Maybe a Year

The lyrics to a Loudon Wainwright song, Missing You, keep playing in my head. The first verse, and all that follow, tug at me, hard:

He don’t stay out anymore
No more coming in past four
Most nights he turns in ’round ten
He’s way too tired to pretend
Sure, you might find him up at three
But if he is it’s just to pee
Sometimes he’s awake ’till two
But that’s just ’cause he’s missing you
He’s lying there and missing you.

~ Loudon Wainwright ~


It is hard to say whether my failure to ask questions in certain circumstances is attributable to surprise, to shock, or to some other emotional reaction to something unexpected. Whatever the cause, I sometimes neglect to make inquiries that might both inform and reassure me. That’s true, especially, when confronting unanticipated news from doctors or other healthcare professionals. For instance, the procedure I will undergo this morning remains something of a mystery to me because I did not ask questions (or, if I did, I did not retain the responses). I did not expect, on a routine follow-up exam, to learn that a completely unrelated issue—a kidney stone large enough that it is causing the urethra and kidney above the stone to blow up like a balloon—needs to be addressed. That surprise, I suppose, was enough to put my mind in a fog that left me a bit dazed with respect to asking the right questions or remembering answers to the questions I asked.

I wonder why our minds do that to us? I know I am not alone in leaving a doctor’s office in something of a fog, not knowing what I just learned, nor fully understanding next steps. In this case, as I understand it, my situation is no big deal; it just needs to be addressed so it won’t become a big deal. But, in other cases, the failure to grasp the news or fully understand enough to ask relevant questions can be serious. Perhaps it’s the instantaneous realization that we’re not invincible; maybe that’s why we leave without fully comprehending what we just learned. Or maybe it’s something else. One day, I will take the time to explore the matter. But not now. Not today. Today is reserved for getting yet another intrusive medical matter out of the way.


My minor maladies pale in comparison to being  hospitalized. A friend from church is in the hospital, dealing with breathing problems. That’s the sort of thing that makes kidney stones seem nothing but minor inconveniences. Ach! Yet I complain, nonetheless. There are days I get so frustrated with myself for being so damn self-centered, when my problems are so minor and my good fortunes are so extraordinarily broad. Reminding myself of the bounty in my life should be a daily practice. Perhaps that would tend to erase my mumblings about the minor stumbles I make and the inconsequential roadblocks I encounter.


When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.

~ Vietnamese Proverb ~


Gratitude for unknown benefactors is healthy. It reminds us that we did not construct the world in which we live, nor did we create the majority of the positive circumstances that make our lives worthy of appreciation.  The following words have been attributed to John F. Kennedy: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” That’s an even more important lesson, I think. Live by the gratitude we express. That can be hard, sometimes, but it is necessary. Deliberate contemplation about who or what is responsible for our good fortune is humbling. And we very definitely should be humble.


My IC gave me an unexpected present yesterday (but I owe her for half the cost); she persuaded me to have the tree-cutters who were in the neighborhood come to the house to say what they could do to open up the shrinking view of the farmland below. Today and everyday the atmosphere is willing, the newly refreshed view is enough to make me very happy. More genuine gratitude flowing from my mind into the universe.


I am a mess in so many ways. I am like a car that has been run for too long without an oil change. And that same car has been in numerous scrapes in parking lots. It has driven over too many deep potholes; its front end is badly out of alignment. I need to be put in the shop. Repair the dents and scratches. A complete paint job. Rebuild the engine. Replace all the hoses and install new shocks. This process is going to take more than a few hours in a doctor’s office. It will take a month or more at the Mayo Clinic; maybe even a year.

About John Swinburn

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