Friday, May 31, 2019

Such a Good Dog



My head is sticking out the window, as far as I can get it, as far as they will let me.
My fur is blowing and my eyes are squinting in the wind.
My tongue is hanging out of my mouth 
and my nose is in overdrive.

There is so much to smell.
It seems like there is everything in the world to smell.

I love it when my people take me for a ride in the car. 
This might be the best day of my life.

I am the happiest I have ever been.  Well,  since the last time I went for a ride in the car.  I was the happiest I have ever been then, too.  And, also, the time before that was good.  So good.

I am so happy.

Going for a ride.








She was such a good dog.






















She was smarter than all of us.
She was kinder than all of us.
She was selfless and full of joy.
She was the embodiment of
all that is good in this world.

Every single day of her life,
she was all of those things.




Daisy wasn't our dog.
She was the next door neighbors' dog.



She was part Australian Shepard and part Husky. But every time you took her on a walk, someone would always ask, "Is that a wolf?"  She was born on a farm with one brown eye and one blue eye.  The blue eye later changed to brown with a blue patch. After her birth, the farmer separated her from her mother with an electric fence. A kind neighbor, upset with what she saw, took her in and bottle fed her until she was old enough to be adopted.  Throughout her life, she struggled with being separated from those she loved. She needed companionship. She needed her people.



The first time we met her they told us she "liked to jump".  Daisy did jump and leap and try to hug me. She was not a small or hesitant dog.  I had to brace myself to keep standing upright. She knew what she wanted: the love.   And I held my own because I too wanted: the love.  My acquiescence was the cue for her to lick me wherever she could and attempt a final stealth, "EVEN THOUGH I JUST MET YOU I ALREADY LOVE YOU SO MUCH NEIGHBOR LADY" tackle.




Daisy and I soon settled in to our own routine.  She loved to visit at our common neighbor fence. Many times I'd call for her when I went out into my backyard.  I'd hear the jingle of her collar as she rushed to the fence that separated us.  I would weed on my side; she would follow me on her side. If I moved 2 feet,  Daisy moved 2 feet.  If I poked my finger through the fence boards, she licked my finger.  If I asked Daisy a question, she nosed a board of the fence so that I knew she heard me. I knew and she knew.......we were having a conversation. She knew all of my secrets.


My son Drew started taking Daisy for walks when he was just out of elementary school and continued until he left for college.  Sometimes, before their walks, Drew would bring Daisy over to say hello.  She would walk into our home like it was her own and always greeted everyone there, including the cats.  They had become friends with Daisy and were worthy of a good face lick. She drank the cats' water, licked the remains of their food bowls and then sniffed and sniffed and sniffed as much of the house as she could before Drew urged her to leave for their walk.

I was initially worried that Daisy was too energetic for Drew to handle.  But Daisy knew how to handle such a kid.  When Drew was inexperienced, Daisy taught him how to walk. When Drew was more experienced, Daisy insisted they run. And boy, could she run and run and run. She'd chase down a ball and bring it back to you--for hours- if you could last that long.  For years, they walked and ran and chased balls in our neighborhood and the neighborhoods, trails, abandoned golf courses and construction sites near us. They spent a lot of time together.  She became more than the "neighbor" dog. She was his Daisy.

Drew had many encounters over the years including one with a yippy, yappy, annoying dog that approached him and Daisy.  The tiny dog nipped at Daisy's feet. The tiny dog was in full tiny dog attack mode, running endless, empty threat circles around Daisy.   Daisy was amused with the yipping and yapping and "barking".  Daisy cocked her head side to side and assessed the threat.  According to Drew, Daisy then slowly rolled her eyeballs and ever so casually and gently, sat down on that tiny dog.  Daisy didn't hurt the dog but Drew remembers a very satisfying but muffled ymmmph sound........And Drew remembers Daisy grinning, tongue hanging out, looking up for his approval.

Daisy and Drew had the opposite problem on another walk a few years ago. They were aggressively charged from a forceful, growling, large dog on the other side of a fence. The weak fence shook and the weakest two boards swung open.  The dog's drooling head threateningly poked through. The big dog behind the fence repeatedly charged and butted the fence.  Daisy went into action.  She immediately rushed forward and put herself between Drew and the scary dog. Daisy leaned against Drew, pushing him back with her full weight and growled back at the drooling dog trying to attack. Daisy's first thought was to protect my son.

It was the first time ever that Drew had heard Daisy growl.

When Drew got home he recounted the story.

"That dog would have saved my life if she had to."







She was such a good dog.



But she wasn't our dog.
She lived next door.
She had a wonderful family who loved her as much as she deserved to be loved. She had a lifetime of memories with her own family.

But gosh, we loved that dog too.









Daisy was 13 years old when we last saw her.
We were greeted by our friend.
We were greeted with a doggie grin.
We were greeted with a lick and a nudge.
We were greeted by all that is good in this world.



Our Daisy.






















Even at the end when she had a bit of a limp,

Even at the end when.....



Even then.....








She was such a good dog.








Thursday, February 28, 2019

Half a Finger



I remember her hands.
I remember they looked a bit clawlike.
I remember her fingers curled in, the joints knobby,
the age spots sprinkled from wrist to nail on the wrinkly,
folded skin that draped her frail, petite hands.
She was suffering from arthritis,
I would imagine.


I remember her half finger.
I always tell people the stand mixer chopped off her finger.
I remember her telling me that story, once, when we made cookies.
Probably, because I was staring.
Today, I always tell people that if you aren't
a mindful baker you too,
could end up with
half a
finger

in the

batter.



