The House Holds It’s Breath


The house is sad.

Sitting in the kitchen, listening to the sound of the humming refrigerator, I’m struck by the absence of life. I’m surrounded by echoes. I feel the sadness on my skin, and in my ears, a pressure of all that isn’t here.

There are no voices. No kids are arguing over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. No teens are singing along to transistor radios. There are no TV jingles reminding us to buy the right floorwax.

No smell of dinner fills the house. Pans are not rattling, silverware isn’t being spread. The microwave doesn’t beep.

Mom is asleep again, snoring in her favorite rocker, her little gray cat curled in her lap. I’m careful not to wake them, even though the sun is shining on this warm October day.

The house is sad. Its walls have soaked in nearly 6 decades of life. All the rushed mornings were here, in this kitchen, lunches packed and handed out, breakfasts eaten and cleaned up, bodies large and small clomping through from room to room, elbows crashing, chairs scraping, “have a good day”s called out and back.

All the dinners were here, someone setting the table, someone yelling for napkins. Mom at the stove and the oven, putting steaming dishes in front of us as we gathered around this table. Kids talking about school, complaining about homework, reminding Mom and Dad about upcoming field trips and practices. Math done at the table, the tv on in the living room, someone taking a bath.

There were arguments here, too; shouts, tears, anger and guilt. The walls and the floor held all of it in, wrapped it up and kept it contained. There was pride and competition and sadness. And there was joy, celebration and a lot of silliness. There were kids giggling as Dad made Saturday morning pancakes.

Now all is quiet.

I look down into the front hall. The front door, now closed and silent, used to swing open hundreds of times each week, neighbors and friends and kids and relatives swooping through it and up the stairs, into the sound and the light.

That’s how I remember my childhood and adolescence. I remember it with all of my senses. I recall our life here as noisy, delicious, bright and warm. I can feel myself standing at the kitchen sink, looking out into a winter evening, safely coated in the warm yellow light of the house. Everyone I loved was inside these walls with me. There was nothing outside that could hurt us.

I remember our family life as always busy, always moving, always crowded to the point where sometimes I’d go into the bathroom just for a minute of solitude. There was often music, sometimes an old musical on the record player, sometimes the theme songs from the TV. Best of all, sometimes the music was Dad’s off-key crooning of “Where the Buffalo Roam”.

I smile as I remember it. I look into the dining room, feeling the press of voices at every holiday and birthday, feeling the vibrations of sound against the bottoms of my feet. Seeing the table covered in dishes, wine glasses, coffee cups and plates of food. I hear adult voices arguing about politics and sports, waving hands and trying to out shout each other.

But today all is quiet. Even the refrigerator is still. The house is sad.

I think it’s waiting. Old photos, dusty books, long forgotten toys in the backs of closets.

All of it makes me sad. I know that the house feels it too. This structure that has only known one intertwined, passionately emotional, typical and special family.

I can feel it holding it’s breath. Waiting for the change that has to come.

We’re waiting, too. We feel the very same echoes in our hearts.

We are all sad.

“Suburban House” by beautifulcataya is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Waking Up in 2020


It is the sound of the wind that wakes me up. A cool breeze flutters the dark blue curtains that fall across my window.

My first thought is that it’s morning. After having woken up three times in the night, it’s a relief to see daylight.

I roll over. I slowly orient myself. “It’s late summer….it’s Sunday morning….there’s nothing much on the agenda for today….”

Suddenly it slams into me: it is early fall of 2020.

The blankets feel heavy all at once, pressing on my heart and my chest. I drape an arm across my eyes as the waves come flooding over me. Trump against Biden, and only a few weeks left. The lies being told and repeated and told again. The violence in the streets, the rage, the injustice, the impotence of trying to make a point to anyone who will listen.

These thoughts are quickly chased out by fear of the second surge of Covid that is expected in the next few weeks. Will schools be safe? Will we have to go back on lockdown? Will the supply chains dry up again?

Will this ever end?

Are we facing civil war? The rhetoric on social media scares me more every day. The people marching in our streets with guns in their hands, insisting that they have to protect us all from enemies who come from “the other side.” The images are terrifying.

Will the economy continue to slide, and what will that mean for us, for our future? Are we heading into a depression, or even another deep recession, like the one that ravaged this small town just over a decade ago?

I roll over again, pulling my knees up to ease the pain in my back and in my soul. I’d like to stay here all day, rolled up like a pill bug, shielding myself from the reality that is 2020.

