So I asked God…

April 19, 2017

I felt as if I might be turning into a parody of pain, some caricature of suffering with my grief over losing Slevin. Six days of a heartache so acute that it physically hurts and extravagant tears that just keep coming. I’ve wanted to put together a Slevin playlist, but I’ve resisted because surely – surely – that’s not normal or healthy. I’m already painfully, albeit peripherally, aware that I’m doing a very bad job of comforting my two other dogs (who are at a loss about how to behave with their alpha gone) and my husband (who is grieving just as deeply, and with a lot more fortitude and selflessness than I). I’m trying to find “normal” in a world stripped of its most familiar landmark, but I’m failing.

Other than announcing Slevin’s passing to his informal FB fan club, I’ve pretty much stayed away from social media. Then today I logged onto FB and saw that God had a new post. Ask him any question, he said. So I did: “Is my dog Slevin with you? If so, can you send him home?”

If you don’t know who God on FB is, it’s a humor page. So yes, I’ve lost my mind and resorted to asking a snarky cartoon God to send my dog back.

Then I scanned through some of the other 300+ comments and was surprised by how many people asked about their dogs. Dozens of them. There were questions about Dumpling who passed last week and about Buddy who died a decade ago, and the message was always the same. Could God please send them home because their mommy/daddy/families are heartbroken without them.

It occurred to me that maybe it’s supposed to hurt this bad, and maybe I’m just supposed to let it.

Here’s what I’ve got so far for that playlist I’m never going to ever until later this evening or by Friday at the latest put together as a memento mori:

Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.
Let Her Go – Passengers
Caroline – Colter Wall
Nothing Compares To You – Sinead O’Connor
A Long December – Counting Crows
How Do I Live – LeAnn Rimes
Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
Here Without You – 3 Doors Down
Sideways – Citizen Cope

Baby, I miss you so much.
55100026

My Lucky Number Slevin

April 15, 2017

Day Two in a post-Slevin world: Bleak. Two forty-five in the morning, and I’ve woken myself up crying.

As long as I’m up and battered by grief, and consumed with thoughts of the best dog in the world, can I talk about his name?

To me, the world is divided into people who recognize the name and those who don’t. If you recognize the name, I can just stop here, right? Nothing else needs to be said. There’s the grin, the nod, the unspoken acknowledgement that I gave my yellow Lab the. Coolest. Yellow. Lab. Name. Ever.

But if you don’t recognize his name, it’s really a quick story and I’d like to tell it.

It starts with a chubby, green-eyed yellow Lab, picked from his litter on Friday, October 13, 2006. I’ve always considered Friday the 13th a lucky day, so I wanted to name my puppy something to do with luck, without going down the “Lucky” road which, to me, is a cat name anyway.

Luckily for me (see what I did there?), I’d recently seen the movie, “Lucky Number Slevin”. It’s not normally my type of movie, what with being extremely bloody and violent, but the writing is excellent and the performances are just over the top enough to be charming. The movie details the fall-out from a racetrack bet made twenty years earlier, a bet on a horse named Lucky Number Slevin, and a young man who uses the alias Slevin Kelevra. So Slevin became Slevin Kelevra Blood (yes, that’s my real last name) before I even made it home from picking him up.

Okay, so he never looked like much of a killer, I admit. But still…his was a very cool name and when I called him at the dog park, he was the only dog to turn around.

55100023

 

Without Slevin: Day One

April 14, 2017

This is such a First World problem, we’ve all been through it, he was just a dog

There’s no such thing as “just a dog”, and especially not in Slevin’s case. He was the answer to the age-old question, “who’s a good boy?”

Slevin. Always Slevin. Forever Slevin.

The first day in 3836 days (ten years and six months and one day) of a world without him in it, and I feel like I’ve woken up in some foreign place where everything looks unfamiliar and I don’t speak the language and I don’t know my way home.

