Foggy Morning with Larry by Tom Gaffney
Foggy Morning with Larry by Tom Gaffney
He remembered the blood spot where her head had hit the edge of the tub when she fell. The water in the shower sounded like rain, steady, impervious. He wrapped her in towels and a robe as they waited for the ambulance and the paramedics. The lights swirling around the darkened street: the neighborhood reflected something he had not seen before, unmasked, frail and sad where it had once been comforting and warm. A place he loved.
This morning it was pretty, in a gray way. He remembered when it was easy to love the fog, its damp blanket and gray stillness evoking some other place or mood. A place to hide or a place to solve mysteries. Now though, it just seemed a thin blanket keeping him from the world at large. A soiled blanket of stagnant air at that. Like many things this fall, his mood wavered. But today, or this morning at least, he was glad of the fog, it was allowing for a slow wakefulness, an extended end to dream time where you wanted to sip your coffee slowly: be awake, but not too awake.
He and Larry wandered, off leash, down through the meadow towards the lake. It was preferable to a summer morning: no one was around. Felt like the whole neighborhood was still asleep. He and the dog would be wet by the time they got home, wandering through the tall grass. Until last week, Larry had been the only one whose aging he had been overly concerned with. The rotten mutt, named against gender by a kid who was now a burgeoning adult, who had now been his morning companion for a dozen years, was getting old. She no longer liked walks at night and if it was raining could be tempted no further from the house than completion of her business. Then it was back to the couch she had long since seized with her relentless pursuit of a comfortable snooze spot.
She seemed spry this morning though, enjoying the cool air. Her hips did not seem to be bothering her today. Her hair was no longer black really; it was gray with black flecks. They had talked about what they were going to do when she got too old to move. They had even talked about replacing her, laughing as they remembered the pledges, next time: obedience school. We’ll never let a dog run the house again. He dreaded her being gone.
He had originally been against the dog, fought it for a long time. It was not long before Larry had won his heart and he could not imagine life without her. On occasion he resented how the duties around her care had become mainly his, or how they had been right about him falling in love with the creature. Nowadays though he worried, never more so than when she would not go out.
Determined to savor this morning’s easy pace, in light of recent mornings and mornings to come he put it out of his mind. He remembered birds that were not there this morning – herons and swallows. He listened to the crows yelling at each other. This morning was really quiet and as they turned right at the lake the blanket of fog became more distinct. Across the bay he could see the park and the fog edging in near the tree tops. He could see the trees in their orange and green, and the water rippled in the slight breeze. Down here at the water the air was colder. Pleasingly, it justified the extra layer he had put on. The fog, the chill, the fleece were all extra blankets he could relax under.
It is just what happens, to everyone, he thought: to me, to Larry, to Sheila. It is what happens if we are lucky and get a chance to live long enough to contemplate what’s happening. To love it, and hate it, and sometimes wish it had never happened. Then one day you will not be here, but the meadow and the lake and the birds will all still be here. Hopefully, the people and the dogs will carry on as if you never happened.
Like a wave collapsing he had not gotten upset until he had reached out to keep everyone up to date. Their daughter, Sheila’s mom, their neighbors and friends. It amazed him how his responsibility was to make so many phone calls at a time of calamity. To talk to so many people. Most of them were perfunctory, but as soon as he had heard his daughter’s voice the tide seemed to knock him, and it was soon apparent who was propping who up. He had soon realized the calls weren’t his duty, but his need.
Everyone had been so nice. Straight up, no nonsense, helpful: firemen, hospital staff, the doctors. He remembered the nice young guy telling him they were going to take good care of his wife. He had this sculpted unshaved look, handsome but looked like a kid, really. He showed him to the waiting room, told him he would be the anesthesiologist during his wife’s procedure. At that moment he felt like he had withered into an old man in an instant.
She might even be alright. Still don’t know why it happened, though there is still plenty of time to be spent at the hospital waiting for appointments and test results. She was kind to him as well, helping him not to worry. The fact that that was not a surprise, he savored that. But they had both been scared, and he realized that was something they would have to get used to.
Meanwhile, there was work to be done, routines to be returned to.
He watched Larry nosing through the grass, stopping here and there. Checking her mail. He looked out towards the island and noticed patches appearing in gray cover. The fog was beginning to lift. Time to get back to it, wishing there was a breath of wind.
Here comes the sun.
“Come on Larry. Let’s go.”
He and the aging dog reluctantly turned their backs to the water and headed home.