July 08, 2005

Taking things for granted

We all take things for granted. Basic things, simple things. It's normal, isn't it? You live in a routine, for the most part, and the more routine, the more dependable the thing is, the more you stop noticing it. For instance, you don't really notice each time you take a breath, do you? You don't notice the pavement you walk on, unless you trip because the frost heave has caused the pavement to twist or buckle, right? You expect the pavement to be relatively uniform in height and so you get accustomed to lifting your feet a predictable number of inches off the ground with each step. Then you stumble because the height has changed, even just a little bit.

Routine can be good like that. It can, at its best, free up your mind for other things. When you're walking, you can be thinking about anything you want because you already know that the pavement doesn't require anything even close to your full attention to be able to keep on moving along.

I like routine. No, that's too much. I am comforted by routine but I crave something else other than routine.

Ok. This damn post is going off in two or three different directions, none of which were intended when I began to click away at the keyboard.

Let me return to my first thought and leave routine and the pluses and minuses thereof alone for a bit.

What else do I take for granted? The sun coming up, the light turning on when I hit the switch, the chair supporting my weight when I sit in it, a dial tone when I pick up the phone, that my body will move when I will it to. Ah, the last one. My body moving.

Body moving is partially about health. Health is something that too many of us take for granted. And if we don't take it for granted, we only pay it lip service. We assume that our joints will work and our body will move when we command it to. We assume that and we take it for granted. Really. When was the last time you thought about moving your leg, or standing up when you were seated. When was the last time you traced your movments, slowly, to see what actually was happening? Probably not recently, if ever.

You learn something, it works, you take it for granted that it will work that way forever.

I took my children yesterday to various medical appointments. The Boy Child had his 2.5 year check up. The "Dock-her" said he was perfect. When we got home from the appointment, the Boy Child clutching his new matchbox truck or, if he's speaking Norwegian, his "ah-ah bil", ran around showing his grandmother and his sister his "art" (heart) because the dock-her listened to it, his "ouchie" because the "mommy" (nurse) gave him a shot, and his band-aid. For the record, he gained weight despite his steadfast refusal to eat and he grew. He is now 29 pounds and stands 36.25 inches tall. This puts him in the 48th percentile for weight and the 52nd for height. Like the dock-her said, perfect.

The Girl Child had a dental check up. It went just fine, as it should. She was brave, did not cry, and selected an extra toy out of the box to bring home for her brother. She also, I think for the first time, consciously spoke to me in Norwegian to avoid other people understanding what we were talking about. I think she is beginning to grasp the notion that Norwegian can be her secret language and I think she likes it. We had, by the way, the most overqualified dental assistant ever. She was a dentist herself, just graduated from dental school and temping until her post-doc program starts at NYU Dental in the fall.

On the way home, we drove past a cemetery and she had a lot of questions about death, dead people, how they were buried and why. She also wanted to stop by and visit her great-grandfather, about whom I've written before.

He is in his 90's and is a most impressive man. He's also someone who never seems to take anything for granted, not the important things, not his mind or the small pleasures vouchsafed us by our creator -- the joy of a ripe summer tomato, for instance.

But his mind is going. It's cloaked. His doctors told my mother and my uncle (a shrink) that he is suffering from mild to moderate dementia. The things he has taken for granted, that we have all taken for granted, are no longer to be treated so. He is disappearing before our eyes.

It was quite a contrast yesterday, my children in perfect health and my grandfather at the end of his.

Here's the rub for me. He is not eating and I understand that. This broken hip and confusion of the mind is robbing him of his dignity and pride. He has loads of both. I understand his not wanting to live without them. But you know what? I miss him already.

While I had the Girl Child at the dentist, my wife visited my grandfather with the Boy Child. She told me later that my grandfather's face lit up when the Boy Child kissed him. It's these little things, like kisses, that we ought not to take for granted.

You can't live your life taking note of every single thing. But every now and again, examine your world and marvel at it. It will do you good, I bet.

Sorry if this one turns out to be as confused a mess as it felt while I wrote it. But, you take the good with the bad, right? Even if the bad is a really long post.

Posted by Random Penseur at July 8, 2005 10:33 AM | TrackBack

Beautiful words. It's so true that there is something in almost every single moment of every single day to marvel at, if only we take the time to notice.

Posted by: Jennifer at July 8, 2005 11:18 AM

I read a great method to stimulate wonder in the world around you and creativity, it was in a book called Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch.

From what I remember you decide that at this moment you've never seen anything before, everything is new. You are a child seeing everything for the first time, wipe your preconceptions aside. It works for a short time, and I've found it fun. Another way is to look at things and call them names different from what they actually are, as quickly as possible. For example look at your phone and call it "Church" etc. You may look insane but if frees you from preconcieved ideas for a bit.

Great post RP, I like the meandering, it doesn't bother me one bit!

Posted by: Oorgo at July 8, 2005 12:54 PM

Sort of in the same vein, I had a conversation with a friend about how few people seem to notice the natural world around them. They don't have the slightest idea what species inhabit the world around them. It's rather sad.

Great post.

Posted by: Mark at July 8, 2005 09:26 PM

Wonderful post. I visited another blog recently that was talking about this very same thing, where I admitted that I don't take notice of my surroundings as often as I should. I feel like this concept is following me around in some way.

On a personal note, what is happening with your father happened with my grandmother-in-law...the only grandmother I ever knew. I really feel what you're going through. I love that you're blogging about this. You will benefit from the true nature of journaling on this one. And don't apologize for it...EVER!


Posted by: Linda at July 11, 2005 09:17 AM

Nah, this one goes in the "good" column, RP. :-)

Posted by: Jim at July 12, 2005 12:21 PM
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