 

20448_1171817141255_7365529_n

 

 

Hero

November 6, 2016

So you raise a child and you make so many mistakes that you sometimes wonder how this boy stayed out of jail and off drugs. You have friends who made far better parenting choices whose grown children fight ineffectual battles against social dragons that are beyond your imagining, and you feel sympathetic horror for those parents as their child fails again and again. You can’t take any pleasure in that, not one moment of schadenfreude. Instead, you feel a sickening thrill that’s akin to running up to the edge of a cliff and almost going over. The best you can feel is relief that you somehow – not through one single effort of your own – avoided the same fall. Your heart knows, that could have been me down there on the rocks. It should have been me.

You see your son grow up and you stand back in awe over the person he’s become: The depth of his compassion, his wisdom, his common sense – all of those things in spades. And you acknowledge that he is this marvelous person not because of your questionable parenting skills, but in spite of them.

And you see him with his own child, and you know that everything good is going to be passed down to another generation, in spite of all the baggage you dragged along as a parent and sometimes – admit it, don’t shy away from the truth – you made him drag along for you.

You realize he doesn’t see your failings; or perhaps he does, he just has heart enough to pretend he doesn’t.

And you’re thankful for heroes.

Three little words…

September 30, 2016

This morning I suddenly missed the face of a woman who has been my online friend since the MySpace days of 2005. She’s a gorgeous woman, one who so surpasses what’s considered pretty that, until I got to know her better, I was confused by her habit of posting at least one selfie a day. Did she think the rest of us weren’t jealous enough already? What was it that drove her to post so many selfies? Indoor selfies, outdoor selfies, casual selfies, formal selfies…

Once we became phone/email friends, I understood her much better. As beautiful as she is, she never heard those words from the one person in her life who should have been telling her daily, hourly, every single available minute how attractive she is. Instead, he was busy tearing her down about her weight (totally within the average) or her lack of income (and whose idea was it that she be a stay-at-home mom?). He not only tore her down by what he said, he also tore her down by what he didn’t say. Those three little words: You are beautiful.

Let me jump to the good news regarding this friend. I realized today – it was a total epiphany of the happiest sort – that she stopped posting so many selfies because she no longer needs to. A man who adores the very air she breathes came into her life, and the asshat who found reasons to compare her to her teenage self and draw ungracious comparisons is a thing of the past. She’s happy now. She’s validated now. She not only feels loved, she feels beautiful. There’s no longer a need for the validation of the online masses. The person who matters most never lets her forget how beautiful she is.

It’s not a matter of being needy. I’m the single most independent woman I personally know. I’ve never been unhappy while single. I can live and have lived alone with great complacency. I have, I believe, at least average self-esteem. I don’t cringe when I look in the mirror. In fact, I have a form of body dysmorphic disorder that leans the other direction. I look good when I look in the mirror. I think I’m tall, fit, and beautiful. Only my clothing size clues me into the fact that the times, they are a’changing. I wore an 11 junior in jeans when my son was five. Now I play the brand-versus-size game. Cheap jeans? A 20. Three digit jeans? A 20. The sweet spot is jeans that cost $70 to $90 dollars – an 18 or even a 16, depending on the brand. Hey, a 16 for a woman who is almost 60 years ago is hot, right?

But that confidence fails me in the most unexpected and unhappy ways at times.

Sometimes I catch sight of myself in a surprise mirror, or in the wretched lighting of an airport bathroom, or in an unforgiving glass storefront. And I’m appalled. I admit it. I sometimes look at my reflection and wonder, who is that fat old woman? And who could possibly desire her?

It’s a wonderful thing to hear that someone loves you. But those three words when totally unaccompanied by the other three eventually grow a mental ellipsis after them. “I love you…even though you’re fat.” “I love you…in spite of how old and wrinkled and disgusting you are.” “I love you…but no one else could possibly want you.”

Men and women BOTH are prone to deflect these compliments. “No, I’m ugly!” Time after time, heartfelt compliments can be deflected.

Here’s where you need to really listen to me, even if you haven’t listened to a single word of this blog before now: Don’t give up. If he or she says, “but I’m fat”, you counter. “No, you’re perfect!” Give him or her examples of their beauty. Tell them they have beautiful eyes, or they have the most adorable feet you’ve ever seen, or their hair calls to mind poems about the stormy ocean crashing against a rocky coast. Don’t give up. Your loved one is deflecting because they need to hear why you think they are beautiful.