It’s the same every day. It’s the same every time I wake up. I stay in my restful place for maybe ten seconds, and suddenly I’m drowning in helplessness and frustration. Every action feels futile.

Everything I know is out of my control.

But I don’t stay in my bed. I refuse to be that far down. I push myself to my feet and stand in my window, holding the curtains back. I force myself to see my own small piece of the universe.

The woods are glowing. Wet leaves sparkle in the breeze. The air smells of the earth and a hint of the coming frost. There’s a cardinal chirping out there, and from overhead I hear a hawk’s piercing call.

The thumping of two tails on my bedroom floor tells me that my dogs are up and waiting for their hugs and scratches. I smell coffee, and picture my husband in his blue robe, knees up and feet on the scratched coffee table, checking the news on his laptop.

I am healthy and safe. There is more than enough food in our house to feed us for months. My children are safe and healthy. My grandchildren are joyfully oblivious to the wide world, and are happy to have so much time with both parents.

This reality, my small piece of reality, is where I absolutely must keep my focus.

I can’t change the outcome of the election. I can’t force Trump to stop lying to us. I can’t force people to see those lies for the blatant gaslighting that they are.

I can’t cure the virus, or keep the schools safe and healthy. I can’t give 50 million Americans jobs or make Europe let us all back in.

What I can do is enjoy my cup of esspresso, scratch the soft spots behind my dog’s ears and give my husband a hug.

I can tell my children and grandchildren how much I love them, and I can call my Momma for a chat. I can send letters and cards to friends.

That is my world for now.

The challenge is to convince myself that it is, in fact, enough.

I Stand on the Bridge


I find myself standing on the bridge between the past and the future, and it is a tender and poignant place to be.

I stand between youth and old age.

At the age of 63, it is of course natural for me to find myself in the middle of life’s journey.

But for me, the juxtaposition of what has been and what is coming is feeling profound right now.

My mother is 89 years old. She is 26 years older than I am.

Mom still lives at home, in the house where she and our Dad raised six kids. She is still there, still in her kitchen, where I learned to make sauce and meatballs. Still sleeping in the bedroom where she and Dad slept from 1962 until 2008 when Dad died.

I go to see her once a week. My siblings go at least once a week, too. Some more often. We are Mom’s supports, her cooks, her money managers, her cheerleaders as she heads on down the path toward her next step.

As my very wise sister put it, “Mom is quietly folding her tent.” She is gently withdrawing from her life, seeing fewer and fewer friends as her memory and her body fade.

But she is happy. Perhaps happier and calmer than at any other time in my life. Mom, once a power woman in control of all around her, has learned to accept help with grace. She has been willing to wear her LifeAlert, to have a home health aide and to welcome one of us every day (although she doesn’t often remember whose turn it is on any given day to have dinner with her.)

Mom is showing me how to exit gracefully, just as Dad did when it was his turn.

I am watching her. I am learning. I am coming to terms with some thoughts of my own about my life going forward toward that “rainbow bridge.” I am so lucky to have a model of how to go with humor and humility.

And.

As I stand on this tender bridge, I look back toward my youngest child. My son Tim turned 27 yesterday. So you can see that I am almost the ‘median’ point between my mother and my son.

I look at him, my sweet, kind boy. I see that life is spread out before him like a banquet. He plans to marry his sweetheart next summer. They are thinking about children, about careers, about their hopes and dreams for a future family.

I see him, and I see his Dad at the same age. I see myself. I see our worries and our joys and I remember what it was like to be young, in love, ready to move into the future with courage and hope.

My Mother often talks to me about those years before she married my Dad. She talks about how happy they were to sit under the trees on Boston Common, planning how many children they’d have. She talks about what it was like to hold his hand as they walked through the city sharing their dreams of a beautiful future.

And I stand on the bridge. I hear her thoughts, and I hear Tim’s. I know that it was my Mom and Dad’s ability to dream and love that lead to my family, and lead to my marriage and then lead to my beautiful boy and his wonderful partner.

I know that Tim and Sweens will marry, have children, face challenges, encounter unexpected joys and find ways to keep recreating their hope. Just as Paul and I have done. Just as my Mom and Dad did for all those years.

And I know that one day it will be me who is facing that final chapter.

I just hope, and pray, that when that time comes my children will look to me as a model of how to move on. I hope that they will think about Grandma, and remark on how like her I am.

And I hope, and I pray, that when that day rolls by, there will be children of theirs who are busy falling in love and planning their next steps and thinking about babies of their own.

