Loud and long and clear
I love to laugh
It’s getting worse every year
And the more the glee
The more I’m a merrier me”
Shut your eyes (metaphorically) and imagine hearing several voices…and you are hearing “Joey, I told you to sit down”, “Brad, you don’t belong there…come over here!”,”Tanya, will you stop…how many times do I have to tell you!” and other conversations…”So how old is she? She is adorable!”, “How do you get her to sit still..mine is always moving, moving!”. Any guesses where I am….no I am not at the pediatrician’s office. I am at the vet, with Paka for her annual exam. I felt a little strange when the technician said to me “What kind of name is ‘Paka’? I thought, she probably thinks that I am strange, since my cat’s name (which means cat in Swahili) is not a people name. She asked me if Paka was actually Parker. Paahka… that is how it would sound in Massachusetts with the Boston accent. Go figure.
I love to people watch. I love to people watch people with their pets. The veterinarian waiting room is like a incubator for observations of dialogue and behaviors, and many one-sided conversations between the pet parents and their “offspring”. It’s actually a much friendlier place than my primary care doctor’s waiting room. There’s a lot more eye contact. I was absolutely fascinated by Brad (who was a pitbull….yeah…Brad the Pit) who couldn’t have cared less about what his mother was asking. Lily the little white puff barked incessantly and every time her mother told her to quiet down, just barked in response. It was beyond comical. When we were finally taken into the exam room, Paka, who I believe was keeping her eyes shut so as to say “I hope this is all a bad dream”, seemed reluctant to come out of her carrying case. The doctor, who I adore, always asks me the same litany of questions about Paka and her health (any vomiting?), her state of mind (so did she seem angry with you when she rode in the car, and was she particularly vocal?) and inquired whether she seemed bored. I stated that she vomited when she ate kohlrabi leaves that morning, and that she was rather “indignant” when taken out of her home, and that in fact, she tempers her boredom with periods of long naps and bird watching out the loft windows. He smiled at me with his amazing smile and seemed happy with my answers. It’s always the same “dance” but I never mind.
Veterinarians are really special humans who have to develop relationships with both the pet parents and the pets. They take care of your special friends from cradle to grave. When our twenty year old cat, Lucy, became more and more frail, and it seemed like it was her time to leave us, our vet was compassionate and patient and helped us let her go. Our family will be forever grateful for his guidance and support. I baked him cookies.
I am someone who has always loved animals, despite being bitten in the face by a nasty schnauzer named Sonny (Corleone) and scratched by a large gray cat named Molly. Animals seem to have moved up the ranks from working animals, mousers and beasts of burden, to pampered creatures with people names. The days of Fluffy and Duke seem behind us, along with people names like Bertha and Ike. Mittens and King seem so yesterday. Both my childhood cats were named Charlie (actually Charlie #1 was Charlene but we didn’t know that until the vet confirmed it). My dog (who came with his name from the rescue, was also Charley (note the ‘Y’). Personification makes these loving, doting creatures, rise in stature. There’s a whole industry that is supporting pets. I just saw a television program in which a man was pitching wine for cats. We have lost our minds for sure. But when Paka comes and sits next to my FHB and watches television with him (especially the news) we feel comforted that it may be a dog -eat-dog world out there, but it’s a peaceable kingdom in the loft.
Profundity. Patient. Insightful. Quiet. Observant. Traits of a man who fishes and rarely catches a fish and yet tries again in the face of failure. Perseverance. Someone who wants to catch a Christmas fish on Christmas Day during a light snow. No fish, but hot chocolate waiting for when the fish don’t show up. Someone who says, after listening to Buzz Aldrin as the keynote speaker, who arrived late to one of our childrens’ college graduation, because he said he lost his way and you can’t make this stuff up, “I would rather hear a common man who spoke extraordinarily, rather than an extraordinary man who sucks!”. This man who upon seeing a classic stone wall while meandering on a drive through a rural area says ” stone walls are the jewelry that decorate a house”. They are the words that I write down to remember, because they are the words of someone who sees things truly as they are. These are the words that blow me away and captured my heart when I wasn’t planning to find someone to do any more than have a cup of coffee with. I often say to him, “I wasn’t planning on you and yet here we are”.
