I find myself doing things these days I never would have dreamed of doing, even a few years ago. Why? Who knows? Perhaps entering my sixties has triggered some kind of surrender to emotional maturity, and with it, peculiar markers that signal a retreat from oppositional habits. Take today, for instance. I’m driving back from visiting my mother in the nursing home, and I pull into a gas station to fill my tank just because it’s the cheapest price I’ve seen around town. This is the kind of thing I used to rail against: “Who cares about the price of gas? You can’t do anything about it anyway!”
My dad liked to hold forth on such topics, with or without an audience. In fact, he could execute a marathon monologue about gas prices—which station had the best deal, whether you got any service or discount coupons, whether you had to pay for air in the tires. It would bore me to the point of begging for the mercy of an indifferent God.
Now, here I was, fresh from visiting my 91-year-old mom and chatting up a stranger on the mother of all boring topics. Not only did I top off a half-full tank, but I actually had an animated discussion with the guy at the pump next to me about how variable prices have become. At least my part was animated. He wasn’t quite as enthusiastic: “I guess they can do whatever they want,” he replied.
As I pumped fuel into my not-too-thirsty tank, I reflected on my visit with Mom. It was good to see her today. She’d lived alone since…