Forty Years On

Updated: Oct 4

I started the new year of 1981 working on Possum Kingdom lake as a weldor, glad to see that bungling, leporiphobic numbskull of a President had failed to win a second term in office and laughing my ass off at how the Iranians suddenly decided to release the hostages one day before the newly elected President took his seat in the Oval Office. I had just finished welding school, landed the new job at the lake and things were finally looking up a bit.


During the second week of spring I was with my boss at a job site on the lake when we heard breaking news over the local radio station about the assassination attempt on Ronald Regan. Shaking our heads, Bob and I went on with our work in shocked astonishment at the sorry state of affairs in the nation he faced as President. Regan survived near-fatal injury from the ricocheted bullet which pierced a lung before stopping less than one inch from his heart.


About a month later the first space shuttle launched and my spirits were soaring with it. I loved my job, even though it paid diddly squat. Being on the lake every day was the best office space I ever occupied until moving out here to run my own little business. I began thinking about returning to college within a year or two.


Just as summer was starting, another recession set in, the first cases of AIDS were observed in Los Angeles, and 114 people were killed when a pair of Kansas City hotel skywalks collapsed without warning, injuring another 218 people who somehow managed to survive that engineering-failure mayhem. More head shaking by me and my boss at the lake as we built new boat docks and hoped we wouldn't make similar design and construction mistakes.

That fall my parents were in Egypt when Anwar el-Sadat was assassinated by soldiers he was happily saluting during the annual victory parade, unaware they were jihadists bent on killing him with grenades secreted under helmets and a hail of steel-jacketed lead sprayed from AK-47s. My parents watched his funeral procession from the balcony of their apartment in Cairo a few days after Sadat perished beneath a makeshift shield of chairs. I worried about them being in the middle east while jihads raged on, but they carried on with their work and play there–my father exploring for oil in the deserts and my mother eagerly taking visitors to see the pyramids–undeterred by extremist insanity. I breathed a long, heavy sigh of relief when they finally returned home safe and sound, my mother's childhood dream of walking among and inside the pyramids fulfilled. She even got to ride a camel.


As the year wrapped up, the first in vitro fertilization baby was born and I picked up algebra studies again in earnest with plans to continue my college education in the school of engineering. The first IBM PC hit the market and I began to get interested in learning how to write software after helping test a blowout prevention app my father developed on an HP-41C handheld computer. Even though the recession stretched on, 1981 was a pivotal year for me, and the future seemed pretty bright.


Forty years on, it's interesting to reflect on all that has happened since that messy, turning point year. Finishing and graduating from college after thirteen years toiling as a common laborer, life working as a professional proceeded with glee and gusto. Surviving as many years through two horrible marriages which were a complete waste of my time, effort and resources, I reveled in glorious, lawyer-free, alimony-free escape from both of those nightmares. Fortuitously buying a piece of wilderness property just before the turn of the century and eventually settling down on it to live in off-grid bliss fifteen years before the world became mired in a pandemic it is proving ill-prepared and even more ill-suited to handle, it's surreal watching current events unfold from here.

The larder is full, systems maintenance completed and plenty of firewood has been gathered, split and stacked. Time to glide through fall on into winter in complete isolation as the next wave of the pandemic sweeps around the world. It's possible I still have another forty years of life left in me if I can avoid inhaling or ingesting the damned killer virus and its already-emerging mutant offshoots.


And soon we may vote out of office another numbskull of a Commander In Chief, opening opportunities for another turning point year before chances of meaningful recovery vanish.