In 2005 my wife and I moved out of an absurdly expensive cabin in the woods and bought a 38 foot motor coach. We had decided to make a major change of lifestyle. It was an audacious and risky move, loaded with potential pitfalls. But it worked. We got out of our "stick house" and moved into a slightly cramped but homey RV.
Our original plan included travel. We crossed the country once, and went on assorted adventures, but the price of gasoline kept rising and our incomes kept falling.
The RV became a home in a campground where the rent is cheap and all the normal conveniences of civilization are available. Internet: check. TV: check. Phone, water, power, sewage: check check check check.
We love our 38 foot motor coach and we live amicably with two dogs and three cats, surrounded in a campground by a motley bunch of people from all walks of life.
Our flat screen TV is in the bedroom. There are cabinets and drawers, windows and fans. The arrangement of space and the existence of five animal friends imposes one giant fact of life upon us: the only way on or off our bed is from the bottom. Crawl in, crawl out, head first or butt first or any way you can. It's a form of gymnastics. Adding to the complexity of getting in and out of bed is the fact that there are two sets of doggie steps at the bottom of the bed. Our actual exit/entrance is about two feet of space between these steps. What's the story? you may ask. The answer is twofold. One, our bed sits higher than the normal bed because that's how RV beds are designed. They are set on a swinging slab of plywood that can be opened to reveal a large storage space.
Our cats could get up and down without a problem, but when our teeny miniature poodles arrived we found ourselves being constantly disturbed by whines and whimpers. I want down. I want up. I want down. I want up.
We ordered this cool set of pet steps: a five step staircase that fit perfectly into our domain. Gabriel, the smaller dog, loves them. Bear, the bigger dog (Gabriel's dad) is terrified by the steps and no amount of cajoling or training will get him to use them. Being the utter saps that we are, we left Bear's stool in place at the right end of the bed, put Gabe's steps on the left and there you have it! No whines or whimpers. Gabe up, Gabe down, Bear up, Bear down, end of story. Each of our poodles is about the size of a shoebox. They're half the size of our smallest cat. They like sleeping and lazing underneath blankets or within piles of pillows. There is a rigorous discipline involved in the act of moving to and from the bed. We must ALWAYS know the location of the animals. It has become second nature to make a mental map of the bed before moving in any direction. We feel our way, hands, eyes, entire bodies recording the positions of our loved creatures. And it's been good; no one's been hurt. Perhaps, even, the exercise and stretching keeps us loose and more fit than might otherwise be the case. There are times when I find myself in familiar yoga poses, contorted but otherwise successfully moving to my destination.
Getting out of bed is a job. Getting out of bed is a job that has to be done cheerfully in spite of wake-up wrath, grogginess, the pukes, piddles or poops.
I might interject here that my spouse and I live this way with very little inhibition. We show tender compassion toward one another's aging bodies. Life is inherently humiliating as it is; we are careful to grant ourselves some dignity as a couple.
So...if I say that we have a rare intimacy, I believe it's true. There isn't any choice. An RV is an environment that is not conducive to privacy.
Getting in and out of bed is a procedure that induces uncommon positions and viewpoints.
It is time now for me to give you another piece of information about myself:
I tend to fall asleep in unusual positions and at unusual times.
Talk about full moons! At this point, if you are a bit prudish or tightly wrapped about certain normal anatomical realities, I suggest you stop reading and find an issue of Vanity Fair or O(prah).
The Fox and I are in our sixties. I'm not sure how this happened. The God Of Hippie Fantasies promised that we would never get older than thirty five. Anything after that was like one of those thirteenth century maps of the world. HERE LIVE DRAGONS, says the map and that's how we felt. Old age didn't exist. It would never exist.
We weren't going to be sixty or sixty five. Hell no! Something would intervene to ensure our youthfulness. We would discover that the juice of wild onions mixed with the nectar of rare orchids would halt the aging process. Or something like that. Getting old just wasn't real. It would never happen.
Before we met, The Fox and I lived wild and crazy lives. We were in dangerous places, courting viruses or murder and dismemberment, to say nothing of derangement of the senses, intellect and terminal brain damage.
Somehow we ducked under those scythes. We survived, and the onion juice/rare orchid miracle didn't happen. What is it that people say? That today's sixty is yesterday's fifty? What bullshit. Today's sixty is more like seventy. Baby boomers have lived risky lives, imbibed quantities of exotic stuff, participated in the great Poisoned Democracy, watched fifty billion bullets and ten billion bombs explode all over the world, fled from toxic clouds and radioactive dust storms. We've lived in apocalyptic terrifying times! It's stressful! It beats down those lovely anti-oxidants that we're supposed to cultivate.
What the hell do we do now? Am I going to have to be seventy? Just wake up one day, bam! I'm seventy? No! Nuh-uh. Fuck this.
Time moves awfully fast. Time is sneakier than a weasel stalking a raven's egg.
I can fall asleep with a book in my hand and a mouth full of raisins. I can look perfectly awake but I am sound asleep. I can raise myself up on my left elbow to look out the window and fall asleep, halfway between up and down. I can, so I am told, walk to the fridge, make myself a waffle, then walk away and get back into bed. Eyes open but sound asleep.
The Fox and I have had a rough year. I lost a job I'd had for nearly thirty years. I had worked as manager of a large commercial property. Great job. Name my hours. No supervision. Decent pay. Then the property owner died suddenly. One day last year I got a letter giving me thirty days' notice.
It's been that kind of year. The Fox suffers from auto-immune diseases.
I have the feet of a hundred year old longshoreman. I don't walk, I hobble.
When an opportunity comes along that gives us a good belly laugh, we cherish the moment like precious treasure.
Last week I woke up to take my two o'clock pee. I'm lucky I only pee twice a night. My prostate must be the size of a football. What is a prostate, anyway? It seems to be a gender-specific time bomb buried just behind men's nuts. Thanks, god. Thanks for the prostate. Great invention.
Anyway, as I was sitting there taking my usual ten minutes to pee, The Fox woke up and slithered from bed. It was time for her two-fifteen pee and she stood before me in the dark, waiting patiently.
"You know what you did last night?" she asked, unexpectedly. We don't talk much in the middle of the night. We mumble and stumble, grunt and nod until our missions are accomplished.
I didn't say anything. She was going to tell me.
"You got to your knees, turned around and started getting out of bed, head first. Like you did just now. Except that as your head reached the bottom of the bed, your elbows folded, you laid your head in your hands and you fell back to sleep."
I already had the picture. I am a big hairy Jewish man. As I crawled forward, dodging three cats and two dogs, I ran out of steam and fell asleep with my ass in The Fox's face.
I started laughing. It was late and our neighbors are pretty close so my laugh was a high pitched "heee heeee" but it was still satisfying.
"Your snore was so rhythmic" Fox continued. "The night lights gave me a complete view of your full moon and I thought maybe I could play bongos on your butt, maybe they would be tuned to nice pitches, maybe a minor third between them so it would sound like 'Sing Sing Sing'. But I didn't want to wake you."
I was tweeting like a canary I was laughing so hard and trying not to roar as I might in broad daylight.
"I thought you'd wake up eventually and finish your chore. As long as you didn't fart or something, what harm could your ass do to me? I was willing to take my chances. You were so deeply asleep; and of course I think you're cute from any angle, so I figured 'what's the harm?'.
We were both giggling like children. Oh my god! You just had to be there.
I did of course wake up after about five minutes and complete my forward facing slink off the bed, snaking my way down with the help of the doggie steps, none the wiser regarding the comic episode I had gifted to my spouse until she told me this story the following night.
Have I embarrassed anyone by telling this tale? I couldn't care less. We have been betrayed by the God Of Hippie Fantasies. There is no magic wild onion/orchid juice to reverse our neuropathies, our arthritis, our pops and twinges, our encroaching deafnesss, blindness and dithering mental acuity. I hereby decree that growing old is an activity of heroes, that it takes major guts to manage the passages that lead us to the Great Light that waits beyond death.
And if there is no Great Light? Then we will turn back to behold our brief and insignificant life experiences and know that this WAS the Great Light, one that we weren't able to recognize until after we had lived it.