Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My day at the beach.

We don’t go to the beach all that much, although it’s really only just down the street from our house. And it’s Hawaii. It’s odd, as we were very excited about being this close to the ocean, and truth be told, we’ve been there less than ten times since we arrived last December. The same sort of thing happened when we lived in Wildwood.

But, I like to go the beach down the street, that most would consider a “local” beach, and I have in fact been told by some that I should be careful going there as being a “Haole,” I might not be welcome. But that has not been the case to date. I have had no problems at this beach, and have gotten more work done there than anywhere else on the island.

In case you are wondering…“Haole” is a word that the locals use to describe that which is not native, or in its indigenous definition means “outsider.” Typically, it is used to refer to Caucasians, and it is not seen by most as a derisive term. Not every Haole likes it, but so it goes.

When I get a break from things at home, and am able to leave the house by myself to write, I go down to the beach, and I park the car, and I sit in the lot that is 30 yards from the water, and I work. I have always been productive there, and as the beach plays a role in the novel, it has always seemed like the right place to go. It is quiet, and despite my Haole-ness, no one has ever once bothered me. Most people there are surfing, or gathering among themselves.

So I went there today to write, the wife giving me a break in gracious fashion, and I made a real breakthrough on a chapter that I’ve been hung up on for some time. I was doing some productive work, and then it was time to go. So, I backed out and was set to head home, but I noticed that the higher ridge was empty. There’s an area right on the shore that is always occupied, and no one was there tonight, so I figured I’d drive through and check the view.

So I did. Driving the Honda Odyssey. You will note of course that, the Odyssey is not a sport utility vehicle. This would have been a truly delightful realization for me to have had before. I got stuck that is. I had driven only forty some feet when I knew I had made a huge mistake.

The Minivan was stuck in the sand. I thought perhaps I could back out of it, and much to my chagrin, I was no longer driving my beloved Subaru Outback…I was driving a Mini Van. And I was stuck.

So, I tried to dig out. There was no one anywhere near me at the time, so I figured I could just dig out and be gone.

I was wrong and it was clear that I was in a situation similar to the one that the wife and I found ourselves in back during our honeymoon in Ireland, so....

Using the Patented “Way-Back” Machine, I’ll share this one:
The back passenger tire or our small and economical rental car, which we picked up at the Shannon Airport, blew a tire in the middle of the Irish countryside, and then the cheap-ass jack from the rental car broke as I was trying to fix it. I looked to the left…grass and sheep. I looked to the right, grass and sheep. The occasional tour bus blew by us, and more than one sheep bleeted at me in what I would translate to be an unpleasant manner.

And then there was nothing. For quite some time, we were alone in the Irish countryside, with nothing save my own irritation and the dulcet sounds of the radio, which for some reason was playing “I Want it that Way” by the Backstreet Boys, and “That Don’t Impress me Much” by Shania Twain thrice an hour, while they played local bands like Travis, and Robbie Williams, who’s music did much more for me, far less, but consistently. I digress, but I still think Travis is a good band.

Long was it that we sat there by the side of that road with no one to call. My Irish family was a good 250 miles away, and we’d not yet met them.

So, we sat, for a long time. Then an older man pulled up in a Ford Pickup, a Step-side, which I remember driving when I worked at the Monmouth Battlefield Park. It was at the time an odd remembrance, but as we were potentially late for our check-in at out first honeymoon suite, I welcomed his slow-down.

He got out of his truck and walked to me, asking me, what I assume was “Do you need help?” in perfect Gaelic, which I speak less of now than I did then. After several moments of confusing conversation, it became clear that he could understand me, but I could not do the same for him. I was embarrassed, but felt better when he smiled and pulled a gigantic Jack-lift out of the bed of his truck. I didn’t see jacks like this when I worked with the Garbage truck or the postal service, so I knew this man could help me.

And he did. Long story less long, he helped me change the tire out, and the wife and I were on our way, which is another story entirely.

But, this man, that I could not even thank properly had stopped and helped me, just because he could. I’ve never forgotten that, and I think of him now and then.

Honestly, I think of him a lot of late. There is a bumper sticker that is very popular here in Hawaii. I saw it for the first time while I was sitting at Don Ho’s Island Grill, and we were looking for a house here back in October. It was plastered to the bar, so I asked the bartender about it, as all it said was “Eddie Would Go.”

