On rainy days, my mother, who hailed from the South and loved sunshine, would often feel glum. "My spirits are in my shoes," she'd say. And whenever that happened, she had a perfect remedy, which was to go into the kitchen and make a batch of fudge. She didn't make it according to a recipe; in fact, no one quite knew how she made it until Lilla stood there and watched her do it, which means we now have an exact account of the whole process on paper. To hear my mom tell it, fudge was simple: cocoa, sugar, milk and butter. That's all. Stuff she just threw together in some haphazard fashion, stuff that somehow always turned crystalline and delightfully luscious, not to mention bad bad bad for your teeth and diet plans.
My brother and I have eaten far more than our fair share of fudge in our day, as have our assorted children, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. which probably contributes mightily to our collectively sweet dispositions. Of course, even though her secret is out and we all know how to make it now, none of us do, except for special occasions. It's bad, after all, which means it's good, really good, in fact, but you know, that's bad.
On the other hand, I have to admit I grow weary sometimes of all my constant efforts at being good. There are so many things that are bad for you, and almost all of them are right there at eye level in the supermarket. And when you couple that with the fact that life is-as Thomas Hobbes put it a few centuries ago-"nasty, brutish and short" -what's the point exactly? I know, I know, I'll live a bit longer if I consume more kale and broccoli and fewer cheeseburgers. Any fool knows that, but how do you weigh all the pros and cons and still have a full experience of life? That's a tough one.
I remember visiting my old doctor, Don Martin, years ago for a check up. He looked me over and said, "Well, you're okay, except maybe you're a little overweight and your cholesterol is too high and your blood pressure is through the roof. We should start you on..." And I stopped him right there and said, "you know, I'm not sure I want to take these pills. My parents were like that. They had three pills for this and two pills for that and three pills to counteract those pills. I'm not sure I want to go that route. I don't want to be a chemistry experiment. I mean, I'm going to die anyway, right?" To which he smiled and said, "I can guarantee you you're going to die. The question is, how do you want to feel in the meantime?"
In the end I saw the logic of his argument and took the pills. I don't know that I feel any better now, but then I didn't really feel bad when I went to see him in the first place. If I'd forgone the pills and had a stroke and died, well then, I suppose he could have said, see, I told you so, but that didn't happen. Hard to prove a negative, as they say. And just the fact that I'm still alive and going strong all these years later is a good thing, not unlike my mother's fudge, which is also good, but, depending on how you look it, bad. I'm still trying to parse this stuff out.