Turndown Service

I sleep with Hilda. Not sorry.

I sleep with Hilda.

Hilda is a lavender stuffed hippopotamus.  Go ahead,  laugh. I’m your neighborblog sixty year-old widow.  Hilda makes me feel better, so get over it, OK?

Every night when the leftovers are put away and the dishwasher is loaded and running, I haul myself and my creaking knees up the stairs, and find Hilda, looking adorable, tucked in under the covers, waiting for me, the bedside table lamp aglow.

Angelic Daughter’s turndown service.

I take it as a sign of Angelic Daughter’s deep emotional intelligence, and her ability to pick up on cues I didn’t know I was sending about needs I wasn’t conscious of having.

Ok, that’s a flat out lie. I know I have NEEDS, primarily for the calming, anxiety-curing, panic-attack abating hugs Mike gave, and for the comfort that his very presence provided.  While people on the autism spectrum might have difficulty making eye contact, demonstrating “focus,” decoding facial expressions, or understanding tones of voice, it would be a mistake to assume they lack emotional intelligence. It may not be obvious, but it’s there.

“I miss Dad.”

“I miss him too, sweetheart.”

Angelic Daughter knows Hilda is a comfort to me, both because stuffed animals are comforting in general, and because Hilda has been a comfort to her, too.  I created a voice for Hilda (a sort of “bless your heart” kind of Southern accent – not sure why) and Hilda comforts Angelic Daughter by conversing with her that way, from time to time.

I found Hilda at a local toy store, a really good independent toy store that Angelic Daughter and I liked to poke around in. Its narrow aisles had shelves of stuffed animals, baskets filled with quirky fidget toys, bouncing balls and toy soldiers, racks of costumes,  arts and craft stuff, board and card games, books and a large section of model trains.

So naturally it went out of business. But not before I found Hilda.

I seized on her immediately.

Hilda righted a childhood wrong.

When I was about three years old, I had a stuffed hippo. I loved that thing, but I don’t remember naming it, or who gave it to me. It was grey. One day I decided to add some color.

I took a set of markers and drew a rainbow of parallel, curving lines all around that Hippo. Encircled its eyes and traced its tummy, big face, back and legs with a multi-colored, multi-lane highway of marker love. I was proud of my artistry.

When I showed Cruella DeVille my mother my gorgeous design, expecting praise and delight,  she snatched that hippo away and screamed at me for “ruining” it.

I had no idea why she was so angry, and I never saw that hippo again.

So Hilda was a second chance at hippo happiness.

Never mind that actual, living hippos are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet – they can bite a crocodile in two, run at speeds 35 mph or more and have huge teeth and powerful jaws. They’re very aggressive on both land and water. They kill around 3,000 people a year.

But my stuffed Hilda hippo is a skwooshy, lavender beanbag of love.

She doesn’t complain when I squeeze her tight, or squish her giant jaw-face, or take up too much room in the bed. She’s just there for me, if I need her.

And something deep in Angelic Daughter gets that I do. Need Hilda.

Everyone has a comfort item.  I hope.

I still have my baby blanket. My uncle borrowed it for my infant cousin, and never returned it. On the brink of heading off to college, I suddenly decided I needed it back.

Unc was living in my late grandfather’s grand house, an English manor-style home with a huge living room and a huge dining room opposite, across the front hall, where Grampa’s cook (yes, his cook) would call for us that it was time to “go through,” meaning, cross the front hall and find your place at a dining table that could seat 12.

Around the time of the disappeared decorated hippo, our family dog was a  black and white malamute (like a husky, but bigger) named “Buddy.” Because he was my brother’s buddy.

My cousin, Unc’s son,  named their red and white husky “Scary.”

When I asked for my blanket back,  it was discovered at the bottom of Scary’s huge chain-link cage.

Unc gamely retreived it, filthy and full of holes. I gladly washed it and took it to college with me.  I’ve had it ever since.

So you won’t hear me laughing if your self-care includes your bwanky, or dolly, or your teddy bear. Or your stuffed hippo.

Grateful for my amazing Angelic Daughter, I remain,

Your about-to-find comfort in a cuppa and a nap (with Hilda),

Ridiculouswoman

A Hose, Two Fans and a Thunderstorm

I grew up in a brick house with no air conditioning.  We used box fans in the windows and a sprinkler in the back yard (usually surrounded by neighborhood kids in bathing suits, waiting their turn to “run through.”)

For the past twenty years I’ve lived in another house without air conditioning. It has thick plaster walls, two layers of siding (some past owner just slapped vinyl over wood, and we left it alone) and a floor plan similar to that childhood home, where my brothers and I could run or ride a tricycle in circles around the ground floor while Dad played “Sweet Georgia Brown” on the piano. We called that “the running song,” and thought it was fun to zip past Dad, through the hall and kitchen, dodge the dining room table, scream and laugh our way through the front hall and then back past Dad in the living room.  After I became a parent myself, I realized Dad played “the running song” to tire us out so we’d go to bed. He was a genius at stuff like that.

When Angelic Daughter was a toddler, I bought her a Red Flyer trike, so she could do  circles in this current house – past the living room fireplace, through the kitchen, left through the library/dining room, across the front hall and then around again.

We’ve just come through three days 94-98 degrees (F) and very high humidity. No joke and very dangerous if you live an a brick-oven building in the city without air conditioning.

But we’ve got a yard, a garden hose and two fans – one box fan:

box-3998721_640

 

and one newer one, that stands on the floor and rotates.

Upstairs, there are three smaller ones, each with two fans that can be switched from “intake” to “exhaust.”

Friday night, the “exhaust” setting just couldn’t keep up with the heat.

So I set up the cot downstairs –  the cot I bought for Mike to use, if the heat became too much during that last summer. But he couldn’t lie down flat without excruciating pain, so he tried to use another “lounger” I bought, a cheap bench sort of thing, that could sit up like a pool chaise. But he couldn’t get comfortable on that either, no matter how we adjusted the pillows. It was rock hard.

The visiting hospice nurse took one look at him on that thing and said, “this is not under control. I’ll send an ambulance and get you into the hospital.”

So Mike got two days of blessed relief in air conditioning, adjusted pain meds, and a good break from the stress of being home and needing my help all the time.

That damn rock hard lounger was one of the first things to go. But I kept the cot, in case  a brother or a guest might need to stay over one night.

Last night, that cot gave Angelic Daughter respite from the upstairs bedroom heat. I slept on the couch, where I slept while taking care of Mike, in the front room where we had set up his hospital bed when he came home after his brief stay, so he could watch TV and eat dinner with us.

Around 2 or 3 in the morning, still sweaty and not sleeping, I stepped outside on the deck and noticed that the breeze had picked up.

It’s coming, I thought – relief.

It cooled off enough for me to open the ground floor windows (and still feel secure, since I was right there) and use the fans to draw in some fresh, slightly cooler air.  The forecast said it would be 85 by 7 am, so I shut them again and closed the drapes by 6:45, when the temperature began to climb.

Smoothies for breakfast: frozen yogurt, berries and cream in the blender. Voila.

Salad bar in the air conditioned grocery for lunch.

And the garden hose after 3, in the shade from the cedars outside my desk area window. Blessed lake water still icy cold in July. Squished around in a wet bathing suit for half an hour, and then the storms hit – torrential rain, thunder and lightning – and a temperature drop of 20 degrees within an hour.

Windows back open, despite the downpour, to take in that delicious, rain-cooled air.

Memories and moments like these free me from obsessive worry; they help me remember Mike (inventor of all our strategies for keeping cool in this house through the hottest heat waves) with love and gratitude, instead of pain, grief and regret.

For now, the heat is gone, the storms have blown over, the birds are singing and the yard is green.

May you stay cool and find your calm after whatever storms blow over you.

