When old folks argue


Yesterday we had an experience that has me thinking.

Thinking in a good way, but also thinking in a kind of serious way.

It was a pretty typical weekend day for us. We had invited some guests to come for dinner and spend the afternoon with us.

Not “guests” as in “people you need to impress” but “guests” as in “family, people who get it, people you just really want to spend your day with.”

All would have been well as we prepared to make dinner for two young couples with little kids if only Nonni here hadn’t come down with a nasty bout of asthmatic bronchitis.

Nonni woke up yesterday feeling (as my mom used to say), “Like something the cat dragged in.” My husband, also known as “the sweetest man in the world,” let me sleep late while he dealt with our old hound and our new puppy. He even took said puppy to the vet.

But when it was time to make dinner, I asked him for help. This is an unusual request from an over functioning, over controlling Italian woman, but I did. I asked for help.

Then company arrived. Our beloved young folks, with babies in arms, arrived as planned. And “Papa” went straight into Grandfather Host mode. He was charming, hugging babies, pouring beer, chatting and laughing.

Meanwhile, Nonni was sauteeing and coughing in the kitchen.

Nonni was NOT amused.

Nonni was, in fact, crabby, cranky and slightly snarling.

Both young women asked how they could help.

All of the men stayed on the couch.

Finally, Nonni growled at Papa.

And here is the point of this post.

When a couple argues during a more than 40 year relationship, this is what it means.

It means that sometimes humans misunderstand each other. Even humans who love each other and want what is best for each other.

I remember, back in about 1980, every argument felt like the end of the relationship. Every time I lost my temper, every time my husband lost his, it felt like the end of the world. I tried so hard to always push down my irritation, swallow my needs, keep the boat from rocking.

But now that my one true love and I have come through graduate school, two separate careers, raising three children, falling head over heels in love with a grandchild, and even living with three different dogs….well.

Now I understand that when I’m mad at Paul, or when he’s mad at me, it means “I’m mad at you.”

It doesn’t mean “I hate your.” or “I want a divorce” or “You are a terrible person.”

What freedom.

The best part of getting older, maybe, is the realization that you can get really annoyed at the person you love, and still love them in the morning.

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My honey and I, back in the day. At Dolly Copp Campground.

The Beauty Of Retirement


Ah, what a day.

OK, so there were those moments where Ellie wanted to sit on the potty, get off the potty, wipe her own bottom, sit back on the potty, get off the potty, wipe her own bottom…..and the puppy wanted to chew the towels, sniff said bottom, chew more towels, sniff again… and the old dog was aghast at such behavior and stood in the doorway to the bathroom saying “woof!” every four seconds…..

Still. It was a lovely, lovely day.

It was pouring out. It was foggy. It was raw.

I wasn’t commuting 37.5 miles to work, as I did for 22 years. I wasn’t dealing with indoor recess. I wasn’t trying to regulate the heat in my classroom by putting wet paper towels on the register to tell it that it was cool, and that we needed it a lot warmer.

Nope.

Today I was in my house. Wearing flannel pj pants ALL day. I had some Christmas lights on, and the pellet stove roaring.

Ellie and puppy Lennie played together. We all danced to our favorite music (except for old dog Tucker, who lay on the floor monitoring our every move.)

Today I was retired.

Ellie took a long nap on my bed, and I sat beside her, reading and answering emails and writing about politics to make a little money.

We had turkey soup for lunch. It was nice and hot.

I didn’t have to scarf down a Luna bar on my way to a meeting.

Come to think of it, I haven’t even been to a meeting in a year and a half.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of retirement. I had the time and the patience to watch my granddaughter climb on and off the potty 500 times. I had time to scroll through two days of tweets from Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

I made myself tea at 2 pm and I let the water come to a full boil.

Retirement is fabulous.

I hope you all get to try it one of these days!

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Listen to Christmas Carols on a rainy day.

Oldies and Youngsters


Now that little Lennie has been here for a week, I have a few observations to make.

1. Puppies Are Energetic

This is how I imagine Lennie’s internal monologue.

