Sunday, January 9, 2022

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 29

 

    He had agreed to let her have her say. Now he was learning how hard it was to be a listener when he had so many questions. 

    She returned the next morning hoping to find him ready for a real conversation. Was he ready to face his own future? Could they find a common October together?



                           Chapter 29


Marian was more than a little apprehensive when she returned to the Larmer farmstead that evening, hoping to continue her visit with David. Given his abrupt withdrawal earlier that afternoon, would he even listen to what she wanted him to hear? 

By the time the two of them were seated in the living room she had decided to settle for a monologue, rather than a dialogue. She needed to speak her piece, whether or not he was willing to be part of the conversation.

“I hope you’ll stick around this time long enough to hear me out,” she began. “I have some things I want you to hear, and think about. For right now I’d like you to just sit and listen. Then, when I come back in the morning you can tell me what you think. Would you do that for me?”

With no apparent complaint David rolled his eyes, nodded his understanding, and settled back to hear her out.

For her part Marian was focusing on the business at hand. Would she be able to make her point? Would he stay long enough to hear her out? Pulling her chair directly in front of his recliner, she edged forward and cleared her throat.

“Remember,” she repeated. “All you have to do is listen. I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while. And I’ve come two thousand miles to say what’s on my mind. Tomorrow, after you’ve thought it over, I hope you’ll do the same.

“First of all, if you remember, back in Tanner we agreed that neither of us wants to spend the rest of our life alone. I can’t speak for you, but I haven’t changed my mind about that. What has changed, especially after you ran away like you did, is how I want things to be.”

Pausing for a moment, Marian summoned recollections of her previous life, reminding herself how different it would be with David. 

“I’ve told you before,” she continued. “I spent my years with Tom being the wife he expected. I can’t say I regret that. I loved him. And I knew how to be the person he wanted me to be. But the thing is....that was then, and this is now.

“I’ve never thought of myself as a brave person. But I’m finally ready to concentrate on what I want. This time it’s about my reasons, not someone else’s. I want to spend my future doing the things I want to do. 

"But I don't want to do those things alone. I’m looking for the someone who is willing to start off in that new direction with me. So if I’m bold enough to ask if you would be that ‘someone,’ I’m hoping you’ll be bold enough to say ‘yes.’ That’s why I’m here, plain and simple.”

David was squirming again. Sitting there, saying nothing at all was harder than he expected.... especially when he had objections to register. With a raised hand Marian motioned for him to wait. 

“Let me finish, please.” For the first time she was smiling. “Here’s the point of this. I want to be part of something that has a future. It doesn’t have to be grand or fancy.... just real.

“Some of those ideas come from a blog I’ve been reading lately....something you might find interesting. Parts of it feel like they were written just for me, or maybe us. It’s called October Years.

"That’s how the guy describes our time of life. He writes about how October is not for sissies. Instead, it’s a time to be strong and bold. I think he’s right, and that’s what I want to be. Actually, what I want is for both of us to be strong and bold. Like he asks in his blog....what are we saving ourselves for?

“The fact is.” She was leaning forward, trying to meet David’s downturned gaze. “I don’t know you very well. And you don’t know me. But if I haven’t learned to trust my instincts by now, I don’t suppose I ever will. 

"It may look like I’m taking a chance with this ‘being bold’ thing....and maybe I am. But I’m here to ask you to take a chance on me. If it doesn’t work out, at least we’ll both know that we gave it a try.”

Marian got to her feet and pushed her chair back to the wall. “Now then, you’ve been a good listener,” she said. “Even when you wanted to argue with me. Thank you for that.

“But before you make up your mind, please try to imagine how good it could be if we finally found a way to be on the same page. When I come back in the morning I’d like us to talk about that....about what each of us wants and how we might make those things happen. I'd like us to explore the ways we could be bold together.”

With that Marian retrieved her coat from the arm of the sofa, picked up her purse, then paused to add, “I hope being a listener wasn’t too stressful. I tried to keep it short. But every bit of it was important to me. I hope there was something in there we can agree on. That would be a good place to start tomorrow’s visit. Just remember....I’d like us to be bold together.”

