MY GOODBYE GIRL

IMG_0665REGGAE. What a totally preposterous name for a dog, but my eight-year-old son was just learning to play guitar and breathed all things Bob Marley, Jamaican, and Rastafarian. When I vetoed the idea of him naming this new puppy Bob (which would cause mucho confusion at family events, with several of his uncles and cousins bearing the name. A shriek of “Stop peeing on the floor Bob!”, would garner all the wrong kind of attention). Marley was rejected also; no need to be reminded of a sad canine film forty times a day. Both Jamaica and Rastafarian had too many syllables, which left Reggae as the only viable name.

Several months ago, at the ripe old age of 13, Reggae began doing something quite disconcerting. She would sit beside me and stare at me for hours at a stretch, like she was trying to memorize every detail of my being on a cellular level. There was such sorrow in her eyes, which really freaked me out and I became convinced that she must be imbued with a secret knowledge that one of us was not long for this world. Since neither of us were spring chickens, I figured there was a 50/50 chance it could be either/or.

When she began needing to go outside a dozen times a day and her back legs could no longer be trusted to keep her upright, her vet warned me to prepare myself to say goodbye, probably no later than Thanksgiving or Christmas. Mr. Adorable and I immediately chucked her diet plan out the window and began spoiling her with every possible treat and tidbit. Want to sniff the same blade of grass for 27 minutes? No problem whatsoever. Want to head to your favorite beach and laze under the huge live oak tree for hours? No problem, my sweet baby girl.

Then suddenly, in a matter of hours, her condition worsened so swiftly and she was in so much distress, I knew her Rainbow Bridge moment had arrived. I’d been fortunate over the years and never had to witness a pet exiting planet earth. On the ranch, there was always a dad, uncle, or grandpa around to administer the merciful gunshot to alleviate their suffering after a snake bite or run in with a vehicle. Then, it became my husband’s sad task to make that final trip to the vet’s office; I knew I couldn’t bear it.

But there was no testosterone in sight on Reggae’s awful final day, so off we went, on my girl’s final “bye bye in the car”. I was crying so hard I have no idea how we navigated the highway in one piece. I had a completely different vision of what was going to occur, one that had no connection to the actual reality. I brought her favorite New Age music on my IPad to play for her because it always made her dreamy and relaxed. My pockets were stuffed with every treat we possessed and I was armed with her favorite lovey. All utterly pointless, as it turned out.

The vet gave her a sedative and within seconds she was deeply asleep, rendering all my preparations moot. Once he administered her Heaven Juice, her heart stopped in under 15 seconds. It all seemed so brutally swift and such an ignoble ending to our long love affair. No pomp, no circumstance, no ceremony, no goodbye rituals.

I’m stunned by the number of tears I’ve shed and the cringing that happens when I enter this empty apartment and realize that goofy face full of constant joy isn’t there to greet me. The silence inside my home is screamingly loud. I’ve decided that this will be my last pet; too much pain comes from loving something so much and I won’t risk that again. I’m sure I made Mr. Adorable nervous when he caught me checking out inhabitants of the local shelter on their website, searching their faces for something intangible. Something that would catch at my heart and make me look closer to see if maybe, just maybe…

It seems incomprehensible that, with the glaring exceptions of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and New Mexico, our pets are treated with more compassion than we citizens are. No loving pet owner would allow their precious baby to suffer in agony for months because vets weren’t allowed to perform euthanasia. As humans, if we want the same compassion and swift end to our suffering from a horrible terminal illness, we would have to relocate to one of these five states in order to execute what should be an extremely personal choice. Imagine being violently ill and having to leave behind your family, friends, home, and community to live in a strange and unfamiliar place in order that you might write your own final ending to this adventure called Life. Where is the humanity in that?

Someone suggested to me last week that hospice was almost as good an option as assisted suicide but I disagree. I know my mom, who opted to stop dialysis for her acute renal failure, would certainly disagree. She was told she would have a maximum of 72 hours to live after stopping her treatment and all the sweetie wanted was to get out of the hospital and die in her bed, her home. The allotted 72 hours turned into three weeks and while her hospice care was at a rock-star level, she would have jumped at the chance to NOT have a nurse or companion change her diapers or help her shower and dress when I was at work. Sadly, in North Carolina, you are not allowed the option of speeding up the inevitable.

When  I am elected President of The World, which I expect any minute now, my first executive order will be to stock every soda vending machine with Kevork Kola. Drinking one will be your own personal “Stop the world; I want to get off” beverage. I think that instead of spending time in prison Jack Kevorkian should have been canonized. He should receive every possible humanitarian award posthumously.

So, Governor Jerry Brown, what do you say to signing the Brittany Maynard bill by the October 11 deadline and affording the residents of your state the same dignity and compassion we show our pets?

WHEN YOUR CURRY DOESN’T HURRY

comcast suxIt took COMCAST only five days to do what no one else has successfully achieved in 62 years. They turned this flower child, peace-loving, OM chanting pacifist into a heavily armed and dangerous weapon of redheaded annihilation. I want to terminate every single Indian citizen in New Delhi or Calcutta who works for any call center. I am now officially a racist.

Those elitist snobs (generally liberal Democrats who voted for President Obarfup) who sniff disdainfully at something foul in the wind when asked about their TV viewing habits and will only reluctantly cop to watching PBS? Not me Sista. I am an unabashed TV baby. My DVR holds such a special place in my life that I prepare it kosher meals and set an extra plate for her at dinner. We get manis and pedis together; she is truly my BFF.

So, when one of our daily violent lightening storms blew her up last week, I was understandably devastated. Since this wasn’t my first rodeo with a scorched DVR, I went through all the usual checklist before embarking on that dreaded 90-minute phone call with Raj or Samir in India. Reboot, check, 3 times. Swap out cables, check, twice. Not even Mr. Adorable, with his backpack of skills, could fix my issue. Nothing revived my darling DVR; she was officially DOA and my 48 episodes of “The Barefoot Contessa”, 20 assorted movies, “The Millionaire Matchmaker”, and 79 “House Hunters” would have to RIP beside her.

Grief-stricken and verklempt, I fortified myself with two Grey Goose dirty martinis prior to placing that dreaded call; here in Paradise COMCAST will not send a repair tech to your home until you have been ground down by Raj or Samir for a requisite 90 minutes. It’s like penance for a Catholic; you can’t achieve relief until you ante up the vig. First, you are required to input every personal identifier God could create, not simply your account number and name, like any other company with a conscience and a soupcon of customer service. DOB, SS#, complete address, how many ounces of lint are currently residing in your belly button, and what was the maiden name of your eighth grade boyfriend’s mother?

Then, suddenly, there is the ear-splittingly high-pitched, heavily accented voice of one Raj, who persists in calling himself Joe, Bob, or Jim. They love to spin the fantasy that they are just around the corner from wherever you are, and are American to boot. “Oh hello Miss Ree Knee. So pleased to be allowed the most intense pleasure of the possibility of perhaps assisting you in your utmost troubles this very evening. How can your faithful servant Joe facilitate your joy this most pleasant day?” If obsequious was a scent I’d be inhaling that and chicken curry vindaloo through the phone line.

Predictably, after 90 minutes of rug-burned knees, holding a flashlight between my teeth and twisting my arthritic bits into positions that would make Swami Muktananda proud, and wriggling around like a Thalidomide baby, Joe sighs. “My most humble disappointment at being unable to assist you in your sorrowing troubles will be most vexing to me for long time to yet come, I am sure. My failure to resolve your sadness will bring deep shame upon my family’s name for many centuries forward. I apologetically request that you drive over two hours tomorrow and the headquarters will replace your annihilated box and cable, most enthusiastically I’m quite certain.”

Joe’s strikeouts continued when Headquarters smugly informed me that they changed policy and no longer allow customers to swap out their damaged boxes. Would I like to schedule a tech house call 4 days hence? No… but what I really wanted to do was rearrange all of your teeth, without benefit of anesthetic.

Arriving home, after a 2-hour drive to and from Paradise, with my deceased BFF on the seat beside me, I received a call from Samir, Joe’s more demonic and much less polite coworker. He demanded that I immediately reconnect all that Joe had put asunder the evening prior in order that his advanced technical team could run diagnostics. Looking down at the rug burns on my knees and elbows, I sweetly demurred; I would wait the four long days. “In that situation it will be most essential to cancel the technician visit; they cannot be scheduled until we resolve your trouble, which we most unreservedly do, over 120% of our chances.” Garrotted and defeated, I once again hit the carpet, knowing at least another 90 minutes of skin to surface pleasure was on the menu. When Samir was thwarted in his resurrection attempts, he promptly hung up on me. Yep, no exchange of pleasantries or good wishes for BFF’s successor, no marriage proposal, no plans to meet to break garlic naan…just a dead phone line.

Today, Day 4 arrives, as does COMCAST tech and hero Adam, who diagnosed and corrected the problem in under 3 seconds. My dear BFF was rescued from the jaws of death and pronounced fully restored, no replacement needed. Did I mention Adam is completely and resoundingly AMERICAN. Amen.

COMCAST…Satan is preparing a special place in hell for you and your imperious ways as we speak. And that, my friend, is the most polite thing I am allowed to say about how much you suck on this PG rated blog.

comcast

RETIREMENT REDUX

It’s deja vu all over again!! If your first retirement turns out to be just a dress rehearsal…try it again, hopefully this time with a more permanent result.

In April I received news from my beloved Social Security Administration that I could collect survivor’s benefits from my deceased husband and actually make more income than I was making at a full-time job I didn’t love. For the first time in my life I not only wanted to kiss a civil servant, but possibly even birth his babies! Angels sang and the seas parted. I spied my opportunity to write to my heart’s content, unplug my alarm clock, and head for the beach as often as desired. For the first and only time since my husband’s suicide in 2005, there would finally be a by-product with a happy ending. One that didn’t involve shock, devastation, financial mayhem and debt.

My calendar now looks like this:

                                MONDAY

MONDAY

             TUESDAY

TUESDAY

                WEDNESDAY

WEDNESDAY

                THURSDAY

THURSDAY

                 FRIDAY

FRIDAY

                SATURDAY

SATURDAY

                 SUNDAY

SUNDAY

Ahh… it’s off to the hammock for a nap now, under the swaying palms and subtropical breeze. It’s been an exhausting week!

TEARDROPS ON THE SAND

image from boatrentik.net

image from boatrentik.net

When the man I’d been dating for seven months proposed to me in October 1987, I hesitated, unsure, unwilling to risk a second marriage. Virgoian by nature, pros and cons lists were drawn up; red flags were duly noted. For two long months I prevaricated. Then came Christmas Day.

It was time to meet Rob’s family, all 29 of them…all at once. “How should I dress?”, I foolishly inquired of him. “Oh, we’re a really laidback, beach-type family, super casual. Jeans and a sweater would be just right”. NEVER ask for sartorial advice from a man, unless he happens to be gay or in the fashion biz, I realized too late, as the door to their home swung open to reveal 29 curious and expectant faces, all impeccably dressed for a formal Christmas dinner in gorgeous cocktail attire.

Despite that rocky start, I was enveloped into this amazing family’s warmth and graciousness and immediately became one of their merry band. I felt like I had been issued a passport into a Norman Rockwell painting, roaring fires in a grand home, massive Xmas trees, piles of gifts, and incredible food. And love and Irish humor, and more love, then more laughter. This was what I’d been searching for so desperately since I was a little kid.

