"We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee." -- Marian Wright Edelman
The early morning crowd at the gym is pretty consistent. There are Clarice and Michael, and Margaret and Narvon, both friendly, sweet retired married couples who wear matching t-shirts every day. There's George, who regales the group on the elliptical machines with his most recent gorging at the area's buffet restaurants; Ruth, an elderly preacher's wife who speedwalks around the track, and Charles, who makes a point of speaking to every person there. Except for the slender woman whose name I don't know because she doesn't talk to Charles or anybody else but walks on the treadmill with great intensity while listening to whatever is coming out of her headphones, also with intensity.
And then there's Evelyn.
Evelyn is an older woman who is waiting for the door to open at 5:30 every morning. She actually arrives closer to 5:15, just in case she can badger the attendant into opening a wee bit early, which she sometimes does. Heaven help the staff person who doesn't get around to opening the door until 5:31....
Once allowed entry, Evelyn makes a bee-line for elliptical machine #1. She's usually there first anyway, but the rest of us know not to claim that machine if Evelyn is delayed in any way. She spends 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, then 20 minutes on the recumbant bike, then either walks on the treadmill or heads off to the swimming pool. I don't know how long she actually stays because I need to leave by 6:30 to get to work on time.
But suffice it to say, Evelyn is there more more than an hour a day, every day but Sunday (or election days -- she volunteers as a poll worker), and has a routine from which she does not vary one iota. The rest of us are welcome to work around her routine if we like, but we WILL bend to her wishes.
Now, there are only four elliptical machines at this gym and the race for the other three can be fierce at 5:30. I can occasionally be one of the contenders, and I have been known to find Evelyn's commandering of elliptical machine #1 annoying. "You're retired, for heaven sake," I have grumbled to myself. "Couldn't you come an hour later when the elliptical machines are all open because those of us with jobs have gone on about our days?"
Today, however, I was walking on the treadmill as Evelyn, in the recumbant cycling stage of her daily routine, chatted with a fellow on an adjacent stationary bike. The male bike rider asked Evelyn her age -- oh-oh, I thought to myself. I've seen Evelyn in fighting mode, this will not end well. But instead of the fireworks I anticipated, she responded proudly that she is 92.
Ninety-two. Nine decades plus two years. Four score and 12 years ago.
When I presumed she was a mere youngster in her 70s, my attitude toward her attitude was not particularly charitable. I don't know why it makes a difference that she's 92 and not only still upright, but still upright and at the gym for an hour or more six days a week. But it does.
I don't necessarily aspire to live to be 92, but if that's how it goes for me, it will be my great fortune to be able to be pounding on the door of the gym to hurry up and open at 5:30 a.m.
And in the meantime, I'll patiently wait my turn for the elliptical machine.
Our nest recently re-emptied, I think this time for good, I've been pondering the relationship between adult children and their parents. Specifically, my children and me... and me and my parents.
When I was my kids' age, I was busy living my adult life. I had a husband, two kids, a full time job and a house. Weeknights were about meals, clean-up, laundry, homework, preparing for the next day of school or day care, settling the logistics of who would pick up whom when the next day, then everyone to bed and my time to catch up on stuff from the office. Weekends were even busier, especially once the kids were in school activities.
My folks lived an hour away so seeing them required planning. I called every week or so, went to visit monthly (especially if we wanted to drop the kids off for a weekend). When they'd moved a little closer and my mom was diagnosed with cancer, my visits became more frequent as I took her to doctor visits and chemo treatments and did grocery shopping for her and my dad. But even then, it was all about fitting them in around all of the other aspects of my oh-so-busy life.
They were very conscious of not intruding. They'd raised me to be independent and self-sufficient, after all. So I rarely heard from them unless my mother was really worried about something, such as whether I'd made it to work safely in an ice storm. I rolled my eyes in exasperation at those calls, infrequent though they were. But otherwise, I didn't think much about what my parents might be thinking and feeling about me. They had their life, and I had mine.
They're both gone now. But finally, I get it. My life was all about me. And as respectful as they were of giving me my space, as many friends or activities they had at the retirement community... so was theirs.
I get that even as they "gave me my space", there wasn't a day they didn't think about my brother and me, wondering how our days had been, what we were doing, whether we were happy and safe. I get that parenthood really is for life, even long after the formal responsibility of nuturing, protecting, teaching (and paying!) is past.
Because that's how it is for me.
