Follow up from Mom

Delilah arrived in my life as part of a puppy pretzel: two coal-black noses, furry necks and warm, round bellies, intertwined. They were delivered in a crate to Baltimore Washington International Airport, groggy and jetlagged, having traveled all the way from Idaho. She and Lillian were wrapped around each other and then me and then us. The unraveling has left our little family threadbare.

To those of you who’ve been following along, especially Dr. James Pelura, Megan and Tammy, thank you all for your support through D’s illness and now her death.  I can’t bring myself to say the cancer won. I can’t give it that. Fuck cancer.

Canine lymphoma is fairly common. If you’ve been following this blog (aka the DLOG) you know Delilah’s symptoms began in late July. She simply stopped eating. Then the nodes under her chin swelled. Her spleen bloated. Tests confirmed the worst, and we gave her prednisone and began chemotherapy, in the form of a pill called Laverdia ca-1, two times per week. But her tummy wouldn’t tolerate the powerful drug and we had to stop. Two weeks later we started again. This time she kept the pills down and the nodes receded. She got some spring back in her step. She ate well. We were optimistic.

                   

But then there were more lumps. They were round and large, like marbles, on the back of her neck. Then everywhere. Dr. Pelura thought perhaps it was an allergic reaction, so we added Benedryl to her meds. It didn’t touch the lumps. And despite consuming gravy-soaked chicken breasts as fast as I could cook them, she continued to lose weight. In her last 24 hours she managed to walk outside to lay on the patio.  She loved being out there. But she began to shake with the fall chill and was too weak to walk back inside on her own.

Of course, I’m second-guessing everything. If only I’d caught it sooner, if I’d started the chemo back up faster, if I’d not left for ten days to move my mom out of her home in Phoenix, if, when, how, I did, I didn’t, I failed to keep our girl alive.

Lillian is doing okay. She was extraordinarily kind and protective of her sister, in ways I didn’t think she had in her, through the worst of D’s illness. But it seemed to me, maybe a week before Delilah died, Lillian checked out. She went back to being her A-dog wild-child self. Like she knew. As if she wanted to separate herself from the finality.

I always say dogs know everything.

Lillian doesn’t do well with big, heavy emotions. It only takes a sigh to send her skittering from the room. Both of our bathtubs have paw prints in them because that’s where she retreats when I cry so I’m trying to cut down on the sniveling. She’s become more robust (Jon thinks I am too critical of their mutual girths.) perhaps in order to absorb all of our extra affection.

I keep saying to Jon, “I loved having two.”  There is more to this, having to do with loving them as a unit, as one blob of happiness, as a chaotic duo.  It has to do with identity, it has to do with handling two powerful beings with my one strong single self, it has to do with a powder blue Volkswagen bug. But I’m still unpacking.

Thank you all, again, for understanding this grief. Not everyone does.

Cat owners, for instance.

I’m joking.

Until next time.

Caution: Mom Hazards a Few Words

Twice, I have nearly rolled across the marble-top kitchen island, diving for the girls’ water dish in order to keep Lillian from lapping up tainted refreshment.  On several occasions I’ve slid like Lou Gehrig into home, catching Delilah’s drool with a paper towel before it turns the wood floor into a hazardous waste site.   At night I could be mistaken for a worm charmer, decked out in a headlamp, white plastic gloves, carrying plastic bags and a water bottle.

Canine chemotherapy isn’t nearly as glamorous as everyone says it is.

I decided to re-take control of my blog (I’ll return it as a DLOG as soon as I’m done here) to explain how some of this canine cancer stuff works. As Delilah’s bespectacled, dogged research showed, (see DLOG #1) canine lymphoma is pretty common. So, hopefully this will help someone.

Delilah flunked the cancer test about six weeks ago now. After talking with her veterinarian, who is not a drag-it-out sort of doctor, my husband Jon and I decided we’d give this pill form of chemo- Laverdia-  a try.  We started on a Monday, administering a pill every three days. Chemo days would be Mondays and Thursdays.

For three days following each pill, her saliva, urine and stools present a  hazard to children, other dogs and the pooh-picker-upper. That’s the reason for the crime-scene gloves. As an extra precaution I squirt water anywhere she leaves a trace. At night, the headlamp is so I can see all of the, well, circumstances of her pooh. And so I don’t step in my work. Lillian gets the run of the back yard. We walk Delilah out front. Sometimes, when we’re sure D is empty we supervise her in the back yard so she can frolic a bit and lay on “her” outdoor sofa.  Sundays, family day, are chemo free. Trickiest is the water bowl situation. Two bowls is just two bowls. I thought of labeling them with their names, but while they are pretty good typists, (see the DLOGS) it turns out they can’t read.  So I do a lot of bowl rinsing.

                                                  Delilah enjoying a little couch time

The manufacturers of Laverdia  say most dogs don’t become ill on the pill. D is apparently not “most dogs” as her whole dinner wound up on our bedroom floor around 1:30 in the morning that first Tuesday.  Thursday’s dose came back up around 10pm. The following Monday, Labor Day, I came home from a neighborhood party to check on her. She stood up and vomited bright, red blood.  Her eyes were weary. Her body, thinning. I tearily went back to the party to get Jon and we came home to spend what we thought was our last night with our girl.

I called the vet Tuesday morning expecting to schedule her final rest but was met with undaunted certainty. “This is not the end,” Tammy told me.  Dr. Pelura said I was to stop the chemo and do what I could to rest her stomach. “We’ll just call this a minor setback,” Tammy said.

So for two weeks I coaxed and tempted and tried various doggie delicious dishes that she might eat. At first she refused everything. Gradually a combination of chicken, pumpkin, a bit of regular dry dog food and most importantly, I think, chicken gravy seemed to do the trick. I also administer an occasional mini-pint of Ben and Jerry’s doggie ice cream. D gets most of the treats but I slip a little to her forlorn sister, making sure that healing one pup doesn’t cause obesity in the other.

The “other,” Lillian, has been, surprisingly, an exemplary sister.  She doesn’t (often) steal her sister’s special food. She is respectful of D’s space, while at the same time quietly hanging out with her in whatever cool, dark space D finds, most often our exercise room. (D always liked to do Doga.)  Lillian has sometimes embarrassingly, become more protective, barking at other dogs with slight aggression. She never did this before. And when we went to the park last Sunday D tired out so Jon walked her back to the car while I continued on with Lilly, who needed more exercise. Except it was nearly impossible to get her to run the other way. She just didn’t want to leave her ailing sister.  I thought all of this was my imagination. But Dr. P confirmed. “She know’s she’s sick,” he told me.  This. Tears me up.

                       Lilly keeping her sister company, whether she wants it or not

This past Monday after a sleepless night, I called the vet and got the thumbs up to re-start the chemo.  “If she vomits, we’re out,” I told Meghan at Dr. P’s office.  “I understand,” she said quietly.  Again, I slept with one eye open. But Delilah’s remained, peacefully closed. She had refused dinner, but snoozed well and gobbled her chicken-pumpkin-gravy breakfast in the morning. She’s spunkier this past week and the light is back in her eyes.

She gets another dose tomorrow.

Today, I am hopeful. The knot that’s been in my stomach for the past six weeks is loosening. Perhaps our little family will stay intact for a while longer.

The girls will keep in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DLOG: NOT TODAY, CANCER!

Delilah: I’m still on a break from the chemo bombs.

Lillian: So I can sniff her pooh as much as I want.

D: Mom’s been feeding me a whole bunch of chicken and gravy.

L: This preferential treatment is tyrannical. Someone please send help. Or steak.

D: Today I was feeling so good we went to the park and we got to see our friends Lizzie and Dottie. I actually broke into a TROT once or twice.

L&D:  NOT TODAY, CANCER!!!

DLOG: Turning Green

Greetings!

Lillian: We have an update.

