You Out There, Al?

     Al has been gone a week, and to my great regret, I never taped him fulminating about whatever or whomever upset him at that moment. Al had a gentle, understanding side, of course, but it was his ability to combine anger, disgust, common sense, humor and an endless supply of expletives into marvelously pithy, off-color diatribes that made him such an unforgettable character. 
     Covenant Woods is filled with whiners and complainers whose bellyaching is beyond boring. Al, however, did his griping with brio, elan, dash, and spirit. He was never boring. But in those moments when I am bored, I would love to be able to press a button and listen to Al lambasting the fools du jour.  
     Al also had a very analytical mind. He was always searching for meaning in life. "What are we here for? What are we supposed to be doing?" he would ask. As a teenager, Al read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, and he told me I should, too. I never did. 
     On a more concrete level, Al analyzed even the simplest but frustrating tasks. One evening a couple weeks ago, I visited Al. We talked for a bit, then Al said he was going to bed. In the process, he managed to get his oxygen tube entangled with the wire to the controls for the hospital bed hospice had provided him with. When he saw that they weren't going to separate easily, Al sat up, put the mess on the floor, took a good look at it, and set about the task at hand. It was a slow, frustrating task, which Al accompanied with some color commentary: "Son of a bitch. You bastard. Come on, Al, don't be a shit ass." 
     The whole time, though, he was focused on the problem, trying to figure out what he needed to do to untangle the mess. He never resorted to my preferred method: wildly pulling and tugging on the wires until they separated or, more likely, became detached from their respective machines, thereby creating a bigger problem. It remains to be seen if I learned anything from his example. 






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