The Middle Ages: You think you have problems? We all do. So here’s to the tender moments

I see that the trees are finally bright gold. Where I once thought I saw some divine glory in them, I’m starting to see mere sunlight.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

We all need that one thing — whether it’s libraries or gin joints, pickle ball or chess — that brings us a measure of comfort. For me, it’s a daily workout, sometimes with the wolf-dog in tow. She is younger, faster, better looking, which I realize is almost impossible to imagine.

But if I didn’t exercise, I’d be dead in a week. So off we go into the wild.

Here’s a typical scenario: The wolf-dog and I round the corner, where we encounter a neighbor I don’t know backing out of his driveway, oblivious to our presence. I wait, impatiently, because that’s how I do most things, with no trace of decency or understanding.

Such is life in the big city, waiting for people you don’t know to do things more slowly than you’d like. I curse the driver’s meekness, his hesitation in backing out of his driveway, for I sometimes see that same meekness in myself, and I don’t care for it much.


As I wait, White Fang — big as a pony — shows an eagerness to move forward with her life. To settle her, I snap her leash, which she instinctively takes to mean “Mush!” given her snow-country heritage.

Ouch, my shoulder, my neck. The moment is a little dark. Nearby, a crow complains.

But we manage, disdaining this driver we don’t know who takes forever to back out of his driveway.

Eventually, we step off again, and as the driver passes he slows and rolls down his window.


“Good Thanksgiving?” he asks.

“The best,” I say. “You?”

“Very good,” he says. “Have a great weekend.”

So there you go, the hot and cold of city life. A small gesture, a kind and unexpected word. Such encounters change everything … your mood, your outlook, the soft underbelly of your soul.


Still, I don’t know why it took him so long to back out of the danged driveway. I mean, it was his own driveway.

And in truth, it wasn’t “the best” Thanksgiving, that’s just one of those things you say for the sake of expediency. It was a good Thanksgiving, to be sure. Posh is on the DL, and we did the best we could, considering. No one throws a Thanksgiving like she does. But we pulled on our best oven mitts and went to work.

Play ball!

The lovely and patient older daughter cooked a big turkey, and Rapunzel baked a pie. The older daughter’s boyfriend made mashed potatoes from scratch, driving his shoulder into them like a good fullback.


Rapunzel’s boyfriend, the engineer, made an apple coffee cake. The little guy spilled his drink. The old beagle piddled near the front door.

So, in a sense, everyone contributed.

The Halloween candy wasn’t even gone, so one season bumped up against another. We watched the parade, then some football. Someone poured a meaty red wine. Tasted like Rome.

A holiday feast is exhausting, there’s no doubt about that. You can wear off your fingers scrubbing pans in the overheated kitchen, and there’s always a dirty glass or gravy boat someone forgot.


“Today, let’s not worry about the little things,” I told everyone.

“Yeah, let’s just throw the dishes away,” suggested the boy.

We didn’t, so the cleanup lasted hours. We crammed the leftovers into two refrigerators that were already a little too full.

That’s where the leftovers will sit till Christmas, when we’ll rush to clean it out to make room for more leftovers we’ll probably never finish.


We seem to keep things from one season to the next — Snickers bars and stuffing — as mementos of a full and crazy life.

As for Posh? She is our inspiration — a strong and brave woman working through her horrible cancer while not close to being done with her earlier awful grief.

My wife spent the day before Thanksgiving getting blood while wearing a tacky “Pardon My French” sweatshirt her older daughter gave her as a joke.

“Wear it,” I’d urged. “You speak a lot of *%&^%$#* French.”


In the transfusion room, Rapunzel blew in like a Sierra storm and curled up next to her mother in the bed. At the holiday table, we left a place card for our late son.

Such a year it’s been. Two deaths in the family — Posh’s mother, our older son — and now the recurrence of this unspeakable disease.

During my morning run, I see that the trees are finally bright gold. Where I once thought I saw some divine glory in bright branches, I’m starting to see mere sunlight.

You think you have problems? Yes, probably so. As the bus signs say, “Everyone’s dealing with something.”


So in the spirit of our best season, we send you kind thoughts and prayers.

And, yes, we’ll always pardon your French.

Twitter: @erskinetimes