Tonight, as Beaux was heading off to bed, he bent over and absent-mindedly kissed me on the top of my head. "Night," he said. "Don't forget to take Holly up." Holly is our soft-bellied, wild-haired, unfortunately named boy guinea pig. He got the moniker back when we thought he was a strapping farm girl of a guinea pig. Wrongo, but I digress. As carried the critter upstairs, I was thinking, hmm, where'd the romance go? But as I passed the bedroom door, Beaux flung it open and leaned in close. "Night little sweetheart. I sure love you." That's more like it. Except, wait. He was talking to Holly.
I think the moment that defined my middle age was when I was walking through the airport and walked right past my sister, there to see someone else, without recognizing her. I wasn't expecting her to be there. She was out of context. I am convinced that we don't choose how our brain files material away. In my case, I am convinced that half the time it doesn't. I am very bright in some ways -- particularly when it comes to remembering useless trivia like how much a shark tongue weighs, on average. Or numbers. Here's something you don't want to contemplate: If I ever knew your social security number, I still do. I can't help it. But I promise not to hurt you. Tell me a name and I can tell you a life story. Show me a face though and I'm clueless. Which, incidentally, is not a sought-after trait for a reporter. I had a fresh reminder of the odd and feeble signalling my brain does tonight, when I was looking at photos someone took at my 30th high school reunion. I didn't go -- didn't know anything about it. But this friend had posted 51 photos on Facebook and I was looking through, ready for a trip down memory lane. I apparently need a GPS to find Memory Lane. I did not recognize any of the people in those photos, except one woman named Audrey whose last name totally eludes me. And Audrey is the only thing I could recall about her. Go figure. But wait. Some of them are wearing name tags. WHICH I COULD NOT READ, even when I took off my glasses and put my nose on the computer screen. See? You don't have to actually go to a reunion to feel old.
When I was in my 20s, I had cancer and doctors told me I would be unable to have children. At the time, I didn't care that much, so I made my peace with it and moved on. I was happy to be alive. Fifteen years later, I fell madly in love with Beaux, and it suddenly mattered a lot. But I was in my late 30s anyway, so we made our peace with it. We got married -- and 10 minutes later we were pregnant. No kidding. Jen was born about 9 months and a handful of days after the ceremony. The pregnancy was easy, the delivery not so much. I won't bore you with the details, but what started out gentle at 6 p.m. on a Friday night ended with an emergency C-section Saturday night. She was in trouble and the doctor mentioned a couple of days later that I could have died. If I'd known things were going to go south so badly, I'd probably have skipped the part of the trip to the hospital where I made my frantic husband wait, suitcase in hand, while I cooked myself a couple of eggs because "they may not feed me right away." Duh. We argued over names the whole pregnancy. He wanted to spell her name with One N, which I thought was a sure sign we were too stupid to spell. I called her Beula Lulu in protest. In the end, though, he won that one. I called her One N for a couple of years in a passive-aggressive way. After all, spelling is important to a reporter. Jen has been a source of delight and very little sorrow, although she is an eye roller. Hm, wonder where she got that sarcastic wit. The hardest thing I've done in my life is hand her to an anesthesiologist when she was 11 months old so she could have a valve problem in her heart repaired. I literally ran away, crying. Beaux was so in love with her that the first time she spit up on him, he wore it like a badge for the rest of the day. And we both sobbed when she got her first shots. Good grief. Beaux's favorite story about Jen was the day she was sitting in her high chair, waving her arms and yelling "What the F*CK." "What?" I demanded. Her response was to say it even louder. I glared at Beaux. He looked panicked, but said he absolutely had never said that in front of her. While we were having our mean-look war, she got impatient. "Wheh the F*CK," she wailed. "Not the spoon, not the knife, F*CK!" We didn't take her to a restaurant after that for quite some time. She's mostly kind, except with her little sister. She's got a sense of humor that is breath-taking in its wit and wisdom. She's beautiful and clever and proof to me that God exists, because how else would the two of us produce something so magical. Happy 12th birthday, Jinx!
I have this seriously happy knack for inappropriateness. A real skill set. I was fuming at something a boss did a few years ago and told him, "I would not tell you if your hair was on fire." As the words left my mouth, bouncing off his shiny, bald pate, it occurred to me I could probably have picked a better body part than the one he didn't have. Woops. Yesterday, I had lunch with one of my dearest friends and we dissected a personal problem that had been bothering her. In the elevator, heading back to our respective floors, I told her I wouldn't worry about it, if I were her. I'd -- and here I kissed my hand and blew it to her -- send that worry on its way. Then, because I am thoroughly anal, I blew a second kiss to emphasize the point. Just as the elevator door opened for me to step out, nearly into the arms of a coworker not always admired for discretion or a slow imagination. He appeared fairly slack-jawed as he caught what must have appeared to be a private moment, blowing my female colleague a kiss goodbye. Ever the devil, she smiled and mouthed "bye, lover." Yup. Time to start a new rumor. And I must be getting old. Because I had absolutely no urge to get upset or try to set the record straight. I just walked away, chuckling.
Perspective's something you can only get by aging.
Get Gephardt, one of our local consumer-friendly TV news segments where the reporter tries to right consumer wrongs, infuriates me. Seriously. I see red. And it's not that he's not very good at what he does. The thing that genuinely ticks me off is that the average consumer can't fax over a cancelled check to prove she paid a bill or was charged twice or whatever. Fixing the most seemingly-simple problem requires involving the power of the media. And that's just flat-out nasty. It means that unless I the consumer can threaten credibly that I will tell the entire viewing audience you're a jerk as a business, you'll just go on being one because -- well, because you can? If that's the case, it ought to be called Cuss-tomer service. Recently I changed beats at work, moving from covering medicine to covering the economy. (It's so recent, in fact, that I'm just beginning to figure out what I'm doing.) As part of that education process, I've been talking to lots and lots of consumers. And here are two things that may surprise some people. I cannot count how many people have told me this month they'd like to see every single member of Congress tossed. One woman I really love and respect told me she thinks we'd do just as well with a drawing that includes all adults who would qualify to run for office. They could serve two years, she said, doing their best to help this country. And then they'd be done. Not a career, but a service to their country. It's radical, but I do see the point. Too many have too much self-service invested. Too many axes to grind. The other thing I found is that people were okay with their own struggles as long as they thought those doing better than they are were just smarter or had figured out something they hadn't. They're less sanguine if they figure that they've been hoodwinked or cheated And there are a lot of people feeling that way about the financial meltdown right now. Don't even get them started on the fact that our new president, in whom we all have placed some genuine hope, doesn't seem to know many taxpayers. Or should I say, those he knows don't all seem to pay taxes. It makes it seem a little like two Americas. And that's a troubling thought.