Of Buddy

A text message alerted me to call Rebecca. I called.

She asked. “We’re putting Buddy down tomorrow. Can we come up and have you take pictures?”

Buddy is one boy’s dog. Has been since Buddy was rescued from an animal shelter and presented to Nathaniel when he was in the 4th grade. Nathaniel who is now a man. Nathaniel who graduated from high school last year, Nathaniel who takes college courses now, and who works as a roofer. Buddy is a black dog, nine years old (they think). Buddy is sweet. Has kidney failure. He’s big, and can be scary.

Buddy is one family’s dog. Truthfully, since Nathaniel has reached his manhood and taken on such responsibility, much of the care of Buddy has fallen to Rebecca, my daughter, Nathaniel’s mother. We’re all lovers of animals, and both Jerry and I were attached to Buddy.

“Sure, all of you come on up,” I told Rebecca.

I did not take a picture of Buddy wearing a diaper, for it seemed demeaning to that beautiful animal. Blood and urine and pain. Nathaniel would dig a grave . . .in their back yard.DSC_3376We talked. All of us spoke of grief and love and attachment.

“It’s worth it though, Granny,” Nathaniel said once. “The fun, the love, the good times I’ve had with Buddy makes this time of sorrow worth it.”

Rebecca sent me pictures of the grave and of Buddy’s body. Jerry said, “I don’t want to see them.”

I cried . . .as have we all.

 

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Kathy Hodgson At Rest

ImageBy honored men she had been carried to the earth.

ImageThe sun beat down on those who had now gone as far with dear Kathy Hodgson as was possible. “This is the day she lived for,” her treasured cousin spoke as we huddled and whispered and moved about.

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Elusive. As absurd to think of holding the tail of a wind as to hope to find words to soothe the grief.

ImageA small mark, a tiny plot. Impossible to encase such a life.

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ImageColleagues and friends. Some have traveled from far points across the country because they loved her.

ImageAnd so it is finished. Except that only now has life begun for her. Mysterious. Sure.

And for us life continues to move, steadily, unstoppable. And one day, we too, will be finished.

A Casket for Milo

The dad went to his workspace. Scraps of lumber were there that he believed would work for the job he must do.

The death had occurred a few hours before, and if a casket were to be, the dad would be the one. At the workbench he gauged the size, (At the vet’s office yesterday, the nurses had said Milo weighed four pounds.) then fastened the pieces together and made the little box. It was a casket for Milo.

When the box was finished, for a lining, Chloe brought Milo’s favorite blanket, the one he had died in, the one she had wrapped around him that last time when he staggered to her bed. Parvo is ugly and little Milo was bleeding, but in his final night Chloe cleaned up her puppy and lay down beside him in her bed. She slept an hour or so, and when she woke, she looked at his little body and knew that Milo had gone away. . .

The family gathered in the back yard for the service–one mom, one dad, five youngsters, and they buried him on a little hill. Chloe told me this afternoon they  placed a cross there too.

untitled (24 of 96) untitled (28 of 96)On her facebook site, Chloe wrote this:

Rest in peace to my little milo you were one of the best things to happen to me. Ill always remember and miss you. I love you baby

Too Close

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“Will you roll down your back windows, sir?” The policeman, gun drawn, spoke to Jerry this afternoon as he peered into our car on highway 18 in the San Bernardino mountains. Two policemen went to the back of our car, guns drawn, pulled open the back and peered inside.

We had pulled from our driveway around 1:00, heading down the mountains to an appointment in Fontana, 40 minutes or so away. We had not heard that at 12:30, a woman from Big Bear called the police to say she had just escaped from being tied up by Chris Dorner. Then we heard the shocking news that again untitled (3 of 12)this morning he had shot two more policemen. One of them–the father of a young baby–died a few hours ago at Loma Linda University Medical Center. The other policeman spent hours in surgery, but is expected to recover. Now the police had roadblocks at all the highways leading to and from the mountain communities.

The traffic had come to a complete and abrupt halt about 50 minutes before we reached the roadblock that was strewn with policemen, police cars, long guns and pistols. At first, we thought there must have been an accident, then from our car radio we hearduntitled (9 of 12) the breaking news that made us suspect our traffic stall might be connected with Chris Dorner.

All the mountain roads were closed for hours. I called our daughter, Rebecca, who lives in San Bernardino and made plans to go to her place after our appointment. Fortunately, though, around 4:30 our highway opened and as soon as we could, we roared up the hill. Made it home just after dark.

It is likely that Chris Dorner is now lying dead in a smoldering cabin in Big Bear. The mountains are crawling with policemen, and although they are still following up on untitled (5 of 12)other leads, according to the news, they believe he is in a cabin that has been burned to the ground. They have not recovered a body. The fire site is still too hot to be entered.

I’ll be going to bed soon. As I do I am thinking of Chris Dorner, of whom I wrote in a post a few days ago, and noted him as saying, “I do not fear death, as I died long ago.” And his mother . . . tonight I think of her, and grieve.

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___________________________________________________________________________UPDATE Update Wednesday 2/13: A body is seen, but has not been removed from the cabin. Positive identification has not been made but officials believe the person to be Chris Dorner.

Faces of Christmas

In my spirit, and in my emotions, I am bloody and raw. I expect that because of the recent murders of 6 adults and 20 children in Connecticut the majority of our country have the same tattered feelings as do I. The images of those beautiful, innocent children that are widely posted now, and thoughts of their grieving families made my viewing of a children’s Christmas program on Sunday especially touching. Our children are so vulnerable, so precious. They are beautiful.

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“Are you telling me there were real angels up in the sky?”

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With a voice as clear as a mountain stream, as light as a gossamer cloud, she sang of the magnificent story of the Christ child.

untitled (42 of 90)“You mean they put baby Jesus in a manger instead of a crib?”

. . . and so . . . life goes on. Our children. The children of the world.

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Many additional pictures of this event at my Flickr account.

She Can’t Swallow

“She has suffered a severe stroke and can no longer swallow.”

Can’t swallow? I thought. Gave the notion some time, and considered such a disability and its awfulness. Suction tubes. Dependence. Embarrassment.

Can’t swallow anymore.

I don’t believe I know this person, for she is a facebook friend of a friend sort of thing, but I was stricken when I read of her.

Here it is the Christmas season. We’re planning and cooking and wrapping gifts and hanging twinkle lights. We drink untitled (28 of 34)eggnog and write on cards and wait in line at the post office to buy stamps whose style we have selected from a poster the clerk  indicated, and that way we get to decide whether to buy Santa Claus or the baby Jesus or something in between.

We writers do the writerly things of edits and proposals and agent chasing and dreams of bestseller lists and the scribbling of another draft and wrestling with fears of rejection, or an even untitled (34 of 34)worse agitation, perhaps, when we think of the resounding thump of no response, for have they not said on their site, “If you haven’t heard in 4 to 6 weeks, consider . . . ”

We photographers talk of light and settings and film and digits and lenses and focus and software and how much post-processing is okay.

And well we should do these things for life must continue.

Yet, someone has said, “She had a severe stroke and cannot swallow.

And so I say a prayer and my heart aches.

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The Death of a Recluse

His name is unimportant–except that when it is chiseled onto his tombstone it will be for some the only marker of his life. He died alone. At the end of our block. Unsung for the long days and for the long black nights he lay dead in his living room floor. No one sensed it at first, for he had become a recluse, then his ex-wife (or maybe he was still married–not sure) called a neighbor; “He’s not answering the phone. Can you check?”

I said his name is unimportant, but that is only so for this post, for I understand the opposite actually to be true. On the off-chance that any of his family or friends would read here, I don’t want them to be hurt or embarrassed, for he lived a sad, angry life. My neighbor did . . . and he died alone . . . They found him Saturday night. . . only a few yards from our house.

He was a Jew, and, fearing for their lives, his parents had fled Hitler’s regime, making it to Holland where they hid for a period of time. He was a small boy when he was hid away, but he remembered, and he never recovered. I can’t know for sure, but it seems he should have bounced back from the trauma, for his being so embittered mangled his life and wrecked his chance at any positive relationships. But he chose to stay buried in the details of that sordid period of history, and he reveled in recounting the atrocities. He showed us papers and books and told us stories. He warred with most of the neighbors, put up no trespassing signs, installed heavy gates, and set cameras on high poles. He went to court over perceived offenses, and sometimes people took him to court for his odd behavior.

When we moved here, his wife still lived with him–a precious person, whose grown children were furious that she had married him, and who would have nothing to do with him. Jerry and I tried to befriend them, had them in our home several times, and listened to his stories. He gave Jerry books and spoke Hebrew in our living room. He liked Jerry and sometimes hugged him, and we liked him and his wife.

While we were gone to Lake Havasu, his wife moved out of their fine, large house and the gardens that had been the showplace of the neighborhood are now brown and bare. The towering rose bushes and the flowering vines are dead, as are most of the plants she nurtured so tenderly. She used to walk me around the yard and name the plants and tell of their characteristics.

Last Saturday, they found him, and now a big dumpster is in the driveway and a group of people are working through the place.

