Posts Tagged ‘Love’



September 27, 2011

I talk a lot, but I don’t say much.  I am actually pretty shy.  Keeping secrets is a shortcoming.  Not secrets about you, secrets about myself.  Many people, even those closest to me, do not know very much about me.  They are often surprised to find out even seemingly ordinary things about me.  But there are people, those I know and those I have never met personally, who tell me my secrets.  These short stories are about some of those people.

“Honey, what are you going to do about your marriage?”

“My marriage?”

“I could see you’re not happy.  You’re too young to be unhappy.”

Was it that obvious?  He was quiet.  He didn’t talk very much during our visit up east, to me or anyone else.

“I am not making any decisions right now.”

“Maybe you should get some counseling.”

She only stands shoulder high, but her presence is undeniable.  When she smiles her teeth mash together as she crinkles her nose.  It was impossible to avoid eye contact when she talks.  She is my aunt.

Memphis had a tough start to life.  He was aggressive, and I could not control him.  I came very close to putting him to rest.  When he was only a few months old, he would go from sleeping peacefully in my lap to violently attaching the other dogs, Boston in particular.

To manage his behavior and to keep the other dogs safe, I strategically placed baby gates, crates and air horns throughout the house.  At the time, trying to manage the situation was all I could do, while I uncovered the cause of the behavior and to modify it.  I used special collars and leashes, changed his food, gave him supplements and adhered to strict rules and routines.  I would not let any of the other dogs stare at him; they learned to look away and not make eye contact.  Things improved, but there were still fights.

When Memphis would get into a fight, my first concern was always safety.  I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.  My second concern was all of the dogs’ emotional states.  I worried that Memphis was insane and that it was affecting the other dogs.  They all learned to be cautious around him, but were they scared and unhappy too?

My mother liked to play bingo.  This was the only time she ever went to church.  Every Tuesday, she would ask one of us in the house to go with her.  The answer was always no, but she went anyway.   Bingo was for old people, it couldn’t be much fun. One week she couldn’t drive, I don’t remember why; but I agreed to take her.  I was nervous, not knowing what to expect.  When we arrived at the church, we stood in line, waiting for the doors to open.  It was important to get there early, so she could get her “usual seat.”  The desk in the hall had piles of bingo cards on it.  People bought a hundred of them.  My mother got her cards, and I began to sweat.  “I’m with her,” I said.  “I’m just going to watch.”

I followed my mother down the long hall into a huge room full of tables and chairs.  We sat down in her usual spot.  She spread out some of her cards.  They were made of newsprint, so she took some tape out of her bag and taped them to the table.  In her bag was also two plastic bottles of ink, a bright red wand with a magnet in it, lots of red translucent markers, and cash.  She took one of the bottles of ink and dabbed the free, center square of the nine cards in front of her, then placed the bottle down.  She was ready.

Memphis had not gotten into a fight in almost four months.  Then one night, Memphis and I were sleeping and I rolled over onto him and woke him.  He instantly stood up on the bed, looked me straight in the eyes and froze.  I was sure he was going to kill me, so I was quietly making a plan to defend myself.  Then, just as suddenly as he’d stood, he looked away, shook, jumped down off the bed, circled a few times, then got back on the bed, laid down and went back to sleep.  He shook it off and was now sleeping! I could not close my eyes.  This was the moment when I knew he was better, this was the moment I saw him look away.

“N32 . . . B14 . . . G50.” The man calling the numbers was on a stage with a round basket next to him, and a large sign with numbers and letters above him.  The sign would light up each time he spoke.  “B1!”  Everyone in the room swiped their bottles down the B column and dabbed the corresponding square on their bingo cards.  No one spoke.  Their gaze was on the cards and their ears alert for one word.

“Only a few people know this: my husband is a recovering alcoholic.  He has been sober for three years.  It was hard for him to stop drinking, but he did it.  We are still adjusting to our new life.”

“Three years is a long time, honey.”  She said as she leaned in closer.

I wanted to tell my aunt everything but I couldn’t.

“I know, but right now he is focused on his work and staying sober.  I can wait.”

“Are you getting help, have you gone to meetings?  They really do help.”

How does she know about meetings? Look away, look away!

“Ya I go to meetings, we both do.  We are working on it.”

“That’s good…”  I don’t remember what she said next.  I was trying to hide my pain and fight the tears.

Finally, I said,  “when my parents had their 50th anniversary party, my mother said, ‘Fifty years, and they weren’t all happy.’  Well, how do I know if these are the years that aren’t so happy?”

“You know if you have a good foundation.  You have to be good to each other; but remember, you are responsible for your own happiness.”




May 19, 2011

My mother just died suddenly.  Ma and Dad were on a cruise when she had cardiac arrest.  They were in South America at the time.  After having a good day together, they went to their cabin to take a nap.  She woke up coughing and died moments later.  It took one week for my father to get home.  It took an additional week for my mother to arrive.  I made the trip to my family’s house in nineteen hours.  I had two of my dogs with me.  My parents each traveled alone.