As a young child my eye was always drawn to that missing finger, the half finger. I always wondered what really happened to the other half.  Perhaps, it's not the mixer's fault. The aunts who know more than me speculate that my memories of the stand mixer mishap might be flawed. I've been told it may have been a Stokely Cannery injury, from when she worked there (on the line?).  I know memories can be crazy and unreliable.

Have I made that story up in my head?

What about the rest of my memories?



Grandma and me-1975
My great grandma Gertrude died on Christmas morning in 1981 at the age of 90. I remember the smell of her house, the curve of her velvet-ish sofa, and how I was fascinated with her treasure filled home. I remember, clearly, how she exemplified the elderly shuffle-march. I remember how quickly she moved from the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen. I remember passing the dining room table covered in lace and filtered light from the sheer curtains that hung in the large bay window (was it a bay window?) beside it.  I remember, vividly, the shape of the filtered, diffuse shadow the outside bush made that day on the table.  I remember playing "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger" on the piano in the living room.  The sheet music was thick ivory paper embellished with gold and brightly colored calligraphy. Her crooked, yet nimble fingers showed me how to play.

And I remember playing cribbage with her.  I was very young then and  I don't remember winning.   I knew how to play because she played with me. I remember being fascinated at how she could hold the cards, and shuffle and deal, with half a missing finger.  She always let me lose, gently.  But the aunts who know more than me have told me she usually played cutthroat cribbage.  She took her fifteen-two's quite seriously.

Gracie
5 year old Gracie never knew her great, great grandma. But here she is, learning cribbage from her relatives, just like I did. I see her hands, smooth and untouched, fresh and graceful, plump and full. She holds the cards cautiously, awkwardly. They are too big for her hands. She turns to her father and asks out loud, "Daddy, does 8 plus 7 equal 15?" The aunts and uncles and cousins and of course, her father, nod and approve.


I wonder if my great-grandma Gertrude ever looked at my hands the way I look at Gracie's hands. I wonder if she ever compared my hands to hers.  I wonder if she ever imagined her great, great granddaughter would be playing cribbage like we used to.  I wonder if Gertrude told me the stand mixer, finger chopping story just to scare me and ensure I'd always respect the power of a stand mixer.

Or maybe, she really just wanted me to stop staring at her finger.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Nancy Calhoun



It was a chilly Canadian day in the middle of December.
I was sitting on a red double decker tourist bus
rolling down a scenic road in Victoria, British Columbia.

I wanted the best view of the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
I climbed to the open air top level and wiped my seat dry with a towel.
The snow capped Olympic mountains stared at me from the south.



I loved the cool breeze.
The view was stunning.
My family was with me.
We were all healthy
It was a good day.


This is how I celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary.




The big mall across the river wasn't even built when I filled out the obligatory wedding registry.
I still have the dishes I registered for, however, from the old downtown store in 1988.
They were simple, an every day kind of  dish. (Nancy Calhoun, White)
I still like them and I still use them.
Those dishes were there,
from the beginning.


I was married in the middle of December.  It was the perfect time because-- the husband could be there.  He was a submarine officer in the US Navy and mid December was a convenient time for a junior officer, such that he was, to take a bit of time off.  We married and then we left our hometown.  We drove across the country to our new home in Florida.

We settled in Winter Park and eventually moved on to Idaho Falls, Groton Long Point, Bremerton, Idaho Falls again, Greenland, Angola, West Seattle, and then finally, Maple Valley.

And then, you know, we suddenly had two kids and a bunch of diapers and soggy handfuls of goldfish crackers and something that somehow spilled on the couch that nobody knows anything about and preschool tuition and Urgent Care bills and fundraisers and a lot of broccoli that ended up down the disposal and more than a couple of shockingly short lived pets.  Occasionally, the husband and I would pause for a conversation..... a moment...... a memory.  But soon it was back to band concerts that were a little too long and all of the towels on the bathroom floor and and far, far away soccer games and rainy cross country meets and debates about proper bedtimes and too many video games and SAT tests and are you sure you did your homework questions and so, so much laundry and.....

finally,

somehow,


college
move in
day.


I was on top of that bus in the middle of winter with those sticky, little, goldfish squishing, soccer kids who somehow qualified for the adult price on this chilly tourist bus ride. The husband sat next to them.  The husband who has patiently put up with the yin and yang of 30 years of marriage.  The husband who has embraced all that can possibly
encompass
and encircle
and enrage
and envelop
two people
and all of
the aftermath
that follows

when
in 1985
one person says hello,

and the other person finds that to be quite a clever
pick up
line.


Today that mall across the river is kind of old. Today my wedding registry dishes sell online with the "vintage" label  attached to them.  Today the preschool tuition is college tuition.  Today that broccoli that no one would eat is roasted in a 425 degree oven with a bit of oil and garlic and salt and pepper and is eaten like candy. There are no leftovers.  Today the debates are about politics.  Today they pick up their own towels.  Mostly.  Today my couch is only covered in cat hair.  Today I see the family that's with me on this bus ride shivering in their winter coats.  Today I see them cold ...possibly miserable, watching me be happy, up on the upper deck, pelted by the ocean spray on this little tour of Victoria.

Today I see them letting me be me.

Today I see 30 years of all
that has
always
been
good.


Tomorrow we go home and warm up.

Tomorrow I remember those stunning
Olympic Mountains staring back at me
and the frozen kids and husband.

Tomorrow we eat pizza off of those dishes
(Nancy Calhoun, White)
from the old
downtown
store.

Tomorrow we eat off those dishes that were there from the very beginning.

Tomorrow I remember 30 years.