Is someone here?

My longtime friend Bonnie and her husband Paul visited us for a couple of days last week. They were on their way from Florida to his high school reunion in Ohio.

Bonnie had emailed several times the weeks before. She wanted to make sure it was OK for them to stay with us. “Will it upset Peter?” she wondered. “Please tell us. We understand completely. We could get a hotel room.”

I reassured her that Peter remembered they were coming, though he wasn’t sure he remembered them. They were here two years ago and he’d met them at several of our class reunions, but as he says, he can’t remember what he had for breakfast.

During the days leading up to their visit Peter was extra helpful. We’d had workmen here for a week fixing our sagging carport. Sawdust and grime had drifted into the house, crusting everything. I vacuumed and dusted while Peter scrubbed the bathtub and tidied the flower beds. He mowed the yard almost willingly.

They arrived on time, well, a minute late actually. She texted an hour earlier that their GPS said they’d arrive at 12:11. They rolled in at 12:12. But what’s a minute between old friends?

It was a pleasant, sunny day, so we ate lunch on the terrace. Then Bonnie and I chattered and reminisced the whole afternoon like two women of a certain age who have known each other for all but the first two years of their lives. Paul chimed in now and then because he knew some of the people we talked about, and Peter listened, smiling. We carried on through dinner and sat outside until the lightning bugs’ glow wasn’t bright enough for us to clear the table.

Back inside, Bonnie pulled out the eight millimeter movie film she’d brought along. She had never seen it, but she’d checked beforehand to make sure I still had my dad’s old projector. The film showed her learning to walk and on through Christmases and birthdays to the age of six or seven.

Peter laughed at us laughing with tears in our eyes.

The next morning I was having my second cup of coffee when Peter came downstairs. He looked puzzled. “What’s going on upstairs?” he asked. “Is someone in the bathroom?”

I chuckled. “Well, it’s either Bonnie or Paul,” I said.

He was still confused.

“Bonnie and Paul…they got here yesterday!” No matter how enjoyable the day and evening had been, he could not remember that we had overnight guests.

He slathered his usual two slices of toast with Keillor & Sons orange marmalade, poured coffee into his big green mug, and sat down to read the paper. He reads the paper again every afternoon because he forgets the news he’s read hours earlier. And he truly can’t remember what he has for breakfast, even though he has the same thing day after day after day.

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Gold Coreopsis brightens shady spots, while Black-Eyed Susan vine (at top) seems to glow in the dark.

Header photo: climbing Susans.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

 

Note: A good time to laugh is anytime you can.

Adventures. That’s what my friend Joanne and I called our treks to out-of-the-way places for lunch, sight-seeing or shopping. Sometimes we were gone most of the day. That stopped when I realized I couldn’t leave my husband on his own for so long. So one day Jo and I decided we’d walk right around the corner to Lefty’s for lunch.

“Peter, come with us,” Joanne said.

“No, no, I’m good,” he said. I knew he really didn’t want to listen to us chatter the way we do.

The restaurant is quite small, so we went early to beat the lunch crowd. Our mouths were going faster than the traffic outside when I, facing the street, saw Peter walk past.

“Wonder where he’s going?” I said. I wasn’t worried because he often walks to the grocery a block further. We took our time over lunch. When we got up to leave, I glanced at a table a few feet away, and there sat my husband, his back to us, with a beer in front of him.

Neither Joanne nor I saw him come in. We sidled over to his table and I slid into the chair beside him. “Can I take your order, Sir?” I asked.

He was startled. “I’ve already eaten,” he said, straight-faced. Joanne started laughing.

“I saw you walk past an hour ago.”

“I came back…!”

“Didn’t you see us?” I asked.

“No, didn’t you see me?”

“No, but you must have looked right at us when you came in…”

“I didn’t see you.”

That shouldn’t have surprised me. It isn’t unusual for my husband to come into the room and not see me sitting on the sofa. I wasn’t surprised that we hadn’t seen him since we were at a right angle to his table and his back was to us.

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Artist Rebecca Murtagh’s, Post-it notes installation, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

A few weeks later, our friends Jerry and Shelia were here. We were going to Lefty’s for dinner, and I told them about Peter not seeing Joanne and me there one lunchtime. They laughed, as did Peter, though I was sure he didn’t remember the day. I stage-whispered to Jerry, “Good stuff for my blog.” He nodded. I should have made a note.

