Grief, a Primer, and We All Need New Frontiers

dream after dream

I haven’t been here in awhile.  Between moving (still can’t find most of my winter clothes) and tending to the dying, I am surprised I am still relatively calm and sane. Even so my absence here is ironic, because I’ve certainly had the need for catharsis and venting and a place to sort out all the conflicting emotions (there’s that dirty word – emotions– again) that have been rolling about in my head.  I’ve just been scattered so far and wide that I’ve not had the time.

Unfortunately I was right about Jerry in his illness, that he would not survive long once he couldn’t work any more.  He was deemed permanently disabled July 8th.  He died October 21st.  It was a hellish ride, and slowly suffocating to death is a cruel and shitty way to die.   Pulmonary fibrosis finally won out, and I emphasize, it is a very shitty way to die.

I am thankful that he didn’t die like his Dad did (also of pulmonary fibrosis)- after a week of poking, prodding and fruitless and painful interventions in intensive care.  Jerry was fortunate enough to die at home, I think, if only because of his determination to stay out of hospitals.  After witnessing his Dad’s horrible death in the hospital a only a week earlier, yeah, I’d want to stay the freak out of that mess too.  Especially when you have a terminal illness and death is the inevitable outcome.  Nothing that hospital could do was going to make him any better or move him toward any kind of recovery.

I am not going to pretend that our marriage was loving or happy.  Most of the time, with some brief exceptions, it wasn’t either one. Most of the time it was barely tolerable.  For me it was upholding a choice to do what I said I would, even if the decision I made was an ill-advised one.  Marry in haste, repent in leisure. Got it.

funny-bad-decisions

This isn’t to say that I didn’t love him or care, but that I’ve been worn down by many years of dealing with his alcoholism and weathering the emotional and verbal abuse that is part of that.   I can’t say that I was perfect or blameless either, and hindsight being 20/20 I still wonder if it would have been more admirable or noble for me to have left him quietly long ago.  Even though it came about in a fashion I would not wish on anyone, twenty one years later, that obligation is over.

This is the hard part that my family (as well as his family and some of our mutual friends)is having a hard time understanding.  I’ve been mourning for a very long time already.  I’ve been mourning the fact that I spent 20+ years of my life in a difficult and troubled marriage.  I’ve been mourning the reality of living with an alcoholic and riding that rollercoaster ride. I’ve been mourning witnessing someone I once loved suffering and dying in a most horrible way.  Mourning has been a way of life for me for way too long.

mourning-black

Even so, I’m not dead yet. I’m not getting any younger, either.  Excuse me if I want to live. I am not prostrate in grief.  Yes, I am sad that he suffered the way he did, and I miss him in some ways, but in most ways I’m relieved.  Relieved that his suffering is over, and that I am free to pursue my own life, whatever that might mean.

By the grace of God new frontiers are right in front of me, and in ways I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.  I’m living an ending and a beginning at the same time.  As truly bizarre as it might sound, I can’t help to stand back and feel blessed and in awe.

 

 

I Love My Dogs (In a Totally Non-Creepy Way)

It’s probably more stressful for me to take my dogs to the Vet than it is for them to go.  Clara doesn’t even notice when she gets shots.  Lilo can be fidgety but usually isn’t too weird about it as long as I hold her head against my chest so she can’t get snippy.  Both of the girls (Sheena is on a different schedule than the other two) were as good as dogs can be last night.

Granted both Clara and Lilo are edging up into “senior” territory which is a difficult reality for me to get through my head.  Clara is 9, Lilo is 8, almost 9.  I have had dogs live almost 16 years- Kayla would probably have lived even longer had we not decided to put her down when her DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) got so bad she was having trouble controlling her bowels and bladder.  That really sucked, especially for a dog whose healthy weight was about 90#.  I couldn’t carry her out, and eventually it got to the point where she didn’t know when she needed to go and then she’d  just let fly which was humiliating to her and difficult for us.  Kayla was otherwise healthy- except for the damned DM keeping her from being able to control her bathroom functions and use her rear legs.  Unfortunately dogs don’t die from DM- but if they are left to die a “natural death,” they die from the pneumonia and heart failure brought on by inactivity.

Because Clara and Lilo both are crossbreeds and not purebred GSDs, it’s unlikely they will get DM like Kayla and Heidi both did.  I am generally not a believer in “hybrid vigor,” but the likelihood of genetic disease is lower in mixed breed dogs.  Heidi had other issues besides DM, though nine years of very poor care before we got her didn’t help.  I doubt if I will ever have another purebred GSD for that reason- the American bloodlines are repositories for every wicked genetic disease under the sun- but who knows.  I love the protection breeds.

In this pic, Clara (top) was a thin and lanky two year old- Kayla (bottom) was a healthy and active 14 year old.   Kayla did wonders developing Clara’s confidence.

Lilo I know has hip dysplasia, but hers is mild, which is a workable condition for most dogs.  Lilo and Clara both have allergies that seem to get worse as they age. Lilo has seborrhea,  and Clara is prone to lick granulomas which are generally not life-threatening but are aesthetically unpleasant.    Sheena has severe hip dysplasia and she has completely destroyed her canine teeth and incisors from cage biting.  Both of these conditions  will probably cause issues as she ages.

Sheena does have issues, but she’s a sweet dog.

