Words to Live by

People were breaking into my house from every window and door at 3 a.m., crash bang slanging all around the house. Clutching my newly broken rib, I stood up from my desk to fend them off. Oh, for a big dog right now.

Winter storm blowing in, I’d slipped on my icy front walk on the eve of New Year’s Eve. Remember the old Dubble Bubble cartoons with stars and lightning bolts shooting out of Mort’s head? That was me.

I spent the long, joyous New Year’s weekend lying flat on my back, indulging in our nation’s favorite sport: Feeling sorry for myself and wishing I could blame someone else.

It was my fault, of course, and I knew it, but there’s no solace in that.

Seven inches of snow fell on New Year’s Eve and Day in my little town in Vermont.

Early Tuesday, with the Sun somewhere in the depths of hell, the temperature rose to exactly 32 degrees and the snow turned to ice, sleet, hail and freezing rain. That’s what I heard crashing all around my house as I rolled out of bed to greet the first work day of the new year.

I really did roll out of bed. It hurts like hell to sit up with a broken rib. You have to squirm around to do it, and every squirm hurts. It’s easier to fall out of bed, then push up from the floor.

Try it. You might like it. Or maybe not.

I didn’t bother to call a doctor, because, well, one, I’m a guy, but also because there’s nothing a doctor can do for a broken rib but prescribe painkillers. And that’s purt near illegal today. Because God forbid that doctors should alleviate pain.

Fortunately, my sub-Arctic hovel is abundantly supplied with books of ancient history. With Nero and Caligula, who needs Don John Trump?

So I kept up on the news by reading about what happened 2,000 years ago.

You can do that. Really, you can.

If you can believe Cassius Dio — and who else are you going to believe? — when Nero assumed the throne, he already was a spoiled brat.

“His doings were at first confined to his homes and associates, but were later carried on abroad. Thus he attached a mighty disgrace to the whole Roman race and committed many outrages upon its people … innumerable acts of violence, insult and rape … and great sums of money from the public treasury were spent to defend him from this.”

Don’t blame me. Blame Cassius Dio. Blame Nero.

OK, then. With ice and slush crashing all around my house, every breath a stab, my lizard brain, quite reasonably, interpreted every crack and smash of ice as an attack. Kim Jong Il could have been sliding off my roof, for all the noise it made. I wish he would.

“Welcome to 2017, Bob,” my human brain told me. “Get used to it.”

Work over, I drove to the Price Chopper to replenish the essential foodstuffs: coffee and The New York Times.

A glance into my wallet revealed three dollars. I slid the card.

At the exit from the parking lot, as usual, a homeless man stood, holding a cardboard sign: “Please Help.” Unless they have an animal with them, I usually breeze on by. But here was a guy standing in freezing rain, holding a piece of cardboard for a living. I braked and pushed a button to lower my window and gave the guy my three dollars. “God bless you,” he said, and I said, “You too.”

Why am I telling you this? Is it to pat myself on the back for giving a stranger three dollars? No. I’m telling it because if I hadn’t been in pain myself I would have ignored that guy.

One more thing. Thirty years ago I married a victim of torture. She became insane and I had to get a divorce. She was a smart person. Before she came insane she told me, “People who haven’t suffered don’t know shit.”

Words to live by in the glorious year of our lord 2017, my friends. Words to live by.

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