I saw the man first. He rode his wheelchair in the street the way people do when there aren’t adequate curb cuts in the neighborhood. His state-of-the-art wheelchair looked like an elliptical machine, and he sat in its midst like Captain Kirk in his captain’s chair.
I put his age at close to 70. He wore his hair in a crew cut, and that, along with his horn rimmed glasses, evoked another era.
He rolled along the street, and eventually he moved into my full view – at which point I realized he was walking a dog. The dog he walked, however, was not the dog I would have imagined for this large, rectangular man. Rather, moving with the perkiest trot imaginable in front of the wheelchair on a nearly taut leash pranced a toffee-colored West Highland Terrier.
If ever a gait could communicate sheer delight in being alive it was this dog’s. Watching them together, I felt happy.
A couple weeks ago, returning from a short spring break trip to central Washington, Kami, Luken, Garth and I crossed the Columbia River further east than we’ve been in ages, and so drove by Hood River where we stayed last summer with Garth’s brother, Gregg, and his family. We visited a roadside fruit stand of epic proportions that summer. We encountered the older couple who owned the surrounding fruit and nut orchards as well as the stand. The man was a gregarious, barrel-chested guy whose barrel had expanded over the years, making him, in his later years, more barrel-torso-ed. He wore a pair of enormous overalls.
Of late, I envy him his overalls. The idea of being able to expand in comfort is appealing. I suspect such expansion would show less on a person if they simply wore overalls. In fact, I wish I could justify wearing a pair to work. All the time.
When I turned 50 – almost three years ago now – I weighed about fifteen pounds – maybe even 18 pounds – less than I do now. I have gained about half of those pounds since Simone died in October. This weight has become a focal point of mine. I’d like to think I have gained weight because of the weightiness of what has occurred in our family but I don’t think it’s that simple. Truthfully, there have simply been a string of moments where I could eat a moderate amount or more than that, and I just haven’t really cared enough to do the former. Now I struggle with caring enough to do something about it. On the one hand, I am in my later middle age and that has traditionally been a time when some women plump up; I know plenty of women who plumped up and I don’t think any less of them. On the other hand, eight weeks ago I saw a movie in which dancing figured, and I longed to feel once again what it was like to have a body less bound by gravity.
Grief is a changeable thing. It no longer catches us by surprise as it used to. It has moved in with us. We wade through it as we go from room to room. It is everywhere at all times. We are heavy with it.