Tag Archives: life

The Constant Companion









July 1, 2011

When I first met him, I didn’t know at first what he was. He was the size of a rat running across the apartment quad, tiny tongue flapping out the side of his open mouth. When I got up close, I could see he was a little puppy… a happy dog.

Inside our apartment, I used to get down on my hands and knees and dangle my long hair over him; he played and nipped at it.

He was so proud to climb up the stairs; he just didn’t know how to get down. Even when he learned how, he would always be timid and cautious doing so.

When I fell asleep on the couch he would curl up on my neck just behind my ear and stay there until I got up. In bed, he slept right up against my side… a hot little coal.

Over 17 years, our lives were indelibly stained by his presence. He greeted us when we came home and he helped us garden and with chores around the house. He was our companion on the couch when we watched TV and he was our companion when we slept.

He was our constant companion.

Winter was coming. His aging and arthritic body wasn’t going to make it through. As our family vet administered what was to be his final sleep, I could see he was a little puppy… a happy dog.

Scary Times

New Oct 2010 031









October 31, 2010

Boo. It’s Halloween. All the goblins, ghosts, and gremlins are emerging for their yearly shopping bag doses of high octane sugar. It’s great. It’s fun. It’s one of my favorite holidays.

And this year, I’m not celebrating.

That’s right. No lights. No candles. No webbing. No decorations. No candy. Why? What could have possibly changed me from a ghoul loving treat dispenser into a hermetic Halloween humbug?

Because I already experienced the scariest thing in my life this October. I almost lost my wife.

My wife, Shandell, had a brain hemorrhage on October 3rd while getting ready for bed. She didn’t know that’s what it was. At first she just felt like someone hit her in the back of the head with a 2X4. Then came the vomiting… all night long. She thought about calling for an ambulance, but she decided to tough it out until morning. I was in a beer-induced slumber from watching the 49ers march into their worst opening season record I can remember.

In the morning, I drove her to the doctor and they said it was the flu. Stay home for a few days and get plenty of rest. Her head hurt so bad they had to dose her up on pain and anti-nausea medication. We went home; she went to bed. The headache never went away. She tried different meds, but by Wednesday evening when I got home from work, she was ready to go to Emergency. I had a bad feeling and it stayed with me the whole drive there.

About five hours later, after tests, scans, and interviews, the Emergency physician came back with the results: bleeding around the pituitary gland in the brain. With those words my world crumbled around me for the first time. He went on about it for a bit, but all I could think of was to wonder how serious it was, even though I knew it was the most serious thing ever. I asked him. He said it was very serious. They were assembling a team down in the Neuro ICU of UCSF and she was being taken there immediately by ambulance. The doctor’s stony countenance said everything I needed to know: there was a significant chance I’d lose the love of my life.

Don’t worry. This story has a happy ending. But the waiting for answers was the most nerve wracking experience ever. I had to have her dad drive me back and forth from San Francisco the first couple days because inside I was wigging out. I was scared. From the multitude of tests they learned that it was a Type I Brain Hemorrhage, the best kind to have if you’re going to have something pop in your brain. They said it was kind of like a blood vessel popping in tour eye or in your leg. It will eventually be re-absorbed by your body and the chance it will ever happen again is next to none.

She ended up staying 6 days in ICU for observation because after these instances there is a risk of stroke. Then there is a month off with rest and then a re-test. I went back to work, but mentally I took the month off with her.

I’m sort of sad to be skipping Halloween this year. But I’m very glad to still have my wife.

Why You Laugh and Cry










May 16, 2010

The other day I got sucked into a movie I didn’t want to see.  It wasn’t because I don’t like the movie or that I was humoring my wife (well, okay, I was… a little).  It’s because I didn’t want to cry… and I knew that movie would make me cry.

There are certain movies that make me cry, guaranteed.  And Steel Magnolias is one of them.  Go on, laugh.  But you watch it again and you’ll know what I mean.

You see, the first time you watch a movie that makes you cry, you don’t cry like the second time, or third time, or fourth time you watch it.  That’s because the first time you watch it, it’s unexpected.  It either sneaks up on you or hits you all of a sudden, and the cry just kinda comes out of you from surprise.

The next time you watch a cry movie, you know you are going to cry.  From the minute the credits roll, you know there is going to come that scene or scenes that will open the flood gates to your heart.

Crying isn’t bad.  In fact it is very healthy.  But crying when you don’t want to but you know you will is awkward.  Because you cry when something is true, but it is so goddamned sad, like when Sally Fields finally breaks down after her daughter’s funeral with her untethered tirade about how unfair and senseless death is. 

That is very true.  And it is so goddamned sad.

The upside to all of this is that most movies that make you cry usually also make you laugh… for the same reasons.  Like when Dolly Parton says: “Time marches on and eventually you realize it’s marching across your face.”

