When I Get Very Old


When I get very old, if I’m lucky enough to reach that milestone, I will give up my struggles to be perfect. I will eat brownies for breakfast and have ice cream for dinner, if that’s what I really want.

I’ll stop trying to be thinner or stronger or smarter or more accomplished.

When I get very old, I’ll lounge around all day in my pajamas and read trashy novels while eating a bag of chips.

You might wonder what has inspired me to accept the blessings of very old age.

Well, it was the Wolf King that did it.

I’ll let him explain in his own words.

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Only a week ago, I still needed my leash.

As soon as I woke up today, I knew that something unusual was going on. Man Who Walks Me was climbing up and down the stairs, bringing chairs and tables out into the yard. Woman Who Feeds Me was rushing around, cleaning the kitchen.

Puppy Lennie was barking and squeaking and being a general pain in the rear, as usual, even when I woofed at him to cut it out. By mid-morning, I had a headache.

I also had an idea.

I have seen this kind of rushing about many times in my long years. It always means that a lot of humans will be at our house, talking loudly and eating for hours. It always means dropped cheese and other delicious delicacies.

I was excited. At my age I show my enthusiasm by plodding around the living room and slowly laying myself in whatever spot is most likely to be in the way of the bustling humans.

I am the Wolf King. I will not be overlooked.

Today the bustling and preparing went on for quite a while, and slowly more humans arrived. I knew most of the early visitors. There was the Young Woman Who Used To Hold Me, and her newest tiny poopy human. There was the Young Man Who Used To Chase Me and his friends who always call me “Good Boy.”

I greeted them with some royal woofing, then flopped in front of their feet.

After some time, all of the humans went outside of the house and onto the lawn. Puppy Lennie still shrieked in his ear-spitting way, but he had been banished into the back fence.  I remained alone inside.

I woofed once. Softly.

I whined, a little bit louder.

Why wasn’t I outside, where the cheese would be? I wanted to be with my humans, who regularly drop food, and whom I love. But I would not beg.

Settling my chin on my royal paws, I commenced moaning pitifully with each breath.

Finally, Woman Who Feeds Me came into the house. She called my name, and I raised my wise old head to see what was up.

“Come!” I heard her say cheerily. “Come outside!”

I carefully pushed myself up on my elbows, raising my shoulders and finally balancing on my front paws. I was breathing a little fast, but it might have been the thought of cheese that had my heart rate up.

Slowly, carefully, I managed to get my back end off the floor, and I tottered toward my mistress. She called me to the front door, so I hobbled down the stairs. I prepared to have my leash clipped on, and lifted my head with regal dignity.

Nothing.

No clip, no leash.

Just Woman Who Walks Me, telling me to “Come outside.”

I looked at her in surprise. What was she asking me to do?

She stood there, right in front of me, and it was as if every dream of the past 12 1/2 years had suddenly come true.

She was holding the front door wide open.

Cautiously, I stepped toward the door. Act cool, I told myself. Pretend nothing strange is going on.

I took one step over the threshold, trying to look completely calm. Nothing to see here, folks, just the Wolf King, stepping out the front door with NO LEASH.

If I could have whistled, I would have.

As I got out onto the porch, and looked at the crowd of humans with food in their hands, I picked up a little speed.

“So long, suckers!”

I meant to run. In the old days, if I managed to get my nose out the door without a leash, I took off like a hound out of hell. I’d hit the woods, race around the house, bark at every human who dared to approach.

Man. Those were the days. Chasing squirrels, howling at the moon, rolling in dead stuff. And only coming home when I was good and ready.

I remember those days. My goal was always to go a little farther, stay out a little longer, bark a little louder.

So I tried to take off as I passed Woman Who Feeds Me. I shuffled with as much speed as I could muster, but my back end just wouldn’t keeping up.

I made my way across the grass, then chose the perfect spot to rest my royal self on the grass. I picked a spot as close to the cheese and pepperoni eaters as I could. I lowered my butt and carefully let my front end follow it down.

I allowed the peasants to approach, and to pat me as often as they liked. Many of them dropped cheese.

