On Monday, it is Papa Glen's birthday.
It's hard to find a present for a guy in his mid-seventies who has almost everything. What he doesn't have, he takes great pleasure in buying for himself and then sneaking in the house past Grandma Joan.
He's a former electrical engineer who chose a government job for the benefits and good retirement in the long run, over private practice and more money early on. He and Grandma Joan are comfortable in their retirement. He's handy. So his new shed, his tool collection, his pond and his accessories for it - they are all indulgences he's earned and the maintenance of them and the hobbies pertaining to them keep him busy. But, still, those are things we couldn't have given him. (Okay, Steve helped dig the pond, occasionally finding the bones of long-dead and buried pets, which he pitched over the fence rather than get Joan bawling over "Poor dead Bippy".)
Apart from the infrequent occasion of a funeral or wedding, Glen doesn't need "good" clothes - he wears mostly sweat pants and t-shirts now, and has plenty of them. (Steve and I make jokes that he's achieved a zipper-free lifestyle.)
Aside from being just an all-around nice guy who flirts with our next-neighbour and makes her feel like a million bucks, who glues broken things back together properly for us, and who lends us his carpet cleaner - Glen feeds, and traps then spays or neuters cats in a couple of feral cat colonies, which he visits a few times a week. He also takes care of Joan's twin sister's house, and that of another elderly lady friend of Joan's. He's just...good.
He also, perhaps most significantly, puts up with a menagerie around his split-level, paid-for home in Scarberia. Grandma Joan has rescued some, um, "quirky" cats, in addition to the decrepit seventeen-year old poodle named Daisy, and Furby, the vicious mini-chow looking furball that they keep away from the general populace; and should she and Glen pass before these horrible undying aged lemon animals shuffle off their mortal coils, there is a clause in the will providing money for Steve and I to care for the beasts that no one else can love.
We can't find enough ways to thank him for all of the things he does for us on a weekly basis, let alone find things for him to unwrap on special occasions.
In desperation, on Friday I asked Josephine what she thought Papa Glen would like for his birthday. She thought for a moment, and said "I think we should get him something about Jake."
The light of his life.
The light of his life? It's not his wife. It's not his son, or his two daughters, or any of his six grandchildren including ours, whom he dubbed "Josephine Blossom Peanut Good" (for the record, she now believes that her name includes Peanut because of him).
He loves Jake best - his hairy, stinky, fat, drooling, diabetic, panting, untrained, stupid, (did I mention fat?), spastic, shedding, dumb, (did I mention the shedding?) barking, fool yellow lab who fell in the pond twice this past summer (and I forget how many times last year). Jake is often called "Jakey - poo" or "Dakees" or "Dakums" or any number of goo goo ga ga names that roll right off Papa Glen's tongue along with the wondrous stories of "Jakey's" antics - all spoken in such a way as to make you look around to find whatever golden wonder might be sitting nearby, drying off in a spray of sparkling drops and looking noble after having rescued Timmie from the well. Instead, all you see is a butterball of a dog who pees like a girl and sends off puffs of fur much like Pigpen's clouds of dirt.
And so, the perfect present for Glen occurred to us:
But, because if you ask him about Jake, he WILL tell you about Jake, the perfect present for Joan also occurred to us: