This is a sincere question, or questions. I just find life puzzling sometimes, even when its pieces should make up some obvious whole.
I just lost another friend to cancer. His name is/was Neil and he was a nice man. I spent some time with him and another friend a couple of weeks ago and, frankly, he seemed to be doing well. He had previously had surgery to attack his lung cancer, and now it was back. But he didn't seem overly concerned about it. I got the feeling he thought all would be well.
Now, was that because that's how I wanted it to be, or how it was? Was it how he wanted it to be and was successful in presenting a wish as fact? Or did things just get rapidly worse, regardless of what anybody thought or considered?
He was a man of true faith. He knew God was there for him. One of the nice things he used to do- at least I thought it was nice- was pass out little... em... things, for lack of a better word, to people. Medallions, coins, little gee gaws... things. The common thread among them was that they were designed to make the recipient feel better. One might have had a positive saying on it, some few words to help prevent a stumble by someone he cared about. It might have been something with a religious theme or overtone to help people, literally, keep the faith.
I didn't get the sense it was a one size fits all sort of thing. Usually what he gave fit the person he gave it too, and was something that was likely to give the recipient a boost right there, right then.
Let's face it. We don't really “know” other people, do we? At best, we compare our insides to their outsides and, in the end, only know what we know about them. But, I think people really liked Neil, and his wife Kim. I know Sheri and I did. I know, too, that we wished he could stop smoking, once and for all. You know I've written about that before, though. My father couldn't stop, neither could my sister. It seems that Neil couldn't either.
But, though we had that in common, what was really at the heart of the relationship that Neil and I had began with the fact that we were both about the same age and both born in Scotland. More than that, we were born, as near as I can figure, about 25 miles apart. Greenock was his hometown, while mine was Johnstone. Growing up in Scotland in the early 50s and 60s virtually guaranteed that there was no way we were ever going to run into one another, never mind develop any sort of relationship.
Also, Neil was Catholic and I was Protestant. You have no idea what a big deal that was back then. It may still be for all I know. There was some mixing, but there wasn't a lot.
So, anyway, there Neil and I are growing up a few miles apart and at some point, both families moved to America and at some other point, as adults, we each moved to Maine and then at some other other point, we each moved to be back within about 25 miles of one another again.
Don't you find that... odd? Interesting? Funny, but not ha ha? What do you suppose the odds would be against that happening? If some cosmic bookmaker, in let's say, 1958, decided to make book on the chance of Neil and Jim living within 25 miles of each other, in Maine, United States of America, in 2015... don't you think you could get pretty good odds against that happening? Like eleventy seven gazillion to one?
And, oh sure... Let's also say that we would both end up with cancer in 2015? Whaaaat? If you read that in a work of fiction, don't you think you would be hard put to believe it? Don't you think you, and critics and darn near anyone else who read about that, would say, 'Nah. That's too much to expect us to swallow. I'm willing to suspend disbelief, but only so far.”
And yet... I'm glad it was true. I didn't know Neil super well, but I knew him well enough to be glad I did; well enough to see some of the encouragement and hope he offered to others, including Sheri and me. Look, he and I had both come a very long way to end up with cancer in a wee town in Maine. Still, I do know this: as far as Neil is concerned, a lot of people are very happy that he made that journey. It made a positive difference in their lives that wouldn't end just because he died this week. Besides, a lot of us have gee gaws we can pull out to remind us of the man.
There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere