Dec. 22, 2005
Dear family and friends,
Some years are memorable for vacations. This year I dreamed of Florentine art and Venetian vistas. DC has nightmares about the terrorists just waiting for us to make the plane reservations.
This was the year of going nowhere. Or maybe it was the year of digging in our heels. Sometimes heavy equipment was required.
In partnership with another couple, we bought the apartment building and the house across the street so we could say goodbye to the drug dealers and the all-night partiers who were tormenting the neighborhood. Afterward we were horrified to see how some of the tenants had been living. A family of five and a man with a mental illness inhabited tiny, dank and dark basement partitions warmed only by space heaters.
That this house qualified as housing in the City of Roses was appalling. Long months of renovations began. Hello swarms of contractors and construction workers.
We helped my parents, both nearing or in the octogenarian realm, move to a new house. Leaving a house with 40 years of memories was especially traumatic for my mother, but she's happy to be in her new home. In contrast to their old house, they have their own driveway, a carport and a working fireplace, all on a single floor.
They play big-band music and are planning a jazz cruise. I too hope to reserve my old age for doing exactly what I love.
DC acquired a strip mall this year. There's nothing much fun about it. Just more contractors and construction workers. DC envied the backhoe operator getting to landscape the parking lot. She likes machines that make dust.
Someday we'll probably be glad we own a strip mall. Responsible people say so.
Alvie, Hank and Lucy pretty much are in charge of our lives. They send up a riot of baying and barking whenever they decide the time has come for DC to take them for a walk. It continues until they are leashed and out the door. Our new next-door neighbors, Frank and Robyn, report that the message is received almost as clearly in their house.
Having neighbors again will take getting used to. DC took some trash out to the backyard wearing only a T-shirt before remembering that we no longer are all alone. Doubtless we will have many apologies to make to our neighbors in the coming years.
Alvie hardly would allow us to hold him when he first wandered into our lives three years ago. Now he's a glutton for attention. He stands up and puts his front paws on the edge of the couch or the bed to indicate he wants to be lifted up to be petted. He's too short to jump up himself but while being lifted pushes off with his back paws as if our help wasn't all that necessary. Dogs have pride, too.
The house across the street has been renovated now, and a new family has moved in just in time for Christmas. We welcome them to the new and we hope slightly improved neighborhood.
The contractor and construction workers have spent many months gutting the apartment building and are still at it. Sometimes I wave at them, imagining DC and me are in Venice on Byron's Bridge of Sighs, "A palace and a prison on each hand," saying good-bye to this year of digging in.
Love and Merry Christmas,
Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.