Grateful for Grief

Gosh, I can’t believe that I haven’t written since May! I write in my head all the time, but I somehow just don’t seem to make it to the keyboard, if that makes any sense. Today, however, my spirit hurts and sometimes the only way to get relief is to let the words flow.

On Saturday, I attended and spoke at the memorial service honoring a very dear friend of mine. I don’t know if we met in 1991 or 1992; but, whichever it was, it was a long time ago. I may not know the year, but I know that it was late spring and early morning. I was working my first flight of the day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when this pilot from the training department was in my office, asking a bunch of annoying questions and just generally getting in the way. Finally, I looked at him and said, “Captain, they don’t pay me to babysit pilots. Find another place to be.” He did and thus began a very complex, sometimes convoluted friendship.

I hadn’t seen Lance in over a decade, I realized on Saturday, but that didn’t seem to matter. He was never far from my heart and we checked in with each other every couple of months, just as we have done for the better part of 30 years. We were friends through a baby and hurricane (mine), a marriage (his), and jobs and moves for both of us. It is inconceivable to me that he won’t be texting some joke in a couple of months. While he hasn’t been a physical presence in my life for a long time, he’s always been out there and I’ve always known that if ever I needed him, all I had to do was call. I believe he knew the same thing. I certainly hope so.

Lance is my third friend to die. My 82-year-old dad says it doesn’t get any easier to let them go. On the one hand, I think my dad kinda sucks at pep talks; but, on the other hand, grief is the proof of love, I think. If I had not loved Joey, Sandy, and Lance, I would not grieve their absence. Certainly, not grieving for them would have made a few days of my life easier, but not having known and loved them would have made my whole life so much emptier. I am already grateful that the loss of my friendships with Joey and Sandy were worth grieving. Someday I will feel that gratitude about my friendship with Lance.

Someday.

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A Friend for Ellie

Trey and Ellie were my two BBDs – big, black dogs. As you know, I had to help Trey across the Rainbow Bridge in February and we are all still adjusting to a household without the old man – Ellie especially.

Ellie came to live with us several years ago when I had to go out of town for a conference and asked my sister Chele if she would come and stay with my son while I was gone. She said that she would, but that she was fostering a bitch with five pups that weren’t weaned yet. Barracading the family in the kitchen was easy; so, I told my sister to bring them on with her. “But,” I said, “you listen to me and hear what I’m telling you. I don’t care how cute those puppies are, they are all. going home. with you.” (See how I never said anything about the mama?)

So, my sister arrived with this painfully skinny black dog and five of the cutest puppies EVER. I had them all named within five minutes, much to Chele’s dismay. (I didn’t realize that you weren’t supposed to name foster puppies. It makes it harder to send them to new forever homes.) Anyway, I named them all and we got everybody into the house where I inquired about the mama whom they called Princess.

She had wandered up to some guy’s house. He started feeding her and thought he was going a great job since she was getting so fat – then she dropped five puppies. Knowing that my sister is a soft touch with the canines, he contacted her and dropped the whole family off with her. Chele said that while the dog would let me pet her, she would not come to me and that she was head shy. This mama dog was just heartbreaking! So thin, she looked like her bones were about to cut through her skin. And she was, indeed, head shy, but after a few minutes she walked up to my chair, sat next to my feet and put her head on my knees. Yep. She picked me. What was I supposed to do with that?!

Now, we already had Trey who had become destructive since the death of my previous cat – the 19-year-old (some say possessed, I say precious) Isabeau. He wasn’t too keen on the puppies (especially after they tried nursing on him. Poor guy flipped out over that! One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.), but he loved having Princess around. Since she had been a stray for some unknown period of time, she was very  fearful. When Trey tried to play with her, he frightened her. However, he was patient and sweet. Eventually, she came to trust him and they were wonderful playmates even after we renamed her. (There is only one princess in my house, honey. Moi.) So, Princess became Ellie and our home to one BBD became home to two. Until this February.

Once a month, my friend Kent comes to stay with me for a few days. He brings his BBD puppy Khaleesi with him. Last month was the first time he came and the first time Ellie met Khaleesi. And did those two girls ever have a wonderful time! They played outside all day every day and came in exhausted every night. I knew that Ellie would enjoy having a friend, but I underestimated how much. When Kent arrived on Wednesday, Ellie saw Khaleesi through the window and she, who never goes out the front door without my permission, bounded out the door as soon as it was open, joyfully greeting her friend on the sidewalk before the two of them went running through the house, out the back door and into the yard to play just like the little girls that they are.

I have no intention of adding to my horde and, with four cats to play with, Ellie is a long way from lonely; however, it’s great that she can have play dates with someone her own size. And, for the next several months, every month, for five days, there will be play dates and a friend for my Ellie girl.

Where Did My Wagon Go?

Take a look at the picture above. Look closely. See me anywhere? C’mon! Really look!

Nope. I’m not there on account of: 1. I’m old, but I’m not that old, and 2. I fell off that wagon several miles back, honey! All kinds of falling off the wagon been going on here.

As you know, last week was just a hideous one and I fell off the healthful eating wagon. I ate a lot of garbage during the week and managed to mess up the healthful choices I made by either eating too much of them or eating them with a dressing or cheese that negated the good the nutritious foods were doing me. If I were an alcoholic, I’d have been in the gutter. I binged in the same way, particularly when I realized that it was time to let Trey go.

A few times I caught myself eating things that didn’t even taste good to me and, in fact, kind of made me feel sick to my stomach. But, I continued eating them, anyway. It was almost as if I was using the food to punish myself in some way for not being able to help my old friend. I remember doing something similar when I would quit smoking, but fall off the wagon and have one. Often, I would then smoke so much that I would literally make myself sick – give myself nicotine poisoning – to punish myself for failing. (Am I the only one who does this? I’m pretty sure I’m not; but, if I am, don’t tell me, okay?)

This morning, I’m paying for that. I feel awful. I feel like I’ve got the chips and salsa sweats. My whole system feels clogged. My sinuses are wrecked and I don’t know if that’s from two weeks of sobbing, emerging airborne allergens, or food allergens. Maybe it’s a little of all three. Whatever the cause, I’ve worked up a roaring case of vertigo. Yep, I ate a bunch of garbage and now I feel like it.

As I’ve shared with you before, I believe very strongly that it is crucial that we allow ourselves to feel our grief and to work through it. Although there are varying opinions on the number of stages of grief, most agree that there are at least five: 1. denial and isolation, 2. anger, 3. bargaining, 4. depression, and 5. acceptance. Gorging like Henry VIII is part of my stages one through four. Making myself sick is actually part of stage three for me. Although progression through the stages is never smooth or one-way, I am moving closer to acceptance. In acceptance, there is the continuation of the life that does go on.

So, for that life, today I will buy new walking shoes, then Ellie and I will go for our first walk without Trey. Where we all once walked several times a week, we haven’t walked in many months because of my work schedule and Trey’s hips. It’s time for us to start that part of our lives again. It will be sad for me and if you see me walking at the park, I’ll likely be crying; but, life does go on and we – and our wagons – go on with it.

My wagon is my will and it’s been with me the whole time. While I didn’t ride it or use it, it never left me. Now, as I choose to adjust to a new normal without one of my fuzzy children, I’ll climb back in that wagon and ride it awhile.

The Ringing in My Heart

The first singer I ever saw in concert was Elvis Presley – don’t hate. I remember my ears ringing after that concert and after every one I’ve seen since. The music is always so loud that it’s like my ears turn down the volume themselves to get some relief. In all actuality, the tips of the hairlike stereocilia in my cochlea have been broken by the sound and continue to send false information to my auditory nerve even after the noise has stopped. After about 24-hours, the tips repair and the false signals stop, ending the ringing. While the damage is repairing, however, it’s harder to hear the real auditory input for all the garbage.

The last couple of weeks have been like that. I’ve taken several pretty serious emotional hits that have left my emotional ears ringing. I’m having a great deal of trouble at this point hearing much of anything. Anything, that is, except, “I love you.”

I have heard that through the ringing from friends, from family and from some people that fall into both categories. I haven’t been able to respond well; but, I’ve heard you. I have heard some of you especially clearly.

There are friends who say, “Let me know if you need anything,” or “Let me know if I can help.” Those friends are sincere and are valuable. However, there are also friends who say, “Here’s what time I’ll be there,” or they just show up, or they call or write because it’s all they can do at the time. Those friends are invaluable.

I have far more of you than I deserve and I am so grateful.