Big Box Bridal: a pictorial reflection

bridesmaid blog clairebridesmaid blog krishbridesmaid blog jenn

No, these are not mug shots from the Alderson Federal Prison Camp for women. I’m happy to note that I have not been back there for quite some time.*

These are my bridesmaids and this is what a chiffon over-dose looks like.

I’ve seen the movie, “Bridesmaids.”  I’ve seen “Revenge of the Bridesmaids.” I thought those were costumes.

The photos represent a Hurricane Katrina-sized collapse in my attempt to dam the bridal industrial complex. I should have known better. I should have blocked the bridal drum beat. I should have brought booze.

I wanted to blame our lame experience on the fact that, because I am a very old bride, my support team is, while younger than me, into its fourth decade. Unlike bike pants, however, bridesmaid dresses are not necessarily age-specific. I’ve been passed on a bike by many a millennial looking great in her spandex. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone that these garments, yanked straight from a 1950’s Doris Day movie, would flatter today.

I suspect a complex underground conspiracy which seeks to make the bride look better than the maids, no matter what. In other words, there is an “ugly” requirement.

Que Sera Sera. We’ve swished on.

Our second attempt – in the cocktail dress department of a plain ‘ol department store – yielded better results.  Still, I regret that I forgot to bring actual cocktails.

Praise must be given where it is due, first to the department store clerks for not helping.

Second, to Claire,

Claire with dresses

for trying on a total of 18 dresses in one hour.

Third, to Krishna,

krishna with dresses

who got in and out of many a finely crafted garment without ever removing her jeans…

and fourth to Jenn,

Jenn with dresses

who despite being probably the most wholesome of the bunch, tried on the dress most likely to be worn by Miley Cyrus during a performance at an awards ceremony.

It is here that I must thank these ladies for withstanding the bridesmaid fashion extremes and for agreeing to see this whole shenanigan through to the end. Only 3.5 more months.

Luv,

The  Bride

rouched top flowybottom3

*See earlier blog, “Captive Audience.”

 

 

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.

Say stress to the dress

I watched, from somewhere on the other side of my skin, Meredith standing behind me. She reached under my armpits, then cupped my breasts. She gently pushed upward.

“We would pull the fabric up, like this so it would fit more like this.”

I felt nothing. For Meredith. Or the dress. I had been a bit out of my body for several weeks now.

This was shop number four in my wedding dress safari. I’d come alone. I did not want to drag my three intrepid attendants through what promised to be a purely psychological exercise. I’d already narrowed my choices to a few others at the “House of Jon blahblah something that sounds like Benet,” a boutinque-y place in DC.  The women there did not cup my breasts. They instead folded me into various thicknesses of satin, organza and crepe, using metal clamps normally found at the end of jumper cables.

Delilah wedding dress with clamp

Meredith and her heavy hangers of beads and lace in my rearview mirror, I headed home, eager to fiddle once again with our “Save the Date” card order on “Minted.com.” I was behind on my “Wedding Wire Countdown Clock” deadline for sending them. That morning the Minted site had crashed and had been smoldering all day.

Since September I’d been scrambling to stay up and out of the “Wedding Industrial Complex.” Clearly, I was losing my footing.

My “this is the one” dress moment had not come. Every bride (which is every woman, because at my age most have picked out at least one dress and some have helped their daughters) says when they put on the dress, they knew. Immediately. They cried. They hugged. They celebrated.

I stared. I shifted.  I sighed.

Eventually, I process-of-eliminated myself down to two. One, a sweetheart neck-lined satin number with an A-line both Lillian and Delilah could fit under. This seemed to be not a bad idea. The other dress was somewhat narrower.

After eeny-meenying my way to one, I traveled for the third time to the Jon Benet store and was measured – top, then middle then bottom.

“Okaaaaaaaaaaaay, the rush fee will be 250 dollars.  That will get it here by June,” said Mandy the ever polite and hard -working dress handler.

“When would it get here without the rush fee?”

“Hmmmmmmletmecheck.  October.”

Perhaps I could wear it on my honeymoon.  Perhaps I could go an Amazon Prime and get it in two days.

“Mandy, I gotta tell ya, that seems like a long time to get something shipped. What takes so long? This is not a custom dress.”

“Oh, it’s custom. They have to make your dress a size six on top, and eight in the middle and a ten on the bottom!”

Mandy was like a combo of Donald and Kellyanne. I was being insulted and bullshitted simultaneously.