Is This Healthy? Or Am I Kidding Myself?


The thing about summer is that all of the veggies are amazing.

Right?

It’s July now. So I can drive up the street to the local farmstand where I can buy fresh, buttery lettuce, fresh peas, tomatoes still warm from the sun, cucumbers that are as crisp as breadsticks.

I can run up to the weekly farmer’s market and get garlic scapes, fresh spring onions, tender, fresh kale.

I can go home and microwave some beets, then cool them and mix them into all those fresh, tender greens with a bit of goat cheese.

Holy delicious.

I am the healthiest eater in the world from June through October.

But does all that delicious green goodness buy me extra time on this earth if I refuse to touch salad in the winter?

I mean, I try. Every single year, I try to eat salad in the winter. I buy grocery store lettuce (bitter!) and grocery store cukes (flabby!) and grocery store tomatoes (tasteless!).  And they sit in the fridge until they begin to liquify, at which point I give up until the following summer.

So am I still healthy if I sort of stock up for six months? Can I still call myself a healthy eater if I only eat roasted carrots, beets, potatoes through the fall? Is it still a good veggie side dish if it’s roasted butternut squash with butter and real maple syrup?

My theory is that New Englanders learned to eat a whole pile of greens all summer (I DO!). And then they learned to preserve summer veggies like corn and tomatoes and beans (I DO THAT, TOO!) so in the winter they could eat pig fat while telling themselves “Well, at least we have veggies put up in the old root cellar.” (YUP, THAT’S ME.)

The early New England settlers managed to survive without eating hothouse tomatoes. They didn’t die of scurvy just because they refused to eat hothouse kale.

And I won’t either.

Right?

By shucking the corn and taking the peas out of their pods all spring and summer, I am earning my way into ‘healthy eater’s heaven’, aren’t I?

I love summer food. The peaches, the cherry tomatoes, the ripe berries all over the yard. I love it. I could forage all summer on the garden delights that surround me, as long as I could get a free pass to eat pork and butter my bread all winter long.

What do you think?

Am I delusional, or can I really save up my health points before the cold New England nights set in once again?

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Worth The Effort?


What is it that gives a person “worth?” I’m old enough, and self aware enough, to know that worth is not measured by money.

Hey, I was a teacher! I’m married to a therapist. Money has never been our goal.

But what is it that lets us move through our days with a sense of self-worth?

At the tender and transitional age of 61, I’m struggling with this question once again.

You see, I used to find my sense of worth from my work. I have always worked, and had a purpose.

When I was only 22, I was a Russian interpreter. I took new immigrants to the doctor. I sat in therapy sessions, helping patient and doctor to understand each other. I helped with surgery, translating what the doctor wanted the patient to do during cataract surgery and cardiac catheterization.

I even helped to interpret at a baby’s birth. I was valued. I felt my worth.

Later, I became a speech pathologist, a job I held for 20 years. I helped families learn how to communicate with their disabled children. I helped those children to find their voices.  I was valued. I knew that what I was doing was helpful and important.

And after many years I became a teacher. I taught fifth graders. I was a fun teacher. I was funny. I made learning interesting. No matter what, I will always know that I was very good at my job.

I felt so good about myself in those years. I felt worthy.

Then things changed. I lost my teaching job, and moved into retirement.

And this is where the question of worth has reappeared. When I have my granddaughter in my arms, I know that I am the most important person on earth. Ellie needs me. Ellie loves me. I am NONNI.

But it’s summer.

Ellie is home with her Mom and Dad and new baby brother. They are close by. I see them almost every day. I love them all more than I could ever express.

But.

Now I have no role. I have no job. I have no way to measure my worth in this lovely world.

So, dear blog readers, I guess I’m fishing. (Phishing?)

Now I wonder, is a gray haired lady still useful if she isn’t physically able to manage her garden by herself? Is she still worth keeping if her husband works hard every day while she stays home and cleans things?

Does it count that this house has NEVER been this clean? Or that the closets are completely organized?

What do I do with myself on these long days? How do I define myself?

Is it legal to actually have three months of vacation while everyone else is working?

I swear, in September I will be back to working hard. I’ll have both two year old Ellie and three month old Johnnie. My arms, my heart and my day will all be full.

But.

What about now? Do I earn some kind of Donna Reed points for the incredibly clean kitchen cabinets and the very fluffy towels in the bathroom? I was raised by one of the first feminists. I know that just being a “homemaker” isn’t an actual role in life.

