Saturday, June 6, 2009

“He’s like a worm in hot ashes”

This is appropriate. i am trying to post two to four pieces here each week. But this week has been crazy. I intended to post this Wednesday but many activities kept me from getting it right until this evening. So it goes for a worm in hot ashes.

SAN DIEGO – I am wrapped around the axle in projects in the Southwest corner in spite of thinking things would get simpler when I became officially old.

I thought I would be retired or close to it at this time in my life. This was a far too un-ambitious idea of life with social security. I am as busy as I’ve ever been.

It has been this way for as long as I can remember.
An old photograph shows me around four with my little red wagon filled with a football, baseball, and bat while I toted six-shooter cap guns over my shorts. My youth was spent dabbling in all things which came my way.

Recently, my father observed, “You always were involved in everything.”

It was not necessarily a compliment.

Through high school, there was hardly any activity missed: church, dramas and musicals, sports, Cub Scouts, mowing yards, piano, newspaper boy, Key Club, school newspaper, a grave digger in the summer, and getting in trouble with my friends.

Fully engaged in academics (hah!) in college, I also was a disk jockey, a newspaper correspondent, and sold clothes for Jimmy Hankins.

The Navy further conditioned me for doing a bunch of things at one time. Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport Island attempted to train “multi-tasking” under pressure for long periods of time. This was needed training.

On my first Navy ship, my primary job was Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer. But I also had watch standing duties in Combat Information Center, engineering, and on the bridge. Then there were collateral duties. I was Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Officer, Nuclear Weapons Safety Officer, Classified Material Control Officer, and Assistant Security Officer.

So it was for more than twenty years. I thought life would be simpler after I completed my active duty service, but counting my stint as mister mom, I have pursued over a dozen different business ventures, many at the same time. And this is not counting golf.

The horizon does not hold much promise for slowing down any time soon.
Now in addition to this column and my Thursday column here in The Democrat, I have established a web site to showcase my writing. This has led to a blog, or something like a blog, and my daughter just recently got me involved with “Facebook.”

So far, I’ve resisted the temptation to “twitter.” Still, multi-tasking is alive and well.

I worry about this penchant of mine. “Jack of all trades, master of none” I rail at myself. “Spreading myself too thin,” I intone as I launch yet another pursuit.
I have modified my father’s description of me to “…involved in way too much.”

Where did this come from?

Several years ago when I was back home, I observed my father in operation. At 92, he cleaned the house; he went fishing; he worked on the boat; he worked on the car; he made home improvements; he tended to the trees (before moving to Deer Park; he also mowed the lawn); he planted and maintained the flowers; he was always going somewhere to talk to someone.

One mid-morning, my parents and I were sitting around when an idea hit him, and he bolted out of the house on his mission.

My mother observed, “He is like a worm in hot ashes.”

I instantaneously realized where my chase-everything-on-the-horizon came from. It certainly has taken many different turns from my father’s. The time frame, opportunities (they gave me the opportunities which they never had), and shrinking of the world put on a different twist. But I too was like “a worm in hot ashes.”

Considering all of that, I recalled an anecdote my sister told me. The fourth grade teachers at McClain Elementary School in my formative years were Mrs. Helen Major and Mrs. Vasti Prichard. I was in Mrs. Major’s classroom, and I consider it one of the best school years of my life.

My sister Martha was in Mrs. Vasti’s class two years later. During some demonstration, science I suspect, Mrs. Vasti was stirring some concoction when she enjoined, “Round and round and round she goes; it don’t smell bad if you hold your nose.”

For a worm in hot ashes, that’s a pretty good way of looking at things.

1 comment:

  1. I recently found that the way to survive retirement is to keep busy. You have succeeded beyond all imagining. Great story.