By Christopher Green
Today, well yesterday, it’s way past midnight as I write this, my older brother came up from Columbus just to take me to lunch, catch-up and to see how things were going for me. Funny, we hardly mentioned my lung transplant issues or his chronic illness. We just don’t, as members of the Green clan, seem capable of seeing those 500 lb gorillas that occasionally take to lounging in our “family” room.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still a very good day for the Green Brothers. We drove around the old neighborhoods (I still live in the city where we grew-up) and talked mainly about family, the Cavs playoff chances, women and of course, business. You see he is a partner in a small CPA firm and I do taxes out of the spare bedroom. He does auditing for a whole mess of companies down there in Central Ohio. Me, well I do a few tax returns just to keep busy.
He’s good enough to be there for me when I have a tax question on something that is a little out of my league. Sometimes I just need to bounce an idea I have for a client off him to see if it sounds good. I miss that, having someone I can talk to about an issue I seek validation for or to be told that my particular way of looking at a problem isn’t feasible, at least from an accounting point of view that I need to take a step back and try again.
I think that is the biggest drawback to being a sole practitioner, the lack of professional camaraderie.
Anyway, I came home and Laurie brought out the pictures. The photos my mom and aunt had collected somehow ended up with me. My mom’s I think because I was the only one of the three of us who was married when she passed and my Aunt Millie’s because I was the only person left on the earth who would talk to her; which explains a lot about me.
Seriously, she was one of a kind, my Aunt Millie. She was so much more than the run of the mill alcoholic our family has unleashed on the world over the years. Someday I just might pass on some of her more twisted stories that involved yours truly, but for now, I need to concentrate on me. (Travails with my Aunt?)
When Betty passed on last week, we hit the chest looking for photos that represented all the different times of her life. We rediscovered all the pictures from my side of the family as well. My mom had kept a lot of my grade cards from when I was still a darling little boy. Laurie went through them and commented about how smart I was back then.
All that I could think about was, well, there’s some more evidence of squandered opportunities, thank you very much.
For some reason, these little strolls down memory lane hit me especially hard. Having my older brother driving me around in a beamer was great, they sure are comfortable, but when we pulled back into our driveway, I looked sadly at the rusting, dented old Dodge Van in my yard that I use to get around. It was given to me as a gift for being kind, actually just being myself, to my BIL’s children.
It dawned on me that my hand-me-down Dodge Van was just the kind of vehicle my dad would have had at this stage of sad life. That realization really made me feel great, just great.
Before I go any further, I sure do appreciate the fact that I actually have the Dodge. Right now, I can say unequivocally that it is probably the best gift I have gotten in years. We had been a one-car family since 2007 and I was getting desperate for a way to get around, just to get out of the house, just so I wouldn’t go crazy.
By the end of the night what with that wonderful picture of the rusting Dodge and the sparkling Beamer parked so close to each other in our driveway burned into my head and the realization that both my sister, the Nurse Practitioner, and my brother, the Partner in a CPA Firm, are enjoying their hard earned professional status, I started to feel a tinge of envy.
It didn’t help matters that the report cards that spelled out in fading ink on yellowing paper that any hopes of a professional career were fading just as fast as the promise, oh and there was such promise, from my youth.
I needed some perspective. Fast.
I looked back at my dad’s life and he was handed what I like to call the big excuse at about the same time in his life that I was offered mine. He had a stroke when he was about 53 and never went back to work. Me, well I am 52. You can see what I mean. It is so very tempting to blame everything on my illness, to abdicate responsibility for my life and perseverate on all those could have, should have, would have beens.
But I know better.
Sure, the slow deterioration of my lungs was problematic for me. And when you get right down to it, I don’t think I could have held down a steady job with any time related responsibilities. There were days in the 90’s that I could not get out of bed. There were also five hospitalizations caused by complications due to my, what they called back then, asthma. And don’t forget the recovery time. Add in the repercussions from that serious car accident I mentioned before, a badly damaged hip that left me with at least twice monthly arthritic flare ups, and you can see that I was left with no choice but to cobble together a way to make a living at the far ends of the norm.
I still managed to do accounting for several clients, write a bi-weekly column and do some reporting for a local alternative magazine all while acting as the Treasurer for the local county party. I also served on some non-profit boards as well as cranking out at least 100 tax returns each and every year. And oh yea, don’t forget that I actually ran, really limped, for office three times in the 90’s while working on a dozen other campaigns.
I have been blessed with a wonderfully full life.
I am not like my father, especially in the most important way; I refuse to let self-pity take hold of my life. Well, occasionally, I have to admit, late at night, I will dip my toe in the wallow end of the pool, but so far, I have never lingered long.
Today, though, I came down with a pretty good case of the “what could have beens”. I am, after all, facing an uncertain future what with my pending lung transplant. There is that wonderful chance for an enormous upside but also, not to give it all a supercalifragalistic sheen, a potentially abrupt downturn.
All and all it really is an exhilarating but also exasperating time of my life.
I know that my life is going to change for the better and that I will still have my chance to make that promising mark on the world so many people over the years believed that I could. Funny, I still want to make my mother proud even though she has been gone for over 20 years now.
So no, I will not be using my big excuse. I am not ready to give up on my life just yet.