Thoughts in the night

TWO DECADES AGO when my mother was about 80, I asked her what entered her mind at night during those moments when she was awake, those intervals we all have.

I was curious about what old people with lots of history thought in the dark night.

New ImageIf we’re worrying about something before going to bed, that’s what we’ll be focusing on, of course, but at times we awake when there’s nothing worrisome in our lives. Usually, we slip back into our dreams easily, but not always.

I forgot what my mother told me, but I recall it was nothing notable. I thought she’d be remembering the Great Depression or the time she eloped at midday with my father in Athens, but she didn’t mention anything like that. I would have remembered.

Well, now that I’m pretty old myself, I know what old people think, at least what I think. I have a few set skits for those moments. I think, for instance, of a photo of me standing on Cesery Boulevard in Arlington, Florida, posing with a baseball bat as if someone were pitching a hardball at me. I was about 9. I have lost that photo.

But it lives in my mind.

I sometimes think of my very small bedroom in that Cesery Boulevard home, the twin bed, and getting up mornings, stepping across the narrow hallway, and opening the folding canvas door into the kitchen where my mother would be smoking a cigarette. Maybe she’d just downed a Miltown to get her through another day.

What I have thought of more frequently than anything the past 25 years is the moment my last wife told me she was leaving. I was standing in her office door in our Houston home one evening, and she was sitting on the floor going through files.

She mentioned fairly casually that she had found an apartment in Montrose and was moving out. She was shockingly nonchalant. She didn’t even look at me.

Since we had never discussed the possibility of divorce, this was like a meteor. I remember the moment in detail a quarter of a century later. And here is the strange part. Conjuring up that memory during an insomniac spell almost instantly returns me to sleep.

You would think it would be precisely the opposite.

But I’ve just recently noticed that I’m not using that memory anymore as a substitute sleeping pill. The 25-year-old habit has died. I do still think of the kid with the baseball bat, and mornings walking from my small bedroom into the little kitchen and seeing my mother, but not the moment my wife announced she’d had her fill of me.

A single Tylenol will also send me to dreamland, but where’s the drama in that?

The pond in the night

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WAKING FOR A spell in the middle of the night presents one with three options:

First, go right back to sleep. This is preferred. Second is chewing on a minor problem that, due to its appearing in the middle of the night, magnifies spectacularly in significance. This is your least desirable path. For me, there is a third.

Go to Wavering Pond.

I lived on my maternal grandparents’ 500-acre farm in southwest Georgia from the age of six months until I was on the brink of 7, which is when we moved to Florida.

I regularly traveled the 200 miles to the farm for visits, first to my grandparents and later to my parents who returned there to live after my grandmother died during a visit to New Orleans, and they inherited the place. My mother was an only child.

They sold the farm and moved to Atlanta in the mid-1980s.

That farm was wonderful. There were huge fields of cotton, corn and peanuts. There were Hereford cows and a grove of pecan trees. Then, due to a government program, that all vanished (not the pecan trees) and was replaced by pines.

The best part of the farm was Wavering Pond which was about a quarter-mile behind the old house, a short and easy walk. That’s not it in the photo, but that’s precisely how it looked. The pond was full of cypress trees that grew right in the water.

My grandparents always kept a rowboat there and a paddle. It was a rustic affair, a little leaky, but it worked well for sliding over the surface or for fishing. I never fished. I explored. I spent hours over the decades paddling alone and slowly across that pond, and it was a very large pond, two or three acres or so.

It was always quiet and, except right out in the middle, a bit dark and creepy. There were owls and crows. Long ago, perhaps in my 20s — I don’t recall exactly — I dreamed of building a home there just like Thoreau, a place to live alone and not be bothered by people.

Additionally, it was going to be an underground home, dug into the hillside that rose up from the pond’s dark, clear waters, dark due to the many cypress trees. It’s an idea that still appeals to one’s hermit nature.

So now, in the middle of the night when I awaken, I visit the pond. I’m in the rowboat alone always, looking over the side, seeing bass and brim, the occasional snake and turtle. And I go back to sleep drifting among cypress knees.

Vanishing future

Route of young men.

I’LL TURN 73 toward the end of summer. This aging thing is quite interesting. I don’t recommend it, but it’s interesting.

Forget that malarkey about age being just a number. That’s arrant nonsense. The difference between a child of 10, a middle-ager of 45 and a coot of 73 is just a number?

Dream on, brother.

When you’re in your 60s, you realize you’re no kid or anywhere near it. But turning 70 is quite an eye-opener.

More and more I notice this phenomenon: “Future” vanishes. That long, straight macadam that disappears into the distance as if you’re motoring toward a faraway mountain chain, the Highway of Future. Well, you’re not driving it anymore, Bub.

Instead, you’re on Present Lane.

When you’re younger, “future” is simply something that’s out there, and it’s way out there, so far out there that you don’t really dwell on it. It’s just there, and you know it.

In your bones.

This mostly subconscious notion of an endless future affects lots of things — attitudes, lifestyle, decisions, plans.

Passing 70 years delivers an immediacy to life that you’d never known before. It’s very interesting. I do not recommend it, but there ain’t nothing you can do about it.

Not one blessed thing.

Route of old men.

The demon urge

BACK IN JULY, I posted Geezer Dreams in which I spoke of my desire to buy a new car and/or a motorcycle.

I need neither, but dreams are not made of needs but of desires. Putting aside the car idea was fairly easy. The motorcycle, well, that’s another matter altogether. It still haunts me.

Just this morning (!), I had deleted saved internet links of various motorcycles, and I’d swapped my internet screen saver from a bike to a Mexican flag, my old screen saver.

Just hours later, I saw the above video on the blog Surviving Yucatan, and it’s got me all roiled up again. Dang! Those old Chinese buzzards make me look like a babe in diapers.

Like a freaking pantywaist.