Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Great Pyrenees

We have two very good friends who for the purposes of this post we will call Dee and Wayne, because, that's their names, Dee and Wayne.

Dee and Wayne are wonderful, kind, loving people who live in the boondocks of Falls County just outside of Waco. They love animals and are especially taken with dogs of all shapes and sizes. Several years ago someone dropped off a Great Pyrenees puppy close to their home and of course they had to take the beast into their home. This dog is huge with a massive head and bass bark that can rattle the shingles. He is solid white, or as white as a white dog can be in the country, with a thick coat that occasionally gets shaved, complements of Wayne. Dusty, as the dog is named, is very much like an ill-behaved adolescent, willful and pig-headed with a mind an instinct of his own.

Marty wrote this ode to Dusty just after he flunked out of obedience school. God bless Dusty and his parents.

Dee, Wayne and the Great Pyrenees
Chapter 1
“Dusty learns to read”

There once was a Great Pyrenees,
Who read books with considerable ease.
When he chewed up a cover,
He was cursed by his mother:
“Leave the damned thing alone, won’t you please!”

After listening to all Dee’s complaining,
Wayne signed up the dog for some training.
Dusty acted so badly,
They left rather sadly,
And said, “This is all really draining.”

After this, Wayne was really distressed,
That this dog had become such a pest!
But his mom, quite concerned,
Thought compassion he’d earned,
And suggested he might be depressed.

The dog found this all quite amusing.
Dee and Wayne just found him confusing.
He just wouldn’t learn.
And Dee said, rather stern,
“Behave now, there’s no more excusing.”

“We’ve given our money and time,
And Petsmart refunds not one dime.
Oh, what now shall we do,With this dog who must chew?
This is NOT just a victimless crime!”

Though thoroughly steeped in deep shame,
They said, “No one’s really to blame.
We’ve laid out this dough,
And so back we will go.
And this puppy behavior we’ll tame.”

So this great dog was put back in class.
He said “HI!” by passing some gas.
But then found things a bore,
And laid down on the floor,
And contentedly licked on his ass. mk 7/

Friday, September 25, 2009

Closing Doors

We have always enjoyed being in Dalhart. For Marty, it is home, for me it is a place of great memories: hunting, skiing, celebrations, good friends. Immediately after her Father's passing Marty spent a lot of time up here with her Mother and working to care for Arty's estate. Marty felt comfortable here because it was her home, because of her families friends. When we began to wrap up a lot of the estate business and we had Marty's Mom, Jean, comfortable in her new environment you could feel a door start to close on an important part of our lives.

I like being in Dalhart. I like the weather in Dalhart. I like the people in Dalhart. They are open, friendly people who look you in the eye and ask how they can help you. And they mean it. Marty and I both have deep attachments to the town and the people of this little panhandle community. This trip, this ride to Dalhart felt like we were closing the door on Dalhart a little more. Slowly all of our connections to this wonderful place are going away and slowly but surely all of our reasons for coming here are ending. It is part of life, it is part of moving on with life, it is a bit sad.

We celebrated Christmas a number of times in Dalhart. It didn't really seem like Christmas if we didn't go there and spend some time with the Watkins and their friends. Singing Christmas Caroles at the Steeles, eating at the Sands Restaurant, getting stuck in the snow were all part of our time in Dalhart. It was where I saw my first white Christmas. I don't know if we ever went skiing without going through Dalhart, many times going with Marty's parents. I can't really count the number of times I went pheasant hunting with Arty, his friends, my friends or Jerry's friends. Dalhart is where Arty shot me one hunting trip. I have bled for the town. It means a lot.

I know if Marty hadn't fallen ill we would have been here more often. I know she likes to come here and see her Mother. I know she is always willing to get in the van and make the trek because it means a lot to her to be here and see her home and see friends who have known her all her life. The multiple connections to her life, to our life, the history we both have here make our visits very meaningful and the thought of closing out this part of our life creates a certain sense of loss.

I know one of these trips up here we will have to sort of close out our relationship and our last connections to Dalhart. I know it is a natural part of life. I know it is part of growing up and growing older. I know even if we never come back here we will have wonderful memories of cold days and nights, pungent livestock smells and a sense of attachment and belonging not often felt this long. I really don't like closing doors.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don Quixote

Out of town trips, going places, breaking the routine is kinda hard. It's kinda hard on a lot of levels, not the least of which are the logistics of going anywhere with a wheelchair. Mostly it's kinda hard because you never really know how Marty is going to do on these excursions and you never really know if she will really be up to the trip. Maybe I'm the only one who is anxious about them, but trips make me feel just a little bit hinky.

