An Assured, Clear Distance

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  • Post category:Poetry

I’m glad I shaved this morning.
I feel more civilized – nicer.
I had an older AA friend named Dick who’s been dead a good while now.
Before I knew him he roamed the country for years, in and out of trouble.
He said he used to visit his mother sometimes during a binge and she’d say to him
“Clean yourself up, son – you’ll feel better.”
She was right.

Dick was from Virginia.
He had a Southern drawl and a rich, baritone voice
with a tremendous amount of volume when he wanted to get someone’s attention.
I used to see him at an early morning AA meeting.
Sometimes I’d be sitting there half asleep, he’d be droning on, and
suddenly he’d slam his hand down on the beat up old table and boom out
“You’ve gotta be WILLING!”
Moses on Mt. Sinai.

When I was a teenager
my older brother was driving home from a bar one night
when a woman rammed her car into the back of his.
She was drunk, but the police didn’t arrest her for driving under the influence.
Instead they wrote her a ticket for
‘Failure to maintain an assured, clear distance’ from my brother’s car.
An assured, clear distance.

My stepdaughter lives in Florida.
She has a son, and the two of them lived with my wife and I
for several years after he was born.
He called me Paw-Paw, and he and I used to play a lot.
We were on the floor playing one day when he was about four years old.
He looked up suddenly and in his thin, beautiful, little-boy voice said
“Paw-Paw, you’re my best friend.”
Moses in the bulrushes.

Another relative of mine recently offended me.
He told me that I basically can’t get along with people
and that as a result I haven’t had much of a career.
I think he was out of line
but I also think there’s also some truth in what he said.
I’m argumentative and I chafe under most forms of authority.
I’ve changed jobs more often than was necessary
and probably more often than was prudent.
Now I’m getting old, and the optimism and determination of my youth
have been eroded by the pains of aging.
I don’t expect many more unexpected opportunities.
The price of wisdom.

What exactly is an assured, clear distance?
It sounds like a good thing to have on the highways
but what about in life?
What about in proximity not to cars but to other living souls?
How close is close enough but not too close?
I’ve read numerous drivers manuals
I’ve taken driving lessons from so-called experts
I’ve practiced driving year after year under all road conditions
but I still get tickets and I still have accidents.
An assured, clear distance.

About the Author, Dean W.

I got clean and sober in 1988. In June 2018 I helped launch the We Agnostics group in Elkhart, Indiana, where I live with my wife and our Rottweiler. I’m something of a jack of all trades – I’ve worked as a warehouse foreperson, an autoworker, a tool and die maker, a high school substitute teacher, and a college adjunct instructor, among other things. I recently applied to the MA in English program at Indiana University South Bend.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Robert B

    “Moses in the bulrushes” – lovely.

    Thank you

    1. Dean W

      Thanks Robert.

  2. angharad

    i love this! and i love our online community – i’m on holiday in france but i live in sussex in the uk.

    1. Dean W

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, and yes, isn’t this community great!

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