I waddled my apparently triangle-shaped body to the counter and handed over my debit card.

“I’ll call you when we have a ship date,” said Dandy-Anne. “We’ll get you set up with our seamstress for alterations.”

To my custom dress.

“Ah. Well how much do alterations run, typically?”

“About 800.00.”

“That’s a whole other dress!”

“Weeeeell, you wouldn’t want it to be messed up…”

I note that I have not yet learned how to pronounce the name of the store.

Back home, I watch a DIY veil -making video.  The most recently married friend and member of the bridal party, Claire, texts me the name of her seamstress, who did her alterations for a hundred bucks. (Claire is not shaped like a triangle. Still.) “Minted.com” has put out the fire, so I order the cards. I take a stab at looking for a photographer. I make a cup of coffee.

I search for my skin.

Lillian wedding dress with clamp

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.

cross-cu

Collared

girls-with-collars1-2

It’s about fifteen degrees outside late on a Sunday afternoon and we’re giving the dogs a quick run in an open field behind the local high school.  We’re heading back to the car when both Lillian and Delilah run into the woods.

“Girls, come!” I yell, holding a chunk of cheese.

Lilah runs toward us immediately, but Lilly does not.  I call her again. I feel the cold metal parts of her leash burn into my fingers. The sun is close to setting.  It’s going to be a damned long, cold night’s search in the woods if she does not come back, I think.

And suddenly there she is, bounding toward us.

“She would have had to find us in the car,” Jon comments, reading only parts of my mind. I would never have returned to the car without her. Truth be told, he wouldn’t have either.

I may be the only person in the world who thinks the romantic comedy, “Must Love Dogs” wasn’t enough about the dogs. If the plot of the movie had been true to its title John Cusack would have fallen in love with Diane Lane and Mother Teresa, which was the name of the Newfoundland she was sitting. Mother Teresa needed a bigger role. Any single female dog owner knows this.

Lillian and Delilah have squatting rights, which have less to do with their potty training and more to do with their time in service.  It was they who kept me safe, loved and warm through many a lonely weekend. They are the ones I struggled to train. I am the one they struggled to teach.

Jon understands this.

Here is how I know:

One September evening, I was very late for our dinner date. There were several complications. I’d been delayed leaving work, there was an accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and I’d just had a dysfunctional sweat gland removed from the bottom of my foot, (yeah I didn’t know there were any there either) making it really uncomfortable to walk. All of this culminated in a plan for me to drive my Volkswagon to the top of the Naval Academy Bridge and pick up Jon, who had gone for a walk, rather than sit at the bar waiting.  As I pulled up he motioned me to get out. Which I did, under protest. It’s a busy bridge. But it’s a beautiful view.

We gazed for a minute over the Severn River and beyond, to our beloved Chesapeake Bay. Then Jon dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. It wasn’t like this thunderbolt thing. It seemed a natural, wonderful step in our exciting new journey. The ring fit perfectly.

 

 

 

Happily coupled and full of our great news, we went on to a long celebration dinner, then home to call my mom.

But before I picked up the phone, there was one more thing Jon thought to do.

He reached into his bag and pulled out two collars, each embellished with a bit of bling. And he kneeled down and buckled them around each furry neck- Delilah in hottie red, Lillian in a sleek black number.

We are what Verizon refers to as a “bundle,” and what car sales people say “comes standard.” My girls are the batteries that are included. And we have gotten incredibly lucky.

So far this blog has been mostly about our encounters in dog parks, visiting elderly people, and generally getting into trouble. It’s been a lot about what my girls have taught me about other people and about myself. I’m counting on them through this next adventure.

Bubble Wrap for the Soul

I didn’t cry until I heard his voice.

On my way to the gym in the early morning darkness, even NPR couldn’t make him sound better. How dare he try to sound conciliatory. Just one more artless con, I thought, spilling tears so fat I heard them splat onto my spandex.

I bumbled through body pump class, staring straight ahead, knowing that any number of people in the room had colored in a dot next to the name of an international joke. I recalled the November, 2004 cover of London’s Daily Mirror, which featured a picture of George W Bush and the headline, “How Could 59,054,087 people be so dumb?”

The only folks I could see benefitting from this election are the cast and crew from Saturday Night Live, but I’m not sure Alec Baldwin really wanted a fulltime gig.

