Hair of the Dogs

Having a Time

“Oh hey!” we both said, our arms heavy with chairs and bags of snacks and electrolyte-replacing drinks.  ”How are you?”

We’d never known each other’s names.  In baseball you learn the boys’ names and which adult is connected with which boy and usually that’s enough.  You might remember the ball flying off that kid’s bat for a double, or a heartbreaking strike-out with a runner on third, but not the adult’s name.  She was Cody’s grandma, and we had sat through a hot fall season of practices and games, five or six seasons ago, before they moved to another team.  Now our boys play against each other and we wave across the diamond and speak in name-avoiding constructs.

She caught me up on others from the old team, on her family, her husband.  Eyebrows painted a half inch above her real brow looked permanently cheerful, sturdy hangers from which everything else sagged.

“He’s got diabetes pretty well,” she said, as if her husband had tried, and succeeded, in acquiring the disease.  I thought of the bad things I do pretty well: I rush around, I plan compulsively and never let things unfold naturally, I make everything more difficult than necessary so I can be a martyr because I do martyr so damn well that it would be a shame to let one of my best skills go unused.

She kept talking as the boys jogged around the outfield’s perimeter, warming up.  Someone was down in the kidneys and on top of that cataracts, just having a time.  The boys started sprinting. Someone’s sister-in-law on oxygen, probably never get off.

Pretty well, I thought.  What’s-her-name had no idea that her musical country phrase, spoken as part of the litany of sickness and death that is the bread and butter of an older person’s conversation, had deafened me to anything else she might say.

“Well, I’d better get on,” she said, “We’ll be seeing you.”  She limped to her side of the field and I limped to mine and we set up our folding chairs that have cup holders and shading roofs that can be angled to block the racing sun, and we collapsed into them to watch our boys do marvelous things.

24 Comments

  1. Shelly says:

    Louise, you’re such a damn good writer, I can’t stand it! I’m catching up on your posts now. It’s been a while, but such a treat now to go through them. Thank you!

  2. Jack says:

    I know this conversation from the sports teams that my kids play on. You captured it perfectly.

  3. dar craft says:

    sturdy hangers from which everything else sagged, wow, louise, you are so original and i lovelovelove your writing and your mind…

  4. Kristin says:

    I love the cadence of your writing. So…do our worlds become small again as we age? Is that what it is? As we circle back around?

  5. I love this! I could so clearly picture the entire conversation. The elderly are a real treat, aren’t they? I love the things they say.

  6. Gina says:

    Oh my! You perfectly captured a typical conversation with a much older person. My mom can be that way. I don’t need to hear everyone’s everything. I found myself picturing the field and you plopping down and adjusting your chair. I sort of miss those spectating days as long as they were.

  7. Too funny and too good. I think she is all over our little town. And can see her and here her.

    • I love it when the grandmothers show up! It’s mainly dads and a few hardcore baseball mamas, but the occasional conscripted grandma sure is a treat. . .

  8. Kristin says:

    Will I ever get over the “name-avoiding constructs”? It’s comforting to know that I’m far from alone in remembering no one’s name.

  9. Erica M says:

    Holy smokes, I loved so many parts of this, I can’t begin to list them. Let me start with how “she” limped to her side of the field, and I thought you were being slightly contemptuous, but you knocked me over with admitting you also limped to your side of the field in a wonderful display of empathy. So good.

    • Thanks, Erica. As I wrote it I wondered if I would seem like a liar since I don’t actually limp on a regular basis. But that’s what I wanted to write and I do sometimes limp after holding my folding baseball chair and sixteen bags on my hip for too long, so there.

  10. Mamarific says:

    I love your writing. It makes me happy!

  11. Bee says:

    I love my MIL, but when we have our weekly call (she lives out-of-state), we don’t get the litany of who has what illness, but we hear all about the weather. Now I find myself talking to my out-of-state friends about the weather we’re having.

    • When I used to talk to my MIL once a week or so, I’d get an extensive weather run-down plus death and illness plus all crimes committed in her area! Whew. It was exhausting but now she’s gone and I miss her.

  12. Robbie says:

    we are just starting the sport circuit and I feel like such as outsider,

  13. TriGirl says:

    It’s the same with dogs…”Oh, there goes Finnegan’s owner”, “Hey, how’s Tank doing today?”

    Of course, I’m not equating children with dogs. This was a really nice description of your interaction.

    • You’re so right! When I’ve taken classes with my dogs I’ve learned the other dogs’ names in a flash (and remember them to this day) but never caught on to their humans’ names. Thanks for reminding me.

  14. I love this. That is all.

  15. I do martyr well, too. Damn, I need to do that one a little *less* well.

  16. You know I love this! So true how you don’t always know the adults by name. The eyebrow hangers and the entire “pretty well” paragraph – so good. My older one has tryouts for HS this weekend – fingers crossed for varsity. Tough competition in his class (many held back for sports reasons, which is unheard of in CA). ‘Tis the season!

  17. Janine Hess says:

    Ah, a nice, tidy affirmation of the pleasant mundanity ( is that a word), of life’s little ills and passing acquaintances.

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