Date Night 12/18/13
'You guys don't know how much I appreciate you doing this for me,' our friend said.
'No, no, it's alright. We'll make a 'date night' of it,' my wife said.
Date night? I gave my wife one of those 'cocked eyebrow' looks. She didn't see it but our friend did.
Date night. Our friend, call her Jenny, was asking for us to take her for surgery. Stage one ovarian cancer. After her mom died, Jenny was divorced and had no children, my wife and I and two or three friends sort of became Jenny's ersatz family. I knew Jenny for 40 years (she knew where all my skeletons were buried) and my wife knew her for 30.
'Yes, we'll make a night of it,' my wife continued. 'We'll get you there. We'll get you in to surgery. Then we'll go out to eat. Have a few drinks. Come back and see you into your room. We'll make a night of it.'
'Okay, a date night at the hospital. You can call it that, if you want,' Jenny said with a shrug.
Funny is the life of old married folks. The honeymoon passes into the reality of marriage, then into partnership, then into lives separate but together. Then you begin to notice the separateness and look around for what passes for 'common wisdom' to make things better. Common wisdom suggests that a couple needs to click the ol' relationship F5 button. The refresh button. One recommendation; 'date night'. Your relationship started with dating – remind yourself of that starting.
Strange how date night becomes, however. That particular 'rolling stone' gathers a whole lot of moss. After the first one or two, the world presses in and time becomes a factor. Date night comes to be something squeezed in between the important things in life; work, children, exhaustion...
Of a sudden, date night is a well-attended event. Looking for something to do – to decide on what to do. You go to places with friends. You combine date night with catching up with long lost cousins. Obligatory business events (drinks with customers, motivation sessions, and conventions) where associates talk business are date nights.
And always a nice big meal gets tucked beneath the belt and a couple of drinks get swallowed. Then you remember you're old and tired and it's time to go home and climb into ragged, comfortable, jammies – into bed.
Big yawn. Yes, we're ready for bed. The effort is made. 'Refreshing' is found in a good nights sleep. You know, old married folks.
Jenny got delivered to the hospital by early afternoon. They started surgery, finally, by four. They finished cutting on her by eight, out of recovery around ten, and into a room by eleven. My wife and I stole a quick dinner, in a Styrofoam box, at seven. We snuck away to a bar for a quick adult beverage around nine. Those comfy jammies were donned before one a.m.
Jenny did well and they think they got it all.
Date night was over.
A Winter's Tale 12/11/13
The ice came in the night.
First the hoarse, wolf howl, of driven wind
Then the crystalline hiss of hard-bitten hail.
On and on and on it went. On and on.
And, somewhere, a gun fight – I thought.
Loud booming, cracking gunfire and the
Thud of fallen giants.
By all the Winter gods, what?
I drag the blanket with me to the window.
Howl, hiss, boom, crack, and thud.
Earth made ashen by piling sleet.
Gray horizon drawn in, hiding behind blowing mist.
A scraggly black line, the forest and the mystery
A crack, a thud, close by. I see the limb fall.
'Twas the weight if ice breaking the limbs asunder.
Scary, but no longer a mystery.
The front room of my cabin in the woods
Is a bachelor affair, primitive and dusty.
The threadbare rug fights the cold seeping up from the floor.
A TV struggles to pull in its three channels.
Small Franklin stove almost glows keeping the room tepid.
I sit in the only chair, a rocker, heavily clawed up by cats,
Draped tightly under that old wool Army blanket.
Wild, hand cut, cedar Christmas tree glitters in the corner.
The hour is late and the room feels empty.
Lights off, drain the glass of whiskey, stir the stove fire.
To my room and the mattress lying on the floor.
Add some extra blankets – maybe enough of them.
Crawl under them, ball up, pull them tight.
My cats, hiding from the shattering ice noises, come out.
One curls near my tummy, the other in the crook of my legs.
No purring. Howl, hiss, boom, crack, and thud.
