Lest we forget: life is so achingly fragile, and there are no second chances.

A week ago today was the fourth anniversary of my father's death. That morning, I asked myself the kind of question that defines the difference between adulthood and childhood: "If I had no more chances after today, what would be my greatest regret?"

For me, the answer was clear. Something about the day, the anniversary—something indefinable and pressing—meant that I spent that morning finally doing something about it. Actions that may or may not get written about here. It's too personal, and has ramifications on lives not my own. Even if I could write it, I am not sure that I should.

Today, after a crossword-and-cat-induced nap, we dressed and headed out for Indian food, at a restaurant in which we are regulars ("No bread tonight?") and came home to a message on the answering machine.

remember two things

I wondered where I'd be. I got the answer tonight; an answer that was nearly four years in coming. As usual, the answer wasn't what I expected.

It was less.

It was more.

Firefighter down

I have written these words in various guises, in paragraphs both fat and slim, and discarded every one, thinking I needed the last note, the final touch, to wrap this story together and bring it to completion.They buried Ken Mitchell on a clear winter's day, with fire trucks and an honor guard.

"His place in the church is empty"

Quoting from the Benton Courier's original article:

"Ken Mitchell, chief of the Tull Volunteer Fire Department and pastor at Saline Missionary Baptist Church in Tull, made the ultimate sacrifice Thursday morning.

Mitchell, 59, died while responding to a house fire at 8722 W. Cherry St. in Tull. He was pronounced dead at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton."

"…Simpson, also a member of the church, noted that Mitchell performed more than 160 weddings and funerals in the community."

Including my own, seven years ago. I only have the photo of him signing our marriage license, a photo which, as part of our wedding collage, hangs in our hallway to this day:

Ken signs the marriage certificateKen signs the marriage certificate

deathics and chocolate yogurt

I'd planned to be serious and contemplative and say something marginally insightful or interesting regarding the mess that is the legal fight surrounding Terri Schiavo, but then I managed to splatter chocolate yogurt down most of my bare leg, and most of my thought processes got devoted to whether or not I actually had the flexibility to lick most of it off.I thought about doing it, and then I realized that I've apparently inhaled WAY too much cat fur, because no sane human would ever admit to thinking such a thing. So I just reached down and scooped it off with a finger.

Hey, my leg was clean -- but, I think, the post is pretty much lost to the ether.

We'll get back to the flexibility issue after a brief, maundering segue into the realm of the serious.

* * * * *

The unsolvable curveball

It's either going to be the laughter, the narcoleptic dog, or the broken toilet cover. I don't know which, but I'm leaning toward making it all three. I didn't know her well, but somehow, I think she'd find the combination appropriate.Her name was Duffie. I met her once.

The progression was thus: Jeff invoked spousal rights, thus ensuring I went to his ten-year high school reunion, which I was absolutely certain I would hate. As luck, fate, and reunions would have it, we sat at the table with Samantha, one of Jeff's closer high school friends. As we sat at the back table, merrily snarking our way through the dinner, Jeff and Samantha flipped through the pages of the book to find out what had happened to everyone else.