Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Morning After

I don't know how I made it through the first night without Bow. I just managed to do it. The many messages of support from so many quarters helped. Most were virtual messages not phone calls which helped. I needed to be alone, feel the emptiness. Having lived with illness for over a year, that emptiness was both agonizing and a relief. Bow was gone, but so was her suffering.

My sleep was calm, and I rose before 6:30, amazed by how okay I felt. My instincts told me that I needed to keep to our routines. Twisted as it may sound, I readied like any morning, but her collar in my pocket and began to walk our usual two mile route. Immediately I felt comforted to know that while her physical presence was not there but all the familiar things were. Life does go on. I felt that I was going to be fine, agonizing as it might be.

At the end of the second block, the little girl that greets us every morning must have seen the top of my head from her window and called out "Good morning, Bow. I love you Bow." For the first time since it happened I wept. I am not sure they were tears of grief. Having lived with her cancer for over a year, I feel that much of that time was filled with grief and dread of the eventual passing of my beloved.

As I walked further, I passed many familiar neighbors and their dogs, not able to make eye contact. Many had commented on how concerned they were about Bow and me in the previous weeks, and it had been more than a month since she could make it past the first few blocks. In that moment, as I could feel people sensing my sadness as I walked I felt her with me, felt the way she touched so many lives in this neighborhood. Someday I will walk this same route with another basenji, and as it pulls on the leash and I know what to do, I will feel Bow with me. I will know what to do because of her, and in that moment I will know that she is there living within me.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goodbye My Lady

The horrible day I have dreaded for more than a year since Bow's brain tumor was first discovered finally arrived today. I had to say goodbye to her after every effort to give her a reasonable life and exhausting her every last medical option.

Her specialist in Davis said in early December that she would probably not make it past Christmas. Her primary vet said a few weeks ago that the time had come. Today we were scheduled to see our neurologist who had treated her most recent seizures and to see if there were any last options.

The entire month of March got increasingly miserable. She came down with Giardia and bounced back a bit, but even after recovering, her days were worse. Most of her waking hours were spent spinning in circles, hanging her head down, standing in corners. She could not find her food. When I asked her to sit, she would spin in a circle and then finally sit, usually facing opposite me trying to find me but not able to. Walking was increasingly difficult. Being in the sun -- one of her favorite places -- was impossible on walks, and she would just drop her head in pain and could barely move forward.

Last night, she was restless in bed but finally found a position with her back against my stomach as was her normal place. She moved around the bed throughout the night. As the first glimpse of sunlight crept through, I realized that her head was facing mine on the pillow, something she had never done. Her good eye, the left, was looking at me intently and with a lucidity it had not done in over a month. (Most times she could not lift her head to look up at me when called.) Then she gently placed her paw on my cheek. It almost felt as if she might say words. In a second she moved, started spinning and was disoriented the rest of the day.

I really can't recall the rest of the day until our 4 p.m. appointment rolled around. She had to be carried most of the way. She wasn't agitated, just a bit disoriented and breathing heavily. The specialist said that she had reached the maximum dose of her medications before they would become increasingly toxic and would quickly compromise her liver, kidneys and other organs. There was one last drug that might reduce the swelling, but clearly the tumor was advancing more aggressively. The chances of a violent series of seizures taking her life in the middle of the night was very likely. He said that at best she might have two weeks left, and two very miserable weeks.

These were the words I needed to hear, and the procedure began. It was quick, she was calm and her body finally rested free of the pain against me. I held her just for a few more minutes, knowing that what I was holding was no longer Bow. She was with me, in my heart but no longer in that room.

There were no tears as I walked down Alabama Street, numb but well aware of every bird chirping, every tree blooming, every step along this familiar route that we had taken. The moment I arrived home I posted her passing on Facebook. Within seconds I heard my smart phone chirping with the arrival of condolences from friends all over the world. It took a while before I could look at them. For the moment I just needed to walk and be out of the house.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fun with Hot Organs

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Tuesday's Menu: Italian Cheese

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Monday, March 21, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: Nobody Dared

Another entry in the Magpie Tales.

When Brent and Jennifer invited everyone over for the big reveal of their dining room redo, everyone marveled at what a wonderful job that had done.

"I really want to know who your colorist is," Brenda said.

"It's called Terracotta Thunder," Jennifer said.

"Really so rich. Manly yet regal," Bevin was quick to add.

Nobody dared. Mention. It. Even though the second they were in their cars and not even backed out of the drive, each couple stared at each other and said. "Could you believe it?"

Well, this certainly wasn't the first time they had ignored something connected to Brent and Jennifer. Susan had seen him with that awful woman sitting so close to him at the boat club last summer. And when Jennifer produced yet another putrid soup, everyone took a couple scoops and said it was delicious, and Jennifer didn't make a comment a few minutes later when she removed their still full bowls of soup. "How was it?"

