Saying goodbye to an old friend

In a few minutes, a kind veterinarian is going to arrive at our home to help us say goodbye to Zoey. She’s lived with us the past 13+ years which is more than half of Wildebeest and Zebu’s lifetimes. This morning Wildebeest said goodbye before  heading back to his home that’s a six-hour drive from here. Zebu will be with Zoey at the end.

Zoey’s last trip to Westcliffe. August 12, 2017

We’d originally hoped to say goodbye to Zoey tomorrow because it’s my birthday today. But when the vet offered to come this afternoon it seemed the best option. Zoey’s tired and has had enough, and it felt wrong to delay the inevitable. We’ve definitely made the right decision for her, but the mood is less than festive.

Rest in peace, our sweet Zotato.

For Savannah

In a few minutes, I’m heading to a memorial. I’ve spent the past half-hour trying to find the words to express what I’m feeling and all I’ve managed is this:

Savannah, you are loved.

Thankful Thursday

I’ve kept a gratitude journal on and off for a number of years, but am currently in an off phase. I hope to resume my bedtime ritual of listing five things I’m grateful for, but in the meanwhile:

Today I am grateful . . .

  • my sister helped me feel more at peace about a friend’s death.
  • my critique group gifted me another week to finish the draft of my work-in-progress and that
  • I am, indeed, making progress on that work.
  • I enjoyed a calm, non-aggressive walk in the warm sunshine with Emma, even though we passed other dogs.
  • I completed my four-minute plank despite learning the hard way that Led Zeppelin’s Four Sticks is absolutely not a good motivational song. Nope, not even close.

Thanks for the memories

Today’s been a difficult day.

I’ve had no energy and stayed in my jammies until 2:30 when I dragged myself off the couch so I could walk Emma and get some sun. Despite the sunshine and blue sky, I felt weepy as we walked, and kept tearing up. And then it hit me: January 23rd…Scott’s birthday. My childhood friend should be making a wish on his candles and eating cake, except that he died almost exactly twenty-five years ago.

Oddly enough, figuring out why I was feeling so down improved my mood. (Well, that plus the sunshine and exercise.) Because then I started remembering. Odd conversations about olive loaf and Salsa Rio Doritos; Scott’s old blue Pinto; the St. Patrick’s Day we spent together; his English class demonstration in which he taught us how to keep score in bowling, but became confused and had to step back from the board to figure out exactly out where the score had gone wrong; the Sears catalog poses he’d do for me whenever I asked; singing Victor Banana songs together; laughing until we cried. Laughing some more.

Here’s the photo I keep on my desk:

Scott’s smiling.
And now I am, too.

Happy birthday, friend.

Honoring Michelle

Today Zippy and I went to Berry Patch Farms in Brighton, Colorado.

Michelle’s mother and sisters arranged to have a bench and stone placed there in her memory, seeing as it was one of Michelle’s favorite places to visit with her young daughter.

 

At the top of the stone is a quote from Michelle: “Now this is what a strawberry should taste like.”

Note: the rooster windchime on the tree was there before Michelle’s bench. Can you say SERENDIPITY?

On their frequent visits to the farm with the old red barn, Michelle and her daughter would watch the chickens and roosters.

They’d pick berries together and take home bouquets of cut flowers.

Today, Michelle’s mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and friends gathered in her memory. For the past two weeks or so, the weather has been uncharacteristically cold and rainy, but today the sun was shining in a blue, blue sky. The morning was lovely, and I suspect Michelle pulled some strings to make it so.

It was bittersweet being at the farm without Michelle, but here I am warming her cheery red bench along with three of the Writing Roosters, the critique group she lobbied to include me in its membership. Michelle’s generosity lives on.

Jenn Bertman, Tracy Abell, Jen Simms, Laura Perdew (Vanessa Appleby & Claudia Mills were unable to attend)

There was also laughter

Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.
~ Charlie Chaplin

Zippy and I attended the funeral for a young woman this morning. So much sadness in the church. And yet, there was also laughter.