When a compliment finally hits home in spite of all the deflection and demurring, think of the way the color mounts into the cheeks of your loved one, the way the light sparkles in his or her amazing eyes. Isn’t it worth the trouble? No matter how many times you have to tell them they’re beautiful, isn’t it worth a little effort to see how your words cause beauty to burst forth in their face, in their eyes, in their smile? Damned straight it’s worth it. And if you give up because of an initially deflective response, then move the fuck on and let this person you claim to love find someone who isn’t so easily dissauded.

“I love you.” Cheap words.

“You’re beautiful.” That’s what you should be saying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset fairies

January 17, 2015

My last (or maybe second-to-the-last) first cousin on my mom’s side passed away today. My mind is all over the map trying to take that in.

For the first 25 years of my life there was always a cousin Linda. She was the first person besides hospital staff and me to hold my son. She probably held me when I was a newborn.

My sister and I thought Linda was as beautiful as a fairy princess back in the 60s with her tiny waist and full skirts, her sunset hair and paler-than-possible skin. She babysat us and her boyfriend (later husband) used to help me color the hard parts in my coloring book. She shared her bottle of Pepsi with me and my sister, which was a huge treat since soft drinks weren’t on the menu around our house growing up.

Linda and I briefly became running buddies once I turned 21. I don’t mean “running” like in yoga pants and sneakers, I mean we ran the bars together, drinking cheap white zin and dancing to Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle” (which is impossible to dance to sober, have you noticed?) with random California cowboys. Harmless fun, good times.

I haven’t laid eyes on my cousin for 33 years. How is that possible? And now she’s moved on. The princess of a girl who loved her ragamuffin cousin. The fiery redhead who hated another older girl cousin of ours for the later’s shoddy treatment of me – Linda hated Dorothy on my behalf and you just can’t buy that kind of friendship, I don’t care what color your credit card is.

I cried for a long time today. I still cry on and off as I write this. It’s obviously not because I “miss” Linda; she and I haven’t been besties for 33 years. It’s because I feel the biggest drawbridge imaginable just slammed shut between the first quarter-century of my life and where I stand today. Even more than losing our grandparents, aunts, uncles, this loss cuts close. I assume that’s because Linda and I are relatively close in age, and there’s that whole “if she went then I must be next” thing. Or something like that. Or maybe it’s because this is the first time in my entire life that I’m standing in a world where my cousin isn’t also standing.

But since I’m among friends I’ll say this in a whisper: I think Linda’s passing has shaken me up so much because I just found out that fairy princesses are mortal. That can’t be right. That just can’t be right.

Slevin Starlight

September 2, 2014

You fade to starlight
And the years get lost in the ribble and rabble of every day and
I wonder,
When did you grow old?
Was I working, distracted, oblivious?
Was I caught up in the nothing when you started to fail?

Years so short to me,
So long to you,
And perhaps it’s best that I haven’t noticed,
That you kept your fatal secret,
That time crept silently upon us
Or my heart would have been years in the breaking.

You fade to starlight
As other, younger ones come along to grab at my heart
But never like you.
Never like you.

You are my starlight, fading.

This is in response to, “A Letter to Liberals” by author Michael Charney. His blog can be found here: http://www.chasingglennbeck.com/homeblog/2013/5/2/a-letter-to-liberals.html#.UYRcmoIyHdU

Hello, Mr. Charney –

Let me take a moment of your time to introduce myself. I’m a West Coast transplant currently living in Oklahoma, in a smallish town about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City. I live in a single-family home with my boyfriend and two dogs. Being older than you, we have no children left in the nest. Our sons are married with sons of their own and are living on opposite coasts.