But what else do I do while I’m waiting to go back to Nonni extraordinaire? How do I feel good about so many days where nothing is actually accomplished?

Sigh.

I have to admit. I think I’m nuts. I hate the fact that I do this to myself.

On the other hand, if anyone needs any alphabetized spices, come on over.

 

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Poor useless Nonni

Summertime, and everything is different.


For all my life, the end of the school year meant a celebration of freedom. Summer! Cook outs! Baseball and hot dogs and fireflies and s’mores. Camping and swimming and beautifully scary thunder storms.

As a young working mom, my work schedule tied to the academic year, summer meant time to reconnect with the people I loved most in all the world. It meant sleeping later, making piles of pancakes, watching cartoons together in the morning. Summer meant days at the lake, days at the ocean, days of running the hose into the sandy part of our back yard. It was all about growing tomatoes and eating them as they ripened. Snakes and bees and butterflies.

Summer, back then, meant time to hold children close and pretend that they would never, ever, grow up and away.

But now I am in my Nonni years. My world has turned upside down. Now the days of snuggling over breakfast and walking in the woods are the days of fall and spring. Now it’s the cold, wet days of winter that mean time to cuddle and read and bake cupcakes together.

Now everything is reversed.

When summer comes, in the world of this Nonni, my role as beloved and needed comes to a sudden crashing end.

Suddenly, Mommy is home. Mommy, the teacher, the woman who looks at summer with the same grateful eyes that I once had. Mommy knows that summer means a celebration of freedom. It means cookouts, baseball, fireflies and s’mores. For Mommy, summer means a time of reconnection, a time to reassure her babies and herself that she is the one who bring safety and security and love to a world that is filled with beautiful and scary thunderstorms.

Now Nonni steps back, catches her breath, and tells herself that all is just as it should be. Now is my time to rest, to reconnect with my own true self. To write and read and divide the perennials.

Now is the time for Nonni to look forward, for the first time in her increasingly long life, to the crisp days of fall. The days of cool sun, pumpkins, fresh apples. The days when Mommy will go back to work. And Nonni will once again take her place in the kitchen, teaching the little ones to bake an apple pie.

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The Wolf King Reborn


I am the Wolf King.

Or at least, I used to be the Wolf King.

Lately I’ve been The Old Dog Who Can Hardly Get Down The Stairs.

What can I say? Time goes on, and arthritis hits hard.

For the past few weeks, I have had to contend with the humiliating prospect of a young pup, constantly jumping up to nip my ears or grab my collar. Always trying to get me to jump and play.

Annoying little fool. I have gone along with him as often as I could, but sometimes I just wanted to smack him. I have barked and growled at him so much that my royal voice is getting really creaky.

Today was a sunny day, and the air was crisp and cold. The yard was filled with fresh white snow, and birds filled our feeders.

The puppy, so foolishly named “Lennie,” was whining to go out. Woman Who Feeds Me made those sickening little cooing noises at him, and soon he was wearing his blaze orange collar.

I stood, slowly and regally. I do not beg to go outside.

But I don’t say “no”, either. I waited, aloof and calm, as the Woman Who Feeds Me put on my bra…. I mean, my Wolf King harness.

We headed out into the cold.

For a few minutes, I walked calmly alongside the Woman. The small, annoying puppy ran in circles around us, barking and yipping and racing in and out of the woods.

After a while, I noticed that my leash seemed very lax. I was able to wander away from the Woman Who Feeds Me without feeling the tug of the leash. Hmm.

Suddenly, a truck pulled into our driveway.  Somewhere, deep in my brain, I remembered that I am the Wolf King; the protector of our castle.  I began to bark. I ran toward the truck.

A though went zinging through my head.

“Hey! I’m running, and there’s no leash.” I glanced back at Woman Who Feeds Me.

Sure enough, she looked guilty.

“Tucker, come!” she called. She held out a tiny cookie.

One. Tiny. Cookie.

Ordinarily, I would walk on hot coals to get one of those cookies. But now. Now the cold wind was rushing through the woods. The smells of deer and moose and birds and fox came wafting toward me. I lifted my head. I sniffed.

I looked back at Woman Who Feeds Me. Her hand was out. Her voice sounded stressed.

I looked forward, toward the woods. I saw the puppy, running free, racing in circles.

“Tucker?”

My old eyes met the worried eyes of my Mistress.

“Adios!” I barked. And I raced like the wind away from the yard and into the woods.

