Friday, June 29, 2012

In the End, Love

by Colleen Sutherland 

My friends advised me to find some volunteer work. It would take my mind off my troubles.

“How is volunteering going to help me find a job or a new husband? How is it going to pay for my insurance or pay the bills?”

“It probably won't, but it will give you something to think about while you are looking,” Agnes said. “Look for something close to your apartment so you won't use any money on gas. And you could use the exercise. You're getting a bit plump, dear. Volunteering is better than staying home moping, watching The View and hoping things will get better.”

Instead, I walked down to the Portland shore to watch fishermen and feed the seagulls. I wouldn't be living in that neighborhood much longer. The alimony checks wouldn't be enough to pay for even the cheapest apartment. I might have to leave Portland, Oregon forever and how I loved it.

On the way home, I passed Tendercare, a high end nursing home two blocks away from my condo. Volunteer work, I thought and right over the harbor with a great view. I walked in and asked about volunteering. The next day I was working in activities, with Marsha, the director, telling me what to do.

It wasn't much. All I had to do was push residents around in their wheelchairs and help set up chairs for programs, usually some school kids singing off key, but what can you expect? Sometimes I helped with jigsaw puzzles, read newspapers or books, or just listened to the same stories over and over.

When I was pushing patients, or residents as the staff said I should call them, I noticed a tall old man with a full head of gray hair talking to an old woman, his wife, I thought. Usually they were in the foyer on a love seat, but if the weather was nice, he took her hand and led her out to the flower garden overlooking a grassy slope leading down to the ocean. He reached into the bag he always had with him and pulled out a brush. He undid her long braid and brushed her hair in long strokes. Her face wrinkled up in a smile of pure delight.

“That's my girl,” he said. “That's my sweet girl.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

Love and the Colonoscopy

by Colleen Sutherland

 (This is the sixth of the Love stories.  There's one more to go before I let go of the subject.   CS) 

How do you know someone loves you?

When Sheila was young, love was the intensity of the sex act. Later on, it had to do with children, paying the mortgage, and having someone reliable to take her to parties. Saying “I love you” and presents were part of the deal. Friendship was part of it, too.

With Aaron, she was never sure. They didn't eat out very often. He preferred her cooking to anything in restaurants, he said. He seemed proud to be seen with her, holding her arm to make sure she didn't trip on sidewalks. She was tripping more these days, part of aging, but he never complained. He didn't bring her flowers, but then they had a garden. His idea of a present was a case of printer paper and some ink cartridges. He never said, “I love you.” She would have liked that.

Bill, her ex-husband, said he loved her. He told her so often. He told everyone he knew that he would die for her, that he adored her. He usually said it when he knew the woman he had just slept with would overhear him saying so, so that she could take the hint and he could get on with his life and his next affair.
That wasn't love, though maybe Bill thought so, in his perverted, twisted mind.

After rekindling their romance from the 1960's, Aaron and Sheila were living together in Portland, Oregon, growing old. Not married, of course. They had done that before and didn't want to do it again.

Aaron told their friends they were waiting until the gay and lesbian communities had the benefits of marriage in every state. It looked more and more like he was going to have to think of another excuse. When Sheila's son or grandchildren asked her when they were going to set the date, she told them when she got pregnant.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Last Meal

Whoever said that you can tell a lot about a man by what he wants for his last meal never met Jonsey Patoniak.

"Spaghetti and meatballs? You serious?" Webb said.

"Sure," Jonsey said, "the carbs give you lots of energy, and the tomatoes in the sauce are anti-oxidants."

"What about the meatball?"

Jonsey spit a pistachio shell through the car's open window.

"You don't need any more protein than what comes in a cut about the size of your hand. The number of meatballs you get is just about that."

"I thought you were on one of those low-carb diets."

"Whole-grain pasta and turkey meatballs."

"For your last meal."


"You're a piece of work, Jonsey."

"You should see me in the morning."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Love in the New Millenium

by Colleen Sutherland

Love came to Sheila Boren by way of Facebook.

Not that she looked at Facebook all that much. She had a few friends she cherished and didn't need to “friend” any others. People that sent her requests only wanted to brag about their hundreds of friends or needed names to fill in some online game they were playing. She was too busy teaching third grade to clutter up her life with people like that. Their requests were easy deletes.

She checked her Facebook account sporadically to look at photos of others people's grandchildren and her own, sent by their mother. She replied with Adorable, So Cute, Lovely, from a list of cliches she had tacked on her bulletin board. Sometimes they were really adorable children, often not. It was drivel. She hated drivel.

Everything changed when she got a friend request from an Aaron somebody. She checked his home page. His profile picture was of him as a teenager and he had no other photos she could go by. Still, he looked familiar. She read his home page and said, “Aha!”

Sheila dated Aaron in Chicago back in the 1960's, two boyfriends before she met Bill, her now ex-husband. Aaron disappeared from the scene just when she thought they were beginning to form a solid relationship. Back in those free and easy days, she and her female friends always said, “Men are like buses, miss one, catch another.” She moved on with barely a whisper of a thought about him.