I wrote a poem, despite my recent aridity. I don't know what to make of it, but here it is:
My beard reflected in the glass door of the library:
salt and dandelions, the white fuzz.
I never thought I'd get this old.
Youth cannot imagine mortality's attrition.
In its Dr. Pepper commercial
the gum is always fresh and everyone's a virgin.
Still, the greater part of life is dimunition.
From 25 to 75 it's downhill. The body knows
but the mind may not face it until 50.
If then you accept your growing impotence
and avoid an angry showdown with your pride
you might age gracefully.
At least try not to be ridiculous
like the man with the ill-fitting toupee
worthy of its own hunting season.
Positively Bud Installment #9
"How about your mother?" Troy continued.
"She was sick a lot with headaches, you know. She never seemed very happy. Always going to doctors. You were afraid to ask her for help because she seemed sick and frail, yet she outlived my dad. I can't remember her laughing."
"Did she cook for you?"
"Did she wash your clothes, mend them, and keep house?"
"To the best of her ability."
"So your poor frail mother with her chronic headaches nevertheless loved you enough to overcome her illness for your sake and cook and clean and do the wash?"
"Well, I guess so."
"Either she did or she didn't."
"Then she must have loved you very much. Your mother loved you."
"But it doesn't feel that way."
"Because I was afraid to ask her for things, afraid to be a burden to her. It was like an unspoken rule that she was exhausted, on her last legs so to speak, and we were not to upset her."
"So what? She had limitations, but she loved you the best she could. Your mother loved you.
"My mother loved me."
"My mother loved me."
"Enough that she consistently overcame her own frailties to take care of you. She loved you a lot. Say it!"
"My mother loved me a lot!"
"How does that feel?"
"How does that feel?"
"Repeat after me: 'I am special because I am unique. I am lucky because my father and mother loved me."
Bud did so, and the strange sensation of a visceral optimism came over him again.
"Great!" said Troy. "That's enough for this morning's session. Before this afternoon I want you to write, fifty times each, 'I am special because I am unique. My father dearly loved me. My mother dearly loved me. And I love myself.' OK?"
"Sure," Bud answered, his voice betraying a nascent enthusiasm.
Larry entered the room on cue. "Next on the agenda, my man, is some interpretive art therapy. Follow me."
They wound their way through several corridors until they entered a large rectangular room wallpapered in daisies whose long blue tables were strewn with magazines, posters and pictures, whole and in pieces. A cheerful, matronly woman with a gray bun stood at the head of the room. Several patients were thumbing through pictures at tables, intent on their work.
"I'll leave you here for now," Larry said and left.
"Hello, Mr. Rose. May I call you Bud?"
"Why, yes," he replied. The therapist looked like an overstuffed and graying Mary Poppins, silver reading glasses perched on her upturned nose, with a variety of brown and red moles on her neck which Bud thought could pass for art.
"I understand you're new to our program, so I'm going to give you a little individual attention this morning. Please join me at my desk." She motioned him over to the head of the room and sat across from him with an indulgent smile.
"What we do here is try to change your basic interpretation of reality," she said. "We begin with pictures. You tell me what you see and feel, and then I'll explore with you some alternate ways of seeing, OK?"
"Sure," Bud said while the singsong mantra played through his mind: "I am unique, unique, unique, my father loved me, my mother loved me, I am unique, unique, unique."
"Here's the first picture." She slid a black and white photograph across the desk. "What do you see?"
Bud saw a dog, a large tan boxer, freshly run over in the middle of the street. A truck was parked at an odd angle just off the curb and a man in a blue uniform, presumably from the truck, was bending over the injured dog. "I see a tragedy," Bud began, "a terrible accident. The man didn't mean to run the dog over and now he doesn't know what to do."
Mrs. Claiborne clucked. "You don't have to see it that way, you know, dear. Think of it this way: a dog with an irresponsible owner who let him run free without a leash was put out of its misery by an accident. A caring truck driver ministers to the dog and demonstrates human compassion. It is good that the dog died, otherwise he might have suffered more at the owner's hands. And the driver knows perfectly well what to do; he's about to call the pound to pick up the animal. The impact was too sudden to be painful. The accident will make the truck driver an even better driver, and he'll have an interesting story to tell his family that night. How do you like my version?"
"You have a wonderful imagination, Mrs. Claiborne."
"Hogwash! I have a limited imagination. But I have disciplined myself to put the best possible construction on things in the interest of mental health. Here's a second picture."
The notorious picture of Bobby Kennedy's assassination stared up at him.
"What do you see?" Mrs. Claiborne asked.
"A horrible tragedy," Bud said. "The death of a man who brought hope to many at the hands of a fanatic."
"Now, now, Bud, you're the one with the good imagination. What you see is the last successful assassination attempt on a president or presidential candidate. Reagan was wounded but survived. There has not been another tragedy like this in many years. And you know why?"
"Precisely because attempts like this one gave rise to greater security precautions for all candidates. We have Bobby Kennedy and Sirhan Sirhan to thank for our genuine improvement in protecting notables. With this next picture I want you to try to see things more our way."