Color me aqua.

Christmas 2015 is history. I “bah-humbugged” through the season, but the day itself was memorable for lots of reasons. Not only did Peter not remember it was the 25th, he didn’t know it was December.

For the first time in years, he gave me a present he selected, or perhaps “selected by omission” is a better way of saying it. Leslie took him shopping. She took him to one likely shop, but when he looked in the window, he said no. He walked next door  and went in. He’d never been in either place before.

She pointed out several sweaters but, rejecting those, he chose another in aqua. (Strange, because it’s a color he really dislikes.) Carolynn thought maybe he picked it because I wore an aqua sweater the night we met — I like that theory. I love the sweater, the color, and the white shirt he (or Leslie) chose for under it.

Next, they went to buy a card. When I opened it Christmas morning, I heard a lively voice say, “HI THERE.” We both startled. Leslie, watching, hooted. “Peter jumped every time he opened the card in the shop,” she said. By moving the snowman’s hat onto the snowman, LEDs flash and an orchestra plays the first phrases of “Sleigh Ride.”  What fun it was!

On December 26, Boxing Day in England and, not coincidentally, our anniversary, I spied a slim package under the tree. A very sweet card topped it, but I’ll keep the message to myself.

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The gift was a calendar, desk blotter-sized, to color. I don’t know which of them found it, but Leslie knows I’ve fallen in love with coloring all over again. Peter remembered enough about the childhood pastime to ask, “Is this enough? Shouldn’t I buy the…equipment…the stuff…to go with it?” Leslie said no, and told him, “Mom really has enough colored pencils and crayons.” (By my count, 150 coloring  implements, one art gum eraser.)

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The jolly snowman card was a hit with everyone on Christmas Day and the days since. I keep it on the kitchen table. Every time I open it, Peter jumps and we laugh.

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Memories of Christmas just past. Color me happy.

 

The 36-hour weekend.

“A change is as good as a rest,” is one of the many sayings Peter attributes to “his ol’ Granny.”  That bit of English wisdom carries a lot of truth. I was never exactly sure what it meant until I experienced it. Now I know.

Peter and I can no longer take the weeks-long adventuresome trips we used to, but we now have access to a place that rivals some of our long holidays, Martin and Leslie’s log house in the  mountains not too far from here. It’s a wonderful spot — serene, isolated, with a river running past. Calmness wafts over me as soon as we drive in.

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The island idyll.

Generally we arrive Saturday mid-morning and leave before dark on Sunday. Just 36 hours or so, but those hours really are as good as a week away.

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Leslie hides.

We don’t do much there. Sometimes we help with gardening or other projects, but mostly it’s a place to kick back, relax. Leslie and I play cards, and we’ve recently rediscovered coloring books and the concentrated joy they bring. We also spend a lot of time looking for mica-studded rocks that glitter in bright sun. The whole area shimmers as if a fairy godmother had just wafted through with brilliant sprinkles.

Martin fishes in season, but Peter excuses himself because he’s “not a water person.” In truth, he can’t swim. A few weeks ago, Leslie convinced him to put on shorts and water shoes, then wade through ankle deep water to  the stoney island where we have lunch, read, snooze, or just be.

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The fish were biting that day.

Leslie and Martin swim, but I like to float in an inner tube now that the river’s flow has changed just enough to create a calm spot that allows me to stay put rather than drift away to the Atlantic. A few weeks ago, the two of them tubed together holding hands. Cute until Martin yelped and jerked upwards. Leslie shrieked with laughter then she too cried out. Mart yelled, “THE FISH ARE BITING OUR BUTTS!”  They returned to the safety of the island, laughing hysterically.

Peter revisited his stone-skipping prowess that day. He’s still a champ, sometimes getting ten or eleven skips per stone. I watch him and think, our travels of several years ago were terrific, but really, it doesn’t get much better than this!

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Peter still has the technique.

 

Always read the fine print.

Early in May, for some reason, it occurred to me to check the expiry date on my English husband’s permanent resident visa, previously called “green card.” Good thing I looked — expiration, May 28, 2015.

Ten years ago, we had a nice day trip to Charlotte, NC to renew both his card and his British passport. This year, a trip anywhere is an ordeal, so I did a search to see if USCIS is doing on-line registrations. Yes-s!

There was a stumbling block on the very first page. Peter couldn’t remember the year he came to the U.S, but he knew he was 28, so he added that age to his birthyear, 1938, and came up with 1966. (I was pretty sure he “got off the boat” eight years before we met in 1974.) The month and date, port of entry, and other necessary details like his alien registration number were lost in his fog. Finally, I broke the code of alpha/numerics on his passport and deduced he arrived in New York City on Wednesday, November 9, 1966.

Over several days I filled in the six pages. When, I called Peter to read over the document, he stumbled over his mother’s first name, Mabel.

