Choices, like Baskin-Robbins ice cream, come in many flavors.
Actually, I prefer Dairy Queen to Baskin-Robbins, but there was no witty way to tie in DQ with the concept of multiple choice options. DQ blizzards – in particular, Reese’s peanut butter cup – are my favorite; that’s what I choose when we enjoy a dairy-based confectionery treat.
I have a 2011 Triumph Bonneville SE motorcycle. I bought it after a thirty-year hiatus from riding motorcycles. I chose the Bonnie because it has a 29-inch seat height which is perfect for my not-so-tall 65-inch height. Also it has a very cool orange and black two-tone paint job which played a significant role in my choice. I was even willing to pay an extra $500 for that paint scheme. I had a pastor once say that riding a bike, when my wife wishes I wouldn’t, is a sin. Please realize, I choose to love Jesus because he chose to die on the cross for my sins – which were, are, and will be many – but I also choose to disagree with my pastor. I don’t choose to ride a bike to hurt my wife. I choose to ride because it is, quite simply – in spite of (or is it because of?) the danger – just fun as hell to do. An old friend referred to it as wind therapy – thanks, Mike!
Now hold on there – don’t go wondering if I’m some middle-aged man suffering a mid-life crisis – that’s a fact. But you must realize with the fermentation process that produces a middle-aged man comes some fine wine often referred to as common sense. This time riding a motorcycle, I also chose to take three increasingly advanced motorcycle training courses and I choose to wear the full complement of safety gear – even in 115-degree Arizona heat – when I ride.
When I taught – or more accurately, tried to influence in some positive way from my own leadership experiences – two hundred Air Force ROTC cadets, I had a sign hanging above my doorway that said,
become consequences we live with tomorrow.”
I chose those words because the age group of my leaders-in-training was that of those drawn to acts of mischief which would first get them a one-way ticket out of the AFROTC program but more importantly make them ineffective Air Force officers. Those words ring true even for middle-aged men working through their mid-life crisis on a Bonnie.
And now I’m choosing to beat around the bush – avoid the true subject, if you’re not familiar with that term – because I don’t want to discuss choosing the right woman. Not yet.
Which brings me to the choice of a spouse – which is what you have supposed is the gist of my writings or ramblings – it is not. Mind you the choice of Patti for my wife was in fact a no-brainer. We met in my first year of college – her senior year of high school. She came into my life and offered me the kind of respect and kindness and love that was sorely lacking from my most-recent dating experience in high school. She genuinely liked me – which was amazing to a seventeen-year-old kid who had trouble finding much about himself to like. She had me when she told me, one night playing a game on her kitchen floor. “I never got along with anyone as good as I get as I get along with you.” She has endured all my faults and misgivings for thirty-one years. I’m a blessed and lucky man. That – if this essay was about choosing the right wife – would be the end of the story. But we have more to discuss. Will you bear with me as I ramble on a bit longer?
The night she – my Mom – died (it was lung cancer) – I, then just sixteen years old (she just forty-three) – suffered a variety of emotions. I chose to leave my family – a dad, seven brothers and two sisters – and spend the night with a close friend. I chose to ingest a variety of alcoholic concoctions. I don’t even know why I chose that – to be away from my family and get so blitzed – drunk as a skunk, as we might have referred to it. The throwing up and waking up in a friend’s house the next morning seems now, in retrospect, just a poor choice. “But give me a break,” I want to yell to myself, “you were only sixteen friggin years old!” Really, if I was to be honest while reflecting on those choices, I would realize that was probably an understandable – while not fully excusable – choice under the circumstances.
I survived, got useless counseling from a priest, and gradually inched my way forward through life.
Earlier, I alluded to a romantic, albeit not-very-happy-toward-the-end-of-it, high school relationship. I started dating her in the tenth grade. I –– the shortest boy in my grade throughout elementary school, with an extensive history of receiving brutal teasing in those elementary school years in the form of “Ricky and Nancy (the shortest girl in my grade) sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first comes love, then …” well you know the rest –– was frankly astonished that she could, would and did like me. We did the typical high school dating stuff – it lasted about two years – right smack in the middle of when my Mom was suffering through her relentless cancer. There were choices to be made – Dad made some, the doctors made some and I made some. I made some choices that now, thirty-six years later, still push their way out of my subconscious to taunt me.
My Mom spent most of her last months in the hospital. Those months were during the tenth, eleventh or twelfth months of my new romantic relationship. Dad, heading to see Mom would ask, “Rick, you wanna come to the hospital to see Mom?” But I have plans with Alice (fake name), I think to myself. The inner battle ensued – visit a dying mom or go out with Alice. “No thanks, Dad. I don’t think I can handle it tonight.” I go out with Alice. Mind you there were times I did visit and would crawl up in bed with my mom. There were times – too many of them; far too often – when I wished I was with Alice instead of at the hospital. The times I chose Alice – at least as my subconscious, inept at repressing bad memories, will remind me – far outweighed those when I chose Mom. “What kind of person makes that choice!” I demand an answer from myself now. But now is too late for answers. Now is the time I look back and realize – I chose the wrong woman.
This was a personal essay for my Nonfiction Fundamentals course at Southern NH University.