(appeared in today’s Patterson Irrigator HERE)
Hello fellow Pattersonites! It’s me. I know it’s been months since I’ve written. Time got away from me. It really did. Seems like just yesterday we were washing our groceries with dish soap and feeling grateful to find 1-ply toilet paper at the store. We didn’t care that our butts were chafed, we were happy to be alive.
I apologize for the delay in checking in, of course, but I thought I should touch base so you know that I’m not dead. Also, I wanted to let you know that I haven’t done anything crazy since last I wrote, either. For example:
#1. I haven’t joined a cult.
#2. I haven’t wasted twenty million dollars to go to space with Elon Musk.
#3. And I definitely haven’t joined an online multi-level marketing scheme to sell organic lip balm to every person I’ve known since 1997.
(Come to think of it, both #2 and #3 are also cults.)
Anyway, I hope you’ve been staying well and safe— and that you aren’t dehydrated from sobbing at the gas pump. So, make sure you drink lots of water and refrain from other activities that are bad for your health, too— like watching TikTok videos or being within six feet of Aaron Rodgers.
A lot has happened since last I wrote— on the local level, on the global level and on the personal level. But I can go no further without remarking on a sad local event. The passing of Ron Swift.
Publisher emeritus, quip master, and all-around stupendous fellow, Patterson will never again know a man as dedicated as Mr. Swift. We were lucky that Ron made this town his home all those years ago. For while Ron knew the things that needed doing, Ron also DID the things that needed doing. And it was done with a wry smile, self-deprecating wit— and little fanfare.
We could all learn something from that.
Seventeen years ago, Ron welcomed me to the Patterson Irrigator columnist family with open arms and was always there if I needed him. I appreciated that very much. He was Patterson’s very own Yoda, offering valuable perspective in a unique way that was always genuine and always unpretentious.
What a guy, Ron was. Missed, he will be.
On the global front, the last two years have been seismic. And, no, I’m not just talking about when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. It’s been crazytown all over the place. For two years. Remember when a bunch of people attacked the US Capitol like zombies from The Walking Dead? Or when Prince Harry decided royal life was total crap? Or when Tom Brady retired from the NFL only to unretire himself a few weeks later?
It’s important to note that during much of this time many of us did not wear real shoes. Only socks or slippers with treads on the bottom for when we went to the grocery store. Or when we walked the 10 feet to our front door to grab the pile of Amazon packages sitting there. Sadly, we went so long without wearing real shoes that we can no longer fit them on our stumpy feet. But, when we go online to buy new (bigger) shoes, we now discover that shoes are 259% more expensive than the last time we bought them.
Yet, truthfully, it hasn’t all been bad. We did learn how to bake banana bread and what it felt like to spend 168 hours a week with our own children. So, there is that.
I do have to say, though, that some things that happened since my last column did come as a surprise to me. For example, I did not have “Putin Goes Ballistic” on my 2022 bingo card. Sure, I’ve made a lot of jokes about Putin in the past. About his shortness, his love of Botox, and the way his beady eyes look like death lasers. But I didn’t think he’d start a reenactment of the year 1939. Maybe I was naive, but you’d think he would have known that it was a bad idea. After all, everyone hates a bully. Everyone. It’s baked into our human genome. We hate bullies just as much as we love chubby babies, ranch dressing and Labradoodles. It’s even in the Bible. (Just ask Goliath.)
On a personal note, since my last column, two big events have happened in my life. First, I got an orange kitten. His name is Charley and he loves cheddar cheese, chasing tin foil balls, and taking naps on my wheelchair— mostly while I’m sitting in it. We’ve acclimated to life together pretty well, especially considering he tries to steal my breakfast two or three times a week. I’m sure I’ll share more about Charley in the coming days. After all, it’s hard for me to write about much else since he spends most of his day sitting on top of me. So, stay tuned.
The other big news? I turned 40. This may not sound like a big deal to most, but to me, it really was. After all, for most of my life, I didn’t know if I would live to see the age of 40 because most born with my disability do not.
As a kid, reaching 40 years old seemed like a mythical accomplishment. Something that was theoretically possible, but not likely to happen— like growing up to marry Indiana Jones or becoming best friends with DJ Tanner. While cool possibilities, it definitely was not in the cards for me.
In all honesty, the arrival of the COVID pandemic did not bode well for my chances to reach this milestone. I watched disabled and high-risk folks here, and around the world, lose battles with the virus. Yet, at the same time, I saw many doubt the risks. I heard jokes about masks, vaccines and other protective measures. Weirdly, I can understand this. After all, it’s easier to believe you’re immune from it all when you don’t look like me. It’s easier to push it all aside when you think you’re not one of those “pre-conditioned people.”
Coming into my 40th birthday during this pandemic was a surreal experience. For two years, each day has been difficult— for ALL of us. Yet, personally, I have keenly felt that each day has been a gift, too. Even though we still have a long way to go, each day I have survived has been a small victory.
Thus, when the clock ticked to midnight on my 40th birthday, I stared out into the darkness of my bedroom—contemplating how far I had come. And, then, I whispered:
“Watch out, Indiana Jones… I’m coming for you.”