Sudoku

Usually it’s still dark when I wake. And it’s cold – I turn the heat down at night, and crack the window because when you share a bedroom with two large dogs you have to. I burrow under my nest of blankets and ignore my bladder for as long as I can, then I jump out of bed, stumble to the loo, put Argos out (he and his bladder are also getting old), scurry to the kitchen to turn the heat up from 65 to 67 F, let Argos back in and dive back into bed. I promise myself that as soon as I hear the heat exchanger fans stop running I’ll get up, get dressed, do all the morning things, tackle my to do list. I will have a good, productive day. I will write.

Then, while I wait for the house to warm, I play games on my phone. Fishdom is the most addictive. Wordle, of course – does anyone not play Wordle? And the other free games offered by the New York Times – Spelling Bee (I win if I find the bingos) … Letter Boxed (three moves max) … Tiles … the crosswords … Sudoku. I like games because you can solve them. There are no grey areas – either you win, or you lose. Take Sudoku – there’s only one right answer, but you go through the process and the solution emerges and then it’s done. There’s no fallout, no leftover parts, no mess.

Sometimes I use up my lives on Fishdom, then switch to the NYT games, and by the time I’ve done those I have more lives on Fishdom … It’s remarkable how long one can put off getting out of bed just switching back and forth between games. And of course there’s the news, and the advice columnists, and Reddit, and all of YouTube.

So many hungry, jostling people, yawping for attention, love, justification. Relevance. Meaning. Isn’t that what we all want?

Which brings me to the point of this blog post – which I started in October. In fact I pretty much finished it in October … but then I set it aside, as I usually do, because I wanted to add some pictures, and also I like to wait a day before publishing and give one last read – only I every time I tried to do that I pretty much fell apart all over again. I’ll try to do better this time because it needs to be done and posted so I can move forward.

As I was saying regarding the point of this post: I need to yawp. I’ve been needing to yawp for a long time. The problem is, this is not a depression blog, and I don’t want to write misery porn. But this year has sucked so much, just one swipe of the cosmic vacuum cleaner after another. It has sucked the skin right off my body, leaving me flayed. Defenseless. When I leave my bed, my soft nest of blankets, there is no protective barrier between me and … everything else.

But this blog is where I come to figure things out. I take a snapshot of my life that, for some or other reason, feels significant, and I put it into a frame, and I hang it up on a wall and point to it and say, “See? Look at that! What do you think?” Sometimes I indulge in a spot of mindfuckery – I hang it upside down, say, or I point at a different wall and wait to see if you notice the picture. Because you are a crucial part of the process. I don’t journal – I’ve tried; everything I’ve ever read about writing preaches that journaling is a crucial part of Being A Writer, but I cannot commit to writing without at least the hope of a reader. There has to be a dialog, even if it’s imaginary, or there’s no point.

Everything I’ve tried to write this year – both here and in the maddeningly almost-but-still-not-quite-finished book – has been pointless. It’s been coins dropped into an empty well – instead of a splash and a glint if the light is angled just right, there’s a faint, sad thud and a sinking into mud.

It’s been that kind of year.

So. Anyway. Here I am. Yawp.

Just call me Kilroy. (Photo by David Clode on Unsplash)

I am here to draw a line under 2022. It’s nearly over anyway, but I need the line now. Sometimes a line is necessary – you draw it, and then you total up whatever’s above it, and then a kind of magic happens. Everything above the line is captured, encapsulated, contextualized in the solution. It may still not make sense. It may still have the power to make you cry. But still it’s a solution, boxed up, and you can set it aside and it looks tidier than having everything just all over and anyhow.

2022 actually started last December, after I wrecked the pickup and Patchee died. I was discombobulated and needed to take a few days out to take stock, to think, to plan. To pray and prepare my heart for the new year. So I kissed the (only slightly resentful) Hubbit goodbye and checked myself and Argos into a nearby hotel.

I guess I got some praying done, but wifely habits die hard; I checked in with the Hubbit by phone to remind him to feed the chickens, and found him in a snit because he’d stumbled upon an amazing bargain while poking around the internet, and had bought me a laptop, and then – minutes after paying for it – realized he’d been scammed. And no matter how much I reminded, begged and nagged he could not and would not step away long enough to feed and water my feathery ladies. It was bitterly cold – same as the weather we’re having now, actually: weeks at a stretch below freezing, so their water froze and there wasn’t anything growing and the bugs and worms had burrowed deep. They needed care, but the Hubbit was too busy being furious with the bank (which was refusing to stop his online payment) to pay attention.

So I left the hotel and met him at the bank, where a young man was rude and unhelpful, and then I followed him home and found Mr. Roo collapsed and dying, so I dealt with that and went back to the hotel and tried to pray some more.

Meanwhile, although I didn’t know about it until a week or two later, on the other side of the planet my heart-sister Twiglet was fighting for her life in an ICU. She must have told me she was having hip surgery a month or so previously, but we’re so blasé about that kind of thing these days – a joint wears out and we pop into the hospital for a couple days and come out with a new one and it’s just a no-never-mind. Only, she developed an infection that roared through her body and sent her mind spiraling through bizarre landscapes. For months and months we lurched between “Praise God! Her infection markers are way down!” and “Oh no … a new bug has taken hold…”. It was a rollercoaster ride from Hell that went on and on, and on … and through it all I got to speak with her only once, in February. (I managed to make her laugh!) The rest of the time I was told she was too sick to speak. Or too tired. Or not lucid enough. Even when the news (I did get regular updates) seemed good, I was told she didn’t have her phone.

It tore my heart out not to be there – but even if it had made sense to go (it didn’t; she was rarely allowed visitors) how could I leave the Hubbit? In the savage, grey cold of winter he shrank and huddled into himself. I was afraid of what else might die if I left to go even further from home. I was afraid he would sit and eat nothing but junk food and get himself lost somewhere in the interwebs. I was afraid he might fall. His best friend, formerly known as the Cool Dude, lived on the property … but he’s a drunk and unreliable.

January, February, March I distracted myself by picking away at the bank, trying to get them first to cancel, then to reverse the Hubbit’s payment to the scammers. It was stupid to fight so hard for a mere hundred dollars, but rage drove me. The first customer service rep was so disdainful in the way he spoke to the Hubbit, treating him like a foolish old man; the others were ineffectual; the system was designed to be as difficult to navigate as possible. I wrote to the Attorney General, I blasted them on social media and sites like Yelp!, I pleaded and berated and threatened for months – such an appalling waste of time and energy! (And I got nowhere – there was too much else going on and I eventually let it go.)

