Wuf! Woowoo woof!
That’s dog speak. Roughly translated, it means “Wake-up, wake-up, WAKE-UP.”
Okay, so it’s 10:48 am and maybe I should be up already, but I’m celebrating Sleep-in Saturday. Yeah, it’s a little holiday, I made up. Pretty awesome, right?
Max is looking at me from the end of the bed, tail wagging. He can’t get all up in my personal space because Ramsey is blocking his path to me. God bless her.
“Go away. Go lie down! It’s too early, Max.”
Max can tell time. “Woo wulf!”
I roll onto my stomach and he jumps on the bed. He nudges my neck and my ears trying to get to my face. Stan hollers, “GET DOWN!”
Back on the floor, Max positions himself next to the chest of drawers, rhythmically beating its side with his tail. Bam bam. Bam bam. Bam bam. When I look at him, he leans in closer, barely containing himself, and whines coaxingly.
Alright. I’m up.
I pull on my yoga pants and red parka and walk him out to the dock. Ramsey shuffles along behind. Somewhere in the brush, I hear Tucker bouncing around. Only Max is on a leash because Max can’t be trusted.
“I wish I could let you off leash, Max. Really, I do. I’d like to see you run around and play with Tucker. But I know you will bolt.”
I’m sitting on the built-in bench on the dock that reaches out into the marsh. Max sits beside me watching the egret across the water. He’s pretending to be well-behaved.
“I always come back,” Max says.
I glance at him, surprised by his command of the English language. Or perhaps, its me, and I can suddenly understand dog speak.
“You do, but why run? Don’t you like living with us? Don’t we take good care of you?”
“I LOVE living with you.” He says this both fiercely and matter-of-factly. “I have my own bed to sleep on. Two beds in different rooms. I have toys. I’ve never had toys. Ever. I love my toys. I love to toss them and catch them and make them squeal. I get food everyday, twice a day, and you never forget. Never, not once. You always put water out and refill my blue bowl when it gets empty. You clean my ears when they hurt and take me on walks. You hug me and pet me. And talk baby-talk. I like baby-talk. You rub my belly. You are my humans. I love my humans.”
He is quiet for a moment. “And there is the man. I LOVE the man.”
He is talking about Stan. You would just have to see them together to understand.
“You didn’t love him at first. Do you remember? You seemed . . . afraid of him. You would cower and keep your distance. As if someone, some other man, had hurt you in the past and you didn’t trust him.”
“There was a man like that. Once. I do not speak of him.”
He continues to look out across the water but his eyes are sad.
“Is he the one who gave you the lightning bolt? The tattoo on the inside of your right thigh?”
He is quiet. His ears perk as a fish leaps from the water. He doesn’t want to talk about it.
“You know when I saw it, I wanted to rename you Harry. You know, Harry Potter? Because of the lightning bolt?”
He does his best RCA dog impersonation. Note to self: dogs don’t get pop culture references. I change the subject.
“What about Jerri? You didn’t seem to recognize her at first but then you seemed happy to see her.”
“She is different now.”
“She is . . . tamer.”
“What do you mean, Max? How is she tamer?”
“She was . . . like a creature in the wild without a human to care for it. Hungry, scrounging for food, dirty, with claws, terrified. Muttering, always to itself. Crying out, unexpectedly. Not sleeping for days. Then sleeping without waking. Like an injured creature.”
“And what did you do, Max, when you lived with her?”
“When she was . . . lost, I lay beside her. I kept her warm. I sang to her. I brought her back.”
“But who cared for you, Max? How did you get by?”
“Mostly there was food in my bowl. I would save it. When it was gone, there was the bag in the closet. I could get into it. Or plates of food she had partially eaten on the floor. Sometimes there was no water in my bowl. But there was always water in the big white bowl where the baths happened. Sometimes I needed to go out and I would cry and I couldn’t bring her back. When my insides hurt from holding it, there was nothing else but to relieve myself on the brick wall. I was ashamed for defiling my den. It is shameful.”
“Max, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
He turns and hoists himself up by his front legs to lick my face. Getting down, he places his head in my lap and closes his eyes as I smooth back his fur.
