6:20 a.m. Lou started bumping the side of the bed twenty minutes earlier. Six. Six. Six. Time to get up. I’m excited it’s finally morning. Aren’t you? Time for my breakfast.Time for you to rub my belly. Time for you to throw my football toy. Time to walk to the gate and fetch the newspaper for Buck.
When my legs swing to the floor they are met instantly by fifty pounds of solid chocolate Labrador retriever. She rubs, catlike, waiting for me to retrieve my cell phone and water thermos from the bedside table.
We slip out the bedroom door. Buck’s deep breathing never changes cadence. Good.
When I slide open a door to the backyard, Lou’s ears blow back in the stiff northerly breeze and she looks up at me, like, “Why didn’t you tell me a cold front was coming?” Then she’s out the door to say her hellos to the deer feeding just over the fence.
Me? I go grind some coffee beans and suit up for a game of football and a walk to the gate.
When I say it that way, I feel myself growing stiff, artificial, a deer caught in someone’s headlights. But whether I am ready or not, the photographer and his wife will arrive this afternoon at three.
Buck says we must do this: one last grand photo session of the two of us before we grow too old in our vanity to allow any more photos of ourselves.
He turns 80 in three weeks, still handsome as a matinee idol, strong as a stuntman, fascinating and mysterious as a thrilling stranger, comforting as a baby blanket.
I ordered the box as a Christmas gift for one of my step-granddaughters. Several of them are in their mid to late twenties and at least two are living in apartments, either alone or with a boyfriend. Some live off and on with their parents. I don’t try to keep track, but instead ask their mothers for a good mailing address and let it go at that. I don’t know what possessed me to order a red wood box to give one of them. I imagine a gift certificate from Sephora would be more in line with desires and expectations.
When the box arrived, a dusky dark red, heavy wood with a hinged top, old-appearing clasp and a satisfying plainness about it, I changed my mind and decided to keep it.
I need an empty box to fill with the nighttime dreams so full of symbols and hidden meaning. The red box caused my dead imagination to revivify with frail breaths I very nearly missed. My mystical red box of dreams. It arrived just in time.