Found a note on my backyard table from Mother Nature this morning.
It said, “Ya know what, Mim? Sometimes, it takes something a little nutty to start a really big idea.”
Boom. She’s so right!
Back to book editing…
These same hands
that climbed the tree
turned the pages
swam the distance
wrote the poems
played the music
drove the roads
held the lover
rocked the babies
cooked the food
touched the gravestones
cheered the team
brushed the hair
made the deal
wrapped the presents
held the hands
raised the fists
gave the directions
typed the words
these same hands that got me here
will get me to where I’m going.
Only what matters should touch these hands.
Me and my hands chose wisely now.
I had a lot of people write to me about Matilda after I wrote my last post regarding her serious health crisis. Here’s the UPDATE:
No lymphoma. YES! She has been diagnosed with Addison’s Disease though, an adrenal gland malfunction. Last week she had what they call an Addisonian Episode. Prognosis is much, much better (not fatal) and I will begin to exhale easier when she starts eating on her own. Have you ever wrestled a dog that weighs more than a super model and stuffed pills wrapped in treats down her throat and then tried to wash it down with liquid so she would swallow them? Suffice it to say, “Mom” with food means pills and wrestling. “Dad” with food means happy treats. Isn’t that how it always goes? Good cop…bad cop.
If we can get this under control with medication, we may have our girl for a few more years. I am incredibly relieved. We will know more about her condition as we monitor her in the days to come, but for now, I am beyond happy to have her gigantic Schmooeyness back in the house.
Thanks to all who sent good wishes. She would lick your face if you were here. Pretend she just did. Now go wash your face.
In America, we don’t do death. One day, it happens to everything that now lives, but as a culture, we just don’t do death. As a nation, we prefer to pretend it’s not going to happen. Conversations about anything’s imminent demise are short, strictly business and as fast as we can segue to more pleasant topics, we do. The irony that we cause so much of it around the world in war scenarios is not lost on me. Other people do death. We don’t.
My dog is sick. We’re awaiting test results that will either tell us for sure, she is in end stage lymphoma or possibly has Addison’s disease; a slightly better prognosis that might give us more time with her wondrous wiggly-ness. She has been a patient at Michigan State University Veterinary Hospital, one of the best Vet programs in the world. We live five minutes away by sheer luck. As I’m moving around in my very silent house, I’m hearing phantom nails clicking on the hardwood floor, telling me it’s time to clip them. I’m coming down the stairs and my heart goes up as I wait to see her pop her big Great Dane face around the corner to greet me and it goes down again quickly when I remember where she is. I think I am practicing grief now so when it really does body slam me in the too-soon future, I might be able to manage it without flooding the first floor of my house with over flowing tears.
Many years ago, when my parents were reaching the end of their stories, I trained as a hospice volunteer. It helped tremendously when I was with them nearing the end and it helped me answer questions and be there in a fully-present way for them and my family. My younger sister even went to do her own training and now works as a hospice nurse.
Hospice, which is what my home will become for our dog, Matilda, starting today at 6 P.M. EST, is the polar opposite of not doing death. It is the sane, logical, holistic and compassionate practice of embracing every phase of life from first breath to last. I remember people asking me how I could be around those who were dying. Wasn’t it horribly depressing? No. It was not. It was an honor to be able to be with people who were fully aware of their situation. They had accepted that it was happening and were using their final days to just be with people in a way they may never have taken the time to be before they got sick.
We, as an American culture, do everything we can to avoid and delay aging and death. From plastic surgery to shark cartilage pills, hormone replacement to Viagra. We want to stay young forever and we never, ever, ever want to die, so we often die without a will, a medical directive or having given our loved ones a clue of what we wanted done with our remains. We spend more than 80% of our health care money in the last two weeks of life trying, desperately, to avoid nature calling for us. Because we do such a fantastic job of stuffing the reality of death into an airtight container in the back of our minds, the “business” of death; funerals, burial options etc., has been allowed to flourish as a ridiculously expensive service that guilt alone can propel families into financial crisis purchasing.
I’ve had a couple of friends in my life whose family business was a mortuary. They all said that they and their parents refused to have any of the expensive and wacky services done to their own bodies and though they may use a fancy casket for a wake viewing, they were choosing a biodegradable box. Why? In their own words, “It doesn’t matter what you put in the ground, a body will naturally decompose inside a paper, wood or metal container. The box is only for the living to feel like they honored the deceased in a special way.”
That last bit probably creeped you out. See? We don’t do death in America. We would rather write a check for $20,000 and buy the “top of the line casket” along with a grave site with a “view” then to look death squarely in the eye and when our or our loved one’s time comes, to say goodbye with grace, not guilt guiding decision making. I intend to honor the living while they are here and allow the endings and the afterward to move in the most natural way possible.
I happen to believe that I am not this physical body. I am a being of light that has stepped into this meat suit, like a space suit, so I could walk around this oxygen dependent planet for a while. I don’t think we just shut down and there is nothing more. I have had too many other worldly experiences to believe that without this meat suit, I cease to exist. In fact, I believe that the most difficult thing my larger light body has had to do was to compress and condense all that I am into this human form. PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER…iddy biddy living space.
I think it’s the same for animals. There’s some farmy-happy space where their sweet gooey love selves get to hang out. I have a parade of well-loved pets from the past 40 years, hanging out on a sofa in the aethers. Jai, a Lab-Dane. Chunk, a Lab-Shepard. Sydney, a Lab-Australian Shepard. Pez, a Lab-Spaniel and probably squirrel mix. Hannah, a Lab-Golden. Mouse, the cat and Sushi, the cat-both who lived to be over 21. A few years back, I started putting pictures of dogs up on my kitchen cabinets. As they have passed over, the photos migrated to the left side of the collection and our current dog, Matilda, has taken over the right two doors with pup to adult shots with my grown kids. Today, when I went to get a glass out of the cabinet, it smacked me in the face that very, very soon, she would be moving left too. That did it. Me and my Kleenex box needed to have a sit down.
Ram Dass, an American contemporary spiritual teacher and author said something once that has pressed into my heart and stayed there. “We are all just walking each other home.”
Tonight, when I go to get my super large dog friend from the hospital to bring her back into the only home she has ever known, I will be remembering that. I have accepted that death is as natural as birth, and that hospice care is the same as being a mid-wife only instead of assisting birth into this world, we are assisting birth into the next.
I am trying to shore up my reserves of strength so that when the day comes, I can look my sweet girl in the eyes and tell her, “Come on baby. I’ll walk you home.”
It’s my birthday (August 19th), which makes me a Leo. With the advent of Facebook and the reminders of friend’s upcoming birthdays, I realize that I have many Leo friends. We are all weird in the same way. Each of my fellow Leo’s has no problem having a microphone thrust into our hands at a gathering, nor do we cower when someone says, “Who wants to get this party going?”. We are often found with small and occasionally large clusters of friends in cahoots on some whacky venture we (most often) instigated. Though we have worked at jobs for someone else, we all thrive on doing our own thing and creating wonder out of whatever we can find.
A while back, it occurred to me that when I was conceived might actually have more impact on the weirdo that I am and so I have taken it upon myself to reverse calculate my own conception, as well as other people of my generation (baby boomer) to see if there is anything to my theory.
We are the products of a simpler time. Dad’s went to work wherever they worked, and moms, most of them anyway, were home raising the kids. Most of us lived near extended family, which meant that most of us had some sort of regular extended family meals, which were typically Sunday dinner. Predominantly Italian, my family gatherings included various combinations of grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins, depending on the calendar, holidays and physical proximity to one another. The days when it was just the five of us at our kitchen table felt sparse. Being the social (Drunken Thanksgiving Hook Up Baby) that I am, I preferred the 30 to 40 characters wandering around my house and the big food buffet spread any day.
I am (probably) the product of slightly tipsy to drunken sex after a Thanksgiving gathering. Since parents see these gatherings differently than children experience them, the vibe in the air the night (or day) that my parents did the deed was probably one of secretly surviving the dreaded table gathering of family members at an event that required attendance but no specific present giving. The focus at that time of year was on Thanks-giving; gratefulness. Once they reached the privacy of their bedroom after tucking in the tryptophan and pumpkin pie filled comatose children, they gave their own kind of thanks for surviving another meal with the crazy relative, annoying mother-in-law and nerve testing siblings.
Below is a handy-dandy calculator to quickly ascertain when your own biological parents hooked up. If your parents were sports nuts or not, you might be able to take a very educated guess as to when you were “made”.
My husband is most likely the result of a post tailgate party at UW, Madison after the Wisconsin vs. Marquette game on October, 3, 1953. Wisconsin won the game, 13/11 with 51,000 fans in attendance at Randall Stadium. Yep. That’s probably how they celebrated the win. A “what the hell, let’s do it” kind of roll in the hay. They probably had a baby sitter back home with the other three boys and stayed on somewhere in Madison for the night for a little mini vacation, sans children.
I like to think about weird stuff like this. I’ve got one sister who was a Tax Week conception. They probably got a refund that year and did a little dinner with wine hoorah. It could give a clue about Capricorn people who make great accountants, tally takers, inventory list makers and bankers. The other one is a first week of summer vacation conception. Weather heating up, no air-conditioning back in 1952, mom in her ray-bans and cotton shorts, dad in his shirt sleeves looking all young buck Italian. It might explain her fantasy like Piscean world. Yep. Not hard to get the vibe of the week when you play this little Conception Game.
I know you want to look yours up too so here is a link to a sight where you can use their calculator and narrow the search on your own conception date. Then go look up news, weather and events of the world that week. It’s a whole new way to look at birthdays. Dive in there.
My Mom & Dad looking all summery and 1950-ish.
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