A sickness, it comes.
I told Facebook the other day that there are actually very, very few reasons that we humans love and keep dogs. After all, what the hell can they do that we can’t? What do we really need them for? Well, there are more “yet anothers” than there are “only occasions.” For instance, dogs are yet another thing that makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Or, dogs are yet another massive drain on the income. But then, dogs offer the only occasions in our lives when we get to see a creature walk gingerly away from its own fresh pile of poop, then pause at the behest of some hypothesis it had formed about the natural order of things, return to its pile, and start eating it. Without a dog, I may never have seen that. In person, anyway. I’m sure Google stands ready to accommodate that experience.
I’ll be cynical and mean about this dog until she starts dying. Then, hey presto! The sincerity! The compassion! We know I’ve been down that road before.
A sickness, it comes. It isn’t exactly summery out there, at sixty degrees, but it’s a long way from cold. Still, I’ve turned the heat on in the basement and am wearing the Giant Brown Canadian Sweatshirt that I bought in Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan. Yet another reason to leave Seattle ASAP: Sixty degrees at 11:15 AM (in the morning!) on July 30th. But who was I telling just the other day that there is a compelling reason to stay? The reason being that it is the only occasion that will allow my children to know exactly where home is, at all times. Can I ride this thing out long enough to be 70 years old, sitting in the house I wrote about when I was 37, having my children sleep in the rooms they first saw through the bars of a crib? I don’t know, I really don’t.
The Sippican’s putting his home together. As any of us with a house knows, he’ll be putting it together forever. But when you love it and when you love what you are doing in it and when you love the people living in it with you, then just being there is part of its construction. The fun and the fights are yet another layer of paint on the walls. The games and the chases yet another coat of finish on the floors. And the whole depth and breadth of the experience of raising up a house from the family out is the only one occasion, lifelong, that makes a house a home. Even if there are a few relocations in there somewhere – no matter how many times you move, the heart never does.
You see from his pictures that his charges are old enough to help him with the more manual labor involved. My oldest is just big enough to want to help – nay, demand to help – without being in any way helpful. Sweeping the grass clippings from the sidewalk, for instance. I would have to let her keep at it until she is old enough to get it right before she made any progress. Not to mention undoing the progress I already made before she came along to help.
“I already swept that part, papa.”
“That’s sweet, honey, but no, you didn’t.” I’m sometimes not patient enough to be very good at this. “I love that you’re helping, but -”
“PAPA! I already DID that part!”
“Oy, vey. You’re right, sweetie, I’m sor-”
“I think I wanna go back inside now.”
I don’t blame her. As we continue to build this thing, I continue to find yet another place in me where the patience has gone from. The girl is willful and brilliant and so is very hard to please, sometimes. I find myself frustrated at her seemingly unreasonable tantrums, annoyed when I have to ask her more than once. But we love each other and have more moments of frivolous tenderness than anything else. I can see that she understands me. The boy is, honestly (and son, when you read this, read it with all the wisdom I know you’ve accrued by now, please), difficult for me to talk about without sounding like I don’t like him. But I do. Near to the point of reverence. I admire him, and am jealous of him and his temerity, the self-awareless-ness of his courage. But I can see that he is not interested in understanding me. I am yet another thing in his way in this world. A bothersome warning sign, a cautionary note to not eat the shampoo. Yet another referee in a game for cowards and halfwits. Which I guess is why we have to treat every occasion as if it were the one that’s going to matter. You never know which one will.