Overheard moments

Yesterday walking down Glenferrie Road I passed by an older woman speaking on a mobile phone as she browsed an outdoor display of a shop. “I’m looking for serviette’s for Kate’s birthday dinner,” she said just as I went by her.

I walked on down the street out of earshot, but feeling very abruptly sentimental. At a glance she seemed a woman very much like my mum: well dressed, well spoken, a warm, engaging, even comforting presence. I could imagine my mum saying something very similar. I can recall umpteen times getting a call from mum when she’s out and about “I’ve seen a shirt for you,” she’d say, or else might ask if ask if she should pick-up some decorator item that would fit just right into my decor.

Like this unknown grandmother yesterday mum would often seek to help out, picking up things for family celebrations, or calling up with recipe ideas and so on. Mum was such an enthusiast. That was joy to her, being involved, helping out, adding to the moment. Like mother’s everywhere she took pleasure from our pleasure.

All that came back to me yesterday and I felt that wistful sense of loss. Now as I write this I feel a tad emotional remembering that. You lose someone like a mother, especially a mother as close and as involved as mine was, and a part of you becomes unshipped. That’s something gone forever. I miss her, and more now than ever given my circumstances and knowing that if she was here she would be the one person doing everything she could for me. That tether has been severed though, gone forever.

This morning driving into the shop I spotted something else that had an unusual effect on me. Today it’s rainy, one of the few days in recent months. The road is wet, rain drips from the leaves. In a backstreet of Balwyn I drove by an old man walking his dog, and felt a strange melancholy.

He was a robust old man. Not one of the frail, shrunken types. He was tallish, he retained a strong build, and had a grey beard. There was no doubting he was old though. His dog was an old red cattle dog. They walked the two of them down the road as they have doubtless many times before over many years. In that glimpse was a symbiotic relationship between man and dog, friends and companions on the journey of life.

That’s something that resonates with me as a dog owner. It sounds sad, but Rigby is just about the most cherished part of my life. In fact when I look ahead to the day when I’m free of everything holding me back one of the things I look forward to most is Rigby and I sharing a home again – our home, our space, our routine (where he’s free to nap on the couch).

I don’t nearly write of Rigby as much as I could, but if I did it would be to explain how in all the world he is all for me. I adore him, he’s a great dog, but I’m his world. He likes to share that world, and loves the company of others, the more the merrier, but I’m his heart. I’m what makes him leap for joy. I’m the one he seeks to snuggle up to when I go to bed. And he’s the one thing I share my affection with. The world seems hard and cruel sometimes, but he’ll wag his tail at the sight of me and give me a lick.

So then, watching the man walk his dog down the street I felt a kinship. I imagined how they had shared this journey (dogs are always wanting to be part of it). They had their routines together I imagined, and imagined, perhaps unfairly, that in these twilight years (to use a cliché) that those routines are more deeply embedded, and become more important.

Perhaps I saw something of myself in the sight, 25 years hence. I knew it all the way through, but what I recoiled from was the resignation, the sense of inevitability of it. I’m being unfair, but it’s hard not to see life winding down…

I’m not sure if I want that, even with a dog who loves me to death. I want to keep doing, and when I stop, to stop quickly.


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