A pack of two…

 We were a pack of two*…

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He came to our family 14 years ago – and despite a severe case of ADHD, fit in well with our clan. He’d escape the backyard fence, and wander the neighborhood. You could call his name for days, and he’d look at you, give a smile and a wag, and keep sniffing whatever had his interest at that moment. The only way we could recapture him? Drive by, open a car door and yell “Road Trip!” For years our neighbors thought his name was “Roadtrip”…

Mr P Jeepin 2

When the kids moved on to college, and I started over in a new home, it was just us. He kept me grounded through the biggest transition of my life. He loved me at my most unlovable. I was responsible for him, and that meant getting out of bed when I was in the deepest, darkest funk. He needed to walk. He needed to eat.

Mr. P pensive

He listened to every word I said as if it were the most important thing he’d ever heard.Mr. P bed

I jokingly referred to him as my “Canine Life Partner”. My companions had to understand who owned my heart.

Man In My Bed: You’re dog’s giving me the stink eye.

daisyfae: That’s because you’re in his spot and it’s time for him to go to bed.

Man In My Bed: That’s cute…

daisyfae: No, seriously, it’s time for you to leave. He wants to go to bed.

get offa my lawn

As Studley became part of my life, he quickly learned that Mr. Pickles was a pre-existing condition in my heart. He also found room in his heart for my large brown pup. On nights he’d stay over, Mr. Pickles would stiff-leg him out of bed over the course of the night. Get up to pee? Come back to find a giant dog sleeping on the pillow, basically saying “My spot. You got the sofa, buddy.” Most nights, Mr. Pickles was little spoon to my big spoon. I slept best next to my main manimal.

a pack of two

He wasn’t the smartest dog, but he was a gifted instructor. He taught me how to enjoy the moment. Knowing that he was only with me for a short time, he taught me not to postpone joy – a lesson that carried over to visits with my Mom. Struggling with my relationship with her, it was Mr. Pickles that taught me to let go of the past – and meet her where she was as she approached the end of her life. We learned to appreciate the seasons, knowing that the next snowfall, or splash in the pool, wasn’t guaranteed.

Happy Pup

At fifteen years old, he’d blown most canine actuarial tables. A bad reaction to medication didn’t take him down in 2012, even though his liver nearly failed. The big lump of cancer taken from his hip in January wasn’t what did it. In the end, it was his heart that got him. It was too big…

Mr P my boo

A friend told me of a service that does mobile pet euthanasia. The vet came to my home. She was a goddess, dressed in khaki shorts and sneakers… Mr. Pickles settled into his bed, with me spooning behind him. Studley was with us, petting those velvety ears. And with all that love flowing his way, he went to sleep…

pack

We were a pack of two. He wasn’t just a good boy. He was my best boy.

Reindeer Poo

“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

* Respectful acknowledgement of the amazing book of this title by Caroline Knapp. A close friend sent me a copy years ago, and it seems i’m due for another reading…

So it goes.

On behalf of the entire family, thank you for being here today as we celebrate the life of our Mother.

Let’s start with a little word association – when you think of Mom, what is the first word that pops into your mind?

Anybody come up with “Tough”? Mom could be characterized as fun-loving, adventurous, generous, tenacious, big-hearted… So many words… But it seems I’m not the only one who thinks of her as ‘tough’.

The scientific definition of toughness is “Strength and Ductility”. Resistance to fracture while stressed… The ability to absorb energy, take repeated blows, without failure.

Tough as nails… One tough cookie…. Built Ford tough…

That was Mom.

We learned pretty early that she was a strong woman. Stick your tongue out in our household? Be prepared to wear a clothespin on it! Bite your sister? Be prepared to have Mom bite you back. Oh, and like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, we were all connoisseurs of a variety of fine soaps. She maintained order and kept us all in line.

When facing heart bypass surgery in 2008, Mom was informed by her surgeon that if she continued to smoke, her chances of survival would be cut in half. On the spot, she decided that after 65 years of smoking, she should quit. And she did. Cold turkey, that very day.

While collecting information to settle Mom’s estate last night, I looked at one of her checkbooks to make sure I had the right one. Knowing that she would likely be going to the hospital on Monday, she paid her bills on Sunday. She wasn’t able to see well, write well, or even breathe easily… But she paid her bills.

Mom was an incredibly strong woman.

To complement her strength, she was also agile – able to adapt, improvise and overcome.

Fiercely independent, she was at first reluctant to let Dad into her life. He said he could remember the moment he knew he was in love with her – they were at the market, shopping for a block of Swiss cheese. She spent a great deal of time going through the individually weighed packages, trying to find the block with the fewest holes, because she wanted to get the most for her money. He was smitten! She wasn’t quite so sure…

She eventually accepted his proposal, and left the city for the suburbs. Neither she, nor Dad, knew the first thing about home ownership, maintenance, or gardening. She didn’t have a driver’s license. But she adapted, and together they created a garden, became neighbors, joined this congregation, learned how to camp, and raised a family…

Having given up her profession as a nurse to stay home with her children, and later to provide care for her oldest granddaughter she started back to school in her 50’s to brush up her skills. Returning to nursing, she quickly settled into a leadership role on the psychiatric ward at the county hospital – saying she felt right at home there…

She’d be unhappy at this point if i failed to mention that she was a straight-A student…

She was a devoted Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. Perhaps her greatest gift was her ability to understand each of us as unique individuals – she knew that one size didn’t fit all in her clan. She could coach and mentor us, knowing our capabilities, knowing our limits, and knowing when it was important to push them…

This combination of strength and ductility – her toughness – was apparent through the difficulty of the past week. There was never a doubt in our mind that she was calling the shots – even at the very end of her life. We have been fortunate that Mom’s oldest granddaughter, DQ, and her husband, BJ, have been able to care for her. She waited until they were by her side before she allowed herself to rest…

So we thank you again for coming together with us today to celebrate her life.

Life is short. Death is forever. Go joyfully! Nothing left undone!

MommaThis is the eulogy i delivered yesterday at her funeral… It’s been a pretty rotten couple of weeks, but it seems the worst is behind us.  She turned 86 on Friday, and died two days later… Not a bad run…

There Are No Answers – Again…

Well… i guess i’m not quite done with this blog thing quite yet. Seems i still have a few things i need to say. And tonight’s message?

Don’t kill yourself, ok? Seriously. Don’t do this.

This is like walking out during the first five minutes of a shit movie. You know it won’t last. There’s always the slightest glimmer of hope that it might get better.  Or at least you’ll be able to entertain your friends by telling them about the shittiest movie you’ve ever seen….

There are no answers when a young man decides to check out.  Whether he’s 16 or 37.  The common thread, at least from my point of view on this particular night, is the herd of numb, bewildered and heartbroken humans… Shocked.  Angry.  Confused.  Comforting each other as best they can…

Scotch and kleenex.

i am an extrovert, and have an extensive collection of friends and acquaintances.  i never meet a stranger.  Truth is, i have very few close friends.  Last week, i would have put that number at seven.

Today?  Six.

Fuckinghell.