Commencement

I did not expect to wake up this morning to snow, but there it was. The car sitting in the driveway was covered with the stuff. Not a lot, but there was a dusting sufficient to completely cover the front windshield. The solar lights along the driveway, capped with white smudges, offered more evidence of snow during the night. And so did the bushes on the far side of the driveway. The snow was visible only because something triggered the motion sensors that turn on the exterior porch and garage lights; the unusual brightness of those lights prompted me to raise the blinds. That’s when I saw the snow. As soon as the lights went out, all I could see was darkness. I had to walk outside, my motion setting off the lights, before the white blanket became visible again.

According to Alexa, who lately is prone to stretching the truth and randomly blurting out comments in Spanish, the temperature is 32 degrees. The app on my phone claims it’s 30 degrees. And the temperature sensor inside the screened porch registers 33 degrees. I know with certainly only one thing: it’s cold outside.

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My intention to get my second shingles shot yesterday went unfulfilled. Rain, slick roads, and cold temperatures conspired to send me directly home from the hospital yesterday afternoon. And I did not have the patience to wait for weekend opening hours yesterday morning. So, today I hope to get the second shot. We’ll see. I need to go shopping, too, but I’d rather spend time with my wife at the inpatient hospice. My sister-in-law offered to do shopping for me yesterday, but I can be rather picky about brands and the like (and slow to decide what, exactly, I want), so I declined her kind offer. I may opt to shop online again and pick up my order in the parking lot.

Shopping for groceries online is considerably easier than shopping for clothes online. To my knowledge, there are no reliable standards for clothing sizes for men. Inseams, for example, advertised as 29 inches (I have short legs) can range from 27 inches (a good length for me) to 31 inches. Waist size claims have even greater variations. And I’ve never fully understood the concept of “rise,” which seems to vary by manufacturer. So does the description of where pants should “sit,” often presented as “at the waist,” “below the waist,” “slightly below the waist,” etc. Inseams and waist sizes seem almost random. The common advice for men’s trousers is that their length should be such that there is a slight break at the shoes, but the pants should not “puddle” above the shoes. I would very much like to have pants that do not puddle, but they do not make inseams short enough (or, if they are short enough, the waist is not large enough). I suppose my girth is larger than it should be, which may account for the improper ratio of inseam to waist size, thereby causing puddling or, in some severe cases, deep pooling. I attribute part of my problems with pants sizes to my lack of a discernable butt; another part is the abundance of excess body size with respect to circumference of the waist.

But it’s not pants that I’m most interested in at the moment. Facebook reminds me, regularly, with photos of years past, that I am wearing the same shirts today that I wore ten or more years ago. Some of them, anyway. I still have a few shirts that no longer fit, probably because I used the wrong laundry detergents, causing them to shrink by a factor of 25 percent. But I wear at least four long-sleeve shirts that have maintained their sizes or, perhaps, have always been more than a little big on me. I can tell by the brand name tags sewn into their collars and the extreme similarities of pattern and style that I bought them at the same time.  I think it’s time to, if not replace, augment them with new shirts. Ideally, all of my clothes would be “bespoke.” I like that term. Custom tailored. I would not pick fabrics that require any special care. I would select durable material that does not wrinkle. That’s true of both shirts and pants. I’m getting a little tired of jeans, but that’s almost all I ever wear. I’ve been dissatisfied with other fabrics; perhaps my dissatisfaction has been more with fit than with fabric. Jeans can be forced to conform to my shape, or vice versa. Fabrics with less density and strength tend to make me look lumpy and frumpy. Or perhaps it’s me that makes the fabrics look that way.

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I want to have long conversations with my wife. I want to hear her talk about what’s on her mind; what she is thinking. But she has never been one to share her thoughts. Her thoughts are private. She defines introversion as clearly as anyone I’ve ever known. I am introverted, as well, but in a completely different way. I open up to the computer screen when no one is looking over my shoulder. She does not.

Now, though, her voice is weak and her energy is very low. She does not have the capacity to talk to me at length at the moment, even if she wants to. Much of our communication over the years has been nonverbal; we’ve known, to some extent, what was on one another’s minds. But her condition makes even that difficult for her. She sleeps much of the time. When she is awake, her thoughts often are far away, hidden in the distance of her eyes.

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I am close to no one. The isolation I’ve always coveted surrounds me like a shroud. It’s odd, I think, that I tend to express so much through my fingers and so little through real, honest, intimate conversation. I’ve always been afraid of revealing, verbally, my weakness and uncertainty; as if refraining from saying the words in favor of writing them will shield me from judgment.

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I had a brief online conversation this morning with a high school classmate, a woman I have not seen in roughly fifty years. She lives an isolated life in the desert of west Texas. Reading her words made me think of how life often is so very different from the way we imagine it to be. I think she envisioned that she would live a romantic “wild west” experience in the desert but, in fact, it seems to be more of a gritty, hardscrabble life among people whose softer sensibilities have been erased by smothering sand and inescapable poverty.

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One year ago today, I wrote about how it is almost impossible to relive, precisely, physical pain but recollections of emotional pain can be just as vivid in memory as they were in fact. My feelings on that matter have not changed. And, now, it’s time to commence the day.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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