Rendered Fat Content


Donato Creti: The Education of Achilles by Chiron (1714)
"Older, yes, but still spitting."

I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not quite as young as I used to be, even though I never once have been younger than I used to be. Older than's a permanent condition. It connotes diminishing capability, though my present state finds me in much more able condition to engage in some activities than my younger self ever was. I remember a writer friend confiding some purported wisdom when we were both in our early twenties. He said that somebody insisted that no writer's worth a pint of warm spit until after they turn forty. We both silently set about to prove that proverb wrong and in the process, I guess, proved it to be correct. Nobody ever correctly anticipates how much better they might become and many, perhaps most, think themselves competent long before their mastery manifests. At my age, I really should have come to understand this principle, now that I'm well north of forty, but I probably haven't. I still engage as if I knew, when tomorrow will most likely disclose to me that I hadn't but that I might have mastered then. Mostly, a spiraling cycle of pseudo-certainly motivates me. I hope to never outgrow this capacity.

On Saturday, I engaged in an almost frenzied bout of dedicated packing. I went berserker on the chore.
I became unstoppable. Box after box after box seemed to fill itself as I cleared bookshelf after bookshelf after bookshelf. I even mastered the tape dispenser for a few minutes! I felt like Achilles in battle, unstoppable, invulnerable. I didn't once stop to counsel myself that I'm not quite as young as I used to be. After a late lunch, I reengaged, though one knee had developed a fresh infirmity and a finger, my right pointer, had apparently suffered a subtle little paper cut. It hurt like the dickens, I thought, but stoically soldiered on.

The next morning, I could barely open my iPhone's window, an act requiring nothing more than that I tap my right pointer finger on a little circle. The under-appreciated labor saving device feature might be their ability to focus vulnerability into ever finer points to produce one very tiny, seemingly insignificant point. For iPhones, that point is precisely the place where I'd suffered the subtle little, insignificant-seeming paper cut the day before. Further, my hands were aflame with dehydration after crumbling ten thousand sheets of packing paper. I swathed my hands in some of The Muse's stinky moisturizer and decided to take a day off. Even typing was painful. I could not imagine continuing berserker-quality packing. I had been vanquished by insignificance.

Isn't this always the way? The unconsidered element does tend to ultimately come to rule the way forward. We focus upon the primaries, successfully avoid sweating small stuff, then the small stuff does us in. Achilles' story was barely allegorical, the rub emerging from the fact that we cannot correctly anticipate which of the thousands of apparent insignificances will become the next rub. One of them's certain to be. I seem to have adequately healed overnight, and I'll wear vinyl gloves for my next packing frenzy. It's all frenzy now. A week from this morning, an unforgiving driver will show up here insisting that every blessed everything should have already been boxed. Tiny paper cuts won't exonerate us. Neither will the oldest niggling excuse in the universe, that I'm not nearly as young as I used to be. I am my Achilles, the most powerful force I've got. Neither heel nor my pointer finger vulnerability explains away anything.

I remain haunted by my first experience with moving after we'd acquired enough possessions to need to rent a truck. My folks had come to help with the effort and early that morning, we'd wrestled the piano along with everything else we owned into the back of a pickup and headed for the new house. Arriving there precisely at eight, as we'd earlier agreed, we found the former owners still there. Not only that, they hadn't even begun moving out yet. They were a retired couple relocating to Spokane to be nearer grandchildren, but the husband had not informed his wive of their plans. Hurried phone calls produced a grandson with a truck who backed up to the daylight basement door, which disgorged their stuff while we moved into the front. The front room, that is, for the rest of the place was not yet fit for anybody to live in, not even the previous owners. By the following evening, we'd managed to sort of reclaim the kitchen, though every room needed more care and attention than we could muster while moving in. We spent the next decade refurbishing what we found there.

I strive not to be the chief encumbrance to our successfully HeadingHomeward. Subtle paper cuts notwithstanding, I might just manage it this time, though I'm certainly not as young as I used to be. I might be wiser, though only future history can ever determine wisdom. I'm probably more vulnerable than I imagine. A paper cut finger could sideline me, and not for lack of gumption. I'm still a determined old cuss. Older, yes, but still spitting. I'm hoping to feel younger than I used to be once we settle in there.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver