Last night my wife and I sat on the couch, facing each other and she told me about her day. We didn’t turn on the TV all night, a rarity. At one point, she showed me the cartoons from last weekend’s Week in Review section. I told her how those were the only cartoons we ever saw in my house growing up. She said they always got the Sunday Funnies and I told her the Times never had comics. I said maybe her parents got one of the tabloids.
“Can you see my parents reading a tabloid?”
“I’ll bet your mother grew up reading the Post.”
“Sure, it was a liberal paper back then. I’m sure they got the Post along with the Times. Maybe the Herald Trib too. Or the Journal-Amer–”
She burst out laughing.
“The Herald Trib?”
Laughing at me. In my face.
“Well, that’s what they called it,” I said, raising my voice in mock fury.
“Yeah, right. You are such a dork!”
“That’s what they called it!”
She curled into a ball as if to protect herself from attack and I picked up the phone and called her mother.
Her mom answered and Em and I took turns talking to her, laughing. She called it the Herald Tribune. But they read the Post in their house.
“See, I told you,” I said.
Emily spoke to her mom and her voice dropped, “Oh-no.”
Emily’s folks had to put down their dog in the morning, a fourteen-year old Dalmation. We stopped giggling and Emily’s voice became soothing and concerned. As childless parents, our two cats are like our kids. The thought of life without them is dreadful. I often day-dream about what will happen when Emily’s parents die, how I’ll feel when my mother dies. In two days it will be the third anniversary of my father’s death. And I think about when our cats will die until I force myself to think about something else.
This morning, I sent Emily’s parents an e-mail, letting them know that I was thinking about them. Em’s mom sat on a rug in the Vet’s office a few hours later and held her dog as it was put to sleep.
Em and I talked about that tonight. The pain of losing loved ones. We talked about the shrine we’d make for our cats when they go. She was back on the couch. A re-run of The Office played in the background. I got up to get some some cereal. I found an unopened box and brought it into the living room and handed it to her.
“Why can’t you open it?” she said.
“Oh, I don’t think opening it is the problem. I think it’s when you leave it on the counter all night, wide open so that you make sure that it gets completely stale. That’s the problem.”
She laughed at me again.
“Hey, listen,” I said, “I’m trying to be pro-active here, and what’s with the editorializing?”
“I figured it might work well in the Herald Trib.”
A pause. She scrunched into a fetal position and then filled the room with laughter.