Variation

They’d been doing together since they were wed forty-two years ago. “Everything that we can do together, I mean, of course.” She felt some things weren’t possible, “But we tried to do everything together. We were never apart from one another for more than a day or two, maybe three, tops.” She’d been a nurse, but was now retired; he’d been, and was, a doctor.

Travel was required for her to visit her father. “Dad’s really well for ninety-three. It’s easy to forget he’s ninety-three because he looks so good and does so well. But he is ninety-three, so I worry about him. Especially since he’s down there and I’m up here. He’s a retired engineer, and very particular about his habits. Everything must be done certain ways. He eats the same foods for the same meals at the same times every day,  breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s no variation.”

But this was about her husband. “He didn’t want to go with me to Southern California. Dad always watches Fox News. He’s completely apolitical, he’s not a Trump supporter, doesn’t have a MAGA hat, or anything like that, but he watches Fox News all day long. Henry just didn’t want to go, and cited that as part of the reason. So I flew down there alone.

“I’d been down there for a week when I received a phone call from Henry. He was frantic.”

“I’m out of clean underwear,” he said.

“Well, wash some.”

“I would, but I don’t know where the detergent goes.”

“It goes in the drawer.”

“I can’t find the drawer.”

“When I thought about it, I realized that it was the longest that we’d ever been apart.”

When she returned, she discovered his clothes in the washer. They were moldy, wrinkled and almost dry. She thinks that Henry just tossed the soap on top of the clothes, wasn’t satisfied with the process, and just quit.

They haven’t spoken about it, yet, but he does have some new underwear.

Oh

oh, you pain me

and you give me joy

and, oh, you make me so happy that I can’t believe my luck

oh, you make me so angry that I could spit nails

and oh so sad that I cry hot tears in the car

and have secret conversations with you in my head

(that’s what makes them secret)

oh, your beauty and intelligence amazes me

and your kindness and sweetness inspires me

and no one could ever have a better friend

but oh, your obstinance and rigidity frustrates me

and oh, how your complaints wear me out

and your drinking and habits enervate me

which shows the truth:

love can’t be spelled without oh

 

 

Melanfloofy

Melanfloofy (floofinition) – An animal who expresses a state of sadness without discernible or apparent reason.

In use: “The big golden red retriever seemed melanfloofy, showing little interest in going for a walk, which was definitely abnormal. Head resting on his front paws, he settled in his bed and stared out the front window for most of the morning. Then a cat walked up and peered in. Tail thumping his bed, Red leaped up. Melissa concluded, my dog is in love with a cat.”

Sunday’s Theme Music

I encountered a friend on the street. He was coming out of a store and I was walking by. Eighty years old, his wife is two years younger. She’s having medical issues.

Married for fifty years, his only spouse, he seemed like he was going through the process of thinking about life without her. They’ve downsized their home twice in the last eight years, but her mobility is going, as is her vision and her mental acuity. In his words, “It all seems to be falling apart for her.”

Sad, and an often heard story. I commiserated with him, but what struck me was his comments about being nothing without her. He said, in his thinking, everything that he’d done after getting his college degree was about her, and then their family that they created, and their life together. It was his constant motivation.

After we parted and I thought more about what he’d said, “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence (1995) slipped into the stream, a song about being nothing without another.

 

Floofmencement

Floofmencement (floofinition) – An act, instance, or time of beginning an experience with, or engaging with, an animal.

In use: “With many people, floofmencement began with looking into an animal’s eyes. From in there, people grasped love, pain, sadness, hope, among other emotions, and took it on themselves to be with and help this creature.”

She Thinks

Sitting with friends, laughing while nibbling a scone (blackberry, overbaked, it doesn’t taste that good, and she’s not that hungry, but she bought it because the rest insisted, “Get something,”), celebrating (after the fact) a friend’s birthday, an epiphany strikes her.

Inspired by Barbara’s recounting of her husband’s recent illnesses (he’d gone through surgery but developed an infection), Diana and Belle are speaking about their late husbands. Both died of heart attacks in their mid-sixties.

She thinks about her husband, two years older than her (and in his mid-sixties). Coughing for days, he’d been listless, and getting worse, it seems. He’d always been a health freak — didn’t and doesn’t drink except for an occasional social beverage when they’re out (which she usually finishes for him), and a pescatarian for over forty years (no, almost fifty years, to be more accurate, always important to her). He runs five miles a day four days a week, cycles everywhere, and rows with a club several times per month, activities that he’d needed to curtail when he’d become ill. A cup of coffee a day, he always said with a wink and a grin, is his vice. Yet, he seemed to be getting sicker.

His illness really started over two years before. He’d seen doctors, and everything was great. (“They tell me that I have the arteries of a teenager.) This is when her epiphany is delivered, a thought so striking that it sucks the air out of the room and her lungs. The voices fade. Dizziness topples her.

Others say suddenly, leaning in, touching her hands and shoulders, concern on their faces, “Are you okay?”

She smiles. “Yes, fine, what?” She shakes her head. “I just got distracted. I’m sorry. What were we talking about?”

They buy it after a few seconds. When the attention leaves her, she thinks, is her husband slowly killing himself to keep her from being happy?