Yours,

Ridiculouswoman

Fan image by Katie White from Pixabay

Hose image by Renee Gaudet from Pixabay)

 

A Sailboat and a Maid

Cooling off without air-conditioning on a hot day

That’s what I should have said, when the Jeopardy showrunner asked me in March of 2017 what I’d do with any winnings.

I should have just said, “buy a sailboat and hire a maid!”

But I was too long winded. I stumbled through a long recitation of how I had always lived or vacationed near large bodies of water and I was embarrassed that I had never learned to sail. I saw the guy’s eyes glaze over after about 5 seconds.

And I know I missed a question on the quiz they gave us, out of sheer nerves – made the cardinal error of changing my answer, when we all know the first answer you give is usually the right one – or the rightest one you know, anyway.

So I blew my chance to be a Jeopardy contestant.

Today it is 91 degrees and humid, not a cloud in the sky, and we don’t have air conditioning.  I have just finished washing the kitchen floor, cleaning the downstairs bathroom toilet, and doing two loads of laundry. This after my 6 am “30 minute total body workout with (8 pound) dumbbells” on YouTube (bodyfit by Amy)  in the relative cool of the basement, then shower, making breakfast for and driving Angelic Daughter to and from work and then to obtain her salad bar lunch, stepping out into the garden at high noon to harvest enough lettuce for my lunch, and streaming sweat (again) for the five minutes it took to wash each leaf thoroughly.

I am my own maid service, and even though this weekend was the Mackinac race (a sailing race from Chicago up the full length of Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island – pronounced “Mackinaw”) there’s not a sailboat in sight.  Although we benefit from the lake’s cooling breezes, it is two miles away.

On these hot, hot days, we used to just put on our bathing suits, soak ourselves in a cool shower, and walk around wet until we dried off, and then we’d do it again. Or, we’d go outside and use the garden hose to wet ourselves down with still ice-cold Lake Michigan water, and sit under a sun umbrella on the deck until we needed to soak ourselves again.

One excruciatingly hot summer, with multiple consecutive days over 100 degrees, Mike just sat on the deck in his bathing suit with a full bucket of that cold water next to him, that he’d dump over his head as necessary.

As I was toweling lettuce-and-floor washing sweat off, I noticed how it doesn’t bother me at all, to be streaming sweat like that, on a hot day. We’ve gotten used to it, and for years, when we go someplace that has air conditioning, it has been bone-chillingly cold and  has felt artificial and weird.

The house was built in 1948, best I know, and has a remarkable ability to stay relatively cool, as long as we use our “close the windows and the blinds before 8 am” strategy, and keep fans upstairs set on “exhaust.” Strategically placed trees provide shade, and thick plaster walls, insulation. The new windows do a better job of keeping the hot sun out, too.

But none of this keeps me from dreaming of learning to sail, and guiding a small boat of my own to a calm and lovely place on a beautiful lake, dropping anchor and diving in.

I skipped the Jeopardy online quiz this time – didn’t have time to practice and my failure on the first round took the wind out of my imaginary sails.

The caliber of the contestants has gotten so amazing that I’d feel totally out of my league, anyway, even if I ever got on.

But it’s a more realistic way to get a sailboat (and a maid!) than winning the lottery.

And as I write, Angelic Daughter’s new bathing suit arrived in the mail, and she promptly put it on and headed outside, to frolic in the cold spray of the hose.

That’s better than a sailboat, and worth being my own maid.

Off to allow myself to be playfully drenched, I remain,

Your two-or-three showers a day until further notice,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

Non-Toxic Love Challenge: Double Whammy Edition

Staying kind and keeping cool in the face of gross and angry behavior

How do you show love and compassion to someone who has just done something spectacularly disgusting, or said something hateful, in public?

Last night I took Angelic Daughter to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play the score of West Side Story along with the film at the major summer music festival near here – a festival where I have been attending concerts and dance performances for over 50 years.

We had aisle seats, by design, in case of need for an early exit, and had to rise three times to allow those sitting toward the center of our row to pass. Once everyone was seated, I began to peruse the program while waiting for the show to start.