Last Saturday we did make it to Dallas for Larry Bob's shower -- oh, I mean, Sarah's shower. Daughter Erin and Sarah's sister Amanda threw this little Dallas soiree and sent these so cute invitations (I sound like a WOMAN). Actually, Marty liked the invitations, they had a little rhyme. When we got the invitation one of our caregivers asked if we would go. Being the incredibly wishy -washy guy that I am, I said, we'll see. Being the incredible Marty, Marty said, "well, I'm going". Guess what -- we went and I believe Marty had a good time. She held up well throughout the shower and felt normal and a part of normal life. As they say in the credit card commercial, "priceless".

Today we are in Dalhart Texas. We have embarked on the Quixotic quest to see Marty's Mom, Jean, who is in a wonderful little nursing home in Dalhart. Me, Marty and Sancho (Renae) took off early this morning on this epic voyage in our gray stead and made really good time ( a guy thing, making good time is a big deal -- ask your male significant other, they will understand). It's only 500 friggin miles -- geeze it's a long way. We haven't been here since Mother's Day in '08 so it's been too long.

Being in Dalhart feels good. It's cool and crisp. They tell me it smells of livestock -- my allergies spare me the olfactory overload. It brings back really good memories of Christmas's past, ski trips, rodeos and hunting. Most of why we are tied to Dalhart is gone, but I still like being in the panhandle. It's a pretty unique place.

We will go see Marty's Mom a couple of times tomorrow. It's always a little interesting to see Marty and Jean together. Jean has had health issues for a long time and suffers a little bit of age related dementia but last time we were here she remembered about Marty's strokes and really did all of the Mother type stuff, in spite of her infirmities. It's really quite moving to watch.

Marty is doing good. She got up early, rode all day in the van and kept good spirits and I think being here really kind pushes her to think, to talk, to interact. We went to our normal supper place here and she knew what she wanted, ordered it and did great. I know as I write this she is really tired, because I'm really tired. It's a hard but gratifying trip.

Our quest will continue for a couple of days and we will head home Saturday for the last leg of our trip. I'm sure as we spend time here and move south we will have opportunities to tilt at some windmills. I loved Don Quixote.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Marty Keeeeeeps Talking

Another one from Marty. She wrote this in January of 2003 after one of our faux daughters, Elizabeth married the semi-acceptable John (actually he's a good guy). The Right Reverend Jimmie from First Presbyterian always found a way into Marty's psyche. The whole thing is particularly poignant given our journey over the last few years and how faithful and loving our children have been.

Yesterday at the wedding -- after all was said and done -- bride and groom and Mom and Dads have exited, our minister has given the benediction and has invited the guests to join the couple at the reception. He then said, "Earlier today the oldest member of this congregation died, and then tonight we celebrate this beautiful marriage of a young couple. There is a beginning and an ending, and if you look carefully you will see the truth of what this is all about .... and that is ... it is about choosing love. That in addition to all the joy, it is also about choosing the pain that comes from love instead of the pain that comes from not loving. Even in the middle of all the joy, there is not a choice that does not involve pain -- only the choices between a way that brings pain with love, or the way that just brings pain. The lesson in it all is about choosing to love."

Well, I felt like I had been hit between the eyes. How could this be offered as just a little "tag on" line -- it should have been the top bill!! -- I have had this same lesson presented to me in multiple formats in the past couple of weeks. When life seems to hit me with repeated patterns in my awareness -- I know it means I'm supposed to be getting or understanding something in a new way. I'm not totally sure I know what that is all about right now -- I'm not really working on trying to figure it out, I'm just more aware something new is unfolding, an awareness, an understanding, maybe a way of being -- and I'm letting that happen as is does.

