Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chapter Thirty-Four

“Peter. That’s a nice name. How did we pick that name, Harold?”

“It was my father’s name. You wanted to name him “Harold William” after me, but I won that argument. It’s one of two that I have won since we’ve known each other.”

“What was the other one?” Fanny liked this man. She was understanding why she’d married him. Maybe when this nightmare was over it was going to be fun to fall in love with him all over again.

Pete answered her. “I know this story. I’ve heard Pop tell it often enough. After you guys got married you were living in a one bedroom apartment in Glover Park. You were itching to buy a place, Mom, but the only thing you two could afford were these townhouses down in Dale City. Pop put his foot down and told you that he wasn’t going to spend his life sitting in traffic on I-95 and that if you wanted to live in Dale City you were going to live by yourself.”

“That was our only real argument, Fanny. Aren’t you glad I won?”

Fanny looked at him blankly.

Harold realized she didn’t know the rest of the story. “A few months later we found the perfect house in a wonderful neighborhood just inside the Beltway. Lots of trees. Great neighbors. And a twenty-five minute commute.”

“Is that it?” Fanny pointed at the picture of herself on the bedside table”

“No. That was taken at our second house down on Mill Creek near Solomon’s Island. We go there almost every weekend. You love it there.”

She reached for the picture. “Tell me about it, Harold. Tell me about us.”

Harold didn’t know where to start. “We still live in that little house inside the Beltway. It got a little cramped after Pete was born and we put on an upstairs addition. Let’s see. We’ve been married for twenty-three years…together for twenty-five.” He winked at her. “We met in an AA meeting in Georgetown. You still go to lots of meetings and you sponsor a couple of women. I go to one a week and that’s mainly an excuse to get together afterwards and hangout with the guys at Tony’s and talk about sports.”

“It has the absolute worst food in Falls Church, Mom.”

Fanny hadn’t heard the last few words. What Harold said about AA had stirred something in her brain, but it had evaporated. “I want my memory back. I want my life back. You can’t know how exasperating it is to lie here and hear someone tell me about my life like they were telling me about a movie.”

The doctor spoke for the first time since he’d entered the room. “You’ve had a traumatic experience, Fanny. We don’t know exactly what yet. But this memory loss is your brain’s way of protecting you. Your memory will return and when it does, all the wonderful things Harold is telling you about will be there for you to return to. For the time being, just relax and get to know your family. I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you.” He gestured to Harold who followed the doctor to the door. “Remember what we talked about. Keep the topics light. No heavy stuffy. Family stories. Just allow her to feel safe.”

“I understand, doctor. Thanks.”

Now Fanny was pointing to the picture of Arlo. “Tell me about this little guy.”

“Like I said, that’s Arlo. Only he isn’t so little any more. That was taken the day of his first – and only – dog show. You were determined to show him. We’d never been to a dog show and I’m not sure how we thought it would be. We’d had watched the Westminster Dog Show on television. We’d had watched Best in Show -twice. I suppose we had visions of perfectly round show rings, organized events, photographers, lights and microphones...mainly you had visions of Arlo the puppy magically transforming himself from normal puppy to puppy prodigy and walking away with a Best in Show. That certainly would have made Marge happy.”

“Who is Marge?”

“She was Arlo’s breeder. A wonderful woman. All of here dogs are champions.”

“All but one, Pop. Get back to the story.”

“We got up early on the morning of the Antietam Dog Show. You were so excited. I have to admit I was feeling a little anticipation myself. I walked Arlo while you got everything ready. I put on two pair of socks and three pair of sweat pants before taking Arlo out for walk. It was 3 degrees. Arlo is built for that kind of weather. My lips froze. When we got back from our walk you had filled your backpack with all the things you thought you would need at the dog show and you had dressed like the handlers you had seen on television....dark colors to show off the white dog, sensible shoes, hair tied back so it
didn't fly around and distract the judges from the dog. We loaded the jeep with dog, crate and backpack and headed to Point of Rocks. You hadn’t read the directions carefully so we went the long way.”

“When we arrived at the - at the what? I really don't know how to describe it: The big, cold, barn like place with show rings fashioned out of - I really don't know why those things were. And there were porta potties outside...and it was freezing. The coffee wasn't ready. There were dogs everywhere. I think you expected the dogs to be in stowed neatly in crates or in grooming areas. All of the owner/handlers looked the same. They had big
hair – like your Aunt Gladys - they wore spandex pants and pullovers with pictures of Samoyeds embroidered on them. They were all named Carol or Judy.”

“You’re getting a little carried away, aren’t you, Pop?”

“I’m just trying to give your Mom a feel for how it was.”

“And you’re doing a fantastic job, Harold. Go on.”

All of their dogs had been there before and, like their owner/handlers, knew exactly what to do. With the help of two volunteers you managed to get Arlo registered for the show. They gave you an armband with a number 12 on it. They told you to put it on your left arm and take Arlo to the judging area so he could get used to it"

“At 9:30 the beginners handling class began. For the next two hours you and Arlo were put through your paces. You walked, trotted, and stacked your little hearts out. Once you tried to leave the ring and Marge screamed at me ‘Get back in there. You can't leave until you are dismissed. Arlo will think he can leave the ring whenever he wants to.
Get back in there.’ You obeyed. Marge is quite a commanding presence. That day she was wearing a sweater decorated with sled being pulled by six dogs and white, fluffy earmuffs that looked like they had been made from a badly behaved Samoyed.”

“Pop, you really are going overboard. Mom is the writer in the family, not you.”

“I’m a writer?”

“Yeah, but let me finish my story.”

“When the training session was finally over, Judy the trainer pronounced you and Arlo ‘most improved’. Marge had thirty minutes to puff and fluff Arlo before the judging began. She lifted him onto her grooming table and began combing and brushing - talking a mile a minute. You tried to take it all in but I could tell that you were exhausted from the training session and nervous about the judging. Arlo was taking it all much better than you were. Then there was the announcement: ‘Number 12 to the ring. Number 12 to the ring.’ You yelled ‘Oh my God. We're number 12, Arlo.’"

Marge lifted Arlo from the table and you awkwardly made your way to the ring, fumbling to secure your armband with a rubber band while guiding Arlo through an obstacle course of dogs and bitches. You were whispering words of encouragement to Arlo: ‘Here we go, Arlo. Just do whatever that dog in front of you does.’"

“Did we win?”

“Sorry, honey. You didn’t win. But Arlo got a second place ribbon. Of course there were only two dogs in the 6 to 9 month category.”

Pete laughed. “Very good Pop. I noticed this morning that Arlo’s ribbon was still on the refrigerator.”



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