Our house is very simple. It’s a good 75 years old, perhaps older. The plaster interior walls can’t completely hide the round vents that give evidence to the fact that this house was once heated by woodstoves. It’s a small place, less than 700 square feet with two bedrooms and one bathroom. The plumbing gives us problems sometimes, but in the six years I’ve lived here the landlord has always been quick to repair any issues that arise. I believe so firmly in living within my means that the rent is always easy to pay – on time, every single month. My landlord deserves his money no less than I deserve what I work for. We have a small HDTV on which we stream movies via Roku and Netflix because I refuse to pay for cable television – just another example of making sure we always live within our means.

Do you hate me? No? Then I feel safe in asking you to continue reading.

Like you, I work in Human Resources. I’m the payroll manager for a minority-owned security company that boasts a sterling reputation among our industry peers, employees, and customers. I’m also the published author of short fiction and non-, one young adult novel, one novella, and more ghastly poetry than you can shake a stick at. Seriously. I’m the worst poet since Rod McKuen. (At least no one can blame me for “MacArthur Park”.) I’ve always worked, often more than one job at a time. Staying home to raise my son was never an option and I’m not sure I would have done so even if given the chance, but I certainly don’t revile women who choose a career as homemaker and mom. That’s the lovely thing about the little movement called “Women’s Liberation” that came out of the 70s. Women are free to pursue professional careers or raise children. Typically we do both.

Are you hating me yet?

We are a spiritual family. My boyfriend is a Vietnam-era veteran who still embraces much of his Southern Baptist upbringing. Although I was raised Lutheran, for almost 20 years I’ve practiced a little religious philosophy you may have heard of called “witchcraft”. Surprisingly to some, not surprisingly to others, my boyfriend and I have no problem reconciling our beliefs. You see, we both believe in cherishing the earth and loving every single creature that walks, crawls, flies, swims or slithers across its surface. (Well, maybe the b/f isn’t so fond of things that slither. That’s okay. His heebie-jeebies didn’t stop him from helping me safely remove the snake we found in our bathroom last year. That’s the grand thing about love: It overcomes the heebie-jeebies every time. I adore him for that.) I don’t need weekly sermons to remind me that the Creator expects me to obey a certain moral code because that code is simple: Love one another. Help one another. Be good to one another. If you listen closely, I think you’ll hear the words of the wise and wonderful man you call your savior, Jesus of Nazareth, in those rules.

The other week when a little girl crashed her bike in the street outside of my house, I ran over to her. I helped her to her feet, examined her boo-boos, and walked her home to her mother. Contrary to what some might believe about “my kind”, I did not whisk her off to become the weekly sacrifice at a local witches’ coven. Witches don’t practice human sacrifice, nor do we worship satan. In fact, we don’t even believe such an entity exists.

Are you hating me now? Silently or overtly?

I don’t recognize any church dogma which tells me how I should feel about gay marriage or abortion. Among a multitude of other blessings, the Creator gave me a wonderful combination of intelligence and compassion that allows me to come to my own conclusion about such things. When it comes to gay marriage, I don’t care who is marrying whom as long as only consenting adults are involved. Any loving couple (or sextet or octet, I don’t care) who choose to commit their lives to each other are welcome to do so as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I rarely give the matter any thought at all. When it comes to abortion, I have stronger opinions, but when it comes down to where the rubber meets the asphalt, it’s not my place to make a decision for any other woman or to cast judgment on her for her choices no matter how far removed they might be from choices I’d make for myself.

How about now? Do you wish I didn’t exist?

To sum it all up, I’m a single mom and grandmother who lives her life with a quiet determination to abide by the Pagan Rede: Do no harm. And more than that, I try to do small, good things when I have the chance, although I confess that I don’t go out of my way looking for opportunities for demonstrating compassion. The opportunities seem to find me as often as necessary to remind me that we’re all in this together, and if we don’t start acting like it, we’re in big trouble as a country and as a species.

No, I don’t hate you Mr. Charney, and I never did. I hope the goodwill is mutual. The only complaint is that your “A Letter to Liberals” was admittedly not autobiographical, and I question why not. This piece, “A Letter to Conservatives” is entirely my story. My life is open to scrutiny and I can tell you right off the bat that anyone looking will find both good there and bad. I’ve done wrong, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life and some of them were fairly egregious. I guess that’s what being human is all about.