She started for the door. “I’ll see you then. You get a good night’s sleep.”


~~~


On Tuesday morning Marian had her coffee-and-donut breakfast at a downtown Clinton bakery, just up the street from her motel. Though the misty rain had eased off, sidewalk traffic outside her window table was light. By then, however, she was paying little attention to breakfast, the weather, or pedestrian activity. 

She had been awake since five o’clock....laying in bed, replaying imagined conversations with David and wondering about a future that included the two of them.

The day before had been her forum, a time to state her case. At her request he had listened, sometimes impatiently, as she introduced her concerns. Now her stomach was churning anxiously as she prepared to face his response. Would he be willing to meet her half way, or would he be in retreat, perhaps even hiding in his bathroom?

Back in her room she surfed television channels, telling herself it would not do to arrive at the Larmer farm too early. Finally, just after ten-thirty, she gathered her purse and a spur-of-the-moment peace offering from the bakery....a half-dozen donuts.


                                ~~~


At the Larmer farm house Jerry greeted her with a wide and welcoming smile. “He’s waiting for you in the living room,” Jerry said as he took the donut she offered. “Near as I can tell he’s in a good mood. Better than I’ve seen for a while.”

Sure enough, Marian had scarcely entered the living room when David’s guarded smile was offering the promise of a more productive time together. Setting her coat on the sofa she turned to him to test the waters. 

“Thank you for seeing me again,” she said, dragging her chair up beside his recliner and reaching out to offer him a donut. “I’m hoping we can have a nice visit.”

David’s grin vanished as he tried for a gruffness he did not feel. “First of all,” he grumbled. “I don’t recall inviting you back. Seems like you just show up whenever you want. As for a ‘nice visit,’ as I remember I didn’t get a chance to say anything the last time.”

“I know. Actually, we haven’t had a real two-way conversation since Tanner. I think it’s time for that, don’t you? I don’t know how much things have changed for you since then, but they certainly have for me.”

“Is that so,” he replied. “I think I’ like to hear about that.”

“Let’s see if I can explain.”

Marian was smiling to herself. She had come so far, hoping to be exactly where she was....in a space where she and David might actually be ready to discuss their future.

“I told you about the October Years blog,” she continued. “That’s one of the biggest changes....the one that got me thinking about being bolder, and making my own decisions.”

David was nodding, ready to respond. Taking his Ipad from the table next to his recliner, he held it up for her to see. “I checked it out last night, your October Years blog. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it, but I'll admit I did....sort of. I must have spent a couple hours reading most all of it.”

“He makes you think, doesn’t he?," Marian asked. "He points out things I’d never stopped to consider.”

“Yeah, he does. When he talked about ‘flunking retirement’ I could relate to that.” 

David took a few seconds to call up the October Years blog and scroll down to a particular posting. “How about this one? He calls it ‘There was a time when I could. Now I can’t.’ Man, it felt like that one was aimed straight at me.”

“I know,” Marian nodded. “And did you read my favorite....when he writes about Geriatric Adolescence? Turns out I know how that feels. It might have been the post that first got me thinking about being bold. Most people were able to take a chance when they were kids. But according to this guy it’s never too late to be bold.”

David was shaking his head, unready to endorse her “Never too late” claim. “Just look at me," he replied. "All messed up like this. Do I strike you as a candidate for being a daredevil? I can’t even stand up straight. How the heck can I be the guy you’re talking about?”

“What does ‘standing up straight’ have to do with anything? Being bold is something you do with your head, not your body. It’s something you may have to talk yourself into....like I did when I decided to come all the way to Iowa to convince David Larmer to give ‘us’ a try. 

"I didn’t have to stand up straight to do that. But for a timid old lady like me that felt like a very brave thing to do....with a touch of ‘Geriatric Adolescence’ mixed in.”

“That’s because you’re a dreamer,” David said.

“Maybe so. But so were you when you flew out to Tanner to see me. And it felt right at the time, didn’t it....being a dreamer like that?”

“You’re right. I was being a dreamer when I flew to Oregon. But by the time I left I’d become a realist.”

She handed David another donut and took one for herself, reminding herself to keep moving ahead. “That’s silly,” she said. “Giving up on your dream doesn’t make you a realist. It means that you quit when it didn’t turn out exactly the way you thought it should.

“You sounded that same way again yesterday,” she continued. “When you asked if there can be a purpose for folks at our age....a reason to keep moving ahead. Remember?”

David stiffened a bit to refute her claim. “And you answered that question yourself, didn’t you?” he replied. “When you reminded me that I’m sixty-six years old. If there’s a purpose for charging ahead at my age, I don’t see it. I have friends who try to sell me their church answers as a reason for starting over. I don’t buy those either.”

“Then take a minute to think back to that fellow’s blog,” Marian suggested. “Because in addition to the obvious fact that I like being with you....at least when you’re in a sociable mood....he writes about at least two other reasons, two purposes that fit right in with our October years.”