“Oh, boy, oh, wow, foodfoodfoodfood….where can I pee? foodfoodfoodfoodfood….A BABY! gonna jump on her!….she smells great…poop! Gonna run, gotta run, think I’ll eat this book…foodfoodfoodfoodfoooooood….I’m tired. Sleep.”

Repeat every 25 seconds.

Phew.

2. A Sleeping Puppy Is As Irresistible As A Sleeping Baby

3. Old Folks Really Benefit From Having Young Folks Around

Today both of my dogs went out the doggie door. Tucker went first, the Wolf King on a stately journey into the back yard to poop. He stepped out carefully, checking his footing on the icy deck.

Lennie went out behind him, leaping through the door in one bound. He jumped down the deck stairs, onto the snowy grass. They both did their business, Tucker with his nose lifted and his eyes closed, considering the meaning of life. Lennie squatted three feet away, grinning up at his big brother, little puffs of frosty air coming from his snout. You could just hear his thoughts.

“This is so cool! Pooping with the Wolf King! Oooh, a bird! I’m done! Now what can we do?”

Usually Tucker makes his way slowly back up the stairs and into the house after depositing his daily doodie. This time, though, I started to hear both dogs barking in the yard. I was inside with Ellie, reading a book. I noticed that the barking had a rhythm to it. One deep “woof” followed by three or four excited “yips.” Over and over again.

I picked up my granddaughter and carried to my bedroom, where we stood looking out the window. And there they were.

The Little Dude was dancing around, chasing his tail, jumping in the air, one ear folded back by the wind he generated as he raced. And the old man, the Wolf King, pretending to be annoyed, but bowing his front legs down to let Lennie nip at his neck. Growling and barking in fake anger, then running, a bit carefully and very stiffly. Chasing Lennie, who shrieked and yipped and ran away while looking over his shoulder the whole time.

The deep rumbling voice of the Wolf King, “I’m coming for you, kid. I’m gonna get you…..”

And Lennie, the baby dude, giggling back, “Nooooo! Don’t catch me!!!”

And it hit me.

It was me and Ellie, played out in the dog world.

She runs, I pretend to chase.

I remember, when I play with her, what it was to jump and twirl and race without aches or pains. I remember being young.

The Wolf King is reliving his youth in the back yard with little Lennie.

I’m reliving mine in the living room with Ellie.

Good for both of us.

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The Wolf King Meets His Biggest Challenge


Oh, for God’s sake.

Doesn’t anyone here realize that I am The Wolf King?

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I am majestic. I am proud. I am the ruler of all I survey.

So it’s been a rough few weeks.

I knew that Miss Sadie was heading out of this world. I have known it for many, many weeks.

My humans are, of course, less intuitive than I am. It took them almost too long to see that she was fading, and that only her thinnest shell was left here with us.

At last, though, they heard her, and they let her go to rest.

I miss her.

She was calm. She was quiet. She pretty much followed my orders. She used to look at me with her big golden eyes and say, “You are the Wolf King. I am not worthy.”

I liked that a lot.

Then she was gone, and the Woman Who Feeds Me was often quiet, and I could smell the sharp iron smell of sadness coming from her, even when she took me for easy walks along our street.

Man Who Walks Me smelled different, too, but with him it was harder to know what he was feeling. I know that I wanted to lean my head on him more often. I wanted to rest my noble chin on his bare foot.

He seemed a little lost, to be honest.

And so it went, for a few short weeks.

Then everything changed. I had noticed that both of my humans seemed a little more like themselves. As if a shadow had passed over. Happier times seemed to be at hand.

One morning, very early, both Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me woke up early. I could smell nervousness and eagerness on them both, like a field of grass burning far away. Their voices were tense, their bodies alert as they petted me good bye. I watched them go, the Wolf King left in charge.

I settled myself to guard the castle from my comfy perch on the couch. I dozed, but only because everything seemed pretty safe.

Then I heard the car. I slowly got up from my resting spot, stretching my spine as I made it to all four feet. I made my way to the top of the stairs, clearing my throat so that I would be ready to give the traditional Wolf King Howl Of Welcome.

Man Who Walks Me came inside. He smelled odd….he smelled like a strange mixture of happiness and guilt.

Hmmmm. I was suspicious, but I am loyal. I am the Wolf King, but I know who fills my kibble bowl. I let him attach the leash to my collar.

He lead me outside.

And there I was met by Woman Who Feeds Me and……What was this? Could it be?

A Little Dude was there, dancing on the end of his own leash.

 

He smelled like faraway places and chemicals and fear and loneliness. I did NOT like this smell.

I stood stiffly, the regal crest of my neck fur standing up with electric fury.

“STRANGER!!!!” I barked. “RED ALERT!!”

Every one of my aging muscles was rigid with warning.

“Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled in warning. “Watch out! A stranger has come to our home!”

Woman Who Feeds Me was looking kind of goofy. She had a big smile on her face and her voice was high and full of false promises. I heard her use my name, and then the tone that made me think of bath time and nail clippings. Or worse.

I was alert. I was not going to fall for the soft sound of her voice.

I looked at the stranger who stood in our midst, in the place where Miss Sadie has stood so recently.

He was tiny. He was vibrating with the energy of youth that makes the old want to simply sleep. His eyes were bright buttons of curiosity and his smooth golden fur was shivering with excitement.

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I got tired just looking at him.

I groaned and growled and barked to show my displeasure.

“I am the Wolf King!,” I cried. “I will not tolerate a wild hippy child in my kingdom! Get this Little Dude out of here!”

Nobody paid the slightest attention.

It was a long, strange day.

The Little Dude repeatedly peed on the floor. I knew that this would be a Big Problem. I settled my chin on my paws to wait out the reaction.

But Woman Who Feeds Me just kept cleaning it up without a word. She even scratched the head of the Floor Pee-er.

The Little Dude raced around the house, banging into walls, bouncing off of furniture. No one complained.

He tried to sniff my royal butt. I barked so loud I hurt my throat. That made him back off for about a minute.

He tried to lick my face.  Are. You. Kidding. I barked even more loudly, using my best Kingly voice.

That hurt my throat even more. Little Dude danced around my face until Woman Who Feeds Me got him to follow her down the hall.

At last, after a long and confusing day, we all got ready for bed. Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me filled their mouths with the sweet minty smell of bed time. They put Little Dude into a crate in our living room, and the three of us went down the hall to our beds.

Wouldn’t you know, though? That little golden furred, energetic annoyance kept whimpering and crying. I knew the sound of sadness and loneliness; I recognized it from the time when my litter mates and I were lost in the woods.

I waited a few minutes, safe and warm on my bed next to my humans. But the sound of Little Dude all alone down the hall pulled at my heart in a way that I wouldn’t want to make public.

I stood up slowly, grumbling the whole time. I made my way down the hall to the darkened living room.

“I’m scared!” I heard from the crate. “I’m not sure where I am…”

“Oh, be quiet,” I grumbled in my most royal Kingly voice. “You’re with us now. You’re safe. Stop making that ridiculous noise.”

I heard a whimper, and then the sound of a baby dog settled onto a bed. I laid my head on my royal paws, snuggled down on my lovely leather couch, and thought about what the future would bring. I fell asleep remembering what it was like to race around the yard with the wind rushing through my fur.

Life is sure an interesting journey.

 

 

Did I Dream You, Or Did You Visit?


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Dear Miss Sadie,

A few nights after you left us, I had the sweetest dream.

I was standing in the kitchen, and I heard you scratch at the front door to come in. I looked down the stairs, toward the front hall.

The inside door was open, but I could see through the clear storm door.

There you were.

Standing on the front porch, looking up at me. Your eyes were both wide open, like they used to be before you got sick. Shiny golden brown eyes, looking up at me. Your mouth was open in that loopy doggie grin, with your tongue lolling out one side.

Outside in the yard it was fall, just like in real life. Yellow leaves covered the grass and I could see the drying stalks of day lilies.

