Gero-Punk Tribute: Haikus for a friend

curious happy

In Tribute to Happenstance (Happy) Sasser-Coen

2005-2020

By Jenny Sasser & Simeon Dreyfuss

I.

On a rainy day;

fire-warmed, our slowed dog’s legs twitch.

In dreams we run.

II.

Our friend, Mister Dog,

knocked all his food and water

on the kitchen floor.

III.

I wonder as we walk—

the old dog and me—

what speed is slower than slow?

IV.

Part way down the block

he leans against the fence—the

ground always spinning.

V.

Slow walk under trees,

morning air so soft –

summer treat for an old dog.

VI.

barking at his bed

contagious doggie nightmare

no one sleeps

VII.

Head down, white muzzled,

he leans against a fence—the

ground always spinning.

VIII.

What speed is slower

than slow? I ask. Our old dog

in sniffing heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gero-Punk Adventures: Aging in Place (part four)

happy neighborhood

We had traveled half a block down our neighborhood street, walking so slowly through the morning chill that we risked toppling over. At the time, Happenstance (“Happy,” for short) was 15 and his dog’s life would soon come to an end. I, his loyal companion, had recently celebrated my 53rd birthday.

Happy had just come to a wobbly stop and was deeply involved in sniffing the grass in front of Tamar’s house right as she happened to be heading down the block toward us, a grocery bag in each hand. I waved to her and wondered to myself where she was returning home from at such an early hour and what she was carrying in the grocery bags.  She was likely walking home from the bus stop up on 17th avenue.  Tamar usually rides the bus – always has as she never learned to drive – although most Sundays a family member or friend gives her a ride to church and out for a special meal.

Tamar waved back at me, smiling shyly.  Happy and I waited in front of her house for her to arrive so we could chit-chat and catch up. After exchanging pleasantries, Tamar asked me if it had been me who had left the big bag of persimmons on her front stoop a few weeks back and thanked me for my thoughtfulness if indeed it had been.  She mentioned, as she had many times before, how much her late husband Sanjay loved persimmons and what a treat they are to receive and how many happy memories they hold.

Our conversation then turned to my daughter Isobel, who had just returned to Paris, France after having been home for the winter holidays. Tamar mentioned having caught a couple of glimpses of Izzy and how proud she was of her and the young woman she has become. And wouldn’t Connie – who used to live in a house right across the street from Tamar — be so proud of Izzy, too? Connie and Tamar are still best friends though Connie died three years ago after having been long-ago widowed. Connie didn’t believe in Halloween but every October 31st during Izzy’s childhood she would show up on our front stoop before dusk, a bag of candy in hand to offer to Izzy, a reverse Trick-or-Treat.

Halloween happens to be one of my favorite holidays, so having an empty nest for the past several years has meant that unless at least a couple of neighborhood kids deign to cast a shadow on my stoop, I’m plunged into a dark place made all the worse by the surfeit of unclaimed mini candy bars with which I’m left. Halloween 2018 was particularly bleak, so much so that I told my tale of woe to the two little girls who live in the house in between my house and Tamar’s house.  The big sister of the pair who – you might be interested to know — gives spontaneous backyard solo performances of improvised songs about the hassles of having a little sister and parents who thwart her most amazing plans, made a promise on the spot to not leave me alone on future Halloweens.  She and little sister and a small gang of their pals made good and showed up on the most recent Halloween, demanding treats (and big sister proudly announcing that she had fulfilled her promise to me!).

Fred – Connie and Tamar’s other best friend, and one of my best friends, too – never got to meet the two little neighbor girls as he died well over a decade ago, before they were born. But wonderful Fred, who lived in the same house for 80 years, next to Connie and across from me, knew their parents and he has been made real to the little girls through the stories their parents tell about him, the angel of our neighborhood.