Delilah: A lumpdate.

Lilly: As promised, my sister started her chemo pills Monday with dinner.

Lilah:  Around 12:30 Tuesday morning I erped it all up in a corner of Mom and Papa Jon’s bedroom.

Lilly: Erp-a-saurus.

Lilah: It was a doozy.

Lilly: Puke-a-pattomus.

Lilah:  It was RUFF!  But I ate all my meals and kept them in my tummy after that.  I feel much better now.

Lilly: You even helped me yell at the yard guy yesterday.

Lilah: Today’s pill day though.  I take them on Mondays and Thursdays. We’re all  hoping it, along with my breakfast, stays IN.

Lilly: I’ll exchange my lovely scarf for a spatter-guard.

Lilah: We chose today’s outfits because lime green is the lymphoma cancer color.

Lilly: These were the only things we could find in mom’s closet.

Lilah: We’re sending her shopping today.

Lilly & Lilah: Yeah, new outfits for our next DLOG!  TTYL!

 

For the time being, we’re taking over Mom’s blog. Now it’s a DLOG!

 

Lillian:  Hello DLOG lovers!

Delilah: We’re here to let you in on a bit of an upheaval, which MAY lead to some actual up-heaving, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Lillian: Ahem.  Well, I’ll just get straight to it. My sister has lymphoma.

Delilah:  I have crab-apple sized lumps under my jaw-bone.

Lillian: You look a little like a frog.

Delilah: I think I look like Maria Shriver.

Lillian:  I see the resemblance.

Delilah: On the additional up-side, I’ve been getting lots of treats and everyone is SUPER nice to me. Lillian even stopped stealing my dinner.

Lillian:  She’s a little skinny. And I didn’t want my super-modeling career upstaged.

Delilah: One thing I’ve learned is, according to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, one in every 15 dogs will get lymphoma.

Lillian: Good research, sister!

Delilah: That’s why I’m wearing my glasses.

Lillian: They make you  look smart.

Delilah: Why, thank you! The other thing we learned today is there is now a chemo drug that’s a pill.  It’s called LAVERDIA- CA1. So, I expect I’ll be getting it in a chunk of cheese, rather than intravenously.

Lilly: Wait. There are PILLS in the cheese?

D: Yep. Mom thinks I don’t know.  But she’s been feeding me Prednisone for a couple of weeks.  That’s why I’ve developed such a drinking (and peeing) problem and I pant so much and it’s been really hard to sit still.  Especially at night.

L: Oh. I thought you’d gotten into Mom’s bourbon.

D: Ha! Well, the steroid part’s over now. I start the chemo tonight with dinner.

Lilly: Well, thank goodness for the pills.  You don’t like needles much.

D: I don’t like ANYTHING at the vet much.  Which reminds me– I’d like to apologize to Dr. Pelura, Megan and Tammy at Davidsonville Veterinary Clinic for being a somewhat less-than-gracious guest over the past, ummm, decade or so.

Lilly: You might apologize in advance for the next time.

D: Yes, I’m sorry in advance for being a bit of a PIA.

Lilly: So will the chemo bomb cause you lose your ridge?

D: Supposedly we canines don’t USUALLY barf or lose our hair with the chemo, proving that we are the superior species.

Lilly: Most excellent! There’s already enough hair lying around here.

D: Anyway, we’re sorry to share this not-great news, but we thought if we, as a family, DLOGGED, it might help other dog-families in similar situations.

Lilly: So, Mom, Pappa, D and I will keep you in our loop! Feel free to share.

D & L:  Hugs and Lix!!

 

 

 

 

On Guard

It is Wednesday at 5am and my husband Jon is already talking.  In whole, long sentences. I wait for him to take a breath, then I slink out of bed, as usual, to make coffee. It appears to be a wifely, domestic chore but really, it’s my escape to six minutes of solitude. But on this morning neither the quiet, the sun rising on the water, the rooster’s crow from the farm across the creek, or the gentle putt of a crabbing boat’s departure fail to clear the swirl of smoke over my head. My mid-week slump settles over me like skunk mist. These are the stay-at-home days when I am irritable and inconsolable.

Exercise often eases my angst, so I put on my Asics and trot out for a run. I chat with neighbors. I ogle dogs. I arrive home feeling a bit lighter. Still there is an inexplicable foggy residue. Perhaps some downward dog breathing and stretching will loosen this grip of grayness. I grab my yoga mat, my mediation book and my glasses, then head to our rickety dock, confident that this next act will sun salutate me through the wet blanket of my isolated mascara-less existence. Striding down the three deck steps toward the pavers which lead to the rear gate, I am closer to recovery. My glance falls to the ground, off to the left, and there alongside a large decorative rock is a thick, slimy snake.

Namaste.

I reverse scream, (which is when you suck in air loudly, rather than expel it) run back into the house, drag Jon from the shower to the window and yell “LOOKIT!” I Google “Maryland snakes.”

What is it doing here?

But I already know.

It is here for brunch.

On the Sunday before, we’d returned from a three-day weekend of hiking and relaxing in western Maryland. We’d let Lillian and Delilah out of the car so I could lead them into the yard. I’d swung the gate open, and there feasting in our bird feeder, were two fat rats. My reverse scream almost sucked my husband’s hair off.

Now, there is a reptile, one which must be permitted to sunbathe, thrive and dine in our beautiful rose bushed and mulched yard—our sanctuary, our COVID safe place, our stay-at-home get-away.  I want to throw up.

My refuge is ruined. I can no longer read, lounge, sip coffee, watch my dogs frolic or do anything which requires me to close my eyes, in my own back yard. I am vigilant. I am anxious. I am jittery. I am scared to death of bird feed.

I am uncomfortable.

And then I think: is this what they are talking about? Are there people in this country, black people, who always feel this way, this wary, this edgy, just walking around?

I happen to be reading a book of Rebecca Solnit’s essays right now. She says, “Comfort is often a code word for the right to be unaware, the right to have no twinges of one’s conscience, no reminders of suffering, the right to be a ‘we’ whose benefits are not limited by the needs and rights of any ‘them.’”

We’ve called an exterminator to rid ourselves of our temporary discomfort. The snake  will politely dab at his lips with his napkin and leave on his own. Good snake. But what can I do to help exterminate the discomfort I may cause others?

My long-time friend, Greg, who is black, referred me to Emmanuel Acho’s new video series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”  (@thEMANacho)

Acho says we white people are the ones who have to solve the problem.

Greg suggested I start by engaging in uncomfortable conversations with my fellow white folks. I began with a family member. Yep. It was uncomfortable. It gave me the willies. Was it as bad as rats and snakes in the yard? Nope. And I think it was the right thing to do.

I understand that my duty as a very white chick is to listen. But I’ve also decided to borrow the TSA motto, See Something, Say Something, (they’re not using it much right now anyway) and when I see something that is clearly hurtful to others, especially to black people, I’m going to say something—without being righteous or indignant.  I’d like to simply make a  point. Do I think my comments will change anything? No. Not singularly. But it’s possible that others might join in. Then it’s a chorus, and then it’s a song. And maybe not everyone’s singing but deep below the skin, there’s a vibe and everyone just might nod along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stick a Bonnet On It

It is the fourth week of our forced isolation and I’m just back from a legal field trip—I’ve been to the grocery store. My two washable, reusable bags are lumpy and overstuffed, one hanging from each shoulder as I negotiate my way through the front door and between two Rhodesian Ridgebacks who smell meat. As I hoist the bags to the kitchen counter one falls open, revealing its coveted contents.

“Hey, you got toilet paper!” my husband exclaims, dancing about like a Charmin bear.

Suddenly I am “Ma” from Little House on the Prairie, who’s come home from the mercantile with a piece of cheese.

