Peter Burns

He died suddenly.

So I’m sitting on a couch in the late afternoon contemplating the Pacific Ocean. It’s gonna be here whether I am or not. Feeling insignificant, I wondered what life was about.

Inside the movers and shakers were jockeying for position. Believing if they just climbed the totem pole higher they’d be happier, their lives would work, as if any of us are important, as if any of us will be remembered, as if anything we do amounts to a hill of beans.

Peter Burns was a plumber. And a handyman. He was married with two girls and he loved prog rock. He could fix anything and took his work seriously. His was a regular presence at Felice’s house. He had his own key. He was like Eldin on “Murphy Brown” but with a different personality.

He was 51.

You don’t plan on dying when you’re 51. As a matter of fact, you don’t plan on dying at all. Unless you’re sick. That’s what the healthy don’t understand, that the sickness beats you down, you cave, you make your peace, you’re willing to go when everybody says to keep a good attitude and continue to fight. That’s all hogwash. Kind of like the big guy in the sky and the afterlife. When it’s done it’s done.

And you don’t know all this until you reach a certain age, when all the cliches come true, when everything your father said plays through your head and you just wish he was still around so you could tell him so, and bond over being his son.

So, it’s true, no one was ever on their deathbed lamenting they didn’t spend more time at work.

And if you don’t do it now, there’s a good chance you won’t ever.

Life is about experiences. And you don’t have to leave home to have some of the best of them. And perspective and attitude are key. But there are so many things we put off into the future, and then it’s too late.

I don’t miss having kids, it’s not the biggest mistake of my life, but from this perch I know they’re key, they center your life, they give it meaning, we’re all just animals here to reproduce.

And I know your money won’t keep you warm at night and you can’t take it with you but it will take you places. For twenty years I’ve been saying I want to go to Glacier National Park before the glaciers melt and I still haven’t been. I’ve got a hankering to go to Monument Valley, but still haven’t checked that box, never mind Death Valley, which is so much closer.

I want to know when I go. I don’t want to die in my sleep. I want to see it coming. I want final resolution in my head… So this was it. This was my life.

But I don’t expect it to happen suddenly, unexpectedly.

My body still aches from that car accident. And it’s a hassle getting my car fixed. But for the first time ever the cliche went through my head, “it could be worse.”

It could. But the money and aggravation triumph. We hate the hassle. And we don’t know anybody with bad luck.

And then we do.

Life is both solid and fragile. It’s amazing how much you can abuse yourself and still live, and how you can die so easily when you least expect it.

And the finality is haunting, creepy.

The truth is you live on in our hearts, we never forget you, but you’re not here, you’re missing out.

My dad never experienced the internet, never mind wireless mobile phones.

Then again, technology makes our lives easier, but it doesn’t make a life.

So I guess I’m gonna be like my dad, like every dad, and tell you not to postpone, that you should eat up life because you’re here for such a short time.

And it can end at any moment.

Like it did for Peter Burns.

We’ll miss you Peter. I’ll never wake up to see your white van outside. You literally can’t be replaced. There’s a hole where you used to be, not only for me and Felice but for so many more. You impacted us, you were there for us, and you weren’t famous.

But famous is just a condition. We’re all just humans walking the planet. Equal. Maybe less in income, but not in outlook and feelings.

And the truth is life makes no sense. You do your best to organize it, to make it linear, believing achievement is everything, but the best laid plans are thwarted. I now know everything is temporary, you make a map of the future but it can get torn up in an instant.

So I’m driving on the 10, to the gas station, worried about the cops and the construction, feeling anxious, and the phone rings.

I never expected to hear Peter Burns died, long before his time.

And now I’m in shock. Kinda stoned. Off-kilter. Knowing that this feeling won’t last forever, but it’s gonna come again. We’re all in a game of musical chairs, and one time the music will stop and I’ll have nowhere to sit and I too will be gone.

It’s the way of the universe.

But it still don’t make sense.

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