Nonni, the Wolf King, and Matching Ouchies


Oh, boy.

The poor old Wolf King is really getting creaky in his old age.

And poor old Nonni is getting pretty creaky herself.

Usually we’re able to cope with our stiffness, our sore knees, our achy backs. He takes regular anti-inflammatories. I take wine in the hot tub. We both use ice and heat. And we try our best to more or less take it easy.

Today was the third rainy, misty, cool day in a row, and the morning was pretty sleepy for me, the Wolf King and even for Puppy Lennie (aka: ‘The Devildog”). There was some reading and writing (Nonni), some repetitive chewing on a plastic bone (Devildog) and some sleeping with chin on paws (The Wolf King.)

But after lunch, I started to feel guilty about not accomplishing anything today. This is a common Nonni theme, and its actually a good trait. It has prevented me from becoming a complete blob of useless goo with roots from my butt into my couch cushions.

So the guilt struck, and I got up. I put Devildog on his leash and we took our usual walk around the block, which took about 20 minutes. Then we wandered about in the back woods for a bit, until my arm started to throb from all the pulling on the “no pull” leash.

I put Devildog back inside the fenced yard, and decided to do some gardening. I forgot that the gate that leads from our deck into the fenced backyard was open. I heard Devildog barking, calling to me, but I ignored him as I pruned and dug up some overgrown perennials.

Then his voice changed, and I heard the unmistakable woof-woofing of the old Wolf King.

Crap!

This meant that the old guy had made his way slowly down the deck steps and was attempting to drop his royal doody in the backyard. He was annoyed, to say the least, by the Devildog who was dancing around him and trying to nip his butt and his ears.

I dropped my garden tools and opened the gate into the fence area. After I fought off the ecstatic jumps and yips of the deliriously happy Devildog, I grabbed the Wolf King by the collar.

Shit. No leash.

I didn’t want to leave the two of them fighting and jumping while I took the time to walk all the way around the yard and into the front door to take down his leash and bring it all the way back.

“Well,” I thought. “He’s too old and achy to run away like he used to. I’ll just let him out the gate and into the open front yard.”

So I did. I called him. I held the gate open.

The Wolf King looked at me, and tilted his old head. I could read his thoughts as clearly as if he’d spoken.

“Are you KIDDING ME? You are opening the gate to freedom, and letting the mighty Wolf King into the wild world?” He shook his head and shoulders, I swear, like a fighter getting ready to take on his next bout.

He shuffled toward me, stopped at the open gate, and shot me a “so long, sucker!” grin. And out the gate he went.

I’m sure he thought he was running. His front legs were moving forward with some regularity, but those weak back legs sort of stumbled along as if the connection from his spine to his hips was no longer secure.

Even so, he looked like a dog determined to escape and live on the run.

He made it about 30 feet from me. He got as far as my rock garden, where he turned to look at me again.

“Isn’t this ridiculous?” was the thought I read in his cloudy eyes. He gently laid himself down on the grass and waited for me to come get him.

I took hold of his collar, more for old times sake than out of necessity, and we walked slowly toward the front door.

“You got away, you sneaky hound, you,” I said to him. “You sure outsmarted me.” He knew I was making it up, but he was smiling as we reached the front door.

The Wolf King made it up the two front steps, and into the hall. Then he took a big breath, and looked up at the six steps that would take him onto the main floor of our split level house.

I did what I’ve been doing for the past few months. I took hold of his collar, and put one hand on his backside. “One, two, three,” I said, “Up we go.”

Alas. I had forgotten that the Devildog was back inside. As the Wolf King was taking his shaky, achy steps up, the little guy was wiggling with joy that we had come home. Lennie jumped down two steps, where he met the old man on the way up.

And the Wolf King slipped.

His back end simply let go, and he fell back one step. I caught him, but he is a BIG boy, and my back gave a shriek as his full 95 pounds landed on my midsection.

Before I knew it, I had lost my footing, too. I was able to stop myself from falling, but I did a completely ungraceful slow motion descent onto my big old Nonni butt, right in the front hall.

I hit the floor, but managed to hold onto the fluffy haunches of my beloved Wolf King, who found himself in the ignominious position of sitting on his mistress. We both made some “holy crap” sounds, and we both stayed perfectly still for a minute.

While Devildog ran up and down the stairs next to us, barking something that sounded mysteriously like “This is so much FUN!! Whatarewedoing??? I love it!!!”

At last, slowly, I was able to lower the back end of the Wolf King to the floor and to ease his big front end off of the stairs and onto the floor beside him. He rested his head on my chest for a second, and we both caught our breath.

Then I stood up, achy and creaky myself, and put the Devildog outside for a minute. I slowly went back down to Tucker, kissed his puppy-soft head, and asked him, “Do you want to try again?”

Brave soul that he is, he stood up, his back legs splayed and shaking. I put a hand on his collar and a hand on his backside.

“One, two, three,” I said through tears. And up we went. Slowly and carefully.

We made it.

And now we sit, recovering. The Devildog is back to his bone. The Wolf King has some ice on his hips, and has had his painkiller.

Nonni has some ice on her back, and is sipping her own pain killer.

Getting old sucks.

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Devildog truly loves The Wolf King

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.

Nonni In Germany


Well, what a two weeks this has been. The trip of a lifetime has come and gone and this old Nonni is trying to put it all into perspective.

Paul and I have been in Germany for the past 13 days, staying with friends we were lucky enough to meet when their son became our exchange student 18 months ago. We fell in love with him, we fell in love with his parents. They visited us, and now they have hosted us on the most incredible vacation of our entire lives.

At some point I will write about the gorgeous ocean views on the North Sea, about the crazy good food, the well behaved dogs and happy kids, the immaculate gardens and efficient trains. At some point I’m sure I’ll write about how it feels to know that you’ve made permanent connections with someone who lives a life entirely different from your own far across the world.

I know that I’ll have a lot to write about the dark and powerful history here and how the people respond to it. I have so much to share about the Wall and the holocaust and the Hitler years.

Right now, though, I’d like to start my travel journal with a story told through the eyes of those I’ve been lucky enough to meet here in Germany. We have been in Berlin, in a suburb of Berlin and on a gorgeous, wealthy resort island up on the North Sea. We’ve met people of all ages, some native German, some immigrants from other parts of the world. We’ve met people of various ages and occupations, and with vastly differing experiences.

They all share one thing, though, and that is their opinion of Donald Trump.

Please click the link here┬áto read the article that I wrote for Liberal America this week. It’s called “A Writer in Berlin.” See what these people have to say about the U.S. presidential election.

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In front of the Reichstag