I guess we’re not so different after all, are we?

VA Stories

March 30, 2013

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the VA Hospital since Mickey moved in. “A lot” translates to maybe eight day-long trips while Mickey had various ailments looked into including a broken shoulder (mea culpa) and cataract surgery. So it’s not like it’s become my second home, but eight visits is a lot to someone who eschews hospitals and had never been to a VA hospital even once prior to 2010.

An amazing thing about the VA hospital is the cross section of society you meet there. I expected to see veterans, yes, but the word “veteran” conjured a very definite mental image in my mind that I’ve discovered was nowhere near the truth. Yes, you meet the almost stereotypical dignified, white-haired veteran with the carefully coiffed wife sitting quietly by his side, but you also meet the crazy Nam vet with the greasy hair who’s cussing everyone, the pockets of black veterans speaking in slang that I can only understand a fraction of, young men with empty eyes, dying men with eyes full of pain, young women vets who carry an incredible amount of pride on their tiny frames, and lesbian vets who think a tall woman like me is the cat’s meow for some reason. And the most amazing thing of all is how many of them (white-haired vets with coiffed wives excluded) seek me out to tell me their stories. Amazing stories. Wonderful stories.

Yesterday it was Henry. An elderly black man that I had a hard time understanding at first, until he whitened-up his vocabulary enough for a pasty person like me to follow, which I thought was very sweet of him, considering that I was just another middle-aged white woman in the human sea that is the ER waiting room. He started out telling me that he’d taken almost no game this year. His eyes filled with regret. Not one single deer. I didn’t tell him that I’m a vegetarian, I just let him talk. He talked about going out hunting with his brother-in-law and bagging about a dozen rabbits, then discovering that dialysis had made him too weak to carry them out. There he was, he explained, in the “woods” with a dozen freshly killed and gutted rabbits and him too weak to take them home. But thankfully his brother-in-law hiked out for help and someone brought a truck and he got those rabbits home; he wasn’t sure why he bothered since his wife couldn’t cook a decent rabbit stew even after all these years of him bringing them home.

He told me about how in his time he wasn’t allowed further east than 8th street. “Your mama wouldn’t let you?” I asked. My own naivete astounds me sometimes.

No, it wasn’t his mama. It was the whites. Unless a black man was hauling garbage or mowing lawns, he wasn’t allowed past 8th Street.

Then he told me how he missed beans. Lord, how he missed beans. Something about the potassium in beans being deadly when you’re on dialysis, so he couldn’t have them any more. He remembered coming home from school and his mama would have a big pot of beans on the stove and a huge pan of cornbread, and you didn’t want to be late getting home or you wouldn’t get seconds.

And he told me about how he listened to the staff at the VA talking to people and how he was convinced the world had no sense left at all any more.

He asked me if I wanted to go outside for a cigarette. I didn’t want a cigarette, but I wanted to go with him, so we did. And we stood on a veranda under multiple “No Smoking – $75 Fine for Violators” signs while he smoked an unfiltered cigarette with hands misshapen by age.

He told me that being married to a military man was a special responsibility (I didn’t bother to tell him that Mickey and I aren’t married – I don’t think that was the point) and that he hoped I understood. I told him that I wasn’t sure if I did or not, but that I would try to understand better than I had before.

Then we went back inside and we watched the news and Henry got me laughing so hard about Obama flying B-52s over Korea that I’m sure I disturbed the people around us.

And then Mickey came out of the back and I said good-bye to Henry. We won’t meet again in this world, I’m sure and I’m sure he was sure of the same thing. It was in his eyes.

Coolest thing ever written

December 10, 2012

Shakespeare, Richard II, Scene III, Act ii

Of comfort no man speak!
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills.
And yet not so — for what can we bequeath,
Save our deposèd bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings!
How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed —
All murdered; for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and humored thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence. Throw away respect,
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty;
For you have but mistook me all this while.
I live with bread like you, feel want, taste grief,
Need friends. Subjected thus,
How can you say to me I am a king?