“I have known joy,” he says. “I have tracked the deer through the woods to their secret place. I have splashed in the cold creek and wallowed in the grass. I have rolled on the muddy hill. I have run full out with the wind in my ears. I have slept under the stars and in the warmth of the sun beam. I have been touched, and held, and snuggled. I have loved my humans. I have known love.”
“You’re a good dog, Max. No. A great one.
“I confess, I didn’t want to take you in at first. But how could I not? I’m sorry about your time with Jerri. She was sick and not in her right mind. You were good to her. i don’t know if she would have made it without you. But it’s your time now, Max. To be taken care of. To be loved. And I do love you, Max. Even when you disrespect Sleep-in Saturday.”
“I know,” he says. “Now, where’s my breakfast?”
This blog has been somewhat of a grand experiment. I’d been thinking about writing a memoir about, you guessed it, sisterhood and sanity and my BFF, Susan, who is a marketing wiz, said “you’ve got to do a blog.”
“But I’m not ready for that kind of commitment,” I said.
“Publishers are looking for writers who already have a following. If you can demonstrate there’s an audience for what you write, you’re less of a risk as a new writer. It’s all about the marketing, you know. Even if you decide to self-publish, which is perfectly acceptable these days, social media and blogging is a way to get feedback and gain a better understanding of your readers.”
“I just don’t have time for it,” I said.
“You don’t have to write every day. Just pick a schedule, maybe once a week, and stick with it.”
“The LAST thing I need in my life is more responsibility,” I said.
“You love to write. You need to write. Just do it.”
So I thought about it. For months, I toyed with the idea. In addition to what Susan said, there were other great reasons for blogging.
My writing life needed some structure. Blogging was a way to introduce that. If I made a commitment to post once a week, I knew some of you would hold me accountable.
Blogging can be cathartic. Particularly when you maintain some anonymity. It helps work through my emotions and evaluate what’s helpful and what’s hurtful in my relationship with Jerri. I replay things in my head and discover where I went wrong. I try to take the confusing bits and piece them into something that makes sense. Sometimes hitting the “publish” button is super scary but sometimes it feels incredibly liberating. And I get to rant. There really is nothing better than a good rant.
Blogging is also a great way to connect with people who have similar life experiences. I hoped to meet others supporting family members with brain disorders and I have. It’s been amazing. I’ve been moved by your stories. I’ve felt less alone. I’ve embraced your advice. I’ve learned from you.
So I might not be the Bloggess and I might not have been Freshly Pressed, at least not yet, I still have hopes, but I HAVE had readers from over 40 countries including the UK, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, South Africa, Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. And that has to be one of the most awesome achievements I never set out to achieve.
So thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. And thank you for commenting. The experiment continues.
I’ve been trying to get out more into the blogosphere and I’m amazed and totally psyched by all the great writing. There are so many awesome people sharing their life stories in ways that are both profound and poetic.
This week I was touched by Courtney’s posts at The “Me” Project. Earlier in the year, Courtney waded through some of her old journals and posted some entries about addiction. These are extremely poignant. One is broken into two parts and as I read Part 1, I thought about my sister. I could see her there among the words, particularly these:
At some point, you realize you are using now JUST to stay two steps ahead of your own terrible reality sinking in. When you are already so weakened, so compromised, so ghostly, it is terrifying to entertain the thought of actually turning around & seeing the path of destruction you left in your wake. It’s just too, too much.
Wow. Doesn’t this make your heart ache? Jerri has her own wake of destruction that even today she can’t bear to face. She’s left a canyon in her kids’ lives and wounded them in ways they will never get over. Jerri knows this. She didn’t set out to do it. She told herself as she handed them over one-by-one to our parents to raise that it was the best thing for them. Our parents could give them a life she never could. She tricked herself into believing each time that it was temporary. That she would get herself back together and then they’d be a family again.
But underlying the using was the untreated brain disorder and she couldn’t do it alone. And now, three of her kids are grown and she’s still failing the fourth because she doesn’t have money for the bus trip to even visit him. She’s still not at a place where she could bring her youngest son to live with her. She needs a job and a different housing situation. Even if she had these things, she’s emotionally unprepared to fight a custody battle with our parents and he’s been with them for 7 years. It would be traumatic to uproot him and what if he didn’t want to come? She can’t handle the guilt and the pain of it all so she refuses to think or talk about it. But she has to in order to heal.
