Last week I went up to the VA in Togus for my second COVID shot. Dozens of grizzled veterans remained in their cars as they were whisked through in bunches of 10 or so in a very organized operation. Because I happened to be the first car in line, I got to exchange a few words with James, the young man who told me which way to lead the pack.

He was intrigued by my car, Marsha’s RAV4, which she bought in 1999. Said he didn’t see all that many old cars.

I told him that I didn’t think of it as being old because I was still driving a 1919 Ford I bought for $10 in 1951. You know when you’re driving an antique because you no longer get letters urging you to buy an extended warranty on it. I didn’t mention that my pickup truck was a slick 1991 model and that it was parked in the barn beside a 240D Mercedes that was picked up new at the Sindelfingen factory in 1974.

Even a 1974 Mercedes might look like an old car to the kids today. If I had driven a car 47 years old when I was in high school, it would have been made in 1904 and had a tiller instead of a steering wheel.

Having completely recovered from my second shot, I felt very good when I got up this morning. One’s health can be contingent on thinking happy thoughts, so I thought of the crabmeat sandwich that Marsha would make for my dinner. One of my neighbors has waxed wealthy by simply picking out crabmeat, so I have a crabmeat sandwich almost every noon. Marsha once asked why I always wanted the crabmeat between two slices of white bread – which has zero nutritional value. Is it not obvious that the white bread keeps the crabmeat from getting on my fingers?

After a breakfast of green bananas, two large glasses of water and my cup of coffee, I sat down at my computer with my bowl of rolled oats and opened my Gmail.

My friend Duane wrote, “We have heard from a number of folks who were out of commission for two to four days after the second shot. My dental hygienist could not work for three days after her second shot. I hope you don’t suffer side effects.”

Immediately after reading Duane’s note, my left arm started to feel sore and so stiff it hurt to move it. I told Marsha that I was a bit dizzy and couldn’t seem to think clearly. I also had trouble doing anything with my hands. She interrupted me, like wives do, and said, “You’ve felt like that every morning for at least two years.”

It made me realize that we all live our lives in little blocks of time – two years working here, six years teaching there. Life is really no more than a series of these plateaus, and as time rushes on we stumble blindly from one plateau to another.

A young man who survives the plateau between 12 and 20-something is lucky, for those are the years when there is nothing more fun than putting the pedal to the metal and hearing tires shriek against warm asphalt – or getting on a motorcycle for the first time and learning that a 1938 Indian really will do 100.

If your luck continues, much later you will reach a plateau in your life when many things that used to be easy become difficult or impossible. In recent years I’ve noticed that no matter how industrious I am with my towel after a shower, there are some places on my back that do not get dried.

I’ve tried several tricks and acrobatic stunts to overcome the problem, to no avail. When I come out of the shower and dry off and walk into the bedroom, Marsha usually says, “Come here. You missed two or three places.” And she takes the moist towel from my hands and wipes at some mysterious place behind my left armpit that I have never seen and, therefore, does not exist.

You think that I am going to tell you about a dreaded plateau above and beyond that, and you are right. One morning, before I even went into the bedroom, I called to Marsha that I couldn’t seem to dry my back.

She said, “Turn off the water and step out of the shower.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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