It turns out that those three words carried an awful lot of weight here in Hawaii. They refer to a man named Eddie Aikau, who’s amazing life I could not do justice in this space (though you can read about him here: )

The short version, is that Eddie is a legend here as both a lifeguard on the North Shore and as a surfer. As a lifeguard on the perilous North Shore, he became known as the guy who would go to help someone when no one else would. He died as part of an expedition seeking to recreate the migratory route between Hawaii and Tahitian Islands via double-hulled canoes. When one of the vessels began to leak, Eddie volunteered to go-to use his surfboard to paddle towards the Island of Lanai.

He was never seen again, but his spirit of selflessness is something that is celebrated here very openly. And why shouldn’t it be? I think that at our best most of us hope to be strong enough to sacrifice for others, and selfless enough to at the very least, help others from time to time.
So, my man in Ireland, and Eddie Aikau were in my mind this evening as I was inexorably stuck in the sand at the beach because I am a dumbass and got the Mini Van stuck in the sand.
And as I start digging, I’m still hoping, like that high school kid who has broken something in his parents home that he knows he can’t fix, but yet he tries, over and over.

I knew right away that I would not get out of this pit without help. The van is only front-wheel drive, and I had buried them both in pretty good. That didn’t stop me from trying, nor did it stop me from telling the wife that she did not need to call our friends to come out and help me.
That was selfish on my part, but as I look back on it, the idea of having my wife call one of our friends to have the husband of that couple come out to bail out my dumbass, was waaaay in my mind to try to avoid. I’m already a stay-at-home dad to them…

So, I told her I was working on it. And I was, as I lolled about in the sand, trying to give the wheels some kind of traction.

It didn’t work. Other people started

to show up at the beach. Most of them laughed at me, unrepentantly. There I was, chest deep in sand, digging out my car. A lot of locals slowed down to laugh at me. A group parked near me, within fifteen feet, and set up their luau right next me.

They were all women, one of whom turned out to be pregnant, but they spent the next half hour mocking me tremendously.

And so I dug. And dug. And Failed. I was going to need help, and I thought about my Irish friend, and about Eddie in that moment, as I also thought about my earlier column about the NJ Attitude vs. the Aloha Spirit. In my mind, if I'm being honest, I started thinking about how the "Aloha Spirit" was dead. I've been missing Jersey it fit my mindset.

I had a lot of time to dig. I covered a lot of ground. The ladies next door had a great time watching me. Several cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters. And bicycles, wove their way past me without a word. A lot of them laughed once they got a loot at me.
And then, I heard a truck stop, and a young man and his Dad stepped out.

“Do you need help, yeah?” he asked.

Screw Pride-I was fracked, so I said, “yeah, I really do.”
And so it went that I met Keith and Jesse. Father and son. I still don’t know what they were doing on this beach at this time, but they were there, and after they helped me, they went home, without staying.

So I’m not sure why they were there. They asked me if I had rope, which regrettably I did not. Clearly not my only shortcoming today, so then they drove back to their home, to get rope.
I started to dig again as they drove off, and the kid called out, “We’ll be back, yeah.”
I was hopeful that they would return, but not sure. At that point I did not know their names, nor did I know anything about them. It turns out, as they did return, that Jesse’s dad, a union man according to his bumper sticker, had gotten stuck similarly a while back.
And so they stopped. They helped. They got rope and came back and I tied the car up and with their help, and the help of the Marine and his brother that showed up at the moment of the last push, the van was free.

Once the van was free, I got to talk with them, and Keith and his son Jesse, in that moment were very much akin to the man in Ireland, and to Eddie, at least in my estimation.
While people were driving by, and laughing at my Haole-self trying in vain to dig myself out of a dummass jam, there was help on the way.

In all honestly, I was driving deep into my own cynicism before they stopped to help. I was waiting to be disappointed and was writing a blog in my head about how the Aloha Spirit is dead.
And then, Keith and Jesse stopped the truck.

Once I was out they asked what I was doing there, and I told them that I came here to write.
The kid asked what kind of things I wrote, and I told him I was working on a novel, and that I’d include them in it. He seemed to pop on that, and I think that all things considered, I won't have a genuine problem honoring that.

It’s just too a good a story to have been an accident.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Making the Beds; Philly’s “The Hooters;” and “What Stacy had written”

Auspicious start, I know.

If you happened to read my last column, you’ll know that we’ve been on quite a ride here on Oahu, with the Bear-who-wants-to-be-a-big-kid-so-darn-bad, and the twins regular levels of transition times two.

So, as we discussed, the bear is out of the crib. Dramatically. The last few nights have been on the rough side for her, (and us) as her ‘lil mattress has been stuck on the floor while we figured out what we wanted to do after she began spelunking from her earlier digs.

And again, another transition pushed forward, or course, not on our time but on theirs. As it should be, but the heart readies itself for things in its own time too. Mine wasn’t quite. And so they grow…

A bold move we made today, but not without setting the table-this time anyway. The wife, ever the smart one in this equation, started in with the twins about moving to their own “real big kid” beds in the last few days. The wife was also the one who thought it wise to have the government move these beds that no one was using at the time from Jersey to Oahu in the first place, I imagine, nay, have been told, for just such an occasion.

Pardon me for marrying up.

So, the twins popped on the idea. And off to the races we went.

The girl got a nice headboard from her Great-Grandma’s house that her Aunt used to use when she visited upstate New York as a kid. It had been saved “for her,” and she liked that. When one is a twin, such things matter.

The Boyo got his Daddy’s old headboard and footer, complete with sideboards and all the accoutrements. It was the only bed that I ever remember in my room at my parents’ from the age of whenever I started remembering until I moved out, and then it was saved, and I brought it here.

As I put it together, I could remember a lot of moments, like when I was sick as a kid, and the cat would come and sleep at the top of the bed, where there are little cubbies in the headboard, and he would slink in and out of them until he was comfortable, and nuzzling my head. I remember the first time the bed was moved from the wall perpendicular to the window to the wall parallel to the window. It was traumatic, and no further attempts were made to move it again. But it was better after the move. Eventually.

I remember a period when, for some reason, I slept very badly in my early teens, and kept waking up in-between the wall and the bed. Those side runners really earned their keep…I never hit the floor.

As with most young people growing up, my room was my sanctuary, and having no other furniture of note, that bed was my throne. I wrote the Eulogy to my Father while sitting on this bed, often looking out the window, that day, as I talked to friends who tried to say the right thing and I loved them for it.

I wrote my first song sitting on that bed, the lyrics of which I shall not be sharing in this space, on a crapulent guitar I found in the back of the prop room at school, and paid the teacher $5 to take home, with a promise of another $5 the next day. Still owe for that, but it was never brought up again. To me then, sitting on that bed, with that horrendous guitar, it opened a world up to me that meant a whole lot down the line. I played that one until I got to college, and then bought another, and then another, and it was a part of my life, and each time I went home, I played them all from the same spot, on the same bed. And a lot of songs were written there. And, though there have been no real genuine calls for a new album…there were a lot of great nights, playing music, in front of fun people, that all started, playing that $5 but I owe $5 guitar.
A young lady I went to high school with wrote a great poem in one of our yearbooks that I have remembered to this day. It was about “her room.” I could go upstairs and read it verbatim and wax poetic, but I remember her using the motif of the room starting as a girls room, and later becoming that of a young woman…and my oldest girl is all about the Princesses and such now, and that is her room. “My room. It started out like that” I remember my classmate writing. It’s odd the things you remember in moments like this, but I’m glad to remember that poem. It was over twenty year ago that she wrote it, but I remember it, and it has made an impact on my writing. I don’t know if she’s still writing, but that was a damned good piece, in my opinion. Better than anything I wrote or remember reading by most anyone else when we were in school.
I digress again, and now, that bed of mine is the boyo’s. I’m grateful that my mom saved it. It’s a quality piece of furniture, from New Hampshire (Oddly ironic) and just really solid. It’s not a ton to look at, unless one enjoys utilitarian NH furniture, but who doesn’t? But overall, today, when I was done setting it up in my son’s room, it was a truly surreal moment. To be here, all the way out here, in the middle of the Pacific, and Ocean I never bothered with until now….to see my old bed in my boyo’s room…it was something.

He was all cranked up. He and his sisters took turns jumping on his new bed, and then they ran into the bear’s room, and they jumped on her new bed (which was in her sister’s room mere moments before….) and then to the girl’s room, and jumped on her bed, and they were all so proud to take ownership. The rooms had once again become a statement about who they are and where they are going.

