Emotions


Ha!

You thought I was using hip ’60s slang for drugs; right? Wrong-o! I’m talking about my rarely fed blog. It’s been a downer, man…a real downer.

So, let’s get right to it. It’s been a difficult couple of years. Bad job. (Really bad job.) Beloved pets dying. My mom dying. For a while there, it seemed like nothing good would ever happen again. At first, I started posting about my sadness thinking it would be cathartic, thinking I’d get back to the regular stuff later, but then I’d come back later, and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t post something frivolous after posting about the death of a loved one. It seemed disrespectful. It was depressing. It would have been a lie. So, I’ve stayed away.

But I’m giving you notice here and now. I’m done with that.

Well, almost.

I have one more tribute to post for now. Sadly, there may be some later at some far distant point in the future, but this tribute calls to me now. And I don’t consider it a downer, really. It just is what it is. A goodbye of sorts, a fare thee well, an I’m REALLY going to miss you kind of post. So here goes…man, I hate endings, especially when we’re talking about something that isn’t supposed to end. Boo!

When I was six years old, my mother bought me a baby chick for Easter. I adored that little thing and named him Chicken Little. He was soft and fluffy, and I loved to cuddle with him. One Sunday, we went to church, and when we got home I rushed to find him only to be shocked to find his little limp body floating in the toilet. I scooped him up and ran to Mom crying. She knew that there was nothing that could be done for him, but to make me feel better, she took him and held him in her hands over the floor furnace, and began giving him mouth to beak resuscitation.

I stood next to her, anxious and upset, as she breathed into his little beak over and over, pretending to try to bring him back to life. This went on for several minutes, and I’ll never forget the look on her face when we heard a little peep come from him. She was so surprised! She rushed us both into my bed where he and I lay under an electric blanket until he was warm and dry.

That chicken became quite a pet and a neighborhood institution. At first, everyone hated him, because he began crowing at 4am, but as time went by, he became a beloved neighborhood institution as everyone saw him riding on my bicycle handlebars everywhere I went. He lived a long and happy life.

That’s how Mom was.  Nothing was more important to her than raising resilient children, who could fend for themselves and had a good work ethic, but she would do anything to help us, even if she thought there was little chance of it doing any good. What was important was that we knew she was behind us, and it meant so much to each of us to know that we were never alone when times got rough.  Whether it was a simple pat on the back or a helping hand, her steadfast support was always there, and because of that, Marianne, Craig and I have always been able to face whatever came at us, often with strength we didn’t know we had.

As many of you know, Mom was a teacher, but what many of you may not know is what an absolutely wonderful teacher she was. In the classroom, she was strict – she didn’t allow decorum to be breached by anyone – yet her students adored her and many have remained in contact with her throughout the years. They loved her not only because she had a wry sense of humor and irony that she used often, not just because of her amazing talent as a teacher, but because she respected her students and treated them like adults. She knew what many teachers then and now don’t quite get…that when you challenge someone to go beyond their known abilities; you give them the gift of phenomenal growth.

She challenged her children in the same way.  While other children were read nursery rhymes and fairy tales, Mom read us poetry and prose by the greats – T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe and others – from the very beginning of our lives.  As a result, we grew up loving literature as much as she did, and all of us learned to read at an early age.

I can remember reading nursery rhymes and Dr. Suess at the age of five or six and feeling sorry for other kids who had to stick to only that kind of reading.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed a little Horton Hears a Who and Green Eggs and Ham as much as the next kid, but even at an early age, I wanted more, and often put down those books to read, instead, The Cask of Amontillado or The Tell-Tale Heart. Craig and Marianne were the same, and Mom let us explore whatever interests we had, whether they matched hers or not, and was always excited to listen as we talked about what we had just seen or done or read as if it were the most interesting subject on Earth.

She also made it her job to ensure we all mastered the English language. As children, we all quickly became accustomed to Mom’s “pop quizzes” as we went about our daily routines. She made a game of having us conjugate verbs, and while that might sound deathly boring, we all loved it. I’m sure, too, that I was the only six year old to know the difference between the subjective case, the objective case, the possessive case, and the nominative case of almost any noun or pronoun.  I asked Mom once why she quizzed us like she did, and she told me that besides it being fun, she wanted us to be able to hold our own in any conversation so people would respect our opinions and take us seriously. And it worked.

