From my current vantage point, the world passes in soft silence. A man with a backwards hat bends over his seat, fumbling in a canvas bag. The lights have been extinguished and others move freely around the cabin, no standing in line for the toilet, please. Stay back until the aisle is clear, thank you very much.
The age of the flight attendants continues to astonish me. I took my first air flight during the McGovern campaign. When I left Denver later that week, on election day, he had a chance. By the time I landed in St. Louis he had lost by too many to be questionable. My dejected mother met me at the gate. What a difference a few hours makes, she groaned. I couldn’t even vote then. Now I’ve watched so many presidential elections that nothing surprises me, not the misfit who currently occupies the oval office nor the jackals which circle outside.
I’ll land in San Francisco soon. I’ve overly tipped several porters in desperation for assistance. My artificial knee has swollen and the walking stick which I regained three years after loaning it to an attorney at the courthouse will get use this trip. I contemplate whether I should have explored getting a new knee while I’m in the pay-nothing end of the year. But with the old style sitting awkwardly inside my battered leg, the prospect poses its own sordid challenges.
Better to wait, I think. Better to muddle through; get a second opinion on a new policy. The metal inside me now put me into a seven-week tailspin at a time when my son still needed me. I can’t repeat that, alone, at this turning point in my life. But I’ll not complain. A few dollars buys me cheerful assistance, or what passes for it in the lives of the transient masses.
Now and then, I wonder about roads not taken. I reflect on the little assortment of names in my book; the sisters, the brothers, the friends, the companions. A smattering of former lovers and spouses. I think of them standing at my grave, eyeing one other with suspicion before dropping a rose and moving away. I think of the single malt that I’ve made my son promise to serve at the wake. With the angels, I’ll gaze on the lot with a painful fondness, before turning to those in the wings. I’ll walk away, up, above, beyond.
But for now, I’m starting down another fork in the road. At a time in my life when I should be counting the interest in a government savings plan or a corporate 401(k), I’m counting pennies and watching for land mines as I step on each stone. It’s a strange moment. My breath comes slowly, steadily, with a whiff of incense to tell me something special hovers nearby.
It’s the ninth day of the forty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.