OPINION: Moments to remember… And forget

“How many summers still remain / How many days are lost in vain / Who’s counting out these last remaining years / How many minutes do we have here?” – John Mellencamp

We sat across from each other at the tiny kitchen table. About 12:55 p.m., lunch time. I was finishing off my chicken salad and she gingerly nibbled on a barbecued chicken leg. Much of the meal was from last night’s supper, and leftovers these days suit me just fine.

A lone shaft of sunlight finally discovered the west-facing window at the front of the house and now stretched out lazily across the kitchen floor, persistently exploring around but finding nothing of interest.

The quietness of the old house, usually alive with creaks and moans of ancient timbers, seemed to press in and envelop the two of us in a blanket of complete soundlessness. At times like these, if the walls could talk, it would be whispers, and such whispers would be inaudible to human ears.

Without provocation, without warning, that lady, whom I thought I knew, uttered a question that, during any other time in our relationship, might have gone completely unnoticed, but at this point in my life, genuinely took me aback:

“What’s on your agenda?”

I had been daydreaming. While I do love my chicken salad, on that day, it did not challenge me, so I allowed my mind to wander around a bit while I munched away.

Ever notice how some days, food takes on a grandiose stance and by doing so, gives new meaning to life, and on other days, we eat simply because it’s mealtime and that’s what is expected of us? That’s where I was at that point.

I sat there dutifully simply because it was lunch time, and Susan had thoughtfully invited me to the gala.

I had been daydreaming mightily. I do that often.

Just earlier in the day, we had driven over to Statesboro for business and rode past Ogeechee Technical College, my last home, career-wise. I suggested to Susan that I drop her off outside the dean’s office, and that she should walk in with that flustered, worried look on her face and ask him, “Have you seen Ronnie? He left home last Friday, said he was coming over here to spend time with you, and he hasn’t been home since!”

His reaction and answer to her question would be an indicator of his ability and willingness to provide an alibi in the future, I explained. As it turns out, her reaction to my suggestion was the perfect indicator of how she perceived my special world view.

“How do you even think of things like that?” That was her answer/question.

I had also been daydreaming about our politicians. I am concerned about some of them because they are, after all, leaders of the free world, and a few of them can barely complete a sentence. I realize, for instance, that the president will be 80-years-old this year, but then Mick Jagger will be 79 and Rod Stewart will be 78, and they remember the words to “Paint It Black” and “Maggie May” respectively, so age is not the best excuse.

But I decided to give him a pass because just the night before, I sat up straight in my chair, got up, brushed the saltine cracker crumbs off my shirt, took off my glasses, and strolled off into the bedroom. Once there, to my chagrin and otherwise utter embarrassment, I realized I had no clue whatsoever as to why I would be standing at the foot of my bed wearing my Bigfoot slippers.

And that leads me back to Susan and her ill-conceived question about my agenda.

May 4, 2022, marked my one-year retirement anniversary. I have no agenda. I desire no agenda. I need no agenda.

In fact, when her question finally registered in my wandering mind, I thought first about long-term. Before I answered, I pondered a bit. But I quickly decided I couldn’t project any agenda or plans past tomorrow, so forget that.

I looked at her, with apparent confusion, because she read the tea leaves and thankfully clarified the question. “What are you doing this afternoon?”

I didn’t put much thought into it this time.

“No idea.” I answered.

I think she rolled her eyes.

She should have, I suppose. Honestly, I never remembered why I walked into the bedroom that night. If I did have an agenda, I would probably forget it anyway.

But in my defense, I know one stanza of “Paint It Black,” by heart, and it’s late September, and that narrator in “Maggie May” needs to be back in school.

Ronnie Cameron is a 1973 graduate of Swainsboro High School and completed undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Georgia Southern. Cameron has enjoyed a journeyman’s life, including stints in The Army Nuclear Air Defense Command, journalist, high school English teacher and football coach, tanker truck driver specializing in hazardous chemicals, CDL instructor, and part-time columnist for The Crossroads Chronicle. He is presently retired and resides in Kemp.

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