Towed

Lilly and foot

I am trolling through “Documents” on my laptop looking for things to kill. The electronic responsible for holding all my crap has been moaning with the weight of several years’ worth of paperwork. It needs a cleanse.

“Make-up letter to ex-boyfriend.” Delete. “Break up letter to ex-boyfriend. “ Delete. Why not just delete the whole boyfriend file? I should make a few templates first…

“Hospice.” Click. I open a few docs about my schedule… delete delete… medical tests… delete… then find one listing several patients at Morningside House who might enjoy a dog visit. I’d forgotten I had this. These were patients staying in the dementia ward. So, you figure they’re in a hospice facility with dementia-they’re pretty far along in forgetting. One name caught my eye: Samuel Brickton. So THAT was his name.

Lillian and I make the run to Morningside House about once per month now. We see Sam every time. He is younger than most, probably late 50’s. Someone said he used to be a firefighter. He is always in the same corner of the common area, in the same chair- strapped in so he won’t slide out. We always approach him but we’re never certain if he likes us. He can only chatter in nonsensical syllables, coming faster as we get closer. He reaches out to pet Lilly but then flails. Is he waving us closer or shooing us away? He struggles to control his movements. He wants to tell us what to do, but his thoughts are trapped in jabber. I need to be rescued. Lillian, convinced everyone loves her, is not deterred. Sometimes she’ll plop her head on the tray attached to the chair and I’ll guide his hand toward her. More syllables. I wished I’d had a clue.

And here, in my own computer was one. The document explained his condition was two-fold- an ALS-type of palsy along with a fatal form of dementia. I hoped the Internet would reveal something I could ask about – like his former job or family- to trigger a clear response.

Like all good researchers, I typed his name into Google.

And there it was. His obituary.

He had died just a few days after our last visit. And we were due to go back in three days.

Lillian is a beautiful girl, particularly when she’s just had a bath. We strode up the sidewalk toward Morningside House where several residents sat outside. They ooo’d and aaah’d.   They’d had veggie lasagna for dinner and Lilly was happy to clean up the dribbles. We are getting to know a few of the chattier patients- especially the real dog lovers. They are inflating Lillian’s already substantial ego.

One of my favorites is a woman I call “Brooklyn” because she’s always reading the New York Post. I tell her my fantasy job is New York Post headline writer. She says, “Yeah they’re always trying to be SMAAAAAAAHT.” They are mostly women, giving the men celebrity status. One man travels with a fanny pack attached to his walker. Lilly and I are pretty sure there are treats in there. Or maybe pot. Or condoms.

We negotiate the automatic doors and head for the elevator. I punch in the code to get into the dementia ward. I think well, that’s one pin that doesn’t have to change.

The first thing I see is the glitter eye shadow. Stacey the ward nurse pops up and hugs Lillian. Lilly believes she is born to be worshiped. Probably, she was.

“I just LOVE her,” Stacey crows. And she leads us, her long curly hair, black from the roots to her shoulders, then red down the rest of her back, swings with her step. She is the shiny bubble that bursts into a cartoon fairy. A loud fairy. She yells out each patient’s name, trying to break through their oblivion.

“MARY! MAAAARY!” Mary doesn’t seem to see us, so Stacey takes her hand and puts it on Lilly’s nose. Mary giggles.

Another woman tries in many inverted parts of words to explain why she does not want to pet the dog.

Stacey bends over and yells directly into another white-haired wheel-chaired woman’s brain, “IRENE, DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE DOG?” Irene babbles something then gets a load of Lilly. “Oooooooh!” Babble, babble… then clear as a bell, “I want to ADMIRE her!” We want to admire Irene and her long Irish nose and sparse grin.

We come back down the hallway, and I look toward the corner. The chair and tray are folded and turned backwards against the wall. Lilly doesn’t really notice. But I feel it in my marrow.

She tows me toward the elevator. The second floor crowd will be comparatively rowdy. There is more life to kiss.

The Squeeze

I’m in Nordstrom looking like I’ve been tarred and dog-haired.

“Can I help you?”  “….find a shower somewhere?”  I finish the sentence in my head.

“I’m good,” I mumble, keeping my baseball cap- covered head low, like that might disguise my odor. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon.  At seven that morning I’d run 5.7 miles with two two-footed girlfriends, getting home just in time to throw my four- footed pals into the floppy roofed Jeep and head to the vet for their 9am appointment.

Lillian doesn’t mind Dr. P too much.  Delilah is more skeptical about him. He rocks my doggie world.

Delilah went first. I thought she would be a little skittish. She was satanic. It took three of us to hold her down for shots.  After that, apparently Dr. P had chosen some sort of medieval tool to trim her nails, as she was literally shrieking. I looked at his hands more closely. He had not. It was 9:15. Why didn’t they sell cocktails here?