It was then I noticed that the elderly lady next to me was rummaging around in her large purse for something.

The next time I glanced up, it turned out that something was…

dental floss.

She was flossing her teeth, right next to me, in public, with visible chunks of her dinner dangling from the floss, which she was using to make at least two, maybe three rounds of her mouth.

This was without question the grossest thing I have ever seen someone do at a concert performance (or anywhere in public, for that matter, and that includes the guys who routinely used to pee against the fence of our city townhome’s backyard, which bordered an alley).

I put my program up next to my head, to shield my hair and face from chunks of her dinner flying from her mouth, or dropping from their tightrope of floss. I was thinking, “what the hell is the MATTER with you? In what universe is this anywhere close to acceptable behavior? THIS IS THE GROSSEST THING I HAVE EVER BEEN FORCED TO SIT NEXT TO! Couldn’t you have done this in A CLOSED STALL IN THE LADIES’ ROOM BEFORE THE CONCERT?”

When I slightly lowered and peered around my program, she was still at it, and continued for another two or three minutes, whereupon she began rummaging around again, and produced some kind of lollipop which she popped into the now flossed-and-flung orifice.

It occurred to me that maybe she had some medical condition that made her behave this way – maybe the lollipop was medicinal? Or calming or something? She seemed not to have noticed or was unperturbed by my shielding myself.

Then the orchestra, instead of launching right into the overture, began to play the national anthem. I don’t know if that was because it was the opening night of the orchestra’s summer residency, or if it was a gesture toward unity based on the theme of the film – hope (tragically dashed, in the movie) of overcoming differences based on background.

Never one to miss an opportunity to overdo it, I launched in to singing it, along with most of the rest of the audience. But my rendition comes with the showy high note toward the end — “o’er the la-and of the free-EEEEEE!”

And as the anthem ended, dental floss lady turned and, with an utterly innocent smile, complimented me on my voice.

I said thank you, and added a little flourish with my “fit and flare” dress and the black petticoat (worn as homage to the dance number “America” in the film, which has a lot of dress-and-petticoat flourishing in it).

When she looked at me with that wide-eyed smile, I didn’t tell her how disgusting and gross flossing her teeth in public was, because I decided she genuinely didn’t know that’s how others would view it, or that she had some medical reason to do it and had to do it there, because otherwise she’d be late for the concert.

Then today, I attended a town hall hosted by my representative in Congress. There was a couple there, trembling with anger over anything having to do with what they called “illegals,” especially extending health care coverage to them. The magnitude of their anger, fear and hatred was loud and clear to everyone in the room.

After the meeting, I was walking back to my car, and there they were, Mr. and Mrs. Angry.

I asked Mrs. Angry if I could ask her a an honest, genuine question. She stopped ranting long enough for me to ask, “if you tripped over someone who was obviously dying of thirst, would you ask them about their citizenship before giving them a drink of water?”

And she said, “never.”

So somewhere in there, hiding in the cracks between fear, anger and hatred, there was an teaspoon of compassion.

She continued her rant but I was able to tell her as I walked away that I was glad to know that she didn’t lack compassion.

Instead of getting into a heated argument about what an ignoramus she was.

Biting my tongue, I remain,

Your high-note singing, dress-swishing, hoping-for-unity,

Ridiculouswoman

A Chipmunk, A Jeep and a Free Lunch

Sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch.

A chipmunk bought my daughter lunch today.

Allow me to explain.

Waiting in a long line of cars at our usual Thursday lunch drive-through fast food place (autism, routine, usual place) I noticed a really cute chipmunk zipping out from under the fence that enclosed the trash bins.  It kept zipping out, assessing the situation and zipping away again.

Suddenly it decided the moment had come, to zip across the drive-through lane to the shrubbery on the other side.

A lady got out of the jeep ahead of me, and looked under her car. I knew she was looking to make sure the chipmunk hadn’t stopped under her vehicle.

I rolled down my window, to ask her if she saw him under my car, but she immediately said she had accidentally squished a turtle once and didn’t want to squish that chipmunk.