My dad is fishing in Mexico for 7 days, (this IS related) my Mom is with sitters for the week. Of course, I feel I should be there - but I can't be. Tonight I thought, "I really need to call her." But I really, really didn't want to -- I often feel so lousy after I talk to her -- it is just so sad. Well, I called, we talked and she was about like usual -- knew who I was, but thought Matt was married when I mentioned the wedding -- wasn't sure where Dad was, but said he was on his way home. It just breaks my heart. Anyway, then I talked to the sitter -- (a long time employee of our family -- a very simple woman who is quite devoted to my parents -- thank-you God!) She said my Mom had gotten up very early yesterday and had fallen backwards. The sitter was still asleep when it happened. She didn't know what happened, and mom couldn't tell her anything more than that she fell backwards. She said mom was pretty banged up -- some scrapes on one leg and one arm, and some bruising getting started, a bad bump on the head. She said she was very, very sore and stiff. Well, I hung up thinking, "Damn! That's why I didn't want to call. I can do nothing, and now I end up feeling worse!" I felt myself begin to slide into that a little, and then I thought about the wedding, ... and I thought, "Choose the pain that comes from loving -- there are no choices that don't have some pain, choose love."Well, it didn't totally fix it -- didn't totally stop some tears -- but I understood it a little differently, and that was comforting. And I was able to feel glad that maybe the sitter felt more supported by my call (I really think she did -- I'm sure I'm the only family member that even knows about this incident at this point) and I was able to imagine that maybe my Mom felt a little bit of pleasure at the familiarity of a phone conversation with someone she knows she loves and someone she knows loves her. And, maybe that's enough for tonight.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Good Times

The Dallas Cowboys, Texas Tech Raiders and Midway Panthers all won this weekend. Combine that bonanza with rain both in Waco and at the lake house -- what a weekend. Then add to that, a visit from my baby girl, Erin .... can it get better??? Yes -- it can, because Marty is still doing very well. She is sleeping good, waking good and feeling good. This, in our life, is pretty damn good. In fact, it's better than that, it's really excellent, today, and all we need to worry about is today.

Marty really has been doing well of late. I think this is the first time in awhile she has felt good for an extended period of time. Once we finally got rid of the dreaded pseudomonas she has done better. She has been on antibiotics for minor types of infections a couple of times in the last 60 days -- but for us, that's nothing. For us this is the height of wellness.

The best part is, since Marty has been feeling good she has been exhibiting signs of the past; she has been getting pretty bossy around the house. She is giving instruction to me and the caregivers pretty regular, take this glass there, wash that over there, move me here, now. It's great. If you had told me five years ago I wanted Marty to boss me around I would have called you a liar. But you never know what you're going to lose or miss when you lose it.

Today, Sunday, Erin and Nikkie took Marty to Babys-R-Us to do a little shopping for Larry-Bob. Have I said that I will have a first grandson soon and his name shall be Larry-Bob and that his Mother and Father have forbidden anyone to call him Larry-Bob upon earth entry? I have? So sorry. Anyway, they went shopping and Marty helped. I didn't go. That is good. That is good for Erin, that is good for Marty, that is good for Nikkie and for me, it's just hard for some of us not to be in total control.

At Babys-R-Us they managed to find several things for the Kinard prodigy. We had looked on the register and I had kind of decided we needed to invest in a co-sleeper, a really pretty cool baby sleeper bed thingy. Marty apparently made an executive decision in the store that what LB really needed was a swing, so guess what, they got the swing and those of us that didn't go didn't get to decide. It's a very familiar feeling.

Erin, my baby girl (she's 26) got a taste of her old Mom too. Marty, being Marty, wanted to know what everything cost before she would consent to pay for anything. Erin really liked the baby robe and slippers which doesn't make much sense to me, but again, I wasn't there, so I didn't get to vote. They apparently didn't make much sense to Marty either because she refused to pay for that. When they got to the check out stand they asked if she was ready to pay and she said, "yes, for everything but the robe and slippers". Erin paid for it.

I really like it when Marty does things that remind me of the old Marty. I love the new Marty. I accept this new normal for us. It's just really nice to see the flash in her eyes, to see her rub her chin as she used to when she was angry, to hear her ask what?, why? almost incessantly, and to see her be in charge. That's pretty normal too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Marty and Arty

Marty's Dad, Arty Watkins, was quite a character. He had this kind of John Wayne swagger that was both intimidating and endearing. Arty was the epitome of a self made man and was what I always called an agricultural entrepreneur. He loved to tell and listen to jokes and was very generous with his time, his wisdom and his talents.

Marty was very much a Daddy's girl. Their relationship was not complicated. She loved and admired her Father, he loved and was really proud of his daughter. Marty wrote the following in sometime in March of 2003, Arty passed away suddenly in January of 2004. I think she communicates her feelings very well.

My Dad

Your presence:
sometimes gruff and fearsome,
sometimes charming laughter,
often giving generously,
sometime brooding silence.
Always large.

Your advice:
often sought and needed,
always freely given,
at times ignored as too simplistic,
lived as well as said.
Quoted with pride.

Your loving:
often so clumsy you crash into me,
hugging too hard, not caressing,
such rough tenderness.
I'm often left stunned
by the sudden simplicity of it.

