Autumn. It’s my shiny season. From the day the leaves begin to change, I’m happy. It charges me up, makes me want to take pictures, go places, do things. Now, as August ends, I can feel October vibrating in the air. It doesn’t last long, so I hope it’ll be a good one.
I was 18 when I first married. It was the summer after my junior year of college. I was working at the radio station. Jeff, my first husband, was Station Manager. Garry, my current and always husband, was Program Director. The two were best friends. We all met in 1963 and thus it begins.
Thirteen years later, I walked away from my first marriage. It wasn’t terrible, just empty. A good friendship, but not much of a marriage.
Off to Israel I went with my son. I was in Israel for just under 9 years. Got married for all the wrong reason. Suggestion: In a foreign country, do NOT marry the first guy who can speak your language.
For all the years, Garry wrote me letters. Every week, two to three letters, typed in capital letters and mailed special delivery arrived in my mail box. I began to think of them as my fan mail. I lived from letter to letter, carried the most recent one with me until the paper on which it was written fell apart.
No one writes letters anymore. Email has effectively eliminated personal mail, except for cards and the ubiquitous bills and advertising. These letters were exactly what I needed. I carried a couple with me wherever I went. Garry reminded me I was wonderful. He said I was amazing. It was salve for my soul.
I wrote letters too. When I got back home, I found he had saved them, an entire drawer full of letters. Clearly, something was happening. Maybe we’d both known it but had not been ready to deal with it. But it had changed and we were moving forward.
Neither Garry nor I has written a personal letter to anyone else since.
I was back.
With a little help from a friend, I got a job near Boston. Garry and I were an instant item. The previous decade hadn’t dealt kindly with either of us and we saw each other afresh. We’d always been a little in love, but there were reasons why it was the wrong time. I had been married, he was involved and then, there was his career — which was his real involvement and the one to whom he had always been married and she wasn’t going away.
And there we were. Garry was 48, never married. I’d been married twice and wasn’t all that eager to go for number three.
So what happened? He had decided it was time to have a personal life. Work wasn’t the “everything” it had been … and I was back. Unmarried.
I’d gone to California for a couple of weeks on business. I’d come home early because I’d been hit with the flu. Which turned out fine because the earthquake — the one that stopped that year’s World Series — occurred one day after I left. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway. Those little whispers in your ear …
Garry was really glad to see me … until I coughed. Then he wasn’t so glad.
What is the definition of “mixed emotions?” A man in love who knows the first kiss is going to give him the flu.
What defines true love? He kissed me anyway and got the flu.
After we stopped coughing and sneezing, we went to dinner. Jimmy’s Harborside, was a mile away on the harbor. It took nearly an hour to get there. Garry was kept looping around Leverett Circle, missing the turn. He was telling me how real estate prices were down and maybe we should buy a place. Live together. Forever. As in permanently.
Would that be okay?
So I listened. This was the most unexpected speech I’d ever heard, from the last man from whom I ever expected to hear it. Garry wanted to marry me. I never thought he’d marry anyone. Fool around? Sure, but get married?
Finally, I said: “So you want to buy a house. Move in and live together? As in … get married?”
“All of that,” he said and looped around one more time.
“I definitely need a drink,” I said. (I don’t drink.)
The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said “Tell them what?”
“That we’re getting married,” I said.
“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”
“Yes,” he agreed
“So we’re getting married. You proposed.”
“That’s a proposal?” he asked. “I didn’t think it was a proposal.”
“You want to buy a house with me and live together forever. If it’s not a proposal, what is it?”
“Just an idea,” he said. “You know. I thought we could kick it around a bit.”
“It is a proposal,” I assured him. A couple of weeks later, I suggested a ring might be the next order of business. Also, setting a date. He moved through these steps like a deer in headlights. Glazed eyes. When it occurred to him that all he had to do was show up in a tux, he relaxed. He had a tux. He was excited enough to get a new tie, shirt and cummerbund. The rest of it was my show.
We were married six months later after knowing each other just 26 years.
Garry and I celebrate our 26th anniversary a year ago and we’re charging into number 27 in under a month.
The man who was never getting married is a fine husband, even if he can’t cook. Personally, I think he bought a lemon and should have returned men and gotten a new one with a better warranty.
It doesn’t seem like so many years, but it turns out, when you find the right one, time flies by.
My first dog was a magnificent collie who looked just like Lassie. Her name was Bitsy and I was four when we got her as a puppy. Everyone thinks their dog is extraordinary, but this dog did some amazing things.
She understood language commands. For example, she was a herding dog so she would chase me around and nip at my heels. All my socks had holes in the back. I think this foot nipping is part of how dogs herd sheep.
Anyway, if I was outside playing, my mother would tell Bitsy to “Go get Ellin” and “Bring her home”. Bitsy would then find me and herd me home, right to my mother. Sometimes I protested and begged Mom to “Tell Bitsy I can stay out a little longer!” Mom would tell Bitsy it was okay and she’d run off or start to play with me.
