Archive for December, 2015

Last week, before sharing the somber reflection of my Christmas season, I did something I can’t remember doing as an adult: I made my bed.

Everyone has some days that don’t match expectations. Some have weeks that fall short. For me it’s been most of the year. If you haven’t read my earlier post about  my covenant with a bag of Fritos, I hope you  will because the details are there. Last week I was moved to really appreciate how things are beginning to change, little by little, for the better: excellent people, friends of mine from the local arts and education community with young children,  live upstairs; the best since I  bought the place and moved into  the downstairs half. I wanted to rearrange my life in a way that would allow affirmation to occupy more space in my life. That meant removing reminders of regret. I threw away many: documents, poems unfit for sharing in public, pictures, mimentoes. I don’t an acquaintance or social service agency person to know the people who disappointed me; don’t want them to know that I even knew them. I’m gradually doing the same at my aviation museum at the airport. Helping the “adjustment” for the last week has been the simple three-minutes-or-fewer act of with making my bed.

I have a yellow quilt on top of it; not an army-issue wool blanket,  so there’s no trying to make a quarter bounce when I throw it down flat onto the bedspread. It’s a nice quilt from Montgomery Ward, probably 20 years old, in very good shape. It’s a nice bed, king size, in case I ever fall in love again, and you know something? That’s not as important as it was when I had the raging hormones of a 60 year old.

The bed looked good when I arrived home that day, almost beckoning WELCOME to me. It told me I was not quite the dreg of the damned I had been before making it that morning and taking a few pictures almost one year to the  day after my  minor stroke of December 2014.  It seemed to say “Welcome to a man who doesn’t live with his shirt tail hanging out;  a man who  pets domesticated animals and tries to  find a salad fork when he eats salad.” I appreciated the modicum of affirmation thus reflected in the made bed.  So I’ve continued making my bed and gently turning down the cover and sheet at bedtime.

After two days of this, I also re-arranged my bedroom and relocated the bed where I should have placed it 20 years ago: the perfect spot for maximum appreciation of my bedroom. The painting, btw, was a gift from my talented artist and friend Ryan Sponsler. LOVE IT!
For the first time I understand why boot camp basic training is what it is when it comes to order and pride. It’s not a meaningless chore; it’s an essential element in the establishment and reinforcement of character, of necessary pride and discipline. It’s like bathing often, getting hair cuts and keeping it neat on top.

Over the course of most of my life as a presumed adult, I didn’t pay much attention to the bed . I can  sleep in an extended recliner chair. I did for months in  graduate school because I was too tired to go upstairs to bed in my house at the time, and it was a fine recliner.  As long as my bed had a sheet and blanket, I was okay. When the sheet was all messed up at the foot of the  under a quilt or blanket, that was okay too. I knew I  would eventually fall asleep anyway; I always did.

It’s December 16 as I write these words. To save money, I still haven’t turned on the furnace.  Some nights I’ve come close, but what the heck? I know I’m going to fall asleep anyway. Since the new routine started, I find myself sleeping warmer with the sheet tucked under the mattress at the foot. I’m even lying awake more comfortably.

The new routine is helping my attitude beyond the bedroom. I’m more deliberate; not as reckless, I’m behaving more adult-ish . “It’s a GOOD thing” as Martha Stewart used to say.

So if YOU relate to your bed with  all the warm regard usually saved for last week’s dirty dishes, I recommend you try  making your bed every day. I’m sure all my friends make their beds, but I can’t be sure about strangers and  incipient friends. It may work the minor miracle for you that it did for me.

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.



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December has been a hard month for me on more than one occasion. On December 12, 1994 I discovered my father, Job Clifton Conger, III, had died in bed when I went to check on him on a bright, sunny morning like the one outside my office window as I write today. On the day after welcoming a MAJOR military service person to my aviation museum, I suffered a stroke, and by the grace of God and the good will of my employer who drove me to the hospital I received medical attention very fast, and the stroke turned out to be minor, though not inconsequential. I was treated the first half day (December 4), the next full day and was discharged before lunch the next day. I’ve been taking children’s aspirin and two prescription drugs every day since. All of my checkups have been excellent. Everything is “in the green.” Today I weigh a few pounds less than 200, the slimmest I’ve been since I was about 30, haven’t used a salt shaker since (not even for pepper) and I return for checkups every SIX months instead of the past every month or two months. My three-day “vacation” was over. I had lived and dined better than I do at home, people  (even friends) had visited,  and there was a working television which I’ve not had at home for FOUR BLEEPING YEARS . . . not that I MISS TV (I think). I walked into my bedroom and found the bag of Frito munchies I had enjoyed in the wee hours of the 4th after taking it to bed — the most “delectable company” I’ve taken to bed in more than 10 years (don’t  get me started about that; I’d only embarrass myself. )
The picture above and the rest of them were “re-posed” (no pun intended) a few days ago for this blog post. The bed has not looked this “made” in probably three years.

I kept the Fritos with me just to stay close to my favorite snack before the stroke. Over the year past, I ate not ONE of the contents, not a salted chip or Pringle since. I haven’t even looked inside the bag. To be honest I did fondle it a little, gently, when I was setting up these pictures.
And since December 6, I’ve had a HELL OF A YEAR which finally showed a true blessing of a change for the better when I was able to arrange for a house renovation fellow who trusted me (I STILL OWE him a lot of money, drat it) to repair the devastated upstairs duplex and some friends from the arts community decided to rent it from me. It’s still been a hell of a year.

As this month approached I wasted a lot of time pondering my mortality. And as this month has continued, I’ve wasted a lot MORE time pondering my mortality and what to do with my life. I’ve pretty much disengaged from the literary and artistic community that meant so MUCH to me before I threw my heart and soul into the airport museum. Too many disappointments with too many people, too many times. Too many heartaches which appear irreconcilable. All I  have left is the aviation community and not much of one at that.  Still I speak to more airplane people than I do poetry and songwriting/performing people. So I guess this is my fate. But I digress.

The covenant I made with the partly consumed bag of Fritos Twists snacks served its purpose. The day after I spent the first night back in bed with them, I decided to spend a year with them. They kept me focused, my “eyes on the prize” of a healthier outcome, which — indeed — HAPPENED! The day after a year had passed, December 7, I removed the bag from the bed and it will not return to the bed. The bag and remaining snacks are now at the bottom of a bottom desk drawer. If  I ever feel like doing something to curtail my future, so to speak, I will probably munch the rest of the bag before taking a final giant step into the infinity of oblivion. I’m almost there today. I am dead to the arts community which I loved and which loved me for about 20 years. I know as well as I know how to pronounce my name that a lot of this circumstance is a torment I brought upon myself. That’s okay. I don’t hate anyone. And it is easier — no more arguing, no more disappointments — on ME this way, wallowing in the quietude of solitary reverie.
I miss my family like crazy, but those I loved so much up to about the time Mom (divorced from my father in about  1970-something) died in about 1986 and Dad died, are estranged from me too: my widowed older sister Dorothy, nephew Steve and niece Julie . . . . all have almost nothing to do with “the guitar picker who never moved away  from Springfield like every single one of them did.” Doctor Steve has sent me a Christmas card annually through the years, never with a note, once or twice without a signature. I am a mite  doubtful that one will come this year, though I don’t know why. He could have died in a train  wreck for all I know. Ditto Dot and Julie. Such is life.

December is a hard month for me.

I’ll be okay.

Merry Christmas!  🙂

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