While at my father’s house, I let the dogs out into the side yard to take care of their business and to play.  I was on the phone making arrangements for my mother’s services.  When I came back, they were gone.  I called them but they did not come.  I ran in the house to tell my father, and then ran out to the street to start looking for them.  I asked everyone I saw if they had seen them.  I explained, they did not live here; they did not know how to get home.  Some of the neighbors did see them.  One said they went up the street, the other said they saw them going down the same street.  The man who lives on the corner directly behind my father said they were playing in his yard, then ran off “in that direction,” as he pointed toward the golf course.

It took two weeks for my mother to come home.  The cruise line and the insurance company arranged everything.  My brother and sister-in-law were in constant contact with them, making decisions about the details of her processing and her trip home.  Her passport was with her, along with documentation from the ship describing her medical condition and treatment prior to her death.  Two death certificates were prepared, one in Spanish and one in English.  The English version was with her when she arrived in Boston, along with customs documents and a bag of black sand.  It was a Friday night when the plane landed.  A car from the funeral home was there to get her.  She was home.

When my dogs were gone for over an hour without being seen, I began to worry.  Where could they have gone?  They must have wandered beyond the neighborhood.  There is a golf course very close to my father’s house.  Several of his neighbors told me, when their dogs ran off, that is where they would go.  We contacted the clubhouse and asked them to call us if the dogs showed up there.  When the call came, my brother and I rushed to get there.  One dog, Boston, was playing in the pond and in the woods.  When we grabbed him and leashed him, he was not the least concerned that he did not know where he was or that I was worried about him.  He knew I would find him and bring him home, just as I did each time he’d run off in the past.

The groundskeeper who found Boston drove me around in a golf cart to look for Memphis.  Then my family converged on the golf course to look.  He was not there.

My parents bought their plot and marker several years ago.  The plot was in the same cemetery as their friends.  The area they chose was new.  It had just been cleared of trees.  On the day we went to the cemetery to make the arrangements, we learned that we had to pick out a plot.

“I thought we had a plot,” my father said.”  “No, you picked out the area.  Now you have to pick the exact plot”.  To help him understand this, I told him, “Dad, you picked out the neighborhood, now you have to pick the house”.  He chose a spot close to a water fountain and a stone bench.  When the trees mature, there will be lots of shade.

We continued to look for Memphis.  I showed everyone I saw a picture of him on my cell phone.  I gave them my business card and asked them to call if they saw him.  My nieces and nephews joined the search.  They rode their bikes around the neighborhood.  My sister drove her car up and down the streets.  We all whistled and called his name.  When darkness approached, we went back to my father’s house in despair.  We all knew Memphis would be spending the night outside.  Everyone went home and it was just my father and I.  He felt awful about Memphis being lost.  I felt awful that he felt awful.  He had lost his wife.  I’d lost a dog.  It is not the same.

I did not sleep that night.  In the morning, I was out looking for him as soon as the sun came out.  I went beyond the neighborhood to places I did not go the day before.  By now, everyone in the neighborhood knew what he looked like and how to contact me.  I was at least ten miles away from my father’s house when Bob called.  He told me someone had found Memphis.

The story is, when some local person let their dog in, Memphis came into the house, too.  When Memphis finally stopped circling their kitchen island, they got Bob’s name and phone number from the plate on his collar.  I rushed to the address Bob gave me, which was less than a mile away from my father’s house.

When I arrived, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and so glad to see him.  Memphis was indifferent.  He knew I would find him, just as I had done before.

The wake was at the funeral home where my parents have been too many times before.  The funeral was in the Catholic church where we were confirmed and where my sister and two of my brothers were married.  It was nice.  After the service, we drove my mother to her final resting spot near the fountain and stone bench.  She is close to where my father lives and very near their friends.

I stayed at my father’s house a few more weeks to help him adjust.  Bob brought Carolina and Wisconsin with him, when he came for my mother’s services.  When he left, he took Boston, Memphis and Wisconsin with him.  Carolina stayed with me.  We slept in the room down the hall from the room I grew up in.  My old room was now my mother’s craft room.  It is full of needlework, yarn and fabric.  This is also where she kept her computer and paperwork.  Each day, I sorted through these things and kept my father company.

When it was time, I packed up my belongings and some of my mother’s, and loaded them in the car.  I had a nineteen-hour drive.  I didn’t have a passport or a collar that could help me get to where I was going.  I was not in the neighborhood, close to my family.  I did not know how to get home.  There was nobody making travel arrangements for me.  There was no one looking for me.  I did not know the neighborhood or the house where I belonged.  All I knew for sure was I wanted to be with my father, with my family.  I wanted to be in my old room.  Or in my mother’s room.  I envy my mother.  She was never lost; she always knew where home was.  She is home now.  She is in a different house, but in the same neighborhood.