I smile victoriously, pulling my sweat-soaked makeshift mask up from where it’s slid around my neck, and use it to dab at my forehead. There’s one more bag out in the covered wagon so Pa goes to fetch it. Alone for a precious 17 seconds, I do a quick inventory of things lying around the house that I might wrap up and give him for his birthday, which is next week. Nothing seems appropriate. What would Ma do? I glance outside. An acorn, perhaps? Maybe a stone from our abandoned pond? Half-pint would have been happy with that. She would have carried it around in her apron for the rest of her life.

We are living in simpler times, but the vestiges of our former lives remain.

Currently, my husband derives untold joy from running to the mailbox as soon as the mail delivery person drives away. I suspect Pa was much the same when the Pony Express came by. Simple pleasures, right? But in much the same way, it’s ill advised to step between my husband and the mail’s modern upgrade, an Amazon delivery, lest you be trampled. Thus a modern solution to the birthday present problem, Amazon, meets simpler times: deliveries are big doins. I cannot prevent him from intercepting his own gift.

We all can recall what harried frenzies a morning work meeting could incite. A 9:00 am meeting was the worst. There was the whole getting out of the house on time thing, followed by the commute thing, complicated by the traffic thing, planting oneself at the meeting table thing (shall “I Lean In” today, or oh f**k it, I’ll take a chair by the wall) then remembering when you’re supposed to talk and when to  shut up.  The online meeting solves so many of those dilemmas. The automobile situations are obviously eliminated (unless the only quiet place you can conduct a call is from your car) but perhaps not as obvious is the equalizing nature of The Zoom. Everyone has their own box in which they must stay. All boxes are the same size and appear in no particular order.  And everyone talks out of turn and over each other anyway, no matter who’s got rank. (Ma would have shushed everyone.) Particularly delightful is that no one can see if you are writing “good idea!” or “Nellie= ASSHAT!” in your notes. In those ways, Zoom technology is actually taking us back to simpler, less frenetic times. Those who would complicate things, however, are beginning to flood our inboxes. I cannot for the life of me discern what it is about the blouses Ann Taylor is marketing that will look better on a zoom call than anything else in my closet. (Please, not a return to the Pussy Bow!) And Facebook keeps trying to sell me hair color. As a professional video-ish-type person, I can tell you that the proper backlighting will eliminate not only the appearance of your blossoming roots but will render the tired details of your whole face equally undiscernible.  The bottom line is that no one looks good on a video call. NO ONE. Ma would just stick a bonnet on her head and get on with the butter churning. So be Ma. Use the technology at hand to simplify.

Lillian, like Ma, is simplifying

It’s nighttime and Jon and I are getting ready to turn in. As I turn out the light, Jon tells me that due to several factors I’ll not get into here, there could be a shortage of meat. I spend the next few hours staring out the window, wondering how unhealthy we will be when forced to live on pasta and baked goods. How mortifying it will be to have to phone Russia for a delivery…to stand in line with our plates while the local farmers peel rabbits. It’s been a source of pride for me that we’ve remained healthy eaters and exercisers through The Covid and in fact, Jon has lost about ten pounds. (As head of the food Gestapo I am taking partial credit for this.) We have relied heavily on protein. Good, yummy protein, not the shit of nutrition bars. This is my anxiety. I can stand strong in the face of a scratchy throat, a canceled graduation and all of the personal career and mid-life crisis threats that come with a weakened economy. Meat, apparently, is my trigger.

On “Little House,” Pa would say something disturbing about a bear or Mrs. Oleson just before Ma blew out the candle, triggering Laura to express her anxiety by asking a bunch of dumb questions. “Do bears eat people?”  or “Why does Nellie act so mean?” Mostly, she got a lot of trite answers, but finally Pa would say, gun in lap, “Do as you are told, and no harm will come.” The simpler living lesson here? When asked, “Is it okay if we go ahead with the Maypole licking contest this Saturday?” Dr. Fauci simply channels Pa. “Do as I say. Keep your distance.  Don’t lick things.” And maybe you’ll be okay.  Unfortunately, and maybe like Fauci, Pa would crawl up on the roof during a cyclone to nail on some extra boards to save his family, but in the end he wouldn’t be able to save himself. Only time and tweet will tell. Maybe one of those Michigan protestors should send the doctor some ammo.

