Aug 04, 2023, 05:55AM

Waiting for Becca

Jules: Scene 5.

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Scene 1 – Corner Booth

Scene 2 – Driving Home

Scene 3 – On the Back Deck

Scene 4 – In the Bathroom

When his stomach started growling, Jules decided to rise from the sofa and shuffle into the kitchen. He thought “salty” and found some green olives. He searched the cupboard and found peanuts. He opened a can of ginger ale. Then he carefully carried his tray back toward the sofa and sat back down. Becca would arrive in about an hour. He continued reading from the affirmation article Reva sent him.

#12. I can handle whatever comes my way.

He closed his eyes and flew back over the last 15 years or so. Violet’s funeral. The cemetery visits. The urge to give up. The Santa Barbara sky turning from blue to gray. The grieving. Eventually, the medicating. Gradually, the adjusting and then the writing. Living again.

“Whatever comes my way?” Hmm.

The danger with blanket statements is that they smother the thoughtful reader. The simple person might read a statement and say to themselves: “That sounds nice, I’d like to believe that.” The critical reader might consider all of the times during which we genuinely can’t handle whatever comes our way. Like most men born in the 1940s, Jules was raised under the ideological influence of extreme self-reliance.

His father and his brother Sam had modeled the behavior throughout his early years. Trust yourself. Handle your business. Keep going. He observed how it wore his father down. The look on his dad’s face at the kitchen table, after the dishes were cleared at dinner. When Sam and Morty had left the table and their cat had retreated to her spot near the heating grate. As his mother was cleaning up at the sink. The end of expected family time. Everyone would retreat to their corners. His father’s face would glaze over. He’d lean back in the chair, staring down at the yellow Formica tabletop. If Jules caught his father’s eyes, he’d flash him a quick smile, then return to that fugue state.

The problem with extreme self-reliance was it removed vulnerability from the equation. If you always handled your business alone, everybody else learned to steer clear of you. As if you were building your own coffin. Some people preferred to be alone more often than others. Others preferred books to conversation. For Jules, books led to conversation.

Jules had seen too many die of heart attacks, drug overdoses, alcohol issues or drunken accidents. So many individual crises because people refused to reach out to others or admit they needed help.

Jules spoke softly to himself. “I can often handle whatever comes my way, but when I’m struggling, I will keep reaching out to my friends and family.”

We can’t handle everything that comes our way. What if we could accept that and find ways to move forward?

#13. I act with confidence because I know what I am doing.

Jules was mostly confident. He usually had a sense of how to do whatever it was he was doing, but that confidence was contextual. Nobody always knows what they’re doing.

His friend Tom was a high school science teacher, who also taught Driver’s Ed to high school juniors and seniors. Those kids had no idea what the hell they were doing. Not at first. Tom taught them and tested them on the rules of the road, but he didn’t have to get in the car with them, not like the driving instructors. What a job, having to slam on the brakes all afternoon to keep teenagers from crashing into everything. Some people should never be given a license, but try telling that to a hothead father, who can’t wait to have his son take him out in his Corvette.

Jules would change this one to: When I’ve learned how to do something, I’ll maintain confidence that I’ll be able to do it. I won’t pretend to be confident until I have practiced.

Becca texted again. 

“Damn traffic. Sorry Grandpa, now it says 6:45!” Jules had to use the phone keyboard again to text. He slowly typed, “Don’t worry.” He appreciated that she kept him updated. Reva had taught her well.

#14. I am different and unique and that’s okay.

Jules closed his eyes again. He’d been listening to a solo piano piece that transported him. It was called “The Hourglass.” Reva sent him music, via internet links. This last one was gorgeous. He sometimes found himself listening to it a dozen times in a row. As he listened, Jules considered the question of his own uniqueness. Jules was comfortable being himself.

He used to be a tall, athletic, moderately handsome, mildly humorous, overly sensitive, occasionally suspicious, incurably curious, book-loving Jewish man. A father, son, brother, husband, friend, writer, thinker, fan.

Now he was a shrinking, increasingly frail, older Jewish man, whose heart ached, but whose heart still worked. A father and grandfather who tried to keep up with the times.

Jules’ thoughts swirled, as he listened to the cascading notes of the piano.

He was an East Coast transplant, living out his days near the Pacific. He was a man who had trouble moving beyond loss, but didn’t everybody?

He’d simply lost too many people. He’d lost his first wife to mania, and lost his Violet to a fool behind the wheel of a pickup truck. He’d lost his brothers to illness and age. He’d lost too many of his friends to name. He was a man who’d been searching for love under every stack of papers, every pile of books, and in every conversation he’d ever had. Jules occasionally found it. As a middle-aged man in the throes of depression, he learned to send that love back out whenever he was able. The problem was, there were fewer people to send it back out to. That was the undeniable fact.

Jules opened his eyes and scanned the paper again. #14. I am different and unique and that’s okay.

He thought, “I am different and unique and I have lost too many people.” 


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