I weep at the sight of the casket. Friends and family pass by his body. Memories spoken. Words rip painfully into my chest. His bright smile, belly deep laugh, compassion for life. The glue of his family. A young life cut short by one last heroic feat. Six best friends, white gloved, gently lift the casket. I selfishly grieve as if it were my child, Admonishing myself. Another mother lost her child. Forever. Six young men buried their best friend. And then it occurs to me. My son lost a best friend. He would have been there, had he not taken a different direction.
I feel the stirring on his side of the bed. I don’t move, Not even an inch. I slightly open one eye and peek at the clock. It’s only 6am. I concentrate even more not to move. I pretend to sleep.
He inches closer. I feel his warmth against my back. Please, not now.
I feel his nose against the back of my neck. Don’t bother me now. I’m tired. The alarm will sound in twenty minutes.
He tickles my ear. I’m not in the mood. Just let me sleep.
Five minutes later he moves closer again. If I move the slightest bit, he’ll know I’m awake. I breathe softly from years of practice. Even breaths. He moves away. I doze.
He snuggles up again. My right arm is numb. My fingers tingle. I try to move my arm ever so slightly out from under my head. He cuddles up. I groan. Let out a big sigh. Lift my head. “Just give me 15 minutes more.” I purposely sound half-asleep. My head hits the pillow with a deliberate thud.
He backs off again. I begin to feel guilty. He wants attention. He deserves attention. But I keep my eyes closed and do not move. I want to be left alone.
He nudges. I open one eye to glance at the clock. Ten minutes. He knows I’m awake. I move slightly away. He gives up. Sleep is impossible now.
The alarm sounds. I jump out of bed. He leaps out of bed and follows me into the bathroom. He watches as I shower, dry my hair, get dressed. His persistent prodding annoys me.
He follows me into the kitchen. I fix his breakfast. He is momentarily pacified. I drink my coffee.
I’m ready now. I reach out for him.
He turns away, casually struts to the back door, and meows as his paws reach for the doorknob.
Originally posted on Themestream long ago in the year 2000
Twenty years ago
The Sunday morning newspaper, late as usual, hits the driveway with a thud. The Shopwells are poised and ready for the shopping inserts. The Sunday eyeopener pot of coffee has been consumed and all heads are in peak caffeinated condition. Twelve cats lurk inside and outside the back door ready for the Sunday morning ritual.
Mr. Shopwell prepares to brew a fresh pot of coffee. He rinses the carafe, slowly pours 12 cups of filtered water into the tank, methodically unfolds a paper filter, and smooths it into the filter basket, opens the cupboard and chooses an appropriate blend, measures beans into the grinder, grinds for a count of seven, sniffs the aroma as he carefully pours the coffee into the filter, pauses for just a moment, and flips the switch. He stands guard over the pot, ready for the first and freshest cup.
Mrs. Shopwell gets up to scoop the poop and feed the cats. Her furry slippers scuffle over to the pooper scooper stand. Two of the cats follow her as she scoops all three litter boxes, and each takes a moment to deposit fresh tootsie roll shaped poops. Mrs. Shopwell makes one last pass through the litter boxes, nose turned up to avoid the fresh aroma. Six cats stand guard at the food barrel ready to pounce on fresh scooped kibble. Their noses twitch at the aroma.
Mrs. Shopwell’s sister Marty is visiting but she knows the ritual too. She makes an excuse to head for the bathroom muttering something about having too much coffee already. That leaves Artie, Marty’s girlfriend who just happens to visit enough to know the ritual, stuck with the job of stumbling over the remaining four cats to get to the bottom of the long, steep, narrow driveway to retrieve the coveted newspaper.
Yes, the newspaper is coveted. Not coveted enough to be the one passively elected to retrieve it. But, coveted enough that the arrival of the newspaper at the table creates a brief moment of havoc. All the cats retreat at the first rustle of the newspaper and watch from afar as eight hands scuffle and grasp at the colorful Sunday inserts. Not the news. Just the ads. It’s a retail therapy kind of day and everyone is ready for some retail inspiration.
As the paper rustling stops, the cats return to survey their battle ground. The table is covered with four categorically stacked paper piles. Computer ads have been separated into PC and Mac piles. Department store ads have been ripped apart into tools and lady’s underwear. The news, business and sports are strewn on the floor.
As the coffee cups are refilled the cats take their positions. After a few feeble attempts at coming between newspaper and noses, an exhaustible task on Sundays, they resort to languishing in the heedlessly tossed floor papers.
