Sunday, June 18, 2017

Opening a Memory Box in My Brain.

Yesterday I visited the house I grew up in for the first time in a decade. Ten years ago, my parents moved to California for work adventures and rented out the 40-some acre hobby farm. Now, they're getting it ready to sell and I had a chance to poke around rooms I lived in from nine to nineteen. None of these memories are related - they all struck in random pictures from the dusty trunks in the attic of my head.

And as I drove down the back-roads in the country from my grandma's house to my old place, memories bounced around behind my eyeballs - some sort of washing over in a quick flash, some giving a hard Junebug-on-the-windshield smack to my brain.

The house my best friend lived in on Martin road, where I spent long Friday nights with her plotting futures. We went to prom with our boyfriends as a double date - that was the time I lost the $100 bill down the front of my dress (people, this is the shit that happens when I foolishly attempt to be sexy or flirtatious, seriously) and royally pissed off my boyfriend. Rightly so, really. She and I are friends on Facebook now, and it seems like life went a lot like the intended plan for her, which is awesome. My path has twisted and turned so often I can't even remember what I wanted during those long conversations. Funny how that works.

I passed that spot on the two lane road in the country where my little Mazda 323 hit a patch of slush on my way to work in the mall. I was seventeen. I think I spun a total of three and a half times that day, somehow managed to stay in the center of the road instead of flying off into the ditch, and ended up facing the right way in the wrong lane. I remember the exhilaration and fear, and giggling as I moved over into my own lane and went off to work. Pretty sure I never told my parents THAT one.

My high school boyfriend's house, still standing back in the trees behind the wooden privacy fence, although the bar across the road is gone and a new stop sign has been added on the corner. His parents were always home when I spent time there.

His parents had very different rules for their son than mine had for their daughter, and some kisses will never be told.

I had a 10:30 curfew in high school. I'd leave his house frantically at 10:20 for the fifteen minute drive home and speed the whole way, usually getting there a minute or two late.

I can still be made late by a romantic relationship. I'm still not sorry.

The road I lived on clearly hasn't been resurfaced since long before I moved away. The houses along the way are the same. The eagles still hang out in the treeline fifty yards back from the road, watching for anything hit by the speeders going over fifty-five. The one on the road as I passed gave me a distinct LOOK before lazily spreading an impressively terrifying wingspan and flying out of the way of my truck. I'm glad I wasn't on a bike.

The fence is down. The front pastures where first Kalli, then later Shadow, met me at the corner when the bus dropped me off after school are mostly gone. Only the line of mowed lawn versus thigh-high grasses marks the place the fence once kept our horses contained. The river, once easily visible where it splits one of the pastures, is lined by tall bushes and overgrowth without the herd keeping the space cleaned out. I used to drop my bookbag, duck under the fence, and jump on for a quick ride before going in the house, or go stick my feet in the cold water where it ran fast enough over the rocks to discourage leeches, and hang out with the herd for a while. Some days I'd just race Shadow from the end of the driveway to the gate. I always lost, but he's do an extra lap just for fun, and I could watch him run in joy forever. My big grey gelding who hated to walk when dancing or galloping was so much more fun. I wonder if he was happy with the three little girls who took over his care when I moved to the city and sold him to another family. I hope they spoiled him rotten while he lived.

The big wooden fence along the road is down, too. Even the area in the other pasture, where I watched a moose step over the five foot fence like it was a minor bump in the road.

The back was no different - fencing all down, burrs growing where no herds keep the overgrowth under control.

The arena where Shadow and I practiced dressage, the bit of barbed wire where I got the scar on my thigh when I was eleven, the gates I could open from horseback...they're all down, hidden in the tall grass as traps for the unwary.

I didn't even bother with the barn. Judging by the state of the garage and house, I think seeing the place I spent the most time outside of my own room in the same condition would just make me sad.

The house is...well, let's say a decade of renters has not been kind to the house, who now looks more like a decrepit, sad, toothless creature too far gone to help. I remember working with Dad to put the addition on the back, the room where we celebrated Christmas for years before they moved. I remember the spring I graduated from high school was when we renovated the bedrooms, the bathrooms, and the kitchen. I lived for a couple of months in a old camper in the driveway while my room was under construction. I used to bitch that I'd only get a fancy new room with NEW CARPET for a little while (turned out to be a year before I moved out), and that my parents installed a dishwasher right as I'd be leaving so my sisters wouldn't have to hand-wash on their chore night. Oh the unfairness of it all!

The carpet in my old room is the same deep blue, underneath all the stains. I used to sleep under the once-new window and have nightmares that Freddy Kruger could get into my room through that first floor slider. I probably shouldn't have watched late night tv back when Friday the 13th was an actual show...good imagination.

I don't remember my bedroom being quite so small, but then I was smaller when I lived in it, so I suppose time and distance play tricks on spatial relations.

I miss being able to smell horses and river when I slept with the window open. I miss going out in the cold dark winter nights to look for northern lights above the hill. I miss how quiet it is, living where there is no major freeway or busy city street or airport flight patterns all within earshot.

Part of me is sickly happy the house and buildings are in their current condition - I think it might be harder to imagine selling the place to a new family if it looked as it did when my parents moved out. And maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to again live where I don't share walls or yard-visibility with my neighbors, where I don't have to leash my dog and I can have horses in a pasture. We'll see.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Dear 80's Just Say No Commercials - It's My Dog's Fault

Chewy is now a relatively perky old man on super pain-medication. That's right, my dog is now a drug addict. Awesome. I mean, he already drank out of the toilet and ate things better left unmentioned while outside and barked at invisible things - why not get him high too? (He learned it from the vet, by the way, not from me.)



