This is supposed to be the best time in our lives. Our children are out of the house and off of our cell phone plan. They have jobs and apartments; we have jobs and a house that needs a face lift: A dormer was knocked clean by a mis-hit hockey puck and some siding is missing near the garage where one of the kids practiced manuevering in and out of the driveway. Our car has over 110,000 miles on it, but it still runs. We should be smiling all the time. We're free and clear, on easy street, living the dream. I wonder: When will the fun begin?
Sure, we're caring for ill parents, but that's what people do in their 50s. We are healthy, with the usual age-related inconveniences. Our knees buckle and we don't sleep well. Neither of us can see in a low-light restaurant but there's an app for that. We have great friends who we see often: Funerals and weddings keep us socially active. Why then, are we sitting on the couch looking as energetic as coma patients?
One recent night, I said, "I think we're having a midlife crisis."
"What makes you say that?"
"We're watching high school football on television," I said. I flipped open my laptop and started to surf.
I heard him say, "Any football is good football."
I clicked on a website. "Hey," I sat up straight. "Take a look at this."
He glanced over, and then his eyes caught. I nodded. He moved closer. "What do you think?" My voice was quiet. I was unsure, a little tentative. "Why don't we get a dog?"
Our dog, Elvis, had died two years earlier. We could do it again. We could adopt another dog.
We spent hours online, looking at photos and reading the little bios. By the time we went to bed, we'd filled out applications with all the local rescues and adoption agencies. At 8am the next morning, we got the call. Do you want to arrange to visit the foster family? Yes, we answered at once. Yes we do.
On the way to the foster family's house, my husband coached me. "This is like buying a house...play it cool, look bored. You have to treat this as a business deal. Don't seem overly enthusiastic."
"Okay," I nodded enthusiastically.
"We're not getting a dog today," he said firmly. "We're just doing research. It's a reconnaissance mission. We're only acculturating ourselves. Don't get too excited." His fingers were white on the steering wheel. The speedometer read 80.
It was a quick visit. My husband sat on the grass with the puppy tumbling over his legs while I signed the adoption papers. We dashed to PetSmart to buy a crate and some necessities including a little rubber football and a menagerie of plush animals that squeaked in varying levels of annoyance. I drove home. They sat in the back together.
"We won't be able to do much traveling," my husband called out. His voice bounced with happiness.
"We don't travel now!" I pointed out.
"And we'll have to get up during the night to let him out," he said.
"We don't sleep well anyway," I joked. Neither of us slept that night. We took turns checking on the puppy who slept without waking, clear through till morning.
"I'll clear the garden of inedible plants," he offered.
"I'll get up early to walk him," I said.
"I'll take him out before we go to bed."
"I'll scoop the poop."
A puppy requires constant supervision: ours cannot resist couch cushions, shoes, leather or anything with fabric. There are teeth marks on the legs of all our kitchen chairs. The wood floor in the kitchen is beginning to buckle near his water dish. We are in constant danger of twisting an ankle on one of the unforeseen chew toys waiting for us to take an unfortunate step.
My husband opens the door every day with a song: "Where's my buddy?" I have a constant companion who plays under my desk and retrieves the pages from the printer as they slide slowly out. He celebrates my genius every time I produce a bowl of puppy chow.
Last night, I heard a funny sound. I stopped what I was doing and listened... I heard it again. It took me a minute to figure it out -- I hadn't heard that sound in a long time. I went into the den and found them lying on the floor. "I'm trying to do my sciatica exercises," my husband said, feigning annoyance. "But someone will not leave me alone!" The puppy pounced on him and tumbled away, and my husband made the sound again. He was giggling.