July 2008

I continue to be amazed at the things one can find on the Internet. For kicks, I Googled my Dad’s name today and was shocked to find the eulogy I wrote and gave at his funeral in 2000. How it came to be online, I’ll never know, but I’m grateful that it did, because it reminded me what a force for good he was in my life.

I miss Dad and think of him every day. Before he died, he told me to think of him when I see a flock of Canadian geese, because he’d be waving at me with their wings. So, when a flock of geese fly overhead, I always whisper a silent hello to him and smile. Here’s his eulogy; I hope it gives you an idea of what a wonderful man he was.


My brother, sister and I are very lucky people. Like many people, we were born to wonderful parents, who loved us very much. Sadly, though, our father was taken from us at a very young age. The victim of a sudden heart attack, he left a 15 year old daughter, a 12 year old son, and a 3 year old daughter.

For six years, mother raised us alone, first in Elk City and then in a house on Arlington Avenue, and she did a pretty good job of it. We were all happy and healthy. I spent my free time chasing my pet rooster, Chicken Little, who loved visiting our neighbors, Ralph and Mary Wolverton, who, ironically, became my special friends years before I knew Warren Wolverton existed.

Marianne got married and left home, Craig was soon to join the Navy and was moving away as well, which left me expecting to live alone with Mom as I grew up.

Then something amazing and quite surprising happened. Mom introduced us to Warren Wolverton. I’ll never forget that first impression…To me he looked seven feet tall…And I have to admit that, at first, I was a little scared of him, but that lasted only as long as it took him to grin at me and shake my hand. That grin was infectious–I swear his eyes actually twinkled, as though we were sharing a good joke, and my fear was instantly washed away.

I remember their wedding on October 3, 1968. Family and friends gathered at Gordon Winkleman’s home, and though I was still a little shy around him, I can remember Dad taking me aside to show me how well trained his bird-dog, Missy, was. I was fascinated by her. She obviously adored Dad, and when he put her favorite food on her nose and told her not to eat it, she didn’t. She shook all over in anticipation of it, but she wouldn’t touch the food until he told her it was okay. I knew, then, that he must have been a pretty all right guy if a dog would forego her own pleasure just because he told her to. That was real love.

In most families, the introduction of a new step father can be a very traumatic thing, but I don’t remember it being that way in our family. Sure…there was a necessary distance at first, as we became more comfortable with one another, but what I remember appreciating the most was the respect Dad gave me in those early days. He never forced a relationship on me. Instead, he waited patiently as I took baby steps toward him.

As the years passed, those baby steps grew to long strides, as we grew closer. As busy as he was in the store and with his civic duties, he always took time to spend time with us, and the lessons he taught us have shaped our lives in so many ways.

I’m reminded now of one of the first of many lessons. When I was nine years old–the age I was when Mom and Dad married–I was terrified of thunder and lightning. Dad recognized that and made it his job to calm my fears. Because of his care, the memories I have of childhood storms, now, are nostalgic ones, filled with evenings under the carport with Dad, as he explained the ionization of the air, which, in turn, caused the lightning. He and I would sit for hours as the rain (and sometimes, hail) fell just out of our reach, talking about the weather…our lives, hopes, dreams. I thought we were just enjoying the storm, but Dad was teaching me the first of many lessons: To enjoy every part of our lives, even those things we fear. You might just find beauty in the rain.

Dad taught us all so much. He loved and respected all life, from the lichen that grows on rocks to the birds that fly in the sky, and we grew to share that love. Through simple conversation, he taught us little things about the world around us and even a few interesting facts about the universe. Geese mate for life. Purple Martins eat 10 times their body weight in bugs a day. There are so many planets in the universe that the chance for life on other planets is more than good, it’s almost a sure thing. Make sure the hook is set before you try to reel ‘em in. Be honest. Be true.

Some of my favorite memories of my childhood involve Dad, fishing and our family barge, which we often took out on Lake Lawtonka on the weekends. I loved to go fishing with Dad, particularly when we fished for carp. He made Carp fishing an art! His chum recipe was so stinky I could hardly stand the smell of it, yet it was a joy to be chosen to go with Dad to chum the water, not only because I knew that it meant catching the big’uns in the afternoon, but because it was an honor saved for few people. It was yet another of those rare quiet times…yet another opportunity to listen to him talk about sending Morse code in the Allusions…or running electrical lines in Faxon…or bird-dogging some quail in the woods. Each story was fascinating and, in some small way, educational. I ate it up.

