Friday, August 01, 2003

Home Alone

Several days ago, my wife took me to the optometrist's to get glasses. I didn't want glasses. I like my Walgreen's prescription reading glasses. That's all I need them for anyway. But she had this leftover money on her medical plan, the reimburseable type, about $500 worth. She had to use it or lose it. I asked her why they didn't just give her the cash. The world doesn't work that way, she said. Don't I know it. So now I have a real expensive pair of glasses that I don't like, "no-line" bifocals with UV ray protection. Look down, I read; look up, I see far away. But I could already see far away. I don't like having to look down to read. Move my eyes slightly and everything blurs. I'll never wear them.

The opti-doc dilated our eyes (I mean pupils), so that when we left the office and emerged into the bright sunlight, we were wearing those weird wrap-around dark plastic things. We looked like the Blues Brother and Sister, or maybe like aliens in human form in a sci-fi movie, wearing the shades so people couldn't see what our eyes really look like, and if they did it would fry their brains.

While we were in the office, I noticed that sex sells. I'm not sure sex actually sells anything but it gets people to look. If you drape a naked woman across a motorcycle, I lose interest in the cycle. There were lots of posters in the office of women and men in glasses. Most of the women had their arms languidly raised for no obvious reason (one was lifting her hair, as women will do). They wore summer dresses with fair cleavage. One girl's blouse was unbuttoned from sternum to belly button. She wore glasses, of course, but my concern was only with what was keeping that last button in place. Jane Seymour was there sporting her Marchon frames. She looked good. Too good. I think the picture was touched up. Alas, she was dressed modestly, no come-hither in her gaze. The boys - I mean young men - were, like the women, model pretty. And full-lipped and soft looking too, like they'd never driven a nail or wielded an axe. I guess a lot of women these days like that look. The soft, hairless look. They don't look like the kind of guys who sign up to fight the war on terror. Do the advertising images create a need, or answer one? I'd expect to see these fellows on Boy Meets Boy. At least they had their shirts buttoned up.

During the ride home with the wrap-arounds, a commercial came on the talk-radio station advertising a viagra-like pill. Testostereze or zone or something like that. One highly solicited testimonial was from a fellow who claimed to be 40 or 45, but who could keep up with the 25 and 30 year olds at work no problem, even outlast them. I wondered how he knew. The listener could call 1-800-SEX-IS-LIFE to order the stuff and have it discreetly mailed to one's home. I've run into an infomercial on late night TV promoting a product almost but not quite guaranteed to increase the size of the male...thingy. There is a male and a female host and hostess, the male conducting himself with the confidence of one who has already tried the product. Then there is another female seated with them, a guest, a woman of some experience whose purpose is to testify that size really does matter. And there is an enthusiastically attentive audience -guys who need the info and the women in their lives who made them realize the need. The female guest's central position as testimonial slut seems to her a source of pride, and to the audience of envy, as they lean forward to absorb the wisdom born of experience. None of the central characters wore glasses.

The next morning I had to drive my wife to the airport to pick up a rental van so she could drive over a thousand miles all by herself to New York City to pick up our youngest, who was completing a Joffrey ballet workshop, then on to Philly to watch the older compete in the U.S. Women's Amateur. I got her to the airport by five A.M. We transferred the luggage from the car to the van, then jumped in and took off, wanting to beat any trace of the morning traffic. She was heading north, so she'd be able to follow me back to the interstate and then all the way to my exit. But just outside the airport we got stopped at a red light on 436. I jumped out of the car and ran back to the van. She rolled down the window. "What is it?" she asked.
"We didn't say good-bye." So I kissed her, wished her a safe trip, and ran back to the car. She thought it was funny.

Down the East-West Expressway, back on to I-4, and when we got to my exit I rolled down the window, stuck my arm out and raised it high to wave. So long. But she followed. Yes, down the exit ramp. At the bottom we waited for a few minutes for the red light. Then I turned left toward home. She followed, sticking her arm out the window to indicate I should turn off on a side street. I did, came to a stop, got out of the car again, and walked back to the van. She rolled down the window.

"What's up?"

"We didn't get to say good-bye."

"What was that we did back on 436?"

"But we didn't do it properly." Her lip started trembling and tears welled up in her eyes. What is it with women?

So I had to kiss her again. "You all right with this?"

"I'll be fine once I'm on the highway."

"You were on the highway."

"I know. It's just...everything seems so..." Jesus. But I think I knew what she meant. (If you're ever quite sure what a woman means. It keeps life interesting, I guess.) The comings and goings, everyone scattered here and there, numberless good-byes. When would everyone be together again?

