Death or taxes, take your pick.
Feared only more than the doctor’s office calling with “results” is an email from the tax man asking that he be contacted the next morning.
In the first instance, there is worry that you will be told that, yes, we know you are feeling fine, walk three miles daily and eat red quinoa whenever possible, but it is probably time to put affairs in order.
“But . . . ”
“No buts. Get busy.”
Regarding taxes, the anxiety is only slightly less acute.
Our guy — the accountant is invariably your “guy,” according to local tradition — took a little longer with returns this year, which caused me to pace daily from kitchen to living room.
“Sit down,” said Wink, my wife. “I have faith in our guy.”
I sat, but feared the worst.
Turned out the news was OK.
There would be no refund bonanza, but, on the other hand, we were unlikely to be hauled off for harsh interrogation at an IRS field office.
Mostly, I have gone through life holding my breath. What can go wrong will. Just wait a moment.
If there is a slowdown on the Belt Parkway on the way back from Brooklyn, I am sure it will stretch from the Verrazzano Bridge to Kennedy Airport and I begin working my way through the streets to save time. Rarely is time saved, but at least we’re moving, I tell myself.
The Mets? A splendid start to the season, yes, but count nothing for sure.
“Let’s Go Mets!” messaged a son.
“Metsies are rocking it!” commented a daughter.
Informed by years of disappointment, I urged restraint. See me in September.
Why such a worrier?
Part of the blame goes to parenthood, that fountainhead of distress and early onset neurosis.
We had four kids in five years, which meant all were teenagers at the same time — a sort of thermonuclear event, family-style.
Dread was my constant companion.
It is 11:15 p.m. and your 16-year-old has blown curfew. This time, the worst surely has happened. Bring out the bloodhounds.
Hooray, the high school senior survived the U.S. history Regents, but trigonometry — and likely disaster — lurks around the corner. He is sure to live in the basement forever.
A daughter in college explains that she used your American Express card strictly for emergency expenses — everything from underwear to oil changes — and expects you to be thankful that a St. Kitts vacation also was not on the list.
“OK, I will never do it again,” she declares, unconvincingly. I say to myself: “By next month, bankruptcy.”
For those in doomsday mode, money — or, more likely, its absence — is a constant source of negative reinforcement.
Lucky in many ways, we nevertheless lived week to week for decades thanks to our private population explosion.
There were bigger families, of course, and here’s to them, but six of us? Holy cow, that was enough.
There wasn’t a spare nickel. Our household budget had less air than an auto lease. If you found a forgotten five-dollar bill in a pants pocket, it was like hitting the lottery. Carvel, here we come.
In a real jam, family and friends helped out.
One time, we had an unexpected tax bill — I can’t remember why — of $2,000.
This was like learning you would be required by the government to scale the outside of the Empire State Building to avoid prosecution, or bench press six times your weight.
I mentioned the dilemma to my old pal, Sidney.
Didn’t take long before big-hearted Sidney, and his wife, Barbara, equally generous, approved a loan for the two grand. Pay us back when you can, they said. No interest. No rush.
We reimbursed our friends, month by month, touched each time we wrote a check by their trust and kindness. With a final installment, I gave Sidney a box of Mallomars, his favorite treat. Oh, if only all business transactions could be so civilized.
That was many tax seasons ago. We survived them all and the most recent passed uneventfully. I am ready to move along.
But, stop worrying? Not a chance. My midyear physical is coming up. The Mets are a long way from the playoffs. Our four kids are middle-aged, but they are still our kids.
And, in a flash, tax time will roll around again. Sidney and Barbara, stand by.