We started the new year on a positive note. First, Posh and I kicked all the nonbelievers out of the house, then we evicted anyone with bad credit or questionable taste in TV. That pretty much covered everybody under our roof — even Posh — leaving me with a surly dog who, like me, lives only to eat and laugh at others.
So far, so good, though I question the dog's integrity and sleep habits. It's the beagle's birthday this week (he'll be 52), after which I will kick him out too, till he finds religion, or at least a steady job. Then I will welcome him back with open arms. In the end, I am always there for them.
Same applies to the others. I miss them. Posh too, but she ended up failing the credit check. Her score? Worse than Venezuela's. For the last six months, she'd been paying the Macy's bill with walnuts and candy canes.
When I kicked them out, they all went off cheerily to "feed the horses," they said, though I suspect they were really off to the movies. Honestly I don't care. Horses … manure … movies — all the same to me.
As landlord, I warned them that returning wasn't guaranteed.
We'll see when they show up at the door with popcorn in their teeth and lying about "what a genius that Amy Schumer is." She's not, though I find her flaws and allegiance to big food strangely compelling; in life and friendship, you really need only one great thing in common.
Till then, there is only me left, listening to wistful and ancient Dan Fogelberg songs and counting my blessings. Turns out that most of my blessings are off "feeding the horses" together. So be it. The quiet house was nice for about an hour, but now I actually miss the screaming idiots — caring for them became such a habit.
Indeed, there is a beauty to caring for other people. We preach it as something we ought to do, but I don't think we acknowledge how it can fill the hollows of our hearts. If you haven't in a while, try it some time. Do something for someone, quietly and with no expectation of reciprocation, as parents often do. Do something for anyone. A loved one. A stranger.
Everywhere you look, there is a beauty to caring for others. I see it in my boss, tending to her ill husband, an uncommonly ferocious and loving advocate. I see it in the little guy, who brings me a cup of coffee even when I don't ask. "Just the way you like it," he says, the coffee dripping down the side a little and scalding my leg.
Just the way I like it? You mean, sizzling my skin? Or maybe with a little Kentucky holy water in it to ward off the winter chill? Oh, who cares? You brought me coffee, pal.
I think my wife, Posh, gets derailed a bit by the lack of appreciation for all she does, though that's a parent's lot. I don't believe that children really understand all their parents did for them till they finally have kids of their own.
By then, they're so busy, with the dysfunction of juice spills, missing homework and the trash always needing to go out that they rarely have time to acknowledge it. But your children may be closer to you spiritually, in those moments, than maybe they have ever been before.
Little by little, we are making it through January, one splash of coffee, one football game at a time. On most days, which all start out dark and cold and two hours before they should, the best thing we have going for us are those little breakfast sausages into which they now inject maple syrup. Not since electricity and written language has the world seen such a colossal development.
The scent of sizzling maple-sausage penetrates through several rooms, through concrete floors, or two-foot baffles of insulation, through walls full of good, fat books and into the bedroom, rousing us awake, making us wake up happy instead of ornery.
Not since lips has anything tasted this good.
I have this theory that we'd never wake up in the morning in winter if some chemist hadn't figured out a way to inject maple syrup into breakfast sausage.
Smells like family. Smells like a cozy home. Smells like someone doing a little extra for someone else.
MORE FROM THE MIDDLE AGES