The challenges Mom put before us helped us grow in ways that would have otherwise been impossible. Because of her faith in us and our faith that, if we failed, she would always be there to buoy us, we have never been afraid to take chances in life. The need to succeed has been important, but the cost of failure has never been Earth shattering.  Instead, we have been able to take each failure as a learning experience to strengthen our bid for success the next time around. We have Mom to thank for that.

When Mom left us on Monday, one of my first rational thoughts was how much I’ll miss sitting in her living room with her at family gatherings, reading poetry to one another.  No one could read a poem with more feeling and meaning than Mom, and no one more appreciated hearing one read well. A few months ago, Mom’s sister Dora Fay passed away, and Marianne and I took her to Mangum for the funeral.  After the long drive home, even though we were all exhausted, we stayed for a while and pulled out the books and started reading some of our favorite poems to one another. Before long, we were all in tears, filled with the emotion that the poems wrought from us, but also with the emotion engendered by the act itself.

This was a ritual that has remained with our family throughout our lives, and one that we all cherish, so the tears flowed easily. I think party because we knew in our hearts that we wouldn’t be together much longer. Of course, we had no idea how quickly that end would come. Mom was in such good health and mind that we thought she’d be with us for years to come.  So, of course it made me sad to think we’d never sit with family again to share good poetry.

Then it hit me that, because of Mom, that tradition would never really end. Our own children have also grown up at her knee loving good literature, and we have sat together in our own homes reading to one another and sharing tears and joy at the beauty and meaning in those well etched words.  Now, with her passing, those events will be even more meaningful, because we will know in our hearts that this, too, is a gift from Mom that can never be taken away, even though she is no longer in the room with us.

When our father died when we were very young, Mom helped us cope by often reading us a poem by one of her favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Milay. I think it’s fitting that I end by sharing that poem with you today. It’s called Lament, and while it’s written about a father, but it will always remind us of our mother.

Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I’ll make you little jackets;
I’ll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There’ll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why. 
 
Mom…we love you dearly and miss you more with each passing day.

Disequilibrium.

Definition: A feeling of imbalance, a lack of stability.

Babies ehttp://www.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/5456010/2/istockphoto_5456010-baby-girl-falling-in-a-sand-hole.jpgxperience it as they’re learning to move about the world. They try to stand then walk, and disequalibrium causes them to fall — splat onto their diaper cushioned bottoms again and again. That cushion might very well be the reason they keep at it; it prevents them from feeling the pain of their first hard knocks in life, so that all they see ahead is the joy of mobility rather than the fear of failure.

Children encounter it as their bodies grow in spurts, leaving them unsure of their footing, as their young stride changes unexpectedly. No longer protected by the padding of http://sellmic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/falling_from_bike.jpgdiapers, they skin their knees and elbows, and yet, they keep on going, giddily oblivious to most of the pain, facing their unsure futures with excitement and zeal.

Adolescents meet it head on as hormones start to surge and their bodies change. In their new shells, they feel heady emotion for the first time and are drawn into one new experience after another. They revel in their imbalance, find joy in their lack of stability. No longer concerned about physical pain, they are swept into a world where emotional upheaval is an every day occurance. Like gnats, they swarm toward its light, flitting around wildly, sometimes landing, getting burned, only to flit about more recklessly, unconcerned about their uncertainty.

Young adults experience it with joy as they gain autonomy, enjoying the freedom that surrounds making their own decisions for the first time. They swim in it as they find love, get married and have children. Unsure of their every move, they are now responsible and face each new day, each new experience, each new decision with the assurance that all will be well, for they are immortal.

The http://fredzone.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/happy-old-man-in-walker.jpgaged know it all too well, as their bodies begin to betray them. Like babies, they fall, and while some of them are again diapered, their bones are now frail, and the extra material provides inadequate cushion to their bony bottoms. Hips break. Legs and arms bruise. The certainty they have come to know as adults begins to waiver. They live in a constant state of disequilibrium, never knowing what the next day will bring, and yet, they appreciate every moment of every day.