My FHB and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary next week. Sometimes I forget the years because it all seems so seamless. I didn’t plan to find such a good friend over that first cup of coffee. After coffee, he suggested dinner, and subsequently I countered with telling him that I had a dog who was waiting for me to walk him. He asked if he could meet my dog. I acquiesced because my dog was a very good judge of character and I thought if he could pass the “Charley” test, he might be someone to have dinner with. He passed the test. Charley even allowed him to hold his leash and soon Charley allowed himself to love my FHB and it was mutual. There is something to be said for “love me, love my dog” and for someone who didn’t know dogs, I knew that was big and that it was going to get bigger.
We are not alike although we share a common world view on most issues. His words are metered while mine are endless at times. I know I am often the “Lucy” to his “Ricky”, and, sometimes I am the “Lucy” to his “Charlie Brown”. I can snipe and show my ire and lash in the way that Scorpios can do. He will take the high road and that is often enough for me to know I crossed a line. We are adults. I acknowledge my bad behavior and we go on. No grudges but kindness. At fifty and fifty four, respectively, we were pretty set, each in our own way. We didn’t need to get married. We had enough offspring between us to keep us on our toes and of course we had Charley. We laugh a lot. To make him smile and smirk is a daily goal. The eye rolls are his way of tempering my nuttiness. We live a fairly simple life that include family and friends, and quiet moments taken to just pay attention and hold on to one another. We know that time is too precious to get caught in the maelstrom of being right, when all we want is peace and contentment. It is to know that in the dark moments and in the light ones, we have someone to navigate with. We take turns holding the map. It works. I am very lucky.
Many years ago, a supervisor I had, made the comment that tall people are reliant on short people, rather than the other way around. From where I stand, I have moments when I agree. My father used to say that the only difference between someone who is short and someone who is tall is merely the shin bone, and that the butcher throws that bone away. I am fairly sure that this is complete nonsense but when I was shorter than other kids, I held onto that belief. He was a giant among men, in my eyes, but was only about five foot six to other people. Point of fact, I was rarely taller than other kids, but that just got me first or second position in line and the attribute of being “cute”.
One’s stature (height not social) is something that we have no more control over than our eye color. It evolves as we do based on our genes. It is not a character flaw but merely something that we attempt to measure up to because somehow that matters. I live with my FHB (and Paka the cat) who is over a foot taller than me. The cat is much shorter than I am but has access to much higher places because she is a cat. The height disparity is more of a humorous detail in my FHB’s and my relationship. The only bone of contention that I have, which he appears oblivous to, is that he leaves doors open, both room and kitchen cabinet and the kitchen doors are just at approximately my eye level. I have to duck and cover at times so as not to make contact with the sharp corners. When we cook together, his approach to culinary organization, is to open every cabinet and look for things for a recipe. He appears to make an attempt to find various ingredients, but it seems rather mysterious to him, almost as though I rearrange things at night, just to irk him. He is hardly a guest in the house, but often, he will ask, in earnest “where do we keep the..” whatever it might be. I will move him out of my way, and point up to what he is looking for, and like Sherlock Holmes, he has solved the case. I, am, of course, Watson. I do rely on him to reach to the top shelf or cabinet which he does effortlessly and of course, he does not see that he leaves the door open. He’s a good man and so I wordlessly ( but in my head, out loud) just close it after him. It is almost comedic…almost. He will open a closet door and walk away and sit down and do what he needs to and NEVER shut the door, ever. It is as though, mid task, something else comes to mind, never to return to the matter, or door, at hand. I sense, that I may be thought of as picky. Perhaps.
I think I need to balance my “issue”, which I own completely, with a positive event that my FHB and I shared a week or so ago. We do collaborate and working on household projects, I am a loyal and helpful assistant. I can identify many tools by name and never call things “thing-ys”. I watch This Old House and all the woodworking shows and seem to have synthsized many skills, none of which I actually use, because I am the assistant.
