Breathing Lessons: Excerpt 1

Maggie thought of last summer when her old cat, Pumpkin, had died. His absence had struck her so intensely that it had amounted to a presence – the lack of his furry body twining between her ankles whenever she opened the refrigerator door, the lack of his motorboat purr in her bed whenever she woke up at night. Stupidly, she had been reminded of the time Leroy and Fiona had left, although of course there was no comparison. But here was something even stupider: A month or so later, when cold weather set in, Maggie switched off the basement dehumidifier as she did every year and even that absence had struck her. She had mourned in the most personal way the silencing of the steady, faithful whir that used to thrum the floorboards. What on earth was wrong with her? she had wondered. Would she spend the rest of her days grieving for every loss equally – a daughter-in-law, a baby, a cat, a machine that dries the air out?

Was this how it felt to grow old?

Ann Tyler, Breathing Lessons, Part 3, Chapter 1

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