“Everyone called her Doll,” he argued.

“Yes, but that was her nickname,” I reminded him. “Her given name was Mabel.” After some discussion he agreed.

When he read through his own physical characteristics he said his eyes were not hazel. “What color are they then?” I asked, deleting hazel.

He went to the mirror and after studying his eyes for some time, he said, “I’d call them bluey/browny/green.”

I typed h-a-z-e-l into the blank again.

After he’d read the fine print and signed electronically, he asked, “Am I good forever now?”

I told him he’d have to renew in ten years. “But, you’ll be 87, so they probably won’t chase you down.”

“You mean without the card, I could’ve…”

Peter with his favorite pint, London Pride.

Peter with his favorite pint, London Pride.

“Oh, darn,” I laughed, picking up on his thread, “yes, you might have been deported if I hadn’t realized your card was going to expire. You could have been shipped back across the pond to spend the rest of your life in the corner pub… singing your bawdy songs…and…”

“Playing ‘arrahs’,” he said wistfully. [Arrahs = arrows = darts to my Englishman.]

“Sorry, I already I clicked ‘send,'” I said. “But in 2025, if immigration still wants you, you can go back ‘ome.”

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What watch?

Today is Peter’s seventy-seventh birthday. We don’t do “hoopla” anymore, primarily because he doesn’t like fuss, and also because he forgets not only his own day, but mine and every other family member’s too.

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March 1, 2008, the day Peter picked his puppy, Nobby.

Seven years ago was the last time he agreed to a family dinner. I remember because I’d fumed and worried about the present I’d decided to give him: the option of going to the Humane Society to rescue a dog or to a kennel to pick out a GoldenDoodle puppy.

Was I crazy for even thinking of another puppy? Yep! Was I surprised when he picked that option? Nope.

It was a milestone birthday, his seventieth. Even though I favored a rescue, I knew he’d had his heart set on having a GoldenDoodle since we’d first seen one the year before.

This year I went downscale. I found an inexpensive — make that cheap — watch that lights up at the press of a button. Over the years I’d given him a Mickey Mouse watch to feed his big-eared rodent fixation, plus at least three expensive watches. Somehow he managed to break them all beyond repair.

Now, though, he is obsessed with knowing the time even though he can’t remember it for more than a few seconds. He is now, and has always been, late for everything. He can’t remember that the “new” cable box we’ve had for a year doesn’t have a digital clock on it like the old one did. When he looks at the little window showing the channel, he thinks it shows the time, even if it’s a bright, sunny high noon outside and the channel number reads 838.

This new watch was made in China. I scratched that off the box, as I did the $14.99 price sticker. I “wrapped” it in a bright green envelope, put a years out-of-date birthday stamp on it, and hid it under the newspaper. When he came downstairs I heard him say Oh! when he uncovered the present. He came to me here at my desk and said, “I didn’t even know it was my birthday.”

“Really?” I said, though I was already pretty sure he hadn’t remembered. He shook his head. “Not even with my message on your dry erase board and the reminder on your calendar that’s been there all month?” I said.

“What calendar?” he asked.

“The giant white one on the kitchen counter.”

“No, I’ve never seen it.”

“Well, Happy Birthday!” I said.

“Now I have no excuse to be late, do I?” he asked, looking at his wrist.

“Yes, you do,” I said, “because you’ll forget to look at your watch.”

Later Peter came to tell me he and Nobby were going for a walk. “Won’t be long,” he said.

“I hope not, you need to help shovel snow. Do you have your watch on?”

“What watch?” he said. When I sputtered he laughed and pulled up his sleeve to show me that he did have his new watch on and hadn’t forgotten about it…yet.

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Peter didn’t want me to bake a cake for him, so I froze one in the fresh snow outside.

 

 

Is it over easy?

Here’s a laugh without tears as per my New Year’s resolution. It’s a memory from a hot sunny day to counteract the miserable, icy January scene outside my window.

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DSC09936Vacations on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, or other spots along the Atlantic coast, have been family favorites for years. Well, favorites for all except my husband. Peter doesn’t really enjoy the beach, but he can be lured with a good breakfast first — part of our tradition. One diner we stopped at had a long, varied menu. Peter, as usual, didn’t have his glasses, though he insisted he could read the fine print. Nonetheless he kept asking the table at large, “What do I want?” as he so often does anymore.

“Order your usual,” I said. He nodded and continued squinting at the menu.

When the young waiter returned, the rest of us ordered quickly, but Peter looked at me and asked again, “What do I want?”

Leslie and I grinned at each other and, in unison, recited, “Two eggs over easy, sausage, home fries, whole wheat toast.”

The waiter was startled. After a pause he asked, “What, is this guy mute?”

It probably wasn’t all that funny, but even Peter laughed with the rest of us. The only tears were caused by laughter.

The young man got a nice tip.

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