At Starbucks, I ran into my friend, Susan. We hugged and cried in the parking lot then walked in together. I pulled my jacket around me tighter. I wished I had on baggier clothes. Lots of them. Because now it’s apparently okay to leer at women and make disgusting remarks. It’s so okay, that people elected a man clearly prone to this behavior, as their president.  I looked at the floor and Susan and bags of coffee. She talked about her daughters. I thought about a moment earlier in the campaign when I’d seen a little girl watching him speak, and I’d wanted to cover her ears.

Driving home though, I was forced to note traffic milling along at its normal pace.  Buildings still stood, the sun was rising. Indeed, the heavy curtain at the temple of Jerusalem had not torn. America didn’t seem broken… at least the Edgewater part of it. But I felt broken. Or at least soundly kicked.

Back home the girls hovered, nosing at my hands and leaning into my legs. I’m amazed at how they understand when I’m sad and do their best to bubble wrap my shriveled little soul.

My friend Jenn had asked Lillian and me to pay a visit to their neighbor, Andy, who was now in Hospice. She and her husband Craig had helped him out – cleaning up his yard and keeping an eye out – as his disease claimed more and more of his mobility.

I did not feel like visiting with strangers, but I’d said I’d go, so I bathed both girls and headed to Pasadena.

“Oh look who’s here!” one of the nurses called out, gleefully.

God, who could be happy today?

“Our regular therapy dog is out this week. People will be so glad to see you!”

Normally there are only a few patients well enough to visit, but there were many, along with their dog-loving visitors. We spent some time with Andy, who petted Lilly, gave her a treat and called her “pretty.” We traveled the halls, bestowing licks and love and accepting the compliments of sick and weary strangers with sloppy, happy grace. Lillian does not mind admiring glances. We stopped back in on Andy before we left.

On the way home we went to Jon’s office where both Lillian and Delilah frolicked from room to room, putting on a great show of irreverence and misbehavior. The girls obviously hadn’t listened to NPR that morning, and had ignored Chuck Todd the night before. They were soft, furry, exploding swirls of pure joy.

Later that same evening, I attended a fundraiser, dreadfully certain that I would be surrounded by victorious Trumpettes. But two women, for no apparent reason, immediately befriended me, and I had quite a nice time getting to know them and about the cause: FoodLink, which at that moment needed emergency cash to buy meals and diapers for local families.  I offered them free writing services.

The next morning, I checked to see if the President-elect had become bored with his national prank. No luck. I summoned my seeped energy to attend a veterans’ event hosted at the Washington Post. My friend Gina had invited me to watch what turned out to be an interesting series of interviews. She bought me lunch after. And she gave me some great tips and leads to find a few new clients. She was sad too, but still generous, kind and helpful.

Sometime that afternoon, I got texts from Jenn and Craig. Andy had passed away. They both thanked me for visiting. He’d mentioned us. It seemed a bright moment for him. We’d done a good thing.

The fog was beginning to lift.

I appreciate President Obama’s calls for unity. I’m humbled by Michelle Obama’s ability to politely host her incoming replacement. But I’m not ready. Not yet. Because I cannot unite with hate, exclusion and bigotry. I don’t embrace narcissism. I’m still shaking off the shell-shock  -the realization that half of this country threw its support behind an immature bully, who has so little regard for others.

But the last 48 hours have reminded me:  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Each act that attempts to tear us down must be met with a powerful thrust of thoughtfulness. Every bruising blow must be mended by the sweet salve of kindness.  Insults- paid forward with hugs and dog kisses.

That is how we will fight.  We will put on our furry bubble wrap and hold on to our truths and our values. We can run happily from room to room and bring joy to others.  That is how we will fight and how, in the end, we will win.

 

girls-with-flowers

Dogs and One Man in Particular

I’m leashing up the girls, who are dancing.  Lillian flails into the air like Eddie Van Halen while Delilah trots around the living room.  I work the clasp on Lilly’s collar, but it’s challenging because her tail is wagging her head. Delilah runs under the kitchen table. I coax her out while Lilly noses through the closet apparently choosing her morning pooh bag. I finally get them each assembled and head for the door. But I have a small pit in my stomach.  It’s been a while since I’ve done this alone.

Said the single girl.

I hate to suggest that my big bundles of hairy joy are anything other than angelic, but in the face of a squirrel, cat, or bunny neither voice- command nor leash is reliable. I worry that I can’t keep them entirely safe at worst -at best, at least out of trouble.  What works best is a one person per dog situation.

I’ve managed to duck this topic for a while.

I have a boyfriend.

His name is Jon.

He helps with the girls tremendously. He helps with my whole life tremendously.

