I thought as I carried the watering can from its place upended near the coiled hose at the southeast wing of our house to rest it atop the coiled hose at the southwest wing so that I could mow the tall grass that had grown up through it that my entire life had led me to this moment.
Why had I done it? I’m not sure. One inner voice said, “Pick up the can,” the other, “Forget about the can, Jack, go back to watching ‘SportsCenter.’ ”
Always there is this interior dialogue between the Fun-Loving Guy and Mr. Responsibility. It amuses me to think that I was once called Mr. Responsibility — with utter contempt, however — by a hallmaster in high school and have responsibly been mindful of his judicious observation ever since.
“Responsibility leapt upon his shoulders like an angry cat,” I wrote home when I was stationed in Okinawa, though I cannot now recall being particularly burdened at the time. It just seemed like a neat thing to say.
I’ve said other neat things in the intervening years, but, as Mary reminds from time to time, words are cheap. Deeds are more interesting to her, and that, I think, was why I was impelled to mow the lawn, and thus to pick up the watering can. She had been away, far away, for a few days — a short time for her, I gathered, but a very long and somewhat depressing time for me. The rain, of course, didn’t help. Whenever I saw a silver Prius on our streets, my heart leapt up — and not like an angry cat, but like a puppy who wants to play.
“She’ll be home soon,” I’d say to Henry on our walks, and he would nod knowingly.
Meanwhile, we existed, went through the motions, were responsible, as I’ve long learned to be.
Claude Beudert had promised a night out during Mary’s absence, a reward, I suppose, for my having been Johnny-on-the-spot when the golf team made its grand entrance at the high school during a thunderstorm after having won the Long Island championship.
When, the day before she left, I told Mary I’d gotten the shot, and replayed the scene for her, showing her how John Nolan had come in holding the trophy over his head, flanked by applauding fans, she asked, “Was there a bolt of lightning in the background. . . ?!”
“No, I don’t think so,” I said. And not wanting to disappoint, added, “But I’ll get Matt to put one in.”
Claude left a message on Monday to say he couldn’t make it after all. Actually, it was a relief. I had things to do too, and was spared having to whiten my teeth.
The next night, just as the Mets-Braves game was ending, Mary arrived, lively despite the coast-to-coast haul and brimming with news.
I attended to her as I never would to Katie Couric, and told her about the lively chalk drawings by children I’d seen that evening on the pavement in front of a large house around the corner, one of which wished their dad, “Happy Farthers Day!”
And that got me to thinking how far we’ve come, she and I, but I’ll go no further.