Fred is gone and so is his resplendent, unruly garden, the paradise where I spent many summers working at his side, in its place a new, huge house and a new tenant I have yet to meet.  Connie is gone and so is her sprawling, singular brick house, replaced by another new, huge house occupied by a family I’ve met but once and whom I rarely see.  But Tamar and I and the little girls and their parents still dwell in our mature, unassuming homes, and we still remember Connie and Fred (and John, who lived two blocks over, on the way to the park), and love them still, not only in memory but actively in the present, because of who they were in our lives, and the rich connections we mutually cultivated.

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Notes:

  1. This essay is part four of an ongoing series of essays exploring the lived experience of aging in particular times, places, and spaces. You can read more here  and here and here!
  2. The image at the beginning of the essay is a photo of a little surprise I found when I was walking in my neighborhood park.
  3. If you are wondering who Fred is, you can learn more about him here.
  4. What’s on your mind these days? Be in touch!
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Gero-Punk Surpise: The Fig Thief (A Legacy Tale)

Joyous and sweaty, I’m walking back from the park after a run.  Still half a block from home, I imagine I see a figure underneath the branches of our front-yard fig tree. As I draw closer, I realize that, in fact, there is someone under the fig tree!  And it is a human, not a gleaning squirrel or pack of shape-shifting starlings come to steal the last batch of ripe figs.

jennys figs

Though a bit nervous about who might be awaiting me, I make my voice smile as I call out, Hello, good morning! Out from under the tangled branches drooping with fruit scurries a small old woman, bowing slightly. Now I smile with my face, asking, Would you like some figs?

She’s carrying a canvas shopping bag. She’s dressed as my Gramma Jewell dressed – jeans, tennis shoes, a simple windbreaker. She glances around and then points to a particular low branch laden with perfect fruit – not too ripe, no visible wounds inflicted by birds or bees, not glowing under-ripe green.  I start picking her figs and chattering away, Good idea! Picking figs before the weather changes is on my list today. Thanks for getting me started on my task!

As I offer her the first handful of figs, she says, Sorry. I say, Oh, it is okay! I am happy to share my figs with you, I have more than I can possibly keep up with. She says, again, Sorry, and then, Little speak English. I almost laugh as I realize that her apology wasn’t for stealing figs but for not understanding what I was nattering on about!

So, I reach out my hand, bow to my elder, and say, I am Jenny. She takes my hand and responds, Husband love fig. Then I pick her another big handful of figs from a higher branch I can barely reach. As I offer her the figs, she holds her canvas bag open to show me the crabapples she’s gathered. I ask, Oh! Who has crabapples in their yard?

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I want to tell her about Fred, my best neighborhood friend who died almost 10 years ago – I miss him mightily! — and how the big tree in our front yard from which I just picked her figs originated from Fred’s fig tree which used to live across the street where the big blue house (in the row of three big blue houses) now stands. Fred’s fig tree had been around almost as long as he had – well into its ninth decade. Fred gave me open and unlimited access to his fig tree, leaving the tall rickety ladder inside the tree so I could scramble up to pick fruit in the tallest of branches.

Fred also offered me a clipping from his fig tree which he had rooted in a plastic container of dirt. After we planted it in our front yard, Isobel and I wondered if it was going to make it as it really didn’t grow (and one time, I accidentally ran over it with the lawn mower! I was horrified.).  But, as if by magic, a couple of years after Fred died, after his garden was destroyed to make way for the big blue house, our little fig tree began to grow….and grow…and grow. Now, it is almost as tall as the house and occupies the entire front yard (a fact I absolutely adore and about which I make no secret).  This past spring, Simeon hired an arborist, and I braced myself, assuming he’d advise that we cut our fig tree down to a more suitable size. Much to our surprise, he recommended we leave fig alone (for now).

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When she’s gotten her fill of figs, she says, Thanks you. Happy day. I respond, Come back again. Knock on the door. We can pick figs.  She doesn’t seem to understand me, so I say it again but with gestures, pointing at the front door and knocking the air. She shakes her head in understanding, and says, Tomorrow I come. Happy.

 

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