Write of Way by Mary Lou Sanelli

Thursday, March 01, 2018 12:32 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

That’s Just Ken

My friend Ken and I are on our second loop around Green Lake. It’s sunset, “the hour of truth,” Ken says.

And I can tell when his truth is not so much about to surface but burst. This generally means I’m about to get a history lesson. What’s lovely is that I can practically see Ken’s wheels turning backward in time and that he’s a little surprised by how good remembering makes him feel.

And that’s good enough to make me feel good, too.

On election day, 2016, we walked along Waterfront Park. “I should write a song about this day,” he said. “A sad tune about misery and shortsightedness because that’s what it feels like to turn on the TV.” We laughed. Harder than we would have if anything was actually funny.

Today, Ken’s lesson is about Thanksgiving. I never knew it was an English harvest celebration held the first week in October. Or that the reason why ours is on the third Thursday in November is that the U. S. Congress, in 1941, passed an act saying so. Seems the federal workers, “who live for holidays,” pointed out that October had Halloween; December had Christmas; January had New Year’s. Something had to be done about November. And the third Thursday sounded so…right. Congress agreed.“Well, why wouldn’t they?” Ken says.

Next, we talk about friendships past. “It’s good to reflect before charging ahead into the new,” Ken says, thinking more about tax policy, I’m sure. But he can’t help himself.

But what rushes into my mind is an old friend who-broke-my-heart. “She certainly taught me that it’s possible to keep someone close while letting them go,” I say.

Ken calls this kind of attachment an emotional deep state. “When habits rule, not our brains.” But he would think of love like this, wouldn’t he? So I remind him that I’d recently spoke at my first national conference and he hadn’t even asked me about it yet. “Some friend,” I say.

“You’re brave,” is all he says.

“Brave? No way. If you knew what I looked like in the greenroom, I doubt you’d think I’m brave. I picked every piece of fuzz off the floor. And it’s weird because I’ve chosen performance anxiety since I was five when I’d stage puppet shows for the neighborhood.”

“You just knew you wanted to run your own show,” Ken says, “and earn your own pennies.”

“Sadly, that’s the part that has stayed the same, pennies for pay.”

We talk about cold remedies. This exchange went something like: I say my Chinese friend gives me herbs that smell terrible, and he says his sister calls chicken soup nature’s antibiotic, and I say my Filipino neighbor, Marlin, swears by slow cooked beef tongue.

“Ew,” I said.

“No, ew!,” she yelled. “Just do!”

I love Marlin. What I know about the kind of friendship we share — how it isn’t all that easy to just do it sometimes, but do it we must — I learned from her.

“Now that kind of attachment is a good medicine and a good example of bipartisanship.”

I spent the next couple of minutes thinking, this is Seattle, this is Ken, this is how Ken’s mind works.

Ken saves the world. For me, at least.

Mary Lou Sanelli
Sanelli’s latest book is A Woman Writing. She is speaking at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington on April 14th, at the Seaport Bookstore in La Conner, Washington on May 10th, and at the General  Federation of Women’s Clubs International Convention held June 22-26 in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information, visit www.marylousanelli.com.

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