Our tournament steeds!

It has been a rough few years. My father passed in 2014. My father-in-law passed the next year. I was diagnosed with cancer on August 2015, and had a successful removal of said heinous disease in December that year. My leg blew up the to the size of a hundred-year-old oak when I had a blood clot from my groin to my ankle (maybe a smaller tree) in 2016. And in April of this year, my mother passed away. These are just some of the lowlights.

These events—these things that happen regardless of how we rage and rave against them—keep occurring without regard for what I want. So for these past months I have been wallowing in some pretty sad moments. Quite often in the past, to exorcise the darkness I would write some gloomy, somber poetry. But everything felt so bad that I couldn’t even get the darkness out on paper. I was content to suffer in my misery all alone.

However, over the last few weeks, something has changed. I have written several poems and hope to gather them into a collection in the near future. The sadness seems to have faded. It is still there, lurking in the shadows and waiting to pounce on me when I am unawares. But I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. And I will even throw in a poem at the end of this entry.

My lassitude even prevented me from writing on my blog—which I had been writing entries for several times a month. So this is my first one back after a while.

And I wanted to talk about it. I thought back to a point where I could have frozen time and not gone through the hardships and loneliness of losing my parents. Iceland would be a good place. Ten to twelve years old. Both parents alive. Living in and exploring a foreign country. Winters with snow!!

But that wouldn’t work. I would never have met my wife, the mother of my children. How about right after my son was born? There is a picture of my two kids sitting with my parents on their couch. Smiles all around. Or another photo taken just after my son was born. My father is holding him and has a big smile across his face. That would be good. Everyone was alive.

Except for my maternal grandmother. I must admit I was her favorite. This isn’t a braggadocios thing. It is simply the truth. On the way to introduce my future wife to my grandmother, I told her I was her favorite. She told me she thought I was just saying what every grandchild says. Then she saw it first-hand. I instigated an argument or spat with my sisters. When they retaliated, my grandmother snapped to my defense. She let them have a verbal beat berating. To say my wife was stunned would be an understatement. What about a time when she still lived.

But my grandmother died the day we found out my pregnant wife was going to have our son. So, if she were still alive, our son would not be. There just doesn’t seem to be a time I could freeze where everything is happy and yet I don’t miss out on anything.

If I cannot freeze time and it must inexorably roll on and on, I shall defeat it by not letting it age me. I learned this from my father. Time marches on and on, and nothing we do can halt its progress. He could always play or joke or just have fun. From my mother I learned that the past is written and nothing we do will change a single word of it—she made me memorize that quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

My wife has always said that she loves how I can still play—though I admit I have been doing that less often. But I shall return. It makes for less stress. It makes for less turmoil. If we try to stop the progression of time, we miss out on the joys that tomorrow may bring. Or what new and wonderful experience will we see when we travel around the next corner?

To celebrate this, I think I will start a jousting tournament. But rather than horses, the steeds shall be those hippity hop balls with the handles. I always wanted one growing up. My parents probably thought I would hurt myself. I don’t know why.

Does it have something to do with jumping off the clubhouse my father built for us in San Diego, trying to grab hold of the power lines? Does it have something to do with racing a garage door closed—before they had the safety devices—and breaking my wrist? Does it have something to do with filling a galvanized tub with half water and half gasoline…and then igniting it and watching a pillar of fire climb as high as the trees? Does it have something to do with playing in a railyard and jumping from car to car, only to have the train take off?

Surely not. But think about it. Two grown adults racing (or bouncing) towards each other with a lance tucked under their arms. These would be padded of course. And the participants would have the appropriate safety gear. I mean, seriously, we have to go back to work in the morning. I checked out the website of a large retailer. THEY STILL SELL THEM! Less than $20, and you can pick them up in two days from the store. Not only do they have the balls, but they are decorated. So, we can be the Knight of the Rose or Lady Smiling Face or Lord Random Character.

What say you? Who’s in? Are we going to do this or what?

Here follows the poem I said I would share:

EATING SOUP AT A COFFEE SHOP

You approached in tiny little half steps, maybe slowing time
because it raced around you with such fierce velocity
your hair stirred in the breeze it left rushing along.
You ate your chicken-cheese tortilla soup with tiny sips,
maybe because it scalded your mouth after you refused the ice
chips the barista offered you and you dabbed at your mouth
with only the end of the napkin, drying the liquid clinging to the corners.
You finished with a flourish, scooping up the remnants
in quicker and quicker scoops, chasing the last bit of soup
that hid and fled and sought to remain free and unconsumed.
You opened your cookie like it was treasure, something to cherish,
something to relish, something that you hoped would last
and maybe it would if you were careful. But time kept rushing
and by the time your phone buzzed, the cookie was gone.
—21 August 2018
—JC Crumpton