Many of us are triggering all over the place. (Another of mine was the positive tests on lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo—which snowballed in my delicate mind to a ban on dog snuggling.) I am reminded of that meme, something about not knowing what another person is going through except we do know and it’s The Covid. So we need to take it easy. On ourselves. On others.

So onward. Stop checking your stripe in the Zoom square, throw on a bonnet and head on up to the roof with some nails. Slice yourself a nice piece of cheese and enjoy the view. You’ll see that some things are better at a distance.

Brooching the subject…

Madeleine Albright was wearing her customary brooch on her left shoulder. I stared and squinted, trying to figure out today’s selection, but I was sitting too far back in the audience of the Washington Post’s “Securing Tomorrow” program to see it clearly. David Ignatius, who’s been covering the president and foreign policy, was the Q part of the scheduled Q & A.

I don’t often write about, or even refer to, this president.

Albright, you’ll recall, was Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. She’s written a few books, and she was there mostly to talk about her new one, “Fascism: A Warning.” When told that the title seems alarming she says, with characteristic Albrightism, “Good.”

When asked what advice she would give this president regarding his, as of this writing, on again, meeting with Kim Jong-un, she pointed out that the North Korean leader has spent his life studying for this meeting. He is technically adept and smart. He is his father’s son. Albright met with Kim Jong-il in 2000 and was surprised at his note-less grasp of information – or propaganda – depending. She had been briefed by many experts. She was prepared. Her suggestion (which she joked she might tweet) to Trump: Don’t be extemporaneous. It came across, less as a piece of advice, and more of a punchline.

Being a one-time refugee from Hitler’s Europe, she calls herself “appalled” by this president’s stance on immigration, recalling that when she became an American citizen, while she was at Wellesley College, she was encouraged and felt welcomed. She says empathy is an essential part of presidential leadership.

She recalls Putin as “cold and reptilian,” and an “expert” at weaponizing information. He is intent on separating other world powers from the US. He is so passionately trying to restore Russia to its previous strength and status, he is willing to infiltrate American elections.

Then, she talked about Hitler.

She says Hitler rose to power as the division between the rich and the poor deepened.

There was disagreement over who were the true victims of war. Mussolini exacerbated the situation by promising to “take care of” his supporters. Both promised people things to the exclusion of others, then created scapegoats. Scapegoats who needed to be eliminated. The German business establishment, by most accounts sophisticated and schooled, initially dismissed Hitler as a lightweight. They hoped and figured he would go away. But he appealed to those who felt ignored, outweighed by the culturally elite.

She says her Republican friends are also dismissive of their leader, hoping this president, who promised to “Make America Great Again,” just goes away. Immigrants have become scapegoats. This president works to pit American against American. Albright reminds, “Good guys don’t always win, especially when they are divided.”

She understands this president’s motivations. She calls him the “most undemocratic president” in American history.

Albright says this president’s disrespect of the press is “outrageous.”  This is when my stomach tightens. Like it did when, earlier this month, he threatened to revoke the white house press credentials of those who his administration deemed “unfair” to him. He may be planning, via limited access, to censor the news.

Fascism occurs step by step, says Albright. She says it all makes her very nervous.

I wanted to stand up in the audience and yell, “What can we DO?” I am wary and frustrated. “Calling my Congressman” feels, at the moment, tantamount to “Thoughts and Prayers.”

Ignatius’s last question, appropriately, came via Twitter, from an Albright fan, asking which brooch she had selected for today’s program.  She revealed that she’d worn it for David and for his colleagues at the Post, in honor of their profession, their commitment to journalism and to the truth.

It was a feathered quill pen.