We went around the corner, and while we waited for our food we amused ourselves trying to identify the photos of famous lefties beside our table. We knew da Vinci and Rembrandt, Einstein and Edison, but were stymied by a man I thought was Woodrow Wilson (Henry Ford), and a woman who, we found out, was Helen Keller. Peter joked he’d never met any of them.

As we carried on like the old friends we are, I suddenly thought, this is good stuff, too, but the idea I’d had a few hours earlier hadn’t stuck. I asked Jerry if he remembered my idea.

“Unh uh…oh, Lefty’s!” he blurted.

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Shelia hooted. “You two can’t remember the story and we’re in the restaurant where it happened!” She looked at my husband and laughed. “Pete, who has memory problems now, hm?”

Shared laughs are the best.

 

Screen shot 2015-04-10 at 3.17.56 PM

 Screen shot 2015-04-18 at 1.02.30 PMArt Fry, co-creator of Post-It® notes, started using the “light tack” notes — 3M’s “solution without a problem” — to mark his hymnal at choir practice. Art’s bright idea is one I use to help Peter, and should use to help myself!

 

Header photo: Rainbow of Post-It notes.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Guess who’s the top banana in our house?

At nearly 76, overripe and brown-spotted, I didn’t know that another symptom of advancing years, mine at least, is that I can no longer eat a big apple, for instance, or a large burger, and I certainly can’t eat a whole banana these days.

This morning I guillotined a banana right through its yellow-green jacket and sliced half onto a small bowl of granola. At lunch, I plopped the remaining banana half onto my husband’s plate along with his usual two-and-a-half pastrami sandwiches, carrot, pile of crisps, and hunk of Cheshire cheese.

My lunch was two pieces of cold pizza, just the toppings, no crust.

Peter ate everything except for the banana. It was still reclining across his plate, yellow peel draped elegantly across the cut end.

“Eat your banana,” I said.

“I did,” he replied.

“No, it’s still there. Look.”

He lifted the peel and peeked inside. “I hate half of it!” he protested.

“No, ate half of it. I gave you the rest.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t eat a whole banana anymore.”

“There’s only half here.”

“Yes,” I said, “that’s the half I couldn’t eat. I put it there for you.”

“How am I supposed to remember that? That’s ancient historyI finished eating five minutes ago.

I laughed.

“I’ll eat it later.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said. “You’ll forget.”

“Forget what?” he asked. And he wasn’t kidding.

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2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Yet another good thing.

My husband has always been a picky eater. He has always insisted he is selective, not picky. As long as there’s meatpotatoesveg on his plate, he’ll clean it, he says. If there’s gravy, so much the better, even lumpy gravy! He doesn’t like things that sound as if they were bought at a health food store — quinoa, wheat germ, tofu, edamame — although he has eaten all of them unknowingly, and liked them.

The list of things Peter will not eat is varied: tomatoes, the teeniest, eensiest bit of fat, cucumbers, pasta, rice, cheesecake, peanut butter, mac and cheese, cornbread, dill pickles, quiche, cranberries…I could go on.

Nowdays, because he doesn’t — can’t — cook anymore, he eats what’s put in front of him. This change allows me to fix meals I like more often instead of always catering to the meatpotatoesveg dictum.

Used to be, if I fixed pasta, which I love, he’d mutter and growl. Now we have it once a week or so and he doesn’t say a word. Maybe he doesn’t remember he never liked it, or maybe he likes it now, I don’t know. Other meals, I’ll sometimes fix two green veg, no potatoes, and substitute beans for meat. Not. A. Whimper.

Recently I prepared turkey cutlets and quartered red potatoes marinated in lemon juice, rosemary, and olive Screen shot 2014-10-30 at 6.05.01 PMoil. Cranberries I cooked in hard cider, with a smushy apple, and a bit of sugar. Yummy. I nearly fell off my chair when Peter not only cleaned his plate, but carefully scraped out the tiny bowl of cranberries I’d given him and served himself some more!

He pointed to the bowl and said, “Are they good for me?”

I nodded, he smiled, then licked his spoon.

Thanksgiving is upon us. Cranberries!

Another good thing to be thankful for — check

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2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.