But there on the porch, on our little brick porch, it was snowing hard. You were covered in snow flakes; it was swirling all around you. You started to hop up and down, like you used to do when you were really happy or excited.

I laughed in my dream, and I thought, “Oh, wow! I forgot how she used to jump! She hasn’t done that in years.”

You were so happy, jumping in the snow, grinning up at me.

And then it was as if I was floating toward you. Suddenly you were right there, just on the other side of the glass. Jumping with joy, jumping in the snowstorm. Right there in front of me.

You looked right into my eyes, and I looked right back.

Then slowly, you simply faded, and you disappeared.

Outside it was fall again. The porch was empty.

I think you came back one last time. I think you came to say goodbye and thanks.

I miss you.

Love,

“The Mistress”

Oh, for the love of……


I can NOT wait for November 9th. Partly I will be happy to have the suspense over. I am getting really tired of waking up at 3 Am wondering if Trump is going to blow us all to kingdom come.

It isn’t only the Presidential shit storm that I want to be done with though. It’s also the endless barrage of ads about the state candidates and referendum questions.

I am unlucky enough to live in Massachusetts but on the New Hampshire border. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but every time I try to turn it on to catch the news, or a movie, or a ballgame, I am slammed with conflicting ads.

And they are all pure 100% bullshit. That’s what I really hate.

Turn on the tube two weeks before the election and you will see 8 commercials in a row. I can sum them up here:

“Raising the Charter School Cap will make every child in America a Nobel Prize Winner!”

“Raising the Charter School Cap will end education as we know it!”

“Kelly Ayotte has a halo! She once saved a choking baby and then paid for his college tuition!”

“Kelly Ayotte is the spawn of the devil. She hates babies. She kicks puppies. She eats toads for breakfast.”

“Donald Trump will save us all from eternal damnation and will make America the actual center of the universe!”

“Donald Trump will blow us all up in the first day of his administration, just because he CAN.”

Oh. My. God.

In my fantasy world, I am running for public office. I create my own ads. They go like this.

“Hi. I’m Karen. I am not smarter than my opponent, and I am not a better human being. Neither one of us has a direct line to God or to the Founding Fathers. I think I have a good plan for making things better for us. Here it is…..”

Wouldn’t that be SO refreshing? Wouldn’t we all love it?

We WOULD.

We’d all be so relieved to have some positive ads and some actual plans and ideas.

So why can’t we manage to get that point across to the people who are running for office?

I mean, I don’t agree with my friends who want to raise the Charter School Cap. But I don’t think that they are all mass murderers, either.

I don’t agree with most of Kelly Ayotte’s votes. But I don’t think she’s a monster, either. And I don’t think her opponent, Maggie Hassan, is an angel. I just agree with her ideas and her political positions.

Good Lord. Why can’t Democracy be based on some truth for a change?

I plan to drink a whole bottle of champagne on November 9th. And not because I am so thrilled with any of the election outcomes.

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What We Need To Fear


I know that Donald Trump is telling us that the world is crumbling all around us. He paints an apocalyptic picture that goads us into fearing everyone outside of our own circle.

I’m not actually afraid, on a daily basis, of ISIS or of my Muslim neighbors or Mexican rapists.

Here’s what I fear.

The ignorance of far too many of my fellow citizens, that’s what.

Yesterday we woke up to find that our router wasn’t working. We headed off to the nearest coffee shop to use their wifi and cheer up with pumpkin lattes.

The lattes were great, the wifi was spotty. We were talking about our frustration with unreliable internet service when another customer chimed in. He asked if the wifi was up and running, saying that he had planned to get some work done, too.

“The internet everywhere is acting up,” he said. I agreed, thinking about new cable being laid and the recent hacking.

“It’s another Obama move, you know,” the man said. “Another executive order. He turned over control of the internet to the U.N.”

This man was not crazy. He was not a beat up smelly derelict. He was a guy about our age, from our town, drinking coffee and getting some work done.

