I am not one to complain. Confess! Ming, have you ever heard me complain? No. I suppose that in a way I’ve been saving it up for the War with our Social Security Dictatorship. I have just endured the longest most drawn-out and somewhat subversive interchange with them. It is a story nearly impossible to tell because, this being The Union Undivided, everyone I’ve talked to has something similar in his memory vaults and none of them wants to revisit those memories and dredge up those feelings of complete and total helplessness. And who can blame them?
Let me give you the short version, and suffice it to say that I am still free, though for how long I cannot be sure.
I had to make 4, let me spell that for you, four, separate trips to the local SS office… This is not some coincidentally odd set of initials. They didn’t come by Schutzstaffel by chance. Of course we must acknowledge that there is absolutely no similarity between the absolute efficiency and eagerness to serve of one, and the total lack of even indifference of the other.
My online application and “profile” had to be deleted and re-entered – at the request of the SS agent I might add – and then due to the adding and deleting of the activity I was subsequently barred from accessing any information at their website and instructed to go the local office ——four (4) times— — where and when my identity was checked and verified and a print out of ALL online activity was displayed and then the all important and stupefying question of “Why did you delete your profile so many times?” Were they asking me what I was trying to hide?
I giggled, thinking I was letting them know I was aware and in on the joke. What the hell do I have to hide? But the SS officer wasn’t in the mood to laugh. He stared back at me and I realized he was actually anticipating an answer. I sat up straight in my chair and as calmly as I could, said, “You, or one just like you, told me to delete it, due to the problem of your site locking me out every time I tried to access my records.”
I could go on and on like this but I’ll just jump to the defining moment. Between the third and fourth visit I had a long and somewhat disturbing conversation with an SS agent on the phone in which my patience was finally exhausted. My Buddhist training was insufficient for the task at hand. Despite being thoroughly drilled in the idea that we are all sentient beings… you know, that Bodhisattva thing… I was in the midst of absolute evidence to the contrary. I reverted to my Longshoreman training convinced that this language was more appropriate for the remainder of this particular conversation than anything sweetly intoned in a chant. I knew one thing: this SS guy was no Buddha. After my short but colorful tirade, he had the audacity to say, “Sir, if you don’t stop using that language I’m afraid this conversation is over.”
“Sir, this English is the only fucking language I know.”
So went my days with the SS.
I wish all sentient beings may be saved from this official branch of Maras, but I regret that this is one eschatological task will have to be accomplished without my help. As we used to say, “Adios, MF, YOYO. The YOYO stands for You’re on your own.
It’s not entirely surprising that I spend most of my days talking to myself, and only to myself. It has only become worrisome in the last few months when I noticed that I’m beginning to laugh at my own jokes or to remind myself that I already told that one before, as well as question the validity of some of the stories I’m telling myself.
As I mentioned way back in April I’m about half way through the busiest part of my retirement year so far. We have been to Durham, where we visited my brother and took in a Dylan concert. The opening golf tournament has been completed. My sons both came down here for a week’s visit and together we went and have just returned from the first (never to be annual) Puetz reunion in Indiana.
In the past we have gotten together on rare occasions, a funeral or wedding or some other emergency, usually to alleviate the pain of one or the other…mostly to remind ourselves we are family or have been shamed into thinking we are. I have been discussing this with myself for weeks now.
I have a couple more short trips to the coast and one more trip to New Jersey coming up and then I can settle down and try and remember who I am. I will try to write something for our website. I have to admit I’m getting that old bug again… that feeling of sharing my wisdom with the world. The way things are going (especially at the SS office) I think I’ve got to about November or thereabouts to be one of the still breathing wretched refuse crawling up our teeming shore.
I’ve taken my mind off world events lately. I’m sure a weekly read of the NY Times, a few magazines and a quick look at the nightly news will bring it all back home. Some fodder for the mental mill so to speak. Oh! I forgot to mention. When we were back in Indiana I was surprised to hear that my mother, 87 and counting, has rejoined the Catholic church. There’s a bit of a story there, in an odd sort of way. My mother was raised in a very – and I mean very – lax Southern Baptist family, and when she married my dad she converted to Catholicism.
Religion was different back then. Princess Margaret couldn’t marry a divorced guy. People tended to regard marriage as some sort of sacrament. There was no such thing as “My baby’s Mama.” You get the picture. In order for my mother to marry into my dad’s family she had to convert to his faith; and that was a more stringent process back then. Today I believe the main requirement is that you have the payment for the facilities paid a week before the event.
When she divorced him she was excommunicated (at least that’s her story). She remarried and divorced and married again and divorced. The last one died, and then dad died, and I seem to be missing one… but nevertheless there she was, as they say, stranded without love. She felt terribly alone. This is small town America and it can get pretty lonely there. Dad’s brother, a Catholic priest, Father Richard, began communicating with her. I believe he’s 90 this year. One thing led to another and he got her into a small group of women that have lunch on certain days and see each other at Mass on Sunday. According to her, Father Richard “smoothed things over” as far as the powers that be in the Church were concerned; and she is proudly back in the fold. Her life now revolves around those small lunches and Sundays and is extremely grateful and happy for it.
In talking to her I began thinking about the purpose those “organized” religions can or could be. I must be mellowing in my own dotage. What people can and do believe has always intrigued me, as you well know, sometimes even to my own sad disadvantage. We were visiting the gravesite where dad is buried (his ashes in any case) and she said the strangest thing to me. “Johnny, promise me that when they bury me they make sure my eyes are pointing to the east.” I asked her why that was necessary and she said, “Because Jesus will come again and he will come from the east. He will come to restore my body with all his angels and I want to make sure I can see it when they come.”
I was taken aback. No matter what you may think of my ironic mindset, I assure you it did not come from my mother. She was dead serious, not an ounce of humor emanated out of her at that moment. Lord, the things we think about when the inevitable is but a short time away. I was very glad to hear that she was finding purpose and pleasure in her lunches and her renewed faith… and then this! But, all in all, what did this matter? I suppose the atheists would decry this slippery slope and would advise a stern rebuff to set that woman straight! But I just nodded and muttered something underneath my breath and started to walk away. She tugged my arm so I turned around and she had the hardest look in her eye and said, “Promise me”. So I did. Weird huh?
Your description of cleaning out years of photos and papers caused me to look around. I don’t have any…if you except all those damn IRS folders I’m forced to keep for ten years. It seems a little odd, maybe even strange. There is a lot of largely symbolic things around the house…Buddhas, gongs, paintings etc., but very few overtly personal items. Maybe I’m a serial killer or some weird psychopath. I hear they don’t have too many personal items. I’m also reminded of the old story of the footprints birds don’t leave in the sky.
I just completed a little survey and discovered we do have a few pictures. Besides my family including my grandson you are the only non-relative image in the house. If I were you I would either feel slightly honored or slightly scared. Take care of yourself.
The word “anyway” just popped into my brain so I guess that means I’m nearing the end of this little note.
Anyway, I’ll be in touch. Maybe with something printable, in the only language I know.