I haven’t often written or referred to this president. I’ve been mostly sticking to a cute puppy picture posting policy, hoping that he just goes away. But what truly has made America great is speaking out, and writing, responsibly, against what’s wrong.

Thank you, Madam Secretary.L&D wearing brooches

Delilah and Lillian sport brooches in support of the former Secretary of State.

Waypoint

girls doing dishes

I am not working so I’m pulling at this heavy, gold bedspread. It has a seam that needs to align with the top of the mattress. Once I heave that into place, I cram two pillows under one side of the fabric which folds back from the top. I do a lap to the other side of the king -sized bed and cram two more pillows under what I think is brocade but I don’t really even know.  The overall overwrought nature of the thing is nothing I would have voluntarily invited into my life. But I am not working. Therefore, it is mine to tug at.

There are some business-y things to do. But laundry left in the dryer seems more immediate so I fold it. After all, there is no arrival or departure time. Therefore, I am available to tidy up.

Lillian and Delilah have been romping around in their new waterfront yard. But they’re staring in the window now, wondering how I could possibly come home from my morning run, to this beautiful place and be crabby. Their puzzled little mugs at the window make me laugh and I let them in and feed them.

After that, I empty the dishwasher.  The pit in my stomach returns.

I’m stacking cups and I can feel the little black swirl forming over my head. I try to breathe it away. But it is determined. It sees the reality. It knows I am available. It knows that I am repulsed by my own being. It knows that I am becoming a housewife.

It’s dinner time and I’ve made us a healthy meal. I ask Jon about his day negotiating with real estate owners, sellers and buyers. He tells me what went on in the office. He makes it all seem easy.

He asks about my day. I wrote a few emails. A heron landed in the yard. The girls have been chasing bunnies. They ran circles around the pond then ambushed me when I walked out on the deck. I don’t like that gold brocade bedspread. I hear the words coming out of my mouth. How did I go from, “I interviewed Colin Powell today,” to doing play-by-play of my dogs’ antics?  I think that I am not the woman he fell in love with, nor am I the person I used to like.

How in God’s name could this have happened?

If I give myself a break for a second, I know exactly how it happened.

It happened like this. I was working on my own as a writer/producer, running my own company. I met Jon.  I had a weak financial moment and took a full time corporate job, rendering me unable to keep up my own business. Jon and I got engaged.  In just six months’ time the corporation decided to “go in another direction.” I went back to my own company, which now needs re-building.

We bought a house. Somewhere between combining households, planning a wedding and starting my business almost from scratch, I lost the person who once silenced a room full of Marines with a single phrase, the person who chased an ambassador through the lobby of an embassy, who – long ago – asked then-Senator John Edwards to declare his presidential aspirations to me, on camera. It was a Sunday and I was severely under-dressed. “C’mon, declare your candidacy to the girl in the shorts and the t-shirt,” I said. At least he laughed.

I pray that this house-wifing is only a phase.  If you were one of the people annoyed by the Hillary Clinton “stay home and bake cookies” comment, this probably irks you. But know this: I am very, very bad at baking cookies. House-wifing is just not me.

Colonel (ret.) Greg Gadson starts talking about stepping into the unknown.

I hear Greg say this because I am transcribing interviews I did with him and COL (ret.) Chuck Schretzman about their longtime friendship. About how Chuck supported Greg when he lost his legs in Iraq and now Greg is in the rock position, while Chuck learns to cope with a horrible diagnosis. I am typing and typing and it feels futile because this project – this supposed, eventual documentary – has no funding and few prospects. It is labor intensive with no promised reward. It is a great story. But we don’t know, exactly,  how it ends.

Greg talks about searching for a “waypoint,” following the loss of his legs.  Chuck calls his diagnosis an “opportunity” to say goodbye properly. To do it well. They each have received gifts, they say.

I reach down and scratch Lillian’s head. Delilah gives me her signature poke in the shin.  The typing makes me have to stretch my legs. I walk into the bedroom. The gold brocade has vanished.