Rest in peace, K.

Three magpies on a cold gray foggy day

three-magpies

I captured this image just before learning that Maggie Roche died on Saturday, January 21. She was the heart and soul of the singing sister trio, The Roches. I’m so very sad.

Thank you for the many, many hours of musical enjoyment, Maggie. Rest in peace.

 

 

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Carrie Fisher: A mother of nature

I’ve been offline most of the day and checked in to discover Carrie Fisher has died. It’s hard to comprehend. She seemed indestructible. Tiny and fierce. A forever force of nature.

I remember reading POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE the first time. I remember thinking that Carrie Fisher was hilarious, yes, but also incredibly insightful about what it means to be human. She was so damned smart and brave. And generous. She went to her dark places and brought that scariness out into the light as a gift to us. Her writing, tweets, and interviews were a constant reminder that none of us is alone on this spinning ball, and that since we’re in this thing together, we might as well share laughter along the way.

Holding the copy Zippy bought to replace the one he accidentally dropped in a lake while reading.

This is the copy Zippy bought for me to replace the one he accidentally dropped in a lake while on vacation.

There’s lots of gold in the book’s “postcards” written by character Suzanne Vale, but this portion from the Epilogue speaks to me now:

[…I still don’t think I feel the way I perceive other people to feel. I don’t know if the problem lies in my perception or my comfort. Either way I come out fighting, wrestling with my nature, as it were. And golly, what a mother of nature it is. Sometimes, though, I’ll be driving, listening to loud music with the day spreading out all over, and I’ll feel something so big and great—a feeling as loud as the music. It’s as though my skin is the only thing that keeps me from going everywhere all at once. …] 
Happy New Year,
Suzanne

Carrie Fisher lived a life big and bold, and I’m glad her skin kept her here with us as long as it did. Wherever you are now, Carrie, I hope there’s nonstop loud music and feelings so big and great. You were one helluva writer and human being. Rest in peace.

 

 

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Coco, RIP

cocofor-rip

Joined the family August 18, 2005
Said goodbye November 17, 2016

You came to us as Cocoa, and Wildebeest changed that to Coco.
Over the years you were our Coco Sue, Susan, and Speckled Snake Dog.
No matter the name, you were always our funny friend
with the big eyes and catfish whiskers.
You could run faster and see farther than anyone,
and now you can do that forevermore.
Plus eat all the poop you want.

Rest in peace, Coco Sue.

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Leon Russell, RIP

Leon Russell went to the big piano bench in the sky last night. When Zippy told me the news, I felt deflated. But I didn’t realize how hard his death had hit me until I put on “A Song for You.” I couldn’t finish listening because the grief was too intense.

Leon Russell was a singer-songwriter who created music I was ALWAYS thrilled to hear whether it came on the radio, popped up on an iPod shuffle, or was background music in a shopping mall. I never wanted to tune him out. Leon Russell’s music made me smile, made me feel, and inspired me to sing along. His voice was unusual, his phrasing could trip me up, and his piano playing made me want to dance.

leon-russell-albums

These two albums reside in my record cabinet. I don’t remember when I bought the Best Of, but have a very clear memory of buying Looking Back. I’d spent the day at the beach and was in the neighborhood supermarket in West Los Angeles when I passed a bin of deeply discounted albums. (I remembered this being a cut-out, but when I pulled it out of my cabinet just now, I was surprised to see there are no notches in the cardboard). This particular Leon Russell record was being sold for about $2, and I snatched it up. Any Leon Russell is great Leon Russell, right? He could sing the phone book and I’d listen.

Well, I got home and discovered that Looking Back was purely instrumental. Leon didn’t even sing! Not only that, Leon didn’t play the piano! On Looking Back, Leon played the harpsichord!

I have to admit I didn’t listen to that album a whole lot over the years (and I doubt any radio stations ever played cuts from it), but I’m still glad I bought it. That record represents an enduring memory from my time in LA. Also? It’s fun to think of Leon now playing in that super-band in the sky, shredding on his harpsichord while Leonard Cohen plays piano.

Thank you for all the music, Leon.
Rest in peace.

 

 

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On Being There for Those We Love

Yesterday morning I was in my yoga togs, ready for my routine, when the phone rang. It was Wildebeest. Bernice, his beloved elderly cat, was not doing well and Wildebeest was calling for support. Zippy and I divvied up responsibilities: he’d go as planned to help his mother with insurance/tow truck/etc following her Sunday night car accident (!), and I’d go to Wildebeest’s. I quickly changed into jeans, remarking that our Monday morning was now clearly in the Shit-Storm column rather than Sunshine-With-a-Strong-Chance-of-Clouds column.

The day got much harder and much shittier: Bernice died.

Beautiful Bernice (although this picture doesn't do her justice.)

Beautiful Bernice (although this picture doesn’t do her justice.)

Wildebeest adopted her soon after moving out and the two of them were best of friends. She got him through some very difficult times and over the years I was thankful for the unconditional love she gave my son. (Plus, she was a soft and beautiful cat with a quirky personality!)

Yesterday was a day of tears. One of those cry-until-your-face-hurts day of tears. But it was also a day filled with real emotions and conversation, and a little bit of laughter. Wildebeest and I were together for six hours, and while it was excruciating to witness his pain and loss, I was (and am) grateful I could be there. I’ve been off-and-on looking for a job, frequently beating myself up for being out of the employment game for so long, but yesterday reminded me of the benefits to being a non-salaried Mom.

RIP Bernice. You will always be in our hearts.
Flowers for Bernice post

 

His Name Wasn’t Stu

But that’s what I called him.

The name change started about the time he and my mother-in-law traveled to Alaska to visit Zippy and me. I mentioned in conversation that he didn’t seem like a Steve, but more of a Stu. So later on when we were in a gift shop in Fairbanks and I discovered a STU coffee mug, it was a done deal. My father-in-law was forevermore Stu.

Yesterday, the family honored his wishes and let Stu die. The nurses did everything to keep him comfortable, and in the hours before letting go, Stu was surrounded by his wife and four children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law. The last thing he said after opening his eyes and seeing us all there was “My chickadees.”

Stu had accepted, once and for all, how much his brood loved him. Following a surgery in early December, his last three months were mostly spent in hospitals and two different rehab facilities, with only a handful of days at home. His health had declined on several fronts and it was incredibly difficult for him. But the gift of those months was that Stu spent time with his family and had conversations he’d never had before. Emotionally honest conversations. Pre-surgery, there’d been a standing joke that Stu’s favorite children were the three different West Highland White Terriers he had over the years. Stu didn’t do emotions. Stu stiffly accepted hugs, but never initiated them. Stu was a rock.

Except, the evidence said otherwise.

From the start, Stu made me feel welcome in the family. Despite our vastly different social and political outlooks. Despite our vastly different dietary habits. Despite coming from such different backgrounds that we were practically aliens to one another, Stu and I had a bond.

Yes, Stu was a rock. Except for that time vacationing in Puerta Vallarta with a six-month-old Wildebeest, when Stu and my mother-in-law babysat so Zippy and I could have a quiet dinner alone. Wildebeest of the mighty lungs wailed the entire time we were gone, and Stu patiently held him and walked round and round the hotel pool, ignoring the other guests’ groans of “Here they come again.”

Stu was a rock, except when we were in Hawaii when I was pregnant with Zebu and the twisty-turny road up to the volcano made me sick and he pulled over to let me throw up in the ditch and then allowed me to drive the rest of the way, even though Stu always, always was the driver.

Stu was a rock, except when putting in hours in his woodshop making toys for his grandchildren.

