The Gift of Details

January 9, 2012

I received my online notice that The Art of Racing in the Rain would be due in 3 days and it reminded me that I’d been thinking about adding one more quote to a blog post. The passage that I’d marked was so lovely and sensitive that I’d wanted to.

It’s only early January and occasionally holiday thoughts still creep into my mind. I can’t remember the exact train of thought that spurred this thinking; maybe it was the other day when our friend said that the elderly can become invisible. When a person loses the ability to do the everyday things, like walking outside to get the mail, or to go to the grocery store on his or her own, she observed that this was when the invisibility could happen. And that made me think about how, after the holidays, it can be quite natural for younger family members to sort of check other extended family members off their mental lists — having assuaged their consciences that they’d “done their holiday duty” so that they were good for another year. (And this is nothing shocking; it’s simply a by-product of living in the 21st century. The days of the leisurely Sunday drive dropping in on extended family has gone by the wayside.)This can be the cause of stress on all sides, but this brief passage written by Garth Stein in The Art of Racing in the Rain cast a loveliness over the gift of details which can be shared year-round when some degree of invisibility is necessary.

Denny, the main character in the book, (well, other than the dog, who is the narrator), lost his wife and then his little girl for a period of time: grief on top of grief. It was difficult for him to breathe. After the visit when his friend, Mike, and Enzo, his dog, were allowed to see his daughter, Zoe, Denny had a few questions that he’d wanted answered…

“How did she look?” Denny asked Mike.
“She looked terrific,” Mike said. “She has her mother’s smile.”
“They had a good time together?”
“A fantastic time. They played all day.”
“Fetch?” Denny asked, thirsty for details. “Did she use the Chuckit? Or did they play chase? Eve never liked it when they played chase.”
“No, mostly fetch,” Mike said kindly.
“I never minded when they played chase because I know Enzo, but Eve was always…”
“You know,” Mike said, “sometimes they just flopped down on the grass and cuddled together. It was really sweet.”
Denny wiped his nose quickly.
“Thanks, Mike,” he said. “Really. Thanks a lot.”
(P 222)

I’m not “invisible,” but I speak as one who does receive this gift regularly and I treasure each one. Details don’t have to be big; they just have to be. It all “counts.” Just a tip for the new year. 🙂

And now I must return the book, but it’s OK. I’ll get another. Thank you, Garth Stein.


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