Ray Pete lived to be eighty-five. Not on purpose, he just didn’t know what else to do. Now he was dying. And why not? It made as much sense as anything else he’d ever done, more sense, actually, if he thought about it.
He thought about it. Had he really spent 40 years working at a job he couldn’t stand, a job where he spent more waking hours than he spent with his family? Who would plan such a thing?
The last fifteen years had been the worse, ever since he lost Agnes. Not that he ever exactly thought she hung the moon, but she lit familiar and comfortable paths. Hard not to miss something like that. Kids grown and gone. They didn’t give a damn. Neither did he, if he was honest about it. What did they have in common, anyway? Grandkids? He tried to act like a grandfather ought to—according to someone. They called him Gramps. That wasn’t his name and it didn’t sound good to him. He bought gifts and sent cards when the calendar and the commercials told him to.
It shook him up to realize that, for the most part, he’d just been going through the motions, with little or no emotions, all these years. He’d given Agnes and the kids a lot of stuff; he’d always felt real proud of that, but now it dawned on him that he never gave them what they really needed; he’d never given them any of himself. If he did that with his own family, good Lord, what other areas of his life had he just phoned in?
Hadn’t he stood flat-footed, looked people in the eye, and told them what he believed? Sure, he was never one shy to hold forth on religion, politics, sports, and anything else that mattered. But if he could admit now that he didn’t really know what he believed, how could he state it with such conviction in earlier years? If he was honest, and he wasn’t in the mood to be anything less, he had to admit that all those institutions to which he’d given his energy and obedience (and what up till now passed for devotion) struck him as nothing more than a pack of self-serving, money-grubbing fools. Where was the comfort they were supposed to provide? That’s okay. He didn’t need comforting; he needed curing or to die, and he didn’t care which. He was just tired. Lord, he was exhausted. He did not miss the irony: Merely going through the motions physically and mentally had left him spiritually paralyzed. Why did he cling so desperately to that life for so many years? It made him feel stupid. He reminded himself of one of those chocolate rabbits that turns out to be hollow inside. It looks solid enough, but just bite the ears off and see what you get! Just a thin shell, a false form that is mostly…nothing. And why, for crying out loud, was he thinking about this stuff now, after living more than eight decades totally bereft of self-reflection. It was just damned irritating, that’s what it was. That’ll be enough of that. Time to sleep.
“Time to wake up.”
Even with his eyes closed he smiled at that voice. God, what a welcome sound! It seemed impossible that he could forget her…well, It…“him” and “her” didn’t exactly fit back home. How in the world could he possibly have worried, fumed, doubted, feared, or agonized about anything? If only he could have remembered a trace, the merest scrap, of who he really was, it would have been impossible, inconceivable, to do anything short of laughing out loud at everything that happened over the last 85 years. 85 years? That had no meaning at all, not here. Oh yeah: If he’d remembered who he was and where he was from, he wouldn’t have learned anything. Okay. Fair enough. He hadn’t lost Agnes or opportunities or his mind. “Loss” had no meaning here, either.
He got up and walked (for lack of a better term) into the bright, familiar area where It handed him a cup of stuff that would make coffee or hot chocolate or Irish whiskey pale to dishwater by comparison.
She…It smiled at him and asked, “So, did you have any weird dreams?”
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung
(From The Lonesome Wizard Boys’ Campfire Tales by Tom Hale)