It was a bright autumn morning, earlier than I would normally get up on a day I didn't have to work.
I wasn't working because just the week before, after returning from a holiday, I had been ceremoniously stripped of my rank and relieved of my post, due to a shakeup of executive management. (That was a trend in the industry at the time, or for all I know still is, I couldn't say... I walked away from that trade after one too many rides on that particular roller coaster.)
I'd spent the last three business days job hunting. I'd spent the day before responding to the want ads from the local Sunday paper. Exhausting those, I'd decided to have a look at what might be posted in the weekday classifieds, theorizing those companies would likely be more ready to hire. (This was before I owned a personal computer, much less a laptop, so, at the time, I was still tuned into a world that included print.) I checked a handful of pockets and drawers, but, not finding any change for the corner rack, I determined to pop down to the local market and pick up a paper, a coffee, and a danish for a good start to my day.
I drove the 10 or so blocks with the radio on, lost in my own thoughts.
At the service counter, I waited in line behind an elderly gentleman, who was engrossed in a conversation with the store clerk about his recollections of
Do you ever have conversations in your head? You know, those snappy retorts you think of coming back with after the fact, or the hypothetical two cents thrown into a given situation you're otherwise not part of... things you don't actually say out loud, but imagine to yourself what it would be like if you did? I do that all the time, usually without change in my outward demeanor... it's my own form of brain-to-mouth filter... keeps me from spewing verbal toxic waste at innocent (and not-so-innocent) bystanders when I'm just feeling a bit snarky without (and sometimes with!) justifiable cause, because then I can convince myself I've sort-of got it out-of-my-system. (Not unlike the internal segues on an episode of Scrubs.) The harangue I telepathically drooled on the octogenarian in front of me went something like this:
Yeah, Gramps, we hear you. We know how it starts... we know you tell us, us kids today have it so easy... we know how you used to do the same work as a crew of farmhands before the sun came up, with only a glass of milk and a couple of crackers for breakfast, then walked a dozen miles to school, uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the snow, with no coat and fourteen 8-pound schoolbooks slung over your shoulder in a burlap napsack, through wolf-infested woods, with only a candle to light your way, and only a slingshot to defend yourself with... yeah, we've heard all the stories...
We know you didn't communicate with each other back-in-the-day the way that we do now. We know when you had an issue, you didn't spill your guts to the neighbor's wife or the town doctor... we know you sucked it up like a man and got on with your life, cause that's what men are supposed to do. And, even during The Great War, we know you didn't bring home to your families your mental anguish and emotional damage over the ignominious nightmare you'd witnessed. You took that 3-month long boat ride home from the other side of the world and you poured out your soul to your brothers-in-arms, and when it was over, you tucked it away and you were done with it. And now that the movie Saving Private Ryan, with its dynamic drama, authentic acting, and fantastic effects has made you feel like you were right in the middle of that abhorrent cesspool all over again, you're dredging up all those old war wounds that never really healed quite properly.
So, since you never learned to make use of the resources at your disposal in this newfangled modern world we live in today to address your personal traumas, allow me to help out, Pops, and say Thank you. Thank you for stepping up to the call to come to the aid of our country, and indeed, the world, to deliver us from tyranny and oppression. Thank you for risking life, limb, and permanent psychological suffering for the good of your fellow man. Thank you for coming home and taking care of yourself and your family, without depending on your fellow taxpayers to support you. But mostly, Father Johnny-Come-Marching-Home, Thank you for realizing that we have recognized your contribution to our wellbeing and livelihood more than two quarter-centuries ago, and despite whatever oversight we may have perpetuated in the past, we have done our part to show our appreciation, and we would now like to get on with the rest of OUR lives.
But of course, I didn't actually SAY anything like that, or at least, not out loud, anyway. In fact, I didn't say anything at all. I knew he was probably just a lonely old man, with very little money, and probably few surviving friends or family, whose daily simple pleasures came in the form of a shuffle to the neighborhood corner store, and a chat with the pretty young counterlady, or anyone who would talk to him. How could I do anything to discourage or trifle with that? I took my purchase, and followed him out, with a wink and a smile that made him blush and glance away quickly, as I hurried on to my car.
On the way back home, the song over the radio finished up, and the DJ came on with morning news. I normally tune them out, and was reaching to change the station, but this time the announcement was a bit more compelling.
Wait, what did he just say? He must have read it wrong, or their press connection must be misfeeding… I mean, really, a plane couldn’t bring DOWN the World Trade Center… it’s way too sturdy to COLLAPSE…
I raced up the steps to my floor and burst into the living room, tossing my keys onto the couch, and grabbed the remote. The moment CNN came up, the first image on my screen was the live feed as the second tower receded thunderously back into the earth in a cloud of black smoke. As I watched, my fresh bag of goods fell to the floor, as did my knees, descending in one motion along with the corporate structural juggernaut.
I could go on about the emotional impact of those few moments, the next few days, and even months, but, this story is not about our nation’s tragedy of that day.
I do believe thoughts are things. I do believe they carry a certain power by perpetuating the energy we give them into our surrounding environment. I do believe we have a responsibility to ourselves to make certain our conscious musings contribute to our subconscious manifestations in such a way that brings desirable elements into our lives, so that we don’t #@$% things up in ways we didn’t intend.
I considered the impact of the thoughts I’d had about the old man in the store, who’d obviously known more of what had been going on in the world in the last hour that morning than I had, I realized then.
When I was eventually in a somewhat collected state, my thoughts turned back to another imaginary conversation with him:
I’m sorry Grandfather. I’m sorry I disrespected you by misinterpreting your response to this atrocity and jumping to inappropriate conclusions. I’m sorry I didn’t give you the attention you deserve. You were right. You HAVE been uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the muck, and the slime, and the filth of humanity, and I am sorry you’ve had to experience this shock and rage at man’s injustice to man twice in your lifetime. Thank you, Grandfather, for all you’ve done for us. Thank you, for still being here, a source of inspiration to us now, as we set out upon the path you have already tread. Thank you, for being a shining example, a beacon of hope, Grandfather, as a window into the past to remind us that life will go on, that the sun will still rise, that we will all be okay. Please, Grandfather, show us the way… help us get through this. Help us learn to heal.
LJ Idol | Season 6 • Week 2 - Topic: UP HILL BOTH WAYS, BAREFOOT
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