Life Is a File Cabinet
Life is a file cabinet, into which you store experiences, expectations, and if there is any room, maybe some folders of good advice. The letters in “life” and “file” are interchangeable. There are four drawers in my life’s file cabinet, and I have divided my life’s experiences into those four drawers. Each has an infinite capacity for all things warm and fuzzy, but a minuscule section for the shards of shattered dreams and plans.
The bottom one contains my youth, the Spring Training of Life, if you will, every minute up until the point that I walked through the door at AFEES, Los Angeles, and began filling up the second drawer, one that was equipped to handle only those twenty-one months of chaos, that represented my military career. The bottom drawer is, by far, the most stuffed, because there is a lot of warmth to be found within the framework of a large family.
We were taught from the earliest age, that we were lucky to be “O’Neills” and that, “everything comes to him who waits, especially old age.” There was lots of work, but minimal feeling that I was being ill-used. Work was not only expected, but required. There was no second guessing. When I went to work as a boxboy for Augie, at Sunrize Market, I wore tennis shoes, and never stopped running the whole time I filled that role. Augie’s mantra was, “If it’s a Kennedy, vote for him; if it’s an O’Neill, hire him.”
The second drawer is the most complicated, because of the fact that it should be empty, the military not being all that warm and fuzzy. However, the high points were so magnified in their intensity, that they outweigh any comparable events in later life, simply because of the circumstances involved in being caught up in the military net. Though we are only talking about one-thirtieth of my sixty year life span thus far, I needed one-fourth of the file cabinet, for those two years, that were ripped out of the core of my young adulthood.
The third drawer is my life’s work, both from the standpoint of my family, and from my professional life. This drawer remains comfortably available for any additional folders I wish to store, because of the policy about not retaining things that are not warm and fuzzy. I had to “circular file” a good amount of this period, as being a little too sharply defined, to warrant “fuzzy” status.
It was after I experienced the thrill of back distress, stemming from a typically O’Neill endeavor to try and do too much, that I switched to education, and managed to put my back issues on hold, at least until I do the odd tweak here and there, and walk around very gingerly for a few days. None of this going to bed business. I found out with back spasms, that to keep active, and work out the spasm was the best procedure.
The first time it happened, I had to be at a certain place, lifting and hauling what had to be lifted and hauled, and did not have the luxury of being able to decline. To my shock, as the afternoon wore on, the pain began to be more bearable. In less than a couple of hours, I had worked my way back to some facsimile of bearable pain, and have never taken to my bed, as a result of back distress, again.
The fourth drawer, the one at the top, so as not to have to bend over to access it, is for the euphemistically entitled “late innings” with all of the accompanying reflection, that inevitably ends up rearing its mammoth head, at any given moment of the day-or more likely, the night.
Retirement brings about a time, unlike any other point in my life, when I can do what I want, when I want.
Unfortunately, my body is not so gung-ho, but as long as my razor-sharp, cottage cheese brain, keeps plugging along, I don’t worry about my body. I have heard all my life about the foibles of growing old. It’s the old good news/bad news syndrome: The good news is you made it to “ripe old age.” The bad news is the same. You either get old, or you die. I prefer to think of getting old as the preferable option, thereby negating that first barrage of criticism, for carrying on in a body that is dilapidated, to say the least. It just means I have to slow down. Now, when I need to split up a pile of rounds, I use a hydraulic splitter, and I sit on one of the rounds to accomplish this task. It’s all about adapting.
As far as that file cabinet is concerned, I keep it readily available, so as to not have to go down to the basement or up to the attic. You see, I blew out my knee, one Friday afternoon, while playing basketball with my Spanish elective class, and it’s hard to maneuver steps. I’d give you the details, but they were not allowed into the file cabinet, being a little too painful to qualify as warm and fuzzy.