Monday, July 20, 2015

Finding Funny

When Marty and I first got together some 40 years ago we laughed, a lot.  We laughed with each other, at each other and we laughed at the world.  I don’t know if it was our new, young love, youth or our too often altered states but we did laugh a whole lot.

Somewhere along our journey we, meaning me, lost part of that laughter.  It didn’t mean we were unhappy it just meant we, meaning me, were too busy living and doing life to stop and laugh with each other.  We, meaning me, forgot to revel in the day, we, meaning me, forgot to look for the joy and humor life offers.  

I don’t think that’s particularly unusual.  You get focused on raising a family, developing and succeeding in a career while the verve of youth wanes and gets pushed aside by the realities of paying bills and doing yard work.

I mean really, life requires a serious and focused approach to everything.  Maybe……..actually that’s kinda bull.  A serious life requires laughter.

I think I got so consumed with living and with my own imagined self importance I lost myself.  My work, my career, my desire to raise perfect children in a perfect home with a perfect family made me take my own life and what I was doing too serious and I lost part of my laughter.  I was important and important people didn’t laugh very much because they had to think about some serious shit and you can’t laugh if you are thinking about serious shit.

Marty and the strokes brought me back to myself.  After living through impending death I found parts of me that I didn’t realize I had lost.  Marty’s survival helped me remember what was important.
Today, Marty and I laugh a lot.  We laugh in the face of irreparable brain injury, kiss my ass CVA.  

Our new life has many new issues, some more critical than any of the life issues of years past.  Being away from the work a day world makes life easier, having already raised perfect children helps, today we laugh not only at stupid stuff but the scary stuff.  

We laugh at the movies, we laugh at the TV, we laugh at our grandchildren, we laugh at our children parenting our grandchildren a lot and mostly we laugh at each other.  Marty is still the funniest person she knows and I have found the goofy part of my soul that I lost so many years ago and I love to make her laugh, even at my own expense, especially at my own expense.  

Marty loves to laugh and it’s seriously the best thing in the world when she gets really tickled and has a laugh that starts high and moves low and goes on so long we both end up coughing and laughing at the same time.  I have learned not to make her laugh when she has a full mouth, Gator-Aid burns when it comes out your nose.  

The strokes hurt, they hurt both of us deeply and we have lived through some very serious times in the last four years.  In a side miracle I have managed to find something in myself I didn’t realize I had lost, my sense of humor.  As strange as it may seem I somehow feel more whole, I somehow feel I am a better companion, I somehow feel I am a better human being than I was ten years ago.

Our journey, with Marty as my Sherpa, has taken me back to the very basic root beliefs that we all need to love more, forgive more, be more tolerant, laugh more and hug a lot. I have really tried to adopt the whole, “and the greatest of these is love” thing.  Our God seemed serious about that and it really feels a lot better than judging.

Hey, don’t get me wrong.  I can still be a supreme stuffed shirt and I don’t like to do things on the spur of the moment, it makes me tense.  I get anxious over some stupid things and some really important things and I can and do frown with the best of them.  I still like to occasionally tangle with a telephone solicitor or point out in as many derogatory words as I can to describe really crappy customer service.  

But, when I get off the phone or walk away from the offending clerk I generally look at Marty and laugh about it. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Last Ride for Maggie

We once lived with a big orange tabby cat named Bubba.  I can’t remember how long we lived with Bubba but I know he was kind of the bully of our block, came and went as he pleased and every time I thought it was time for Bubba to go to pet heaven he would deposit a dead bird or mouse on our back porch as if to say, “Kiss my ass you fool, I’m not done.”

I don’t remember when Bubba was euthanized; I just know that Marty, bless her soul, was the one who had the courage and heart to take Bubba to the vet the last time.  She relieved me of that burden, she was good like that, she was my partner, she was strong where I was weak. 

Today we have a 17 year old doxie named Maggie.  She was the runt of her litter and has outlasted her sister Phoebe by several years.  Marty took care of that dog too.  To my knowledge Maggie is the last of her litter.  She is very gray, very slow and surprised when poop happens.

Maggie has lived a pretty glorious life, she’s traveled the state, been on youth trips, worshiped in more than one church (much to the chagrin of some members, so sorry), chased squirrels, been sprayed by a skunk, sniffed an armadillo, eaten cobwebs, ridden on the back of our boat, stolen a lot of people food and snatched a stick of butter from the family Thanksgiving table.   

Maggie is a legend with family and care givers alike because she has stolen food from every one of them.

On the way to the lake this last trip Maggie had a pretty bad seizure while riding at Marty’s feet on the floor board of our car.  I stopped the car, cleaned her up, made her comfortable and finished our drive to our house at the lake, a place Maggie really loves.

When we got there she couldn’t walk and was clearly out of it so I made her comfortable, watched over her, got her up a couple of times to go outside and tried to get her to eat and drink.  She got better the next day but still had no appetite, wouldn’t drink and was clearly very confused. 
I think it’s time and I miss Marty and her ability to see the truth with our animals.

In a marriage you share.  You share the joy, you share the love, you share the happiness but you also get to share the burdens and the sorrows, that’s just part of the gig.  Marty was born to a meat packer and cattleman so she has a different, probably better relationship with animals, than I do.  She is not hard, but with our dogs she was the alpha, I was just a member of the pack.  Marty accepted the burden of loving enough to do the right thing.

After Marty’s stroke I became the lead dog with Maggie.  She looked to me for food, water, a place to sleep and an occasional rub of the neck.  Maggie was still Marty’s dog.  When Marty had one of her seizures and we laid her on the floor to recover Maggie curled up beside Marty and would not leave her side.  I finally had to put her outside so I could care for Marty.   Maggie was loud and insistent that she come back and be with Marty.  

That has been their relationship, Maggie, in her own way, watched out for her former pack leader.  She knew Marty wasn’t in charge of her anymore but she wasn’t going to abandon her alpha, she never has.

It falls to me to take Maggie on her last ride; it falls to me to pick up the burden of loving our dog one last time and helping her find relief from a long life well lived.  I’ve always said I would know what the right thing to do was but I don’t know if I will have the courage to do it.  

I suspect I will because it’s ultimately what Marty wants, it’s best for Maggie and it’s my turn to take up the burden of loving enough to do the right thing.  Its part of the covenant we have with those to whom we provide care.  Covenants can be hard.

May she always have soft grass, sunshine, clear water, good food and excellent companionship.