On the way home that night, I told Rob that yes, I would marry him. That raucous Irish clan of his had sealed the deal. I didn’t so much marry a man as much as I married his family, with the stability and continuity I knew I would find there.

For almost 20 years, these thirty souls shared dune-side marriage proposals, beach weddings, Easter egg hunts, and summer vacations at their home on the Jersey Shore. It was a languid and magical period that seemed to have no end, until one day…it did. The family patriarch, Uncle Ed, died suddenly and unexpectedly. This incredible man was so beloved by so many that, despite a massive snowstorm that crippled the Northeast, hundreds of mourners risked life and limb to attend his service. Kilts were donned, pipers piped, and a wake ensued, as only the Irish know how.

All those years of Uncle Ed’s love and devotion that he so generously heaped upon all of us, the special things that he remembered about each and every one of us, despite a very active life in politics and a run for governor of New Jersey. He noted and cataloged the kind of bagels we each liked, our favorite donuts and coffee, who had shellfish allergies. The bar was always stocked with our favorite sins, and a warm welcome and that blue-eyed twinkling smile was always there, solid and immovable and always ready to lend any of us a hand. He and his wife walked the talk when Rob and I were in the midst of an open adoption and the birth mother wanted to live closer to us during her pregnancy. Uncle Ed immediately extended an invitation for her and her young son to come live at their beach house for six months. I can’t conjure the inconvenience this arrangement must have cost them, but that was how this family operated, glued tightly together, bonded against the world.

In the 18 years since Uncle Ed’s passing, many more great grandbabies have been born, weddings planned, and calendar pages flipped. Since Rob’s death in 2005, my son and my connection to the family has loosened, mostly due to geography. It is with incredible sadness I have recently learned of the fracturing of this once rock solid family. Siblings are now pitted against one another, cousins are estranged, mothers and daughters are at war. Sides have been chosen and lines drawn in the sand.

What is at the heart of this treachery? What is the name of the demon destroying this family? A single beach house, a seemingly innocent pile of lumber and memories. As Ed’s beloved widow edges closer to passing from this world, deep into her 90’s, a power struggle for ownership of the beach house has begun, despite legal documents having been drawn up years before, just in the event of such a fight.

With the wisdom and vantage point that only a departed soul can possess, I can only pray that Uncle Ed can see some sense behind all this madness that is causing his beloved children and grandchildren to jockey for position in the quest for this home. I’ve always believed that love, once created, never dies.  It may morph and shape shift, but it cannot be destroyed. I’m puzzled by what form this once strong familial love might have evolved into. Would it be recognizable?

I’m sure those are Uncle Ed’s teardrops I hear splashing on the sand.

WHISPERS OF YOU

angelstarzOne year ago, amongst the embers of a dying relationship, I first began to hear you.

You began as intuition, inner nudges that were nonsensical at the time, but, mystical creature that I am, I listened and decided to fine tune that radio dial…the better to hear you.

“Leave  him, leave there. Too much is missing. You are compromising so many of your wishes and desires to fit into his life. Leave him. And while you’re leaving him…leave big; come closer to me. Let go of your safety net. Leave it all…your job, your home, your friends, your only child. Come closer to me and I will be your home.”

So, defying all common sense and logic (a skill I excel at), I channeled my inner 1960’s hippie, sold almost all my possessions and moved to an alien place where I had no job and knew no one. Prior to this relocation I knew I was a pretty tough cookie, but that single action took a breathtaking and daring leap of faith that had my heart pounding and me doubting my sanity. Because, while I heard your beckoning, I did not yet know you or how I would recognize you when I stumbled upon you.

Upon arrival I realized it would be up to me to tune in closely and listen more intently in order to find this mysterious whisperer in this foreign place. This led to all those hilarious but utterly pointless encounters with Senior Senile Senor dating. I persevered because the clarity of my vision of you was more clearly drawn with every flip of the calendar page.