The sad truth of having dogs is that they age a lot faster than we do.  I love senior dogs as they are usually a lot more laid back than their younger counterparts and they are confident in their routines.  I was thrilled to take Heidi in at the age of 9- partially because we had just lost Kayla, but also because I enjoy senior dogs and their mellowness.  I was thankful that Heidi had a good three years with us, but it broke my heart to see her go at the relatively young age of  12.

Heidi was always grateful for everything.

I can take Clara anywhere.  She and I have an understanding which is hard to describe, but I know I have a deeper appreciation for her and her gentle, intuitive nature, especially after she was hit by a truck and almost killed two and a half years ago.

When Clara had the stitches- and the seroma- after she was hit by a truck, she had to wear t-shirts to keep from messing with it.  She was not amused.

Lilo is also very mellow and easy to handle, especially for a dreaded “Chow mix,” but that mellowness has taken years to cultivate.  Sheena (about 4 years old now) is not as confident or as obedient as the other two are now.  But Clara had a lot of “puppiness” to her when I got her as a thin and somewhat spooked two year old, and Lilo had her special little “Chowtude” and didn’t want to trust anyone when she first came to us.  Kayla scared her, and Clara just wanted to kick her ass.

Lilo is strange in one regard- she actually enjoys wearing clothes.

Perhaps it’s a bit twisted that I hold my dogs in higher esteem than most people, but at the end of the day- there they are.

Twisted, Torrid and Tawdry, for the Love of Dirty Laundry, and Friends or Total Strangers?

For being introverted almost to the point of being antisocial, I surprised myself in taking the initiative to go to my class reunion dinner.  There were activities planned for the entire weekend, but I know myself- a little social interaction goes a long way with me, especially in potentially awkward situations, and even more so in potentially awkward situations involving  other people and too much alcohol.   I can’t drink in public for a number of reasons, and I get enough of drunk-watching-as-entertainment at home.  I did party back in the day, but it lost its charm long ago.   Maybe I’m strange, but 25 years is a freaking long time, and I live in a completely different sphere than I did in the wonderful world of the mid-1980’s. 

Spuds is in the G&R, the stars are in the heavens and all that, but I’m not the same.  Me, circa 1986, would not even vaguely recognize me, today.  The 1986 me would probably be running for cover, screaming, “HOLY SHIT, I’ve become my mother!!” 

Some of the people I graduated with are almost exactly as I remember them.  Others have been dealt with even more cruelly by time and circumstance than I have been.  Some- or I should say most- I’d never recognized at all if not for the name tags.  Especially the guys.  I got there a bit early so I could watch people trickle in and perhaps gain my bearings.  I was shocked at how old some of the guys looked.  Jerry is 12 years older than me, but a few of these poor guys looked as if they had 20 years on him.  As cruel as it may sound, one thought that went through my head was, “Who are these geezers, and what happened to my friends?”

I don’t mean that in a malicious sort of way.  I know only too well that time has been rather cruel to me as well, even though I was never much to look at to begin with, and have always been proportioned like a mutant troll.  I am sure that not a few people looked at me and wondered what the hell happened.  I think in some ways we are all wondering just when we got so old.  I know I sort of expected everyone to look the same as I remembered, which isn’t terribly realistic. 

It is sort of sad in a way that I’ve really not kept touch with people over the years.  I do care, but I get busy, and I spend far too much time catering to Jerry and his high maintenance needs.  He made it very clear long ago that he really doesn’t want to socialize with any of my friends (frankly, I think he’s afraid of them seeing him when he’s shitfaced and acting like a horse’s ass) and I don’t socialize much anyway, so as soon as you know it, everyone I used to know is a geezer/cougar too, and their lives and circumstances have all changed. 

I made it a point not to get embroiled in anyone else’s scandals or juicy bits.  If someone were to investigate, and the more inquiring minds likely have, they can uncover all sorts of rather twisted, torrid and tawdry dirt on me. I’ve done my share of stupid things and made my share of really bad decisions.   Don Henley said it back in 1985- “We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry…”  The thing is I don’t have the heart to hold a 25 year grudge toward anyone, or to dredge up anyone’s sordid past. 

Over all, I think it was a healthy thing to reconnect for a moment, but above all, to be reminded that the past is exactly that, and for the most part, it’s a good thing.   I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now- although being in a room with close to a hundred people I’ve not seen in years did keep me more on guard than usual.  (Yet another reason why temperance befits me!) I did see some people in a different light which was also a good thing.  I may not have been one of the Beautiful People, but the line between me and them is not quite so well defined anymore. 

In some ways I like to think that I may have made some new friends. Even though I may have known them years ago, people change.  I am not the maudlin, huggy-kissy type.  I don’t  have the talent to just take up a decades-old conversation where I left off as if it were yesterday.  I don’t remember names well (I do a bit better with faces) and I know to some I might seem aloof, but even though I refrained from hugging and kissing, it was nice to see people again. 

I just couldn’t bring myself to swig on the community bottle of Boone’s Farm (acck) either.  I’ve had a pathological aversion to drinking after others (especially on a glass bottle) ever since I was about four, and my sister used to grab my pop bottle, take a big swig and backwash into it.   The thought of drinking other people’s spit and/or pre-chewed cud is one of the few things that just really completely gross me out.

I did have to take a pic of the “I Love Them Crabs” drink holder.  That is classic.  Some things do remain the same.