Friday, March 11, 2011

Habits, Observations, and Walking the Dog (Babble)

It’s strange being untethered from the children and my normal responsibilities.  It doesn’t happen often, and when it does it’s like being in a foreign land where I can look at things from a different perspective.  I’m amazed when I talk to people without children what they don’t have to factor into their thoughts or plans.  When you go on an outing–any outing–as an adult in adult company, the concerns are figuring out where and when.  A trip to the museum means thinking about what you will see at the museum.  When you do all your outings with small children it doesn’t matter as much where or when.  "Where" will boil down to car seats and trips to the bathroom, and when is whenever you finally get there.

The last major trip I took to a museum I saw none of the museum.  It wound up making more sense letting the unencumbered adults go off and I stayed in the play area with all the kids.  I hated to miss out, but I know even if I had gotten into the areas with art to see I would have had to keep all my attention on the kids and making sure they didn’t wander off or touch anything. My kids are very good, and we have gone places and done things, but it’s work in a way that unless you’ve done it you don’t understand.

Anyway, before I leave Michigan I feel like jotting down the odds and ends of my thoughts during my time here, because soon I will be back in tot-land and drowning in violin repairs and it will all fade.  And not that most of these thoughts may be interesting to anyone, but they are mine and this blog is mine and what the heck?

First:  Habits.  I am fascinated by the fact that you can resume old habits that you didn’t even know you had when you return to an old place.  Staying in my parents’ house again is so crazy, because in the strangest ways it’s like I never left.  I know which light switches are installed upside down and always reach for them the right way.  I can’t help myself from scratching at the varnish on the upstairs railing.  I still instinctively veer away from the spot in the driveway where there used to be a big dip even though that was filled in years ago.  I know how long I can run the hot water in the upstairs sink before it gets too hot.  I am always nervous I will bump my head going into the basement. 

On the negative side, whatever progress I’ve made about being mindful of what I eat at home, the minute I’m in Detroit it goes out the window.  I just don’t care and I don’t know how to make myself care.  I want to eat at the favorite Chinese restaurant of my childhood and not stress about it.  I want to go out to breakfast with my mom and enjoy bacon and say yes to whipped cream.  I want to eat my mom’s cookies and have thick slices of bread with cherry preserves and share sandwiches and pastries with my dad and indulge in middle eastern food the likes of which I can’t find outside of Detroit.  I will recommit to better health habits when I get home, but frankly food/stress issues are just too much for me when I’m here.  Oh well.

Second:  Observations.  I never ever noticed until this year that the house across the street from my parents didn’t used to have a garage.  There was a gravel driveway on the right side, and I remember people parking in it all the time, but I just assumed it kept going behind the house and there was a garage there somewhere.  Nope.  The latest owners put in a new driveway and built a two car garage on the left side. 

But how did I walk past that house a gazillion times my whole life and never notice the absence of a garage?  I’m not saying the garage itself matters, I’m saying I think of myself as somewhat observant, and I missed that.  The neighborhood I grew up in is filled with interesting and elegant houses from the 1920’s and 30’s, prior to a time when a garage would have been included as a standard item, so that’s not insane at all.  But if you had asked me I would have told you every house in Pleasant Ridge, Michigan had a garage.

And I would have been very wrong!  There are two houses on just this one street that still don’t have garages.  Once I started looking I was amazed at how many houses there are that only have a little drive along the side of the house and that’s it.  My dad thinks I’m being silly with my new garage obsession, but I’m mostly intrigued with seeing what I thought I knew in a different way.  Also, on the two longest streets to the west of us, I used to have a paper route, and I still only tend to look at the houses I delivered to.  I spent so many years only focusing on the houses where I had customers that it’s hard for me to see the houses between.  I made myself look at each house on this trip just to really see them.  (And I still remember every house that gave me grief or didn’t pay me.  What kind of person rips off a 13 year old paper girl?)

Lastly:  Walking the dog.  Specifically this dog:

I love this dog.  Which surprises me because I’m not really much of a dog person.  I like them, but I as an adult I’ve never wanted one.  Too much work, too much hair, too much mess, too much poop, too much added responsibility.  No thanks.  But Barrett and Kristie left their dog Inari behind while they went to Washington D.C. for the week, and I’ve been walking her.  I like to get out and walk but don’t do it often because at home it lacks purpose.  When I can I walk to work, but for me just walking without a destination feels like a waste of time. 

But walking a dog has purpose, and it’s fun.  I’ve liked having an excuse to go out every day regardless of the weather.  I don’t mind a walk in the rain, but wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to.  Walking the dog is great.  I also just love having the dog around.  She’s curled up in my bed as I’m typing which is very sweet.  (I think she’s planning to spend the night at my side which is rather flattering.)  She is thrilled when I come in the door, she is beside herself when I offer to take her out, and she makes the house feel welcoming.  She is cute and quiet and gentle.  If I could find a dog with as endearing a disposition that didn’t make my husband sneeze I might get one.  I can’t believe I’m even considering that, but my children will be thrilled if it happens.  That is the power of a truly adorable dog.  I think when my kids stop greeting me at the door with wild enthusiasm I may start scoping out canines at the humane society.

And how is my dad doing?  Okay.  Remarkable, actually, considering that anyone recovering from a broken arm and gastro-intestinal surgery would probably still be feeling the effects even if they weren’t in their 80’s.  The worst part of chemo so far was having to listen to The Price is Right blaring in the background, but I read a book aloud to my dad and we were able to block out the TV. 

My dad has stage 4 colon cancer and chemo is his only option, assuming he can tolerate it.  We are facing a lot of uncertainty, but for now we have a course of action to follow and we have hope.  It’s been a lot of work getting dad to all his appointments and dealing with so many medical issues, but we’ve also had time to play Scrabble, talk about the world, and laugh.  It’s a week I won’t forget and I am lucky to have been here.  My brother, Barrett, told me before he left at the beginning of the week that the past month and a half that he’s been here caring for dad he wouldn’t trade for anything.  I know how he feels.  It’s a strange transition to go from dependent child to feeling protective and responsible for your own parent.  I hope my own children know nothing of that for themselves for a long, long time.

(Minor UPDATE:  The dog did sleep next to me all night.  Maybe she sensed I needed a close up snuggle.  If I didn’t love my brother and his girlfriend so much I would steal this dog.)

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