Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Goodbye Maxwell

You may recall a song from the Beatles Abbey Road album called "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." McCartney said in 1994 that the song merely epitomises the downfalls of life:

Maxwell's Silver Hammer is my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does, as I was beginning to find out at that time in my life. I wanted something symbolic of that, so to me it was some fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer. I don't know why it was silver, it just sounded better than Maxwell's hammer. It was needed for scanning. We still use that expression now when something unexpected happens.

Most of us living in those days didn't need an explanation. We got it. And for the past 40 some years, when things would get weird or crazy or awful or all three, I would blame Maxwell and his silver hammer. Today was one of those days.

It started out well enough, another beautiful Colorado day. Barely a cloud in the sky and the promise of a warm spring day. I drove to Castle Rock to do my twice weekly gig at the Veterans Service Office helping vets and their families negotiate the VA system of applications for benefits. My plan was to get caught up on assistance letters: letters to vets who have applied for benefits offering continued assistance. My colleague was busy finishing up the paperwork from his first client of the morning when another vet came in and he asked me to handle it. "Of course," I replied, not realizing that Maxwell was hiding behind the door giggling.

The very tall, very good looking gentleman sat down and I began the interview and that's when the hammer struck. My vet was applying for disability compensation because he had been recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer probably induced by exposure to Agent Orange in Viet Nam. I'm already working through the stuff around this being one year from the time my husband Bill began showing the signs of his fatal exposure to Agent Orange, and "bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer came down on her head."

Professionalism won out over the temptation to make it all about me, but for the hour or so that we sat together completing his application, I fought back tears and the desire to go screaming off into the Tulgey Wood.  I put together the strongest application I have ever worked on. I must have used the word EXPEDITE a dozen times, at least once on each form and on the outside of the envelope I put it in. By the time we shook  hands, and my vet left the office, I was toast. Drained.

It gets better. Maxwell wasn't done with me. I went to my Tuesday night poker game at the Celtic House Pub, and no sooner did I walk in when one of the regulars, whom I hadn't seen in a few months, gets in front of me and demands to know where Bill is. I swear this creature was at his wake! Before I could stop myself, I said "He's dead. He's been dead for nearly a year. How could you not know this?"  I could hear the distant cackling of insane laughter.

The day ended on a good note. A long intimate conversation via Skype with my sister-friend in Hawaii. It seems Maxwell has been busy there as well; however, what he doesn't know is that we're too old and too wily for him to be very effective anymore.  As the two of us laughed together thousands of miles apart, Max left by the back door. Good riddance!


Arla M. Ruggles said...

Wonderful and inspiring. Yes, I do mean that!

And thank you for the Maxwell reference. I hadn't heard him applied that way before, and now I will surely adopt the phrase.

And hopefully, also the philosophical attitude.

Sharon G. Frizzell said...

Thank you, Arla. I've come to think of Maxwell as the modern-day Loki who was the trickster god of Norse mythology. I think they, the Norwegians, may have been on to something! Even the native Americans made room for the spiritual practical joker -- the coyote often filled this role. Seeing it as a game and a trick makes it a lot easier to move past the pain and into the light of better days ahead. Laugh with the trickster!

Vali Hawkins Mitchell said...

Just made the connection (yes I'm slow) that the issue I was fussing with yesterday linked back to unresolved issues with my beloved Dad (RIP) and as I heard the cackling in the background reflected that yes...yes indeed, my father's real given birth middle name was...yes...wait for it...MAXWELL.