, apologizing for your question even though, as I walked the track at NFA yesterday and thought about those obits in the newspapers, for the life of me, I couldn't understand why I was sorry or for what.

I have a smart phone-or said another way, my cell phone has a stupid owner. I can listen to music from a variety of sources while doing a task such as walking around an oval track in Southeastern Connecticut. In this case, I listen to slacker as it augments the albums I've stored on my phone's memory card (albums? I'm not sure that's what we call music anymore; but it's what old guys like me call it). Sometimes life imitates art and in this case makes me promise to return the favor, which may disconcert some of those whom I pass on the street as I walk in the late afternoons from now on. Through my headphones, came my favorite John Prine song-a song that if we could somehow adopt it as a second national anthem, or as the foundation for foreign policy, this planet might not find itself in the mess it so often seems to end up in and maybe one less person would die all alone in a world with over six billion of us stepping on one another's toes.

"So if you're walking down the street sometime, And spot some hollow ancient eyes, Please don't just pass 'em by and stare, As if you didn't care, Say "Hello in there, hello."
-bill kenny

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