Some days, our family spent hours at the lake, catching fish after fish for the simple joy of the catch. Dad’s laughter would echo with glee when one of us hooked one, and later in the week, I proudly showed off the bruises on my stomach caused by digging the pole into the flesh there, during a difficult catch. They were my badges of honor.

We never kept the carp, of course. If we couldn’t find someone who wanted them, we’d set them free to fight us another day. That was just the way it was.

On those warm days, Dad taught me that I could learn as much from someone else’s experiences as I could my own and that there is nothing more sublime than a quiet afternoon filled with the laughter of family.

Dad taught us how to call mourning dove…and then years later, he taught his grandchildren and great grandchildren the same thing. When we hear dove song, we always think of Dad, and I’m sure that we will hear his voice in the dove’s call for the rest of our days.

Many things have happened over the past 32 years, but the greatest of these was that, over time, the words…the very idea…of “step father” disappeared from our thoughts. What we saw was a man who loved us with all his heart, who gave of himself freely to his friends and family, who loved our mother so completely that he was simply a part of us and we were part of him. Mom and Dad together taught us that a marriage is only a marriage if husband and wife are best friends.

We saw this especially this past year, as Dad’s health began to fail undeniably. I’m not sure I can adequately describe their relationship…it was so special…but to say that, when Mom and Dad were together, the love in the room was so strong that it was palatable might come close to describing what it was like for those of us watching. It was as though a bright light enveloped them both in their own special bubble, and when any of us stepped into the room, that light enveloped us with an undeniable love, as well.

In the end, Dad’s only concern was for Mother…that we take care of her after he had moved on. All we could do was assure him we would. The real truth is, though, that he hasn’t left. Real love endures beyond physical death. I can feel his love around us now. Stop for a moment. Can’t you feel it, too? This room, so full of people he loved, is pulsing with it. Dad’s physical body is gone, but his spirit will remain with us forever.

Our family is very lucky. Dad had two daughters that he loved very much. Heather and Maylan were a source of great joy to him, and though they had grown and moved away, they were always in his thoughts. He adored them both. Even so, his heart was big enough to not only share his love with them, but to also love his children and grandchildren who had none of his blood coursing through their veins. That love was so strong that each of us…even Marianne and Craig, who were grown when Dad and Mom married in ‘68…think of him as our dad. And that has been the biggest lesson of all: Love has nothing at all to do with whose genes you carry. It has to do with who we are on the inside. And, I know no one more worthy of great love than Warren Wolverton, the sweetest man I have ever known.

We love you, Dad.

Four years ago, I decided that our dog, Max, needed a buddy to keep him company during the day when we are at work. This was a big decision for me, because I’d never wanted a dog in the first place. I’m a cat person, but I’m also a big softie, so one day on the way to work when I almost ran over a puppy only to see him run in front of the two cars driving behind me, I turned around and picked him up, putting him in the backyard until I could get home and find his owner. Though I searched for weeks, I never found that owner, and six years later, he’s still with us.

Those first two years were pretty lonely for Max. We couldn’t have him inside because he was crazy about the cats and liked to chew on furniture legs, so when a friend at work told us that his golden retriever had just given birth to 12 puppies, we thought it was a great time to get a companion for Max.

That very night, we drove over to his house and picked out a cute puppy, but since they were only a week old, we had to wait five weeks before we could bring him home. About three days later, though, we got a call from our friend’s mother asking me if I’d be willing to take in one of the puppies for a short time, because her litter mates weren’t letting her eat. The runt of the litter, she was going to die unless we took her in until she got stronger.

Begrudgingly, I agreed and went to pick up the little girl, who was brindle colored and as tiny as we’d been told. When we first brought her home, she was as small as the TV remote, but she ate voraciously. I loved holding her and bottle feeding her, and she came to quickly adore me. Within a week, I began feeding her pablum, and I can still remember the way she’d stand at my feet, looking anxiously up at me as I prepared it. She loved that stuff!

Of course, I fell in love with her and kept her instead of the puppy we’d picked out. We named her Bryn, because of her brindle coloring, and she fell in love with Max and he with her. They became instantly inseparable, even sleeping together in the same doghouse.

On her first visit to the vet, we found out why she was so small. She’d been born with an extra artery coming from her heart, which caused her heart to beat about 350 times a minute - over twice as fast as a puppy’s heart should beat. Our vet, the wonderful Dr. Marshall, told us she needed open heart surgery — an operation that would cost about $3,000. He said to wait a while first, though, because sometimes these things correct themselves. He warned us that she’d never be big though, and would probably die before she was eight years old.