Stu was a rock, except the time I overheard him telling a nurse about his wonderful family consisting of one wife, four children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, and ending it by saying he felt very bad for people who didn’t have family.

Stu was a rock, except when he confided that the one good thing to come out of his lengthy hospital stays was that he and I had become better friends.

Stu was a rock, except when he asked the physical therapist to call him Stu rather than Steve.

Stu was a rock, except when I got to his bedside yesterday and he reached out his hand for mine.

I’m so grateful I got to be one of Stu’s chickadees. When I sat down to write this, I caught a flash of movement in the pine tree outside the window. I looked closer and wasn’t at all surprised to see a Black-capped Chickadee hopping around the branches.

Not this morning's visitor, but another Black-capped Chickadee.

A relative of this morning’s visitor.

 

 

David Bowie: Kook Extraordinaire

David_Bowie_-_Hunky_Dory

I just listened to HUNKY DORY while lifting weights.
That might seem an odd choice for pumping iron,
but I’ve lifted to that album many times.
As I posted back in 2007,
HUNKY DORY is one of my desert island picks.
I’ve loved it ever since high school when I’d close myself
off in my room and play both sides.

Today might be the first time I cried while listening.
Kooks got to me first.

And if you ever have to go to school
Remember how they messed up this old fool
Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads
‘Cause I’m not much cop at punching
Other people’s Dads
And if the homework brings you down
Then we’ll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown

Will you stay in our Lovers’ Story
If you stay you won’t be sorry
‘Cause we believe in you
Soon you’ll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

And then Quicksand really brought the tears.

I’m not a prophet or a stone age man
Just a mortal with potential of a superman
I’m living on
I’m tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien
Can’t take my eyes from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don’t explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it
Or, the next Bardot
I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain’t got the power anymore.

Don’t believe in yourself
Don’t deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death’s release

However, as Wildebeest said this morning:
“I never met him, but I don’t think he’d want us to be all mopey.”
Wildebeest listened to lots of Let’s Dance today.

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues

And finally, here’s my favorite tribute I came across today:
12523575_1689861697928467_582389973_n(1)

RIP Mr. Bowie.

Friday Five: The Farewell-to-Lebowski Edition

On Wednesday, July 10, we said goodbye to Lebowski. We adopted The Dude (known as “Harry” on his adoption papers) from the Dumb Friends League in November of 2004. I went to the shelter with the intent of adopting another female cat (I’d had two females before, Diva and Isis), and instead ended up with the friendliest (male) cat I’d ever met.

Lebowski would run ahead of us and flop down on the floor, inviting us to rub his tummy. At which time, he’d purr in the loudest tones. Writhing in ecstasy.Lebowski 027Making that constant contactWhen people came to the house, he’d hang back a minute or two but then stroll out to make introductions. Lebowski viewed everyone as potential friends and ear-scratchers.Batman and Lebowski 002He had a good relationship with Coco (pictured below) and Zoey, the two shelter dogs we adopted in the year after he joined us. He tolerated their sniffing and nuzzling, and he repaid them with friendly swats on their heads from where he perched atop their crates.Dogs and Cat 026This summer was The Gift of Lebowski. Expectations were that he’d die in May but he stayed with us for almost another ten weeks. I spent most of the summer with him. Lots of time on the bed or couch, but increasingly either on the deck, the patio, or wandering the backyard. He had quality of life as he watched (and sometimes chased) the butterflies and stalked beetles. In the final days, he was happy to curl up beneath the yarrow and valerian where he could observe everything around him. Lebowski 004I like to say that Lebowski won the lottery when we brought him home because for the rest of his life he had four devoted friends who loved on him and satisfied his hedonism. But that lottery feeling went both ways. I’m forever grateful the female cat I’d picked out to meet/adopt didn’t want anything to do with me and that the shelter volunteer then said, “You know who’s a really nice cat you should meet . . .”

Words can’t do him justice.