Near 500 words: The Sixties

The Sixties are a long time gone but lately I have been remembering. During the 1960s, it seemed like everywhere you turned, there were larger-than-life personalities. Not celebrities but people who moved mountains. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath.

Every night we turned on the TV and there was Uncle Walter and Johnny Carson to guide us. Carol Burnett made us laugh our booties off. Alan Shepard and John Glenn flew into the outer reaches of space. John Kennedy inspired us to do better for our country and the First Lady showed us style. Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, Billy Graham and the Maharishi quenched our spiritual thirst. Even in the Soviet Union, there was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

No matter what your political persuasion, there was someone for everyone. Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy for the liberals, Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley for the conservatives. And Che Guevara for the radicals.

Ralph Nader, Betty Friedan and Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez dreamed big dreams and shared them with the world. The times were changing. Utopia was just around the corner.

We landed a man on the moon and celebrated our freedom at Woodstock. Then the party came tumbling down with a thud at Altamonte.

By the end of the decade, our innocence was buried in the harsh reality that utopias always end in dystopia. Captain America was shot off his mototcycle. The Beatles broke up and Sgt Peppers disbanded his band. That day in April,1970, was more than the day the music died. It was the day our hearts were broken. It was the day the earth opened up and swallowed our hope.

All we were left with was Richard Nixon and Vietnam, and Superman was only a comic book and Batman a TV show. All we were left with was Kent State, OPEC, Watergate, stagflation and the Brady Bunch. The Seventies brought us plop back down to earth. It was like we had been dropped on our heads and we had a hangover like all get-out.

Then came Camp David and “the City Upon a Hill” of Ronald Reagan. The Berlin Wall came crashing down. For one brief moment, there was a Middle East Peace Accord. Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands. For one brief, shining moment, Camelot was shining again. Only to be brought back to our senses by Y2K and 9/11.

But we can never forget those bonfires of hope shining from the Decade That Was: the Peace Corps and Earth Day, Woodstock and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. And we still dream of a better world. It’s just going to be a long time coming. As Jessie Jackson says, “Keep hope alive.”

Near 500 words: The nightmare

“What are you afraid of?” the psychiatrist asked his patient. He sat in a large comfy chair next to his desk.

“I’m afraid something is going to happen to Frankie.” Darla rested her head against the pillow on the couch.

“And what makes you think that?” Dr. Spenser asked, furthering his questions.

“I keep having this nightmare,” Darla said.

“And?” Dr. Spenser scribbled a line on his pad.

Darla hesitated.

“Darla, we’ve only an hour.” Dr. Spenser hated to rush his patient but they did have only an hour.

“George says I am being foolish.”

“Are you being foolish?” Dr. Spenser asked. He always asked obvious questions. It was his way.

“I don’t think so. Frankie’s the only child I can ever have.”

“Anything that happens to him, and that’s it?” The psychiatrist was getting somewhere.

“Yes,” Darla said, hoping for some reassurance.

“You think you have any control over that?” Dr. Spenser started a doodle. His doodles were always helpful. Over the years, he’d never known a doodle to fail.

“No. I don’t.”

“So? Tell me about the dream.”

“Frankie has a dog.”

“Do you have a dog now?” The doodle was slowing coming into a shape.

“Well, no.” Darla’s eyes were closed. She was afraid of the dream but she wanted to give the doctor an accurate picture.

“Continue. Does the dog have a name?”

“Fluffy, I think.”

“You’re not sure.”

“Yes, Fluffy is his name.”

“Sounds like a very nice dog.”

“Oh, he is. And he loves Frankie. At least, at the start of the dream.” Darla opened her eyes. Tears filled them. She decided that she didn’t want to go on.

“Continue. What makes you think there’s a problem?”

Darla resisted, then went on, “Fluffy and Frankie are out running in a field one day.”

“How old is Frankie? In this dream?”

“About eight. Please don’t make me go on.”

“That’s up to you. But naming your fear could be very helpful.” Dr. Spenser looked at the clock on the wall. Forty minutes left of the session. Plenty of time.

“They are running in the park. Then Fluffy turns and—”

“Yes?”

“No, I can’t go on.”

“I see.”

“Tell me what it means.” Darla was desperate to know.

“That you can’t go on? That’s easy. You’re afraid of what happens next.”

“I am.” Darla was crying.

Dr. Spenser reached over to his desk and pulled out a Kleenex and passed it over to Darla. As she cleaned up her tears, he studied his pregnant patient.

“It took us a long time and a lot of effort to get pregnant.”

“And you’re having these nightmares about that child and a dog?”

“I am.”

“What if Frankie doesn’t have a dog?”

“No Fluffy?”

“No Fluffy.”

Darla had never thought of that. It seemed so obvious. “No Fluffy,” she whispered to herself. Then to Dr. Spenser, “But what if he wants a dog?”

“Get him a cat instead.”

Darla smiled and sat up on the couch. She was so relieved.

Dr. Spenser looked at the clock. Fifteen minutes to go. He turned to Darla. “Anything else?”

Darla stood and shook Dr. Spenser’s hand. It was obvious she was relieved.

Dr. Spenser escorted her to the door.

Darla turned and hugged her psychiatrist. Then she went out into the lobby.

Dr. Spenser picked up his pad, stared at the doodle, and smiled. It was of a cat.