Meanwhile, in March it was the Hubbit’s turn for had a quick little routine surgery – a simple removal of his gall bladder. It was no big deal – he was in and out in one day. Easy peasy.

They warn you that the gas pains afterwards are dreadful. The procedure involves pumping gas into the abdomen, and it floats around in there, getting stuck in awkward nooks and crannies, until it’s absorbed through the intestinal tissues and ejected in the usual fashion. The best way to get rid of the gas is to get up and move – which hurts, of course, but we were told that you have to tough it out and then it gets better.

The Hubbit wouldn’t move. He said it hurt, and also he felt sick. I summoned the Bitch Wife, who lashed him with her tongue, and he hated me almost as much as I did. And he did not get better. So I called various doctors and he went back to the hospital, where he failed to poop for a record-breaking number of days. When his bowels finally woke themselves up and performed, his nurses and doctor sang the Halleluiah chorus and packed him back home … where he continued to huddle, and shrink, and on the rare occasion that he spoke his speech was slurred and he forgot what he was saying – and usually what he was saying didn’t make a whole lot of sense anyway.

I called doctors again, and they patted me on the head and explained that he was old, until in desperation I summoned my Inner Karen, and she uttered the L word.

If there’s one thing doctors take seriously in this country, it’s lawsuits.

What I actually said was, “You know, I’m starting to wonder just who I’m going to sue when we find out his death was preventable. Should it be the hospital? Or your boss?” (I was speaking to the surgeon’s assistant. He was busy with another patient.) So she trotted off and returned a few minutes later with the surgeon in tow. He looked at the Hubbit, who was slumped in his chair and staring into space, and said, “You’re really worried?”

“Look,” I said. “He’s old. And he’s annoying and cantankerous. But outside of his political opinions there is nothing wrong with his brain!”

“Hmm,” he said. “Well, he doesn’t have any of the usual symptoms of an abscess, but let’s just check it out to set your mind at rest.” So they did, and he had an abscess the size of a fair-sized zucchini, all swollen up with glop from his bowel and less than a day away from erupting. He spent a couple more weeks in the hospital, and then they were about to send him home and he was well enough by then to tell me he wasn’t happy about that, so Karen popped her head out again. Once again they did a “probably unnecessary test” to “set everyone’s mind at rest” and found leakage where no leakage should be. At last in April he came home, fully restored to his annoying, cantankerous self, to my profound relief.

Meanwhile I’d developed a pain in my knee so severe some days I could barely walk. None of my remedies worked – neither ice nor heat, not an anti-inflammatory diet or fasting, not exercises or stretching or rest or powering through. But there was a huge bag of grain that the Hubbit and the Formerly Cool Dude had dumped in a random location, where cattle and horses kept breaking into it every time they bust out of their pasture (which tends to happen a lot when steers get to a certain age. I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that we won’t be too sad when we kill and eat them.) So because I was hurting too much to lift it unaided, and the Hubbit was too feeble and floppy to help, I asked the FCD to move it to where they couldn’t get at it, because gorging on grain is a pretty sure way for grass-eaters to kill themselves. Well, somehow that request for help went sideways and the FCD launched into a vicious tirade that comprehensively covered everything he disliked about me – which turned out to be pretty much everything.

In the overall context of the general shittitude of the year, the booze-fueled ravings of a depressed, self-loathing misogynist is a relatively small matter. But … this was someone I’d known for a quarter of a century – since I arrived in this country. Back in the day, if he and the Hubbit went hunting together I never worried about potential accidents. I liked him, respected him, and trusted him. Even as I’d watched him deteriorate during the eight or so years he lived in his motorhome on our property, I’d wished him well and hoped he’d manage to turn himself around. So the implosion of that relationship, the Hubbit’s ambivalent response to his behavior, the FCD’s continued presence for months before he suddenly just up and left without saying goodbye or even leaving a forwarding address, all combined to taint what little peace and happiness the year had to offer. And now I’m sorry the Hubbit has lost his friend and git-her-done partner. But for myself I’m relieved that he’s gone. And that’s all I have to say about that.

My heart sister … I gave her such a hard time for joining the Red Hat Society!

I continued recording messages to send to Twiglet. They weren’t profound … Her husband said she enjoyed news from the Outside World, so mainly I bitched about my sore knee and yattered on about fence-smashing cows and too many dogs and gardenly frustrations. My prayers were also neither profound nor articulate. When you’ve been praying for a long time for something you really desperately want, after a while you run out of words, and all that’s left is an agonized, wordless “Please!” But when the infection flared up for the umpteenth time in June, her doctors were ready to quit fighting it. The only way to save her, they said, was to amputate her leg. “She’s strong enough,” they said, “But she might not be for much longer.”

Of course the people who loved her immediately rallied with intense prayer – not to save the leg, but for the doctors to have wisdom, and for this terrible journey at last to be done. I made up my mind that, come what may, I would go to be with her after she got back home, just for a week or two to help her recover. I imagined the koeksisters we would eat, and the conversations we would have, and how raucously we would laugh, sitting on her stoep overlooking their beautiful garden. I may have sent her a message mocking her for taking such extreme measures to lose weight … Or maybe I saved that joke for when I would see her. I don’t remember.

A few days later the doctors opened up the wound site just to check on the status of the infection. (This was something they had done often. The infection was deep in her bone, so blood tests weren’t reliable.) And in light of all our prayers – because I’ve had experience of miracles, and she had she – it wasn’t all that surprising to learn that the infection was clear. The surgeon who had proposed amputation told her husband, “I can’t justify removing a healthy limb.” At last it was over!

But…

That little surgery was one cut too many. Over the next few days, system by system, her body shut down.

On the Fourth of July I was out – I forget why – and en route home I connected briefly with her husband. He was at the hospital with her, and she wasn’t doing well. I asked if I could talk to her on his phone, since he was right there, but he said she couldn’t speak. He told me to record a message that he could play for her. I wanted to argue, to ask him please just to let me talk to her, even if she couldn’t respond – same as I did with my Marmeee … but he was so tired, and you don’t argue with someone who is sitting at his wife’s deathbed – not even when you both are convinced that she’ll be fine. When I got home I sat on my veranda, and as the fireworks started going off all around me I recorded a series of messages just to tell her I loved her, and that she had done well with her life, and that everything was going to be okay.

The next morning I woke to the news that she was gone. And then I took my knee to the doctor, who diagnosed bursitis and injected a steroid and made it better. Easy peasy.

While I was with the doctor I asked him if I could stop taking the blood thinners I’d been on since my pulmonary embolism last August. He approved, and a few weeks later (it was Twiglet’s birthday – her family gathered on a beach she loved and sent her ashes out to sea) I was back in ER, once again unable to breathe, followed by several days in the hospital, and so now I’m on blood thinners for the rest of my life.

Around about then Cujo moved to Idaho, depriving me of my rescue partner and most reliable venting buddy. We’d already decided – way back in January or February – that it was time to get out of rescue … and I’m almost there. But after she left I contacted the shelter and offered to take an old dog, because they tend not to do well in shelters and Cujo’s and my rescue has always done a pretty good job of finding wonderful homes for seniors. So Chief, a sweet old guy, moved in. After a few days I took him for a vet check, as we always do with seniors, and learned that he had advanced lymphoma, so the Hubbit and I decided he would just spend his last few months here on our little farm. Only not long after, for no clear reason (it’s possible the cancer had metastasized to his brain), he walked under the moving tractor, so he didn’t even get that.

I think that’s the last horrible thing that’s happened this year – except that I’ve been getting slower and sadder and more and more useless, and eventually a few days ago I paid my doctor another visit and it turns out I’m severely anemic. I kind of think that’s good news, though … I mean, it isn’t, of course. But at least this enemy has a face and it’s not the Black Dog, and I have a strategy for getting better. So that’s good, right?

But.

I am so, so tired. I’m sad. I feel old, fat, itchy and achy. Despite my best (currently feeble) efforts to be Holly Homemaker the house won’t stop throwing up all over itself, and – just to help that process along – we have two more dogs that needed somewhere to be and somehow this was the only spot available, and the cold hit before I could finish my end-of-growing-season chores, and there’s frozen snow everywhere just waiting to turn mucky and then freeze again. The pickup is still wrecked. The book is still not written. I’m still breathless.

The best friend I ever had and ever will have is still gone and always will be.

Sometimes I think how much easier it would be if I just stopped. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t actually want to die. In fact, when the doc got a bit vehement because he felt I wasn’t taking the whole anemia thing seriously enough (he wants more tests to figure it out, and that’s fine) I did feel a twinge of ehhh … I hope it’s nothing bad. (I don’t think it is. For quite a long time I’ve been pretty much living on cheese and tomato sandwiches, which aren’t generally a great source of iron.) But my body kind of has a use-by date now, and it would be so easy just to stop taking the dang blood thinners and let my blood do whatever it wants to do. It would be so easy peasy.

It’s time to draw that line – but how to do it?

Life is nothing at all like a game of Sudoku. There is no one perfect solution. There is no single sure way to make the squares in a row line up and act orderly.

It’s nothing like a column of numbers – there’s no way to calculate the sum because the answer keeps changing.

You can’t even draw a line in the sand and say, “Okay, Life, I dare ya – step over that and see what I do to you!” Because sometimes life laughs and runs away, and sometimes it plants you square in the nose, and sometimes a wave billows in from the side and washes the line away.

Sometimes the line isn’t even yours to draw, and the best you can do is take note, and move on.

Photo by Daryl Han on Unsplash

Errands

I didn’t get a whole lot done today. I’d planned to spend the day working on a project – I’m designing a website for a friend. This is a new challenge for me, and I’m loving the way it stretches my brain, even though I feel useless and pitiful and old for finding it so dang hard!

But first I had to bitch at my doctor’s office over a prescription snafu, and that led – by a convoluted trail – to a fight over who in the practice was actually my doctor, and then I had to write an impassioned email to the practice manager insisting that they assign me to the doctor I actually like and trust instead of the one who, on the one occasion I saw her, clearly considered me an imbecile who doesn’t know my own body. I wrote it on my phone, held two inches from my nose with one eye screwed shut because all this erupted while I was still in bed and before I’d put my contact lenses in, and then for some reason it was necessary to read the email, compulsively, over and over again, until they called me back and said it was okay, I could have the doctor I wanted.

So then I got up and got dressed and fed the dogs / horses / chickens / and while I was fixing toast and eggs for myself and the Hubbit I had a call from a snotty young asshole at our mortgage company demanding a payment that we’d been told we didn’t need to make, so we’d spent the money on other stuff, like Equine Senior pellets and chemotherapy. He and I circled the conversational drain a few times before he went away and I flung myself (and my eggs and toast) at my computer and wrote my second impassioned email of the day, this time to the person at the mortgage company who had told me we were skipping the payment. (Synopsis: we refinanced. Shit happened.) There followed more obsessive/compulsive rereading, but this time at least I was dressed and able to see.

Roary. I want so much to give this dog a safe place for Christmas.

At last I yanked myself out of that vortex, determined to focus on the website, but first I detoured through my pet rescue’s email inbox, and was emotionally bludgeoned by a desperate appeal for help from someone who has a dog – a middle-aged male pit / mastiff mix – that her daughter rescued after he was left to starve in an abandoned house and then passed along to her when she (the daughter) landed in jail. This woman rescues cats – ferals, which she rehabilitates and rehomes. So far the dog has killed two of them, so the dog is now also in jail. Right now, cats are not being rescued, the dog has lost 15 pounds and has developed an array of stress-related health problems, and the woman is on the verge of a breakdown. She’s tried everyone she knows, she tells me, and no one will help. This is not a surprise; rescues are all in overload. Christmas is when people get a new puppy (and dump the old dog) or go skiing or to Hawaii (and dump the inconvenient dog), and of course this year there are all the covid-companions that are also being dumped because people are going back to work and “don’t have time to give him the attention he deserves.”

Side note: For fuck’s sake, people. If your name isn’t Musk or Bezos, never mind your dog, you’re probably not getting what you “deserve”. You’re quite possibly not even getting what you need. Suck it up, and if you have a dog, figure out how to suck that up too! The single most important thing a dog – or anyone – needs is a place to be, and if you don’t provide that, and the rescues can’t, he has to stop being. It’s that simple.

To stop being – to absorb a few CCs of blue magic and fall asleep: this might be all Roary gets, in the end. I can’t take him; I told her that a week ago, the first time she emailed me. I would if I could, but I have a kitty in my bedroom, and feral cats in the workshop, and chickens. I’m also getting too old and gimpy to cope with an unsocialized, out-of-control 100 lb dog, no matter how sweet he is deep down. And Argos is making it increasingly clear that he is over this rescue schtick of mine.

I called Cujo, who is my rescue partner, to ask if she had any ideas, and she said she couldn’t deal with it, couldn’t think of it – and of course she couldn’t. She’s grieving her sweet, bouncy, wilful, neurotic, beloved pit bull Jilly Bean. Little Bean came to us several years ago when the Animal Control director called to ask for help. She was just a baby – maybe six months old – and already broken and scary. Cujo took her home to rehabilitate her, and when that wasn’t possible she simply loved her and gave her a place to be for as long as possible. But the legacy of bad breeding, apart from behavioral problems, is bad health. She itched, all over and all the time, and after a while medication, special food and baths stopped working. And then her joints began to crumble. She was young and wanted to run and play but her body just couldn’t do it. She was stoical and joyous but life wasn’t good, and the pain began to make her dangerous. Cujo took her to the vet for the last time just a little while ago. I was there, and it was loving and peaceful and terrible, and now Cujo needs time to heal. She cannot be thinking about other people’s dogs.

So I wrote the kindest, most empathetic email I could to the woman, explaining for the second time – but in more detail – why we couldn’t help. I offered to pay for the euthanasia, since even her vet thinks that’s the route she should take if he isn’t placed in a new home soon. I offered to go with her to have him put to sleep, because I know – how well I know! – that it’s a terrible thing to face alone. It’s one thing to euthanize an animal that’s sick and suffering. It’s entirely another when the creature is eager to love and still greedy for life. And then I thought some more about it, and I wrote to our vet just in case she knew of someone who might take him, and I posted the appeal on Facebook with his picture … but I don’t expect anything to come of any of that. People will wring their hands and say how sad it is, but actually do anything? No, not too likely.

After that, I cried for a while, and by the time that was done it was too late to be thinking about websites. It was getting dark. I had errands to run, some of them urgent. I called Argos, and we took off together.

We went to the post office, where I picked up boxes to mail Christmas cakes – two to friends, and one to the guy who rescued me a few weeks ago. Dropped off a Christmas cake, newly baptized in brandy, with friends who foster a litter or two of puppies for us every year, thereby keeping our little rescue solvent. Went to the feed store, where I picked up several bags of the special old-horse-pellets we give Vos and Garcia, because Vos is now 30 years old and can’t chew enough hay to keep nourished, and Garcia is getting to the age where he needs a bit of nutritional support come winter.

From there we headed across town to Petco. I went into autopilot and turned right, to the dog toy section, and stopped for a while and stared at all the toys. Rubber ones, and fabric ones. Ones that you can tug and shake. Bouncy ones. Fluffy ones. The kind she loved best – squeaky ones.

I realized I could buy any I wanted and be confident that they’d last. Because the small, bright-eyed, prick-eared, black-and-white person who used to dismantle every fluffy or squeaky toy I ever brought home, no matter how careful I was to keep them out of her reach, isn’t here any more.

I didn’t want to cry in Petco.

Boudicca. In winter, my personal nighttime neckwarmer. In summer, the terror of small wild furry things.

I backed away from the toys. Took Argos to his favorite area – where the animals are. It wasn’t too interesting; the chinchilla was hiding and the ferrets were asleep, and he was kinda meh about the mice and birds, although he clacked his teeth at the parrot and the parrot snapped its beak back at him, so I guess there was some sort of inter-species communication there. Anyway, we went and got the cat litter we were there for – the clumping kind for the barn cats, and the pellets made of recycled newsprint for Boudicca.

I loaded it onto the front passenger seat, on top of the soft, bright blanket that’s been there since her last ride to the vet. I ignored the blanket, and also the box of canned dog food in the footwell in front of the seat, as I have every time I’ve used the car in the past week. We went to Yokes, a grocery store, where I picked up veggies, and a random assortment of suppery things from the deli counter, and chocolate chips so I can make a batch of brownies as a thank you for the neighbor who is coming over tomorrow with his backhoe.

I so very badly do not want to think about this! Forgive me, please, for sneaking it in under a to-do list of errands and other nonsense. I needed to bury it somehow.

But … she deserves better. So here it is: a short In Memoriam for a small dog who has left the most enormous hole.

Patchee

Patchee came to us about ten years ago. She was only a year old, if that, when the local animal control director called and asked the Hubbit and me to take her in, because the dog rescue we’d started was becoming known as a place to take dogs with behavioral issues. “There really isn’t anything wrong with this dog,” the director told us, “But legally I can’t rehome her. I have to euthanize her unless a rescue agrees to rehabilitate her. And it wouldn’t be right to put her down. She’s a perfectly normal dog, and she’s too young!”

She’d been adopted from the pound by someone who wanted a cute puppy, and who thought a heeler mix would do just fine cooped up in an apartment while the woman – a lawyer – was at work twelve hours a day. The woman was most put out when her sweet little puppy took to dismantling cushions, the couch, and anything else she could get her teeth into. Then the woman invited her friends over, and – so disconcerting – the Heeler nipped at their heels, herding them around and then out of the apartment. So the woman took her back to the pound, and in an effort to excuse herself she said the words that amounted to a death warrant: “She tries to bite my friends. I think she’s potentially dangerous.”

Well, of course we took her in, and she was with us for quite a while – at least a year. People applied to adopt her, but while other dogs came and went she stayed. She had attached herself to the Hubbit, and she disdained anyone else’s overtures. Eventually a family came to meet her – an older couple and the four teenage grandsons they were raising. To our great surprise, Patchee welcomed them. The grandsons threw balls, and she loved fetching balls, and that was really all it took. So they took her away, and as they rolled down the driveway Jim broke down and said, “I think I’ve just made a huge mistake.”

Mistake or not, we had to live with it, and so he did – but he set her picture as the wallpaper on his cell phone and carried her next to his heart, and a couple times when we were near the town she had moved to he drove past the house, hoping to see her. We never did.

Eighteen months later they called us. They told us they’d adopted another dog, from a shelter in a different town. They’d chosen that dog because it looked like Patchee and they’d thought it would be cute to have a matching pair, but they weren’t working out. Patchee had started having accidents in the house, and was scared to go outside. Frankly, it all sounded a little weird. So we told them to bring her back.

“No, no!” they said. “We love Patchee – we want to keep her. But we don’t want to take the other dog back to the shelter. We were hoping you’d take her and find her a home.”

“Nope,” I said. “Sounds like Patchee has a problem. We’re responsible for fixing it. Please bring her back.” So, reluctantly, they did. They completed paperwork to transfer her to us. Just before they signed they started to pull back and I thrust it at them. “This is the right decision,” I said, and stared them down. I was implacable. Looking back, I can’t remember why … I just knew something wasn’t okay and we needed to take our girl back. I don’t know what had really happened to her while she was with them. I don’t know what happened to the other dog. Maybe they kept her, maybe not. Maybe she was okay. They’d said she was fine.

Patchee was not fine. For several days she was utterly shut down – barely eating, barely sleeping, just curled in a tight ball, refusing to make eye contact. Then one day the Hubbit and I were sitting quietly near her and chatting, and he … I don’t know what he did. Maybe he laughed, or maybe he used a phrase that triggered a memory. I just remember that suddenly she raised her head and looked at him. Stood up, went to him, and “Oh!” she said, with her whole body. “There you are!” And she began to heal.

She started following him around the farm. Curling up close by in his study. Playing fetch. Dismantling toys to find the squeak. Sleeping between us on the bed. She changed toward me too – decided I was maybe a little more than the person who fed her and threw the ball; I began to get my small allotment of snuggles and “Good morning” rrroooo-rrahhhs. She even decided she liked a few of our friends.

And that was pretty much the sum total of her life until a few months ago. She didn’t do anything extraordinary … She rolled in cow manure in spring and turned green. She chased the ball. She went down to the river a few times, and sometimes rode along when the Hubbit went out on errands. She found the squeaker in every squeaky toy, and pulled stuffing out of anything stuffed. She hung out with the Hubbit. She was happy.

A few months ago I took her to the vet for her senior wellness exam, and after a couple of tests they diagnosed early stage kidney failure and an inoperable tumor in her bladder. This was our second case of kidney failure this year … the Hubbit’s other little princess, Ntombi, died last April barely two months after her diagnosis. And when she got sick we were sad and worried, and I turned myself inside-out trying to feed her home-cooked meals suitable for failing kidneys, and when we had to let her go because she was simply fading away we were sad – of course we were.

Ntombi – our first death row rescue. She was just a puppy in 2007, scheduled to die because there was no room at the pound.

But she was an old dog, and old dogs die. It’s what you expect. One of the things that may carry them off is kidney failure. So when we got Patchee’s diagnosis I was sad, but she was eleven – not old old, but old enough. The tumor worried me, but I figured we’d just keep things going as long as we could and help her go when we had to.

The Hubbit didn’t react that way. “We need to fight this. I’m not ready to lose her,” he said. So we went back to the vet to discuss our options, and the vet suggested we take her to the oncology department at Washington State University vet school.

The thing about refinancing a mortgage is, you get a month, or occasionally two months, of grace during which you don’t have to make a payment. There’s the final payment to your original mortgage holder, and then you get whatever is left in your escrow account, and a month (or two) of no mortgage payment before payments to the new mortgage holder kick in.

The vet at WSU said a course of chemo might help her. It wouldn’t cure the cancer, she warned, but it might give her some time – quality time, with just a few tough days after each treatment. We would have to take her in every three weeks, and she’d need to have a blood test done at our local vet a week after each treatment, and sometimes other tests. She’d have to stay on the special kidney diet as well, and she’d be on daily medications. All this added up to a wild number of dollars. But … we could do it. So we did.

The first treatment was amazing. She could pee again! She’d squat and pee would come out – a bit reddish, but they told us that was a normal side-effect of the chemo – and in no time she’d be done and bouncing off to do something more interesting. Her appetite recovered a few days after the treatment, her tail went up, her rrroooo-rrahhhs came at full volume. She fetched the ball and hung out with the Hubbit and life was good.

By the time the second treatment rolled around, peeing was difficult again. It was slow, and she sometimes had to walk around a while to get herself into exactly the right position to make anything come out. We looked forward to another improvement after that treatment, but there was none, and there was no improvement after the third treatment either, and by then it was difficult to get her to eat even after she’d had time to recover from the chemo. We abandoned the special kidney diet – it was becoming clear that she wouldn’t be around long enough to die of kidney failure – and I spent hours picking at chicken breast, breaking the flesh into fragments, mashing them into rice that had been cooked in chicken broth. I bought canned dog food that smelled so yummy it drove the rest of the pack crazy with envy, and the Hubbit tempted her with bits and pieces off his plate. She developed a bladder infection and was on an antibiotic, so I loaded up a large syringe with Greek yogurt twice a day and forced her to take it. She developed diarrhea, so I made her eat canned pumpkin, pushing it far back into her mouth with my thumb and holding her muzzle so she couldn’t spit it out. The rest of the time – when she wasn’t peeing one tiny drip at a time, or grimacing at the thought of food, she was as she always had been – watching over the Hubbit out in the pasture, in his workshop, while he was at his computer. She loved him, and she loved her life.

Three weeks ago I took her for her fourth treatment. It’s a two-and-a-half hour drive to WSU, and I welcomed the respite from everyday life. I left around dawn to be there in time for her 9.00AM appointment, listening to Stephen King’s “It” on an audiobook, on time for once, no need to rush, loving the easy highway through the unfurling hills of the Palouse. I was in our new pickup, Argos on the back seat and Patchee, snug in the colorful fleece jacket Cujo made her, curled up on her blanket on the passenger seat beside me. The sun had been up for a while as I rounded a curve, loving the sparkle of the thin layer of ice on the roadway, taking it slow.

The quiet beauty of the Palouse

And then I was spinning and time shifted into slow-motion. I checked the dogs, and they were fine. I remembered not to slam the brakes because that would make the skid harder to control. I checked the road and was relieved to see no traffic. I steered into the spin. My foot hovering over the brake, I waited to regain control, but that didn’t happen. I looked at the barricade as I was carried inexorably toward it – it looked just so flimsy, and I studied the way the hillside sloped down into the valley below the road, and I wondered whether I’d be able to keep the pickup upright when we smashed through the barricade and slammed downward. I figured the truck was probably going to roll, and I thought, “Okay, so maybe this is how death happens for me. I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.” I hoped the dogs would be okay, and not run off and be lost and starve in those lonely hills. I felt the pickup slam into the barricade – a solid thump, and the barricade held and we were sliding and spinning back across into the left lane, still no oncoming traffic, and I think it was around about then that I started carefully pumping the brake, still steering into the spin as best I could, and the wheels bit into gravel at the edge of the road, and at last. We. Stopped.

I guess the whole thing took less than a minute, but it lasted half a lifetime. I guess I must have hit a puddle of black ice, not yet melted although the sun had been up for at least an hour along that stretch of roadway. I’ve since learned that because the cruise control was on, when the wheels hit ice and lost friction they automatically accelerated, and of course until I tapped the brake the cruise control kept the pickup moving. So obvious … I was waiting for it to slow down, and it couldn’t – not until I deactivated the cruise control by braking. And I hesitated to brake, because I didn’t want to make the skid worse. So … a lesson for any who don’t know: don’t use cruise control in potentially icy conditions.

It wasn’t long before a car came along and pulled over, and a young man asked if I needed help. He loaned me his cell phone to call the Hubbit (mine wasn’t picking up a signal), and then he took me and the dogs to WSU. There was another accident a little further along the highway but he said he’d grown up in the area and preferred using the more scenic back routes anyway, and took off along a dirt road that wound through the hills. It was very pretty, but I spent most of the drive thinking how ironic it would be to have survived the accident only to be done in by a serial killer, and wondering whether the Hubbit would be able to find the dogs. (Spoiler alert: I’m still here.)

And then … we were at the vet school, and back inside the painful reality of regular life. A vet student came and took Patchee to have an ultrasound. Argos and I made camp in the lobby with the pile of blankets and my Kindle and other random crap that I’d thought I needed to pull from the pickup. After a while the Cool Dude, the Hubbit’s friend who lives in a motorhome parked next to our house, arrived to take us home. He’d left the Hubbit to figure out how to get the pickup back to the farm. We hung around and waited, and eventually the vet emerged and told me that Patchee’s tumor was still growing, and she wanted to try a different chemotherapy drug, and a course of radiation therapy to start in a few weeks. I said okay to the chemo, and agreed to discuss radiation with the Hubbit. At last the day was over and we loaded up in the Cool Dude’s car and drove home.

She loved when I snuggled her up into one of the jackets Cujo made her. She didn’t like being cold! But then after a few days she’d go out and scrape it off wriggling through a pasture fence, and the Hubbit would have to go looking.

We hoped, so very much, that this new chemo drug would work – that she’d at least be able to pee easy again. But … no. Mostly she leaked. She was scheduled for her fifth chemo treatment this week.

Last week, on Wednesday morning, I noticed she was passing blood – not just bloody urine, which was somewhat normal, but actual blood. I called the vet, and they said to take her in and they’d check her out in between appointments and call when they knew something. A couple hours later they called me, and I told the Hubbit he needed to go and be with her. It was time to let her go.

We don’t know for sure without a necropsy, but we think the tumor blocked her urethra, or maybe it just got too big, and her bladder ruptured. The extraordinary thing is that she still sang a song of joy to the Hubbit that morning, and she glommed down half her breakfast a few hours later, and she was … just … happy to be alive, hanging out with the Hubbit, doing her thing. She wasn’t afraid, and she didn’t complain that she was hurting.

The Hubbit brought her home in a little cardboard coffin the vet provided, still wearing the bright jacket that can no longer warm her. He put her in the big chest freezer we keep in the workshop. He insisted that he and the Cool Dude would dig her grave, but they’re both gimped up and I need her not to be in the freezer any more, so a couple days ago he agreed to ask our neighbor for help.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up early and make him a batch of brownies. He’s coming with his backhoe at 10:00AM, and it won’t take long.

At 11.00AM a woman is arriving with a little freaked-out Mini-Aussie who needs a place to be and someone to teach her how to stop biting and be happy.

On Sunday I’m meeting with someone who needs me to do write something for her.

On Monday I’m working on that website.

Sometimes life spins out of control, and sometimes it’s in slow-mo, and sometimes both happen at once. You have to drive into the spin, tap the brake lightly, and hope the barricade will hold. Usually it does.

Gaps in the fence

The other day I was driving home when our neighbor’s wife called to say her husband had died. We didn’t know them well. I’d only ever spoken to the wife over the telephone, though I knew him to say hello or wave. He and the Hubbit were friendly; they’d call on each other for help as needed – to borrow tools or equipment, or work together on some or other repair. For a while we took care of their pasture in return for grazing our cattle there. More than once he zipped over in his golf cart to help us chase down a runaway steer.

Somehow I never got around to inviting them over to barbecue, and we had no idea that he’d been diagnosed with throat cancer in February.  When I got home I told the Hubbit the news and he was dismayed. “Well, dang!” he said. “I’ve been thinking I should go over and visit, but…”

A few weeks ago I learned that my Aunt Marietjie had died. She was in her nineties and I knew she’d become frail, but the last time I saw her – just a few years ago at Marmeee’s memorial service – she was as I’d always known her: calm, unfalteringly kind, resolute. We weren’t close; I didn’t see her that often and in the 23 years since I moved to the US we’ve never corresponded … but when I named this blog it was with her in mind, because she was someone I kinda wanted to be like – strong, unflappable, salt-of-the-earth, a woman of strong faith and stronger Scrabble skills, a quiet source of wisdom and comfort food.

My father, the Olde Buzzard, used to refer to her as a soustannie, and it was only after I named this blog that I learned that the word didn’t mean an intelligent, powerful woman with excellent culinary skills. It’s not a compliment. It means someone who is female, fat and bossy. Well, some might say that makes it a fine name for my blog …. Oh well. [Insert shrug emoji here.]

Moment of truth: the Olde Buzzard was intimidated by strong women, and that made him mean. He had uncomplimentary nicknames for me too. He died a few years ago, and … well, all I want to say is, I’m grateful that in the end I was able to do my duty, to treat him with love and kindness, and that everything needing to be said and done between us was indeed said and done.

Getting back to Marietjie … I thought of changing the name of this blog, but decided instead to stay with the image I’d originally had in mind – an image largely inspired by this aunt, whom I am not at all like, yet who was extraordinarily kind to me at random intervals throughout my life. She was the one person I could trust to love my Girl Child when she needed it and wouldn’t accept it from me. I always meant to write to her care of my cousin, but…

Some years ago I wrote a post that won a response from a different cousin, from the other side of the family. I replied, but he never commented again. But from then on, every time I wrote about dogs, a small part of me wrote for him, because I grew up hearing stories about his extraordinary ability to connect with animals.

I grew up loving him.

I have many cousins and I’ve had crushes on several of them, but Michael was special. He was so handsome, tan and blue-eyed and blonde, with ruggedly regular features and a smile that reached out and pulled you in. When he invited me up onto his lap and taught me how to tell the time on his big wristwatch, he made my four-year-old heart flutter. I was convinced I would marry him, and I was devastated when he married someone else.

The Old Buzzard had adored my cousin – they were close in age – and he disliked the wife, and now I realize that she’s probably strong and intelligent as well as being “a damn liberal who thinks we aren’t good enough”. Back then, viewing her through the distorted lens of his resentment, I couldn’t warm to her. But I spent a month with them, while I was a university student with a vacation job in their city, and I remember she was kind, and their home was beautiful, and they seemed happy. (Who wouldn’t be happy with Michael?) I remember that she collected silver, so at the end of the visit I spent almost everything I’d earned on some too large and probably tacky addition to her collection because I needed to prove that I’d been raised right. I remember I fell and sprained my ankle getting off the bus, and Michael – who was a successful vet by then – bound it up. When I complained that he hurt me, he laughed at me for making more fuss than a dog with far worse injuries. But I forgave him because he still made my teenage heart flutter.

After I got that message from him on my long-ago blog post, whenever I wrote about dogs and hoped for another message I thought about making contact. I imagined going to see him on my next trip to South Africa. And then a couple months ago I heard that he’d died. Hoping for more detail I looked at his sister Midge’s Facebook page – and that’s when I learned that her daughter had just died – a beautiful, bright, happy woman that I’d never met, barely knew existed, just gone. There are wedding photos on Midge’s Facebook page, and she shines. I wept over them for several days – I don’t know why the loss felt so agonizing; I didn’t know her! And then I tried to write to Midge, but…

Then I got a message on my last post, from Michael’s wife, reaching out, and that’s when I learned that he’d actually died long before I heard about it – last January, of covid – such a horrible, horrible way to go! And I wanted to write to her, but what to say? Where to send it? We’re not even connected through Facebook – which I rarely visit anyway. It’s not that I can’t figure this out – and I will – but…

But I want a do-over. I want a neighborhood barbecue, and after that maybe conversations and coffee with a few new friends.

I want to talk to Michael and his wife, and see her with my own clear eyes. I don’t know what we’d talk about … dogs, probably, but what else? I want to know!

I want another game of Scrabble with Marietjie, with a plate of koeksisters and big mugs of rooibos tea. And I want to walk on the beach and then loll about comfortably and talk about cats with my cousin, her daughter, who is still this side of the dirt but on the far side of the planet.

I want to hug Midge, and meet her daughter, and maybe be invited to the wedding, or at least send a gift. And I want to meet her niece, my goddaughter, whose parents thought it would be cute to make 12-year-old me a godmother, since they didn’t take such things seriously, only I wish I had. And actually I’d like to see her parents again too.

And then there’s the other cousin who used to look so hot in his SA Airforce uniform, and his brother who was in a quite popular band and then became a DJ. They used to tease me, and one time I played in their mother’s cactus garden and ended up sprawled over my mother’s lap, butt exposed to the sunshine and their gleeful mockery, while I shrieked my outrage and she picked out tiny needles with a pair of tweezers. Those cousins are still alive, as far as I know, round the other side of the planet, and one day it’ll be too late for a do-over, but right now I have no idea what to do about that. We had a friendship – the DJ cousin and I did, anyway – and then it fizzled and we drifted and … truth be told, there’s probably no way back. None on my map, anyway.

I have cousins scattered all over the world, and others – nieces and a nephew, second cousins – so many people that I love or have loved or wish I’d loved. And although I know I don’t have the capacity to reconnect deeply with all of them – or even with more than a very few – being strangers just feels wrong.

And then there are friends. Like Deej. I want to sit with Deej and lay out all my questions about God and ask him how he, one of the finest and fiercest champions of Christ I ever knew, could possibly think well of Donald Trump. I actually tried to ask him that, via WhatsApp, but he didn’t answer, and over time he ghosted me. That stung, because he was my pastor more than anyone else ever was or will be, and I want to look him in the eye and ask why he wounded me. But I can’t, because he’s gone, and there are no do-overs. He died last December, a week shy of his eightieth birthday, leaving me still burdened with so many questions and no one else I’d entrust them to.

I ache every day to go on a road trip with Twiglet, the sister my heart gave me. Talking on WhatsApp doesn’t cut it, especially as her connection is so bad that usually I just listen to her voice; it’s impossible really to follow what she’s saying. I want a cream tea with Luscious. I want to talk about God and poetry with Fair Bianca. I am homesick for the friends of my young womanhood!

I want to kick back and laugh with the Kat, and talk deep talks with the Egg and Homeboy, and argue face-to-face with the Girl Child instead of getting mad and frustrated over WhatsApp. I want to laugh and talk and eat with my foster kids, and watch the granddaughters they gave me grow up, and be there to love them through it when their mothers make them angry, and go to their weddings and cuddle their babies – or not, if they choose a different road. But they’re all, all on the wrong side of the planet.

I want to find a way back to the Stranger, but I don’t think there is one, and the meeting place where I’d hope to find him might not even exist.

I remember my blessings. Here I have friends, a few anyway, some quite elderly, and a Hubbit ditto, that I love as best I can – although never enough. I have neighbors that I may invite to barbecue next summer.

I’ve been thinking that the people we touch are like fenceposts. They enclose the fields where we grow our lives.

I look at my fence, and there are gaps in it. It’s been standing a while and has reached that stage in the life of a fence that gaps form more and more frequently. Some of the timbers are broken, others are weathered and warped and working loose, and many are out of my reach. Beyond the fence I see the wilderness pressing in.

I’m not afraid of the wilderness. Often I’m drawn to it … I stand next to the fence and imagine what it would be like to push through and see what’s out there. Then I remember that I have work still to do on this side and I turn back.

But it troubles me sometimes to think that one day the gate in the fence may open, and it won’t matter because the fence itself will be down. I’ll walk through, as one must, but I wonder who will know.

Photos by Denise Karis and Foto Maak on Unsplash

Head down, and plod

cmdrkitten perfect loop anxiety panic looping GIF

You know that feeling you get when you drink too much coffee? Jittery – an invisible tremor under your skin, a fist around your chest that makes breathing just a little harder, a steel band that keeps your head from exploding but you wish it weren’t quite so tight?

Turns out this is one of the side-effects of taking fluoxetine, aka Prozac. Apparently it wears off, eventually.

It’s also a side-effect of compulsively reading the news. Trump … Trump … Trump … I am so damn sick of the sound of that name! I swipe left on my phone and up comes the news and everything is Trump. My eyes skitter in an effort to avoid it as my fingers flickscroll fast through the headlines, but it’s inescapable. I switch to YouTube, and there it is again, thumping and jeering.

Warren is in the lead, both among the Democratic candidates (you can tell this is true because the other Democratic candidates are attacking her like a pack of mad dogs) and against Trump. But pundits say he’s going to win again. A landslide next time, they say. Because when you take a well-aged lump of Electoral College and drizzle on an oily slick of clever gerrymandering, that’s what you get.

Impeachment? Apparently there’s nothing to stop an impeached president from running for a second term. And if he does, how will we stop him from grabbing a third term, if he wants to? Don’t tell me the system won’t allow it. “The system” wasn’t supposed to allow any of this! Do you think the founding fathers would be proud of the noxious Thing that’s bubbled forth from their Great Experiment?

