Thursday, September 5, 2013

Old Dogs and Good Friends

Fifteen years ago, a few months before we moved to Bristol, my husband and I spent a weekend there looking for a house.  Our chatty, not to say garrulous, realtor kept driving us past a particular patch of farmland with an 1800s brick house on the corner.  The brick house, she told us, belonged to the most charming doctor and his lovely wife, and they had a beautiful little boy just our son's age, and the realtor was sure we needed to get to know them because we would just love them.  Part of the farmland was theirs, but part, though it had originally all been one parcel, belonged now to other people, whom our realtor was convinced would someday want to sell it.  She said it would be a perfect place for us.

We wanted a farm eventually but didn't have the money for it yet, so we were looking for a cheap house with a nice backyard.  I was a little irritated by the realtor's "charming doctor" prattle: my husband was also a doctor, just starting his practice, but I didn't think we needed to live only near other doctors.  "Doctor's Wife" has never been my main profession and it seemed odd.  Also, it was frankly useless to consider buying land that might some day be for sale.

However, it did come up for sale, and we did buy it, and eventually build a house on it, and we've lived there now ten years.

In the first year I was in Bristol, in the small house, wrestling with a baby daughter, a toddler son, and a writing career, the woman who lived in the brick house called and invited us for a playdate.  She, too, now had a second child, a son my daughter's age.  I would have loved to have gone, but I had some kind of conflict, so I had to decline.  She called again asking about another day.  I really did very little at the time other than care for my babies and write like crazy whenever they were both napping, but again I had a conflict, and had to decline.

She called a third time.  I looked at my calendar and said, "Oh my gosh, I swear I am not making this up, I am never actually this busy, but--"

And she said, "You suck."

And then we both laughed like fools.

Since then we've sat side-by-side at endless Little League all-star games.  We've carpooled to book club, art club, Winterguard, and kindergarten field trips.  We've been the top person on each other's "Call In Case of Emergency" list, and we've answered those calls.  When my son got hurt on the playground and the school couldn't reach me, she took him to be checked out.  When she needed to drive home to her parents in Pittsburgh, now, I tucked her boys into my guest room bed.

We watched our oldest two go from preschool to high school graduation.  Now they're both off in the wide world, and our hearts are aching.  We miss them.  Also, we both have old dogs that are dying.  It doesn't seem exactly possible, since each of us clearly recall the other's dog as a puppy, but there you are--their hearts are giving out; they lay around with grey muzzles, and sometimes they cough, and we are sad about it.

So yesterday we sat out on her wide 1860's front porch with another longtime friend.  We drank cold white wine and ate chips, her homemade salsa, and a small chocolate cheesecake I bought at the bakery in town.  Her old dog lay beside our chairs, looking pretty good, all things considered, and our younger children, those infants we dragged to every baseball game and field trip, who have been best friends since before they could talk, came and ate up the leftover chips.  They're tall, lanky teenagers now.  It was a perfect late-summer evening, as good as we could make it, anyhow.