It is said time waits on no one. Whereas, Destiny has a way of arriving right on time, then putting you in a headlock and pummeling you with left uppercuts, before taking you down into a world you did not necessarily select and certainly didn't foresee. Are we predestined to a particular end or is there a range of possible outcomes?
The dreaded day had arrived. Near freezing temps and a light rain swirled together marking the gravesite ceremony. Funerals are a usually a time of reflection of things good in the person's past, and sometimes things bad. The dark side few talk about is the funeral is a glimpse into the soul of all who attend. This often starts with wondering where that person is now. Have they entered purgatory, heaven, hell, or a void of nothingness? If there is a bright spot at all, one thing is true, it marks the end of a series of awkward comments from those that attend and usually don't know what to say. They offer the oft time-honored regurgitated phrases such as "she looks peaceful" or "she looks good," and "she lived a good life." This time though it was different, the Dark Passenger that rides shotgun with us all had taken my mother. Typically, we have no perception of his presence. But let me assure you he is only a heartbeat away. Certainly, Death comes in many forms ranging from unexpectedly quick and tragic to lingering and full of suffering. I don't know if the Grim Reaper has an equation which determines our type of death or not. Maybe it is just a random roll of the dice. Maybe Destiny sic's the Reaper on us like a police dog. Could it be we in some way control our own destiny? It could be many things. I only know in the course of time it is inevitable. Billions go through the majority of their life with but a passing thought to their own lives let alone their meeting with Death. All of our 21st century technology holds no more of an answer to the afterlife than was held by a Neanderthal in the ice age.
Darkening sky and distant thunderclaps echoed from afar as a prelude to even worse weather. People were scurrying to their cars right behind me. Umbrellas sprouted like a sea of mushrooms as the first drops fell. The small 3-bedroom ranch style house I grew up in was minutes away. The chipped crushed stone driveway had flattened into an almost cement like surface over the years. The key managed to work the old lock another time. After incorrectly flicking on the outdoor lights, the remaining wall switch illuminated the front room. My eyes panned around the room. The same paneled walls still stood. Paneled walls that had witnessed man's first step on the moon, the Beatles, and so much more. The same walls that stood through the years as a testament of the family which had lived there. The dents in the ceiling from being hit with nunchakus during the Bruce Lee years hadn't been replaced or fixed themselves. A look out any window reinforced the ongoing march of time. The canopy of now gigantic maples was a theme park for the newest tenants- dozens of squirrels. Empty lots stood in place of homes that didn't stand the test of time. An entire neighborhood had now punched their tickets with the Dark Passenger. Not sure what fate had in store for my mother's home. Movers would load furniture and boxes in the morning. There was a shroud of great loneliness hanging in the front room. An eerie silence spoke volumes.
After a quick walk thruthrough, I remembered the "furnace room" had not been checked. Room to room I went, flicking switches as I walked first thru through the tiny kitchen and into the laundry room. The furnace huffed and puffed ... at least offering some resistance to the present dreariness and coming storm outside. I guessed over 50 years had marched past since I last opened that particular door. After moving the ironing board aside, there was just enough room to open that door. The door groaned and squeaked with the twist of the handle. The furnace stood behind a couple boxes. Some rugs were neatly folded and stacked on top of a folded trash bag. Beneath the trash bag was the prize. Buried like a fossil beneath eons of dirt, beneath the stack of rugs slept an unexpected discovery. A discovery on a day like this would be one thing, but the discovery of treasure is quite another. As I pulled the rugs to the side, long dormant memories flooded back. The boxes held the treasures of a bygone day ... my old comic books which to my amazement had not been thrown out. As a young boy, like many my age, I loved comic books. The comics offered escape from all that ails you (as my mother would say). Any reader of comic books realizes each has an ad page featuring unusual and even unbelievable products. Right between the X-ray glasses and Sea Monkeys was perhaps the most intriguing of all. It was the "Mad Scientist Lab!". The goggle wearing, white haired gent holding the bubbling test tube promised all the magic, fame and glory a ten-year-old could imagine. In terms of the imagination of a ten-year-old, let me emphasize that is quite a proverbial crap load. I selected the top comic and ironically opened to that very page. In general, as a kid it was nothing short of a miracle that things could be ordered and appear later at your door in the hands of the trusted United States Postal Service. The absence of any bills made the delivery much like Santa coming early. A few dollars could go a long way then. After saving several weeks of allowance, I obtained a money order and sent away for the incredible mind-boggling gateway to adventure. The wait for "The Mad Scientist Lab" was agonizing. Days of watching, studying the habits of the postman allowed me to guestimate his daily arrival time. Through the scorching last month of summer break, the Cub game playing on WGN channel 9 out of Chicago, I patiently watched and waited for the arrival of our mail. Almost daily, my brothers poked fun with great glee. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months .... nothing. The summer had past and the last leaf had marked the end of fall. I am not sure when I completely forgot about the "Mad Scientist Lab." We had written a couple letters to the company but still...nothing. I guess there was some valuable lesson hidden in all this, but I didn't know what it was. Fast forward to the present, I just realized that that old wound had not completely healed. Fifty plus years of having it figured out would soon be shattered to a million pieces like the a window hit by a ball. Another old saying rang true- once bitten twice shy. I didn't order another thing from a comic book ad. I even hate Amazon today. In all things good and bad, if you wake the next day you learn that life goes on. I lifted the rugs/trash bag together with the top box and carried them into the dining room, setting them on the table. I was thankful, even if for the few moments, to have been transported back to a fun and happy childhood.