“You think?” I asked doubtfully, searching my purse for a nail file because I had a thing about multi-tasking. My phone vibrated in my purse. I picked it up. “How so?”
“You want one a these lemon bars? They’re delicious. I’ll sit here and eat every last one of ‘em, watch me. --I’m allergic to the sun,” she explained, rubbing ointment onto the raw spots on her hands. “And, I’m telling you again. You did too much for my birthday. You shouldn’t a done so much.”
“Nope,” I said, waving off the sweets again, “I made those for you. Eat them all today, if you’d like.”
I opened my phone: my son had posted 47 tweets since I had left him in our kitchen that morning before traveling over here. I had vowed that this year, the summer before he was a senior, he would learn to cook five easy, cheap but (relatively) nutritious meals; I was tired, yes, of his conditioned helplessness, but I also needed to know he’d be eating more than chips and salsa as a bachelor. And, the 69 episodes of Dr. Who he’d viewed already in June had made me wonder if he could find anything meaningful to do with his time, either, or would that be another realm relegated to junk? A future with too much junk food and junk media? Oh, please, let me be wrong. . .
“I’m gonna step outside for a smoke,” Barbara said, and the dogs followed, her poodle and two of her daughter’s three that she was dogsitting for a week. “Wanna come?”
“Be there in a minute, yes,” I told her as I distractedly zipped through Seamus’ tweet stockpile. Read, erase. Read, chuckle, erase. Read, grimace, erase. Read and save. Today’s tangent? #MovieTitlesMore Interesting(andLess), and #MoviesImprovedByAddingInMyPants. (Several censored) and things like, “The Breakfast Club Sandwich,” “127 Hours—with Betty White,” “Pretty in Pink but Covered in Blood,” “Sixteen Roman Candles,” and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Made with Human Meat." Since he had so much spare time on his hands to be clever (and had put so much proof as to his “productivity” in mine), I surely hoped he had made his bed and finished assembling the turkey stuffed peppers, the third recipe we had made together.
I went outside to see what I could treat Barbara to for lunch, and she let the dogs back inside, but, a minute later, when I went in myself to get car keys to run up for salads, I heard a clump at the kitchen table: one of the visiting dogs had been ON the table and had helped herself to at least one lemon bar; the plate was sideways on a chair. “Damned dog,” I muttered. Where’s Barbara’s vacation?
. . .“You done with your salad already?” Barbara had asked, although I had not said a word after finding the lettuce under the fresh chicken brown, wilted and even slimy in spots. I was going to return it and complain to the restaurant on my way home. (I had a standing walking appointment with my friend, Kathy, and the bewitching hour was fast approaching.)
“Uh,” I hesitated, trying to decide whether to be truthful, “the lettuce was bad.” I leaned over and examined her salad. Nope, her greens were not flat and limp like mine had been but sitting up high and fresh, crisp in her bowl. What a relief.
“How is mine?” she’d asked then, worriedly holding it up to me like a child questioning her oatmeal.
“Yours looks great,” I said. “But, how does it taste? Wouldn’t you know if it was bad by tasting it?”
She shook her head sadly. “I ate moldy butter last week, and I was eating a cherry pie and had to ask Margaret, who had come down for a visit, if it was okay and she told me it had mold on it.” Her eyesight was getting depressingly worse, incredibly rapidly. I couldn’t bring myself to make light of it anymore, and there was no avoiding that beacon of truth: it scorched every aspect of her daily life.
I noted the time and stood to leave, straightening my walking shorts. As I gave her a hug and a kiss goodbye, the words to Robert Herrick's poem, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," came to mind: "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,/ Old Time is still a-flying:/ And this same flower that smiles to-day/ To-morrow will be dying. . ."
"Are you going already?” Barbara asked. “Boy, the time sure does fly by when we’re together, doesn’t it?”