It was a peaceful day. My favorite small human came to bring me popcorn and crackers and to pat my royal head. Man Who Walks Me gave me extra love. Also cheese.

I am very old. I am ready to give up my quest to be the Royal Runaway, to travel farther and stay out longer. I am ready to go outside without a leash and stay in one place. I will let myself sleep in the sun while the human drop bits of tasty food all around me.

I am still the Wolf King.

 

A Parable, Perhaps?


Three acorns fell from the oak behind our house.

One landed softly in a pile of old rotted leaves. The second landed half on the soft leaves, and half on an area of pea stone. The third acorn fell onto the driveway.

After two weeks, the first acorn had sent two roots into the ground below its shell. It had simply and effortlessly split that shell and grown its two tender roots to feel the soil and search for moisture and nutrients.

The second little acorn had split in exactly the same way as his brother, and had sent out two little roots to look for life. One root found itself safely encased in leaf mold, but the second root had to struggle and bend and search-reach-search until it finally found a tiny space between the stones, where it desperately dug itself into the earth.

The third acorn simply lay where it had fallen. There was no nurturing earth below it. There was nowhere for a root to take hold. The shell of this acorn stayed whole. No roots were ever sent out into the world.

Six months passed, and winter was giving way to spring.

The first acorn had produced a little tree. It had a thin, straight trunk and three sets of leaves. As the spring sun struck it, it worked happily to make new leaves and to reach toward the sky.

The second acorn had also sent up a trunk, and had managed to make one set of leaves. His trunk leaned hard to the left, because only half of him was supported by good soil. He worked hard. Harder than he thought he’d ever work. Each day was a struggle, but he kept on reaching, reaching, reaching for the sunny sky.

The third acorn sat on the hard blacktop of the drive. It had been frozen, and thawed and frozen again. There was one crack in the bottom of the acorn shell, but no root had come out. There was nowhere for that root to go.

Another six months passed with the seasons. The first little acorn was long gone. In its place there stood a small but sturdy oak. Tiny branches sprouted from its growing trunk, reaching easily toward the sky. It had soil and rain. It had strong roots to benefit from them both. It had taken its place in the woods, and could grow and thrive and one day drop its own little acorns onto the earth below its feet.

The second acorn had also created a little oak, because it landed just on the edge of the drive. This oak was thinner, and not quite as straight as its brother, but it also had three sets of leaves and was reaching ever higher toward the sky. This little tree might make it, if no car drifts off the pavements, and if no new owners decide to repave. It is more vulnerable to drought and wind than its brother, but if all goes well, it could one day be a full grown oak tree, too.

The third acorn is gone now. It never opened, never sent out a shoot, never had its chance to grow into a tree. It simply fell in a place that couldn’t support it, and it died before it had gone through one winter.

So.

Was the first acorn smarter, more caring, more deserving than the others? Was the third one guilty of some unknown crime? Was the little oak that faced a lifetime of struggle somehow at fault for landing in an imperfect place?

Of course not. We all know that. We all know that for acorns and oaks, life or death is just the luck of the draw. We don’t think that there is a God who chooses which acorns will do well and which will end up as food for a squirrel.

So was it the mother oak’s fault that some of her offspring fared better than the others?

Nope. We wouldn’t even ask that question. And we wouldn’t ask why one oak tree dropped its acorns on fertile soil while another only had pavement below.

Life is what it is. Fragile, amazing, random, unplanned.

Just as no God sits on a mighty throne deciding which acorn should survive, there is no God deciding who should have children easily and who should be infertile. There is no God passing judgement on which children will thrive and which land on pavement.

The oak tree isn’t responsible for the fate of the acorns. Every oak is designed by nature to drop those acorns onto the very best soil. But no oak has control over whether or not that happens.

Life is a miracle. Life is a gift. Lift is a matter of where we land, and what nutrients we can reach, and how close we are able to get to the sun.

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Crazy pants night thoughts


It’s been a long few days. Lots of emotion. A lot of bruises. Good food. Good drinks. Too much rain. Far too many long, long, sleepless nights.

So here is a sampling of the crazy pants thoughts that stroll through Nonni’s mind in the dark of night.

What do you think? Been there, thought that? Or am I a total nutcake?

  1. What the hell is mesothelioma and why is it advertised every 20 minutes on TV? Did I miss something, or are half of my acquaintances really at risk? CREEPY!
  2. I think that funny, innocent, misguided woman on the Progressive ads is wonderful. If I didn’t already have good car insurance, you can bet I’d go to her.
  3. When did women realize that we actually hold ALL the cards in our relationships? I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when it was a very big deal for women to say that we weren’t going to wear skirts to school in the snow and ice. When did we finally realize that no one could tell us what to wear? As a grandmother now, I often think about this question. It sort of just passed us by and became life as we know it.
  4. Why did we think that breastfeeding made babies better or healthier? Why did we attack each other for our baby raising choices? And have we smartened up about all this yet? Are we ready to support each other and not condemn each other for our parenting choices?
  5. What the hell is the latest theory about allergies, anyway? I had three kids, with dogs, and cats. They all had HORRIBLE allergies/asthma and I beat myself up for years because I had pets in the house. Yeah, but…..Now they say being with pets is the best thing for allergic kids. ????
  6. Why is that if I spend 100 hours and 100 dollars planning my garden, I still end up realizing that the best plants I have are the “volunteers” brought in by the birds?
  7. Why are the little birds, chicadees, sparrows, finches, so much braver and more assertive than the big, showy cardinals and bluejays?
  8. Do dogs really know when we’re sad? How can my crazy little “Devildog” Puppy know when he should come up slowly and lick my ears and cheeks until I feel better?
  9. Do young women today suffer from the same “Perfection anxiety” that dogged every woman in my generation? Do they worry about perfectly clean kitchens? Color coordinated bath towels? Organized closets?
  10. Is aging a gift or a curse? Is it too sad to know what you can’t do anymore, or is that a freeing realization as we head into the next phase?

What do you all think?

Wow! I had an adventure!


I am basically very cowardly.

I’m scared of getting hurt. I’m scared of falling. I’m scared of falling down an up escalator.

I’m a wimp.

But.

Now that I’m retired, and in my seventh decade of life, I am determined to push myself into new and exciting exploits. So last week, on school vacation, when Ellie would be safe in her Mommy’s arms, I had….an adventure.

I didn’t got to the Amazon to try to catch a piranha. And I didn’t head to Tibet to climb the Himalayas.

Still, for me, this was an awesome adventure.

I flew, all by myself, to the West Coast.

I know. You’re all in awe, right? I was dropped off at the huge, bustling Manchester New Hampshire airport. I flew. Alone. To Philadelphia. Where I had to (gulp) change planes.

And I flew all by my onesies across this beautiful country, all the way to San Francisco. Where I was met at the baggage claim by one of my oldest and dearest friends.

But that’s not all!

No, indeed. After three days with my pal Deb and her family, I flew ALL. BY. MYSELF. to Portland, Oregon. Where I was met at the airport by my friend Joanne, who I met when I was six years old.

So, I get it. Even though this was a huge adventure for me, it isn’t really such a big deal. Most people now jet around the world like it’s nothing.

But not me.

For me, this was a big, big stretch. And that’s why I’m telling you about it. For me, for 61 year old Nonni, this was a gigantic leap out of my comfort zone.

I made myself do it.

It scared me.

And it was fabulous. I got to see gorgeous places I would never have seen if I hadn’t pushed my sorry old self out the door. Places like Berkeley, California.

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If I hadn’t pushed myself out of my cozy little niche, I wouldn’t have had the chance to dip my feet in the Pacific at beautiful Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

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If I hadn’t decided that I was tired of being the world’s biggest chicken, I would never have flown up to Portland to reconnect with my buddy Joanne. The woman who bought me my very fist makeup (Max Factor Rose Cream Blush).

And if I had never gone up to Portland, I wouldn’t have met her hilarious, smart, warm, generous friends. I would never have seen the gorgeous Columbia river and the falls that pour into it.

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More importantly, I wouldn’t have learned that the way to make a REALLY dry martini is to use a spritzer for the vermouth. Amazon has already shipped mine.

People grow in many different ways. I understand that.

For me, growth means pushing and shoving and forcing myself out there into the big wide world. I made myself fly all alone when I was afraid.

I loved it.

Now I need to force myself to become a writer. I need to learn how to submit my stories, my essays, my thoughts for others to review, critique and judge. I need to overcome my fears and just. Try.

Life is constant growth, if you do it right.

I have to say it.

It’s actually pretty fun to be my age.

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My name is…


I’ve been thinking about names lately. My daughter and her husband are going to have their second child soon. We know that it will be a little boy, and they have settled on a name for him.

He will be named for a well loved Great Grampa who died a few months ago. It’s perfect, right?

But I’ve been thinking about how names sound, and the impression that they give. I’ve been thinking about names that sound like a person you’d trust. And names that make you shake your head and wonder if those parents hated that kid.

As a confirmed lefty, I’ve been doing my part to support the Our Revolution movement. That’s the next step in the Bernie Sanders movement, if you don’t know. Very vibrant, very interesting group, and I’m happy to help! So I’ve been doing some data entry for them.

Which means that I have been seeing some amazing names.

I won’t use any real ones here, of course, but to young parents everywhere, let me just say that before you slap a monicker on that adorable little bundle, THINK about how that name will read in 30 years when some old lady is putting it into a data base.

Some names inspire trust. I would want my doctor to be named “Michael Hampshire.” Solid, not too flashy, unpretentious. “Jennifer Worth.”  Yup. She can do my cardiac surgery, for sure.

Other names make me want to write a short story that involves a diner, a lonely waitress and a quietly insane fry-cook. “Sarah Bluette” and “Jace Pratchett” fit right in there, don’t you think?

Then there are the names that you know Mom and Dad chose because they were so adorable and original! They did not picture the kids in sixth grade making fun of little “Sharley McRoggle” or “Kerreigh Koyne.”

And some names make me just feel humble. The names that ring of truth and strength. Names that are unapologetically ethnic or racially proud. Names that mean, “I am not going to melt into the pot, no sir. I intend to be the spice in your potato soup.” Names that are spelled originally or names that hark back to older generations. “Karim” is a personal favorite of mine. “Sasha” or “LiYu” or “Epiphania” or “Dougal” or “Shaquan.”

My mom’s name is Vincenza, but she is known as Zena. That’s very cool.

Our names are, in some odd ways, our destiny.

I was aware of this when I was at the Woman’s March in DC not long ago. I was with my High School friend, Karen. As we moved through the surging crowds to get onto the Metro, we heard a voice calling, “Karen! Over here!” We both turned, of course, and we saw a woman our age, waving to her friend.

All the Karens in the US, it seems, were born between 1952 and 1958. You’re not going to find a Karen in kindergarten, although you might very well find a “Helen,” an “Alice” or an “Ed.”

When I was naming my own kids, I was careful. Paul and I thought about how the names sounded. We like the ‘th’ sound, it turns out. We have Katharine, Matthew and Timothy in our family. But we were also thinking of nicknames.

Being named Paul and Karen meant that we didn’t have a lot of nicknames. There’s not much you can do with the labels we got at birth.

We wanted our kids to have some flexibility. If they became businesspeople or lawyers or politicians, those full names would work. If they became teachers, or coaches or athletes, they’d have cool nicknames. Katie, Matty, Timmy.

Naturally, all three of them now go by Kate, Matt and Tim.

Still. A lot of thought went into those names. A lot.

Yours truly,

“Boots” aka “Karen” aka Kira aka Karima and now known as Nonni.

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Proof That I Am A Lucky Nonni


Oh, I know. You’re all thinking, ‘Here she goes again. Ellie is perfect, Ellie is genius, blah, blah, blah.’

Well, the joke’s on you.

This post is not about Ellie.

OK. Well, not directly anyway.

This post is about the fact that I know I’m the luckiest women in the whole wide world because I get to spend every single day with my granddaughter, AND: her parents are so relaxed they even make ME feel calm.

Let me set the stage.

When I was a young mother of three beautiful babies, I was neurotic. Like, really.

The first time my first child threw up, I didn’t think, “Stomach bug.” Nope. I called my sister, sobbing. “She has a brain tumor!!!”

I am not calm. I am not a laid back Momma.

Nevertheless, in spite of me, all three of my kids have grown up to be healthy and happy adults.

Now I have Ellie. My love. My perfect “do over.” My chance to be the one who stays at home and does the nurturing.

God, I love that girl…..

So far, Ellie has given me the chance to relive all of my most precious Momma memories. I have given her a bottle, rocked her to sleep, held her while she napped. I have read her books, changed her diaper, sat her on the potty.

Hell, I have fed her my meatballs and watched her smear the sauce all over her face and hair.

These are the things that I missed so intensely after my nest emptied. These are the sweet memories that had me sobbing into my pillow at 3 AM.

Ellie has let me relive all of those moments. And this time I am acutely aware of the fleeting and profoundly moving nature of those moments.

I am so grateful to her parents for trusting me.

Still. I am a nut.

Yesterday Ellie came back to me after 10 full days away from each other. I went to pick her up and she was sobbing. “Mommy! Mommy!” she was chanting. Her Dad and I were both unsure of how to make her feel better about having her Mommy go back to work after school vacation.

I sang, I acted silly, I fed her oatmeal (OK, my husband made it the way she likes it…) and then we tried to settle into our day.

Somewhere around midday, I looked at Ellie and saw the drooping eyes, the red cheeks, the sad expression. Our eyes met, and she walked over to me. She settled into the space between my knees, and laid her head on my arm.

“Nanni,” she said.

I felt the heat of her skin.

Our Ellie had a fever.

I texted her Mom, gave her some Tylenol, poured her a cup of cool water. Then I sat in my rocking chair and held her against me. She was breathing fast, the way little ones do when they have a fever. Her head was resting against my cheek. Her hot little hand was holding mine.

I hummed some old songs. The songs I used to sing to her Momma and her Uncles. We rocked. She dozed. Every now and then, she turned to me with those shiny fever eyes and said, again, “Nanni.”

My heart melted right down into my toes.

Of course, I gave her Tylenol, and she perked up in 30 minutes. But still. For that brief time, I was right back in those special, beautiful, meaning-of-life moments, when I was the only comfort for a sick baby.

Mea culpa, mea culpa!

I was sorry that she was sick, and I did what I needed to do to make her feel better.

Still. I freakin’ loved that half hour of rocking her hot little body.

And this is why I’m the luckiest woman alive.

When I confessed this horrible truth to my daughter….when I explained to her how much I loved holding her sick child….she said, “So? It’s not like you infected her on purpose.”

She is a goddess. She let’s me be the neurotic Nonni I was born to be. Her husband is right there with her.

See?

Who in the world is luckier than me?

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Happy, happy Nonni

Layers on layers


I used to think that each of us was born as an unformed little white dot. I thought that every experience added on a layer, and that each layer covered the ones before.

I thought that we were like pearls. Layer on layer of life, constantly growing around us until we became fully formed humans. I thought that process would just keep on going until at last we die.

Some of that is no doubt true. We grow and we change and we certainly learn as we move along the paths of our lives.

But now that I’m on the downhill slope of this life, past the midway point, I have a completely different idea.

In the past few years, my husband and I have reconnected with some of our oldest friends. These are people who knew us when we were young and foolish. When we had no real idea yet of who we’d be.

When we weren’t much more than those unformed “dots.”

These were the people who watched us struggle to learn our limits, and who watched us struggle to define our dreams. They grew with us. Our friendships were more intense than any we’d ever have again, although we didn’t know that at the time.

Eventually, we grew up. We got our degrees. We parted ways as we moved into our ‘real’ lives. We became parents. We launched our careers. We grew into our adult selves.

Layers were laid upon our layers.

Then, oh so suddenly, we found ourselves at the point in our lives where we were no longer “on our way.” We were THERE.

Our children grew up. We became the “old guard” at our jobs.

We thought we were our fully formed, true selves.

