When Will You Have This Much Time?–Kathie Hightower


The scene in front of me looks like Judy Woodruff’s PBS News Hour home office. Bookcase behind her, carefully curated, in my sister’s case arranged by color. I watch the News Hour too. That is one thing we have in common.

I prefer Lisa Desjardins’ setting. Spotting her cat on the couch makes her real to me. Patty doesn’t approve, but then she’s never had a pet. All that hair. The smells. Patty does approve of Lisa’s hair, however, trying to convince me I could pull off Lisa’s range of hairstyles. She’s not a fan of my ponytail.

“I bet she uses The Dyson Airwrap Super Styler,” Patty told me once, trying to convince me I should get one. I laughed so hard on that Zoom call, I peed a little. In my favorite sweats.

“Why are you laughing? $550 is a bargain for the results you get. First impressions.”

Patty is all about first impressions, always carefully coifed, full makeup, and a classy top, usually one of her solid-colored Chico’s jackets with slim black pants. No cheating, no professional tops with sweats below, as many of my friends do for business Zoom meetings these days.

Once Covid hit, Patty studied You Tube videos on how to best do Zoom. She bought some kind of halo light and keeps trying to convince me to get one. “At least have a light facing you. And really, Jeannine, everyone can see your unmade bed behind you. And at night it gets so dark I can barely see your face.”

Why do I care? Why does she care? It’s not like she’s a celebrity, not working from home.  The gym she manages closed almost immediately, and now she’s turning all that management energy on me.

“It’s the perfect gift of time. When else will you ever have this much time?” Patty makes big statements, with complete conviction. She really should have been a doctor or a professor or maybe a drill sergeant. I know what is coming next. I take a big gulp of wine, thankful for that Facebook tip of taping a teabag string to the inside of my tea mug with the label hanging outside. Visually turning wine into tea. Suggested for work, but I need it to Zoom with my sister.

“Use it or lose it, you know.” There it is. She makes air quotes with her fingers, so close to the screen it feels like the fingers are coming at me, ready to scratch my eyes out. Like she used to try when we were kids.

“I have an idea.” Patty always has ideas. For everyone else, but mostly for me, her baby sister.  Even if I am 60.

People always know we are sisters, but they never guess I’m the younger one, by four years no less. We should pose for a before and after photo for one of the whackadoodle fitness programs Patty dove into since her last child was born 40 years ago. Zumba, Crossfit, 30Clean, on top of the ones she did when we were growing up. Jazzercise. Jane Fonda. Richard Simmons.

“We are going to buy you a FitBit. In celebration of 60. A new beginning.” She says that as she jots a note on her daily to-do list, one she’ll complete before she goes to bed. “We’ll be FitBit buddies. You’ll be amazed how much incentive you get from seeing a buddy beat you on total steps week in and week out. I used to just aim for 70,000, but when Sue hit 100,000 steps a week, I pushed mine right up to 118,000.” She continues as if she didn’t see me. Her head was down while she wrote, so maybe she missed my eye-roll. Of course, she knows how I’d react. This isn’t our first motivational session. Covid and my 60th birthday coincided to give her another excuse.

I don’t say a word. I take another big gulp of wine, pick up my laptop and wander back to my base. The couch. Maybe I’ll re-binge the Outlander Series. I balance the laptop on my belly, and cringe again. I’ve surpassed the Covid 19 weight gain everyone talks about. Excelling in my own way. My sister, on the other hand, took Covid as a motivator to up her exercise game, investing in a Peloton Bike no less.

I wonder as I have many times in the past. Would our roles be reversed if my name had rhymed with fatty in grade school? Maybe I should humor her and give the FitBit a try. What would it hurt?

Kathie Hightower is a writer and speaker who settled in Manzanita 14 years ago. An author of nonfiction books, she’s writing her first novel. Cofounder of the Manzanita Writers’ Series, she’s thrilled to see the coastal writers’ community connecting and expanding.