And so, I started putting dinner together, and plugged in the Ipod to play some music, and what song just happens to pop up?

OK-you read the title-if you’re from the NJ, Philly, NY area…you get a moment to think…

OK-Philly’s own Hooters pop up on my Ipod, in the midst of this moment, and what song is it? Is it their big hit “And We Danced?” No. Is it the follow-up hit “Day by Day?” Nope. Is it even the infamous “Don’t take my Car out Tonight,” or later hits like “Karla with a K,” or “Amore?”
Nope. Of course, with the great Spin-Master in the sky, perhaps aided by the late Isaac Hayes, or perhaps even by the later Jam Master Jay, spinning from the spirit, the song that pops on, in this moment, where I am doing my darndest to manage the sudden and rapid growth of my kids, is, of course…

“Where Do the Children Go?”

It wasn’t a huge hit for The Hooters, though I still think it’s their best song. “Nervous Night” is a great album, but that one, in my opinion, is the best song. I used it is as soundtrack/background in a few plays I produced back in the old SKS days.

But that’s the song that hits. What are the odds? Well, I’ve got 900 songs on my Ipod. Math was never my thing, so, best of luck smartys.

It was really something seeing them not only excited about their new big kid beds, but also to simply experience the visual of these beds in their rooms, that very well might be what they have in their rooms until they go to college, or whatever. It was a moment that really gave me a rather circuitous vision of my role as their parent. Especially in light of that fact that that is my full time job now. It’s what I do.

Whether I want them to or not, they are growing up. And of course, I want them to grow up. It would be silly not to, and they are certainly doing so, and developing, and making friends outside the home and, as they must; moving away from me. It is inevitable, I know, and my hope is that I do a good enough job that though they may be ready to move on with their lives when they are grown, they still feel a connection to the family life that the wife and I, an dour families, are working to create. The twins, and their sister will always be siblings. I hope they do a good job with that. I hope that I’m able to impart in them how important family is, and that no matter what happens, no matter what demons we face in this life, or how far we may travel, that we should be able to talk to and reach out to our family. I hope I will teach them that.

I hope they grow to be good people.

As I tucked in the girl tonight, she was chatty, as she always is. She didn’t become the “littlest houseguest” by not being overly conversational. Where o’ where did she get that, I wonder?
But, as I tucked her in, we talked about the transition to her new bed, and how she, as she said “will be soooo big to touch the ceiling!” Now I’m 6’3” and the wife is 5’ 10”. They went through three loaves of bread and peanut butter like you would not believe.

I told her not to grow up too fast…to which she said, with brow furrowed, “Daddy-I’m not a grown-up yet.” and hugged me without request.

Man did I pop on that. I could have lost it in that moment, but I held on, as I did to her. I kissed her good night, and her doggie too.

“Pinky Dog is a big kid too, Daddy,” she said, as I gave Pinky her goodnight kiss. I told her that I was proud of her, and her brother and sister for growing up strong and healthy.

And I am.

They all went to bed pretty much without incident this evening. Even the little bear…first night in a big kid bed, with a big kid bed frame…and she’s asleep. It’s good stuff. They are happy.

When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s hard, it’s good, but it’s the only job I’ve ever wanted to be good at.

It is the only job I have ever wanted to be good at.

It is honestly harder than anything I have ever done. But I’m there. It is the only job that I have ever aspired to.

I won’t get my performance evaluation until later, but I hope its good.

I blinked, and so they grew, again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Man, was I NOT ready for this…again. But so they grow...

I had put the bear up for a nap, and was about 10 steps away, when not only heard but felt a “thud” and then heard a giggle, followed by the perilous sound of her bedroom door opening. I didn’t need to walk out to see what had happened…

She got big.

More specifically, no longer desirous to be confined to her crib, she taught herself how to “Spider-girl” herself out, without injury, and was now categorically refusing to stay in for a nap, while her brother and sister were enjoying “play time,” the latest addition to her burgeoning vocabulary. I sighed, knowing that once again, transition had been thrust upon our family, when
I for one, was really not ready for it.

She’s my littlest. She’s the baby. She’s the one I finally get some solo time with now that the twins are in school. This is my little bear…who isn’t interested in being little anymore. She’s got Big-kid-it-is something awful, and this latest installment is just another reminder that all three of them are growing up.

