It's hard to imagine two lives more different that my True Ann-Sister's and mine. I'm spending a couple of days in New York, helping look after Jacques while she consolidates their lives and runs the errands that can't be managed while caring for someone else with limited mobility.
It's an urban life: a life of small dimensions but access to limitless possibilities. It's a life in which staying up on current affairs is as important as, and critical to, everyday function as brushing one's teeth. The ambient noise of cab horns and idling trucks, of Wolf Blitzer and neighbors' stereos, are far more textured than the sounds of teenage girls clacking on their computers while yacking on their cell phones, which is the background noise to which I'm accustomed. (That background noise will move to the foreground at home today: last night, their (boys) high-school basketball team won the state championship.)
It's almost 1PM, and all I've done is eat a bagel and watched Meet the Press and MacLaughlin Group. Oh, and I've done 30 pushups, a symbolic participation in the fierce workout that Amba, 13 years my senior, does every day, and which would cause me to nap for the rest of the day.
This was more or less how I lived from 1981, when I graduated from college, til 1989, when I said goodbye to my soon-to-be-ex-wife at the Springfield, Massachusetts Amtrak station and headed back to Chicago. As an itinerant actor and trained nocturnal, my days started slowly.
Four years later (almost to the day -- separated 7/12/89, remarried 7/5/93), I was married with two young stepdaughters, living on the southeastern edge of Denver, in a very suburban home and neighborhood, commuting everyday to my downtown 9-to-5-ish job. I'm snapped back in time to the days when my then-wife and I would come to this apartment to eat massive quantities of Jacques' cooking and enjoy feeling taken care of.
Jacques is sleeping now, next to Lucky, a 16-year-old tomcat A & J smuggled out of Romania as a kitten. Jacques has the biorhythms of an old cat now: a few bursts of activity, a lot of rest.
Everywhere there are faded pictures of him: as a young heavyweight fighter; as a karate master of considerable distinction with his Japanese friend and mentor; hovering protectively over Annie; and, more recently, clutching Lucky the kitten in the passenger seat of a Yugo-like car in Romania. In the picture, Jacques' thumb is as big as Lucky's head.
(Of course, Jacques' fist seems about as big as my head. And I have a really big head.)
It's the first day of Spring. It's a gray, damp New York day. I am smelling and tasting my past. In honor of this past, I gave Amba a present: a shirt I bought at Nordstrom in Seattle on my (second) honeymoon in 1993. She admired it, and it has always been a happy shirt, a lucky shirt. It goes from being my past to being Amba's present.