Have you been hurt? Did someone mistreat you? Have you been wronged? Let it go. Today. You can do that, and you will be a transformed person. Much better to suck it up, turn the page, smile again, and forgive, than to become a recluse . . . and to die alone. . .

Open Letter to Governor Mitt Romney

Dear Governor Romney:

I am 74 years old and have never before written to a government official. I am 74 years old and have never before written anything that resembles a fan letter. Today, though, with a grieving heart, I do both.

On Tuesday evening, Jerry and I sat in our living room to follow the election results. As the wretched end of the election became clear, a heavy cloud of depression enveloped our living room, an emotion that neither of us are prone to incur. It was as though the air had been sucked from around us.

My husband is a retired Pentecostal preacher, and as such, our religious beliefs differ strikingly from yours as a Mormon. From the beginning of the campaign, though, we understood that we would vote for you–not as a pastor or any other religious leader–but as the president of the United States. As we learned more of you and your family through the debates, your speeches, interviews, videos and various articles, we came to highly respect you, your ethics, your dream for America, and your history. Would that America were filled with such caring, giving, and classy families as yours. In all sincerity, do I say this.

For the most part now, your faces are gone from the news sources. Disappeared. And I wonder about you . . . and yours. How sad are you? Do you weep? Are you desolate? As leaden as is my heart–I, just an ordinary voter–I suspect your pain–you, the candidate for the presidency–to be dire. So, I come today to remind you that at least half of America wanted you for our president. At least half of us are hard-working, upstanding Americans. We take care of each other. We don’t abort our babies, nor do we marry people of the same sex. We don’t want the government to take care of us, we don’t want Obamacare, we don’t want higher taxes and more regulations, nor do we want the president that some misguided people elected into that office. But we have him, and we will respect the office, and we will work for the advancement of the United States of America.

I wish you well, as do millions more. We will not forget your graciousness. We will not forget the pieces of your life that you left scattered in the field. Our dreams will not die, and although our great country seems to have lost her way, and we stagger now in a dark place, our hope is not gone. We look to God and to the innate goodness of America. And still, let us hope that someday we can regain our place as the last great hope of the earth.

Thank you for what you gave.

Shirley Buxton

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If you read this and have such thoughts about Mitt Romney, it would be great if you would leave a comment here.

Treasure This Moment

Walter Samaszko was 69 years old and lived in Carson City, Nevada. He also died there, alone, and it was more than a month before anyone noticed that he had gone missing. Walter Samaszko was a “loner,” who didn’t trust many people. He lived frugally. In his checking account was $200.00.

But after neighbors notified authorities that something seemed wrong, and after his decaying body was found, it was determined that his house must be sold. As workers were preparing for the sale, an astonishing discovery was made: Hidden within the house were boxes of gold bars and gold coins worth at least 7 million dollars.

When I read this story a couple of days ago, I was struck by its sadness, for here, from all accounts, was a man who was afraid of life, (even afraid to go to the doctor for fear of dirty needles) and who instead of enjoying travel and museums and hobbies and philanthropy hoarded his gold bars–and died intestate–totally alone. A solitary cousin has been found, who after the government takes their large share of the estate, will inherit the wealth of Walter Samaszko.

(image from Getty)

Such a dynamic lesson is here for all of us: Let us treasure every moment of every day, and to the fullest extent of our ability take advantage of each benefit that comes to us, without waiting for something better, or something perfect, or something greater.

Every season of our life is precious, but is of quicksilver and is fleeting. Should our hands wait to caress the jewel of this second, when we reach again, only vapor may be there . . . and a memory of chance long past and opportunity forever gone.

First Draft Tears–Part 2

The reason I am so emotional about this part of my writing, I have concluded, is that although most of us have quite different backgrounds–and different outcomes–than does Richard in my novel-in-progress, we all have parts of us that have suffered extreme distress. We relate to his fears. For deep inside us, there is a secret place which we keep hidden from the world–sometimes even from ourselves. So when we read (or write) of the anxiety of others, we weep.

Conclusion of chapter 10

Richard crossed one arm over the other, and gripping himself into a cocoon he began to rock back and forth. His hands were clawed into a clench so that Sten could see the hardness of tendon and of pulsing vein. He moaned as he pitched and rolled: He was an unlit night, the dirge of a lone bagpiper on stark hill. His cry was a requiem to that unknown line of forebears who had taken to broken road, and who had given to despair and to neglect.

No one should know such agony, Sten thought as he watched the suffering of his friend. It was an epiphanic time, for at once Sten knew the room had become a birthing space. It was creation; it was a genesis. A new Richard was emerging.

Richard eased to the floor now, wrapped in himself, the keening from his mouth the sound of emergence.