I was in the yard a couple of days ago when I realized that I had dropped the rake and was floating towards Genny’s porch with my nose in the air. Bringing me out of my stupor was the boy child, hanging from my ankle, his toes barely tickling the grasstips.
“Papa, where you flying?”
Genny’s that kind of neighbor. 87 years old, I think. Cupcakes were in the air, just after lunchtime on a Wednesday. I’ve written about her before. And she seems to come up whenever I think about our house. Yeah, she’s that kind of neighbor. I saw her with a bag or two at her back door yesterday and took the boy over to help her in the house. The boy loves her and wants to see her almost as much as the dog does. But the dog has something of a fatal attraction thing going, and I fear her reaction when Genny is finally gone. Lucy just might do what old couples seem often to do, and simply choose to fade away once her reason for living has left.
She tries not to let us help, and I suppose that’s normal. Natural. If you sit down after a very long march, it’s too likely that you won’t get back up. (Just a little rest. Just a little rest.) But help we do, when we can catch her. And yesterday she was back from an appointment at Group Health downtown, having done what we insist she stop doing: take a shuttle. I’m home every day now, and I can take her anywhere she wants to go. But she won’t do it. I’ll just have to catch her, I suppose.
Group Health has a gift shop, because when you build a place for people to be born in and to die in, full of medicines and chemicals and wires and gizmos, then gifts and parking validation are the next two most natural things you can offer. Genny goes to the gift shop, because when you can’t remember when you were born, but already feel like you’re looking back on your death, thinking of your neighbors’ children is the next most natural thing you can do. She brought back a nice bow for the girl child’s hair – Genny knows that a Dad needs a little help when it comes to doing his daughter’s hair before school. For a man nearly forty who grew up with two brothers and no sisters, a hurried ponytail is the least most natural thing you can do.
The airplane spinner in the picture up there is what she brought back, wrapped, for the boy. He fiddles with it, and it has the kind of coarse finishing and pointy bits that terrify the modern conscience.
“Dis wever hurts my finger.”
“I’ll wrap some tape around it. You want me to spin it for you?”
“Nope. I got it.”
He works at it, and he’s nicer to it than he is to most of his toys. Don’t know if it’s because he knows anything about it, or Genny, or what. I just know it’s true.
“Papa, I can’t get it. Can you spin dis for me pweese?”
“Of course, bud, here we go.”
It spins awfully fast, too, which makes me think it came out of the shopkeeper’s special box of old-fashioned toys from the back room. Nobody would build that buzz saw of whirling aluminum today.
“AGAIN! All my pwanes are weaders.”
I wish I still thought like him.
The girl, of course, wants her new bow just so. Fusses with it, and makes me check it.
“It’s perfect, gorgeous.”
“Thanks, Papa. Can we go show Genny now?”
“Her lights aren’t on, kiddo, so we’ll have to wait until later.”
But Genny made cupcakes. On a plate, on a doily, on an otherwise empty and polished dining room table in her beautiful house.
“Here, Dominic, I made these for you and your sister yesterday, but you were too fast for me and I couldn’t catch you.”
“Yeah, we’re pwetty fast, huh?”
“Yes, you are. You work so hard out there with your Papa that I thought you could use a treat.”
“I really like dee rake and dee shubbel.”
“Make sure your sister gets one, too.”
He made sure. We’re trying to make sure. Genny always makes sure. And she also makes cupcakes.