Morning. The cats are not happy as I leave the bed.
Burr! I'm not happy either.
Stir the coals. Add some wood. Shiver.
My blackened, battered coffee pot goes on the stove.
Time to wait and shiver and add some more wood.
Gods! Put some more wood in there.
The room seems dingy and bleak in the chill.
Maybe my tree will cheer. Switch on the lights.
A sad little tree, really, cut from the fence line
Down along the dirt road to my cabin,
Crooked, frail, wispy, and smelling of cedar.
A string of 25 lights, many colored paper chain
Cut from the funny papers, topped with a star
Made from aluminum foil. Even that
Heavy enough to droop the top branch.
I sigh sipping my coffee and open the shades.
The world is of ice now a frozen liquid sheen
Bleak and magical at the same time.
Shades of gray from charcoal to off white
Beneath a burnished steel sky.
Down left, the abandoned tiny cabin sagged
As if knowing it rested on lost Indian graves.
Down right, the empty, naked, sheeted highway.
All aglimmer as if made of blown glass.
Nearer, my car stood veiled in rime.
My onions slump under their ice coats.
My yard is a blanket of sleet pellets.
No bird song, no dog bark, no squirrel chatter.
No motor rumble. No nothing.
Winter closed the door – locked it tight.
Even the cats hide. Christmas Eve and alone.
Alone is good. Alone is good. Sure, alone is good.
On goes a favorite Christmas movie.
Christmas cheer sneaks early into the coffee.
More wood goes into the stove.
Some popcorn goes into the microwave.
I fish out a good book and an extra blanket.
I curl up and cuddle up in the chair.
Winter is good. Alone is good.
Alone is good. Alone is good. Sure, alone is good.
A motor and the sounds of tires thumping
In the frozen potholes of my driveway.
Breaks squeal and the motor stops.
Boots stumping on the steps and
Knocking harsh on my door. I untangle
From the blanket and go to let in the cold.
It's Dutch, furtive and glaring and pretty.
It's Dutch, long and tall and standing at my door.
'What under heaven are you doing here?'
'I'm cold – let me in, damn it.'
She risked her life coming here, so I do.
'You're crazy, you know. You could have died.'
'Shut up,' she said stealing my blanket.
She pushed me into my chair and climbed onto my lap.
'I was lonely and cold.' She said pulling up the blanket.
Alone is good. Alone with two is better.
Tis The Season 12/7/13
There is a counterintuitive aspect of much of Eastern philosophy that states something like 'if you look for it, it won't be found – if you grasp for it, it won't be reached'.
I am trying to 'manufacture' something that resembles the Christmas Spirit this year. It's not really happening. I'm not really feeling it.
The house is all decorated and the lights are flickering. The wife is working on all the Season's greeting cards. The party invitations are offered and/or accepted. The liquor cabinet is well stocked – some of it is shared out. The furnace is working and keeping things warm. Hell, my shopping is even done. Is anything seasonal forgotten? I don't think so.
Am I exited? Am I all aglow and cozy?
Sickness, death, and dying stalks the shadows. We do what we can for an old friend fending off stage one (thank the gods) ovarian cancer. A newer friend lost a husband, mother, and aunt within a few months this fall. My father and aunt, the last of seven siblings, count their days in nursing homes. My cousin's wife worry over her father's failing heart. My late mother's only sister, my favorite aunt, struggles and her husband, my favorite uncle, goes day by day. My wife's folks contemplate assisted living. There are more friends and I'm too tired to bring them to mind.
Don't even get me started on the news and the economy.
So, I reach for that warmth and glow. I try all the old tricks. I put a smile on my face so that the whole world may smile with me. I watch all those great old movies. I turn off the news. I pour from that bottle of cheer.
I reach and that is my mistake. What is sought will not be found. Like lost keys, it won't be found until one stops looking.
I should let go. These wondrous old feelings should find me.
Oops! There's one. See, I'm better already.