She looked under my car for me, and gave the all clear. Then she got back into her Jeep.

It wouldn’t move.

The parking lights kept blinking. She clearly was shifting into drive, and the thing just wouldn’t go. It revved and blinked. But it wouldn’t move.

I put my car in park, reassured my daughter that I’d be right back, and tapped on the Jeep’s window to see if I could help.

The lady explained it was some kind of safety feature, “auto-park,” that came on when she got out of the car. It had happened before, but she couldn’t remember how to fix it.

She was going to call her son to find out. She felt really bad about holding everyone up and asked me to tell the people behind us what was happening, and I did.

Then I went back to my car to wait.

Nothing happened. Just another round of lights and revving.

Assuming she hadn’t been able to reach her son, I tapped on her window again, and tried to help her look for some switch to flip or button to push.

Nothing.

Then I heard that chiming.

“What if you put on your seat belt?”

She had undone it when she got out of the car, but she hadn’t buckled up again.

She fastened the seat belt, and voila! The car shifted out of park.

I confess to using my “outside voice” to holler one of those big “you’re welcomes!” to the several cars still waiting in line (how humble and gracious, of you, Annie, when the poor lady already felt so bad, and now she was probably embarrassed too, that something so simple solved the problem).

Angelic daughter was nervous, but I told her I had been given the opportunity to do a little thing to help someone. I solved the problem, and that felt good.

We made it to the ordering speaker thingee, placed the order and pulled up behind the lady in the Jeep, who was just finishing up paying for her order.

Or so I thought.

She pulled ahead and and drove off.

I pulled up and stuck my hand out the window, holding the debit card to pay for Angelic Daughter’s lunch.

The kid at the window was clearly pleased about something.

He opened his window, smiled at me, and said, “the lady in the Jeep says thank you.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I said. I honestly thought he was just conveying a verbal message. I kept holding the debit card out the window toward the kid. He didn’t take it.

“She covered it. Paid for it. All you have to do is pull forward.”

“Oh, how sweet!’ I was really surprised.

And, then of course, (Anxiety! OCD!) worried: is this one of those things where everyone is supposed to pay for the person behind them? Because, for stupid reasons I won’t go into, I couldn’t pay for anyone else’s lunch today. I felt bad about that.

But, I reasoned, I had done everyone in line a service by helping the lady in the Jeep, getting her going so the line could start moving again. It was a long line, but only two or three cars pulled out to park and walk inside the restaurant.

So I decided it was OK to just enjoy her gesture of gratitude, and in turn to extend mine to that cute little chipmunk (usually my nemeses, chipmunks  – they tunnel around in my vegetable garden and dig holes in my yard).  But today a chipmunk was the genesis of an opportunity to help.

So thanks, little dude.

Now get off my lawn.

Thankful also that the sun is emerging, and summer (technically – still cool and rainy) starts tomorrow, I remain,

Your appreciating-the-little-things-today,

Ridiculouswoman

(PS – OK, I know that Bitmoji image up there is supposed to be a gopher, but you get the idea. Feel free to share funny Caddyshack references, though).

How Not To Paint A Room: Front Room Ceiling

Soak and roll. No two coats, not this time. Oops, ….

Wisdom of experience. Prepare carefully. Aren’t you smart.

Move furniture away from walls. Pack tchokes and photos from mantlepiece into big plastic box.

Roll up large rug. Favorite thing. First thing we bought together, when we first moved in and had some money. Must not drip on that.

Place Angelic Daughter’s sculptures on or next to couch, along with The Ancestress Chair.

Cover all with huge drop cloth. Smile. So smart to invest in that.

Remove Angelic Daughter’s paintings, and all other framed stuff, from walls. Place in next room.

Next, tape floor. Wisdom of experience. Floor protected with two inches of frog tape against base of wall.

Tape perimeter of windows, anticipating painting trim. Smile. Exceptional forethought. Pat yourself on the back. You’re getting really good at this.