That is very true.  And it is also goddamned sad.  But it is exceptionally funny.

Max’s Life Lessons

Max 3

October 18, 2009

Our cat Max, for lack of a better term, is an asshole. However, he is the sweetest damn asshole of a cat you will ever meet. He will marinate on your lap for hours, just a-purring away. He is big and fluffy and loves to be scratched. But he also knows how to give a mean stink eye and he’s the kind of cat that needs a time out in the bathroom once in awhile.

So this week I interviewed him to get a better dig on his world perspective, and this is what he told me:

1. Some people think their shit doesn’t stink… but it does.
2. People do a piss poor job of covering up their shit.
3. My own shit does not stink. In fact, I like to share my aroma.
4. Girls are hot.
5. Sometimes, guys are hot, too.
6. I take my cat food straight and I like my baby treats.
7. I need fresh air. I need space. I need breathing room.
8. I’ll let you know when I’m not happy with you, believe me.
9. There are things that are yours and there are things that are mine. Learn about it.
10. Don’t even think about moving me.

And though Max is a hard ass, the funniest thing about him is his meow. He sounds like a little baby girl.

Monkey’s Life Lessons


December 14, 2008

So I hunkered down and rapped with Monkey the other day (Monkey is my cat… and I don’t mean a cool dude; I mean he’s a real cat… and he is also very cool). I says “Hey Monkey, you are a cool carefree successful type of cat. How did you get this way?” And he says “Well, let me tell you, Pop.” (he doesn’t really talk, but I can tell that’s what he says):

1. Always make sure you are the first one to go when the litter box is changed.
2. Get plenty of rest. You never know when you will be required to jump high or climb.
3. Bathe regularly. Of course, it is better if you can get someone to do it for you.
4. Try different foods — you will be surprised what you like.
5. Play with others, but only when they are in the mood to play.
6. Always greet your loved ones with a sweet voice and a soft rub.
7. When someone scolds you, don’t take offense — it is better to forgive and forget.
8. Cooking is entertaining, dabble around a bit.
9. Dogs are different, but you just need to learn how they like to play.
10. It’s ok to indulge in a little catnip now and again.
11. Water is better in a cup.
12. Say hello to the fish.
13. When all else fails, hug the cat.

Strange Dreams

7 Maladies

September 27, 2009

I was going to post the last blog entry from my old blog today, but Sunday rolls around quickly and the urge to write something new and connect with my readers (wherever they may be) tugs at my instincts. As usual, the idea of what to write often dawns on me the morning of writing and this morning is no exception.

I didn’t sleep well last night. My body was sore from doing a month’s worth of yard work in two hours and a lot of thoughts danced in my brain. I awoke several times during the early morning hours and every time I laid my head back down to sleep strange dreams took over.

I’ve talked about strange dreams before in this blog (see ‘Paranormal?’ and ‘The Sleep Study’) but all of the dreams I experienced last night (and there were many) concerned my family. I get along with most of my family well enough, but we aren’t super tight and we don’t visit or call that often, and I really don’t dream about them all that often either.

In the first one I remember I woke up from a dream (in the dream) about my mother and father separating. It was early Sunday morning, still dark, and I decided to slip out of bed, get dressed, and WALK to my parents’ house (without telling my wife, who was sleeping right beside me). I’m in Windsor; my parents are in Sebastopol… it’s a good 20 miles away.

Needless to say, I get there later in the day. My parents live on a half-acre on a hill, so they can pretty much see anyone coming up the road. As I get closer, I see the four young children in our family (my brother’s and my cousins’) come running from the house dressed up in cow costumes, excited to see me (I almost never see them in real life).

But as I reach the driveway, they are all gone and it’s just my mother and my dad. My dad is packing his truck and my mother explains to me that dad has decided to leave her. She’s not all that upset about it (I think they’ve been married close to 40 years). In fact, she’s rather pragmatic about the whole affair.

In the dream, my dad doesn’t want to talk; he just keeps loading up his truck. My mom explains that it was his idea to leave. She says he feels guilty for what kind of husband and father he has been. Yeah, he was a hard dude, but I think we’ve cut him some slack over it through the years.

Anyways, my mom is going into town for a few things and offers me a lift back home. When I get back home, Shandell isn’t all that mad that I left (and that I WALKED). She also seemed to care less that my parents were splitting up.

Through a few more interludes of family dreams I come to one about my brother. We haven’t spoken in over two years (this is true); we don’t exactly get along in real life. In the dream, my brother has broken that silence and made first contact by sending me a message over the phone that can be viewed on my big screen plasma TV (I’m not exactly sure if that’s possible, but in the dream it is kind of cool).

So I indulge him and he’s on the screen with his kids showing me this new game where you stick in these big slides into a plastic consol which projects city streets on to the wall. You can drive virtual cars on them with controllers, but the action lasts only a second or two, because you have to keep shifting the slide, ala Viewmaster-style, to get to the next street image.