It’s audacious and ridiculous, but she thinks, it’s keeping with his character. He’s always been something of a passive aggressive, secret saboteur. His mother, sisters, and cousin had told her stories about how he’d undermined friendships (and an engagement). He was always sneaky when he did it. He’d been the same at work throughout his career, a liar, essentially, but very clever about it, damaging relationships when he did, but always as an innocent, and almost always believed.

Now, he’d retired. No family lived nearby. He has few close friends (were any of them close to him?). Could he have turned his attention to his relationship with her?

She thinks, how? (He could be poisoning himself.) Why? (Because that’s who — what — he is.) She thinks, I have no proof. It’s insane for her to even consider it. Yet, the idea remains moored in her thoughts. She thinks with growing shock as the group breaks up and leaves the coffee shop, it’s possible.

Destiny

Brooding with leftover anger and resentment, he stared at the page, unable to read.

The book, by Lee Child (a Christmas present), was a thriller (which he usually enjoyed), but an argument was displacing his attention. It’d been a stupid argument, not worth even recounting, but it was another in a string of stupid, exhausting arguments. One a day? Hell, on a good day, it’d be one a day. Most days, there was one in the morning before they left for work and another in the evening. They were part of the routines.

He was tired of that routine. He decided that if he could, he would change his life so that he and his wife had never reconciled after they’d separated. That had happened less than nine months in (nine years ago). His life would be so much more pleasant, wouldn’t it? Her, and her attitude. It infuriated him.

Maybe, instead, it would be better they hadn’t had children. Much had changed when she’d become pregnant. The pressure to succeed, save money, and everything else, had ratcheted up, becoming relentless. Besides, they hadn’t been getting along well before that point.

He loved his children, though, although they worried and wearied him. A friend said that having children was all about the three Ws: worrying, wearying, and weaning. That sounded right.

Maybe, instead of not reconciling, he would not marry his wife. Then there would be no children. He tried imagining that life. He’d be like Grover, alone on holidays (and declaring that he liked it most times, but also decrying it on other days), but doing whatever he wanted, whenever. But he’d asked her to marry him because he loved her. Probably be better then, to have never met her. But if he’d never met her, would he have ever met anyone and fallen in love? (What an expression.) Yes, he had other girlfriends. He’d been popular.

Setting his book aside to watch football on television for a moment, he waited for some spirits to show up, someone to tell him how different his life would be if he’d never met his wife and married. That sort of tale had been written to death. Hadn’t there been movies with that theme? He waited for the television screen to change to a movie where he was the star and the plot was that he’d never met his wife and married. But that would’ve required many other changes, since he’d met her in high school as freshmen.

He had to consider all that would’ve all changed to keep them from meeting. One of them would not have been in that school (or maybe just not that year) (but both were good students), or their activities, likes and interests would’ve needed to change. He tried peering into the past to see what needed to shift to stop their meeting from happening. Maybe they met but didn’t fall in love. That’d seemed instant for both of them, like destiny.

Wiping her hands with a dish rag, she stepped into the room. “Kitchen’s clean.”

“Good.” He heard the dishwasher running.

“Are you hungry? Can I make you a sandwich?”

“Okay, sure, thanks.”

She smiled. “Want a beer?”

“Okay.”

“Anything else?”

“No, thanks, that’d be good.”

She glanced at the screen. “Who’s winning?”

“Titans, third quarter.”

“That’s not who you wan to win is it?”

“No.”

“Well, there’s still time for it to change.” Smiling again, she turned and left the room.

One child hit the other. A scream erupted. He leaped up, refereeing, consoling, explaining, parenting. A few minutes later, detente achieved, he sat down with a slow exhale and looked at the television. The third quarter was almost over but the score hadn’t changed. He picked up his book. He couldn’t remember where he’d stopped reading, what was happening, or what he’d been thinking about.

Turning the page back, he began reading again.

 

 

Strategy

She was home. 

He moved into the living room and his little electric heater. He preferred warm air. She (she claimed) liked it ‘normal’. It exasperated the hell out of him. Wasn’t like he was choosing to prefer hot. His need for heat (he’d probably never see that on a movie poster) was derived from injuries, illnesses, and diseases. Life demanded a harsh toll from him.

Hurrying to the heater, he turned it up from low to med. Then, with silent swiftness, he settled into his recliner, grabbed his book, and pretended like her arrival was a surprise.

“Oh, you’re home.”

“Yes.” She talked about things going on outside as she removed her coat. Then, as he turned away, he watched her reflection in the television screen out of the corner of his eye. Soon as she saw his back was turned, she took two long fast steps to the heater and bent over it. A soft click followed.

She bustled away as he turned back. Smiling to himself, he glanced at the heater. On low, just as he preferred.

A happy marriage sometimes required a little guile.

Floofhalla

Floofhalla (floofinition) – The great hall where pets are honored and cared for after they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge.

In use: “Ozzy and Flash sat close to one another in Floofhalla (not too close, as Flash had this thing about other animals being in her presence, and she still carried that trait beyond the rainbow bridge), watching over their people and remembering their times with them before, and planning the times they’d have again.”

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