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  My Second Act

by Betty Auchard

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The carpet man: Reinvesting emotional energy

A few years after Denny died, I got a crush on the carpet man. I knew then that I must be moving on.

In the middle of home improvements, I had dashed to the rug mart wearing grubby work clothes, old sneakers, and no lipstick to have a quick look at area rugs. The man who waited on me was a nice looking guy with slightly gray curly hair, twinkling eyes, and a laugh like jazzy music. I had so much fun with him that I began to consider more than just a rug for my home. I pondered which chair he might use when we watched a movie together. After that first meeting, I couldn’t stop smiling all the way home and resolved to look better the next time I sought his advice.

I sought his advice the very next day, but this time I dressed for the occasion, complete with bright red toenails, a toe ring, and my best-looking sandals. To bring attention to my strategically placed foot as we studied rug samples, I tapped it on the floor and gushed, “Now THAT’S a nice lookin’ rug.”

I discussed flooring with him often and became known as “his” customer. As his customer, I started wearing eye makeup and nice clothes. But I was self-conscious about the wattle under my chin. It made me look old. If he stood to my left as we talked, I would pretend to be thinking about rug stuff by holding my left hand casually under my chin to hide my wattle. If he stood to my right, I hid the wattle with my right hand. It was a lot of work and, for the first time in my life, I considered having that wattle removed. I made a mental note to do some research in the yellow pages.

One time I called to say, “Carpet Man, I’m going to be gone for seven days, but I’ll see you next week.”

He was in a goofy mood and affected an exaggerated southern accent, saying, “Betty, Ahm so sahrry that y’all won’t be comin’ in today. Ah was so lookin’ forward to seein’ y’all. Mah heart will jus’ be pinin’ for ya ‘til next week.” That silly southern accent got me so excited that I considered carpeting the garage, the driveway, and the sidewalk. But a new kitchen floor seemed more practical.

I had never in my life had a hare-brained flirtation like that, but it made me feel alive again. I was like a 16-year-old girl and all because of a guy who laughed a lot. We laughed so much that I was afraid he might get in trouble. “Carpet Man, your boss is going to think we’re crazy,” I cautioned.

With a wave of his hand he said, “Hey, we’re consenting adults over 21 and can do what we want.”

Consenting adults over 21?” Thank goodness his ring finger was bare. It meant I could flirt forever. If he had asked me out for coffee or even mud wrestling, I was so smitten that I would have gone in a minute.

But nothing like that ever happened.

I was busy for 12 months upgrading one floor after another and everything was looking better because of my crush on the carpet man. I bought all new brass floor vents and carpeted the hall, stairs, and master bedroom. I had every scrap of carpet bound and had to hunt for places to use all those little rugs. I replaced the vinyl in three bathrooms and took out a home improvement loan to upgrade the kitchen so I could have laminate flooring installed. I stalked the carpet man for a whole year, but we never even went out for coffee because the only thing in my home that got his attention was the floor.

I’m not sorry. Apparently his “real” job was to open my heart, and he certainly did that. After the carpet man, I was ready to live and love again. And my house has never looked better.

My grief is a memory: Grief pressed stories from my heart, and poems that made me cry. Now, almost five years later, human pleasures and earthly places are teasing me and filling my heart with hope. Am I glad? Oh, yeah, I’m glad.



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