Author’s note: This is a piece I wrote five years ago. I made several weak attempts at getting it published—all unsuccessful. Now, I’ve decided to post it in short chapters on my blog. All names have been changed and some details. Since I wrote this, my beloved dog, Baxter, has died, I’ve gained weight, again and have three novels published and two more in the works. Like the river, life goes on is usually wonderful! Enjoy and feel free to give me feedback. Bill Mathis
The River Path – Chapter 3
Julie jogs by. Huffing and puffing, persevering, fighting the aging process of being in one’s fifties. Fighting the sorrow and grief over the sudden death of her husband last year, also in his fifties. Learning to live without him. Adjusting to a new job, her adult daughter moving into her own apartment, still close by. But Julie now lives alone.
I think about how little experience I have had with death. In my thirties when my first grandparent died, almost fifty when my last grandparent died. My parents still alive and active in their late eighties, though slipping a little. I read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It was powerful. A wake up to the grief and loneliness when death raids. Again, aloneness, loneliness – is there a difference? I think about Jerry. And Julie. A lot.
Occasionally, I’m out earlier and run into a couple with their dogs. Probably in their early forties, he’s tall, nicely built, hard torso, his hair a flat top (how long has it been since I described that cut?) and walks briskly with a military bearing. She is also tall, slender. Both in athletic shape. Alongside and between them walk three Belgian shepherds, no leashes attached. The five of them walk in perfect step, whether fast or slow. At the crosswalks the dogs drop to their back haunches as they wait for the light to cross. The dogs barely glance at Baxter who is pulling at his leash and whimpering to make friends.
“I wish my children had been that well behaved,” I once joked in passing.
“It’s all in the training,” they replied, also smiling.
Ouch. I think of my oldest child as I walk away. Almost forty, finishing an overdue dissertation, Ph.D. in communications. Ironic, as they seldom communicate with me. I wonder how, why, one could be so self-motivated, so energetic, almost type A personality into their twenties, and now so emotionally fragile, often struggling with low self-esteem. I wonder if my former fundamentalist beliefs, including my use of spankings, though infrequent, affected their life. They think so. The child was well behaved, well-trained. I think that was part of the problem, and now is one of my regrets. Still, I worry. Still, I can’t fix the situation. It will take both of us.
Chapter 4 is next week! Contact me for feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org