*An excerpt from a ten minute car ride with my son*
“Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this,” my son began, “but I never expected to live past 25.”
I gripped my steering wheel a little tighter. Here we go….. “Okay.”
“Ya know, because of my mental illness and stuff. I always figured I would’ve found a way to off myself by now.”
Just let him talk…. “Okay….”
“So, last year when I hit 26, I decided, well, shit, I guess I need to get my life together and get stuff going, ya know? I started to make plans. All kinds of plans. And then, it was like BOOM. Ya know, if my life was storyboarded out like a comic strip, it would go like this. One panel would be me, looking optimistic, my arms over my head, ready to Carpe the Shit out of that Diem, and then the next panel would be a newspaper floating past with headlines like, “PLAGUE SHUTS DOWN WORLD”. Then in the next panel, it would be me, in a hazmat suit, staring blankly out on a decimated world.”
“Yeah, I swear, I know that the world doesn’t revolve around me and Covid has really fucked up a lot of people’s lives but sometimes, it feels like my life has been just been leading up to a massive, cosmic punchline.”
“Yeah…..I know. So, we’re having pizza for dinner tonight?”
I am looking at a photo of you and tapping away on a machine you couldn’t have imagine.
Frozen in time, you are forever four years old, in a lacy yellow top and matching shorts with your hair in a sloppy pony tail. Your bangs are jagged because a few weeks ago you thought Captain Hook was in your hair and you had to cut him out.
What the hell were we thinking? Mom was so mad because we had an appointment at Olan Mills to get a photo taken that weekend. HA!
In the photo, you are perched on the edge of a rocking as if you want to leap off. You weren’t interested in modeling for memories. There was chocolate cake, ice cream, balloons, shiny tinsel and presents outside! There was a pink and silver tiara waiting for me to claim my title as Birthday Princess! Why are we wasting time here?!?!
You were ferocious.
A tiny thing, all arms and legs, skinny and tan, we wanted nothing to do with Barbies. We wanted to run wild in the fields, play in the creek, climb trees, look for crawdads, pull up rocks and see what crawled beneath.
The world was so big. Magic was real and everywhere. Angels lived inside clouds. Birds and animals carried messages. A towel fastened around your neck with a safety pin gave you super powers. A ring of clover tied end to end became a crown. Sticks were Excalibur. I remember how the wind rushing through my hair made my feet swifter and I felt like The Flash, running faster than anyone else in the world.
Our imagination was untamed. We had yet to be told of what things Could Not Be or Should Not Be. We only knew What If and Why. The day we learned to read, it was the greatest gift because then the Universe unfolded in our hands. Books were magic. Stories were in our blood from the very beginning. When someone read a story, it came alive, in sound and color, right behind our eyes and inside our brain.
Remember when we learned that not everyone could do that? How sad that made us?
And later, much later, when the life began to dim, books became our refuge, our solace, and our truest friends.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. Forgive me. My mind rambles and my memories cascade.
I found this picture of you, of me…Jesus, it’s hard to think of me so young…..and I wanted to connect again with you….with me. That young wild thing that you are, that I was….Jesus….I still am. See, I am that strange sort of adult that never really grew up. Not completely. I mean, I’m fully capable of taking care of myself, paying bills, holding down a job, doing laundry and all sorts of Adulting but…I never lost that part of me that sees magic in rainbows, finds delight in clouds and whose mind is constantly distracting by shiny, new ideas and things.
Here I am, thinking about you and wondering if I measured up to what you dreamed we’d become. All I can say is that I tried my best. I did. I may not have accomplished everything I wanted or promised but I can say that I am still trying.
And I can promise that I will always hold that piece of you, that fiery, wonderful, magical girl, inside of me.
And I promise to never give up. Never grow old. Never lose the fire.
When I was a kid, I went out of my way to step on honeybees.
They were my childhood nemesis. Bees and those nasty sticker bushes that hid in the tall grass that inevitably found my tender, shoeless feet every summer.
Fast forward a few decades and now I know that bees are like super duper important and the whole dang Earth is going to implode because the little striped bastards are disappearing.
So I make amends by going out of my way not to step on the stinger-assed little bastards. I even out sugar water for them.
And I try my best to be as hippy dippy as my Generation X traumatized brain will allow, okay? If I find a snail on the sidewalk, I will pick them up and put them in a safer place. I put out snacks and food for all of my backyard vermin friends. I cut up apples, lay out peanuts, and get the high energy suet cakes for the crackhead chickadees that swarm my feeders.
Once, we bought some traps to catch the carpenter bees that keep burrowing into the porch but I took it down because the idea of these poor bugs slowly dying inside a jar gave me nightmares.
I never kill spiders. They do a lot more good than bad in my book.
I even allow the wasps that camp out in my garden shed some leeway.
Yeah. Wasps. I know that most people think they are corseted winged demons from hell but I thought, “Hey. They deserve to live as much as I do. Right? Right!”
I was taking some gardening gear out to the shed when something slammed into my arm. Out of nowhere! I felt this BAM! and then a STAB! and then a WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?
I dropped the watering cans and screamed, “Motherfucker! What the hell?”
I looked down to see where I was assaulted.
What I’m trying to say is…..I thought we had a deal, Wasp Dudes. You stay on your side. I stay on mine. I let you live your little buzzy lives with little to no interaction and you don’t attack me.
But obviously I was mistaken. And you decided to draw First Blood.
And that was your mistake.
I declare the Summer of 2021 to be Waspapocalypse: The Stinger Falls.
I got my 2nd Covid vaccination yesterday. Team Pfizer!
I felt fine for the most of the day. A quick episode of dizziness around noon. A slight headache started around 7 p.m. Other than that, I was fine. Even my arm didn’t hurt that much.
I did some gardening and housework. I even got the bug to organize my swag for when I get to hit conventions again and took an inventory of my books and what I needed to order.
I thought maybe…..hey, this isn’t so bad.
I thought….maybe I’m special.
Maybe I’ve got some extraordinary physical trait that, until now, was untapped.
So, FF to 24 hours later. And, guess what? I’m not special. Not. One. Damn. Bit.
It’s amazing what hurts on my body. Like, everything hurts. It’s like pain is shooting through my finger tips. My legs feel like they are weighted in sandbags. My eyes feel like raw, stinging bags of poop.
My head weighs 18 THOUSAND POUNDS and it’s taking all my energy to keep it from flopping all around.
Low grade fever, just 99 but for a person who is usually around 97 degrees, it’s uncomfortable.
OH! And the dumbs. I have a severe case of the dumbs.
SO….to cap this off…..I feel like garbage but I’d do it again if it means ending this pandemic and maybe saving someone else from getting Covid.