When this happened with the twins back in Jersey, it was the boyo who first created the now famous “thud heard round the house” and his wasn’t as graceful it seems as his baby sister, as I remember him crying briefly, before realizing he was free. Being less experienced parents then, we panicked and into toddler beds they went that night. Immediately. With no transition.

OK, so that went well. I remember the boy did fine with it, as he tends to do about all things involving sleep. His twin sister on the other hand, was an absolute mess. I remember trying everything: putting her in the car at 2am in hopes she’d nod off, which she did. Until I tried to put her in bed. I tried holding her and rocking, and nothing worked. She screamed all night long, to the point that I got a total of four minutes of non-concurrent sleep. It was awful. I had a 14 hour day the next day too. As I recall, a lot of kids got suspended that day. But I digress.

Eventually the twins leveled out. And as with all things parental, we forgot all about that experience until just about two days ago.

So, the bear climbed out. I put her back in to see how she was doing it, and it was a very solid cross balance climb, using the corner, very solid bouldering technique. But what’s more, I knew that there was genuine potential for injury with the four-foot fall, despite my confidence in her ability.

So, out went the crib. Mattress to the floor. Forced transition and caterwauling like you would simply not believe.

I suppose you could say that we didn’t learn anything from the first time we went through it, but I disagree. We put a latch on the door to keep her in the room, and I just let her scream now, whereas with her sister, I went to pick her up and try to comfort her. If she falls asleep on the floor, works for me. She wakes up with carpet face, she has a bed available-she’s a smart kid. She’ll figure it out. I’ve gotten quite good at letting them cry it out-in fact you could say its one of my better maneuvers. And although we are only a few nights in, it seems to be easing a bit. She was near her bed when I got her up this morning. She’ll figure it out.

I hope my attitude does not sound callous. It’s not that I have no emotion about the whole thing-I was not ready for this at all, and as I’ve written before in this space, these children and our family are my full time devotion, now that I’m retired. (Haven’t heard if Brett Favre read my column on retirement yet-stay tuned) I feel very much a loss of her as a little kid these days-she wants to walk everywhere by herself; She is far less interested in being held; she wants to play with the big kids; she tries on all of her sister’s clothes while they are at school; she is far more assertive and likely to disagree with me for no apparent reason. But, that’s how it goes I suppose. I could spend that time lamenting the loss of her as a little kid, or embrace her developing personality and assertiveness.

I’ll go with the growth, but it’s with a little heaviness. But, every now and then, she’ll walk over and tackle me and give me a big kiss. And that rules.

Especially in light of the fact that someday, perhaps she’ll be less likely to do that either.

And so they grow.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Remebering Grace.

I wrote this a year ago, and share it now while remembering her.

Everyone loves their dog. At least everyone is supposed to. I loved Gracie from the moment she tackled me in my apartment at New York. She tackled me, as if to say: “I know you, and you’re mine!” and then sped off as if to say, “So, what else ya got?” She was one of a kind.

That first weekend that the wife brought Grace up to stay with me in NY I got very sick with Gastroenteritis. I had a high fever and hallucinated a few times. I remember the dog, even having just met me, laying next to my side of the bed, doting on me as though she had known me forever.

She was always a handful, usually for the best. She snuck more cookies, pies, turkey butts, silver polish, pretzels, cakes, ice cream, steak, venison, chicken, cottage cheese, chili, buffalo wing bones, buffalo burgers, French fries, soap, and bread than any dog I’ve ever known. She could release herself from any enclosure, could hide evidence of her crimes, and in general, keep everyone on their toes. She was a menace to other dogs, unless she decided she liked them, and even then, sometimes took some prodding. She was an only dog, to be certain, but she liked “Peaches,” and “Montana,” and especially “Mikey.”

Grace’s biggest impact on me was not only the manner in which she inspired me to open my heart, but in the way she, in her own way led me back to being a person of faith. I was in a pretty dark, but searching period spiritually, and I honestly feel that God chose to work through this 45 pound ball of energy to bring me back around.

I was working at Camp Ramaqoius during the summer of 1998, teaching rock climbing. It was a relatively soft job, but one day, I got a call to come to the office of the camp, as this was before I, or most people had a cell phone. I had a message to call the wife, though she was not the wife then, and she said it was an emergency. I called, and in tears, she told me that Gracie had been involved in a fracas with Harry, the annoying little dog next door, and that she’d bitten him, and his owners were being dicks about it-even though he came on her property. She was upset, and said that she was thinking of putting Grace down. I told her to wait until I got there and left work.

When I got to my car, I found that I was parked in. There was no room at all to get out without serious risk to damaging the other cars.

I was blessed in this time to be driving a 1995 Mercury Tracer, later to be called “Bullseye.“
So what did I do? I won’t say that I prayed as much as I opened a negotiation with the Almighty. I said, alright God-you want me? Here’s my price-get me there and help me fix this, and you’ve got me. Seemed a small price to pay, I thought.

Somehow, I managed to get my car through without damage.

To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I was on the road, speeding shamelessly to home, hoping that the future wife, “the girl” in this narrative would respect my request. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure. Grace was her Dog technically. We weren’t married yet, so I had no real claim to her, though I like to think we were acting as a family, with the wedding less than a year away. My whole drive there, I didn’t put the radio on, which is rare for me. I held a whole dialog with God about not wanting to let this Dog go-that I wasn’t willing to do so, and that if need be, she was coming to live with me in New York whether “the girl” liked it or not. The trip remains a blur to me, and having never driven from Camp to the Girls’ before, I’m still not certain how I managed to figure out how to get there. I spent that drive spelling out my terms to God, and all it was going to cost to get me back, with a full heart, was for lack of a better term, saving this Dog. For whatever reason, I felt called to tie my spiritual life to Gracie’s.

Now, I like to think of myself as a strong man. I’m not sure anyone else does, but I like to think that I have strength, and especially when it is needed, I show it. The moments when I take charge are probably not as frequent, mostly because we work together on most things and build consensus. I remember going into the house, and finding her and Grace on the bed. She had been crying, and in essence said that she’d said goodbye to Grace.

My specific words at that time I don’t recall, but I know they included that I was not going to allow her to be put down, and that if I had to take her to NY to do so, I would, even if it was against her will. I said that we needed to do better by her as dog-parents, and if there was a failure here, it was ours, not hers. That we had to learn and we had to adjust, and that our family did not simply throw away a life because things got difficult. I said a lot of stuff, and in the end, we agreed to get some help training her, and to work on ourselves as caregivers to Grace. I think it was one of the first real “household decisions” that we made, as we were still only engaged, but I like to think that it helped me realize the importance of taking care of Grace as a mirror to what it means to care for a family. I’d like to think that that’s why God put this nutty dog in my path. But, whatever the reason, I’d made a deal with God and I was back.

It was that simple for me honestly. The love of a Dog brought me back to God. The story of how I got back with Jesus is even sillier, but it has little to do with Grace.

Throughout the remainder of her life, she brought us incredible joy and humor. I can’t say that the training we did really stuck with her, but we never really had a major incident again, as we learned how to adjust to her, which I think is honestly a lesson about family. You can’t change them, but you can change how to live and deal with them. Grace was there through all of our surgeries and slept curled up in the crux of my knees on more nights then I can remember. We spoiled the daylights out of her, and in essence, she reaped the benefit of our long standing efforts to conceive. She was the first baby in the family. But then, she saw us through all that-every shot, every test, every drug, every disappointment, every hard decision, Grace was there. Sometimes she dozed off, but she never failed to be present what to do.

I remember the summer we got married, I was off, and the wife was working. There may not ever have been more fun had by one man and a dog than we had that summer. Geez-we had our own soundtrack. We’d work out in the morning…have lunch on the deck, listen to the radio in the afternoon, and then, just when it seemed the right time: play “Jump in the line” by Belafonte at happy hour and chill out in the hammock with the parrot head mug until “the girl” got home.
I remember one weekend in New York, she was with me, and the kids were doing nightly check-in. There was a Korean boy, who was afraid of dogs and when he saw I was holding her leash, decided to make faces at her. Grace looked at me sideways, as if to say, “Mind if I bark at him?” to which I nodded. She let out one loud “ARF” and the boy took off. That one still makes me laugh.

I remember that Grace learned how to wink one eye. She honestly would do it at the most appropriate times, and it would be funny as hell.

I remember one day in North Jersey, she and I were walking outside the house when we were set upon by wasps. We ran, both of us getting stung. I ran into the bathroom, as I had one in my shirt and more following us, and once I hit the door, she turned around, setup on guard-dog duty and held them at bay.

I will always remember how she’d dive into snow banks. I think I will do that too from now on. Seems like a good policy.

I remember reading my graduate papers to her. Her input was invaluable.

I remember Sundays, when the wife would be working all day at the parish, I would be in the den, I’d turn on football and she’d curl up on the green Mona blanket, and we wouldn’t leave that room for hours…and I’d just absently pat her head
I remember how she knew that Great-Grandma Jensen was not someone to jump on…though she jumped on most everyone. I remember too, how when I got home from my back surgery, she just knew she had to be gentle with me. With the wife in Germany, she was my most consistent and welcome company, and laid with me for hours. She knew to go easy.

I remember waking up with her on 9-11. We were the only two who seemed to have slept through the whole thing, but I remember getting a call from the wife at like 11am, and turning on the TV and holding on to Grace as I got the whole story at once. In all honesty, I just remembered that now. Today. Wow.

I remember how she ate Annie’s cookies and hid the evidence.

I remember playing ball with her in Beverly and how she loved that fence. It was probably the only time we had her that she was really un-tethered. I can still see her romping around that space, chasing the ball, or a bug, or her shadow, or rolling around in something icky. We had a lot of fun on Sundays there, too. Same Mona blanket-just a different couch.

I remember how once my wife got pregnant, Grace had to sleep near her. She did that both times.

I remember how, coming home late from the Dublin Pub, after work, sometimes at 2am, she’d meet me at the top of the steps, smell me, make a face, but go to bed satisfied that I was home. I just smelled bad.

I remember time in the living room in North Jersey listening to the radio, or just music, laying on the floor leaning my head on her for hours. Sometimes in front of the fire, which she always liked.

I will always remember the moments when the twins were sweet to her-petting her and hugging her. Talking to them about her death will be difficult, but necessary. I hope they will learn to understand.

Letting her go this afternoon was hard for me. I held her the whole time, and though it was difficult, I had to be there. To be honest, I saw that moment 9 years ago in my mind when I was racing to the Girl’s house to try and save her. I have always known how her life would end, though I didn’t know when. It went pretty much exactly as I knew it would. I’m glad that we had those 9 years though. We packed a lot of love and a lot of life, growth and change into those years.

I knew I had to be with her at the end, because I honestly feel in my heart that she would have done the same for me. If I had asked her to, she’d have stayed with me that long, and longer. She would have waited up for me, as she often did. I held her all the way through, and I told her that I love her and that I always will. I told her that she was a good dog. I thanked her for being my and our dog. I told her that everyone loves her. I told her I will miss her, and I asked God, that even though I do not know what is out there beyond life, if there is a place for her, that she find her way there, as she has more than done her part to make this world better. I told her that she made me a much better person, and that she brought me back to God. I said that a day would not go by that I do not think of her, and I honestly feel that is true. She restored my faith and opened my heart to God and a world of endless love and wonder, and in all honesty, there are not that many human beings in my life that can top that for impact.

Perhaps that’s unusual. Take it up with God then-I’m at peace with it.

I’d like to think that she had a good life with us. The last few years her health was not as good, and with the birth or the twins and Allie, our attention to her diminished. I feel badly about that, except for the fact that I’d like to think that in some way, caring for her taught us how to care for them. She got to enjoy them and they her, and while the twins are not yet 3, they will remember her. I will see to that.

The house already seems emptier without her. There’s no one to pick up the food that the boy dropped on the Oriental rug. I guess I’m going to have to be more diligent about that. I keep thinking that I’m going to hear her adjust herself on Daddy’s chair and I’ll hear the clinking. I think the first night I spend in this house or the next by myself will be difficult, as even when the wife and the kids were away, Grace and I were usually home together. I’m not looking forward to that.

She was one of a kind. I don’t know that I’ll ever want another dog, or to be honest, any pet.
I had my dog, and she was spectacular. I will miss her, and I hope that we did right by her.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Latest

Just a quick note-I've been traveling and super busy, and haven't had much to write about in this space. I've been working on the book, and made some good progress while on the mainland.

Had a great time in Ohio, and the family did really well without me. I'll have a new column up soon, but school for the kids goes well, the adjustments continue, and potty training continues, more or less.