Brulog

Words of occasional wisdom from Bruce Oakley

Looking on the bright side

Posted by boakley59 on September 16, 2009

Today is “Be Glad to Be Alive Day.” Yesterday’s post, and my mood of late, have been too gloomy, a little too resigned for my taste. I don’t like surrender or the feeling of weakness. It is a measure of my illness that it saps my get-up-and-keep-going.

I did end yesterday’s post with a hopeful wish, and I mentioned some of the good things that have happened lately. I want to expand on some of those good things today, because I’m overdue mentioning them.

Today is “Be Glad to Be Alive Day” in part because I seem to have my health issues under better control. An infection in July sent me to some doctors I hadn’t seen in a while, and the things we are doing in the wake of the infection appear to be clearing up lingering annoyances that may not have been part of my primary disease. I have been thinking a lot about starting to jog again lately, and even being able to consider it is a fair step forward as far as the last two years have gone. I have tried to start a few times in these two years, but I knew I was pushing it to try. I feel improved enough now that I don’t think it would be pushing it to begin gently. Suzy reminds me to be careful, and I do well to listen to her, but I take it as a positive sign that I have the energy to be restless.

It’s “Be Glad to Be Alive Day” because it’s been a long, hard road and I’m still here. I got a pretty, new guitar for my 50th birthday, really a bit too much of a present in our family for anything but a milestone birthday, so I appreciate it all the more. It sure helps my mood to sit down and play. The extra body of the 12 strings is good for nudging my voice closer to pitch, which I expect is something of a relief to all within earshot of my practice sessions. I’ve had so much fun with it that I have also gotten out my banjo and have been plucking away at it, too. The more music, the merrier. Now I just need to find some pickers and grinners for a jam now and then.

The summer has been wonderful for family reunions, too. Courtney has grown up a lot in the last couple of years. He is a responsible young working man plugging away in the school of hard knocks, trying to take care of his family and build a budget for the future. It’s tough when your pay doesn’t go far beyond the grocery bill, and he has a lot more on his plate than I did at his age. I had a lot more help from my parents than he’s had from me, too, though we’ve managed to kick in a good bit in a couple of situations. He did a very nice thing and came to see me for Father’s Day, more than a year since our last visit. He had an emergency appendectomy last year and I couldn’t be there, so I was glad he was well, and touched that he was able to come to me this year.

I’m glad for the health of a lot of those close to me. Mom is sturdy and reasonably spry now that she’s not worn out with the load she had taking care of Dad in his last days. My cousin, Tweety (Marlene), and her husband, Steve, live near Mom in California and brought her with them in August to Tennessee, where they regularly revisit their honeymoon haunts. We got to go meet them there, and seeing Mom for the first time in two and a half years hit hard: Joy because that’s too long to be apart from family; bittersweet because Mom is getting old and I’m sick, so there’s good reason on both sides that we don’t see each other more often, which also means that time is short and each such visit is more precious than the one before.

My sister, too, is doing well. She and her son also got down to Tennessee to meet us all. Sean has grown into a pleasant young man, and Marcy and her new husband are straightening out their debts and working hard to build security. I hadn’t seen her since her wedding last year, and it was good to see her happy and gradually conquering financial stress. We were sad her husband, Ernie, couldn’t get off work, but glad that meant more progress on bills.

Come to think of it, it’s “Be Glad to Be Alive Day” because I can look no further than my family and see that my own struggles are not so bad, or are at least not so unusual. My son is in debt because he doesn’t make much and had an emergency appendectomy; my mother is on a fixed income and has no room for medical emergency; my sister and brother-in-law are wrestling with debt arising from his first wife’s terminal illness. With the help of Social Security, we’ve got our heads above water, though every car repair or new hospital trip knocks us back to a thin edge.

We had another reunion in Tennessee, with an old friend from my early days in Little Rock. She has had health problems, too, and just finished a year’s editing contract and now faces unaffordable insurance and continued medical bills. She has a desperate job hunt on her hands, or an equally desperate hunt for help in getting the care she needs. It was so good to relive old times and to offer a shoulder, and heart-tugging to think that a shoulder isn’t really much in her situation.

I have family and I have friends, and they have taken care of me when I needed it before my Uncle Sam stepped in. I have done what I could to help them when they needed me, too, and I guess that’s as much as we should ask.

It seems to me that most families look a lot like mine, that most of us have friends a lot like mine, that most of us will decide that we must find a better way to share the blessings of our land of plenty and that most of us know it won’t be a Nazi plot or bogeyman socialism to do it. We all know that we’re all in this together and that the way we’re going isn’t good enough.

In my “Glad to Be Alive” days, I see how my friends and family come together to the mutual benefit of all and I believe that our national family will come together, too. Only in the weakness of my illness do I fear that selfishness can win.

Today, I refuse to be so sick. Today, I will make a more joyful noise.

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