While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller
While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made.
I fall madly in love every day: exciting, buoyant and daring passion that
overwhelms me. I love the intensity; I cherish the thrill. I never tire of it.
Ever. I am almost seventy five years old. I have no husband, no partner, no
children, no family. Yet I am showered with affection, covered with hugs and
kisses. I give away my favors freely and often because I know these romances are
the kind only an old woman can enjoy.
I am desperately in love with Leo. He visits me every day and gives me sweet
kisses. He changes light bulbs and he fixes my front gate. He feeds my puppies
and takes me for rides past his old haunts to tell me stories about the days
when he was young and I wasn't around. And what do I do to deserve this love?
I exist. Evidently that is all he wants from me and so I am determined to keep
existing for a very long time. I don't want to lose all that wonderful
Leo is at least twelve years younger than I and has a superb, gentle, giving
wife. Her name is Carol and I love her, too. She sends me little cakes at Easter
and platters of food on special holidays. How could I NOT love her?
She gives me knitting advice and has shared not just her husband but her son
with me. He helps me with my computer and laughs at all my jokes…even when they
aren't funny. The fact is that Carol loves me too. She loves that I make her
guys feel important when she is too busy at the office or out with her own
friends to worry about the state of their emotions.
My dearest sweetie pie is James. He is an engineer at my television station who
sees to it that my program set is ready and perfect for filming every single
month. James is as loyal to me as any human being can be. When I give a party he
is there. When I present a show at our local coffee house, there is James,
listening, applauding, encouraging… very, very there.
Whenever we have a spare moment in our busy single lives, we go out for a drink
…soft drink that is, because James is a recovered alcoholic and does not want to
go back where he once was. We talk about nothing much and we hold hands because
we love the safety of being with each other. James is 76 years old and has been
through several wives. I have discarded a few husbands in my day and we both
remember how messy those broken commitments can be. We hug, we kiss, we hold
hands and we laugh together, but neither of us would dream of sharing a bed or
greeting one another over the breakfast table. We have been there and we have
done that with other people in other places. We have had our fill of commitment.
We know that the freedom we two have is our lucky charm.
My most adorable and funny love is a guy named Mickey who makes me laugh and
treats me to dinners even when he could have a sexy little hottie to take home
to bed. He gives up these evenings because he knows how comfortable it is to be
with someone who doesn't want him to prove a thing. He is a perfect person to me
and I do not want him to change. I want him to be exactly who he is. When Mickey
and I go out, he gives away clothing and money to the homeless on street
corners. He is not rich, but he always has coins and cash to give to a fellow
entertainer in need and he doesn't want thank yous. He has brought up his son
and daughter alone and has done such a marvelous job that they feel proud and
happy to be themselves. I think he is a saint. I treasure Mickey for what he
teaches me, although I am the one who is supposed to be showering wisdom on him.
I learn from his giving, his compassion and his selflessness; he profits from my
persistence, my optimism and my proof that if you live long enough, your
happiness can only multiply.
I have a toy boy, too and I am proud of him. His name is Steve and he is not yet
thirty. He surfs; he loves women; he once did drugs and struggles not to return
to them. He wants to have adventures, become a millionaire, go to the moon. When
he goes out with women his age, they make demands he can't fill. They want
physical proof that he will adore them forever. They demand, they have tantrums
and they weep. They forget to notice how wonderfully perfect he is because of
his flaws. Steve walks his dog with mine and we discuss stuff. We don't always
agree but we laugh a lot and we care. We differ in our politics and in our
definition of the good life, but so what? When our walk is over we kiss goodbye
and we each go our own way. When we meet again, each of us has grown a little
and has added something new to who we are. And that is an exciting thing.
When I was in my teens, I could never get the guy I liked to like me. I was too
worried about the pimple on my face, the sag to my bottom and the condition of
my page boy bob. When I finally landed a husband, I was consumed with the desire
to be the best wife in the universe. I cooked elaborate meals; I cleaned every
inch of our apartment. I entertained his friends. I had sex whenever he wanted
even if I was in the midst of scrubbing a floor. I even served him breakfast in
And then he left. I was too much for him and I understand that now. During that
horrible, tense and mildly hysterical time of my life, I never once asked myself
if I wanted to cook those dinners, scrub those floors or have sex with this guy
who burst into tears when he failed a test and threw things at me when we
disagreed. I was too young, too insecure, too …too needy.
There were other failed marriages, other shattered romances and I never knew why
they didn't work. I wanted love more than anything in the world. I didn't
realize that I was putting that well known cart before the horse. First, you
meet the person, then you make a friend. Then you fall in love. I cannot repair
my unhappy, unfulfilled twenties and thirties…and I wouldn't want to try. I know
that I was not in the right place for real romance. I didn't love myself enough
to be loved.
Now, I am delighted with me. Lovers flock to my door and I receive them with
open arms. Love after seventy is the best kind of bargain because nothing you
give feels like it costs. I have never cooked a meal for Leo or James. Mickey
and Steve take ME out for dinner. I had Gordon over for a birthday dinner and he
walked out without helping me do the dishes! I never invited him back. When my
first husband did that, I didn't have the self respect to say, "Hey buster! I
When Bob asked me to mend his shirts, I handed them back and told him to buy new
ones. I don't need to do that for anyone unless I WANT to.
I admit it. My loves come and go like buses on a schedule. I greet them, I adore
them and I kiss them good-by at my front door. Then I return to my own quiet bed
with my puppies to cuddle and a book to read. Even so, I can barely sleep for
excitement. What new Romeo will I discover on my walk through town? What
adorable sweetheart will I capture when I open my e-mail?
When you are my age, lovers love loving you because they know you can show them
the secret of happiness.
I've told all of my darlings what it is and now I will tell you. The secret of
contentment is to find someone new every day and offer him a piece of yourself.
It is to tell a stranger how much you admire him; to treasure every human you
encounter and make him a friend.
All mankind love a lover.