There was a silence for a few seconds. Then I shook my head. “Uh, no…,” I began. He interrupted me to repeat, “Yes. Obama passed an executive order giving control of the internet to the U.N. It’s all part of the globalization plan.”

Now, my husband is both smart and non-confrontational. He shrugged and said, “Who know. Maybe so.”

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t let that go. I mean, that statement was ignorant on so many levels!

“That’s not true.” I said to the man. “That isn’t even possible.”

“Oh,” the guy said, turning away. “You’re Hillary supporters. OK. I’m for Trump. All about Trump.”

It would be easy to dismiss this guy as an idiot. But I don’t think that’s the problem. What I wanted to do, what I want to do now, is to ask him “Did you check your sources?”

It would be SOOOOO easy to look up “Obama Executive Orders.”  Or to research, “Does Obama control the U.N.?”  It would be a snap to google “Who controls the internet?”

It’s so easy to find out information. Easier than it has ever been.

There is no excuse for ignorance.

That’s what I fear. The ignorant and uninformed.

 

There’s no thunder in Heaven


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Sadie checking her email one morning.

Miss Sadie. Quiet Wolf. Sadie Pants. Sadie Pantalones.

My Sadie Faced Child.

Sadie McGrady.

Mrs. McGillicudy.

Saideleh.

She had so many names, it’s a wonder she ever came when I called her! But she was a good dog. She was a very good dog.

Yesterday Miss Sadie spent all day sleeping in the sun on our front walk. We checked now and again to be sure that she was still breathing.

When she came in late in the day, she ate her supper and let us pet her, but she kept pacing in circles. Around and around, searching for a peaceful place, finding none.

She tottered, leaned against the wall, panted. Lay down, got up to circle again.

My nephew Jim was here with us. He talked to her, patted her big warm head, watched her stumble into the walls.

He told me what I knew, but wasn’t ready to hear.

Sadie needed her rest. She was suffering.

“But her tail is wagging,” I said. “She ate her food.”

He repeated that she was also pacing, stumbling, panting. I knew he was right. I thanked him as the tears poured down my face.

It was a long and difficult night. We knew that we’d be saying goodbye to her this morning. We fell asleep with her at the foot of our bed, one last time.

“Maybe she’ll have more energy tomorrow,” I thought.

But it was a long and restless night. She paced, and circled and tried to put her face into the corner of the room. She dug at the door of our closet, the way she used to do during thunderstorms.

I got up three or four times, gave her medicine, stroked her thick, glossy fur. She was trembling from head to toe.

Something was coming for her, and she was afraid, not knowing what it was or where it was hiding.

We held her, we talked to her.

When morning came, she wanted to go back outside, to lie on her step. Paul let her go.

After a while, he took the dogs for a short walk.  Sadie was stumbling and limping, but holding her mouth open in joy as she smiled into the cool fall sunshine.

Then into the car we went.

We were holding her when she died. Her head was in its comfort seeking spot, leaning against my chest. Both Paul and I were stroking her, telling her how much we loved her, thanking her for so many great years.

She took one breath, then simply folded gracefully to the floor, stretched out in the sunshine coming through the window. Quiet and resting at last.

Bye, sweet Sadie McGrady.

You were the doggie of my dreams. You walked through the woods. You helped me dig in the garden. You chased squirrels and deer with complete abandon.

You slept on my side of the bed, and leaned against my pillow when one of was sad or scared.

I watched you leap over stone walls when you were an old lady. You inspired me to keep loving life as long as I draw breath!

I shouldn’t be surprised that you went to your rest with a full belly and a wagging tail.

After knowing and loving you, I hope to do the very same thing.

Good night, honey. See you when I cross that bridge myself.

A letter from Miss Sadie


 

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Sadie, the elegant and beautiful

Dear Mistress,

I know this is hard for you. I am sorry.

I have tried very hard to stay strong and healthy. I exercise every day by walking with the Master and the Wolf King. I try to chase squirrels as often as possible, but those fuzzy little bullets have become faster over the years.

