Monday, June 29, 2009

Pedicure mirth

I love getting pedicures, and Monday night's was no different. My calves were massaged, my toes rubbed, hot rocks held on the soles of my feet. Oh yes, and my toenails painted.

What made this latest one so special though, was the timing. I got there at 6:10; the place closes at 7.

"No problem!" I was assured. "You're not too late!"

Ten minutes later, I realized I was the only customer...client, whatever the proper lingo is.

I must explain here that the place I go employs only Asian women, plus two men (including the owner). The women have names like Heather and Donna and Nancy. They are delightful and friendly and tiny. And, because of the language barrier, they tend to be a bit reserved (except when they're giggling amongst themselves).

Tonight, though, all that changed around 6:30. Suddenly, it seemed, two of them were sharing the chair on my left and a bag of Cheetos. One of the owners produced a fresh deck of cards. He shuffled them and dealt hands to himself, two women, and the other man.

I don't know what they were playing, but it didn't really matter. Whatever the game, they were having an inordinate amount of fun. One would slap his or her hand of cards on the table, face up, and either laugh or make a face. Then someone would reach for an envelope and a pen, and write a score.

I felt as if I were the proverbial fly on the wall, albeit one whose calves were being rubbed and whose toenails were being painted. A rather vibrant shade of pink, I might add. One that I might have changed once I saw it on that very first toenail.

...On any other visit, that is. But I was having such a good time, I didn't really care. And still don't, even in the light of day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sweetest dog in the whole world

When I was in eighth grade, my family's dog Sam died. Sam was black and white and had a funny shape on his back we said looked like a bird. On vacations, he often stretched out on the back seat of the car while we kids sat on the floor. He was sturdy and sweet and we loved him dearly.

The day he died, I wrote this in my diary with the pink cover: "Sam died. Best dog that ever lived."

If I still kept a diary, I would have written this on Tuesday: "Sally died. Sweetest dog in the world."

(Obviously, I deal with superlatives when it comes to dogs I love.)

Sally almost died over Thanksgiving. We thought she was close two weeks ago. But this little Lazarus dog pulled through both times. I'd look at her, and somehow know it wasn't her time. She just wasn't ready.

But Tuesday was different. Something about how she lay on her red blanket. Her cloudy eyes. Her tail that didn't wag every time she heard her name. How, even when I brushed her exactly as I'd done the day before, I never did hit her tickle spot.

My friend Kim crossed the street yesterday to talk about Sally. She reminded me that we humans are given a gift, albeit a bittersweet one: To determine the fate of these creatures who make our lives whole. To decide when this life just isn't good enough for them. To put aside our own pain and realize releasing theirs is more important than anything else.

I still can't quite grasp that Sally, who asked for nothing and was grateful for everything, is gone. I'm sure there will be many times I'll still hear her toenails on the floor. I'll sense her presence when I roll a hard-boiled egg to open it and expect to see her sit so she can catch the yolk I toss her way. I'll see her brown eyes forever.

And in my memory and my dreams, I'll watch her tail wag while I give my litany -- whispered now, or soundless in my heart:

"Who," I'd ask, "is so sweet...[wag wag]...and so smart[wag wag] pretty [wag wag] loyal [wag wag] kind [wag wag] wise [wag wag] brave [wag wag] much fun to be around."

And then with a dramatic flourish, I'd add, "And sooo stinky?! But that's OK. [huge wag]."

Godspeed to our Sally. Sweetest girl in the world.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Music to the ears...and heart

Music is ubiquitous when it comes to exercise. We set up playlists; we charge our iPods. We put almost as much thought into our music selections as we do our running route, or how much weight we will lift.

Some purists swear the only way to run is without distraction of any sort. Other people focus solely on the music, so the exercise itself won't seem so difficult. And some use music as soundtrack, weaving its notes into the rhythm of their breathing.

I tend to fall into the last category. Sometimes I'm aware of what's playing in my ear. Other times, though, by the end of my run I couldn't even tell you a song I'd heard.

This is the kind of stuff I think about, especially at the almost empty gym on a sunny Sunday like today. What ARE people listening to? Maybe they're hearing a song for the first time, one they'll play again until they learn the words -- or will delete when they get home.

Maybe the song they hear makes them call a certain person when they get to their car. Maybe it was playing on the radio on their first date. Or they danced to it at their wedding.

Maybe a song pops up that has long reminded them of someone, of something, of a time in their lives when life was good, and they felt whole. Maybe that song pops up unexpectedly. Maybe for a long time, they couldn't bear to listen to it...but they couldn't bring themselves to delete it from their iTunes music library either.

And then one day, they realize the song is three-quarters through, and they're still listening. They haven't turned off their iPod. Nor have they skipped to the next song. They haven't shaken their heads as if, by so doing, they could get rid of its sound and its memory -- like water in their ears after a swim.

Maybe the notes they never thought they'd listen to without crying are just -- notes. Beautiful notes, combining to create a song that really is pretty. Whether it reminds them of anything, anyone, or nothing at all.

Or maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holding on for dear life

I ended my run this morning with a half-lap around the park. Not far from finishing, I saw a threesome approaching me: A woman, a man, a kid who looked to be their teen-age son.

One of the man's hands tightly grasped a silver polio-type crutch. The other clung to his wife's arm. She in turn had her other arm around his waist. The boy walked barely behind them, as if ready to catch either one should his father stumble, or the crutch get caught on a pebble or a crack in the sidewalk.

I smiled a hello as I ran by. They seemed a bit too intent on the next step to do much more than make eye contact. I wondered whether the man had had a stroke, or if he had some sort of degenerative disease. Either way, I'm guessing they were walking -- not because they wanted to, but because a doctor had stressed the importance of motion.

A few hours later, I was driving to Barnes & Noble. In front of the Tom Thumb at the same shopping center, I motioned to an elderly gentleman to pass in front of me. He smiled and waved with only his pinkie; he needed the remainder of his strength, and his fingers to hold onto the grocery cart he was pushing to his car.

The two scenes lasted barely a half-minute total. But they made me realize a couple of things: How lucky we are to be able to walk, to run, to move on our own. And that no matter if we are or we aren't able, we all need something, or someone, to hold onto; to hold dear. Just in case we ever catch ourselves falling.