Tolerable Loss
By R. D. Flavin


     Collateral damage? Acceptable casualties? The opening quote to 1982's film, Conan the Barbarian, was “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,” and, was credited to Friedrich Nietzsche, a genius who walked the borderline between madness and sanity. Of course, Robert E. Howard, the creator of 'Conan the Barbarian,” upon hearing his mother would die soon, shot himself in the head, and his mother passed away the next day. Howard was a mere 30 years of age, while his mother was 66. His father, Dr. Isaac Howard, lived another 8 years without wife or son. Some find loss unbearable, have difficulty functioning, or simply give up and enter that dark night never to awake. Others can manage tolerable loss, despite its depth of tragedy, nauseating circumstances, or seemingly lack of reason or excuse, while others continue though they leave behind a part of themselves.

     A sufferable disaster often leads to the regretful question of why not me? The aphorism “There are no atheists in foxholes” may comfort the religious in the military, but we all die eventually and if fluffy clouds and trumpets work for some, good luck with the whole 'afterlife' thing. It's primitive, primal, basic, and ageless – why do some die and not others? A more pertinent and significant question is “How do I go on?” And, from the billions of possible responses, I'll choose the simplest: you just do.

     Now, we are not machines, super-humans, or any different than the guy who picks up the trash once a week – we're human, though we respond and react differently and uniquely to pain, pleasure, good news, and bad news. What one finds tolerable may drive another insane or kill with an attack on the heart. Being human doesn't come with an instruction manual, a return policy, or even a warranty. When something breaks, we do are best to fix it, but sometimes ...we can't. I can't bring myself to discuss recycling at this time.

     There are a great many who seem to take a perverse delight in reaching far, far up their butt and yank out a nugget of what they call 'wisdom'. Doctors, psychiatrists, clergy, therapists, family, friends, and neighbors all believe they and they alone have words of comfort. They don't. To stand as one's world disappears is too personal. I'm ashamed to be typing these words. Tolerable? The pain and loss is ineffable. Go away and read something fun like War and Peace.

     Some never make it back from the darkness and those who do are changed. We've read of comparisons with PTSD: sugar isn't as sweet, music is annoying and not soothing, laughing is what others do, and other examples were 'normal' is just a word found between 'nasty' and 'numb' in most dictionaries. Indifference is the rule and not the exception. Don't like it? The line starts over there…

     How many times have we been told not to believe everything we read? And, most especially, anything on the Internet? Copy-editors went the way of the stage-coach and we get more reliable news standing inline at the supermarket. Just because someone with a keyboard and online access, half-truths, innuendo, and despicable lies make their way to every computer, tablet, or smart-phone. Don't believe any of it! Oh, there's still honest journalists around – likely working as 'greeters' at a local Wal-Mart. It's the dumbing down of America and when we stand and deny their falsehoods, our pets start to disappear and street-signs suddenly change and we lose our way. Only believe what you witness and use misinformation as proof that the truth is still out there. Lost. Alone.

     What part of “I don't believe you,” don't you understand? I'd say you've rocks for brains, but that would be unfair to the rocks (as I've studied geology as part of my archaeology background). Where do you get your so-called 'news'? Open a fortune cookie, turn it upside down and stare at it in a mirror? Are the voices you hear in your head pleasant or mean sounding? Even though Soylent Green is people, do you still put ketchup on it? When you type your so-called news-stories is it like a Ouija board and an unseen power magically moves your fingers over the keyboard? Do you even use your fingers? There's feet and elbows, though banging your head against the keyboard (I've read) produces some interesting results. You know what might make you a better journalist? A nice bath... Fill a tub with warm, sudsy water, maybe light a candle or play some soft music in the background, and step into your bath with your computer plugged in and see if that helps! No need to thank me as you've done too much already.

     Is there anything I can do to see journalistic integrity upheld and the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth comes out? Do you have a favorite charity or maybe your house needs to be painted? I can pay. I'm not rich, but I can borrow some money and make it worth your time to just write an impartial news-story. Everyone will be satisfied! Instead of saying nothing, you'll be saying something and it'll become part of a historical archive others can access for years to come. Go ahead, pay it forward and watch the rewards come in from those who prize accuracy over omission.

     It's not fair! It's supposed to be the old who kicks the bucket and not the young who are taken from us. Tears, begging, pleading, offering whatever I can and won't change a thing. The Powers that Be have snapped their fingers and made it so, and I'm helpless against the past. So what, we can change the future, but there's not a damned thing we can do about the past!

     Fine, she's gone. You still could have rather written an obituary and admitted her overdose was part of the national opiod crisis. I'm sure everyone tolerates this loss not because they wanted to, but rather because they had to.

Goodbye Eleanor,

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