I am not overweight. But I have potential.

I weeble between sizes, threatening to burst some, to swim luxuriously in others.

I am a triathlete. I exercise maniacally. This does not cause me to lose weight.

I struggle to understand how my thick-skinned, saddle-bagged, slightly paunchy and mostly menopausal body can fight off the need for a new wardrobe.

This just isn’t fair, I scream silently at the closet.

This evening we are getting ready to go to Hospice. I throw on a comfortable skirt. Lilly puts on her “Caring Canines” vest. Delilah dons her pink pirate collar, ready to stand look out. Both are trim and clean and cut like body builders. Sometimes I check under their bed for free weights.

Lilly and I chat with a bunch of folks outside, then head to the dementia wing. There are a few live ones in there tonight. There is one man who worked at the Department of Defense who clings to a notebook, babbling about filling out forms. He keeps pointing to lists of nonsensical things. I think, It’s not the dementia.

We make our way into the next room where we meet Ron. He shifts restlessly in his chair behind his tray table.
“Can you see the dog, Ron?” I ask.
Ron looks down, pleased. He reaches to pet her. He surveys her four, then my two.

And he says,
“You have some REALLY nice legs!”
“Oh, well, thank you, Ron.”
“Really HEALTHY looking! I bet you can really RUN on those.”
“Uh, well, I do run.”
“I bet you DO.”
“I like bike riding too,” I offer.
“Yeah, I bet you can REALLY get up those hills. I bet you can really PUMP up those hills!”

I laugh and we move on. We make a lot of folks giggle, Lilly passing out kisses and nosing about in crumb-carrying crevices.

Then, as we walk to the car I feel my stride. It is strong and bears the weight of determination and hope. It has held and trained 190 pounds of Ridgeback. It has climbed the mountain of network news, rounded the cones of overbearing bosses and skated to the edge of unemployment. It is entrepreneurial. It is resilient. It is aging and fighting and girlish and confident.

It is mine.


Lilly and foot

I am trolling through “Documents” on my laptop looking for things to kill. The electronic responsible for holding all my crap has been moaning with the weight of several years’ worth of paperwork. It needs a cleanse.

“Make-up letter to ex-boyfriend.” Delete. “Break up letter to ex-boyfriend. “ Delete. Why not just delete the whole boyfriend file? I should make a few templates first…

“Hospice.” Click. I open a few docs about my schedule… delete delete… medical tests… delete… then find one listing several patients at Morningside House who might enjoy a dog visit. I’d forgotten I had this. These were patients staying in the dementia ward. So, you figure they’re in a hospice facility with dementia-they’re pretty far along in forgetting. One name caught my eye: Samuel Brickton. So THAT was his name.

Lillian and I make the run to Morningside House about once per month now. We see Sam every time. He is younger than most, probably late 50’s. Someone said he used to be a firefighter. He is always in the same corner of the common area, in the same chair- strapped in so he won’t slide out. We always approach him but we’re never certain if he likes us. He can only chatter in nonsensical syllables, coming faster as we get closer. He reaches out to pet Lilly but then flails. Is he waving us closer or shooing us away? He struggles to control his movements. He wants to tell us what to do, but his thoughts are trapped in jabber. I need to be rescued. Lillian, convinced everyone loves her, is not deterred. Sometimes she’ll plop her head on the tray attached to the chair and I’ll guide his hand toward her. More syllables. I wished I’d had a clue.

And here, in my own computer was one. The document explained his condition was two-fold- an ALS-type of palsy along with a fatal form of dementia. I hoped the Internet would reveal something I could ask about – like his former job or family- to trigger a clear response.

Like all good researchers, I typed his name into Google.

And there it was. His obituary.

He had died just a few days after our last visit. And we were due to go back in three days.

Lillian is a beautiful girl, particularly when she’s just had a bath. We strode up the sidewalk toward Morningside House where several residents sat outside. They ooo’d and aaah’d.   They’d had veggie lasagna for dinner and Lilly was happy to clean up the dribbles. We are getting to know a few of the chattier patients- especially the real dog lovers. They are inflating Lillian’s already substantial ego.

One of my favorites is a woman I call “Brooklyn” because she’s always reading the New York Post. I tell her my fantasy job is New York Post headline writer. She says, “Yeah they’re always trying to be SMAAAAAAAHT.” They are mostly women, giving the men celebrity status. One man travels with a fanny pack attached to his walker. Lilly and I are pretty sure there are treats in there. Or maybe pot. Or condoms.

We negotiate the automatic doors and head for the elevator. I punch in the code to get into the dementia ward. I think well, that’s one pin that doesn’t have to change.

The first thing I see is the glitter eye shadow. Stacey the ward nurse pops up and hugs Lillian. Lilly believes she is born to be worshiped. Probably, she was.

“I just LOVE her,” Stacey crows. And she leads us, her long curly hair, black from the roots to her shoulders, then red down the rest of her back, swings with her step. She is the shiny bubble that bursts into a cartoon fairy. A loud fairy. She yells out each patient’s name, trying to break through their oblivion.

“MARY! MAAAARY!” Mary doesn’t seem to see us, so Stacey takes her hand and puts it on Lilly’s nose. Mary giggles.

Another woman tries in many inverted parts of words to explain why she does not want to pet the dog.

Stacey bends over and yells directly into another white-haired wheel-chaired woman’s brain, “IRENE, DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE DOG?” Irene babbles something then gets a load of Lilly. “Oooooooh!” Babble, babble… then clear as a bell, “I want to ADMIRE her!” We want to admire Irene and her long Irish nose and sparse grin.

We come back down the hallway, and I look toward the corner. The chair and tray are folded and turned backwards against the wall. Lilly doesn’t really notice. But I feel it in my marrow.

She tows me toward the elevator. The second floor crowd will be comparatively rowdy. There is more life to kiss.