“I am afraid of airplanes, deep-sea diving and psychiatry. The earth alone comforts me, regardless of how much dirt it may contain.” – Francoise Sagan, La Garde du Coeur, 1972

Me, I became afraid of hanging the Christmas lights last year. In the past I stood on a three-step ladder, stretched out as far as I could to grab the edge of the roof while looping the strings over the nails. In my old age that year, while reaching up, I felt a bit unsteady and nearly fell off while trying to grasp the roof overhang. I know, I know, but I was always in a hurry. My hunch is the earth alone would not comfort me no matter how much dirt it may contain.

I asked my daughter and son-in-law to hang the lights this year. Evidently they didn’t like the idea of being comforted by dirt either. They were carefully helping each other on and off the ladder.

My neighbor also doesn’t care to land in dirt beneath his lights. He thought it would be a great idea to hoist his 8-foot pool pole up for stringing them without ladders but he managed to whack his wife on the head with the pole this year. So he’s negotiating a deal with his grown kids.

I heard about another elderly clever holiday light-stringer who thought it might be smart to rent a heavy equipment cheery picker to do the job on high. He had never operated one but he figured he could make it work. He landed in the dirt, and the earth alone did not comfort him.

Anne Karpf, in an opinion piece in the New York Times titled “The Liberation of Growing Old,” claims that “…one can remain vital and present, engaged and curious, indeed continue to grow, until one’s dying breath. Then we need only echo the wish of the British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott: ‘May I be alive when I die?’”

That is, of course, if you stay away from three-step ladders, pool poles and cheery pickers on the holidays!

Between dealing with those lights and retrieving Christmas boxes from our shed which has a 5-foot 8-inch high door that I have managed to bash into every year I got wise and started wearing a bike helmet. I’ll never be able to be alive when I die without that head gear.

Some of you may know that I just finished a book titled ‘Running Deep with Strangers: A Must for Human Survival.’ It will be available soon @ Amazon.com at the mere price of $11.60.You pastors may try asking for a clergy discount but I’m guessing those days are long gone. Hopefully it will help you remain vital and present, engaged and curious, indeed to grow, until your dying breath. If not, it might be worth the zany, witty accounts to help you laugh at or with me.

May you be able to be alive when you die, whatever that means.

As ever, Buzz



  1. Joel Huffman

    Buzz, I lost my “ladder privileges” last year. As you know, I’m married to a grandmother and she pointed out the purpose of having grandchildren who are just starting to exercise their “ladder privileges”. This being the second Christmas season since the loss of those privileges, I’m becoming accustomed to assisting in putting up our lights instead of just getting it done myself. The difficult part for me is practicing patience when the kids know a better way.
    And yes, I have one of those sheds too. My wife looks at it this way. The knots on my head from the shed confirm her revocation of my “ladder privileges”.


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