Friday, January 25, 2013

The Finer Matters

"That doesn't matter."

How many times have we heard that phrase?

But if one thing doesn't matter, surely something else does. It either matters or it doesn't, but sometimes I get the two confused.

Stiff deadline from a client I really want to keep vs. my teenaged daughter begging me for 'talk time'? That shouldn't be something I have to weigh, yet I do. Deadlines will come (and sometimes go), but my daughter is only with me for a limited time, and vice versa. She matters in a very big way.

The negative stuff in my life is always going to be there. If I focus on it, it will grow to unruly proportions. It's not hard to find, if the esposo allows the clock radio alarm to go on for too long, I'm bound to hear some static-y, urgent and terrible tale first thing in the morning well before my mind and/or spirit is anywhere near ready to absorb it. Not that I would ever actually be ready for that sort of thing.

When I turn on my computer, BLAM. Some image waiting to assault my senses. So and so's marriage is breaking up. The latest political scam. We'll soon be out of this or that natural resource.  Someone's cat died.

If I go anywhere during the day, I see 'Going Out of Business' signs, and they depress me. I see people standing on the corner, in need of help and not too proud to ask. I see angry drivers gesturing and talking to no one, mute to onlookers but still moving their lips in obvious annoyance with the inferred ignorance of every other driver but them.

All of that is easy to see, it's everywhere.

What's not so easy to see are the things that matter, the gold.

My son had a day off.  I'm sure he would have loved to have slept in. His sister asked him for an early morning ride to school, and he got up, scraped the windshield of his car to free it of the earlier freezing rain, and delivered his younger sibling to her education location. No griping, no trading slave labor, no questions asked. He just did that for her because she needed a ride, and because he knew I was busy working. Gold.

Two weeks from now, the Friendly Neighbors Club will congregate at a restaurant of their choosing to solidify congeniality, dine together, catch up on the latest, and help someone if they can. The Club has been meeting together since the 1920s, doing good for each other and those in the community every chance they get. Their mothers and grandmothers were members, farm wives that were looking for ways to have a social life and make a difference. They started in their pre-PTO-era schoolhouse, the one their children attended. Two rooms, multiple grades, and no school lunch system. Guess who provided the hot, hearty lunches after that? Nowadays, most of them are in their eighties or better, yet they still meet once a month. Meticulous journals have been kept of all they've done, meeting minutes, births, marriages, deaths, how the dues were spent. Being older, they're probably not going to pitch in a helping hand at the next farm auction, but they write out small checks or press cash into the Club secretary's hand and pass on the love. Gold.

My dog lies at my feet. She's gray, normally hyperactive, and a little naturally klutzy. All day long, she wants to go outdoors, then she wants to come indoors, then she wants to go back outdoors, all in, say, five minutes' time. While I'm working, that drives me a little nuts. But Gracie has her merits. She brought my daughter immense joy years ago when she was spotted in an image posted on the animal shelter's website. My daughter knew that May was the one for her, and she prayed we'd get there in time to adopt her before anyone else did. I'd just started my writing career, and was heavily involved with writing for a large rodeo organization. To take time off might have caused me to drop the ball. I wasn't going to do it...but then I did. My daughter was overjoyed.

We almost lost our pet a couple of years ago. For reasons unknown, May stopped eating. We took her to the vet, who basically told us to do our best, but to prepare for the worst. Our beautiful gray dog was dying before our very eyes. Nothing we did for her seemed to make a difference, she hadn't eaten in almost a week.

"At this point," said the vet, "Try anything. Give her whatever she might possibly eat or drink."

I tried giving her Pedialyte, to get her fluids back to where they should be. (The vet had also given her some fluids intravenously, but that hadn't perked her up.)

Finally, in desperation, I spoon fed her some of my hot chocolate. May lifted her wilting head only about a half inch, and I doubted. By now, her normally glossy blue-gray coat was shedding and dull. I touched the spoon to her mouth and left a little cocoa there. She licked. Then licked again. She rose ever so slowly and slightly, and was... interested. Then, our gray dog was more than interested. An hour later, we'd sacrificed our dinner of baked chicken from the crockpot and delightedly watched her wolf the whole thing down as she made up for lost feeding time. It all looked and felt like a miracle, a dog miracle.

And now...that dog miracle lies at my feet, just about every day, watching me as I work the keyboard for hours. She's loyal, she's (yes) slightly spastic, she's now always hungry...and she's still here. Gold. Good stuff.

Stuff that matters.

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