I’m an empty nester, but not all the way empty. My children still come home often enough that there’s cause to keep their bedrooms available for them. My daughter was home most of this past summer, and my son came home for what felt like fifteen minutes.
My husband is home all the time. And when I say my husband is home all the time, I mean my husband is home ALL THE TIME. My dog also rarely leaves, except to go on walkies, which rarely go further than our street, and never alone.
I have noticed this: at any given moment, when they are in the house, one of the humans is irritated with me because of something I said or did. I couldn’t always tell you what I did to cause the irritation, but ooh boy can I feel it.
My dog, on the other hand, has never once been irritated with me. Not even when I accidentally step on his paw or nail him with a ball when playing fetch because I can’t throw with the remotest bit of accuracy. If he’s hurt, he comes to me for comfort, even if I’m the clumsy idiot who hurt him in the first place.
So it came to me in a rush the other day. I can try or not try to make my humans happy, and their level of happiness doesn’t seem to change much based on my efforts. They either will be or won’t be. My humans are all fully functional adults now, and I am not in charge of their happiness. Let me repeat that for my own benefit: I am not in charge of their happiness.
But Lincoln? The sweet little rescue puppy who has been a part of our family for almost five years now? I can make that critter happy. Just walking through the door after I get home from work makes him so happy he jumps and spins and barks. I pat his little polka-dotted tummy and he makes the most satisfied little noises. He runs outside for walkies, but if he can’t see me he’ll stop and look over his shoulder to make sure I’m still there. When he sees me, he rocket-dogs to his next stop.
I guess it’s possible I’m just projecting happiness on Lincoln. He’s not a person. His brain is as small as a walnut, and it shows. He may just like me because I radiate menopausal heat and my skin tastes like salt because I am always sweating. I’m open to that possibility.
I don’t care if it is. Projection or not, he looks happy. He seems happy. His little tail never ever stops wagging, not even when he sleeps. And that kind of happy is contagious.
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 I’ve been pretty successful in life, I think, earning a good living after a good education, a long-term marriage and two healthy kids and all, but my mother majored in Physical Education and my father was on all the teams in high school – football, basketball, wrestling, etc. No matter what I achieve, because I can neither run nor catch nor throw, there will always be that sliver of disappointment.
 Well, they’re all adults, and I’ve done what I can do to make them fully functional. If they aren’t at this point, it’s on them and they wouldn’t listen to me anyway.
 See: menopause.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.