“Are you trying to make me feel better?” he asked. “If so I don’t think it’s working. There are days that feel like mid-December to me, and here you are telling me it’s only October. I’m not sure I believe that. But in any case, tell me again what he says about purpose.”

Finally David was taking the bait. By then Marian was more hopeful than ever that he would understand her logic, if only he would hear her out.

“The first of those ‘purposes’," she began. "The ones that October folks can concentrate on, is something you and I already know about. We’ve both been there....helping someone we love deal with their last days. We know how hard that can be, and how much it hurts. Right?”

“I thought you were trying to perk me up. Why would I want to get bogged down on something like that? It was the worst time of my life.”

“You’re right. It was,” Marian said. “But like the blog guy says, it’s also an October reality. It comes with having lived that long. We both know that’s true. And if you’re like me you don’t want to face that time....which we both know is coming....all by yourself. Can you understand that?”

David’s chin dropped to his chest and he closed his eyes. Of course he understood. She was right about that....on at least two counts. The prospect of acing the sort of trauma that Sally had endured, without the comforting presence of someone who cared, was more than he wanted to think about. No matter how competent a professional caregiver might be, they could never take the place of a loving ‘someone.’

But truth be told, David found something more in Marian’s simple logic. If two years of loneliness had taught him nothing else, he had learned the hard way that he was not a loner. There were more than simply ‘last days’ to consider. Every day from now until then would be better in the company of the right companion.

A few seconds later he looked up to explain. “You’re right. I don’t want to go through that again. And when it is my time, I don’t want to be there alone.”

“Exactly.” She was smiling to herself. Her stubborn friend seemed willing to accept her first reason for endorsing an October future together. “And being that special person, the one who helps us through those hard times, whether it’s in October, November, or even December....is my notion of a worthwhile purpose. 

“And the thing is, if I’m going to spend that time with someone, I think I’d like it to be you. There, is that bold enough?”

“Damn, you are a slick one.” David raised his recliner to see her better. “You just go on and on, and all the while you’ve totally ignored why I had to leave Tanner in the first place. That part hasn’t changed, you know.”

“I know. That’s one reason I didn’t give up. But that’s not the only one. In any case there will be time enough to talk about my bank account later, when you finally realize it’s just an incidental side issue.”

David was grinning as he shook his head. "You’re beginning to sound like a salesperson, leading me on like this....teasing me with your ‘side issues’ and ‘other reasons.’ But it’s time to move past the tease. What are they, those other reasons you were talking about?”

“Actually,” she replied. “Before we move on to all that, I’m wondering if we ought to consider a change in scene. Do you suppose it’s time for you to get away from this comfortable prison of yours, out into the real world?”

“The real world?” He straightened up, prepared to challenge her unexpected question. “I thought you could tell,” he countered. “I’m not in shape for the real world.”

“I’ll bet your are. Jerry tells me that you’re walking more every day. You even go outside on these nice days. And I know for a fact he drove you to Rigdon last week to your doctor’s appointment.”

“Come on, woman. What are you trying to say?”

“I’m just thinking we ought to continue our conversation, which I am enjoying very much, over a downtown lunch.” Marian paused to read his reaction, though at that point it was hard to tell if he was even listening.

“When I stopped at Jason’s tavern yesterday," she continued. "I noticed that he serves sandwiches ....the kind that are heated in a microwave. That, with a cup of coffee to wash it down, seems like it would be a decent lunch.”

David leaned forward, chewing his lip as he tried to imagine what she was describing. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “You want us to go to the Pastime for lunch?

"You may not know that since the only restaurant in town closed, that’s the busiest part of Jason’s day. And you expect me to hobble in there, in front of all those guys, for a sandwich and some friendly conversation. Well, I don’t think so.”

“David. It’s been six weeks since your accident. You’re getting better every day. Your friends would be glad to see that you’re doing so well.”

He was glaring back at her, certain that she had no idea of how it would feel....having everyone see him like that. “That’s a crock,” he insisted. “All they’d see is an old guy who can’t cut it anymore.”

“So here I am,” Marian said, rolling her eyes. “Talking about ‘being bold.’ And all you can think of is another reason to give up. Is that it?”

Without realizing what was happening, Marian’s tight-lipped scowl....born in the days when raising her occasionally-obstinate daughters called for a dose of motherly displeasure....had returned.

“David Larmer, I didn’t come all this way to hear that kind cop out. So let’s just get your shoes and coat, and we’ll go to lunch.”

He was not prepared to continue his resistance. Perhaps he did not want to. Instead, he pushed himself out of the recliner, ready to offer his own menu suggestion.

“In that case,” he said firmly. “You can scratch the coffee. I’m ready for a beer.”




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