‘Torpid’ Is a Good Word For It

There are probably 15 items on my “Things to Do This Weekend” list, and I have completed exactly none of them. I had high hopes for productivity during these kidless days where I could work uninterrupted and just get the tasks done. Problem is, I just don’t feel like doing a damn thing.

I was going to wash my windows — they are almost so dirty you can’t really call them windows since “window” indicates something to see through. I was going to clean the house — you know, more than just throwing everything in a closet and shutting the door. I was going to get a jump start on a work project that is due on Wednesday — I made it as far as powering up the laptop. I have managed to talk myself out of doing all of these things and more.

I work hard. I admit there are days when I slack off a bit at the job, and when my kids are here I always make time to play with them in between the dad-duties that I have to perform. But for the most part my work days are full and my off-time is spent in varying forms of chores and service, or time spent with people important to me. The days where I just lounge around and do absolutely nothing are rare. Very rare.

This weekend has been like that. I have done things, but none of them were on the list, none of them (aside from a trip to the gym) accomplished anything remotely like “work”, and the only thing wrong with it is my nagging belief that I’ve wasted time that could have been used in getting things done. I don’t know why, but the fact that I slept in until 9:00 am this morning and have done nothing productive in the six hours since then hasn’t been sitting well with me.

I’m not sure why that is, but I’ve decided I don’t care. I believe I’ll spend the rest of the day doing much the same stuff I’ve done all weekend: read, nap, watch some TV, eat something that doesn’t require a lot of effort to prepare (I’m looking at you, frozen pizza) and just be okay with doing nothing.

Besides – “Write a New Blog Post” was, in fact, on the list. So I’m not a total slacker.

The Awesome Funeral Home

Every now and then, a memory surfaces that would probably have been better left at the bottom of the psychic pond.

I’ll be cruising along, minding my own business, when from out of nowhere something will trigger a thought that leads to the memory of something completely random that hasn’t been in my mind for eons. Sometimes it’s a song that brings it up; other times it’s a smell. Contact from an old friend can make it happen too – it doesn’t happen often but when it does, it’s sometimes funny, sometimes unpleasant, and always remarkable.

From nowhere yesterday, I was hit with the memory of a field trip taken when I was in the first grade. The specifics surrounding the trip are vague and hazy, and I don’t really remember much about it. There’s probably a reason for that – it was a visit to a funeral home.

I know how it sounds, but I swear to God this is the honest truth: in 1974, the Scio, Oregon Board of Education approved a spring field trip for its elementary school students to take a journey to Albany and tour the Aasum Funeral Home. Whether the Aasum family pronounced it as “awesome” or not, that is how I’ve always said it — the “awesome” funeral home.

[Note – I assume the Board of Education was aware of the trip and signed off on it ahead of time. The idea that we were taken to a funeral home just on the casual whim of a couple of whackjob teachers is somehow more horrifying than the idea of taking 6 and 7 year olds to a funeral home in the first place.]

First graders. On a field trip. To a funeral home. I have a few glimpses of memory into that day — little snippets of mental video that somehow didn’t get erased in the thirty-some years since I took the tour of the awesome funeral home: A walk-through of the parlor with its curtains and carpet and seating for an audience of mourners. A sampling of caskets in varying colors and styles. A little landscaped area out a window that seemed to be a small oasis in the “big city” that Albany had seemed to me, being the small-town farm boy that I was. These are the few images that I retained from that visit.

Well, there’s one more. The main one. The one that hit me the other day from out of the blue. I can’t believe that all the years that I watched “Six Feet Under” on HBO, with all the funeral-home-related action it contained, I never flashed back to this memory. It’s the main image I would think of when I would reflect on that bizarre field trip.

Linoleum tile. I was in a post office yesterday and I happened to notice the floor was covered with linoleum tile. Nothing unusual about that, but for some reason -perhaps it was the color, perhaps just a trick of the light- it reminded me of the linoleum tile that we sat on that day in first grade as we ate our sack lunches on our field trip to the awesome funeral home. We sat on the floor and ate our sack lunches, the linoleum tile cold underneath us, cold like a tomb. Like death.

Did we actually eat our lunch in the embalming room?

I can’t say with 100% certainty. I think perhaps I blocked it out, for the memory does not want to linger at the front of my mind. I don’t remember anything else about the trip and so it’s possible that I was so shocked and horrified at being surrounded by the tools of the undertaker’s trade that my mind just shut down and switched over to safety mode.

Maybe there was a kitchen area there, and we were eating our lunch in that room – a kitchen that was floored in linoleum. But I remember the room being big, and cold, and “sterile” somehow. Maybe a kitchen would be like that, and maybe funeral homes routinely have big industrial-type kitchens for the activities that are held there – though I don’t know that memorials at funeral homes generally include a lot of cooking and baking in their services.

My mind thinks we ate our sack lunches sitting on the cold linoleum tile floor of the embalming room, and that is why that memory is kept in the restricted section of my brain.

Suddenly, my penchant for horror stories and zombie flicks and tales of the dead and undead alike seems to make a lot more sense to me. The seed of that macabre tree was planted years ago, on the day a yellow school bus carted me off to spend an afternoon having lunch in a mortician’s lair.

A New Year of Days

I made a resolution today to not make any resolutions for the new year. I can’t think of any resolution I’ve ever made that I kept beyond February. The only success I’ve ever experienced at changing something has been when I’ve committed to doing it a day at a time. It is just easier that way – I don’t have to be discouraged by a long road ahead, and I don’t have to beat myself up if I fall short one day. I can do anything for one day, if I set my mind to it.

Today I decided I was going to eat healthier – just for today.

That lasted until about 2:00, when the kids talked me into taking them to lunch. It’s a holiday, and I didn’t feel like cooking, so it wasn’t hard to convince me.

Maybe I just hadn’t “set my mind” to eating healthy today.

Tomorrow I may try again. I may not. It doesn’t matter right now, because I’m not there yet. And tomorrow, what happened today won’t matter either. If there’s any “resolution” at hand here, it’s to just be more conscious of what my intent is for each day, every day. And that’s something I’ve been trying to do anyway. So we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Besides, everyone knows the year doesn’t really start until that first day back to work anyway.

Happy 2011!