Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug. *

It has now been one year. One year since Dad passed away, quietly, while the hospice women cleaned and cared for him. We were at home, at Mom’s, and getting ready to go to see him. Mom was still in bed when I got the call. I was able to tell her, hug her, hold her, and not cry. I still have not cried. A year and I have not shed a tear for my father.

He was a hard man in so many ways. I have tried to be in his shoes and look through his eyes often. He lost his first wife after a long battle with polio at a very young age and was left with a three-year-old daughter who was the spitting image of his dead bride. Who, though she didn’t know it growing up, was told later that she even had her mother’s mannerisms. Could this be the crisis that hardened his heart? That caused him to withdraw into alchohol and anger? To make him so over-protective that he made his home a prison for his daughter and his second wife?

The public man was a very different man. He was boisterous and bold. Laughing and joking. The life of the party. If you were in a restaurant with him, he was rarely at the table. You would find him in the kitchen, talking to the head chef, the manager, and flirting with all the waitresses.

He was proud of his Irish heritage and St. Patrick’s Day was “his” holiday. He was known for taking off work two days – one to celebrate, one to recouperate. He would go to the local Irish pub and spend the day drinking, joking, laughing, and pinching pretty girls on the backside. His dream was to one day go to the ‘homeland’ and see it all. He never made it… time and life got in the way.

I’m a middle-aged mom of four now. I have a grandchild, a bunch of grand-critters, and a man who has spent three decades with me. I have a life that now revolves around trips to see my mother. To visit, to help out with small chores that she can’t do on her own, to try and give her some company and support. I see the changes in her this year. In many ways she is stronger – not having to follow what rules my father dictated. She is lonely and misses him, I know, and I’m sure she has shed many a tear for him. Me? I still can’t.

I wonder sometimes if I am too harsh a judge. Too unforgiving. I hope he is at peace now. I hope someday to know that for sure. Guess that time will come soon enough. It sure seems to go by quicker all the time… I can’t believe it has really been a year.

Peace be with you, Dad.

*John Lithgow


That’s how long it’s been. Almost. Almost a year. Almost a year since my dad fell, hitting his head on the garage floor and sending himself into the long goodnight. The date sticks in my brain as i look at the calender, already full of birthday and christmas and new years and year -end tastks to be taken care of for the farm. Work has been a complete and utter zoo… not surprising, since it does it to me every year at this time. I wish I worked in a job that didn’t have its’ busiest time at the same time as harvest and holidays. I used to enjoy the holidays, birthdays. Decorating the house… baking cookies… making candy… getting everything special. Now between work and the farm it is all so hurried and shortened that I feel I have no time for actual enjoyment.

Now, besides all the rest… I have dad. Mom is lonely, I know. I try to see her when I can, but it isn’t enough… never enough. Was never enough when dad was alive and is certainly not enough now. I feel the weight of her guilt trips with every email I receive. I hear it in her voice when she speaks to me. Yes, he was a bastard… yes, however, she loved him and misses him. Thank goodness she has a dog. Without the dog she’d be lost. Some days I feel she loves the dog more than me. The dog is there more than I am.

I want to go back and have him alive again. I want to be able to somehow get through his last months or years of fog -of depression. To tell him how he’s wasting it all. His wife loves him. His daughter? His daughter could, given the right circumstances. I think. I hope.

Give me the strength to get through the next few weeks. It will be hard. We’re almost there. Almost to the date when he fell… the 11th. After that? Things became a blur… for a few weeks. Until it stopped. Until it ended. Until I ended it. Me. My decision. Yes, they went along, but it was my decision to move him to hospice. My decision to take him off the feedings. My decision to let him go. Almost.


Those Days

Do you ever have one of Those Days. You know. The kind where you wake up and think it is going to be a good day, only to arrive at work to find out that while you were sleeping the world turned and things happened you have no control over, but that somehow you are supposed to be the one to fix it? I thought I had an issue at work that was resolved. A technical issue. Then I got to work and found out that instead of the problem being fixed, it was made much, much worse. Craptastic, I tell ya.

Then I go to get a pop from the machine. I am not a coffee person (love the smell, hate the taste) so this is my morning caffiene. I put in the money… and the damn button lights up to rudely inform me that particular item is OUT. Water just isn’t cutting it.

I decided after days of soul-searching that I need to let one of my cats go away to a new home. It’s been hard. Very, very, very hard. I try not to show how hard it is to my family as they have had other losses as well and I don’t want it to seem like my pain is any worse than theirs. It isn’t, I know, but it doesn’t mean it hurts any less. It is our newest kitty, Cleo. She was the stray that we saved when she was eating bird seed off the porch and was skin and bones but loads of personality. She’s still a sweetheart, and that’s what makes it so fucking hard to say goodbye. Several months ago we noticed ‘someone’ was pee-ing and spraying around the house. Not good. Since we have five cats, it was hard to catch someone in the act. When we finally did, it was Cleo. We took her to be checked for any bladder infections, etc., and she came out with a clean bill of health. She was put on anti-psychotic medicine and we’d thought that was helping for awhile. Guess not. The problem has cropped up again. From all I’ve read and researched, it is an issue that should be taken care of by her being an only child. I put a flyer up at the vet clinic hoping we could get her adopted out quickly, but no one has called. I decided to take her to the animal shelter. We have a local shelter that has a no-kill policy (I couldn’t take her to anywhere that wasn’t.) I call ahead, as daughter has kindly offered to take her over as I’m working… and would be a blubbering mess if I had to do it. Now they tell me they don’t know if they can take her – the person who answered said she’d have to talk to their director and call me back. Damnit. Just when I make the decision and get myself all psyched up… and, yes, say a tearful goodbye before leave the house this morning, now we are in ‘wait and see’ mode.

I’m sure this all seems so trivial in the big picture. I keep reading about all the pain and heartache floating around the internets… and so many people are hurting and suffering, even in my own home. I just sometimes feel the need to scream… ENOUGH.

So, you with me people? …. Deep breath… “ENOUGH!!!”

Feel better? I do.

Dear Writer

There are some bloggers out there who are amazing writers. Truly amazing. They can say things that get to me. Deep inside of me. Whether it is reaching down and touching a memory or giving me a giggle, they can get to me.

I know it is silly, but when one of those bloggers comments on my blog or sends me an email I suddenly feel like I have been seen. That I’m Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club” and you have fussed over me and made me pretty and accepted and … seen.

I’ve never been one of the ‘cool’ kids. When I was in school I loved the work, the learning, but hated the rest. I sat in the back and barely spoke unless directly called upon. I got good grades because studying was interesting to me and important to me. I enjoyed the challenge.

Growing up I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. We lived near to a large state university that had great vet med program. I took all the math and science I could cram in… then realized I hated it. I liked the idea of the animals and helping them, but to actually do all the rest? Not so much. The final blow came when I went to visit a relative who was a veterinarian and he let me watch him stitch up a cat that had been in a bad fight. Faint? Yeah. As a teen, that was soooo embarrassing.

Somewhere along the way my English teacher noticed I enjoyed writing. Then they offered to let me take an independent study course of creative writing. I’d get credit for doing something I did all the time anyway… and actually liked? Cool.

Of course, my parents thought that going from a veterinarian to a writer was a huge mistake. Just one of the many mis-steps I was going to have in my life, according to them.

One thing led to another which led to … well, life. I never did go to college. Never did get that degree. Never did turn into a ‘Writer’.

Still? It gives me warm and fuzzy’s when the big kids like something I’ve said. Or, to even realize they’ve been here. I wonder if they realize how powerful they really are? How their very prescence here makes me feel validated.

Thanks guys. It means a lot.

No, I’m not going to name names or link. If you think you might be ‘that person’, you probably are.


Yesterday was a hard day. Seems there have been a few of those lately. Yesterday another beloved pet had to be put to sleep.

Cody came into our lives a little over 12 years ago. He was three at the time. It was my youngest daughter's 16th birthday and she'd been asking for a dog for ages. We went to the animal rescue league (the pound) and saw this schnoodle (schauzer-poodle) that was a bundle of energy. He was there because he'd kept digging out of his owner's fenced-in yard. We lived in the country with plenty of running room, so thought he would work out okay. After a couple of days, daughter thought he was a bit toooo energetic for her, but her 14-yr-old brother had fallen for him, so we kept him.

From then on, they were pretty inseperable. Our son and the dog were very like-spirited. Very active, and had "bad habits"… but we loved him. The first thing we learned was if he got off a cable or leash, he headed right for the busy road out front. That was cause for extreme anxiety more than once when we'd have to round up the kids and chase him down – and let me tell you, he was FAST. That dog could MOVE! He could zig and zag quick as a bunny rabbit and you had no chance of catching him. We finally figured out if we would make our german shepherd bark, then Cody would come up to find out what he was barking about – and that was the moment to grab him.

When our son got a bit lax in taking care of the dog, as children often do, I threatened to return him to the pound. (Trust me, it was only a threat). When son didn't seem to find that a possibility, I tricked him by boarding the dog overnight at the vet office… and, yes, telling him I'd returned the dog to the vet. Tears were shed and I was probably deemed the meanest mom on the planet  – you are probably thinking it even now – but when I "went to the pound and got him back the next day before he was sold to someone else"… there were more tears shed of happiness and the lesson was learned.

After a few years of not being able to trust Cody off of a cable, I finally was able to coax him into staying within sight of me and not running for the road – as long as I stayed outside with him and watched him. He became used to the farm and was able to be free to roam a bit without worry he'd go out on the road. If someone pulled into the drive and opened the car door with Cody there… watch out! You'd have a 12 pound bundle of energy in your car before you could say "wha?"…

As quickly as he would jump into a car, he hated to go anywhere. When we had to take him to the vet he'd yip and bark and whine the whole way… standing up on the seat and looking out the window trying to see where you were taking him. Interestingly enough, when you came home, he would sit quietly, just as he knew you were all done and home was waiting.

When we moved to our new house about five years ago, our son moved back into our old house. Because Cody had learned his limitations, we decided not to make him learn a new area and a new routine and we left him there. Our son was happy to have him back with him as well… not that he'd been out of the house all that long himself, but the few months he'd been living out on his own he'd missed that mutt. 

A couple of years ago, some health issues started popping up. He tore his ACL and spent several weeks healing up from that. Never really did get all his muscle tone back, but he managed to get along pretty good with a limp. Then a couple of months ago he started slowing down. About a month ago my daughter-in-law took him to the vet to be checked out and at that time they were considering some explority surgery to see what was going on with him, but with his age they didn't even know then if he'd survive the procedure. The decision was made not to do the surgery and just to make him comfortable and send him home. The diagnosis was cancer.

A couple of weeks ago Hubs and I drove over to pick up my daughter-in-law to take her to the races with us. The dogs were outside (they have another dog, too, a young huskie). Cody slowly, slowly, walked across the drive to the car. Hubs opened the car door and he slowly put his paws on the running board of the car. I went around and picked him up and carried him back to the house – he was light as a feather and his paws just shook with palsy. I could tell he wasn't going to last long.

Son was hoping he'd go in his sleep. On Thursday evening when he got home he said Cody just lay there… and when he gave him a treat, he just dropped it. He hadn't eaten since Monday, only had been drinking water. He was so weak, when he stood him up, he would crumple and fall to the floor. He put him on the sofa, wrapped him in a soft blanket and sat softly crying as he called his wife at work. He'd told us a long time before that he didn't think he'd be able to take him to the vet… he just couldn't do it. His wife is a nurse and a little more used to those "life and death" things. She called the vet, but they couldn't get him in until morning. Hubs and son were going to a race, so I went over and sat with Cody until his wife got home… for about 90 minutes he lay on the sofa, barely moving… I pet him and talked softly to him, telling him what a good dog he'd been, what a good friend. The husky was confused, I'm sure, but they say they know more than we give them credit for. Usually she is a pretty active dog as well, but this night she just climbed up on my other side and lay her head on my lap and let me rub her tummy.  When my daughter-in-law got home we talked about the morning and I told her I'd go to the vet with her. She said she would be surprised if he didn't pass during the night, but she'd let me know if we didn't have to go.

Morning came and I got a text "We still need to go". I was already on my way to pick them up.

Son was so upset he could barely speak. I hugged him and we took Cody and headed to the vet. When we arrived, his wife got a text… would we wait for son to come? Of course we would. A few minutes later son walked in … he'd been afraid he wouldn't get to say goodbye and decided as hard as it was for him, he needed to be there for Cody. It is so hard to watch your children suffer…no matter how old they are. Cody had been his companion for half his life. If he was home, Cody wasn't more than a foot away from him at any time. He never got over some of his bad habits, but he had a huge heart and he loved my son to pieces…and the love was returned. To lose Cody was a terrible sadness. He was an "old man" by doggie standards and had led a much better, fuller, more loved life than he ever would have had we not adopted him. This I know. He went peacefully… and is chasing bunnies with Benny, as bright and busy and crazy as he ever did. We'll miss you, psycho dog…. 

Sweet Benny


On February 2008 I wrote the following post after the Westminster  Dog Show. Last weekend we had to put our sweet Benny to sleep. On Friday he didn't seem excited about his food – definately NOT his style – and on Saturday morning it was still there in his bowl and he was lethargic. I took him to the vet in the afternoon and they ran some tests and said he had liver failure. His chart said he was 11 years old, but because we'd gotten him from the pound and he was a stray, they'd guessed at his age. The vet said it was possible he was even two or three years older than that. He was a sweetheart to the end and he's been missed so dearly. I told Hubs, "I've cried more over Benny than I ever did for my own dad"… Hubs, in his normal astute way said, "Well, your dog never hurt you." We loved you Ben… have fun chasing bunnies in heaven with Toby, Dusty, Betsy, Max, Bud, Callie, Turbo, Freck, and all the other critters we've loved before.

Even non-dog lovers probably didn't miss the announcement this morning that a beagle, Uno, had won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. I've had a special place in my heart my whole life for beagles. When I was growing up, my first and only dog was a beagle. Toby. Since I was an only child, he became my 'brother', my partner in crime, my confident, my playmate. He took my tears and soaked them into his fur and kept all my secrets locked away. Every day he was my escape – allowing me to take him for a half-hour walk where I got to get out of the house and away from the craziness that was my homelife. He lived to a ripe old age of eighteen, but I was out of the house by then and my parents had him put to sleep and let me know afterwards… giving me  no chance to say goodbye.

About six years ago Emily and I went looking for a dog at the local animal shelters. My sweet shih-tzu, Dusty, had passed away and we had a hole to fill in our family. As we saw dog after dog, one caught my eye. He was just sitting in his pen, leaning against the fence, and looked up with those sorrowful brown eyes as we walked by. With great effort (it appeared) he reached up with one paw and lay it on the fence. My heart went out. We kept going, looking further, and ended up in a nearby town where we found a cat that we couldn't resist. (That turned out to be my huge black cat – but that's another story).

Although we got the cat, my mind couldn't get rid of the sight of that dog, just sitting patiently waiting for someone to come. I told Emily I had to go back and check him out. We went back and I don't think he'd moved one inch since we'd left! Once more, he put his paw up on the fence. Brown eyes pleading for escape. We took him out to one of the rooms they have to get to know the animals better, and he slowly walked around and veeery slowly put his paws up on my leg. Everything he did was in slow motion – we were tempted to name him Slo-Mo!

He became a member of the family and we named him Benny Beagle … aka… the Bowling Ball (Hubs' nickname). He was not a "normal" sized beagle as Toby had been, but rather a large lump that soon grew to a whopping 50 lbs. We found that the "slo-mo" movements were a ruse and that he could be extremely quick and clever if either a bunny or a sandwich were involved. Hubs even had me ask the vet if he was a mixed-breed of some sort, seeing as he was so large. She then told us that beagles come in varying sizes and we just happened to end up with one of the big ones.

He's a personality. Here in the new house he has a kennel in the garage that has doors to a fenced in kennel outside. He has an igloo dog house in the inside kennel as well as a fan in the summer and a heated pad in the winter (although our garage isn't heated, our vehicle thermometers generally register 50 degrees even in the most frigid days of winter). He plays on sympathy – when you go out to see him he pulls out all the stops, making this horrid wheezing sound. I thought it was asthma, but the vet says it is a "reverse sneeze"… and although he can't seem to stop himself from doing it the minute he sees you when he's in the kennel, the second you hook a leash on him to take him out for a walk, he'll stop. He can got through his whole walk without doing it until you bring him back to his kennel. Faker.

His other trick is to play the slo-mo card. He'll walk very slowly on his leash, practically making you drag him at times to catch up (trust me, walking him is no exercise). However, when he gets a whif of a bunny you'd better have a good grip on his leash or you'll be trailing him to the next county. When he wants to, that dog can move! Luckily, the last time he got loose out in the open was at the old house and he'd run into the evergreen grove – which just happened to have an old fence around it. Whew!

Anyway, I just had to take a moment to acknowledge the mighty beagle. Way to go, Uno! (I'll be giving Benny an extra snack today in honor of the win!)

Father’s Day

Today is my first Father's Day… without a father. I've been trying to figure out how I feel about that.

My dad and I had a rocky relationship. In the beginning I remember my dad being the biggest thing in my life – literally. He was 6'5” tall and one of my first memories is riding on my father's shoulders walking down the hall in a hospital going to visit my mother in an iron lung. A recent newspaper article I read about her said she was one of the last people admitted to the hospital with polio from the big epidemic in the 1950's. I was born in 1956. I was three when she died… or almost three.

