Does it sound funny to say I am waiting for the big breakdown? No, I’m not talking societal collapse, modern politics, zombie apocalypse, Nostradamus, ISIS idiots chipping away at the toes of the Lincoln Memorial or ‘look Maw there done be an army-geddon knockin’ on da dern trailer door go git my 950 JDJ ’. No. I am talking about me. My being. My body. My brain. My moving pieces and parts.
When I first got to college I had no money to my name. I was so short on cash one night my buddy Mike and I found ourselves down in the dorm basement moving the laundry room washers and dryers looking for enough stray quarters to order a late-night pizza. We had to be more creative than the other kids with the munchies who had already raided the better snacks hanging on the low shelves of the hall’s vending machines with a bent wire clothes hanger.
My next year at school I inherited a hand me down beater of an old family car that was fairly dependable until my senior year. At that point, every drive became an adventure because you never knew if it would get you where you were going, or worse, would it get you back. I am by no means a mechanic but I constantly found myself rigging some hose, cable, wire or plug to keep that old rusty Buick Skylark moving.
Whenever they show Florida State University’s picturesque main entrance fountain during football game cutaways, I always flashback to the day I double parked on the circle right next to it while picking up my friend Melanie from her nearby dorm. The car got me there but would not re-start. When I opened the hood and started poking around, small flames started shooting out of the carburetor.
She just sat patiently in the car as I calmly moved in a well-practiced manor putting out the fire with the extinguisher I kept on the floor behind my seat, hitting the engine with some canned ‘Spray Start’ and eventually jiggling and wiggling enough stuff to get it rolling again. She was a trooper for just sitting there and not running for the hills but I assume it was my ‘this happens every day’ demeanor that kept her seated. That truly was my attitude; I was always ready because I was waiting for the breakdown.
Now I find myself again calmly waiting for the breakdown but not to my car. To me. I see my peers all going through stuff. Body parts wearing out and needing replacements: knees, hips, livers, kidneys… decades of goo being scrubbed out cut out of arteries, whole entire sets of misfiring not needed anymore reproductive organs simply removed… gone… you don’t need that stuff anymore. What is going on here?
Diabetes, heart disease, various cancers by the score, strokes…. I have friends my exact age having strokes… STROKES!!! As a kid who the hell worried about strokes? Strokes were for swimming or golfing. I’m suddenly worrying about strokes. You don’t know when the hell a stoke is going to hit. Strokes are like the tornado of human maladies. They come out of nowhere with little warning and devastate your ass. Your walking to town, smiling away, whistling a happy tune, suddenly stroke. Boom… your down… you’re in therapy for the next two years trying to learn how to walk and whistle all over again or at least figure out how to smile without your lips flapping down to your chin. Strokes suck! And now I worry about strokes. What the hell?
Do I need to start changing things? I still eat bacon whenever I want. Not every day but I do like bacon sometimes. I had some bacon last weekend with eggs. It was good. It’s always good. It’s bacon. Of course, it’s good. I recall my folks eating bacon fairly regularly and then one time I visit them and suddenly no more bacon. My Mom was all casually saying they stopped eating bacon. You don’t just stop eating bacon. Its… well… bacon. Something makes you stop eating bacon. You stop eating bacon because your worried something is going to breakdown. And I am waiting for the big breakdown.
I like coffee. I drink coffee. I drink a lot of coffee. And when I’m not drinking coffee I’m drinking espresso. If there were a decent walk up counter in Dallas, I’d be chugging Cuban coffee too. Again, I remember my parents drinking coffee all the time. Cups with breakfast, cups after dinner, cups with friends. Then one day I stop by and my Mom is a chemist mixing dabs of watered down regular coffee with decaf making just one single breakfast cup for my Dad only. What is going on? Do I need to quit my beloved caffeined to the hilt cups ‘o’ joe? Are my fears alone going to send Starbucks stocks tumbling?
It is inevitable that there will be changes made but are these coming attractions for me or is it the here and now? I feel like I am waiting for the breakdown. Should I be curbing these things. Am I suddenly at some mystical magical age that I need to suddenly stop drinking a beer when I want? Will that help. Or should I just keep doing what I am doing, enjoy my life and deal with it when the breakdown finally happens?
I skipped my yearly physical last year and was just setting up my appointment for this year. I like sitting in the waiting room checking ‘no’ next to the paperwork’s pages of small printed pre-existing physical conditions. But how much longer will that last? When will the red flags start flying like a China patriotic parade?
Like with that old car of mine, I feel like I am waiting for the big breakdown. But back then I knew one day I would get a good job, get a new car and the worry would end. And it did. Unfortunately, I don’t see light at the end of this tunnel. There is no ‘things getting better’, only the ominous big breakdown.