His life certainly isn’t what he thought it would be. Turns out all the beer commercials on television are just trying to sell a product to sports fans.
He remembers when he was younger, the sky was the limit. He was going to graduate high school, make millions, more than keep up with the Joneses and be a big success. Like the American male is supposed to do.
While he isn’t a failure by any stretch of the imagination, he’s not where he thought he would be, either. He’s got a nice house, reliable car, decent marriage and he’s not sure when he became satisfied with adjectives like “reliable” and “nice.”
In his youth he wanted fast and instant and wild. Didn’t matter if the car needed work, could it hit 60 in a matter of seconds? Man, that was fun. Now he’s got responsibilities – reasons not to race up and down the road in a car because it’s not safe and he needs to be around for a while.
Sometimes he laughs at himself – at the dreams of youth – like adults do. Fast cars break down and when you’ve got a job, you need a vehicle that can get you there. Relationships take work – they’re certainly not like what’s portrayed in the action movies he likes so much.
He does all this – thinks about gas mileage and actually listens to his wife – because he wants to be a good person. Adulthood has taught him that character counts.
None of this is spoken aloud, though. Not to anyone. Well, almost.
He’s got one soul he confides in – and she seems to understand.
Her name’s Copper and as crazy as it sounds, she’s got four legs and a tail. She’s a 5-year-old golden retriever and she’s been with him since she was a pup.
He doesn’t wax this philosophic to anyone, ever, but in his head, in his gut, he knows how special Copper is. He doesn’t have to choose the right words with her. He doesn’t have to toe the line, like at work. She understands if he’s had a bad day and just needs to relax.
Sometimes he actually talks to her – out loud when no one’s around – and he knows it’s stupid, but he tells her what scares him and what worries him and what he finds funny and what he misses from when he was younger. And he doesn’t have to explain why. She just watches him with those big brown eyes of hers and lets him talk.
He feels weird when he thinks it, but he sometimes believes that she just knows he needs to get some stuff off his chest and she’s there to listen. She sits with him during football games and doesn’t look at him strangely when he laughs at comedians on Comedy Central.
He shakes his head at himself. He used to be tough. He had a cool car. His boots were well-worn and made him look like the Marlboro Man. Nothing phased him. Now because of this four-legged, brown-eyed dog he’s become mushy and sentimental.
About a year ago, she had some lumps. Scared him so bad he didn’t sleep one night wondering what in the world he would do without her. He didn’t think he was one of “those people,” the ones who form these odd attachments to their pets, but somehow, someway, Copper had wormed her way into his heart, almost without his knowledge and he doesn’t think he can remember what his life was like before she came into it.
The lumps turned out to be nothing of concern and the relief he had felt in the vet’s office that day had been nearly staggering. It was that moment that he realized although there were people who would make fun of and mock him, he didn’t care if he was one of “those people.” Copper was important to him and he wasn’t going to apologize for it.
Since then he’s come to believe maybe she’s got the right idea. She loves her food – eats with gusto. She finds joy in the simplest of things – a walk, playing fetch in the backyard, a nap in front of the fire.
He’s started to think, the older he gets, that maybe life is less about being “cool” and having “awesome” stuff and more about knowing what’s important – what makes you happy.
So even though he sometimes thinks back to the days of his youth with an odd sort of yearning nostalgia, and he’s a long way from where he thought he would be, he’s come to realize that his life, as it is, can be pretty darn good, too.
And he smiles to himself when he thinks he learned it all from Copper.
Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at [email protected] The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website www.cvas-pets.org. CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.