I wish I could run away, but where to? South Africa is crumbling under the terrible weight of systemic graft, ignorance and inefficiency. And while I know there’s a whole world of other options, from here, peering out from under the looming weight of Trumpian America, it’s hard to believe there’s anywhere that one might simply be free to live peacefully, attending to one’s personal daily interests, pleasantly bored by politics.

I’ve tried to go cold turkey on the news. Most of my friends manage to ignore it … My conservative friends, that is. As a result, they’re comfortably in denial, so if I rage about children in cages, or allies abandoned to be slaughtered, or the intentional collapse of scientific studies of random shit like weather, or violation of the Constitution, they go, “Huh? Wha’?” And then they shake their heads gently and say, “Oh, I don’t follow the news – it’s all fake.”

Elephant in the room

I have learned that the survival of many of my most important relationships depends on ignoring the elephant, no matter how much of the room it’s taking up, no matter how deep and pungent the piles of shit. You have to turn your back and look through the window – or, if there is no window in your part of the room, focus on the paint on the wall.

So anyway … I’m back on anti-depressants. I’m trying not to feel like a quitter. I really, really don’t want this … I want to manage my own brain, damn it! And I was doing so well! It’s more than a year since I quit, and actually I thought the Black Dog and I were getting along okay, moseying along life’s path, not worrying too much about the periodic dearth of primroses and simply taking in whatever view there happened to be. But that bastard Dog sneaked up on me. I realized a couple weeks ago that I’d pretty much stopped moseying, and was standing with my nose against the wall, staring at the paint. And then I realized that the Dog had become very large and was leaning in and crushing me, its hot, moist breath fouling the air.

The thing about clinical depression is, sometimes you don’t feel especially … well … depressed. Or, if you do, you look at the news, and there are so many excellent reasons to feel sad or hopeless that the way you’re feeling makes perfect sense. It can take a while to recognize that the rational sad feelings actually aren’t the reason you’re binge-watching “Hoarders” while your own home sinks under a pile of dog hair and dirty laundry.

So that’s why, once again, I’m shoving the damn Black Dog off of me by the power of my nightly happy capsule. On the downside, I’m uncomfortably jittery; on the upside, I’ve turned my gaze away from the wall and am getting through most days without falling over the Dog.

As for the White House … fuck ’em all, I say. I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on what I can fix – at least for the rest of today.

It’s a start.

Okay … talk to me. Do you struggle with depression? What do you do about it? Does politics make you feel good or bad about being alive?

 

There’s a black hole in my pocket

I lost a friend today because I was late. Well, maybe not a friend … but someone I liked, who I’d thought liked me, blew up in my face to lasting effect because I kept her waiting fifteen minutes.

The incident hurt surprisingly much.

In the greater context of this year’s overall shittitude it was a small thing. This wasn’t a key relationship, and while it’s possible that she’s been pretending to like me while nursing a growing grudge, it’s more likely that she was just having a bad day and I made a convenient target.

white-rabbit late
The White Rabbit – more than just a fantasy animal.

It hurts that she had a valid complaint that I seem powerless to address. I am always late, and no matter how carefully I plan, how early I set my alarm, how fast I drive from here to there, after a lifetime of trying the best I can do is damage control. When I know punctuality is especially important to someone I can usually, with considerable effort and anxiety, keep my lateness within a ten minute margin, which most seem to accept provided I call when on my way to tell them how late I’m going to be, and am sufficiently apologetic when I arrive. Everyone else is best advised to bring a book – or, if waiting annoys you, start without me – I won’t care. I wouldn’t have cared today when my formerly-friendly acquaintance canceled our arrangement. What hurt wasn’t that she got on with her day; it was the ugly and unexpected intensity of her anger, and my powerlessness to answer it.

I won’t defend a bad habit. Instead, here’s some perspective for the benefit of the model clock-watchers out there, and in particular those whose sanity is challenged by us tardies. (I know I’m not alone.)

First, we know our perpetual lateness is annoying – but as annoying as it is to you, it’s embarrassing and frustrating uto us. You see it as rudeness and lack of consideration; we see it as weakness, a defect, a failure to do something everyone else finds easy. We read books and make lists and watch TED Talks, but it’s like dancing: some people have rhythm; others, no matter how religiously they chant the “one-two-three one-two-three one-two-three” of daily life, cannot keep in step with the minute hand. For you it’s easy – you plan your day, you look at your planner, you know how time and distance and traffic fit together, and everything glides so smoothly into place you simply can’t understand how we manage to trip and stumble every damn time.

Well, allow me to enlighten you. Basically, this happens.

Soft Watch - Dali
Soft Watch, by Salvador Dali. This is any timepiece I use, at the precise moment of impact with having to be anywhere.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve concluded that I and people like me have hooked a heel on a loose thread in the fabric of the space-time continuum. We, too, plan our days and check our planners. We can figure out how long it will take to get from here to there, and what the time should be when we leave. We understand the different kinds of “leaving” – the kind that involves stopping what we’re doing, and the kind that involves actually driving through the gate. We know to add five or ten minutes for bumps in the road, and what we have to do before we go, and how long it will take to get our shit together. We figure all that out and then we start our day, and that old minute hand goes ambling around in its lazy circles, and some of the things on our to-do list get done and some don’t. And then our electronic planner twitters a warning … and at that exact moment a quantum cowboy blips into being, lassos our deadline, and vanishes with a resounding fart and a clatter of hooves through the black hole inside the clock on our smart phone – which at that moment typically shows five minutes to our scheduled time of arrival.

Arriving presents its own challenges. Quite often, this happens…

Escher stairs
Infinite Relativity, by M.C. Escher. How I get from here to there.

I’d like to say my new year’s resolution for 2019 is to be on time, but I already have a full tureen of bubbling resolutions to toil and trouble over before the Hubbit comes home. And while it turns out that I have two months longer than I thought I did – because he’ll likely be in rehab until well into March – that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of getting from where I am now to … anywhere at all. Time and space are tricksy devils, whether you count with a clock or a calendar.

Doesn’t mean I won’t try, mind you.

There is no try

Yeah, well … seriously, Yoda, you need to shut the fuck up. Go read a book or something. And if you don’t know by now that there’s more to me than one bad habit, and that I’m worth waiting for, then … yeah. Better you leave without me.

Let’s talk. How do you relate to time, schedules and to-do lists? Whether you are a Tardy or a Timekeeper, how do you feel about the other kind of human? Do you ever secretly think Yoda is a self-righteous pain in the ass?

 

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