Place six feet of three-foot wide plastic along floor below first section of ceiling to be painted.

Do the edges first, all around, three inch roller.

Excellent forethought once again. Do all the up-on-the-stepstool stuff first, while fresh.

Place can of ceiling paint left over from last time on plastic. Open.

Rust falls into paint. How did that new can rust so fast? Eh.  Stir it around, find it, pick it out.

Place ladder on top of plastic.

Hmm. Slips a little. Resolve to go slowly and be careful.

Soak three inch roller in ceiling paint until it drips. Ha! No two coats this time!

Discover that safely ascending stepstool whilst (HA! “whilst!”) carrying small paint tray and roller is a feat of derring-do. Remind self, “don’t fall,  don’t fall.”

You don’t fall. Yay you.

Raise paint-soaked roller to position at edge of ceiling. Roll, baby, roll.

Smile. This no-two-coats-paint-soaked-roller thing is working well! Remind self to use same method with long pole attachment for remainder of ceiling in this, the largest room in the house.

Section by section, move plastic around perimeter of room. Soak, roll.

Complete perimeter of ceiling.

Step back.

Notice that two inches of frog tape is not, apparently, enough width to protect floor from  drips when raising paint-soaked roller.

Eh. Came off easily last time. Continue.

Attach long pole extension to 6 inch roller. Drag plastic to center of room, next to drop cloth. Pour paint into large tray with liner.

Wide river of paint runs down can when replaced on plastic, creating small puddle.

Don’t step in that.

Immediately step in that whilst (!) wrangling roller on long pole into tray to soak in paint.

Notice this only when returning to plastic to re-soak roller after completing first section of ceiling interior.

Footprints, tracking across expensively sanded, refinished floors.

Sigh.

Eh, came off easily last time. Resolve to get this sucker done without regard to drips. Horse has left barn. Ship has sailed.

Because, no two damn coats, not this time.

Proceed.

Whilst (!) circumnavigating room with long pole topped by paint-soaked roller, around  treasures that must not be dripped on under huge drop cloth, kick hidden base of Angelic Daughter’s largest sculpture.

Cracked.

Rats.

Resolve to repair already once-repaired masterpiece, when paint job is over.

Notice that hoisting paint-soaked roller on long stick and applying force while rolling back and forth is great exercise! Sweating! This counts as workout!

Breathing hard! Yay you!

When paint from soaked roller drips onto lips rather than into open, breathing-hard mouth, resolve to react with gratitude. Didn’t go into mouth. Also grateful for reminder that you are not a mouth breather, dammit (except when singing.)

Close mouth. Don’t sing.

Complete interior of huge ceiling.

Step back (into another paint splatter). Regard ceiling.

Hmm.

One-coat job gives new meaning to the words, “missed a spot.”

Sigh.

Re-soak roller, now stiffening with semi-dried paint.

Re-apply to missed spots.

Paint goes on lavender, dries white.

Decide that missed spots are just not-dry-yet spots.

Lunchtime! Angelic Daughter has waited patiently all morning, in the next room, when the front room is the one she likes to sit in best.

Anticipating need for further touch ups, drive to grocery salad bar in paint clothes.

See shoppers recoil.

Don’t worry, Angelic Daughter serves up her own soup and salad.

Pay. Return home. Check that all paint has been removed from lips.

Eat lunch with Angelic Daughter, who deserves much more of your time.

Look up.

Ceiling dried, missed spots remedied.

Shower time.

Brings new meaning to, “cleans up easily with soap and water.”

Scrub, rub, lather, rinse, repeat.

Exhaustion.

Smile. Ceiling and workout, done. Two birds.

Observe floor of front room.

Footprints. Splatter. Streaks.

Sigh. Came off easily last time.

But last time was an eighth this size, and “cleans up easily with soap and water.” Not water. Wood floor cleaner.

Eh. Do walls tomorrow and worry about floor later. Don’t worry today about worries you can worry about tomorrow.

