Sunday, January 31, 2016

Advice from a Woman Who is Old Enough to Be Your Mother

I hate that time when I'm recovered enough from a virus that I can see everything I need to do but I still feel crappy enough that I can't do it.

I can see that my house is dirty. I'm not a neat freak, but this is too much. I don't mind things being messy. I just don't like when they're messy and dirty. I'll feel better when my kitchen sink is clean. Instead, I'm lying in my recliner feeling that it's too much effort to hold my hands up to type and maybe it would feel better if I were actually lying down. I tried lying down, but I don't need to sleep either. I'm sick of TV. Plus, I'm starting to feel flatter, as if I'd turn into a two-dimensional character if I lay in bed any longer.

I'm not quite feeling well enough to read my book either. It's a vigorous book full of angst and horrible things that people do, Trash by Dorothy Allison. I think it's magnificent writing. It may even be important and I don't declare a book important more than once every five or ten years. Endurance by Alfred Lansing is important. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Maybe Dorothy Allison fits in there too, but it's so agonizing to read, especially since I'm still feeling dizzy and slightly out of phase with the world. I don't like feeling out of phase.

Maybe I should read a romance novel instead or some candy fluff book or comedy. I need more comedy but Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman hasn't arrived on my doorstep yet. Mike ordered light bulbs from Amazon and got them today. It's Sunday, people. Did he really need light bulbs today? Couldn't I have gotten Good Omens today too, then? But I did the right thing and told Amazon I wasn't really in a hurry for a comedy. Well, maybe I am in a hurry for comedy now. Too bad for my poor postal worker. He's a good guy, but he's starting to look too thin and hurry off before I can get to the door with Teddy, the excited dog, when he rings the doorbell. "Wait!" I want to yell after his departing truck. "Teddy loves you and you need a dog hug about now." But it would be futile, I see, as I watch him pull out onto the highway and look to see if my book has come. Light bulbs. Crap light bulbs.

I managed to take Teddy to the dog park yesterday. I was my big accomplishment for the day. Today, that accomplishment is holding my hands above this damned keyboard. At first, there were a bunch of people and dogs at the park. It was a glorious day, full of blue and yellow light, clouds that could have been painted by John Constable. People wanted to talk and I fell into that groove without feeling I had to work at it. I can talk to a wall, folks. One guy wanted to talk about his brother who paddled a drift boat. Another pair of men wanted to talk about dog breeds and behavior. I love that subject. Herding dogs, runners, independent dogs, big dogs in small bodies.

But there was this one last guy, a guy with a puppy. And he wanted to talk.

I'm telling you that I've reached a new age in my life. I hadn't realized it until the other day when I hiked to the viewpoint at Cedar Butte and this young woman slowed her ass down to my pace, glacial, to walk and talk with me. I was heaving, probably coming down with the virus I was about to get, but trying to hold up the conversation and not walk too slowly at the same time.

I finally managed to get her into talking mode so I could stop talking and soothe the light-birds who were sweeping around my peripheral vision. I'm honing the gift for asking the right questions to keep people talking. The problem is that it's getting serious from where I stand.

This woman asked me if she should move back to Bellingham. 'How should I know?' I wanted to gasp at her. 'If you want advice, go hike at Snoqualmie Peaks where you can find the Buddhist monk.' I wanted to wheeze.

"Hmm," I sighed instead. "That's a great place to live." And then I had to stop talking or stop walking, one. I stopped talking. She took that as a opening to go into the pros and cons for each choice. Crap, this wasn't simple chatting. I could end up saying the wrong thing and ruining someone's life, a total stranger's life. She seemed like a nice woman and I didn't want to screw up her future with my bad advice. I didn't know all the facts. I couldn't know which way she should go. I huffed a few responses as she pondered, a "that's true" and a "but where are your friends?" and such. I hope to think I didn't say anything meaningful at all, that she came up with all her own answers but I'm not sure I stayed in a neutral zone. I have opinions, you know. I'd hate to be the cause of misery from a bad choice, but maybe she was on the right track anyway. I hoped she was on the right track.

But why me?

It didn't occur to me then. All last week after her face kept popping up in my mind, I wondered about that moment when she stopped walking and turned around and waited for me to give her the best answer I had. "That's a great place to live," I had said. How lame is that? It all made me feel old, older than a mom with a fifteen year old boy. This woman was an adult asking adult questions.

And then yesterday, there I was at the dog park with his guy, an adult guy, and his puppy. All I wanted was to pet the puppy, an adorable puppy, while the guy just wanted to talk.

"Are you sleeping through the night yet?" I asked him, laughing at my choice of words.

"Not yet, but she's a good girl. She's trying so hard."

"I can see she's a good girl. She's going to be a great dog. What a sweet disposition," I said as I leaned over her and petted her with both hands. She wiggled and stared into my face while Teddy swung around to be loved a little bit too. I had actually zoned out a little bit, looking into both dogs' eyes one after another as I petted them and didn't quite realize that this man had begun to spiral the conversation into a different zone. I managed to put in some minor comments to keep the flow of conversation going. I needed more time with this love-fest that was happening at my fingertips. I'd been sick and this was making me feel better. But all of a sudden, this adult man was asking me a question, looking at me as if I'd been sitting in the back of class and I had missed an important oral quiz from the teacher while I daydreamed. I snapped to attention.

"So, what do you think?" he asked as he looked deeply into my eyes. "Do you think I'm ready for the responsibilities of a real baby?"

Oh shit. What the hell do I know?

Thank you for listening, jb

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