Your hands and heart:
both speckled with brown patches of age,
both are callused and cracked,
from years of working,
carrying whatever needed to be carried.
Putting things right.

I cannot imagine a world without you in it.
What would I do without your presence looming so large?
Whose advice could I quote?
Whose love could I count on?
Whose hands would put it right?
What heart could find my own?

I cannot imagine a world without you in it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Marty has always brought an interesting variety of people into our lives. She loved people, she loved being around people and she especially loved being around interesting, intelligent people with a good sense of humor and who were not easily embarrassed or offended. Through all of Marty's illness she has continued to bring a lot of new and different people into our lives.

Marty's caregivers rank at the top of this list of new and interesting people. First let me say, as I have said, we love Nikki, Renae and Erica. They are not just employees to us. They are new daughters to us both. They care for Marty passionately and always have her best interest at heart. But, let me also say, they are interesting, to say the least. They each bring a new and fresh perspective on life, they each bring a diversity to the entire Kinard world we would never have seen without getting to know them.

Renae, 28, single, mother of four children is the person with us the most. She works the most hours and consequently we hear a lot about her children; Jeremiah, Harmony, Miranda, and Nehemiah. Renae, who has managed to get her B.A. in Psychology while working and raising her kids, is naturally very proud of her children. She should be. They are good kids.

Jeremiah is particularly interesting. A typical first kid, he is 11 going on 35. He looks after the others, takes charge when needed, keeps his Mother straight, knows about paydays, and does amazing research about a wide variety of odd things on the Internet. He is also a kid, a kid who watches what others do very closely, a kid who is looking for examples and role models, a kid who wants to be right and do right.

Right after Barack Obama was elected president Jeremiah was confronted with racism for the first time. On his way home on the bus a group of his "friends" started talking about how Obama was just a monkey and that black people were just like monkeys and they began using the "n" word. Needless to say the conversation kind of disintegrated from there.

Renae being the reasonable, prudent woman that she is chose to visit with the "friends" parents. After visiting with them she understood why the kids were acting so ignorantly. Apparently the parents were upset about about an African -American's election as president and let their children know exactly why. They told Renae that they were okay with their kids using the "n" word because it's a part of our history. They also told her that they believed black people to be inferior. Jeremiah lost friends that day. Jeremiah lost innocence that day, not because a black man was President, but because bigotry and hatred for others still exists and is communicable, it's catching.

Months ago, you will all remember when Barack Obama gave a speech intended for school children. If you haven't heard it or read it you should. Jeremiah didn't get to see it at school. He opted not to see it. He decided he couldn't take the chance of loosing more friends, so he did the only thing he knew to do, stay away. Jeremiah stayed away from hearing from a man who is a role model, he stayed away from hearing and seeing how a black man can rise from being the son of a poor single mother to arguably the most powerful man in the world. What a loss. How sad it is that an 11 year old kid has to make that choice.

Would listening to President Obama with a group of his fellow students made a difference in Jeremiah's life? Would Jeremiah want to go and listen to the President if either one of them were white? Did all of the crazy train furor about the President talking to students prevent Jeremiah from hearing a speech that might have changed his life? We'll never know because Jeremiah just couldn't take that chance, he just wasn't ready to face the ugliness, the hatred again. I don't blame him. How very sad for all of us.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Even as I type Marty and I are sitting on the back porch of our house at Richland Chambers Resevoir. There is a slight southerly breeze and the oppressive heat of August has relented enough to enjoy sitting outside and watching the the boats pass through our cove. The wind chimes are chiming just enough to enjoy and our old dachshund, Maggie is sitting contentedly at our feet. It's like a Norman Rockwell painting with humidity.

Our kids are out on the boat enjoying the day before the heat and I'm thinking this is exactly why we have this house at this lake. Being surrounded by the water and the quiet and knowing people you love are beside you and out enjoying themselves is more than peaceful, it's contentment.

I told Marty that I wish, what a strange concept to wish, that I wish we could be sitting here, both with the same level of contentment, but that she wasn't sick, that she had not had the strokes. She continued to look out at the lake and said, "Me too, but I did, and I am content. What we have is livable".

She' right. Our life is very livable. It's not what we had planned. It's not what I would wish for, for Marty. She has developed this rather amazing attitude about her life. She certainly doesn't want to suffer, she certainly didn't want what happened to her, but she will live with what has happened and enjoy live as it is for her, for us, and for our whole family. She is an amazing woman.