Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall
Getting Kallie–though secretly long-considered–was an impulse decision that was somehow bigger than I. Though hesitant at first, something inside me knew it was the right decision. Yes, there are challenges in raising a puppy, but I have never been more right. Aside from giving me another layer of connection with Ken as I think about him raising Q from a pup, seeing the world through Kallie’s eager black eyes has been entertaining, soothing, and–more often than not–completely ridiculous. Watching her go from statue to blur just to flop out and start rolling around, biting at some imaginary foe is pure joy, and a great reminder to just play. For her, life is delicious combination of journey and destination.
Thinking about her and her needs above mine has been another shift in perspective that has been good for me after a year of taking care of only myself. But there are also some odd reminders from the past that seem somewhat out of context and have given me pause for thought.
When I was taking care of Ken, for the most part my schedule–and in particular, my sleep schedule–wasn’t my own. Like him, Kallie depends on me for food, care, entertainment–everything. It seems appropriate–and ironic–that I would be experiencing this situation again. It’s almost like a “do-over,” of sorts, getting to experience it again without living under the constant, stalking shadow of death. Less urgency and lessons learned of appreciating each moment or action as they occur make for complete moments of bliss and gratitude.
As far as city living goes my apartment and fenced yard are ideal for puppyhood. But aside from watering the garden and occasional grilling, I haven’t spent much time in the back yard and had no reason to spend any time in front yard since before Q died in 2009. Though Kallie and I have some work to do in terms of gardening etiquette (e.g. not pooping in it), we do enjoy the front yard which is completely hers to use as she sees fit. I’ve enjoyed sitting in the grass watching her and playing with her. I haven’t spent time up there since I used to walk up to find Q lying in the grass, watching the passers by, and sitting with her and petting her silky red coat. It has offers sweet moments thinking about some wonderful memories while creating new ones with my little girl.
Over the past six years of living here, I’ve spent much more time in the more private back yard–usually grilling and cocktailing with Ken and friends–than the more public front yard. However, its chain link fence gives Kallie an uninterrupted view of our street and all its wonders. It’s a different world for someone like me who lives a pretty self-insulated life as passers by stop to look at K and remark about how cute she is or how she doesn’t look real or how I look like Brad Pitt (okay, sometimes they’re drunk.)
I knew a potential benefit of having Kallie would involve a social component to get me out and among people–something I’m not very adept at if left to my own devices. A great example of this happened the other day when I was hanging out with K while she did her business and played around in the front yard. A neighbor from a couple of houses down stopped by to see her. It was a really pleasant interaction for someone who can feel stutteringly awkward with unplanned exchanges with strangers. Now, he, his wife and little girl are regular visitors if we are outside at the same time they are.
In contrast, I’ve had an odd succession of encounters with another neighbor since getting Kallie and being out front so often with her. This young woman lives next door with her grandparents and has since Ken and I moved in to this apartment in 2006. I usually say “hello” to her, but can go stretches of months without seeing her. She’s been working across the alley behind our buildings, helping another neighbor (I forget her name, but I know it’s someone Ken had become friendly with) and because her grandfather’s building doesn’t have a gang way, she uses ours–which isn’t a problem. That’s when she usually sees Kallie and me in the front yard.
Earlier today as she was coming or going, she said, “I see you out here way more than the other guy.”
It kind of annoyed me. Not that she didn’t know Ken had died, but if YOU knew some neighbors–peripherally, at best–and didn’t see one of them for a while, would YOU have said something? Though there are many plausible reasons, as the asker this is the answer you would probably be horrified to get (akin to asking someone who isn’t pregnant “when are you due?”)
“That’s because he died last year.” I got right to the point and don’t offer much information. It was sort of a jab that I hope cures this social ineptitude of hers. Okay. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of an asshole does this make me? I did feel kind of bad after the exchange. But I’m only human. And it’s not like she knew “the other guys” name–or knows mine.
Later this evening when I was out in the front yard with K, the neighbors on the other side of my building stopped by to admire her as they returned home. I do actually know their names: Craig and Kathy. A sweet older couple who Ken was friendly with. We had some over-the-fence chatter upon occasion. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen or talked to them. “How’s Ken doing?” the wife asked, no doubt having seen him in his wheelchair last summer. When I told them he died last year, they were sad and sweet and sympathetic and kind. It was a very different kind of exchange than the one earlier in the day. Reverent and appropriate. It left me feeling a little forlorn and touched.
And I was way less of a dick.