Really Cold, Really Cold Ice Water

On the way to the park, I started the self-talk. The periodic self-pity I feel about my progressive hearing loss was flaring up so it was time to do the talk.

The talk: You have to play the hand you were dealt. There are many worse things that people deal with. You can still communicate, talk and listen, it’s just harder than it is for most people. You can walk, work, write. Pay your own way, know what you’re doing and teach other people. Walk it off. Walk it off.

Just as I was getting out of my car to start a long walk along the shore of Lake Michigan, I got an email from a friend telling me that a colleague of ours, a 38-year old man, a courtly man, smart, and kind, had died.

Thirty-eight, I thought. How did I get to be almost thirty years older than this man? He didn’t live long enough to have hearing loss. Think about that, Jan. He didn’t live long enough to have the problem you think is so crushing.

So I walked and it was hot. Behind me, two women walked, one with head phones that she had taken off her ears and draped on her neck. I could hear the beat of their music, heavy bass. It snuck up on me and so I walked faster. I don’t want to walk to their rhythm, I thought, and so I sat down and waited until they passed. I looked at the email again.

I didn’t know the man who had died well enough to cry but I felt stunned nonetheless. There is no accounting for the disorderliness of life. People should die at appropriate ages.

I stopped back at my car to get a drink of water and then started on the second half of my trek. I walked past two women peddling rental carts. They were sweating and going very slow. What they thought would be fun when they saw the carts had turned into a hot, endless chore. It was easy to read their minds. They hated their fun at that moment.

Soon, I was hating my fun because it was hot, so hot. And I started thinking about the bottle of ice water in the car. I’d left it there instead of carrying it and it beckoned to me with every step.

I sang to myself: Really cold….really cold ice water in a cadence that kept me moving, again past the sweaty peddlers. Really cold…really cold ice water. Really cold…really cold ice water.

This is it. This is what I’m doing here. I don’t know why. That’s just the hand I was dealt.

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