When you wake up in the morning, you are excited about what the day will bring, and when this occurs to you, you press your face into your pillow and you cry. You cry because you forgot what it was like to feel excited about your life, to be glad to be alive, to have hope. You forgot what it was like to be free, except that all along you had tricked yourself into thinking you were doing what you wanted, partying it up. Funny, not one memory from the past eleven years could match, could even come close, to this eager, happy, hopeful, brand-new feeling you had now. And all you did today so far was open your eyes.
There is so much joy in this paragraph. I want this for Jerri. I really do.
Here are the links to Courtney’s full posts. I hope they speak to you as much as they did to me.
Part 1: Memory Lane in a BAD Neighborhood.
Part 2: As Promised Part 2
First of all, what’s up with this line? It’s 3:00 on a Friday. This is exactly what I was hoping to avoid by voting early.
Second, you’re not really 97 years old, are you? Seriously? You don’t look a day over 74. And I’m not just saying that. I’d really like to know your secret. How you’ve managed to age so well without letting an old person take over your body. I mean just look at you in your Levi’s and your untucked Timberland flannel shirt under your Northface parka. You could almost be my nephew. Except the band of your boxers isn’t hanging out. Thank God for that.
Your confidence that I, too, will one day get to 97 is flattering. What I, uh, actually said was how did YOU get there but I appreciate the sentiment. I’ve never really had a desire to see 97, at least not in my mirror, but if I could do it as you have and retain the ability to drive myself around and stand in 30 minute lines with only the assistance of a cane, well that changes things. If I could get there with my memory intact as you have, with a sharp mind and a vested interest in what’s happening in our country, well, somehow 97 looks a lot less scary.
I hate it that we were so rudely interrupted by my actual turn to vote. I’d almost forgotten why I was here to begin with.You were telling me about submarine training in NY, a stopover in route to WWII, where you knew you would either have to kill or be killed. My head was still back in 1944, with you, your friend Rob, Ilene, and your future bride, Anita at the Stage Door Canteen in the Broadway Theatre District with Jimmy Durante and Frank Sinatra singing That Old Black Magic as you swayed together on the dance floor. How cool is it that God intervened and you lost the coin toss and got to walk Anita home that night instead of Ilene who had “all the right equipment”? Bet Rob would be jealous of your 67 years of marriage – it just goes to show we don’t always know what’s best for us.
Did you see the way that volunteer looked at me when it was my turn? All sympathetic like you bending my ear was some form of torture and wasn’t it nice of me to humor you but now it’s time to move along little missy and stop holding up the line. That’s ageism, BTW. You probably get that a lot. It seems rampant in our society and it just makes me mad.
You know I wanted to hear the rest of your story. You left me hanging. Like did Rob make it through the war? And what happened to Ilene? Did they get together? And what has this past year been like for you, now that Anita is gone?
Also, did you ever have the chance to see Tallulah Bankhead there at the Stage Door? AmericainWWII,com says she used to play the Canteen. She also had about 30 seconds in the 1943 movie. She’s a distant relative of mine – it would have been a hoot to have met her.
So I looked for you afterward, after I fed my ballot into the machine. I wanted to invite you to Starbucks for a coffee but, sigh, you were already gone. I guess you have to live efficiently at your age. I bet you never waste a second.
I wanted to ask you about the changes you’ve seen in the almost century you’ve lived on the planet. Did people seem less divided? I mean, clearly, you and I are on opposite sides of the ballot based on that slip of blue paper in your hand, and yet you haven’t approached me as someone to be converted to your way of thought. Our country seems so divided these days and the contempt we feel for people with different political views borderlines on hate. There’s news of actual fights breaking out at voting sites in some parts of the country. Bet that didn’t happen in your day. Maybe you’ve been so congenial because you assume we share the same views. Or maybe you just don’t care. Maybe you’ve recognized during your 97 years that diversity of thought is what makes America great, that the freedom to hold a different opinion is one of the awesome things about this nation. Maybe you are just from a generation that valued civility. Whatever the reason, it makes me want to know you more. To actually sit down and hear your political views and understand why you believe as you do. Not for the purpose of converting you. Simply to understand. We could totally hang out, you and me. We could disagree without hating each other. I’m pretty sure of it.
So, man-behind-me, here’s to you. I hope we cross paths again soon. You’ve made an impression. You totally rock!