October 2, 2010

I am going to name my next dog Wisconsin.  All of my dogs are named after places.  The Goldens after states, the Red dogs after cities.  Each one of them has a name that represents a place in our lives that is significant.  Our first dog’s name is Carolina.  Bob and I met in South Carolina.  And though we have a “Virginia,” we never actually lived in Virginia.  We pass through it a few times a year on our way to Massachusetts to visit my mother, whose middle name is Virginia.

The full name of Boston, our oldest “boy,” an Irish Setter, is Celtic’s River Charles.  Remember the song, “. . . down by the River Charles – Boston you’re my home.”  Memphis, Memphis’s full name is Celtic’s Mississippi Delta.  Technically, the Mississippi Delta begins in Illinois and extends to the Gulf of Mexico; but a famous quote places the beginning of the delta in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.  I grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, so Memphis has a connection to both Peabody and Tennessee, where Bob lived and where he still works.

Bob and I got married in Wisconsin.  It is not where we started; it is where we restarted.  When the plant in South Carolina closed, he was transferred to Wisconsin. We went there to wait.  We stayed until the time was right for the company to go back into manufacturing.  It took three years, two months and fourteen days.

So we came to Tennessee to build a new plant.  It was a new beginning.  Naming our next dog Wisconsin gave birth to that new beginning.  Bob restarted the plant, following its bankruptcy, and I got to start over with a new Golden Retriever.

I was going to buy a dog from a breeder in Illinois.  Yes, I said, buy a dog from a breeder.  I believe we have been over this.  I want to support the demand for high quality, purebred dogs.  You see, I do not want to adopt a dog that was born as the result of someone being irresponsible.  What?  Maybe it doesn’t make sense, but it’s my choice.  I was on a list twice for a puppy, but both times it didn’t work out.

Not too long after that, I was at a friend’s dog training facility when I saw her.  She was small, lean, strong and fast.  There were several Goldens there that day, but none that looked like her.  The family who owned (and still owns) her was having difficulty managing her.  They considered re-homing her. I told her I would love to have her, but I don’t title my dogs.  I never heard from them, but I did get the name of her breeder. She is located in Wisconsin.


Getting a new dog has been a difficult process for me.  If I could have what I really want, I would have Virginia back.  Is it okay to want to replace her?  Can she be replaced?  What does it mean to replace a dog?  While I have waited, I have asked myself these questions over and over.

I want a Golden that is small, lean, strong and fast – like Virginia.  But all my dogs are small, lean, strong and fast.  That’s not it.  Virginia was my companion.  We did everything together.  I want another dog who wants to do those same things.  But I know there is no guarantee that a puppy is going to like to do agility training, Frisbee and dock diving.  I was hoping “the boys” would like those things, but they don’t.  So that’s not it, either.

No, this puppy is a new beginning.  A fresh start.  She will have no history.  She will not be born by mistake, then dumped because she was unwanted. She will be created by intention, to be loved by someone who wants her; someone who loved her, even before she was conceived.  She will start her life happy.  She will have reason to smile and greet each day with joy and excitement. 

Do souls come back to earth?  Is there anything wrong with wishing and believing they do?  If a soul could choose, would they come back as whom they were in a previous life?

I have so many people tell me they would like to come back as one of my dogs.  What if there’s a line?  Could one of those people, someone I barely know, be in line ahead of Virginia?  Could my next dog have the soul of an unhappy, mean person?  Oh, no . . . no way! Virginia would cut.  We did this all the time.  I cannot wait for my turn in line and neither could she.  If there was a line of souls waiting to be born into my life, Virginia would be first. I just know it.

I cried today when I saw a Golden Retriever that needed a home.  She looked a lot like Virginia.  I thought that maybe the person who was trying to find her a home would let her come home with me.  But, no.  Someone else wants her, someone who titles their dogs.  I could see she is a wonderful dog, one that loves people and other dogs.  She smiled at me and licked my face.  We got to play a while.  She picked through a toy basket and found a toy for me to throw.  She retrieved it a few times, but stopped.  She saw something I couldn’t see.  I looked in the same direction, but didn’t know what it was.  It was time for me to leave.

I miss my dear Virginia.  I miss her every day.  I wish I had a dog to fill her spot.  The dogs I have each have their own spot.  They are all different, and they are all the same.  They all have names of places I have been.  They are all small, lean, strong and fast.  I bought each one of them.  I have tried.  I would like to adopt our next dog, but that just doesn’t feel right to me.  No, I will have to wait for her to be born.  She will mark a new beginning.  Only a puppy can fill the spot left vacant by Virginia.  She will be born intentionally.  If our next dog does not have the soul of Virginia, I know this: she will have the soul of a Golden Retriever.  A Golden Retriever who will smile and greet each day with joy and excitement.