I’m beginning to realize that — when it comes to women — I’ve led a charmed life.
Sure, some of the women I’ve known were bad for me; dishonest, low-down, Wicked Witch of the West, cheating good-for-nothings with the sole goal of making my life a waking nightmare. Others have been real sweethearts; rosy-cheeked Dorothy-on-the-Yellow-Brick-Road country girls with smiling faces and virtuous hearts. The ones I liked best were usually something in-between.
But they all shared a common trait: they kept me from killing myself.
Now, before you report me to the suicide hotline, let me just say I’ve never actually contemplated self-termination. Even during the toughest times I’ve realized life is worth living, if only to get revenge on the person or persons responsible for making the times tough.
If I kill myself, it will be an accident. And that final, fatal accident is what, for many years, the women in my life have prevented.
It began with my mother, who gave me grief whenever she caught me doing potentially suicidal things. The afternoon I leapt from the roof with a homemade blanket-parachute comes to mind. Then there was the time I was 9 or so and attempted to swim across Lake Michigan. Fortunately, my mom — who had once been a lifeguard — was again there. She pulled me, sputtering up lake water, safely to shore.
By the time high school rolled around, my girlfriend, Corky, had taken up the guardian angel mantle. In the two years we dated, she prevented me from a) riding my dilapidated Harley on snowy, February roads, b) drowning in yet another lake after I drove her father’s new snowmobile over thin ice, and c) breaking the lock on the door to my dad’s restaurant at 3 a.m. because I had forgotten the keys and wanted a cheeseburger. (My old man would have killed me, so technically, this counts as murder rather than suicide, but the underlying principle applies.)
My first wife saved me from myself during countless home improvement projects involving electricity and/or plumbing. I know just enough about both of these things to be a menace. It was my first wife who insisted on heavy, rubber gloves and safety goggles. When it comes to electrical projects, if left to my own devices, I frequently find myself sitting in a corner, numb from the shoulders down with black fingernails and scorch marks on my palms.
There were a couple wives following that first one; all did their parts to keep me alive (though, admittedly, there usually came a time when they wished they had not).
My most recent ex-wife twice rescued me from the roof of our house. I suffer from acute acrophobia, which, as everyone knows, is a fear of acrobats. No, wait, a fear of heights. Every so often — usually around Christmastime when it’s time to hang the twinkle lights — I forget this fact and wind up immobilized by fear and clinging to the rain gutters. It was my wife’s lot to steady the ladder and speak in soothing tones while I mustered the tattered reserves of my frayed courage long enough to clamber shakily down the six rungs to safety.
I’ve been single the past few years and in that time I’ve had several near-misses. The bicycle accidents alone (two involving cars, one an unseen pothole) have nearly taken me out repeatedly. There was no woman in my life to make me wear a helmet, so I didn’t.
Sweet Annie is my girlfriend of the past few years. She is not an overly cautious person, but she is sensible and when she’s around, she does her best to steer me clear of needless danger. Since my recent move, however, I get to see her only on weekends. That leaves me free to kill myself five days each week.
This past week alone I’ve fished from a wobbly, decrepit dock that sways whenever the wind blows; I’ve eaten potato salad my daughter brought with her when she visited three weeks ago (it tasted OK, but I felt very strange around 2 a.m.); I drank two vodka-tonics then tried to start the lawnmower; I used gasoline to kindle the damp wood in my fire pit (I’m sure my eyebrows will grow back eventually); and I fired up a chain saw. If that last one doesn’t seem suicidal, it’s only because you’re unaware of my history with power tools.
If my instinct for survival was stronger, I’d probably call Annie whenever I felt like doing something stupid, but who has the time? My skydiving class starts in a half-hour.