Saturday evening, my wife Merry and I were getting ready to go to a retirement celebration for our friend, Shelly.
I had finished dressing, except for my black slacks. Because we have several cats, and because cat hair has an almost supernatural ability to find and cling to black wool pants, I usually wait to put on my dress slacks until we’re ready to go out. So, I was sitting on the cedar chest near my wife’s dressing table in my new, orange gingham shirt and underwear, watching her apply her makeup, and trying to gauge the right moment to take my vulnerable black slacks out of the closet when the thought came to me.
I think it might have been triggered by my orange gingham shirt, which Merry sometimes jokes reminds her of Jethro Clampett, but I started thinking about the old TV show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.” I was thinking how I’d always enjoyed the idea of the simple, gentle hillbillies navigating the pretense of Beverly Hills when the thought struck me.“Honey,” I asked, “do you think Jed Clampett was a Taoist master?”
My wife, being used to the odd associations with which I entertain myself while waiting for her, did not stop outlining her lovely eye. “What do you mean,” she said absently.
“Well, he’s this centered, gentle spirit. He’s in touch with nature, loves his family. He always sees the good in people and treats everyone with respect. He has this simple wisdom, and no matter how crazy things get, nothing rattles him. And,” I said, putting the final touch on my thesis, “his presence always seems to bring the crazy situations around him back into harmony – even though he doesn’t really take action.”
I paused, waiting for agreement.. I watched my wife continue with her makeup. “A Taoist master,” I repeated.
Merry had moved on to the other eye during my dissertation. She paused, and checked the composition of her face. “Then what’s granny?” she asked, using her patient voice.
I thought about the feisty old lady, full of mountain wisdom about herbs, critters, love, money, and deep, lost, ancient human truths. I thought about how her schemes always spun into a tornado around poor Jed. For a moment, I thought about my wife starting a full-blown cat rescue charity, and her other adventures that disrupt my fantasies of coming home from work to a nice glass of wine and a peaceful evening with a good book. I watched Merry inspect the small wrinkles around her still lovely eye, and frown. I thought of Granny’s quick temper and ever-present shotgun. Perhaps, I thought, it’s not the best time to talk about old women with crazy schemes.“I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it.”
“What about Jethro and Ellie Mae?” she asked, turning her attention to her lipstick.
I thought about it, sitting on the cedar chest in my Jethro Clampett gingham shirt and undershorts. “Yin and Yang,” I answered.
“What do you mean?”
“Yin and Yang. Female and male principles.” I paused and waited for a response.
She raised an eyebrow.
“Well, they’re both young, innocent, but pretty lusty. Jethro is a big, good looking lunkhead who can’t let a pretty girl walk by without grinning—pure male principle.”
She smiled. I continued.
“Ellie Mae is beautiful, nurturing, loves animals and children, and is,” I paused, “well, she is hot. Female principle. Yin and Yang.”
My wife is remarkably tolerant of actresses on whom I developed crushes in my pre-teen years, particularly ones that like animals. She finished her makeup, gave her face a final check, and stood up.
“Put your pants on,” she said, “I’m ready.”
I’d long ago learned not to ask how she could be ready if she was still wearing her sweats. She disappeared into her walk-in closet, closing the door behind her.
I took my black slacks out of the
I was mentally elaborating on my thesis about Jed Clampett as a Taoist master when Merry joined me. She was wearing a new blue blouse. I always like her in blue, so I kissed her. We walked out of the house. She watched me lock the door but tugged on the handle anyway.
As I was letting her into the truck, I said, “Nature goddess.”
“Granny.” I paused. My wife looked confused. “Granny Clampett,” I said, “she’s like mother nature, pulled out of the mountains and placed in the city, with all her wisdom about herbs, food, men and women, and life intact.”
“Did you check the stove and coffee maker?”
“Twice,” I said as I walked around the truck and got behind the wheel.
“Jed’s the Taoist master who must mediate the nature goddess and the endless, ephemeral dance of Yin and Yang.” I continued, justifiably proud of myself. “So what do you think?” I asked.“You’re mixing up a lot of stuff,” my wife said matter-of-factly. “Let’s go,” she added, waving her hand toward the front of the truck. “Shelly’s retirement party will be starting.”
I stared at her for a moment, and it occurred to me that she was at one of those lovely cusps in her life, still beautiful, still far from old age, but strengthened by the fibers of an ancient, female wisdom. I hoped I could be a man she deserved: as strong, life giving, and patient as old Jed, the Taoist master.
“Well,” she said nodding toward the front of the truck, “we don’t want to keep Shelly waiting.”
I smiled, put the truck in gear, and drove off to help an old friend celebrate her life’s long-promised fulfillment.