Opinion | Biff America: Singing and grieving
Jimmy said that I might be psychotic.
Coming from him that truly means something, because Jimmy is a smart dude — he went to college.
I couldn’t call Jim a good friend; I don’t even know his last name. But when we bump into each other we exchange pleasantries and catch up. I like Jimmy.
I was on the bus heading to the rec center this week and, for whatever reason, Jimmy bubbled up into my brain pan. It dawned on me that I had not seen him in many months. I hoped he was on the correct side of the dirt.
Like most of us who live in a relatively small town, there are countless “Jimmys” in my life — people you know and like but don’t know well.
Once at the gym it didn’t take me long to forget about Jim. There was a young and attractive gal stretching on the floor next to me wearing headphones and talking to herself. Actually, turns out, she was singing. I too had earbuds on so I could not hear well. I thought she was speaking to me. So I pulled out one ear, leaned over, smiled and said, “Excuse me?”
She said, “I’m going to pitch a wang, dang doodle, all night long.”
I recognized those words from a Willie Dixon song, so I knew the “wang, dang, doodle” she was pitching wasn’t in my direction. I was a little embarrassed and was very happy to see Jimmy approaching, giving me an excuse to get away.
I jumped up and walked up to him, and exclaimed, “Oh my God, I was just thinking about you 20 minutes ago and here you are. I think I must be psychotic!”
Jimmy answered, “Think you mean psychic, not psychotic, but yes I think you might be both.”
We had a good laugh about that and we both could still hear the gal singing about pitching her doodle when I told him about my misunderstanding her singing as conversation. We had another laugh over that.
That was the last laugh we had that day.
I asked why I hadn’t seen him around. He then told me that his wife was very ill. He explained her condition had worsened over the last six months to the point where he could not leave her alone for long. He added that the time was fast approaching when he would be unable to care for her.
What can you possibly say to that?
The stress and fatigue was evident on his face and posture. I told him I could not even imagine how awful it is to see someone you love suffer. But I did suggest that he also take a little time for his own wellbeing. I asked if he was ever able to sneak away to take a few ski runs to clear his head (Jimmy is a hot skier). He said he did just that a month ago and was hit from behind by an out-of-control skier, was injured and has not gone skiing since.
Bad things can happen to good people.
Certainly, hard times can happen to anyone at any time, but it is something that becomes more common as we age. And part and parcel of seeing the painful plight of others is the understanding that you yourself are not immune to the vagrancies of years, luck and genetics.
Truth is, words are an impotent balm to someone who is truly suffering.
Were I blessed with complete spiritual conviction I could say, “Her pain will someday be over and eventually you both will be reunited in an afterlife with healthy bodies and clear minds.” And though I am hopeful that could be the case, I cannot say I’m convinced.
By the same token, I’d also love to join my friends who share an Eastern faith philosophy that this life is one of many such lives. Lives that ebb and flow in perfect harmony with Karma. There is a beautiful symmetry to that and for me a hopeful possibility.
But what I do know for sure is that life is a gift until it isn’t. None of us are getting out of this thing alive and we all will someday, some time, see someone we love suffer.
But I’ve come to believe that the most you can do is grieve with the affected while appreciating your own good days and good health while you have it. Hold close those you love. And, while you are able, never be afraid to pitch a wang, dang doodle all night long …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or Shop.HolPublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul.
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