Quiet Desperation

In the tower, looking down, looking back


Mick Jagger said, "Time waits for no one." No, it doesn't. I just turned around and I'm on Medicare. My only living relative is my sister, Cindy. My college professors are dropping one by one.
I was grading portfolios a week ago, it seems like. And now I have been retired for 11 years.
It's kind of fascinating to be up in the tower like coach Bear Bryant, looking down and looking back on my life. Maybe you have done the same thing.
In the dream-like moments between wake and sleep, I reminisce about ex-girlfriends, my father, when I was a student. During one stretch I went to different schools four years in a row. One in Michigan, two in California, and one in Ohio.
There was a lot of moving going on, and a lot of readjustments that had to be made.
Everyone has had a handful of days that were important, that can make us sentimental or emotional when we think about them.
Graduation day, the day you met your future wife or husband, the day your child was born. The day you were hired or fired, divorced, or checked into rehab.
What if you didn't go to that concert in the first place? You never would have met Vera, Chuck or Dave. If you skipped that surprise party, you might not have met Janalee, Andy or Thor.
I have questions that I want to ask my father, and I can't. I want to know why we moved from Michigan to Pennsylvania and then back to Michigan. The only source of that information is deceased.
If you have some unanswered questions, ask them now, because you never know.
My life really changed for the first time on Aug. 8, 1963, when I was the only witness in one of Ohio's most sensational crimes, the murder of a high school cheerleader. It's still around in my thoughts.
Ten years later, my life changed again. I vividly remember being introduced to the chair of the University of California, Santa Barbara, art department, and the moment he offered me my first teaching job.
I spent 13 hours one day in 1984, defending myself in front of a school committee because a pathological student had convinced enough people that she was telling the truth when she claimed I had entered her home and written messages in lipstick on her bathroom mirror. Among other fun accusations.
It was the day the respect I had for my employer ended.
One evening in October 2011, I gave a painting demonstration at the Curtis Arts and Humanities Center in Greenwood Village. Who was the first one to show up? A woman with undecided blue eyes introduced herself. Jennifer.
These "sliding doors" happen all the time in films. The director has 90 minutes to take us back, and then to take us forward. "When Harry Met Sally" is a good example.
I have been very lucky. I am very lucky. I wish that my father were still around. Other than that, I feel like I am having a good life.
I am not signing off, I am just reminiscing on a bitterly cold night, when Jennifer is unable to come over.
My screen saver is a picture of Smitty when his face was auburn, not gray like it is now. The one inevitability of owning a pet is that they will break your heart one day. Unless you own one of those tort oises that live for 200 years.
Smitty is 10, and like me, he is now getting senior wellness examinations.
I brought him home from the MaxFund Animal Shelter and Adoption Center on April 3, 2008. He looked at me through the bars on his crate and said, "Get me out of here, Dad."
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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