When I get all antsy or upset about something the college kid sneers and mutters, “white lady worries,” and for the most part he's dead on. I am in a dither because the boy's car needs a battery and I don't want him falling prey to an untried auto shop so after making sure his car has enough gas to get to L.A. he's been instructed to get a jump start on campus and drive straight, without stopping, to Jimmy, our true blue neighborhood mechanic. I am afraid about the car stalling on the freeway and I keep stepping outside nervously all morning waiting for the boy's arrival until finally he comes ambling down the street and I race to meet him. He condescends to let me hug him but rolls his eyes. My kids have little patience when I worry excessively about them or caution them about stuff I did myself when I was a kid and now regret.
There is a hamper full of the boy's laundry when I arrive home. Our dryer is on the fritz and I threaten to send him to the laundromat or make him schlep the stuff back to school and wash it there but I end up doing it and resetting the timer on the impaired machine every hour for about eight hours until his garments are finally dry. The thought of what the pile would look like if he folded it himself is unbearably repugnant to me. I realize I will have to teach the boy to handle the business of washing clothes eventually although after over twenty years of my tutelage his father's folding technique still suggests that he is restrained by handcuffs.
Monday morning I stomp through the hills fretting about my dryer, a looming tax deadline and the fact that I'm going to be several hours late arriving at the office because Spuds is getting his braces installed. More of what Joe College refers to as “white lady problems” but they chap my hide nevertheless. I reach the top of Kite Hill, which the kids used to call “Top of the World” and the sun rises, casting a pink glow on a downtown below that has morphed into a real city since my childhood. Sometimes, despite the no parking sign, there is a car, undoubtedly filled with young-ins winding up a long night of revelry with sex, drugs and hip hop. Often we encounter a pack of surprisingly aggressive coyotes. I have learned that coyotes are shy of anything that seems large and loud so I wave my arms and scream, probably harshing the mellow of any illegal parkers. I yank the dogs' leashes to keep them from chasing skunks and pick up after them even when Himself has disregarded my admonitions not to feed them table scraps, particularly barbecue sauce. Still, there comes a point every morning when the worries that fester are dissolved by the sensation of being outside as a new day breaks.
While I am preparing Spud's breakfast I learn that one of my closest friends, who moved to the Bay Area about 20 years ago, has suffered a heart attack. I am gobsmacked that a youthful, long time fastidious eater and regular exerciser is so afflicted. I have a number of minor complaints, mostly the consequence of youthful excess and indiscretion, which require diligent management to keep them minor, but a coronary is the most dramatic malady to befall a member of my small inner sanctum and the victim's healthy lifestyle makes this all the more disturbing. I remain in touch throughout the day and Spuds gets braced and I manage to get my 1099 forms postmarked by the deadline. The boys from the office repair the dryer and even find my long lost favorite sports bra underneath which tightly holds my Iphone in place while I walk so it doesn't slide under my sweatshirt. It is very difficult to manage an Iphone that's slid under your bra and is flapping around your knees while managing two dog leashes. To the kids, the only thing more trivial than the things I worry about, are the things that make me happy.
My friend's final diagnosis is severe blockage and a stent is inserted, medication prescribed and the patient is sent home and admonished to “take it easy” which I hope the workaholic is capable of. His prognosis is excellent but full recovery and the maintenance of good health will require some rigorous self analysis and examination of priorities. I remember when we met and we both had more hair and less of it was gray. I was in my twenties and still reeling at the inconvenience of having been born and going out of my way to behave in ways which affirmed that my existence on the planet was due to some cruel prank.
Youth seems so infinite as we rail at the long lists of perceived expectations and are clueless about what will bring real meaning to our lives. How ironic that when we finally start to figure out all that stuff our bodies start to crap out. It wasn't all that long ago that changing my habits in order to prolong my life actually dawned on me as not a bad idea. I still don't drink water and am addicted to coffee and diet soda but I am pretty careful about what I eat and I drag my butt out of my warm bed every morning at 4:30 to traipse up the mountain and fend off wildlife human and otherwise. When I started the routine I'd have to stop and catch my breath several times while ascending the steepest hill but now I'm not even really conscious of whether I'm going uphill or down. I sleep well and no longer eat myself into a stupor. I feel fine but am aware that health surprises may arise due to heredity, previous bad behavior or pure dumb luck. I spent many hours sitting with my parents in physician's waiting rooms filled with other frail elderly patients. “My God,” I said to myself, “if this is what old age is about, maybe I'll opt out,” but as I approach my fifty-fifth birthday, which throws me into the lower reaches of senior citizendom, eligible even some discounts of which I will shamelessly partake, to see just one more sunrise on Kite Hill or grouse about my family's ineptitude at folding laundry, I'd endure waiting rooms forever.