Archive for June, 2017

Walking Mr. Sweetie.

June 4, 2017

I appreciated this nice day, sandwiched as it was between soggy cold ones. 

Mr. Sweetie and I were on a walk. He is the rescue dog my mother got just before her mind really started to go. He is mostly Yorkie. Walking Mr. Sweetie is the only real help I can offer my mother’s round the clock angel caregiver, G.. She doesn’t mind this chore, but still, it is nice for her to have a break. Mr. Sweetie likes to sniff every millimeter of every inch. Dirt, cement, poles, trees, anything that touches the ground is his territory, so walking him is slow going. He is surprisingly strong, for an animal that reaches only around six inches off the ground. He will not be rushed. 

I had been weepy from the moment I woke. My mother saps my strength. I don’t want to feel that way, but I do. I approach my monthly visits with the admirable goal of seeing through the person she has become, this person who cannot carry on a conversation because she can’t remember what she just said, or what I just said, to the person she used to be. I fail.

Anyway, it had been a particularly rough visit, for other reasons too. After this walk, this small gesture of thanks to the one person who accepts my mother for who she is, who loves her unconditionally even when it brings tears to her eyes, even when my mother says terrible things to her, I would drive home.

I let Mr. Sweetie sniff and pee every few inches. I tried to give him the patience I can’t seem to give to my mother. 

I have been around this block hundreds of times, in now chic Williamsburg, Brooklyn. My parents bought their house when it was not only unfashionable, but considered a form of lunacy as a destination. They sold their stately brownstone (actually limestone) on the upper west side to move to this homely three story house across the street from a vocational school. Now, of course, people marvel at the foresight. 

The ugly vocational school has been undergoing construction for what seems like years. It is covered with a red netting that to me, has transformed it into a beautiful Do-Ho Suh-like installation. I always wonder if anyone else sees this. 

There is trash everywhere because it is New York with millions of people and millions of trash cans spilling over with garbage, plus wind. I grew up in New York so it doesn’t phase me, much. I just notice. 

I was thinking ahead to my four hours in the car, with my current audio book for company. I love the drives back and forth. The solitude is my reward, both to and from. Especially from. I always stop on the road for a Dunkin Donuts cappuccino with a turbo shot. I don’t mention these trips because it is too hard to explain to people that I can’t get together and go to a museum or a gallery. It’s too hard to answer questions about how things are. It isn’t worth it. 

Mr. Sweetie found a square patch of dirt where a tree should be. I know this patch. He likes it, likes the smell and the wide openness of it. He is a small dog, so this patch of dirt is land for him. He started to walk round and round, which means he will poop. That is the brass ring. It means G. can relax until just before the bed time walk. Success. 

I knew I should have picked up after him. I knew it. I am usually very good about it. I am a good citizen and a good neighbor and at home I always clean up after our dog, Alice. But I was sad and tired and felt that considering all the trash blowing about, one small poop on an empty patch of dirt was not worth using plastic, which is far worse for our planet than what he had left. I thought about all these things and even had a pang of guilt but I was so sad that it made me a little angry and mean. This was not just laziness or apathy. It was a decision. A way to feel in charge of some small moment in my life. And so, I walked away with Mr. Sweetie knowing I had done a wrong thing. 

A voice called out and I just knew it was directed at me. I turned around and saw a woman stride towards me. She looked like a movie star. In New York tons of women are movie star beautiful. But really, she was something. She was in her late 20’s I think. It was a nice day and she was wearing a flowing blue dress that came to just above her knees. It was not hipster wear. It was a dress you might see at a garden party, or a fancy brunch. She had strawberry blond hair which had just enough wave so as to make it not stick straight, but not out of control frizzy like mine. Her skin was perfect. Pale, with a few freckles that looked like they were the last thing some deity had painted on her face with a tiny sable brush. 

I knew what she was going to say. I knew she was going to scold me and she did, with her soft, baby, Marilyn Monroe voice. 

“You really NEED to pick up after your dog. I see there you have a bag.”

I said “okay”. I had no tone. It was clear I would pick up what she wanted me to pick up but she was not done. She felt bold, the way an alpha dog feels. I can’t remember exactly what she said next but it was a variation on how I needed to clean up to pick up to do the right thing. 

I said “okay” again. 

And then she swirled around (really!) and walked away. She did not wait to watch me. 

I could have left the evidence of my bad behavior, but I didn’t. I knew she was right and I was almost relieved at being called out on it. I WANTED to do the right thing. 

I also wanted to be mean. All the way back to my mom’s house I imagined telling her, in a sad tremulous voice, that I knew she was right but that I was in a daze because my father, no, my husband had died just that morning. Or had been KILLED. Not just killed, but MURDERED. Or, not just murdered, but MURDERED at WAR (what war?)! Or RUN OVER! I know, bad karma. 

I knew with absolute certainty that she walked away feeling oh so smug, so Brave and worthwhile. I knew she would tell her friends, who were probably as beautiful as she, about how she made New York a more civilized place by shaming some rude woman to pick up after her filthy dog. I wanted to show her how broken I was, and that she had broken me further. I wanted to transfer my shame on to her

But it was too late. She had gone to wherever she was going in her beautiful blue dress. 

I walked back to my mother’s house with a little plastic bag, filled, as it should have been. 

I threw it away, and I drove home. My audio book for the ride home was Anything is Possible.