But now we’ve hugged and laughed with those old friends. Now I see that its time to peel back some of those layers. Those layers of cynicism, and of fatigue. It’s time to scratch off the layers of unfulfilled dreams, and to let them fly away on the wind. It’s time to peel away the layers of self-criticism and drop them into the passing stream.

Now it’s time to go back to our truest selves, our best selves.

I think that in the presence of the people who knew us at our wide-eyed best we can once again find that inner, innocent self.

I think the pearl is in there, but it takes an old and true friend to help us find it.

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Rock maple and dovetailed joints.


 

32235_398975950898_543400898_4765939_6508281_nMy Dad could do anything with his hands. When we were little, he used to spend a weekend taking apart a car engine, cleaning everything, then putting it back together again.

He could fix leaky pipes, he could paint walls and trim. My Dad could lay down carpet, strip wallpaper, rewire lights, plane the bottoms of doors so they wouldn’t stick.

Most of all, though, my Dad could bring out the life and the beauty of wood.

He made shelves, and little stools and steps and work sheds.

My Dad made my sons tiny wooden train sets that fit together perfectly. Each car had one of the boy’s names on it.

They are still here, in our house. The golden stained wood still gleams. The pieces still fit, 25 years after he made them. They are still beautiful.

Last weekend I drove two hours out to the small city in the Berkshire Hills where my boys live. I got a tour of the classic Victorian house where my son Matt is living.

As soon as I saw the old wooden floors, and the built in shelving, and the gorgeous dark wood bannisters on the stairs, I though of Dad. He would have loved that house!

We went up into Matt’s room, and there I saw his bureau. An old, golden hued wooden bureau, in Matt’s bedroom.

And it was if Dad was standing there beside me.

I started to laugh, but there were tears in there, too.

“Oh, man! I forgot that you have this bureau!” I said, running my hands across the smooth top.

“This is rock maple.” I said it reverently, although I have no idea what “rock maple” is. I could hear Dad saying those words to me, and they were filled with respect and pride when he said them.

So I repeated them to my boy.

This old bureau had belonged to my husband in his childhood. He doesn’t know where it came from, but he grew up with it. When we got married, it became our bureau. It was in our first apartment in the corner of the bedroom. It travelled with us to grad school in New Jersey, and then to our first apartment after graduation.

When our baby was born, we moved for a while back into my parents’ house. We needed to save money and we needed a safe, clean place to live. So back “home” we went.

And that’s where my Dad taught me how to refinish furniture. We took that old bureau, scratched and dinged and dirty, down into Dad’s garage workshop. And he stripped the old stain off, and sanded it, and sanded it again. I learned about the grades of sandpaper, and the use of a good “tack cloth”. I learned to use mineral spirits to clean up every speck of dirt and sawdust.

I learned about the proper use of stain, and how to smooth it on evenly. Dad pointed out the dovetail joints in the bureau drawers, telling me that you don’t see those very often any more.

Together we chose the stain, a very light golden oak that brought out the warmth in the hard, hard wood. Dad showed me every grain in that wood. He showed me how to be sure that every rough bit was smoothed away.

“Like a baby’s bottom,” he’d say when we got a drawer face perfectly smooth.

It was so special to work there beside him. He never got impatient. He never seemed in a hurry. I saw how the wood came to life under his hand. I saw how he was able to coax beauty out of something rough and old and stained.

I had wanted to toss out that old piece of furniture as soon as we could, but Dad was horrified at the thought.

“This is rock maple!” he’d said. “Those are dovetailed joints!”

Together we worked on the old wooden bureau, and I learned that my father was an artist, though he never described himself that way. I learned to be patient when polishing the top of a refinished piece of furniture with wax.

I learned how to listen, to watch, to imitate. I learned how to see the strength and the beauty under the rough exterior.

I learned how much my father loved a job well done, and I learned how much I loved my father.

Last week, standing in that bedroom in that old Victorian house, I caught sight of that beautiful bureau, with my son’s belongings sitting on top.

“This is rock maple!” I told him seriously. I pulled out one of the drawers. “See?” I asked him and  his bemused friend, “These are dovetailed joints.”

They agreed that the bureau is a real beauty. They were smiling at my earnestness.

