So there I am, casting about for something worthy to talk about this week. It’s Labor Day, and I always like to spend this weekend shifting from summer mode to winter. Perhaps I could write about that. And about how, as I grow older, I tend to disapprove of this fall from the grace of 8:30 sunsets and green, chirping mornings. Winter braces me, contracts my pores, makes my body feel like it has to work harder just to stay right. I see why older people follow birds south, and eventually stay there for the November and December of their lives. Those later sunsets have more than one meaning for us.
So I’m cleaning up the house, and putting away some summer clothes, and setting up a new sound system for the long haul. I tell Shelley my feelings about the months coming up, and she reminds me we’re going away in February, and says that should help. Yes, I say, but shouldn’t I realize that it’s not winter that’s the problem, but the way I hold it in my head? If I perceive it as cold and dark and a time to hunker down and work even harder (which is what I do), then I’ll color it bleak and dread it. So it may be the anticipation of winter that’s more the problem for me. Sort of how I feel about cold water – I shiver at the thought of diving into the ocean when it’s cold, but 20 seconds after I do, I feel great.
In a while, Shelley goes out to shop for groceries. Since when were supermarkets open on Labor Day? Since the recession, I believe, because wages have come down, so for some, this has become just another day of labor. I’m setting up the living room speakers, but Romeo wants to be wherever I am, so when I’m behind the TV and cable box and DVD player with the speaker wire, there he is with his cat-killing curiosity, perilously stepping over all the wires and connections and outlets. When I reach down to try and pull the plugs out, or make some connections, he jumps at my hand and scratches it, and then my arm. I grab him and throw him into the bathroom and close the door. He’s a pain in the butt, but it’s all just play to him.
An hour later, Shelley comes up the stairs and in the door, and doesn’t look so good. She feels nauseous, she says, and over-heated, and needs to sit down. It isn’t that hot out, but she is sweating like crazy. For a while she feels better, but then a couple of hours later, she feels nauseous again, and weak as well.
For Shelley these are worrisome signs, and for the past several years her cardio-vascular and gastro-intestinal systems have played a kind of ping pong, each manifesting symptoms that turn out to be about the other.
At first I feel frightened, and then…Labor Day evaporates and it’s every day, or rather, the only day. Now there’s no winter approaching, only an unknown future and a woman in front of me now that looks so delicious, all I want to do is look at her, talk to her, touch her. She and I go into a silence over dinner, like there’s nothing to say and everything to feel. The portabella burgers she made are succulent, the small talk between us, enough.
After finishing our last bite at the dinner table, as is my wont, I pull her chair over next to me. My arm around her, her head leans on mine, and I feel the air, the aura around her, that strange sense of serenity and lightness, like the sky today, so blue and calming and lush, this peace I’ve always felt with her. The odd and ineffable quality of connection between us, like something beyond physicality and personality – spirit; a light and playful ease. (I could paraphrase Billy Joel and say, “She has an ease that frees me; don’t know what it is; but a look from her will always please me.”) Her face is so beautiful and I hadn’t noticed in days.
Dinner over, I go now to the other end of our apartment to set up our newer, Bose speakers. When I turn on the “Sounds of the Seasons” cable music station, they imbue our bedroom with a sense of aural splendor. Shelley comes in and lies down on the bed, and soaks it in.
It’s late now, and it’s time for her to sleep.
“You’re going to the doctor this week, yes?” Her physician is a Cardiologist.
Ah yes, Shelley, like Romeo, is a pain in the neck sometimes. (Hey, we’ve been together a decade; and she could say the same for me.) But the truth is, I really love everything about her. And without her, I’d be in deep winter for sure.
And she’ll probably be fine. And what hasn’t killed her these past several years has made her stronger in her love of being alive; has chiseled a deeper well for her to hold the joy of so many little things.