As the next few months went by, she continued to get bigger and bigger, and by the next year when she went in to get her yearly checkup, she was 60 pounds. Dr. Marshall giggled at her size, and he’s continued to be amazed at her health. Now, four years later, her heart condition is down to just a small murmur, and her heart beats at a nearly normal speed. It’s really amazing, and we’re so happy that she’s a healthy, lively dog.

She has boundless energy and loves to play, running around the yard at breakneck speeds. Unfortunately, that has been her downfall. A couple of weeks ago, I went out to play with her and Max and noticed she was limping. I took her to the vet that afternoon and learned that she’d torn her ACL.

Who knew dogs could do that?

Come to find out, it’s a very common injury for active dogs. She probably was running and cut to the side, and her leg didn’t. We can tell it hurts her — she’s still active, but she holds that leg up, not a good thing at all, since now she can easily blow out her other knee. So, the surgery bug has finally hit us after all, only instead of $3,000, we’ll only have to pay around $1,500.

I honestly never thought I’d spend $1,500 we can ill afford on a dog, but it’s amazing what we do out of love for our pets. And, I know…she’d do it for us, too, if she could.

We’re in the process of building a kennel for her, since she won’t be able to run and play for about two months. Once that’s complete, she’s going in to have the operation. Hopefully, Max won’t mind sleeping in the pen with her. I don’t think she’d be able to take it if we left her in there alone. We’ll have to walk her to exercise the leg, so at least they’ll get some exercise every day.

If anyone out there can give me more information about the whole process, I’d really appreciate it. I’ve read a bunch of information on the subject from posts on the Web, but I’d really like to hear from people who’ve been through the process with their dogs. I also understand that there is a less expensive version of the surgery that runs around $400, and I’d love to hear from people whose dogs had that particular surgery. Are there any downsides? Is the recovery period longer?

I appreciate any and all comments on the subject. We want to do what’s best for her, so the more information we can get, the better! Thanks in advance for filling us in!

So, we have this person at work we’re calling “the phantom pooper.”

We have no idea who the phantom pooper is, but we know that she was raised in a barn, because she obviously snacks on hay if the smell she leaves behind is any indication.

It all started about a month ago when the call center for our company moved onto our floor. Gone were the quiet days when we could consentrate on our work. Instead, the floor was filled with clutter, loud noises and a plethora of new smells. A trip to the restroom was often an escape in those early days, but that didn’t last very long, once the phantom pooper left her mark.

And I don’t mean “left her mark” rhetorically, by the way. She quite literally left her mark, in the form of the long, stinky, brown skid-mark she always leaves on the toilet seat.

No, I’m not kidding.

And that’s not all! In addition to the skunk stripe she leaves as a calling card, she also leaves toilets unflushed, pee on the seats and floor (How does a woman do this?), and diarrhea spashed along the back of the toilet bowl. (Again, HOW does this happen?)

The concept of a courtesy flush is alien to her. She is proud of the smell of her poop and wants to make sure the rest of us can smell it, too!

The phantom pooper has become a subject of much conversation around the water cooler. Just who is she? What the HELL does she eat that smells so bad when it’s digested? In what position must she sit on the toilet to leave the diarrhea spray against the back like that? We warn others of her visits. “For the love of all that is holy, don’t go in there right now!”

I actually brought packs of matches to all my friends, so we can light one upon entering the restroom. Our only hope is that the fumes don’t combust and singe our eyebrows off. So far, so good.

We have begun an unofficial forensic investigation, and we know these things about the pooper:

  • She’s a big girl - Only a big girl could leave a skunk stripe like that on the toilet seat.
  • She’s not clean - She doesn’t wipe her rear end, people!
  • She’s insensitive to the needs of others - Those of us who are clean would like a restroom free of crap stains, floaters and pee puddles.

We have a few suspects. The big girl who comes to work with her pants unzipped because they’re too small and wears a short shirt, so everyone can see her open fly is the prime suspect.

I was actually in there the other day when she came in, talking on her cell phone. (This is another clue that she’s the phantom pooper. Who uses the restroom and talks on the cell phone at the same time? How does she wipe? What does the person on the other end of the phone hear?) From my stall, I heard her say to the person on the other end of the line, “It smells like smoke in here!” I answered her, “That’s from the match I light so I don’t have to smell everyone’s crap, since someone isn’t clean!” She just chuckled and farted.

Oh, yeah. I think we’ve found our gal!

Letters from HR have been sent out and have done no good, so now it’s up to my forensic squad to solve the problem. Once we’re completely sure who the pooper is, we’re giving her some object lessons on bathroom etiquette and a care package…moist towlettes, body spray, air freshener, her own pack of matches!

Until then, I’ll be using a restroom on one of the other floors. None of them smell like roses, but at least there are no racing stripes!