It’s comforting. And it’s terrifying.

Because I think I may be losing my single girl life skills. I may be getting SOFT.

The girls and I had been a pretty tightly knit threesome for the better part of four years. We went to school, the park, on visits and occasionally, on dates together. And I managed. It was not always well-choreographed, but we generally got in and got out.

That rather sums up the way I’ve lived.  I purchased my home alone. I chose and paid for my automobiles by myself. When I turned 40 I went to Wyoming to see the Teton mountains, solo.

Now Jon and I are home shopping together. He helped me pick out Betty Blue Bug, my cute new Volkswagon.  He tends to make the travel arrangements – I pretty much just get in the car.

He makes everything so much easier. And still it’s so hard to let go.

What if I forget how to buy a home, purchase a car or get on an airplane by myself?  What if I forget how to be alone?

I’d become so good at filling my Sunday afternoons with single silhouette biking or kayaking. If I don’t have a friend at an event, I make one. I’m an expert at walking into parties unaccompanied.  I’ve fixed toilets, pumped out my flooded the crawl space and hunkered down in power outages with only Home Depot to back me up. I’d even convinced myself that my life was better that way.

One day last summer I was lamenting out loud my concerns not only about my hollowed out checking account, but my career which was swirling down the toilet.  Jon reached over and took my hand.

“I’m here,” he said quietly.

It was nice to hear, but honestly, how could I ever really expect another person to take me on.

Last weekend I had the occasion to visit the Emergency Room at Anne Arundel Medical Center, and then to spend about a day and a half in their care.

I’m fine.

Jon spent those 30 or so hours sitting in a chair in my room and running back and forth from the house to get me things and check on the girls.  About the first thing we did once I was sprung was “suit up” (Jon’s words) Lillian and Delilah and head out for some playtime. It was a beautiful day and we’d heard the Quiet Waters Park dog beach was re-opened.

Jon got ahead of me as we walked down the asphalt path, Lillian on one side, Delilah on the other, both spread the length of their leashes. He looked like a dog-plane. A happy, bouncing dog plane.  We stepped onto the beach where the girls started their sand spin, Lillian quick to violate the park boundaries and Delilah soon splashing in the stagnant seaweed.

We laughed and called them to us. They sweetly obeyed. I breathed in the South River air. And then. I let it go.

jon-with-girls-on-jetty                         Lillian and Delilah enjoying some bonding time with Pappa Jon.

Promises

Families gnaw on pizza crusts. Heavy doors slam visitors in with their loved ones, while smokers head out for sustenance.  Teenagers throw fastballs in the common room. Their forced, irreverent laughs bounce off floral upholstery. Hospice nurses move about, mission- focused. They are lenient with those who are grieving.

Lillian and I stop short in the foyer as we hit the din. The end, the fast- moving part of dying, is sucking up the serenity that normally lies like a fog over the Mandarin House.  It seems tonight, there is more than one patient calling it quits.

Lilly, who normally wags her way around Hospice of the Chesapeake, lets out a single, puzzled “woof.”

A staffer looks up, frowning.

“You have to go outside.”

“Of course,” I answer, sinking at the notion.  Woofing is not allowed.

Cricket whirrs past us, looking up but barely meeting my gaze.  “It’s just so busy tonight,” she says softly.

She whips her tiny frame into the office. As we turn to go, a familiar, dark- haired woman comes quickly around the corner, looking past me. “He’s gone,” she says, beating us to the porch.

We join her, because this was where we have to go.

“Would you like us to sit with you for a moment?” I ask.

“No.  My husband just died.”  And then I remember.  I’d seen them, two weeks before. He’d been doing well, fully dressed, sitting up and ready to go home.   I also remember he’d enjoyed visiting with Lillian, but the woman didn’t like dogs.  Feeling helpless, I move on to my car, Lilly jumping in the back.  I walk back in, wondering if there was something I can do. Cricket passes me again, this time grabbing me in a brief, tight hug.  “Thank you.” She says slowly, so I’d hear. Then she moved on.

I’d done exactly nothing.

Sometimes you can just feel the good.

I met Cricket early on in our visits.  It was a much quieter night, and Lilly and I visited mostly with her and the other nurses. She told me she used to be a post-op nurse for joint replacement and spine surgery patients. Born in Incheon, South Korea, she was adopted by Caucasian parents when she was three months old and raised in Middle River Maryland. And she told me about Barney McLovin’, her Great Dane.