I could feel the strength of your character, the extreme goodness and kindness of your soul. Trust, truth, and gentleness emanated like a beacon from all around you. I reveled in anticipation of the towering strength I felt from you and your ability to walk through your own personal hell and ultimately emerge, smiling and intact, at the far end of that tunnel. Yet, where were you? Who were you? Impatient, I kept demanding a sign from my deceased mom, fearful of just narrowly missing you.

The night you opened the door to your house to welcome me and my friends in, the sense of recognition was palpable and overwhelming. I was home. Oh, and that sign I asked for from my mom? How about having the same name and initials as my dad?

One of Cupid’s wee ironies was having us almost side by side at the same event for seven long months, both completely oblivious to one another.

I’ll never know for certain if my finding you was the result of whispers from a loving and benevolent Universe or because I spent so many hours visualizing exactly what I desired that caused you to materialize. I do know that for years I have chased after the feeling behind that mischievous grin that my parents always had in every single photo…a look of pure glee that they had defied the odds and found one another. They weren’t just fortunate to have found each other, they were also smart enough to understand and pay respect and homage to the amazing love they were gifted with.

Sooo, Mr. Adorable, I can’t wait to ride this wave with you, to see where it will lead. One thing that is certain…we will both honor the journey and laugh our butts off to the end of the highway.

The next time you hear that little voice inside your head urging you to do something totally outside your wheel house, give it a second listen. The Universe might just be trying to offer you a delicious gift.

Feature image courtesy of http://www.angelfire.com

 

JIMMY TIGHTLIPS

spongebobI am firmly convinced that all the wackadoodle things that tumble through my life exist for the sole purpose of providing me with blog fodder. What other explanation could there possibly be (cue the ghostly music)? Case in point….

When I headed to Texas, following the interlude of the Monster Madness, and fell headlong into the protective arms of my crazy ranching relatives, sure that this would be my final watering hole, I crossed paths with a gentleman who resembled a geometric building block more than a homo sapien. Turns out he was our family’s accountant. He stumbled through our kitchen a few times while doing some tax work for my uncle. Imagine a man, probably no more than 5’6″, weighing roughly 300 lbs., who was completely formed in the shape of a square. Now envision only about 14″ of this critter being legs. Think SpongeBob SquarePants on steroids. His beefeater arms hug to his hirsute knees, as did his capris. Suffice it to say that after a few sightings of SquarePants, you would never mistake him for anyone else, even with multiple shots of tequila coursing through your veins.

I overheard snippets of whispers from my cousins, Laredo Porter Wagoner and Austin Johnny Cash, hinting at our accountant’s murky past, something about New York or Jersey, and a scandal, possibly involving a family named Gotti. So loyal and secretive was SquarePants towards his former affililates that my family had nicknamed him Jimmy Tightlips. Call me crazy but I think the ability to keep closely guarded secrets of the clients who provide your livelihood is an exemplary trait in a CPA.

You can only imagine my shock some months later when I walked into my friend’s house for brunch, and there, nearly crumbling the dining room chair he was perched on, sat Jimmy Tightlips. He seemed to recognize me, yet couldn’t quite place the face, after all, we were in a world far removed from Texas. From the little that my friend, Sleuthing Susie, has been able to deduce from Jimmy and his equally taciturn wife, is that they are here in the tropics in the witness protection program. The couple rarely speak or proffer information, while they both watch you furtively from beneath downcast eyes, perpetually processing and assessing everything around them, whilst never revealing any details of their lives, past or present. Sleuthing Susie is ruthless in her pursuit of the true origins of Jimmy and his wife, and therefore eagerly agreed to housesit their five Pomeranians whenever they leave Paradise. To date, her exhaustive efforts have been fruitless, no photos, no old letters, nada. The place is as sterile as a Holiday Inn, and none of the Five Pomegranates are talking barking. Which causes me to ponder…Can I turn in someone in witness protection? And if so, to whom? And would there possibly be a reward involved? Would I become the mascot and poster child of the FBI or America’s Most Wanted? Or would I fare better by approaching the mob directly? I do so passionately adore both Italian food and Italian men, so that route holds delicious potential.

