Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Small comforts arrive from unexpected quarters. I’ve needed a new Mac OS version. I’m at 3.9, which is the barrier for free download upgrades, but the new level -- 4.0 -- costs $200. Then my cousin’s husband sent me a bit of money, Dr. Vargo (whom I have not consulted for years) suddenly sent me a “refund” (where was the interest???), I made $20 by moving a prescription from Osco to Pamida, and I “found” a bit more. As soon as this new upgrade comes I will be a “Tiger.” I think. I sort of lose the progression through cats. Is a Sea Leopard in there someplace? (I hear their singing has been deciphered.)

I’m thinking of starting a series that is an homage to other women’s husbands, like my cousin’s husband Hamilton, who goes by “Ham.” Besides raising a lot of boys in a blended family, he’s just a joy. He sent me a little green iPod Nano. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t much want it, I have a hard time figuring it out, and I LOVE it! He asked what music I wanted pre-installed and I said “Rachmaninoff,” figuring that would bolix him. Nothing like! I’ve been sitting here getting absolute drunk on “Rachy.” I love this thing! I’m seduced! NPR help me! I may NEVER take out my ear buds! And HOW did they get an orchestra and a TV set inside something the size of a calling card?

One of the most tender mental images I cherish from Cinematheque is Tim going around to the rooms of the sleeping (finally) twelves to gently remove their iPod earbuds so they’ll still have hearing when they are gentlemen of forty. (They WILL make it to forty, if Tim has any influence, which he does.) And then the older boys come home late and check to make sure Tim is okay. (Everybody takes care of everybody.) When they find him asleep, they softly slip off the earphones through which he is supposed to be learning French -- in his dreams. (I like Tim’s French because it’s so simple even I can read it!)

But being a creature of habit and preoccupation, this morning I rushed off to the laundromat in Conrad with my rolls of quarters but not my iPod. One of the preoccupations was my remorse over rudely pressing my fav clerk at the IGA. A VERY tall, deliberate, cheerful girl with near-red hair long enough to hook back over her ears, she had a word written on her tender inner forearm. I asked what it said. “Jesus.” She explained, “The one Person I can depend on to always be there for me.” Then she showed me the other arm which specified a verse from John.

Forgetting where I was, I began to tease her gently about what she might have tattooed in other places and whether she would consider adding Buddha or Mohammed or Confucius. Never losing her poise, she quietly (she speaks VERY softly) and simply said that no, Jesus was enough and the only One for her.

When I got home, I felt badly about my lack of tact and respect. Once I realized that she was exactly the sort of person Jesus had hoped for, I ought to have let her alone, but I didn’t. Seminarians, former ministers, over-intellectuals -- we’re all slow to perceive true sincere (without wax) faith. So today I apologized to her. She was surprised that I even thought she might be offended. She is so sincere and thorough in her belief that scoffing just doesn’t get through to her. It is a comfort that such a person should exist. The box “boy” who is nearly seven feet tall, gaunt as Abraham Lincoln and older than I am, beamed at me and called me “dear.” We’d already established that he’s not related to this checker. They just happen to both have that Max van Sydow tall-person gene. Good for basketball.

Usually we kid around about the cats, but there’s less time to do it now that I buy the cat food by the case so the cans are plastic-wrapped into corrugated cardboard flats that are later handy for sorting files. I get 10% off because they don’t have to put the separate cans on the shelf and I don’t have to chase little tin hockey pucks all over the checkout conveyor belt.

At the moment Squibbie is shedding, a process she helps along by wrenching big tufts of fur out of her sides, leaving bald spots. When I offer cat laxative, she belches. But she often seems to have an uncomfortable tummie, which she eases by sleeping on my collarbones under my warm reading light while I struggle to see over her to my page. She’s easier than Crackers, who is a big solid obstinate block of cat who sits upright on my chest gazing into my face, watching my lips move while I tell her she’s too heavy and should get off.

The other morning I woke up after a night of wild dreams and found that Crackers (who has trouble with her sinuses -- we’re all getting old here) had been sleeping with her forehead pressed against mine. I think her dreams were crossing through both our skulls, invading my own night mind. Strange shapes and disconcerting tastes. Normally we are a comfort to each other, but it’s situational.

I’ve been getting phone calls past my bedtime from people looking for a little reassuring talk. They’re rez people -- things up there are a little unsettled. An election coming up, a big -- I mean BIG -- oil lease signed that may mean several projects can finally get off the ground, to say nothing of a proposed $200 per capita pay out. NOT TARP, not bail-out money. But it depends on actually striking oil. As we used to quote the Charlie Russell painting about a hunter whose bighorn trophy has fallen over a cliff and lodged in an inaccessible bushy ledge, “Meat’s not meat ‘till it’s in the pan.”

Still, sometimes when things get a little hopeful but not-for-sure, an edge like a new OS or an iPod Nano can make a major difference. You still need to watch out for those sea leopards. (Google! They’re really scary! And sudden!) It can’t hurt to have a name tattooed on your arm. Maybe a phone number, too, if it wouldn’t change.

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