The View from Down the Hall

A lesbian lives down the hall from Connie, not that she cares.

It’s a label she has avoided all her adult life and now, at 88, a neurologist asks if she and Babs “are a couple of queers.” It isn’t the first time she has heard that question (in so many different words) for she and Babs lived together for over 40 years but now they live apart with separate lives.

Babs promised to stay but finally, she found a relationship with her daughter, who lived 300 miles away. And then there was the volunteer job as a docent at a local museum. Connie was invited to move, even offered a house, but Connie liked being the one with the money and doing the offering.

It would be five years before she moved to be with Babs in the same town but in an apartment. All their years simmer, a pot constantly stirred, frequently boiling over, their differences the only constant they have ever known.

In her remaining years, Babs is immersed in what it means to be in the workforce at 86. She kept the house, washed the pots, and cared for Connie’s every need for decades. She doesn’t miss the life but she misses the Connie “who could sell ice to an Eskimo.” Business after business, Connie was a success.

Now, her mind is a jumble. Intersecting thoughts, their edges jagged, her past seeping into her present, a rapier seeking its mark. She doesn’t know daydream from daylight.

“If this is me, I don’t want it anymore,” Connie says, turning her snow-white head from side to side, blue eyes red rimmed, but her thin face younger than her years. Babs took good care of her, it seems. Still, Connie’s snake-like spine increasingly betrays her with pain and immobility, but that’s nothing like the longing she has for Babs.

Connie never had to care for herself so she never learned how. She always had enough money to hire everything and everyone. “I just can’t do any of that,” she has told me time and again, and I have come to believe what Babs told me, “I waited on her hand and foot.”

Their bond was that they never tried to change each other. Their differences keep them plotting, stirring the pot, making sure the pilot light never goes out. They live as if life–this one right here–is eternity and they have all the time in the world to mold life as they need it to be, at times demand it be.

I admire that, I really do. Of course, I cannot  know their lives, only what I watch through my life lens (with my own boundaries and biases) but it seems a badge of love, this life, for Connie and Babs.

That’s the view, anyway, from the lesbian who lives down the hall.

Looking Through the Life Lens

Waverly in Fall 0914
Focus is adjusting the aperture of the life lens to reveal the ever-changing depth of field. Sometimes, life requires a wide open lens—the big picture—often, the aperture is small, open only to the current moment. Big or small, clarity creates perspective.

The turning of the life lens is like a kaleidoscope, quick glimpses of what might be, any and all a possibility. Not all choices will be clear, even momentarily, but those chosen find a forever as memories, a clarity all its own.
Almost Focus 0914

These days, my life lens hardly knows where to focus for my aperture is wide open, the depth of field possibilities ever-expanding. I know that infinite possibilities exist in each moment but every once in a while life is so large, it’s hard to decide where to focus first.

Almost daily now, I walk Waverly pond and park for a little focus practice.  Waverly residents are used to me and my aged, Kodak camera. Many of my photographic attempts resemble a quick turn through a kaleidoscope. Later, no amount of digital manipulation provides focus but in memory, focus has soft edges.Losing One's Head 0914

Of late, the resident pair of red-shouldered hawks have been quite fond of perching atop the “no fishing, no swimming” signs that are positioned on opposite sides of the pond.

I have yet to get a focused photo of their perching but I included one in last week’s post, anyway.  From these two vantage sign points, the hawks’ presence on the pond and the surrounding park is a constant and clear reminder to all.

I have learned how close I can get to the hawks, which is usually just out of the depth of field for my Kodak lens. Auto-focus is insufficient so I keep trying different settings.

The hawks balance patiently, providing me one opportunity after another but only my life lens captures the essence of these moments forever.Ghostly Egret 0914

Eventually, I get a clear, sharp picture of the sign sans hawk. This is focus practice after all. Inadvertently, I capture a snowy egret in the background; its image more ghost-like than feather and flesh.

I continue my walk around the pond toward the egret, stopping to lean against a recently pruned ashI see You 0914 tree. I focus the Kodak lens through tree branches and find the egret looking at me so I look back. We stay this way for a bit before the egret returns to fishing, and I, to my walk.

Recently, the neighborhood association added a wooden swing. It is so comfortable that it is rarely unoccupied. From here, the view is as wide open as my life lens aperture can get–timeless focus.

The wooden swing is my last stop. Often, the hawks join me, either alight the light post or perching on the connecting power wire. On overcast, drizzling days, grub from the ground is a favorite.

Sitting on the swing makes focusing the Kodak even more of a challenge. For me, it is a swing in perpetual motion for my feet cannot touch the ground so I sit forward for focus.

The Kodak results resemble turns of a kaleidoscope, with an occasional exception, but my life lens continuously captures Waverly for a lifetime of remembering.
Waverly Swing 1014