Tim would not stop bugging Nan about meeting Charlie’s dog. Was it not bad enough that she had to think about what to do with this tenant who was so blatantly ignoring the rules she had set out the day he moved in? This was already stressful enough, but to add insult to injury, her very son refused to quit asking about the very same source of her frustration. He just loved this dog, already and without having ever met it. Did he care if the dog was dangerous? No. Did he care if the dog ruined things in the house? No. Did he care that the dog represented a violation of her Number One Rule when landlording?
Not in the least. Instead, the day after he overheard her talking to Charlie on the phone—the very same as Day of the Dog that started this mess–Tim was at it again. “When am I going to meet the dog, Ma Ma? I want to meet him today!”
Nan had coached herself to take a calm approach with her son. “Now, remember what I said, Tim. There’s no reason that you need to meet Charlie’s dog. Besides, we don’t even know if he will have the dog long” (although she felt this was a lie) “and there are many other dogs that you can meet. Maybe we can go to a park and you can find one to play with!”
Tim had regarded her with incredulous indifference. “But I want to meet Rothe! I want to meet Charleeth Dog!”
Matters only became worse that night when, at dinner out just with her daughter, Laura brought up the dog. “So when is Tim going to get to meet this dog he keeps mentioning? Isn’t it your tenant’s at the Park House?”
Nan cringed, suddenly tense. “No… I mean, yes it is my tenant’s… well, he thinks that he found a dog, a stray that ran up to him on the street… scared the beejesus out of me, actually… and when Tim found out about it, he hasn’t stopped asking about it every since.”
Nan hoped desperately that Laura would be satisfied with this and leave it alone. Instead, she didn’t. “So you met the dog too? Is it a big dog? What kind is it? Is it dangerous?”
Nan tried to look thoughtful, when by now she was actually quite annoyed. “Hmm… you know, I’m not sure what kind it is…” She realized she did not know much about dogs. “And, it’s definitely a big dog, and yes, I think it could be quite dangerous. But…” she had to be fair “it also seems friendly enough. But…”
Here she almost hesitated to say it, but decided to press on. “Honey, you know how I feel about animals. I told Charlie point blank, just as I have told every tenant I have had there, that animals weren’t allowed. And he just wants to ignore that rule, after all these years, he just acts like just because he found a dog and it was love at first sight that I’m going to give him a free pass?! Who does he think he is! I mean, come on!”
Nan expected–no, hoped for–a sympathetic response from her daughter. Surely she would get this. The response she actually got nearly made her blood boil. “Mom, so your tenant–Charlie, right? The really nice guy who is friendly with everyone and never has caused any trouble–he finds a doggy companion, and you want to take that away from him just because many years ago you arbitrarily made a rule up? Do you really want to… be like that?”
For a moment, Nan shot daggers through her cold gaze at her daughter. How could she betray me like this? What gives her the right to judge me? To her credit, Nan took a deep breath instead of unleashing on her daughter the anger she really felt.
The charge to keep calm seemed to be working, at least on the outside.
“Laura, I am not comfortable with having a dog in the house. I made it very clear to Charlie–“
“Mom, this could be an amazing connection that they share! Man’s best friend, right? Why would you take that from them? And besides, this could be a friend for Tim too. Maybe he will want a dog. Maybe meeting Charlie’s dog is a way for him to have a brand new experience. It might do him some good.”
Nan stewed in her frustration. Laura clearly did not care about her happiness at all. She felt humiliated at being schooled on how to be in this situation from her own daughter.
Yet something told her to keep quiet about that, despite how hard it was to.
Suddenly, she felt like crying. She hadn’t expected this. She did not know what to say.
“Ah, mom! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.” A moment later, Laura was beside her mother, embracing her. Had it been that obvious? Nan wondered, as surprised at this response as she had been a moment before at Laura’s challenging her over the dog situation.
With her daughter’s arms around her, she gave in. “It’s just that…. the dog… scares me. I’ve always been afraid of dogs. I don’t… trust them. Your father tried to convince me to be more open, but I wasn’t. I just shut down.”
“Ah, Mom. It’s okay. I understand. That makes so much sense. It’ll be okay.” Imagine this, Nan wondered. Daughter consoling mother. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
Yet something had shifted. She felt lighter, better.
And she loved her daughter more than ever.