Until then, I remain,

Your sore-in-places-I-never-imagined-there-were-muscles-to-get-sore,

Ridiculouswoman

 

Sophie’s Empty Sunny Spot

Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat ran out of miracles on Mother’s Day morning, and we had to say goodbye.

There’s a special kind of loneliness in letting go of a pet you shared with a spouse who has died.

Sophie’s warm fur was a lingering, physical manifestation of specific memories of Mike – how she’d sit on his left leg, crossed ankle to knee over the other, so his left knee was elevated a bit; he’d stroke her as she settled herself there in the triangular cradle his legs made, to stare over that knee and watch the hockey game with him, intensely following the movement of the puck, as if it were a mouse she wanted to devour.

There was the time he called to me to come see how, as he lay on his bed reading, she had demanded his attention by arranging herself with her butt at his chin and her tail extended straight up his face.

Months after he was diagnosed, we remembered how, months before, she’d daintily walk up from her end of the couch to his, to lay lengthwise on his torso, facing him, gazing at him with concern. It was as if she knew before we did – as if she could sense the disease that lay beneath: as if she was trying to warn us, or commiserate, or tell him that she cared, or ask him if there was anything she could do. As if she was preparing to miss him.

Saturday afternoon, I bought 36 cans of cat food (coupon) and a new green jug of cat litter. Sunday morning I carried them back to the car, sobbing and streaming snot, trying to think of where I could donate them.

The cat bed – her too-small, clam-shaped tiny Hollywood bowl of a cat bed, coated with her fur, went straight to the garbage. I couldn’t look at it for another moment.

When night came, I was overcome with a loneliness so intense it nearly made me sick. Sophie was our substitute third “person” in this house, and now, it was genuinely, really only the two of us, here with far too much hollow space around us, especially in the darkness of the night.

I asked the vet to take Sophie, and not to bring us the ashes.

If Mike had been here to make that decision with me, would it have been the same?

Since Sunday morning, every time daughter sighs and says, “I miss Dad,” (which she has been saying daily for nearly three years, and probably will say daily for decades to come), she adds, “and I miss Sophie.”

I do too, sweetheart. I do too.

Maybe it wasn’t fair to tell her we’d get a sign from Sophie, to tell us she had found her sunny spot in heaven, with Dad. More abstraction for an autistic person to try to process.

Late Sunday night, in the midst of that nearly-sick-making smackdown of loneliness, I had a sudden impulse to start watching a cable comedy that I’m a few seasons behind on.

Halfway or so into the pilot episode, the Mom gets a phone call. It is brief and when it’s done, the daughter asks who it was.

“Sophie’s Dad.”

In the scene, the Mom didn’t want to talk to Sophie’s Dad, who seemed like an awfully nice guy in the few seconds he had on screen. If we think of Mike as Sophie’s Dad, I damn sure would want to talk to him. But maybe our Sophie was just doing the best she could, to find some available, if slightly awkward, way to send a signal through.

Monday evening, sitting on the twin chaises on the deck, enjoying the late afternoon sun and the green of the lawn and the birds swooshing around the yard, I noticed a grey bird landing on one of the neighbor’s fence posts, right across from us, looking at us.

It made a loud, meow-y kind of sound.

Is that a cat bird?

“Sophie? If that’s you, come to the bird bath!”

The bird flew closer, but was headed off by the male cardinal, protecting his turf.

I Googled for a YouTube video or recording of the call of a cat bird. Cornell’s library of bird sounds.

Yep, that was it, exactly.

I googled the territory of the grey cat bird. Cornell again.

Yep, could be here, this time of year.

Oh, Soph. Thanks for calling. Thanks for telling us, as daughter says, that “you have arrived at your destination.”

Now climb up on Dad’s lap and watch some hockey. We’ll be thinking of you both.

Sending love and gratitude to pets past Lucky, Buddy, Barbita, Rocky, Phantom and now Sophie too, I remain,

Your sobby, snot-smeared, Sophie-missing but certain she’s found her forever sunny spot,

Ridiculouswoman