Hey, How you doin’?, he said, the vowel of “hey” lagging in speed, voice smooth as black coffee. I was a little taken-aback by his greeting & even more shocked to find him lounging on an elbow wearing shiny metal-framed Blues Brothers sunglasses. His speech was slowed just a bit, vowels & syllables dragging here & there creating an accent I couldn’t quite pinpoint.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that he was a child of the 1970’s; a kid of peace, love, & rock-and-roll; a teen of smokes & drugs & all-you-can-get. At age 63, the youth had long been gone, but the cheeks below his tousled mop of thinning hair were rosy.
We learned he loved music—guitar, in particular. And I pictured him in a field of daisies, some blonde haired Farah Fawcett whirling around like in the opening scene from the Sound of Music. We learned he loved art…and I figured something odd like paint splattering or wood carving was probably his forte. We learned he loved traveling, & road biking, & Harley’s, & the Beatles.
I couldn’t quite grasp it. Not him. Not the 1970’s. Not the drugs or sex or rock-‘n-roll. But I could grasp the fact that his abdomen was packed with fluid that would have to be drained. I could grasp the fact that his liver was failing, secondary to Hepatitis C he contracted sharing needles. I could grasp the fact that his lungs were destroyed, the consequence of smoke inhalation from years of sacred puffs. And I could grasp the fact that he had regrets.
“My mother told me never to touch the stuff”, the “o’s” & “th’s” lingered in the air, “and god I wish I would have listened.”
My words were gone. I stood silent, not knowing what to say, where to console, or how to encourage.
“But you know”, he said looking at me, “we sure had fun.”
Finally my smile came.
I’d run out of questions & continued my exam in silence. Meanwhile daydreaming about my own future, wondering if I’ll look back at age 63 & take the good with the bad, the life with the malady, the health with the sickness; wondering if I’ll cherish the residue of my memories & poorer decisions or choose to live in regret.
…wondering what substance in my life right now will propel me into remorse; wondering how to squelch it.
And wondering how to make it all more fun.