Disequilibrium is a way of life for all of us, yet the only time in our lives that we are truly uncomfortable with it is when we are middle aged. It is during that time of our lives that we strive for stability and crave a sense of balance. It is vital to our peace of mind that we know what tomorrow will bring, that our finances are adequate, that we understand our duties, that our futures are secure. We understand that the loss of a job can mean calamity. We know that not knowing what we are doing can spell disaster. We fear losing our spouse to someone else, or worse, to death. We dread the unknown and panic at the idea that we might lose our autonomy. As we grow older, we are no longer comforted by our vision of the future, but instead work harder to maintain what we have right here and now. Wehttp://www.peoplecomm.org/images/bedekr/image/carpediem.jpg seek structure and balance.

Perhaps it is in middle age, more than any other time in our lives, when we should learn to step out of our comfort zones and live for the day. Carpe Diem might never mean so much to us as it means right now. After all, who knows what will come on say…December 22, 2012? If the Mayans have anything to say about it, we might only have a few carpe diems left! So I say it’s time to find joy in our imbalance and reach for experiences that are new and exciting. Never will we be so equipped to handle the unexpected. We are experienced at life, our emotions are in check and we know where we have been and what we want out of life. Why not make the most of today rather than waste time worrying about tomorrow? Rekindle delight and relish disequalibrium again! And should you fall on your butt, keep on smiling, dust yourself off and begin again!

Iconic.

This week, the the United States and the world has lost some iconic people.

First, Ed McMahon who died at the age of 86. Ed was perhaps the most perfect Ed McMahonstraight man ever to grace the late night stage. As Johnny Carson’s partner for over 30 years, he set up and played off of Johnny’s jokes, keeping uEd setting up a joke for Johnny's Aunt Blabbys laughing until we cried. Johnny and Ed were a late night institution for most Americans, and I — like most people in this country — never missed an episode. As the years passed, I’d forgotten just how funny they were together, but when I heard of Ed’s death, I pulled out my “Best of Carson” DVD and watched the whole thing. Man, those guys were great together. Ed’s quiet straight lines and the looks they engendered from Johnny were classic.

Yesterday, Farrah Fawcett passed away at the age of 62 after three years fighting Farrah's famous posteranal cancer. She, too, was an iconic personality. In the 70s and 80s, her beauty was unrivaled. Her picture was everywhereFarrah at 61 — even my gay friend, Rob, had her poster on his wall. Her beautiful smile was unrivaled, her gorgeous hair was copied by millions of women around the world, and her unbridled sexuality was a turn on for boys and men and a roadmap for women who tried — most of the time with little success — to be just a little bit like her. Beautiful even while fighting cancer at 62, she spent her last months sending a message to the world: Don’t give up, no matter what obstacles come your way.

And then we come, sadly, shockingly, to Michael Jackson. To say Michael was iconic is an understatement. As a child, some of my greatest memories surround Michael Michael Jackson as a boyand Donnie Osmond. The three of us were roughly the same age, so I was especially interested in the two boys. Before they were 9 years old, Michael and the Jackson Five and Donne and the Osmond Brothers were rising stars, rivals of sorts and obviously full of talent. It was Michael, though, who grew into the icon he became. With his every move, he outdid himself. Every song he wrote was better than the last. Every dance move he inveMichael Jackson in his 20snted was 10 tiers above the one before. Every video he made outdid the others. He was a true star, beloved and awed by billions across the world.

Sadly, his upbringing and fame did much to scar him. It turned him into a recluse, robbed him of his childhood and his freedom and shaped him into an eccentric person who only identified with children and other child stars. Thankfully, the world today is forgetting his quirks and eccentricities and remembering him for the amazing, astounding talent that he had. I still can’t believe he’s gone.

Three great icons. I’m so glad we got to experience the joy they brought to the world. I’m so sad to see them go. I give them my applause and thanks one last time.

I‘m just going to lay it out for you….

I’m writing this post just so I don’t have to look at the last one every day.