I’m kind of laughing at this because in the dream (and for real) I have an XBOX 360 and he’s playing with this “new” technology that wouldn’t even be able to compete with a 1976 Atari 2600. So I kind of shine him on and ask him what he’s been up to.

Then he pops through the garage door with a cell phone to his ear! He’s been in our house this whole time! He walks over to the front door and lets his wife in. She is carrying paper plates and Tupperware and stuff. I get furious and yell at him, asking him what he is doing and he replies all matter-of-fact that he just stopped by to see me and share some dinner. My wife and I start screaming at him about his audacity to come over unannounced and we shout at them to leave.

They leave, but my brother doesn’t seem to understand why I’m making such a big deal over it.

And I suppose that’s really how it is in the conscious world, too. All of these surrealistic scenarios are describing real life themes, whether actual or projected. Our hopes, desires, fears, and perceptions play out as abstract dramas within our sleep world and yet somehow we retain our balance over reality when we wake.

Or do we?

I’m a big believer that dreams have a tremendous amount of meaning to the self. I dream pretty vivid and strange and I would have to say the two dreams I’ve described here were rather plain fare, except they depict realistic events that have never happened and are likely to never happen. But the fact that I can describe them means that they did happen… in my head.

And the fact that they are tethered to the characteristics and psychological themes and perceptions existing in the waking world means that they have more substance than would appear. So I suppose that there is some credence to that age old saying: “Life is but a dream.”

Death and Dying

01 Angie 1

August 24, 2008

A year ago yesterday my wife’s mother died. We saw her for the last time 2 hours before she passed into the great beyond. She did not pass quietly.

Angie’s motto in life was “do what you want because life is short.” She didn’t eat well, she smoked, and she never went to the doctor. That was what she wanted to do in life. It led to uncontrolled diabetes, heart failure, and death at 59.

She balked at her condition, even hid it. When she finally went to the hospital, her legs were black, cold, and rotting, weeping constantly with fluid loss. The doctors concluded her heart was less than 30% effective. She didn’t have much time… a few months.

She spent the last 5 months of her life in the hospital vigorously denying that anything was seriously wrong with her. She was convinced that she would get over it. But it wasn’t that positive “help me fight this thing” attitude. It was that delusional “what are you talking about? I’m fine” that made being around her rather difficult. She wouldn’t wrap things up with her family or provide closure. Every day was just another day watching TV, reading, and waiting to go home.

After the first few visits I couldn’t visit anymore. It was that disturbing to me. For months, I simply drove Shandell to the hospital while she visited and I stayed in the car. I judged Angie in her choices and in her death. And I judged my own self; I judged my weakness.

A year later now, Shandell and I are still bobbing on the ripples of that time. We miss the care-free Angie, not the careless one. Despite how it ended, we loved her. She was a big part of our holidays and our lives.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know if the motto of her life is good or bad. Some will say “let that be a lesson to you; you reap what you sow.” Others will say “she was right: enjoy life in whatever way you want because you can die at any time.”

I do know one thing. I’m not judging anymore.

Old Man Bob

Old Man Bob

August 3, 2008

Yesterday Bob came over. We barbecued chicken, ribs, and corn on the cob. We sat out on the deck in the hot afternoon and chewed the fat. After the 6th round of beers we had solved the complex mysteries of the universe and concluded the meaning of existence. In the evening we watched action movies over coffee and strawberry shortcake. It was a good day.

Bob is Shandell’s father. There is nothing extraordinary about Bob. He’s not well-educated. He isn’t accomplished. He doesn’t blog; he doesn’t have a website… he doesn’t even know how to use a computer. He isn’t rich. He doesn’t have a 5-year plan. He doesn’t tee-off at noon.

Bob is everything that the corporate world isn’t. He’s simple. He’s a machinist of over 40 years. Time has scrawled its path across his body. His fingers are thick, and rough, and gnarled from toil. His knees are shot and one was replaced a few years back. His back is tired. His face is lumpy from sun and beer. In 18 weeks he is set to retire, a long awaited rest for his used up frame.

Bob has simple tastes. He looks forward to Sunday football on TV. He can sit out at the beach without an agenda other than breathing. He doesn’t analyze movies and likes the ones with a lot of gunfire and explosions and a bit of exaggerated emotion. Cats love him because he absently strokes their fur for hours on end while shooting the breeze or watching TV.

Bob is sentimental. He can talk about his feelings and can empathize with yours. He takes life as it comes and tries not to make too big a deal of things. Bob knows that time is limited and he’ll spend it with you whether you’re healthy or lying on your death bed. Bob has a candor and openness about him that is refreshing.

Nope… Bob is not extraordinary. But he is exceptional. Because he is simple. Because he is loving. Because he gets it. Everyone needs an Old Man Bob in their life.