I have joint custody of a stuffed bear. He was a gift early in my last relationship when my love had to be away traveling very often. We took great joy in naming him for a dear character in a somewhat obscure favorite book. The bear’s name is Oscar Humlum, though usually we just call him Humlum, or another name, which I will keep. (The book is The Borderliners, by Peter Hoeg).

Before Humlum, I was a stuffed animal snob who believed that no self-respecting adult would have a stuffed “toy” like that, or if they did, would certainly keep it hidden away in the proverbial or literal closet. But Humlum and life have softened me.

I should say that the man who gave me the bear is a great bear in his own right. I alternately cry and am overjoyed by the thought of him as a single man in Montréal. The short of it is that we—and that would be me!—tried for very long to force our relationship in a certain direction. And, as any wise person will tell you: forcing is never a good plan. So here we are. We’ve set each other free to live life without forced agenda… we’ll see! But back to Humlum…

He has a great belly, which he loves to share, particularly with the crook of my neck. On long car drives, he calls for his version of shotgun, which looks like riding sideways tucked between the head rest and my neck. He likes it there. Aside from getting a good belly rub from my head it gives him the sideways view on things, a perspective he thinks goes sadly unappreciated by most people of the unstuffed, unfuzzy variety. When he told me this, I pointed out about homo sapiens walking upright and the gravity thing, adding that it’s not called a law for nothing – he was mostly quiet and said he understood, leaving unsaid what I know he knows, which is that we humans tend to only see things one way: our way.

I’ve taken Humlum on many an overnight trip—he likes being stuffed in a suitcase, all dark and tight and cave-like, and I always leave it partly unzipped so he can breathe.

Upside down and totally on his head are other favorite ways of his to be, which is a good thing given the position I find him in on mornings when I was needing company of the hugging kind.

Humlum has presence. Sometimes he sits on my chest in bed, usually right before I fall asleep or when I first wake up, and I tell him what I would tell someone. You know, someone. Humlum’s eyes are soft and intent without staring. His ears are bent forward. His heart—mmmmm, his heart… I have the sense that his real hearing ears are actually in his heart.

Often I cry. Presence like that makes me cry: that sort of listening without agenda, without interruption, without needing me to be any different than I am, without seeing the need to fix or change me in any way, quickly brings me to the heart of a matter. No blah blah blah there. Just the plain and simple how it is. And in the heart of a matter, my friends, is an amazing place to be.

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