I keep thinking these Musings have run their course. I tell myself that I will soon have to write about the darker hours. All the good stories have been told. The newest days have yet to unfold. But then, another Saturday dawns and I find myself in front of the computer, reaching out. Perhaps I just need to connect. Delete, please, or let the link float away in your inbox if the intrusion annoys you.
But if — like me — you scrounge for the thread you can pull to unravel your life’s mystery, keep reading.
Yesterday a buyer hauled away the buffet which has sat in my dining room since 1993. I found the thing in the first house which I bought, in Winslow, Arkansas. I called the seller and he gave one of those grunts over the phone for which country lawyers seem famous. He told me he didn’t want the buffet, that a renter had abandoned it. So I kept it.
Now that I’m trying to divest myself of the burgeoning belongings in this house, it found a new home faster than I would have thought possible. When they came, I made them remove the decades-old mirror and carefully carry it to their vehicle. I provided a swathe of bubble wrap for the beveled glass door. I hovered over the transfer to the bed of their truck until I had assured myself that they’d take good care of it all the way home to Raytown, then I said goodbye on the sidewalk. Back in the house, I stared dejectedly at the stack of vinyl that has been hidden in the buffet for three decades.
Behind the doors of my china cabinet, I discovered a baggie filled with silhouettes carefully crafted in the images of my paternal grandparents. The little collection had fallen into a box of wedding pictures, and almost hit the trash bag without being unearthed. I shuffled through the pack, running the tip of one finger over my grandfather Corley’s stern profile. Behind Grandma Corley’s more elegant depiction, I spied one of Great-Grandmother Corinne Hahn Hayes, and a couple more of the first two or three Corley children in my father’s generation.
I fell back into a chair and held the bag against my chest. How close I came to accidentally discarding the lot! I slowed my pace then, examining each item, each piece of paper, each yellowed photograph and clipping. Thus did I find my mother’s wedding announcement and the obituary of my favorite curmudgeon. I kept them both.
I don’t need these thirteen-hundred square feet. I can’t afford the upkeep, the headache, or the heartache. A good stout broom will rid my psyche of the cobwebs that twenty-four years of stagnation have occasioned. But Lord, how I loved this house!
Here my son toddled, from not-quite-two to nearly twenty. Here I married and divorced twice, remaining behind when husbands and stepchildren moved away. I watched my son pull out of the driveway in his first car and the tow truck take that car away after it got crunched between my son’s misjudged turn and a tipsy doctor’s speeding Mercedes. Patrick drove my Blazer, then; while I slipped into the Saturn Vue which would take me through five satisfying years until I received the Prius. That Blazer took us to a lot of places. We went offroad in Wyoming and the Dakotas. I drove it to Chicago in a snowstorm for my cousin Sabrina’s funeral. I hope the Prius does me as proud.
On the porch, my plants have entered their fourth or fifth bloom for the summer while the air around them cools and the sun shifts on its trajectory towards fall. The old rug on which the morning paper would land each day has more mud stains than clean inches, but I don’t take the paper anymore. I don’t miss it, though I do regret not finding out if my carrier’s son got a football scholarship. I can’t recall his name — not the father, nor the son — but wherever he is, I hope he got out of this town, as his father wanted. He’s a good boy, my carrier told me, at five-thirty one frosty September, holding my paper towards my waiting hand.
In the other hand, I would invariably hold a mug of coffee. I’d pull my robe close around my body and tuck myself into a rocker. My glasses would be settled on the end of my pug Irish nose. A cat would be curled in the other chair, and I’d hear a dog snuffling at the door, wanting to be let out but not realizing she had come to the wrong end of the house for her business.
I’d set the paper down and go back into the living room. The dog would run ahead of me, and I’d open the back door for her. She scamper down the stairs and into the yard. I’d pause to watch the first rays of morning sun shimmer over the neighbor’s garage and through the cedar trees which rise on the property line.
I did much the same this morning, though the cats have all died or decamped along with the various humans. It’s just me and the old dog now, and I had to bend to set her feet at the right angle. We don’t know what causes her slight neurological damage. It might be the press of the tumor which will inevitably bring her death. It could be something else — swelling from her arthritis, perhaps, or maybe something that the hundreds of dollars already spent on testing has not revealed. Either way, I understand her dilemma. She’s got a proprioceptor deficit, and that makes two of us. I pat her head and make her walk around the kitchen until she gets her bearings. She’ll suffer no broken bones on my watch.
I’ve browsed through the New York Times online. In a little while, I’ll go up to my office and hang the art for the September 23rd benefit for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center. When I’ve gotten that done, I’ll drive to south Overland Park for Caitlin Taggart Perkin’s baby shower, and later, in the evening, back to the Plaza for dinner at Eden Alley.
I don’t need much. A laptop, a coffee mug, a rocking chair, a few friends. I’ve got too many possessions. I look around me and wonder how many dollars I’ve spent accumulating all this stuff. Then I make myself a little sick thinking of what I could have done with all that money, if I had not felt compelled to have the world’s biggest collection of second-hand furnishings and pocketbooks.
But what’s done is done. The life that I have lived so far brought me to this day, for good or for bad. I promised to live to be 103, so I have a few more chances to get it right. I have a dust mop and I’m coming for those dust bunnies hiding under the table. The old dog and me, we’ve got some days left in us. Don’t count us out just yet.