Oh, OK. Mostly I didn’t really race. I sort of lumbered. And limped a bit. But I still went into the woods with the puppy dancing around me.

It was glorious. It was heaven. It was freedom, remembered from a time long ago.

It. Was. The. Best.

After a while, Woman Who Feeds Me, Annoying Puppy, Poopie Baby and Young Woman With Treats all went back inside the house. They called me to come.

But I would not be tempted back inside.

No. The Wolf King decided to sit outside of the house. Resting in the deep snow. With freezing ice pellets sticking to my niblets.

My back was aching like you read about, what with all the running through the woods, jumping over fallen trees, avoiding puppy kisses, and climbing over snowbanks.

I kind of wanted to go inside. Back to the fire. And the heat. And the cookies.

And the couch.

But I remained firm. I stayed out for hours.

I was so proud of my freedom and my strength.

Eventually, as I dozed with my paws held over my half frozen nose, I smelled the intoxicating aroma of cooking chicken livers. The window to the living room had been opened, and the simmering pot placed on the ledge.

“Oh, Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled. “Have you no shame?”

She was trying to lure me back in.

But I would NOT be moved.

I stood erect ( except for my bendy spine and my splayed-out back legs.) “NO!” I barked with royal strength. “No! I will not yield to the liver! I am the Wolf King and I am FREE!”

I lasted a full four minutes before my aching back, my shaking legs, my frozen niblets and my empty belly got the better of me.

OK. So I came back in.

I got all warm. I ate my liver. I let the Woman and the Baby cuddle me.

I came back in.

But really? I only did it because I could hear that puppy whining for me to come back home to him.

I can’t resist the little goof when he gets all kissy like that.

But don’t be fooled.

If they drop that leash again, I’ll be off.

The Wolf King will be back. You can count on it.

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Still as handsome as you ever were.

A Puppy, A Baby and a Sleepy Old Nonni


One of the many pleasures of being a ‘stay at home Nonni’ is that I get to nap when Ellie does.

I have always loved naps. Always.

My dad was a wonderful napper. He could close his eyes and sleep for 15 minutes and wake up completely refreshed.

I get this talent from him.

When Ellie was very small, we used to nap together in the recliner. I’d hold her in my arms and we’d both drift off.

Now she’s too big for that to be safe, so now we lie down together on my bed. She goes to sleep, and I read or write. Sometimes (OK, pretty much every day) I fall asleep , too.

Today was one of those challenging days, when you’re not sure you can make it all work. It was snowing hard when the puppy woke me up at 6. I stayed awake checking the school closings. Would Kate have to drive to school? Would she be able to go in late?

I finally realized that her school schedule was unchanged, which meant that mine was, too. I made the coffee and headed out into the icy snow/rain mix to get my granddaughter.

It was a long, slow, slog to her house and back, a round trip of about 10 miles. At least we turned into our driveway, and I gave the old Colonial America cheer, “Huzzah!”  To my joy and pleasure, Ellie yelled it right back at me.

The day was fine, but by the time I saw Ellie rubbing her eyes at about 2 o’clock, I was ready and willing to rest. I had already cooked, served and cleaned up both breakfast and lunch. I had wrestled Lennie for possession of 4 boots, 6 socks, a mitten, 43 toys and one winter coat.

I was more than ready to bring Ellie into my bedroom for a nice nap. The problem was that Lennie was NOT in nap mode.

He was running in circles around us, grabbing at the blankets, my book, the pillow…..

I tried offering a treat. “Good boy, Lennie, good dog. Lie down!”  No good.

I tried putting down a nice warm blanket. “Lennie, time to rest!”  No good at all; he tried to eat it.

Finally, I had had it. Ellie was whining, wanting a book. My back was aching. It was snowing outside and I wanted to LIE THE HELL DOWN.

So I turned to the puppy and snarled, “LIE THE HELL DOWN!”

To my shock, he did.

Ellie and I settled in, read “Good night Moon” and she fell asleep. I wrote an article for LiberalAmerica, and then I went to sleep, too.

And when I woke up, Ellie was still snoozing, her soft curly hair moving with her gentle breaths.

I looked over the side of the bed.

There was my baby Lennie, curled into the shape of a snail. And right beside him, curled up in the exact same shape, only three times larger, was my old dog, Tucker. Side by side on one doggie bed.

I lay back down, listening to the combined sounds of two sleeping dogs and one sleeping baby girl.

Life can be so unexpectedly perfect, you know?

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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 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.