"Terrific as always, Jennifer. What's your secret."

Todd and Theresa drove in silence until Theresa finally said, "Well, at least it's not as if he had some animal head on the wall. They're just weapons. Mock weapons, I'm sure."

"Don't make excuses for him, Terri. And for all we know it might be Jennifer's. You know how odd she can be."

"I'm not making excuses. Can't you give me the benefit of the doubt?"

Meanwhile as they cleared the table, Jennifer finally let loose a joyous laugh. "Did you see them? Just how hard they strained to keep smiling and not look?"

"You really outdid yourself this time, Jen. Your best presentation yet. Just imagine what must be going on as they get ready for bed and keep discussing it. Every last little prim pair of them, daring to say everything they wouldn't dare to say here."

Jennifer let a satisfied grin fill her face as she lifted the heavy soup tureen and poured its contents down the drain. "Entertaining can be so entertaining...when you have a certain flair."

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Let's Hear It for Martin Böttcher

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Train Ambition

That train ride home was full of bristling emotions and words in the mental cloud. There might have been a moon out there if he had taken time to look above the dust on his brow.

Bitter ambitions pay odd dividends. No one knew that better than Wendy, and Burtom would never acknowledge that. His monograms were all so out of whack. BCA - Burtrom Carter Alspaugh.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

This Morning Before the Monsoons

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kicking High Down South

We dearly love both Charlotte Greenwood and Argentina. Put the two together with a dash of Nicholas Brothers, and it's heaven beyond heaven.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: Pansies on New Year's Day

This week's contribution to the Magpie Tales.

The one bit spring that could be seen year round was that little stall the Drabble sisters tended next to the cigar store at 8th Avenue and Conover. Even in the dead of winter, they managed to have lilies, orchids, violets and pansies.

"Orchids grow in every state of the Union," Elda, the senior Drabble sibling would say. "So it should be no surprise to see them here today. I think we're a good 40 degrees warmer than Alaska this time of year."

Where the Drabbles sourced their flowers was always a great mystery. Some said that there was a vast basement with heat lamps below that ramshackle house of theirs up on North Tedabury. When pressed for information on where they could find irises in the blazing dead heat of August or dainty pansies in a blizzard of February was always an urban legend.

Tillie was the one who came up with the idea of diversifying and adding pastries that they bragged were home made. The fact that they were made in the Drabble home was reason enough to heed caution. Many suspected that extra crunchy appeal in their snickerdoodles was potting soil. And only the bravest would dare to nosh on their Emerald Wonder Muffins.

When they retired and moved downstate, it just never was the same. Sammy Raulston ran that little hat and cap stall for a while and sold some fine alpaca scarves. Hernando Guggenheim did well with his counterfeit Gucci and Versace bags and wallets for several years. Now there is a little booth that sells lottery tickets. People shell out their bucks with the hope that luck or fate will reward them, but it just never had the magic of pansies on New Year's Day.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Ancient Mechanics Club of Modesto, California

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Agatha Christie's Murder at the Bellagio

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Mountains of Moleskines

With the demise of many Borders outlets, printed magazines and newspapers, there seem to be a lot of books being written about the topic. Sort of like a Dodo bird support and discussion group on extinction.

I've been reading one of them, Hamlet's Blackberry by William Powers. Like others he makes a case for taking time for being unplugged or at least having a balance. The fact that he has a website for the book shows he's not for complete removal of the wired life.

Midway through he makes a case for the Moleskine. I have my fair share of Moleskines as well as other variants. I am also an obsessive journal keeper. I have a basic daily journal that I do on my laptop but also yoga journals, gardening journals, travel journals, house journals, health journals, dog health journals...I tend to call my Moleskines "flash journals" in which I paste photos, make collages, line art, fleeting thoughts. I'm also fond of my Flip Notes which come with a built in pen and are about a third the width of an iPhone.

The German film maker Heinz Emigholz even did a series of films called The Basis of Make-Up which are nothing but clips from his Moleskines or whatever brand he uses. Double spread pages flash on the screen for a fraction of a second interspersed with flash clips of unedited field video.
So I was thrilled to discover the page Moleskines: One Page at a Time and The Sketchbook Project 2011 at the Brooklyn Art Library which features 10,000 of them. Indeed, there is talent out there!

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MAGPIE TALE: Peel Quickly

Another Magpie Tales entry

Careful as you peel,
you'll want to save each
layer to write your life's story along the way.

Don't waste time with onion skin that
requires too much time and tempts you to write
baroque fiction or overwrought tributes to your route.

Life is short. Truth comes in blips until you come to the core.
Don't worry about the smell embedded in your fingers.
Like all things, it will fade. But be sure to jot a line now.
It may already be too late.

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