I'm luckier than my parents, because my kids are better at keeping in touch. They were here Sunday night for supper, and it was such a pleasure just to be with them, listen in on their conversation, be reminded again what interesting, resourceful young people they have become.
I'm glad they are more attenentive to me than I was to my parents. It makes my days more enjoyable now.
And I hope, means they'll have fewer regrets in years to come.
I have been thinking about something profound to blog about. But today it's time to take a lesson from Mr. James, forget about profundity and just enjoy.
It's August, a time when the green spaces turn brown, the singing of cicadas is overwhelmed by the mechanical white noise of air conditioners humming 24/7 all along the block, and a high temperature in the mid-90s qualifies as a cold front.
But this afternoon it's a balmy 76 degrees, an August rarity. There are a few clouds in the sky, but enough sun to be cheery, with a breeze blowing the curtains lightly through the open windows. Thanks to an equally unusual spate of August downpours earlier in the week, the lawns up and down the street are green, as are the grassy areas alongside the neighborhood trail where Otis and I are getting acquainted with each others' walking habits.
The cicadas seem to be enjoying this fine day, as evidenced by their happy buzzing, clearly audible without the drone of synthetic cool production.
It's a Friday, I have the afternoon off, Otis and I have already gone for three walks. He's curled up next to me now, snoozing. Maybe I'll log off now and read a book. Or maybe I'll join Otis in a nap.
Whatever I do, it's my choice, and it's clearly a moment to enjoy, so with a tip of the hat to my canine mentor, I am doing so quite happily.
He's new to our household, following last week's departure of my son and his dog to their own place.
Knowing it was a good thing for my son to get back out on his own, I tried not to talk too much about how much I'd miss my granddog and moment-living mentor, Mr. James. But I must have failed this effort, as Rob, his older sister and even my husband, encouraged me to get a dog of my own.
So, I started looking, all the while wondering to myself -- could I love another dog, even one of the same breed as my beloved little granddog, as much? The question lingered.
Having become enamored of Boston Terriers after knowing Mr. James, I sought another Boston, and found him languishing in doggy-foster care through a rescue organization. He's an escape artist (as is Mr. James); his previous owners apparently got tired of retrieving him from the pound, took him to a vet for boarding and never came back for him. So now he's here, microchipped and learning to stay away from the door. Well, sort of -- he's already scooted out twice, corralled by helpful neighbors and returned to his new home.
He and Mr. James look similar, and share several Boston behavior traits. But they're very distinct dogs. Otis is sweet, where Mr. James is vibrant. Otis seeks approval, Mr. James just assumes it. Otis is as in-the-moment as all dogs, but less forcefully than Mr. James. It would never have occurred to me to follow Otis' moment-living example, whereas Mr. James commands it.
And yes, I love them both.
Not unlike my two children, matter of fact, who come from the same gene pool and share some Odell traits, but are two distinct, and very interesting, people, who I love and appreciate for the unique individuals they are.
I won't rename the blog. Mr. James is a one-and-only, and I'll still see him frequently enough that he can remain my mentor. Even in his absence, if I consider WWMJD - What Would Mr. James Do? -- his point of view can guide me.
There'll be something else I can learn from Otis. But there's room for both in my heart.
No, I didn't expire. Nor did I decide I had no more lessons to learn. I didn't even run out of ideas to write about or time to assemble my thoughts.
My computer got the electronic version of swine flu and had to go to the computer hospital for de-virusing. I think it had been chronically ill for a good long while -- it was running really slowly, and giving me all sorts of inscrutable error messages (why do they even give you an error message, as though it is providing information, when the words are completely incomprehensible?) When it finally wouldn't let me go to any site that required a password, such as signing into my blog, or my Facebook page or email, that was enough.
It was released from the hospital this morning. The computer fix-it guy said they removed 17 trojans and 250 other issues - he said what they were but it was in the same language as those error messages. So I'm just presuming they were bad.
They also removed my previous anti-virus software, which apparently wasn't doing much for me, and gave me a different, hopefully better, one. The new one talks to me when it's been updated, presumably to remind me to do a new scan. That actually might be the only thing that's "better" about the new software -- it attempts to compensate for inattentive, lazy users.
That's all for now. I have a tsunami of email to go through and an assortment of backlogged stuff to deal with. There is news from our household, but I'll save that for another time.
Although here's a clue:
And now, my anti-virus software just told me it has updated itself. Time for a scan.