Since I’ve come here to live with you, life has been sweet. My fur is brushed and clean. Thank you! You have done such a good job of keeping my ears healthy, and my nails clipped.

I wish I could stay longer. I do.

Dear Mistress,

Remember how you used to take me to the vet?  I am a good dog. I am a very good dog.

I can always tell when you are nervous or unhappy. You smell sort of sharp and electricky. On those long rides to the vet, back when my skin was super itchy and peeling, I used to love looking out the window and feeling the movement of the car. But I could tell from your smell that you didn’t feel happy.

Remember all those visits? I liked that nice vet with the soft touch and the very crunchy treats in the jar.

You didn’t like that place, though. I could tell that you were especially unhappy when we used to go stand at the big desk before we went home. You would take out that little plastic card and you would start to smell worried.

I don’t know what “ring worm” is, but thank you for taking it away!

Man, that was itchy.

Mistress, I know that you used to cook for the Wolf King and I. I saw you with the chicken, and the liver, and the rice and carrots. Thank you so much!

You were great.

Dear, sweet Mistress.

I remember those nights with the thunder storms.

I am a good dog. I am so sorry for all the times I dug into the closet and threw out all the shoes. I am sorry for all of the drool that I put on your pillow, but I was so scared of all the noise! I tried not to shake, but I was terrified of the flashing lights. I wanted you to hold me, and you did.

I remember how the Master used to go downstairs with me to sleep on the sofa so we could be away from the storm.

You and the Master have been so good to me.

The Wolf King has been interesting, too. I love him, the big dopey face. I know he’ll miss me, too.

Dear Mistress,

This is just how it goes. I’m old.

I’m very, very old.

I need to go and rest soon.

Will you be OK?

I hope that someone will come to lie on your front steps all day to keep you safe. I hope that you will soon have someone to get up with you in the night when you cannot sleep. I hope that there will be another dog here to walk with you and Master.

Dear Mistress,

I will try my best, because I am a very good dog, to lie down quietly in the yard and simply go to sleep. I hope that you don’t have to put me in the car and take me to face the needle.

I will try, dear Mistress. I don’t want you or the Master to be upset. If I can do it, I will go softly. I will lie down and I will go to sleep.

And I will cross that bridge and run and play and I will be young again. And I will wait for you.

Love,

Miss Sadie

 

 

Just Clowning Around


When I was a little kid, Bozo the Clown was just about the coolest character there was.

OK, maybe he wasn’t quite as awesome as Rex Trailor, the TV cowboy, but he was still pretty fun. I used to watch Bozo on TV all the time. I even went to see him live one time! It was great.

Clowns were silly, funny, amusing. They used to be the grownups who didn’t act like grownups. We used to love clowns!

Now I find myself completely baffled and not particularly sympathetic when entire university campuses are put on lockdown because someone has allegedly spotted a (cough, cough) clown.

I mean, I understand the fear caused by the appearance of adults in strange makeup who try to lure kids into the woods. That original report by a little boy in S. Carolina was definitely spooky.

But now we have an entire country shaking in its boots because of…..um….clowns. Countless invisible clowns who haven’t actually done anything. Not one has been caught, arrested, or even questioned.

Seriously, folks? I mean, really?

In a world where families live with the constant threat of barrel bombs dropping on their homes, we are scared of clowns?

In a world where people have to fight for every bite of food for their children, we’re staying up at night because a guy with red nose is standing on the street?

I fear that we have lost our collective minds, America.

Last night I saw a message on Facebook warning people in my small, sheltered New England town to “Stay safe! Clown sightings in town! Keep windows up in your car!”

Why? Because he might squirt you with a flower on his lapel? He might squeak his nose at you?

Fellow Americans, we need to get a grip. The world is a beautiful place. There are so many things to love, enjoy, savor in the world around us.

And there are things to fear, too. Ignorance, hatred, greed. Fear those if you need to feel afraid. Superbugs, wars, famine, drought. Those are actual threats to our well being.

But clowns?

Come on. If you are living in fear of a clown, you have to admit that life for you is pretty damn sweet and you are actually incredibly safe.

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