 Lilly was easier.  Dogs live in the moment.  We left the vet at 9:23. By 9:23:01 they were happy again. I was shell shocked. And caked with dog hair.

We went to the dog park, where a recent layer of snow had created more mud, which mixed into a tacky paste with the hair and my now 8- hour- old sweat.  Then we went to Nordstrom.  The girls stayed in the car.

“You’re making your second pass, so you clearly need some assistance,” said the helpy, perfectly well put together and handsome menswear salesman.  No. Consultant.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” I said, keeping my distance, “I am going on a third date tonight. Third.”  I held up three gritty fingers for emphasis.

“And you’re getting him something?”

“Well, that’s just it. It’s his birthday.”

“Oh yeah, you gotta get him something.”

“I know. I ordered a stuffed bulldog online but it hasn’t arrived yet and it’s tonight.”

“A stuffed bulldog?”

“Well, he – yes.”

He camouflaged an involuntary eye roll.

“What’s your price range?”

“It’s only our third date!”

He led me dutifully from table to table.  He showed me a plaid number.

“Straight guys wear that?” 

“Well, what does he like?”

“Me, I guess.”

He ever so subtly glanced below my gaze.  I kicked a mud crumb under the table.  I bought a tie.

The make-up department girls looked at me wistfully as I bolted out of the store. No. Out of the experience.

I went home, and pulled into the driveway as the UPS guy arrived and handed me the bulldog.  It would now be a tie-wearing bulldog.

A shower and some shaving later, we were at dinner, after which, I presented the over-dressed dog.

He complimented the tie and gave the dog a squeeze.   The waiter brought us a dessert to share.  He (the date, not the waiter) set the tie aside.  He continued to occasionally pick up the dog, looking into its poofy, smushed -up little face.

Being a chronic dog-squeezer myself, I find this promising.  

    
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This edition dedicated to Gates, in honor of a life well lived in support of one of our nation’s great “hospitalitans.”  

                                                                               

Crossed Wires

“Moe, I’m breaking up with you,” I announced in front of all the disgruntled owners in the Jeep service department waiting room.

“You can’t.”

“Yes I can. And I am.”

“Let’s talk about this.” He dangled my keys by the paper service tag.

We’d been seeing each other regularly. Our relationship was purely automotive.

It began after a particularly treacherous puppy school episode. Lillian, Delilah and I attended on alternating dog days. Mondays, I took Lilly in while Delilah napped or barked at squirrels or did algebra in the car. Tuesday Delilah and I attended class while Lilly stayed in the car, pondering her uncertain future.

One pleasant summer Tuesday evening I was leaning in to the back of the Jeep, returning Lilah to her sister, when I felt something clunk me in the head. I looked up to see a clump of wires hanging from the top of the rear door. I followed the wires to where they disappeared behind the door molding which had been separated, apparently by Lilly, from the metal. Aghast, I slammed the hatch down quickly before any of the mommies and daddies of well- behaved dogs could see that mine had just remodeled the Jeep’s interior and yanked out my brake lights. I drove home slowly, trying to be inconspicuous, and, of course, duct taped the wires back behind the molding. Duct tape being a puppy delicacy, it wasn’t long before the tape was swallowed and my rear windshield wiper hung, useless, on the glass.

I explained this all on the phone to Moe.

“Puppies? Right. Bring it in,” he mono-toned. He’d heard everything. He believed nothing.

Until he saw.

“How BIG are these PUPPIES??” he yelled when he saw the door carcass.

“They may be tall for their age…”

And that’s how Moe and I met.

It took some time and a few traffic citations before the proper electrical harness could be located and installed. But there was another problem. My wonderful fully retractable roof was stuck, more or less open. Moe and the greasy nailed guys took several swipes at it but in the end admitted it couldn’t be fixed but could be replaced for $3000.00.

“Whatdjer DOGS stick their heads up through it?” Moe asked.

“My girls had nothing to do with this. Jeep should buy me a new roof, or offer me a deal on a new car.”

Moe introduced me to the “good” salesperson, who eventually offered me about half what my well- ventilated and broken- in automobile was worth on a trade.

“Hey, “Good” Salesperson, my Jeep is worth twice that.”

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“Uh, yes, but there’s a problem with the roof,” “Good” Sales person answered. I internalized the fact that Moe’s version of good = gargantuan breasts. Those, she had.

Lillian, Delilah and I are still traveling about half-topless. When it rains very hard water pours out from behind the lights over the dash which keeps dog hair from accumulating. I do not have to crack the windows for them while they wait for me in the car. The “wet car” smell has replaced the “wet dog” smell.
Moe and I remain estranged. However, like divorcing parents, we still have the puppified Jeep between us, ‘til its death do we part.