"You feeling bad about this trip?" The youngest daughter, the one in New York, once had a dream that her mother was in a car accident. The next day it happened. Nothing serious, but ever since I keep one ear tuned to female...presentiments.

"No, no, I'll be fine once..."

"Once you're on the highway."

She nodded. I told her to keep her eye on the prize. She'd be seeing her kid soon. Both of them. That cheered her up.

So I got back in the car. I turned right and she turned left, back to the interstate and off into that deep purplish blue horizon of the pre-dawn. It seemed endless, as if it led nowhere. But it didn't. It would take her where she needed to go. Safely.

When I got home I needed sleep, but instead made a batch of blueberry muffins. The blueberries are in season now. You have to keep your mouth shut when you bite into them or the juice squirts out and stains whatever it hits. I have a good recipe - takes 5 minutes to prepare, 15 to bake. I don't use much sugar, preferring to dribble a little maple syrup over them. I made a dozen and ate three hot out of the oven.

My wife didn't have time to pick up her new glasses before leaving town. They're waiting for her on the couch. I hope they help her see the world more clearly than mine do.

So I'm home alone for at least a week, maybe more depending on how the oldest daughter does in the Amateur. It used to be that, whenever we parted, she, the wife, used to extract a verbal promise from me to "be good." "Don't you trust me?" I'd always ask. "It's not that I don't trust you. I don't trust what's out there." Which was another way of saying she didn't trust me. She remembered what I was like before we married.

She doesn't extract those promises anymore. I hope I'm not being taken for granted. I kind of liked it when she didn't trust me. I wondered if the "be good" had been replaced by that second good-bye on the side street. Maybe she figures that if I can't see what's important by now, I never will. At some point, a man has to be able to see for himself. All I know is that the kind of vision that really interests women doesn't have much to do with spectacles.

Reader comments to Home Alone:

Looks like I'm not the only lucky one around here. :-)
Posted by Jeff Culbreath email at August 2, 2003 01:36 AM

You are both lucky! What a wonderful team you make! My eyes are full of tears now, too! :-)
Terrific post. A great thing to see first thing in the morning!
Praying for B. to kick butt, BTW!
Posted by KTC email at August 2, 2003 07:24 AM

Wonderful post and truly a pleasure to read . . . I'm happy you're blog relocation worries are over and you're back in action! =)
Posted by Christopher email at August 2, 2003 10:20 AM

be good :)
and post the recipe!
Posted by PeonyMoss email at August 2, 2003 12:32 PM

My thanks to you guys, and to Peony for the reminder. I'll do fine as long as she stays out of Orlando. KTC, you're a gem. I think that was Mr. Culbreath's word for you.Peony - someone of your culinary experience is likely to be disappointed by the recipe, but my own tastes are pretty simple. Simply follow the directions for blueberry muffins on the Bisquick box. But I add a little wheat germ (which actually contributes to the flavor) and a little more Bisquick than is called for. I want the batter so thick that it must be spooned into the muffin tins, not poured. And I load the batter with as many blueberries as it can possibly hold.I have another recipe for a sort of cherry kuchen (umlaut over the u) that I dreamed up and I think would interest you. It takes much longer to prepare, but the eating of it makes every minute worth it. For another time. Now I have to go fix the brakes on my car.
Posted by William Luse email at August 2, 2003 03:51 PM

I especially loved the last line. I am personally getting tired of all the viagra, "size matters", and "watch me on my webcam" spam. Sigh.I am coming to realize that there will be more times coming as our last child matures, where one of us will be 'home alone'. I guess it truly does matter not to be taken for granted. Nice post. Be careful fixing the brakes - you really should have some one else around if you have the car up on blocks!
Posted by alicia the midwife email at August 2, 2003 03:56 PM

Thanks for stopping by, Alicia. And I promise to be careful. I have a friend with a hydraulic jack. He'll do the bleeding while I pump the brakes.
Posted by William Luse email at August 2, 2003 04:30 PM

Mr. Luse, are you syndicated? THIS is the kind of column I would love to read in a newspaper on a regular basis. So much more substance than one typically reads, and far more elegantly written.
Posted by Eric C. Bales email at August 3, 2003 04:19 PM

Nice new site. Loads fast. :) And, of course, terrific writing, as always.
Cheers, John.
Posted by John Adams email at August 3, 2003 04:47 PM

Quite a compliment, Mr. Bales, and I thank you. And you too, John, page I encourage everyone to visit. He's a young (how old - 18 at the max?)Christian missionary in Haiti, and a precocious writer.
Posted by William Luse email at August 4, 2003 01:12 AM

Tears welling up...
Posted by Pansy Moss email at August 4, 2003 01:02 PM

I can imagine, dear Pansy.
Posted by William Luse email at August 4, 2003 03:22 PM

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