Mrs. Shopwell settles into the PC ads offering insinuating remarks about Macs while Marty peruses the Mac ads offering frequent rebuttals in defense of Macs. Artie says something about cutting precise round circles with a new super powered model jigsaw and Marty mutters, “all circles are round.” Mr. Shopwell is silent in words but loud in breath as he gazes at underwire, push-up, and figure enhancing bras in Victoria Secret ads.
Once known as Mr. & Mrs. Shopwell, the figments of imagination have aged into a caricature of Herman and Myrtle.
The twelve cats crossed that rainbow bridge long ago. These days Trumpette and Wanda rule over the litter box. Since the cat population is down by ten, Myrtle figures it’s Herman’s turn to scoop the poop. According to her calculations: 12 cats x 12 years x 365 days x 12 scoops per day = 630,720 scoops. If Herman scoops twice a day for 2 cats, he will have to scoop for 432 years to catch up.
Now about the coffee. Herman still does the morning ritual, but since he only must place a pod in the pot and push the brew button, Myrtle insists he bring her a fresh cup of joe before she gets out of bed.
As for the newspaper. The only day the official newspaper arrives is on Sunday and only because Sunday is digital detox day. Myrtle has decreed she will not turn on any electronic device on the sabbath (unless no one is looking). Herman has lost interest in the bra ads since he spends hours viewing ladies trying on underwear on YouTube but he does snip the grocery coupons. Myrtle sips her coffee, sends Herman off to the store, and prepares the weekly honey do list.
So, nothing has changed. Herman remains clueless.
NOW & THEN
Bringing in another post from the archives while waiting for the muse to wake up.
A few years back I was trying to train a new hairdresser. One day…
Hairdresser says: How about something a little different?
Note: This is the 2nd time she has cut my hair.
I say: OK whatever.
Wash…rinse…snip snip…gel…hairdryer…gook…teasing…hairspray…I look in the mirror.
Hairdresser: Do you like it?
HD: Well I’m not letting you out of the chair until you say you like it.
Me: Do you think you can tone it down a bit?
Note: Is Aquanet back in vogue?
A little tugging here and there…actually she pulls on one hair and they all move. She pats the sides of my head but the mass just springs back into form.
I look in mirror:
I know what comes next…
I’m twenty years older than my mother would ever be. Soon I’ll be as old as my mother’s mother. Say it isn’t so.
It’s no secret that I have had a raging case of writer’s block since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s not just me according to the rest of my writing group. In our case it’s a matter of all or nothing. Some of us refuse to sit in front of a blank screen so we don’t even bother turning it on. Others are filling up page after page. I must find a way out of this so what could be more inspiring than finding the first (and only) payment I have ever received for my writing expertise. Don’t laugh now. This was over twenty years ago when Themestream paid writers a penny for each time someone read one of their posts. In digging through my archives, I managed to find eighteen of these articles. So here’s the plan. Since I have not been successful in coming up with anything new, I’ll just pull one out of the archives and write a THEN and NOW. Here goes the first one:
“You need lipstick,” Mom used to say. I was only thirteen and I didn’t think I needed it. When the Avon lady showed up and agreed with Mom, she shuffled through her bag. She lined up several little white sample tubes of pale pink lipstick. “Try these,” she said. I assured her I would try them.
I snuck into the bathroom and tried on the first pale pink shade. Ugh I thought as I tried to smear it off with a piece of toilet paper. Six tubes later I emerged from the bathroom, lips bright red not from lipstick but from removing it with scratchy toilet tissue.
Mom insisted I wear the Rose color to church the following Sunday. She always wore rose so therefore I must look good in Rose. I don’t think so. I licked my lips all the way to church hoping every tiny bit of evidence would be gone by the time we got there. I rushed into the bathroom and removed the stubborn traces. Mom came in and offered her tube of lipstick suggesting a fresh coat.
I never could get used to lipstick. I just never felt right. I never know – is it too pink, too red, too purple, too white, too orange, too brown? Is it me? Nothing feels right. I hate to see old ladies with red, or worst yet bright pink, lipstick. It is shocking against their pale white faces. I wonder what others think of mine.
My husband always asks me to wear red lipstick. Bright red lipstick. One time two of my friends joined my husband and I at our favorite Chinese restaurant in SF. I brought a tube of bright red lipstick. One by one we got up from the table and went to the restroom coming out with bright red lips. My husband never even noticed until we all started giggling.
Every time one of those offers comes around where you get free cosmetics, I jump on it. I must have collected hundreds of lipstick samples over the years. Each one I try in front of the bathroom mirror. Each time I feel thirteen again as I wipe it off with scratchy toilet paper.
Twenty years later, I am the old lady I used to think looked horrid with lipstick. You probably guessed by now – I just cannot bring myself to go beyond Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer. Looking past the wrinkles, I definitely don’t feel thirteen again.