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Slippery….

Provocative title, eh? Oh, ye nasty-minded people! The “slippery” I refer to today is the slope kind. The one that seems to get a little steeper every day as our minds become less sharp and our bodies less able to handle the abuses of our youth. But the shift is so subtle that we don’t notice the change until we are sliding helplessly. The older we get, the farther we’ve climbed so the fall seems endless when it happens.

It’s not so much the fact that I have counted 4 times that I have been in the shower and managed to get out having shaved only one leg. The first time was funny. The second, not so much. The third? Cause for concern. The fourth: Back to being funny. It shows that nothing is as automatic as it used to be. I just ran an entire load of wash without having actually put the clothes in. It takes just a split second for the synapses to change their minds about firing in their original direction and then swing their barrels around and start shooting at something else entirely.

This summer someone close to me accidentally left a dog in her car after she arrived home. The air was cool when she got there and the windows were up. Intending to let him out on her next trip outside, the phone rang, the contractors arrived, the painting needed to be hung…and she forgot about the dog. And his lungs forgot to breathe anymore. The devastation was profound, especially since the dog wasn’t hers. Slippery….

A couple weeks ago an old friend lost her footing too. On her way home from a reception, she lost control of her car and nearly lost her life. Or did she lose control of her life and nearly lose her car? The things we are and become when no one is looking seem so small in the moment, yet in the magnifying light of hindsight the change is monolithic. We don’t see ourselves growing older, don’t feel our minds getting weaker until one day something happens to show us. My friend has been flirting with disaster for years. She has been flirting with everything and everyone, in fact. Bigger than any personality should be, she has pushed many in her life away with the sheer exuberance of her character. We stand back, our eyes and ears shielded, hoping that we won’t be the object of her attention. But now she is the object of ours and we wonder what we could have done differently. As I contemplate this in the aftermath of her disaster I know that what I can do is behave differently now. So often the lapse in our lives comes as the disintegration of our integrity, our morality. Those tiny, seemingly inconsequential decisions we make each day that slowly erode our fiber, the moths in our darkness chowing down on the silk that was once our most beautiful possesion–our character. My friend will recover in time but it won’t be her body that requires the most recuperation. She will lie there for weeks and months, alone in her thoughts and body, wondering which decision started her sliding.

And I will be here inside myself wondering the same thing and hoping that her fall will prevent mine. Be well, my friend, and bless you for your sacrifice. Maybe one day you’ll understand the gift you’ve given the rest of us.

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