He was a Blue Mantle Merle and weighed 179 pounds. “I could walk with him at midnight through the mall parking lot. No one would bother us.  He stayed right next to me- I didn’t even use a leash.”  Not that a leash would have helped. Barney clearly more than doubled her weight.  She showed me pictures. His big, spotted, debonair face charmed the Facebookery.

“He died when he was only four and a half years old,” she told me through tears. “We tried everything to save him.”

She scratched Lillian’s neck. Be the Barney, I think.

I also noticed on Cricket’s Facebook page, a man in a wheelchair. She tells me that’s her husband, Dean.

Cricket believes God brought her to Hospice because she was going to need some practice at losing people.  Her elderly parents were beginning to fail.  There was Barney.  Her best friends are between 50 and 70 years old.

And there is Dean.

It happened when he was young, one summer day in 1983.  He was swimming with his brother and dove into shallow water.  He’d done the same thing the day before but the tide had gone out.  He’s been a paraplegic ever since.

They met online.  He is 20 years her senior.

“I just fell in love with his eyes,” she told me.

I just cannot get my head around all the caretaking.   

They’ve been thinking of getting a Ridgeback. Lillian knows and flaunts herself whenever she sees Cricket.  I tempt her with pictures of Lilly and Delilah together. But she says they’re waiting, because of her parents’ declining health.

And then suddenly her father died.  He was okay that morning. He died that night.

I asked if she was right – if Hospice had helped prepare her to lose someone close.

She said he was battling cancer but died suddenly of a heart attack.  So while she was somewhat unprepared for the moment, she’d had important conversations with him – like about taking care of her mom if he died. She told him to not be afraid of dying – Hospice taught her that death is “a new amazing journey into incomprehensible peace.”  She said, “God promised to never forsake us and bringing me to Hospice was His way of keeping His promise.”

But the way I see it, The Big Guy isn’t just keeping his promise to Cricket. He’s keeping his promise through Cricket- to her dad. And to Dean. And to Hospice. And to Lillian, and Delilah and me.

 

Cricket with her dad and husband.

Cricket, Dad and Dean

The Ridge is Real

 

Just a quick few words today…. Lillian and I most often visit the Hospice of the Chesapeake.  But recently we spent some time with children, ages K-4, at St. Andrews School. They were learning about working dogs. (Please, no one tell Lillian she’s working!) We told the kids all about our therapy dog visits, then they got to see the dogs, nose to nose. The kids were fascinated by her namesake markings and she handled all the ridge- rubbing like a pro!

Dogleg

1doglegs

I am not overweight. But I have potential.

I weeble between sizes, threatening to burst some, to swim luxuriously in others.

I am a triathlete. I exercise maniacally. This does not cause me to lose weight.

I struggle to understand how my thick-skinned, saddle-bagged, slightly paunchy and mostly menopausal body can fight off the need for a new wardrobe.

This just isn’t fair, I scream silently at the closet.

This evening we are getting ready to go to Hospice. I throw on a comfortable skirt. Lilly puts on her “Caring Canines” vest. Delilah dons her pink pirate collar, ready to stand look out. Both are trim and clean and cut like body builders. Sometimes I check under their bed for free weights.

Lilly and I chat with a bunch of folks outside, then head to the dementia wing. There are a few live ones in there tonight. There is one man who worked at the Department of Defense who clings to a notebook, babbling about filling out forms. He keeps pointing to lists of nonsensical things. I think, It’s not the dementia.

We make our way into the next room where we meet Ron. He shifts restlessly in his chair behind his tray table.
“Can you see the dog, Ron?” I ask.
Ron looks down, pleased. He reaches to pet her. He surveys her four, then my two.

And he says,
“You have some REALLY nice legs!”
“Oh, well, thank you, Ron.”
“Really HEALTHY looking! I bet you can really RUN on those.”
“Uh, well, I do run.”
“I bet you DO.”
“I like bike riding too,” I offer.
“Yeah, I bet you can REALLY get up those hills. I bet you can really PUMP up those hills!”

I laugh and we move on. We make a lot of folks giggle, Lilly passing out kisses and nosing about in crumb-carrying crevices.

Then, as we walk to the car I feel my stride. It is strong and bears the weight of determination and hope. It has held and trained 190 pounds of Ridgeback. It has climbed the mountain of network news, rounded the cones of overbearing bosses and skated to the edge of unemployment. It is entrepreneurial. It is resilient. It is aging and fighting and girlish and confident.

It is mine.
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