My gifts, my opportunities, are more subtle, I decide. I have been given love. I have been given time. As I wrestle each to its unfamiliar core, I struggle to pin down the possibilities.

I go back to my desk, and settle into my own unknown.

Moved to Tears

cross-wide

 

Delilah weaved her way through the towers of boxes, looking for her bed.  Her nose stopped where a cardboard corner met the floor. On the side of the box was scribbled, “dog beds.”  She sighed.

“Sorry girl.  I’ll get them out for you tomorrow.”

She curled her tail under her bottom and paced a bit.

I understood just how she felt.

Moving is hard. It’s worse the longer you’ve stayed. This is the only home my girls have known. It’s been mine, solely mine, for 16 years.  I worked hard to buy it.  Now I was working on letting it go.

It was getting late in a long day. Lilah, Lilly, Jon and I found a path to the stairway and headed up. I’d saved a few of their beds for them to sleep on one more time before the dirty, hairy, duck- taped and drooled-upon cushions would be chucked to the curb in the morning.  We all settled in and quickly nodded off.

I lived on the water for some of my growing up years, and have dreamed of it ever since. My second apartment overlooked a section of Toledo’s Maumee River.  In suburban Detroit, it was a small cottage on Walled Lake. In Miami, it was the Inter-Coastal Waterway- if you stood on your tippy toes in the kitchen, you could see the ocean.  Now, Jon and I had found the perfect spot on the West River, near the Chesapeake Bay. It’s beautiful. We ordered a pretty, Ridgeback- proof fence.  Jon secured the garage for our bikes and boats. The outside was ready.

On the afternoon of the first delivery of Jon’s belongings, the mover arrived at the door holding an ironing board.

“Oh Lord,” I said, having no immediate notion where to put it.

“Ma’am. You’re going to have to pull yourself together,” the mover deadpanned.

That make me laugh pretty hard.  He had no idea how right he was.

As my beloved’s belongings began piling up in our new space, it became clear we had different notions of how it would look inside. I like my wood floors exposed.  Jon likes his Persian rugs. They landed, rolled up, in the middle of the living room floor. Elephants.  We stepped over them for two days. They are now in the garage.

I have an antique kitchen table. It has cool fold-under leaves and, like me, thick, hardy legs. It sits along the waterfront windows, displaced in the breakfast nook by a nicer, more appropriate dark wood table of Jon’s.  It has a date with the rugs.

Moving is hard. Moving in together is harder.

Come the morning of my move, I’d been vigilant enough to keep coffee and filters handy but hadn’t wrested the coffee maker from the fast hands of the packers before it wound up buried in cardboard.  Jon went out to get coffee around 5am.  I cuddled with the girls, smooching them on their puzzled little foreheads. Something shiny caught my eye in the darkness.

Somewhere in Texas I’d picked up a small silver cross.  I loved it because it was engraved with a sun rising over a field. It had hung over my bedroom door for years, absorbing my problems, and my hopes and my dreams. The movers had over-looked it. Perfectly.

I’m not a particularly religious person.

But I’d asked the cross to watch over me often. I’d begged it for work, for my health, for my safety and for a good man.  Most often, it delivered.

This morning, as I hugged the two loves of my life, and waited for the third to arrive with coffee, I thanked it. It had kept us all well and warm. I reached up and easily plucked it from its watch, held it to my lips and asked it for its continued service.

Jon came in with two large, steaming cups of java. I told him about the cross. And I told him that he was its best delivery ever.  And then, I had a good cry.

I cheered up as we talked about how much fun it was going to be to set the girls loose in their new, bigger yard which includes lots of geese, fish smells, and even farm mules across the creek.

A few days later, exhausted from the undoing of all that had been done, Jon and I collapsed in a new bed, in a new room, which had a new, beautiful view.  We discovered that we could see stars from the high windows, and the gleam of moonlight on the creek. And once again, something silver caught my eye. There was the cross with its sun and field hanging over the doorway. Delivered by its own best delivery.

We are home.

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