Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Orange Juice, Cowboy Boots, and a Typewriter

Some days, when dementia caregiving seems like it is going on forever with no end in sight, I like to remember simple, lighthearted moments in Gordon's and my relationship before dementia raised its ugly head and took away everything we had together. Today, I am remembering orange juice, cowboy boots, and a typewriter.

Long ago, in the early days of our relationship, when Gordon would take me out to breakfast, I would ask him if it was okay to order orange juice for breakfast because, for me, orange juice, which I liked a lot, had always been an extravagance I could not afford, and I did not want to presume that Gordon had enough money to buy it for me. Gordon would always reply, "yes."  

Then, one morning in San Francisco, we were at breakfast, and I hesitantly, politely asked again, wishing I could forgo the allure of orange juice, but my will was too weak. Gordon leaned across the table, took my hands in his, looked deeply into my eyes, and said, "Katinka, I love you more than anything in the world, and all I want to do is take care of you for the rest of our days. We may not have a lot of money, but we will always have each other, and I promise you this, you can have orange juice everyday of your life if you want it, so please don't ask again." He grinned and kissed me.

In addition to orange juice, cowboy boots are another lighthearted moment I am remembering. For one of our early Christmases, Gordon got me a pair of cowboy boots. I stared at them in amazement, not quite sure how to put them on, or why I would ever wear them. Gordon explained that he hoped we would live on a ranch one day and have horses, which he had raised before his divorce. Horses were dear to Gordon's heart. He got me the boots, he said, because he wanted to share a part of himself with me that was a part of his essence, his truest self. It was such a lovely gift, his explanation being the loveliest part, and we did end up, for many years, on a ranch with horses, and I wore out that pair of boots and another pair completely before we had to give up the horses.

But the most special moment I am remembering today is the typewriter, and not just any typewriter, but an IBM Selectric II.  I love to write, always have, and when Gordon and I were first together, I was plunking away on the keys of a very inexpensive typewriter that had no correction feature, which meant that I had to retype a page if I made an error, or use white-out, which meant the whole world (a bit of hyperbole) knew when I'd made a mistake. Gordon saw and heard--expletives sometimes escaped my sweet, innocent lips--my frustration, and he asked what would make my life easier. I laughingly said, "An IBM Selectric II, but it costs a fortune, though you can get a perfectly good refurbished one for less money, but it is still pretty expensive." I told him not to worry because I could borrow my friend's IBM if necessary. Besides, we were both newly divorced and on a tight budget.

Imagine my surprise and delight, when on Christmas morn 1982, six weeks pregnant with Amy, I opened a cleverly camouflaged box that contained an IBM Selectric II. Gordon immediately apologized for getting me a refurbished one, but for me, in that moment, that typewriter shown brighter than all the stars in the sky. Why? Because the gift represented Gordon's belief in me--not just as his wife and the mother of our future children--but as the writer I knew myself to be. I cried and laughed, and we hugged and kissed, and I felt humbled and treasured at the same moment--I knew myself to be a woman deeply loved by the the man whom I deeply loved. 

That typewriter was a symbol of Gordon's belief in me, and I typed on it for many years until the Loma Prieta Earthquake tossed my bricks and boards bookshelves onto it and smashed it beyond fixing. Smashed though it was, I kept it until two years ago when we had to move to a rental house with very little room to spare. 

These days, Gordon no longer takes care of me. He has no interest in what I drink or wear or write on. But once he did, so I write these memories for my children to remind them of what their dad was once like, and I write them for my grandchildren so that they will know the man I, their grandmother, once loved, the man who talked me into having our children because he believed in me as a mother as much as he believed in me as a writer.

Take care,