We also had a cat, named Beauty. Bitsy and Beauty were good buddies, but my mom was terrified of cats. When Mom went outside to visit her mother’s cottage on the property, she was afraid she’d run into the cat. She’d tell Bitsy to “Go find Beauty”. Bitsy would herd the cat to where Mom was standing and ‘hold’ her in place with her long snout. That way Mom knew it was safe to walk across the grounds.
One night, Bitsy performed a very Lassie like rescue. A small fire broke out in the cottage where the caretakers and Bitsy lived. Bitsy kept barking and scratching on the door until someone came and found the growing fire. Bitsy saved two humans, two dogs and a cat.
Once in all the years we had her, my father yelled at Bitsy. Dad was her favorite human and she took it badly. She slunk off and lay down on her bed. She went into a deep depression and wouldn’t move or eat for two days. My Dad was getting frantic. Finally he lay down on the floor with her and kept telling her he loved her. Only then did Bitsy get up. She got so excited, she jumped around Dad and did their characteristic ‘dance’ together – she put her paws up on Dad’s shoulders and he danced her around. Dad never forgot that incredible bonding experience. He also never stopped feeling guilty about yelling at her and he never stopped missing her when she was gone.
But we did not do right by Bitsy. My parents didn’t know much about dogs. So they had Bitsy live at our summer-house in Connecticut with the property’s year round caretakers. She was not allowed in our house. On top of that, we were only there for three months in the summer. So Bitsy had my parents, me and my grandparents in her life for one-quarter of the year. The rest of the year she stayed with the caretakers who were paid to take care of her when we weren’t there. They didn’t mistreat her, but they weren’t real pet parents taking care of a beloved pet. She missed us terribly.
Bitsy was justifiably very neurotic. She was a chronic car chaser. Despite two minor accidents with cars, we could not get her to stop. She was eventually killed by a school bus when she was only five years old.
As a dog savvy dog lover now, I’m horrified that my parents would treat an animal that way, especially one who they supposedly loved. But to them, it was ‘inconvenient’ to have a dog in a New York City apartment. Mom didn’t want a dog shedding all over the house. So why didn’t she get a low shedding dog? So this was how we did things.
I’ve never stopped feeling guilty about Bitsy, even though I was just a kid at the time. I was nine when she died. To add to the trauma of Bitsy’s death, my parents were afraid to tell me she was dead, so they waited eight months and only told me when we were due to go back to Connecticut for the summer. They lied to me for eight months when I asked about Bitsy throughout the year — which made me feel even worse!
I have to give Bitsy major credit for making me into the good, conscientious, sensitive and knowledgeable pet parent I am today. So all the dogs I’ve had since Bitsy owe her a debt of gratitude. I never want to feel guilty about how I treated a pet ever again!
Duke had entranced Bonnie. She and Duke had a whole play relationship where they pretended to fight. Lots of snarling and growling and yipping and yapping and barking. Duke would get the show started by offering Bonnie his favorite toy of the moment. She would grab it and he would bark. Then she would bark twice, and they were off and running. Jumping and twisting and tossing toys in the air.
With all the noise, you might have thought one of them might get hurt, but no one got hurt. Not even close. When they got tired, one or both would fall over unconscious. Remarkably like toddlers at play.
Bonnie will still play. A little bit. But, for whatever reason, the romance ended yesterday at around two in the afternoon. A little play, but after that, she’s not interested. Last night, for the first time since they met, she didn’t want to play. He barked. She ignored him.
He brought her every toy he could find and offered it too her. She put her little nose up in the air and ignored his pleas.
He sat in front of us, looked at Garry … and whined. Duke has never whined. All the toys were in a pile, but no one was willing to play with him. Garry looked him with sympathy.
“Been there, buddy,” he said. “That’s just the way it happens sometimes. You’ll get used to it.”
Duke whined again. Garry ruffled his ears. He settled down on the sofa between us and went to sleep. Although he got Bonnie to play a little bit this morning, after that, she wanted to do what she usually does, which is watch the world through the window. She started it, but all the dogs like to put their chins on their paws and watch the road from the window. Even Duke does it now.
Duke wanted to run with toys. Bark. Chase things. Grab toys and fling them across the room … which somehow always makes it land on my keyboard … sometimes doing some pretty weird stuff to whatever I was trying to do. Bonnie wasn’t having any.
But Gibbs was ready to party … and suddenly, there was rocking and rolling and toys in the wind. Gibbs is a lot stronger than Bonnie … and although he is short-legged, he outweighs Duke by at least five-pounds, all of which is muscle. They had a very good battle going on until they both fell asleep in the pile of toys. It turned out to be a much better day for Duke than he expected. We were glad he still had a playmate.
The Scotties are taking turns entertaining the Duke, who is at peace with the world. We are at peace with our crew of canines. If only the rest of the world could be content with a pile of stuffed toys and lots of fake growling.
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