Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pink Hats 14: A Perfect Day, Indeed

If Sam could speak, he'd say today was his idea of a perfect day. High feathered fall cirrus clouds sketched across a sky so blue the whole world would be in tears at the sight of it, going anywhere with your person -- and now her person is a member of the pack and you hope it's for good -- throw in cookies for resting and a leash for walking -- can it get any better than this?

Yes, he was definitely having a perfect day, indeed.

"I can tell Sam is thoroughly enjoying your back seat," Jessie said, watching him stick the tip of his nose out the cracked-open passenger and driver's side rear windows, back and forth. "He doesn't have nearly the room in my Prius -- the downside to 50 mpg. I really should have fastened his safety harness but he's having so much fun --"

"-- you did the right thing. Being unable to move around would only make him crazy right now -- too much space and too many new smells. We can latch him in on the way home, he'll have knocked himself out by then." Jessie was so pleased when Bob insisted Sam be a part of their outing, to the point of him purchasing a collapsible water dish and bringing dog biscuits and bottled water along.

"I thought you might be planning a romantic day away," she said, "I wasn't expecting you'd want to deal with 90 pounds of Labrador at the same time."

Sam reached his head over the seat and laid it on Bob's right shoulder, a sure sign of appreciation over being included. "It didn't feel right leaving him behind," he said, giving the dog a scratch. "When you're on call, working, his 'job' is to spend the night with the vet. We're taking a holiday, shouldn't he get one, too? Anyway, I've been thinking, why not let him stay with me whenever you take call on a Friday? It would save you the cost of the vet and he'd have a homey place to go." He added, "And, as far as romance is concerned, they say girls with big dogs are very attractive to men."

"Oh, they do, do they? I'll keep that in mind the next time I decide to go looking for a boyfriend," she said, teasing him. "Actually, I like the idea of leaving him with you very much and I think Sam would, too." She thought for about half a mile, trying to make up her mind whether to pursue the conversation further before finally asking, quietly, "Is this, and the fact that you're no longer working Sundays, your way of declaring your feelings for me?"

"Mm, I wouldn't say the only way," he responded,
in a tone that suggested he knew a secret and was determined to reveal only the tiniest tantalizing hint, "but it could be one of them." A few seconds passed and he noticed out of the corner of his eye that her mouth had formed a small "oh." He smiled to himself. Well done, Bob.

They'd taken 295 North to Topsham and were now heading east on Route 1, intending to see Jessie's Sweetgrass Farm Winery first, and spend the rest of the day prowling Rockport. Jessie wanted to get several bottles of Sweetgrass' Cranberry Apple wine for Thanksgiving and some Maple Smash, a quintessential Mainer's liqueur blended from, what else? maple syrup and brandy.

Having Sam with them rendered lunch at the 3 Dogs Cafe absolutely obligatory, since dogs are welcome on the patio. "Sam will never forgive us," Jessie said, "if we go anywhere else." They ordered off-the-boat-fresh seafood -- lobster and crab -- and fed one another bites of each. An older couple watched them from several tables away, looked at each other and smiled, remembering.

The thought of dessert was too good to pass up and at Bob's urging, they got peppermint and chocolate chip ice cream cones, and walked the wharf, hand in hand. Rockport was named for its rocky port, conveniently, and they found a shady spot close to the water to sit on the grass and enjoy the view. After a few minutes, Jessie said, "Last Sunday, when I went home to see my father -- his birthday is next month -- he said he's hoping I'll bring you with me."

"I've wanted to meet him for some time."

She was sitting with her knees bent and arms wrapped around them. She cocked her head to the side and said, "Really."

"I realize this could sound contrived, but it's not," he said, stretching his legs out and leaning back on one elbow so he could see her face. "Anyone who turned out like you, had to have incredible parents."

She smiled and said, "He is pretty incredible, but don't let him fool you; you're a lot alike. You're honest, unassuming, thoughtful, and you both love classical music. My brother and sister and I grew up with all three Bachs, J.S., J.C., and C.P.E., almost as roommates."

"I did, too, though mostly because of my mother. Dad was a country music freak who never quite understood the symphony but got season tickets and went anyway -- God, he loved my mother. I wish you could have seen them together. They used to just look at each other, I don't know, like they were the only two people in the world. I was a kid and thought it was a lot of mush, naturally, but the older I got, the more I appreciated having parents who adored each other. It made life, I guess."

"I remember how it was with mine before mom died. Dad still loves her -- more every day, I sometimes think. It was the kind of love I always knew I wanted. How old was your father -- when he passed away, I mean."

"Dad was 97. He saw patients every day, right up to the end. Mom's 92 and still calls him the love of her life. She told me last year, when I went down to Boca Raton for a visit -- she lives with her sister, did I tell you they were twins? Anyhow, after dad died, she said she'd loved a lifetime with him."

"This is complicated and I may not say it right, but I'm going to try. 'Forever' sounds like what our parents had. I've never asked you, because I wanted you to know it didn't matter to me and, truly, it doesn't. But I've had the feeling you want or maybe, need, me to ask, what happened with your marriage?"

He sighed deeply and stroked Sam's head before answering. "Not all marriages are meant to last. I know that sounds odd, especially with the words 'til death do us part' inserted in the vows, but I believe I'm right about this. Some are like training wheels: we need them until we're five or six, and once the cerebellum develops sufficiently, we can balance on two. But there's more to it than that and I sometimes think it's easy to white wash potential problems and hope for the best. Even ministers can do that, sometimes, without realizing it."

"What about the ones that are meant to last?"

"Well -- Halley has a saying, 'you can't put in what God's left out.' I've heard her use it often enough, maybe it's starting to sink in. I think there's a 'core,' for want of a better word, within a person that corresponds to the core in someone else. If not precisely, then so close as to make no difference. And this core is what enables us to be uniquely the persons we are. If the correspondence is there, at the deepest levels, two people experience it as liberating. If it's not there, no matter what other people may say about it, the relationship is flawed from the outset. We can't always see it -- I certainly couldn't. That's the best way I know to describe it."

"Freeing," she said. "I've never told you this, but I went to see my faculty adviser a few weeks after we met. Something happened to me that day -- I felt like a woman with you in ways I'd never felt with anyone else. She ascribed it to the freedom to be completely myself."

"Something happened to me, too, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. I felt like I was in the presence of someone with whom I could be completely genuine. There was no reason for me to be otherwise." He stopped for a second, and said, "You took my breath way, you know that? For a few seconds, standing there, I literally couldn't breathe."

"I couldn't either and thought it was just me."

This time it was his turn to fall silent. He's working up to something, she thought. "Jess, I know a lot has been happening and I've gone round and round, trying to decide about the twins --"

" -- and we'll deal with all of it, I promise. Right now, this is just about us," she said.

He drew his lips together, shaking his head slowly side to side, she is simply amazing, there is no getting around it. His hands framed her face and his voice began trembling with the emotion he'd kept to himself far too long. "Jessie, honey...if I wasn't in love with you the instant you laid your hand on my arm and I looked in your eyes, I was a second later and I've loved you every second since."

Her hands mirrored his and her voice, too, started trembling. "I loved you right then -- I couldn't have helped myself if I'd tried. I still do. I love you, Bob."

If this was the final scene in You've Got Mail and theirs a cinematic kiss, the music would be coming up right And music there was, though the instrument was percussive. The sound of Sam's tail, thump, thump, thump, against the ground.

(Pubic Domain image of Rockport Harbor, ME via Wikipedia)
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