Last week, I put on a pair of earrings that I had ordered in the mail. I had come home from work and the package was there. I have no ability to put off doing certain things that should probably wait, so I put on the earrings and admired my good taste. One of my household commitments, is to the care and feeding of Paka. This involves food preparation and cat litter box maintenance. I am a responsible adult and while I am doing the latter, I go to my happy place in my mind, and just get the job over with. Paka was quite pleased and left me with a little personally manufactured gift in her box, to thank me for recognizing that it had been time to clean. Can’t say I was grateful. As I washed my hands at the bathroom sink, I looked in the mirror only to discover, I was wearing one earring. I was quite annoyed with myself. I did a bit of chastising and then scouted around the house, retracing my steps, which all led back to the cat litter box. It seemed evident to me that the old litter, now in a trash bag, might be hiding my new earring. A quandry….what to do. Do I admit my flaw? Do I venture to go on this dig unaided? Yes, to the first, and no to the second. I called in my assistant. I explained what I had done and what needed to be done. This is where my FHB rocks my world. I put on surgical gloves (non sterile, good for when you make meatloaf). I lifted the bag up and as my FHB patiently held the bag I sifted through it and move the contents to another bag after I used the litter scoop (my FHB’s brilliant suggestion) to transfer “items” and look for the earring. He stood patiently, and did not say a word. I can’t of course know what he was thinking, but I saw that he was committed to helping me. The end of the story is that the earring never appeared despite our joint efforts at search and recovery. Luckily, I didn’t invest much, but they were pretty, and they did look good for about five minutes (give or take). He never said much about it and let me just stew in my own reckless misery. That’s the synergy we create. He’s open to helping and I just shut my mouth.
Complexity. A metaphor for love. A vital part of our functioning that can be strong and at a moment’s notice, can break, or get damaged. And yet, our heart, collective or individual, can grow in ways we never considered, expanding to include the best of the most miraculous events, and at other times, can contract when things become too much, too difficult.
This particular calendar year has been filled with my own growth as well as the expansion of my heart. I am also surrounded by so many people who have had the same experience, finding that falling in love can happen over and over, and over again. Hearts melt and swell with the joy of new family members in the guise of babies! Some of us have become grandparents again, or for the first time, and others have become parents, aunts, uncles and whatever name your relationship with someone new takes on. It redefines our place in the universe, as we are reminded that we are on a path which recognizes we are forever changing, and the change is happening around us, and sometimes to us, but that we are impacted in some way we might not have expected.
I am always surprised at how much I can love, and how my capacity grows. My oldest granddaughter, at 3, can show me that she can be compassionate, funny, serious and joyful, all in a matter of moments. She invites my FHB and me into her world and to watch her figure out what she wants, and how she can discover something new. engages us, time after time. It never, ever, gets old. We fall in love every time we see her, or see her picture. The best part is when she speaks to us and it’s just us, listening and having a conversation. Three year olds are incredibly smart and teach us so much. My newest granddaughter, at almost eight months can smile and connect and communicate with her eyes and her vocalizations and we just enjoy holding and hugging and kissing this lovely girl. We are kept in the moment, which is a child’s mission. It is about them, and now, and the world goes away and our attention is riveted.
There is awe in watching the generation we have created take on the world, creating their next generation, as well as figuring out how to recognize the needs of others and take care of business. We hope that they can rebuild the broken hearts and broken systems for the people who live among us and those who have been born this year in our world. We too, have faced a lot of unexpected pain and damage, imagining the world a certain way, only to find out, it is not the way we thought it was, or was going to be. When things don’t work out, we have to reach out and try again, until it is better, and better for us and for everyone. We have to put our heart in it, and take heart and heal that which is broken.
As the year closes, many are grateful to put it behind them, as it may be a ledger sheet that has more minuses than pluses. It’s all how you spin it. It was “the best of times,it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”. It was all of it, and yet, if you add up what you decided to take on, and minus those things you let go of, for good or for bad, you may discover that you may have broken even. For those who were not around to see this year, or those who left us this year, we must acknowledge that new life and every life is precious and important. We take a chance, with every beat of our heart, to live the best life we can. It seems like it was just a year ago, and here we are again. I need very little, but want very much, not for me but for those who have a piece of my heart.