Before she ever died I was sent to live with my paternal grandparents. My grandparents were surrogate parents for a couple of years until my father remarried. I honestly don't know how much he loved my mother – my stepmother – but she tells me he was really concerned about wanting to marry someone who would take care of me.

I remember brief visits when he would come to my grandparents house on a weekend… remember him reading the sunday paper. Beyond that, I don't remember much until I was a bit older and he'd been remarried. For several years in my early childhood things seemed good. Then something … wasn't.

I can't put my finger on the moment when it all went wrong. Like many lives I think it was a slow process. Block on block brought down my parents into the dark layers of unhappiness. Looking back as an adult I can see money issues, major control issues (my dad), jealousy, and resentment (my mom). Money became a problem, but my dad would not let my mom go back to work (she'd been a working single woman when he married her). I think he was from that old school that said the man should bring home the bacon and the woman should fry it up and serve it. He always said someone should be home with me, too. Her unhappiness led to chemical addictions, his to alcohol. Eventually they would both become alcoholics – although what is generally referred to as “functioning” alcoholics.

The man that I once loved and admired and thought was my whole world became my jailor and my tormentor and my … enemy. A harsh word for a father, but it fits.

I have a husband who is a strict father. To a point. When the kids were small, I was more the disciplinarian than he was. His philosophy was, when the kids wanted to do things… “is it going to hurt them? If not, then why not?” I was raised totally opposite. “Why?” He also yelled and could have a temper with the best of them. But… as the kids will tell you now and joke about… they would just wait about fifteen minutes and here he'd be, tromping up the stairs to their bedrooms to apologize for losing his temper and talking to them in a quiet tone and trying to explain why he got angry and what he was trying to say. He is a man who has said “I'm sorry” more times than I can count. He is a man who says “I love you” to his kids and his family and who loves to give hugs and pats on the back. Doesn't mean he doesn't still yell… oh, yes, he can still yell… but we all know he is like the cowardly lion. He's making a lot of noise, but there is no malice behind it. None.

I wish I'd had a dad like that. I wish my dad would have made me feel safe and loved and told me once that he loved me and that he was sorry for all the evil things he'd done. I wish there were do-overs and history when re-written was really the way they wanted it to be… instead of the way it really was and the way I will always remember it. I refuse to re-write history. Even if it means I can't feel for my dad the way I'm supposed to feel today.

I'm sorry, dad. I love you… I loved you… but I didn't like you. I can't change that. I'm not going to be dishonest to my heart because I want the past to be okay.

On this father's day I am blessed to have a wonderful father for my children. That's good enough for me. 

St. Pat’s

This St. Pat's day is bittersweet.This was my Dad's holiday.

My Dad was very proud of his true Irish heritage. Our family is one of the ones that really was from Ireland, not just claimed to be Irish on St. Pat's. To Dad, it was a bigger day than Christmas. When he was still in the work force, he would take off not only St. Pat's day, but also the day after… to recouperate. He spent the day celebrating in a small local Irish bar that surely quadripled its size on St. Pat's by putting tents out in the parking lot and having several extra serving areas.

One of my favorite memories of St. Patrick's Day and my dad was about 28 years ago when I was very pregnant with my youngest daughter. My in-laws had been invited to have supper with my parents, but I'm not sure my father remembered when he extended the invitation that it was on St. Pat's… and that they were German and Norwegian. 

Dad was tall. 6'5" tall. When he didn't show up at home (and back before the day of cell-phones), my Hubs and I were sent to find him and bring him home. We walked in the front of the bar and could see his head sticking up above the crowd near the back of the bar. Unfortunately, he saw us as well. Just like a little kid, he turned and walked the other way, parting the crowd as he fled out the back door. By the time we got to the back of the bar (me trying to get through a wall-to-wall crowd with my large tummy), thinking we'd find him standing outside waiting for us, we were surprised to find no sign of him. Tucking back into the back of the bar, we spy my dad… near the front! It became clear… he was avoiding us. 

Just like rounding up a truant kid, we split up and finally cornered him… and we eventually convinced him to come with us. It wasn't without a fight, tho'! He loved the crowds, the drink, the music, the whole thing. He didn't want his fun to end.

My Dad always wanted to go to Ireland. He wanted to go see where his family came from in County Cork. He wanted to submurge himself. He never went. Someday I hope to go to Ireland and take my Dad… spreading his ashes in the land he loved so much.