Crap. You guys, I forgot to ask if starting these means he has to stay on them indefinitely or get DTs when he misses a dose. Oh my god...Great Pyrenees detoxing. NO. Just...no. 

Chewy loves his six pills twice a day for pain and antibiotics. (Not kidding: he does love them. He eats a giant dollop of peanut butter a couple times a day and feels better for a while after, so, to him peanut butter is FULL OF MAGIC. And really, is he wrong? I think not.) 

This doesn't stop his falling, but it does take enough of the aches and pains away that he perks up some when he's awake and has returned to his "I want you to think I'm ready to rip your face off, but really I'd just lick your face obsessively for a while, if I could be bothered to get off the ground which is WAY too much effort" bark-and-wheeze routine. The cottonwood in the back yard snowed all over the damn lawn, and for a couple of days he made sure all the fluffy seed fairies knew full well that he sees their nefarious floaty plans, dammit.  

It's been suggested to me that he needs an attachment on his collar. You know, like the whole St. Bernard whiskey-barrel thing? Do they make oxygen tanks that small, with a little snout-tube to help him take less wheeze-coughy breaths between barks? 

So, an improvement in day-to-day, but overall no major changes.That's both a blessing and not. Waiting for death is a patience game, and much like every other large life event it feels like everything else is on hold while I hang out and spend as much time as possible with my lumbering fluffball, until I can't anymore. 

In the meantime, it's supposed to be the surface of the goddamned SUN here on Saturday with fetid swampass humidity (fuck all of that) and I totally blame my ex, who's coming back from Dallas to visit and CLEARLY decided to torture me with Texas sweltering. 

But he's coming to visit his drug-addicted elderly dog, so, you know, mostly forgiven. 

You Houston girls, I miss you TONS. I do not miss 100+ temps. Feel free to visit this week too, because it's gonna feel just like home for you. 

Between Chewy and other icky life stresses, mostly I've been tired and not blogged. 
But we're still here, not writing. (Well, I'm not writing because I'm tired. Chewy's not writing because, and I'm being painfully honest here, he's a lazy ass who never bothered to learn to type and gives me pathetic excuses like "I don't have thumbs" or "all I'd write about is imaginary saber-toothed-bunnies anyway" or "hey is that cheese you're eating? I like cheese.")

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dear Death: I See You Here

This is not a funny post. Today was a bad day. My vet told me to do a good day/bad day jar for a couple of weeks, but I don't really need it.

Death is stalking my household.

Thanatos waits patiently in the shadowed corners of my living room while we watch movies and bark quietly at neighborhood kids or invisible monsters in the back yard. Badb is hanging out cross-legged on the floor under a desk in my office, casually flipping through books in my library, content but staying close.

If I'm lucky. Persephone is working on a new spot with Thor: one with enough toys that they can steal from each other again.

I know the sensation of Death lingering in my house. I've done this already.

We are getting to the point that "tired" is more than just sleeping between meals and an exhausting barking session. It's a look in the eyes, a distinct need for comfort that forces failing legs to keep trying to push 110lbs up the stairs so he can sleep near a person. It's the sad expression when I pick up the leash, and half-hearted attempt to get up only to lie next to the open door, because the urge to pee isn't strong enough to bother going out even though it's been nearly 12 hours.

He's not ready, but I think we're within a week or two now. Taking responsibility for another living creature is a double edged razor. The vet says the timing is up to me. What that really means is I'm no longer monitoring and caring for Chewy to provide him with quality of life, but quality of death. Some would argue there are many reasons to make that choice on his behalf - send him on before he suffers, the expense involved in waiting, the disruption to my life, moving on.

Responsibility is a heavy burden because it's SUPPOSED to be heavy. Who the hell am I to determine how much of his life to cut off? People who bring up the expense involved are talking a bout the vet bills, the pills, the time involved in waiting for him to struggle back inside twice a day. But the real expense is the waiting, the burden of choosing when to invite Death formally instead of letting her hang out, because at some point the suffering is just enough. But I am only a caretaker: Chewy will let me know when he hits that point. Thor did.

We, people, humans, are so afraid of Death visiting that we'll do damn near anything to avoid it. Dogs are different. They'll fight to survive until it's time, and when it's time they're just...ready. They've done their jobs here, they've loved and protected and forgiven, and they let you know they're ok.

My vet is truly a fantastic man. When we let Thor go, he warned me what might happen - convulsions, bodily fluids, scary and awful struggling against the soul slipping from the body. He told me so I wouldn't be surprised, so I could stay in the room and be a comfort instead of a basket case. NONE of that happened with him - in fact, he give a little sigh of relief and just slipped off his body like an uncomfortable jacket that's gotten too tight.

I want that for Chewy, too. I want an easy death that relieves him from his broken down body and gives him freedom to bark at ALL THE THINGS. I want Thanatos to give him quiet sleep, and Badb to take him on a long, leisurely walk. There's always the chance that won't happen, that his passing will be somehow scarring. I hope not.

I suppose I'll find out in the next couple of weeks, because I know this countdown.

He stole a loaf of bread today while I got coffee. He was so proud of reaching it I can't even be all that mad, even though it was MINE MINE MINE. Cheeseburgers and treats will be the order of the days ahead, and a lot of sitting in the grass so he can just hang out and do what he loves best - watching over the neighborhood. Until it's time to stop.

Yes, I could say Tuesday is the day and we could be done and save me the emotional stress of Death becoming my temporary roommate. But that's not my job here. I'm not afraid to wait with him. I'm not afraid to make the decision or lie with him on the floor in the vet's office, or let him go.

When it's time, I will ask Death to walk my dog gently, and kindly request no more visits for a long while. Until then, we're sitting in companionable quiet, listening to Chewy's quiet breathing while he dreams.