blessings, connections, coping, courage, death, eavesdropping, grief, healing, life, moments, strangers

Dilly dilly…

I took myself out for a quesadilla burger last night.  I’d been thinking about them for a week or two, and since burgers are the Monday special at Appleby’s, and I had stayed home and cleaned the house most of the day, and all the pots, pans, dishes, and silverware are at the mobile, it seemed like the thing to do.

The parking lot was quite full, so I hoped there would be a seat available at the bar, and there was.  It was empty actually, I was surprised.  And as I sat there enjoying my burger a mother and daughter came in and sat a little bit away from me at the bar.  I couldn’t help but hear their conversation and it became obvious that the daughter was there to support the mother who had just lost her husband.  It was a brand new situation for them, should she ‘have something’ here, or was it okay to just do it ‘back home’ was a topic.  The Mom and Dad had apparently frequented Appleby’s.  Mom said that if her Michael had seen that they had ordered breadsticks with Alfredo sauce he’d have shaken his head.  She told the bartender that she didn’t know if she could bring herself to come there without him, but she decided that she could do it while her daughter was with her this first time.  I related to them so much, to the two or three days that my son stayed with me in the aftermath of Charley’s death, until I kicked him out, sort of.  I felt connected to them, though they had no clue and we hadn’t spoken a word to each other.

And then it was time to leave.  I had switched to a bigger purse because I’m carrying more with me back and forth, and I love that purse but I can never find anything in it. Like my wallet, but it simply wasn’t there.  This had never happened to me before and I wondered why I wasn’t in a total panic, but I wasn’t, and I quietly (I thought) told the young gal who was bartending that I was embarrassed, and asked if I could give her a check.  She said no, it’s fine, just stop by another time and take care of it.  As I asked for the check I heard the mother say, “We’ll take care of it.”  I looked over and she was in tears.  She thanked me.  She said that her husband would have loved this, it was perfect, it was just the thing he loved to do.  And while this wasn’t my finest moment I felt so calm as I saw what this moment was for her.  I thanked them, hugged them, and told them that my son and I had spent this same time together four years ago.  And Mom thanked me again, said her husband would be so pleased with this, and asked that the next time I go out and have a drink, to please raise my glass to Michael and say, “Dilly dilly.”  And I will…

a second look, connections, friends, grief, healing, home, life, loneliness, memories, photography, road trip, travel

Making assumptions…

Rocks are dependable.  They are solid, strong, unbreakable.  They don’t surprise you, or disappoint you, they are just there.  There are lots of people who might be described by using those same words.  But in the case of this particular rock, and many people, we are just looking at the surface and making assumptions about the core.  Were I to drop this particular rock it would fracture into pieces, a lot like I was feeling I might do not too long ago.  Careful hands have reassembled this rock, and in much the same way I am somehow feeling pieced back together after my visit home.  We are both still fragile, but then aren’t we all?

dogs, grief, growing old, losing battles, memories, photography, responsibility

Decisions…

The vet tech had an explanation for it.  “It” being the fact that the dog I had brought in, the one that had required me to hoist her back end up off the floor every time she wanted to get up for the last 48 hours, was repeatedly getting herself up off the tile floor at the vet’s office yesterday.  It was because even though there were no other dogs there to witness her struggles, she still could smell them, and no dog wants to let herself be seen as the weakest one in the pack, so the adrenaline rush she was having was serving as a pain reliever.  Or so they said.  I had told myself that the thing I didn’t want to do was to take her in and spend a whole lot of money, knowing what the outcome was really going to be in the not so distant future, and knowing that my Zoe was going to suffer while I fought to justify my decision of what to do.  But in the vet’s office she looked like a different dog from the one I’d had at home.  Needing help getting up was relatively new, and while she had needed me to help her for a day or two recently, she had seemed to recover and I told myself that she had strained something and it was all better.  And the confusion in her face when she couldn’t get herself up was heartbreaking.  But she seemed to be in not so dire of a condition while we were there, so it was pain meds, joint supplements, and see her in two weeks.

Except once I got her home she was trying to not use her right back leg at all.  That she was in distress was obvious.  I brought the water bowl to her and she drank, but she wouldn’t eat.  She cried and wanted to get up, so I’d hoist her up, and then she’d stand there not knowing what she wanted to do next.  I thought about how I’d learned to help my mother, and then my husband, when they couldn’t get out of a chair.  I’d lean in and hug them to me, and use leverage to just lift them up.  It worked perfectly.  Not possible with Zoe, and I was already feeling the strain in my back from lifting her.  

I’m writing this at 4 AM while I listen to Zoe’s breathing.  She is finally asleep.  We have been up for hours, she was crying, it actually sounded like a low growl, and nothing I could do for her except sit with her and pet her seemed to help.  Sweet, easy-going Ozzie was determined to put himself between Zoe and me, so I had to put him in the bedroom before he hurt her, or me.  It was the pleading in her eyes that got to me.  Just like when it’s been raining for hours and the dogs want to go out, and they look at me  wondering why I’m letting it rain when they know that I’m in charge of the world and I could stop it if I wanted to.  Zoe’s eyes tell me that she is pleading with me to make it stop, not the rain, but the pain…4-26onelasttime

coping, death, dogs, finding my way, grief, healing, life goes on, loneliness, marriage, memories, photography

U R Making me Comfortable…

That Charley wasn’t always a dog lover would come as a surprise to most people who knew him when I knew him, but not to the people who knew him before he met me.  They knew he was a cat lover.  That I had a cockapoo was something to be tolerated, but I can’t say that he was enthused about having a dog in the house.  But Barney grew on him enough that when it was time that Barney had to be put down he initially refused to go with me, saying that he didn’t want to go down forever in family history as the guy who took the kids’s dog to be put to sleep. He must have felt sorry for me though, because he did go with me, and he stopped and bought Barney an ice cream cone on the way.

But while Barney was still with us Charley instigated that we acquire Nugget, saying, “My mother never let me have a puppy”.  He had bought me a necklace shortly before that, gold nuggets on a chain which I still wear every day.  He would say to me, very dramatically and with his eyebrows going up and down like Groucho Marx, “Hey Neem, how’s your Nuggets?”, which the kids found hilarious.  The innuendo wasn’t lost on them.  Neem was a pet hame, if I stop to explain this post will be a mile long.  So we were at the Mall and in the pet shop window was a litter of mixed breed puppies, and upon seen a golden one Heather declared, “Hey Neemie, it’s another Nugget!”  We had her 18 years, I could measure the length of my marriage in the ages of the dogs which populated it.

Last week or so I talked about Charley, memories which had come to me because of this ropeysaliva

picture.  I took this when I first got my iPhone 7+, practicing using portrait mode and capturing Ozzie’s drool.  But happening upon that picture reminded me of when I first met Charley when he joined the dental office where I was working as a hygienist.  He was a brand new dentist on his first job, but even though we were the same age my schooling was so much less that I had 10 years experience in dentistry and he would sometimes ask me my opinion on things.  That anyone would ask me my opinion on anything was quite flattering, but especially a dentist asking me my opinion concerning dentistry made me feel important.  He asked if I had a pet peeve in dentistry, and I did actually.  I told him that what drove me the most nuts was… ropey saliva!  It would wrap itself around the prophy cup when you were polishing teeth and go flying!  That cracked him right up.  He loved that answer.  I wonder if he married me because of ropey saliva.

So, the feature photo.  Charley had been in the hospital a week, and he had become so dependent on the oxygen mask that he was reluctant to take it off to talk, so he was writing messages on the clip board I brought for him.  He had been moved to the ICU the day before, and I had been told that visitors had to wait until 8 AM and that’s when I got there. The nurse told me that he was upset that I wasn’t there at my usual 6 AM or so, but when I did get there he wrote “U R Making me Comfortable”.  He really liked the Arnold Palmer iced tea/lemonade that I had been buying him at Duncan Donuts.  But when he wanted some he wrote Jack Palmer, I assume he was thinking of Jack Nicklas, when he wrote that and I was looking forward to teasing him about that when he felt better.  I never got the chance to do that.

So dogs and ropey saliva, Ozzie has it in spades.  Gleason could drool, but I think Ozzie has him beat.  I may not be cleaning teeth anymore, but I’m still dealing with ropey saliva.

bulldogfaceCruisin' DudesCharleyandOznuggetandnorts

connections, grief, growing old, life, life goes on, live and learn, loneliness, marriage, memories, old dogs new tricks, on closer examination, photography, the big picture

It’s just a number…

Nothing fits anymore. Not my clothes, although I’m not really complaining about that. I’ve taken tons of clothes to donate, and now I need to find out where I can donate all this extra skin. But that’s really not what I’m talking about either. ‘I’ don’t fit. All my life I seemed to know where I stood in relationship to the rest of the people around me. But now that I’m really, seriously, old, I can’t see it. Older yes, wiser no. Is it because Charley is gone? When I was going through life with him and I saw him getting older, is that what made me recognize my own age? Because he isn’t here anymore to provide that link, and I seem to be stumbling around a bit.

It started with a chance encounter with a man when I was photographing the sunset one night. He said that I ought to be dating, that there are a lot of lonely men out there. I responded, “I’m not”, lonely I meant. I told him that I have nice conversations with people every day, and then I go home, and that I like my privacy. And I meant that 100%. What I didn’t expect was that after few more conversations with him over the next several days that wasn’t altogether true anymore. He left to go back home and took my 100% conviction that I was 100% happy with him, and I haven’t been able to resurrect it. So now my chance encounters with people have a different sort of edge to them. The last time I was a single adult I was 20 years old, and I see now that I wasn’t as much of an adult as I thought I was at the time. In a lot of ways I have reverted back to that person, in my own mind anyhow. Maybe this explains something that Charley said about working at Publix at age 63, after having worked at the A&P right after high school and all through college. He said that he felt like he was 18 again, which might have been a good thing, but the problem was that he acted it too. He kept getting sent to the office, in trouble for a remark made to another employee, never to a customer. Not reported by the person he was talking to, but reported by a busy-body employee who overheard him. I told Charley that he wasn’t hired for the comic effect, but he couldn’t seem to resist making a wise-aleck remark when the opportunity presented itself. But you know what? I think I get it now, I get that he would momentarily actually be that 18 year old again.

So you happen to have a nice conversation with the guy who sits next to you in a photography class. Nice class, nice company, feels good. In the moment you are just yourself, a generic ‘self’, just enjoying the conversation. Later on you figure out that he is 13 years younger than you are, and get taken aback. Why couldn’t I ‘see’ that when I looked at him? That he was closer to my kids’s ages than he is to mine I mean. ‘Act your age’, they say. How exactly do I do that? Will I wake up one day and not be able to resist sticking a tissue up my sleeve? Or maybe I’ll buy support hose and start rolling them into little donuts around my ankles. Probably not the best look with capri pants and flip flops. I don’t recognize myself anymore. I’ve lost my place. Age is just a number, or so I’ve been told. Step on the scale why don’t you, then tell me that ‘just a number’ doesn’t matter. I’m going to have to try not to embarrass myself while I figure this all out…

PS… I wrote this a while ago as an ’emergency’ post in case I’m stuck.  And since I was hanging onto the post it gave me a chance to retake the photo if I saw a lower number on the scale.  This is at least the 4th incarnation of the photo.  So there I was at the pool the other day and an 80-something year old guy told me, “Just making it back and forth across the pool is a good thing for people our age.”  Evidently I’m the only one having trouble realizing how old I am…