Time Machine

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Time Machine

by John Carter

A friend of mine just sent me this old photo from a camping trip, circa 1989. It’s Bo, the Labrador retriever who shared my life at the time. Typically, she is curled up in my lap, this time in the middle of a field. Bo, the eternal puppy who nobody could resist. It may sound grandiose, but the flood of emotions and memories this image evoked reminded me of Proust and the madeleine in Remembrance of Things Past:

An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself …

Any glimpse of this memory requires an understanding of the way Bo affected people. My parents were raised on farms during the Great Depression – not an upbringing that makes you overly sentimental about animals, but Bo was the exception to every rule. My mom would cook meals for Bo – grits for breakfast, broccoli (which she loved!) for dinner. My father, who might normally have been the first person to say that anyone who cooked for a dog was crazy, seemed to think it was all fine. It was for Bo.

My father, my mother, and Bo have all been gone for many years now. When Bo died, my dad helped me bury her out on the farm. We picked a spot for her grave overlooking the pond and the pastures that she loved. It was rough, hard Georgia clay, full of tree roots and rocks – tough digging. We didn’t get any gloves, even though I know he had some. Those bloody blisters on our hands were the only way we had left to show Bo how much we loved her. We both understood that without saying it.

And we didn’t share that kind of connection as often as we’d have liked. I loved my dad, fiercely. Still do. But it was rare for us to find the right words for each other. So we dug that awful hole without words, just the thunk and slice and tearing of our shovels and mattock as we fought the earth. Until we put Bo in.

Before we started covering her, I asked him to stop, and I walked over to the cabin – less than a hundred yards, but it seemed like it took me hours to walk over and back. I had to look for a few minutes, but I found Bo’s favorite ball under the porch steps. I walked back over to her grave, got down on my knees, and put that old chewed up ball in beside her.  For a minute, I didn’t have the strength to stand, so I just hung my head, there on my knees. And I heard my father start to cry.

I stood up. One shovelful at a time, we said that last goodbye. I don’t remember saying a prayer … or even a word. When we finished, we lingered there for a minute or two, holding the bloodied handles of our shovels and watching the bats swoop after mosquitos as dusk took over the pond. I imagine both of us were picturing Bo racing down that hill and jumping into the pond. Race on, good girl.

We walked back to the barn to put the shovels away. He was wearing his old dirty blue coveralls and a hat with the name of a feed store on it – too dirty to read. When we started to walk down the hill towards the cabin, he put his arm around my shoulders.

Bo getting some love.

Bo getting some love.

John with Bo, Wink, and Puppy

Bo – with a puppy on top of her and Wink the cat chewing her back leg. Nothing bothered her.

 

Pink Floyd and the Post Office

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Pink Floyd and the Post Office

by John Carter

 

“Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying”

– Comfortably Numb by Roger Waters and David Gilmour

 

Here’s an example of how two people, both having spoken English for 50+ years, could participate in two totally different conversations at once, and the misunderstandings that can arise from this situation.

I went to the post office to send a check overnight to my granddaughter’s new daycare school in Georgia. As I was sending my check in their big, white overnight letter, I was chatting with the POD (Post Office Dude) about daycare, the weather, and overnight shipping rates …

Me (upon hearing the cost): Wow. UPS is $20 more for the same thing, so unless they deliver the letter with a $20 bill attached, this is an easy decision.

POD: (laughing) That’s a no-brainer, for sure.

Me: And if you’ve paid for daycare lately, you know that you need to save every penny. That stuff is pricey!

(This is where he continued to have a conversation about overnight mail, while I began talking about daycare.)

POD: But you know, it’s a tough job. The labor costs are high.

Me: Believe me, I’d be the first to tell you that I couldn’t do it. It takes a very special person.

POD (looking me over): Ah, you could do it. It’s a tough job, but you could do it.

Me: I appreciate the vote of confidence, but it would be too much for me. Everybody would be just like I am, wanting their own little treasure to be treated special.

POD (puzzled now): I don’t think most people are that fussy about it.

Me (now puzzled, too): Are you kidding? How could they not be?

POD: Believe me, I know some of the folks who do this work, and they aren’t that sharp. They have a lot of help. They just sort ’em by color and size, and they make sure the big white ones are taken care of first. The rest, they deal with when they can. They may lose a few, but they do a pretty good job.

Me (now puzzled and horrified): What?!

POD: They have to process so many. It’s hard to worry about every little one.

Me: You must worry about every little one! That trust – what could be a bigger responsibility? It’s the single most important thing in the world to every person who walks through the door.

POD: What in the heck are you shipping, pal?