Speaking of potential…I might have a little secret I’m keeping from you.

Remember that blind date my hippie friend Mentah set up for me last Saturday? Imagine if Val Kilmer (before the weight gain), Kurt Russell, and Jeff Bridges mated (now there’s a visual)…this man could be the result. He was so unrelentingly gorgeous I kept glancing over my shoulder, sure I would spy Allen Funt and his Candid Camera crew filming this. He spoke fluent Chinese and French, was impeccably dressed, with nary an ascot in sight. He was so smart and attentive and absolutely PERFECT….on paper. I spent the entirety of our three hour lunch racking my brain over which of my single girlfriends I could fix this adorable boy up with. Mon Dieu, I know what you’re thinking! After all the Crypt Keepers with their walkers and man boobs she’s gone out with, and now she wants to throw this one back in the water?!?

Well children, it isn’t only Jimmy Tightlips who can keep a secret. Yours truly has one too. Suffice it to say I’ve been walking around Paradise, Somewhere In This World, with a huge shit-eating grin on my face since early December.

And that’s all you’re getting out of this Jenny Tightlips for this blog!

Happy Weekend!

 

Feature image courtesy of glogster.com

 

THE CHRISTMAS TREE CONTEMPLATIONS

xmas treeOther than my son, my dog, and random pieces of furniture, there is not one single element of my life as it existed on January 1, 2014, that remains standing. I often wake up in the morning and look around in awe at how this sea change occurred and how I came to be in this wondrous new life I’ve fashioned.

Since I was twelve years old the ceremony of taking down the Christmas tree and “undecorating” the house has always held great meaning for me. It forces me to pause and think back over the past year and applaud my successes and mourn my failures, which are epic. I look at the blank slate of the year lying ahead, still unwritten, like a pristine notebook on the first day of school, with a slight shudder of excitement, anticipation, and dread. Who and/or what will still be populating my world one year hence?

What tiny voice whispered in my ear one dark and sleepless night in Cary NC and caused me to jettison a man I loved so deeply, our home, my job…and move to a land where I knew no one? What invisible hand gently pushed against my back and nudged me to this place, when I had the whole wide world to choose from?

My exit from NC was the second time I have cast aside a wonderful love in order to follow my inner whisperer. Both times caused so much pain and heartbreak, and months of acid tears I thought would erode me. I have decided that personal sorrow and universal sorrow are made of the same stuff, and in their essential nature are the doorways to compassion.

Is the constant change and transience of human life essential to bringing about spiritual growth and insight? I view all events, both good and bad, as a treasure chest for the evolution of soul. Every occurrence and person crossing my path has meaning and is a result and consequence of previous choices and actions. If we are able to see our challenges as opportunities for constructive change, then hopefully our growth will be rapid. I have finally learned to stop attempting to control every element of my life and relinquish attachment to people and places, and realize there is a purposeful evolution to our lives.

Despite occasional exhaustion brought on by this voluminous life I signed up for, I wake up every morning fueled by the knowledge that my life is NOT a random walk, and that when I make my final bow and exit stage left I will look back proudly, grinning and clutching my PHD in LIFE.

Right now, with all the ornaments carefully packed away, and my sadly denuded Xmas tree in its final resting place, I plan on a long nap in the hammock. Because, unlike those years leading up to my husband’s suicide, when I could smell and sense the predatory nature of the wolf on the other side of my door, today I can’t wait to throw open that door and embrace whatever lovely gift the Universe has waiting for me on the other side.

Wishing you all the enchantment life can hold in 2015. Thanks for loyally following my foolishness.

Brace yourselves…Gracie has another blind date Saturday. One day…one of these fellas WON’T be appalling and won’t I be in for a surprise?!?

Feature image courtesy of brentwood.thefuntimesguide.com