I’m always fascinated how people, places and things are placed in my path just when I need them. Most recently, it was a CD gifted us by our friend Bruce H.

Thanksgiving time it was, before this dour December. Heading downtown, listening in the car I heard words — the strength of which I recognized on sound: “Chop wood, carry water”.

Again: “Chop wood, carry water.”

The message on the tape was clear: when times are rough we’re to just chop wood and carry the water. Oh, and when times are good, the question was… what do we do then? And the answer: just chop wood, and carry water.

(Like most sound advice: easier to say).

How many times over the years has Stacy rolled her eyes when I’ve told her my serenity is directly proportionate to my ability to just keep pedaling, no matter what’s going on? Indeed, when as a kid my father would counsel that “This too will pass” he was typically trying to cheer me from upset. Conversely, a sponsor once cautioned me that the best of times: these too will pass. And that I should just keep pedaling.

This was just such a month.

Aunt Helen’s decline, descent and death were inevitable. Still…

Arguably I had more regular contact with this woman in her final months than I did with either of my parents in theirs. My Dad was my lifeblood, but was living in Columbus and at 59 one day just woke up dead. My Mom, 81, had been bedridden and rusting. Only Helen of this holy trinity, at 101 seemed timeless; only my aunt did I see daily. Thus, the void.

Don’t get me wrong. Devastated I’m not. God knows the right time. Nor do I mean to saint her post-mortem.

(But I’m flat).

Carries’ been great. Kids and grandchildren thrive. Life is full.

But I’m flat. Emotionally plateaued. Lethargic.

We went through her home last weekend. Old food. Older furniture. Even older books and letters.

I cried.

People tell us (H and me), that we were good nephews; we were. Our Dad, looking down, saw it all. It helps.

And still ….

In the office as noon approaches I pause, thinking of the lunch I’m no longer delivering. After full days in court I find myself driving uptown thinking “I’d better stick my head in”. Moreover, in Columbus this past weekend I kept thinking about how long it had been since provisions for my absence weren’t required.

“You won’t be calling your aunt this New Years”, Carrie noted. “I used to call my Dad, my Mom, both grandmothers.” I drifted….

Monday I busted my ass. Elyria at 8:30. Downtown Cleveland at 9:30. Up to the office, then back downtown. Dinner … a meeting … Bed.

This day I got up with a smile to do it again.

An odd parallel there is: Helen Bogart’s century of lonely travails and the lessons of this month. How fortunate am I that, enveloped by love, family and friends I got to wake up today …

To chop wood and carry water.

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