Reading Frankenstein

When I eat sourdough toast with melted gruyere cheese, Daisy can’t help but look. But since she’s a good girl and doesn’t want me to growl at her, she averts her eyes every time I look her way. Sometimes, she’ll hold my gaze for the briefest moment to check, is this the time to come forward? Might she give me a crust of bread now? She’s expert at assessing when this moment might come, but she errs on the side of caution and waits. She is a good girl, and I love her.

What is one to do with this kind of love? I am already bracing myself for the loss of her, and God willing, it will be a while. We still have some years together, if nothing unusual happens. Daisy is about 8. I guess that makes us contemporaries, almost. In dog years, she’s actually older than I am now. When she gets up slowly, kind of leaving her hind quarters behind for a moment, I get it.

I sit cross-legged on my yoga mat and lean forward, and the shock of the stretch in my hip almost makes me cry out. I’m on the computer too much, working full time and then back to the very same laptop to write my own stuff. That’s a lot of hours on this blessed, accursed device.

I can’t seem to write on anything else. I seem to have lost the ability to write on paper. I remember noticing that when I wrote on paper, my writing was different. I tended to write longer sentences, with more commas. I was more thoughtful perhaps. I lingered in and around a sentence a little more. This is because my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain so I’d lose anything coming at me… I was forced to stay where I was and finish the thought.

I had a writing teacher in college who said once, “When you think you’re done writing, force yourself to write one more sentence. You’ll often find that that will be the zinger.”

I’ve found what she said to be true on more than one occasion. It’s an interesting thought. It implies that we know more than we know, that’s there’s a double or a twin within us that is dying to be known and heard. We think we’re done, but we force ourselves and out pops another thought or notion, one that is new, different, edgy.

How can this be?

I’m not sure. But I like the thought.

I’m here writing tonight because I can feel the urge to write slipping away again. The last couple of times I wrote, I discovered I was bursting with ideas. I went for hikes and couldn’t keep track of them all. The arrived pell-mell, hitting me with their obstinance and brilliance. But when I got home and tried to hurriedly put them on yellow post-it notes, they seemed to fade away. They lost their colors. They even felt a little silly.

Yet, as I walked on the mountain, I could feel the story writing itself. If I’d had a way to capture it, it would have been a breeze.

Piano jazz from the radio atop the refrigerator plays Ain’t Misbehaving. The house is quiet, a rare thing. My daughter is at her teen meditation group for the first time in weeks, perhaps months. When this happens, I feel it out. How does it feel to be alone in the house, with only Daisy? Once in a while, it’s nice. It’s like a vacation. I can take a long bath (which I did), walk around naked (which I did), make myself an easy-going dinner (check). Listen to piano jazz, read, and write a Medium article.

My daughter is 17 so it’s not like she takes up much of my time. And she holes herself up in her room more than I like so it’s not like we have parlor nights together, though I’ve tried to institute that as a thing. I whine, “Guys, not very long ago there was no TV, no radio even! People spent the evenings together, by the fire, reading, knitting, crocheting, playing music, singing, playing games! It’s not natural to live together and be separated like this, each on their own device!”

I haven’t been very successful.

We do have a chess table in the living room set up. I think people play chess there about twice a year.

I follow my daughter around with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which we’ve been reading for months. She tries to lose me. She yells at me, but good-naturedly, for the most part. She says I’m infantilizing her. But I’m not. She doesn’t understand, though I’ve told her, that I’d be even happier if she read to me, that she can infantilize me! I’ve told her that she’ll never in a million years read this book if I don’t read it to her. That it was written 200 years ago, that it’s chock-full of great vocabulary words, and she’s taking the SAT this year!

She just rolls her eyes.