This past week — heck, this past month — has been a time of emotional upheaval. I’ve never had such a string of bad luck in my life. (I don’t even want to say it that way, because in reality, Bryn’s death wasn’t my bad luck; it was hers.  But I can’t think of another way of putting it, so we’re justCredit: Defense Nuclear Agency going to have to live with the inaccuracy here.)

Each time something bad has happened, I’ve asked, “What else can go wrong?” and each time, I’ve been given the resounding answer, “Oh, I’ll show you, missy!” Then, SLAM! Something worse happens. At this point, I’m afraid to ask the question again.  I won’t let my mind go there, because if I were to receive even harder evidence that yes, indeed, something worse can happen, I’m not sure I could take it.

That said, there is a lot of good in my life. Max is getting better.  The first two or three days after we lost Bryn, he was horribly depressed. No one can tell me that he doesn’t know she is gone. They’d been separated before, and he never wailed and acted so terribly sad as he did when Bryn didn’t come back. He’s better, though. He plays with us, and he’s started barking at the other dogs again. (joy…our neighbors can go back to hating us)

I have a wonderful son who has been such a rock of strength and support to me over these past few weeks. I have to tell you; I don’t know how one person can be so smart, so talented, so nice and so loving all at the same time. He’s such a special person, and I thank God for him every day.

My friends and family have really been there for me. The love and support has been overwhelming. I’m not sure what I would do without them.

So, yes…the past weeks have been really tough, but I have a lot to be thankful for, and tomorrow is, after all, another day.

There are few things in life that offer a greater reward than caring for an innocent being whose greatest joy is giving you love in return.  I have written about my dog, Bryn, in these pages before.  She is, by far, the sweetest dog I’ve ever known but one that has had to struggle through life from the very beginning.

When I first held her, she was a week old, and I bottle fed her from the time she was a week and a half old, because, as the runt of the litter, she was not able to get past her other 11 siblings to eat.  I fell immediately in love with her.  The look in her sweet little eyes when I fed her was so trusting, and we formed an unbreakable bond.

We found out at her five week checkup that she had a serious heart defect. An extra artery made her heart beat way too fast, and Dr. Marshall, our wonderful veteranarian, told us that she probably wouldn’t live past eight, and she’d always be smaller than her genes intended. In the five years we’ve had the pleasure of caring for her, though, she’s proved us all wrong. She’s been healthy and energetic, her heart problem has mostly fixed itself and she grew to 63 pounds.

Yesterday, though, it was obvious that she didn’t feel good. She was listless and hardly moved. We got her to eat and drink, but she threw up within 15 minutes without even trying to move first. It got all over me, and she looked up at me as if to say, “I’m sorry…I couldn’t help myself,” but she didn’t move an inch.  I knew then that it was something serious.

I took her to the vet this morning when they first opened, and by then, her eyes, ears and gums were jaundiced. The look in Dr. Marshall’s eyes told me it wasn’t good. He said she looks like she has liver disease or bileary disease.  We took her outside to pee, and it was dark brown, it was so filled with bile. He took blood — a difficult task with her being so dehydrated — and sent us home. Not a good sign, since I thought they’d want to put her on fluids right away. He’s off this afternoon, but he’s going into the office long enough to get a diagnosis from the blood test and call me. Whatever it is, her chances are not good.

I love all my pets, but Bryn is my special girl.  The thought of losing her after five short years is unbearable. She’s lying at my feet now, looking up at me with such love and sadness, as if she knows what’s going on. Our other dog, Max, is just outside, crying for her with such desperation that I can hardly bear to listen.

In a month where I have had nothing but bad luck — a job layoff, a flat tire, my rear car window smashed out by someone for fun, my medical insurance being cancelled by accident — nothing compares to this. I hope and pray that we can save her, but I fear we cannot. Why do things like this have to happen?  She’s such a good girl…such a great dog and such a good friend. :(

Edit: Bryn passed away this afternoon at 5pm after we discovered that her entire belly was full of a horrible tumor. We are devastated. We were so honored to have been allowed to share this wonderful soul’s life, and I will never forget our last moments with her.  She licked us both, wagged her tail and passed away while we held her.  I’m so glad she didn’t have to go through that alone and that she was surrounded by love as she gave us love to the very end.

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