We left then, turning off the lights and leaving the old rock maple bureau in the dark, in that old, old house.

It’s hard to say how much I love the thought of my son sleeping every night beside that wood that had felt my Dad’s loving hand.

I hope Matt keeps that bureau. I hope he gives it to a child of his own one day.

I hope that he tells that child, very seriously, “This is rock maple, you know.”

 

 

A Puppy, A Baby, And A Nonni On The Brink


Oh, sure. It all sounded so easy.

Of course I could handle a baby and puppy. Pffft.  I used to teach fifth grade! How hard could this be?

See, I pride myself on being a nurturing, loving, patient Grandmother. When I picture myself (you know, when no one is around, and the house is all clean and quiet), I see a chubby, gray haired, smiling woman in an apron. Her wrinkles all match her smiles; there’s nary a frown line to be found on her sweet face. The house smells like delicious food and the floors are immaculate.

Birds are singing, the sky is blue.

You get the picture.

I don’t think it’s asking too much to expect reality to live up to the image.

So. We got a puppy.

We got little puppy Lennie on a Saturday morning. He was sweet, cuddly, full of puppy kisses.

He also peed every 60 seconds, indoors and out. The pee was nasty and bloody.

We spent his first afternoon at the local animal hospital emergency room. Puppy Lennie had come to us with a raging urinary tract infection.

We got through Saturday night and Sunday with 79 loads of wash and 65 floor washings.

Then in was Monday and our best beloved little one year old Ellie arrived. And the sweet, smiling Nonni in the apron turned into a raging lunatic old woman in a hoodie.

See, when you have a puppy, you have train said puppy. Which means that you have to reward said puppy literally every time you say “come” or “sit” or “drop it” or “get the hell off the bed, you stupid mutt!”

Which means that you have to walk around with a pocket full of tiny doggy treats. Hence the hoodie with its handy front pocket.

The raging lunatic part happened at about noon.

Poor Ellie was cutting four molars, and her digestive system was not at its best. It had been a long morning full of, “Lennie, drop Ellie’s sock!” and “Down! Down!” and “Let go of her hair, you menace!”

Ellie was overwrought. Nonni was exhausted. Lennie was having the time of his life.

Then Ellie pooped. She pooped a lot. She pooped as only a teething baby with an uncannily omnivorous appetite can poop.

I laid her on the couch and peeled off her diaper to find a massive smear of disgusting orange human waste and a butt so raw that there were blisters. Poor baby girl!

I grabbed a handful of baby wipes, trying to get off the worst of the mess without hurting her any more as the poor little kid sobbed her heart out. I carelessly plopped the poopy diaper on the coffee table beside me. I figured I could wrap it up and throw it out in a few minutes.

Yep. You called it.

Puppy Lennie, also affectionately known as “the Poop Hunter”, grabbed the unwrapped diaper in his tiny teeth and took off through the house.

He galloped, the poop flew left, the poop flew right. In his joyous excitement, Mr. UTI peed with every step.

Ellie sobbed, and rubbed her sore bottom with her fist, thereby smearing the poop all over her hand, and right into her hair……

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Flash forward 30 minutes. Ellie was safely seated in a warm bath, Lennie was back in his crate with a rawhide.

Nonni was hurrying back and forth from the bathroom to the rest of the house, vinegar soaked mop in hand.

Eventually, after what felt like a week,  the baby, the puppy, the walls and the floors were all clean again.

Ellie fell asleep on a blanket on the couch. Lennie fell asleep on a rug on the floor.

I collapsed onto the sofa. I looked at my elderly dog, Tucker, sitting at my feet. He looked back at me. Our eyes met. Neither one of us smiled.

I’m not sure about him, but I know I still had poop under my nails. I contemplated changing my clothes, but it seemed kind of pointless.

I reached out my stinky, vinegar and poop scented hand and patted his stoic old head.

“You don’t happen to know how to make a dirty martini, do you?” I asked.

He didn’t.

But I felt better anyway.

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I was sure that the next day, I’d wear an apron and the house would smell like cinnamon and love instead of vinegar and poop.

Stay tuned.

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Who, us? What did we do?

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