A Dog’s Life

I hadn’t given much thought to having a dog when my friend Leigh offered me a puppy from the litter her dog sired in the fall of 2002. Nor did I know much about Shih Tzu’s as a breed, except for how cute they were. It had been almost 15 years since our cocker spaniel died, and we were accustomed to the freedom that life without dogs (and children) affords. After much discussion with everyone in the family, including my mother who would be our backup caretaker, we decided to bring Magic home.

And that’s just what we did. We brought magic into our house. He was lively, and energetic, and cute, and cuddly. We laughed until tears streamed down our faces at his antics, and all of us purred contentedly when he curled up between us on the sofa or in bed at night. He was such a good puppy in all the important ways. He potty trained easily, never chewed anything that wasn’t meant to be chewed, never minded being left alone. In fact, he was such a good dog - the Best Boy in the Whole Wide World - that 18 months later we brought home a baby sister, Molly Mei. And if one Shih Tzu was magic, two of them were pure joy. 

Happy Birthday, America

When I was growing up, the Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. Summer was in full swing by then, and with it the routine of spending entire days outside with my friends, riding bicycles, hitting tennis balls against the side of the house, playing gin rummy and Monopoly games that went on in an endless loop for hours. The Fourth of July holiday, with its fireworks and parades and picnics, came early enough in the summer to be a celebration of all that.

We also celebrated my grandfather’s birthday on the Fourth of July, the whole family gathering at one or the other of my aunt or uncle’s homes - usually one that had a swimming pool in the backyard. There were at least a half dozen of us cousins running around while the adults realized in their lawn chairs, sipping beers, smoking cigarettes, munching handfuls of Chex mix and pretzels while hot dogs and hamburgers sizzled on a charcoal grill. My grandfather would settle himself in a chair where he could survey the whole scene, a beer can in one hand, a cigarette in the other, the sleeves of his white t-shirt rolled up, the sun burnishing his olive skin enhancing its natural Mediterranean glow, a satisfied expression on his face.

Forgiving Our Fathers

I sent my dad a Father’s Day card about 15 years ago that had a photograph of a little girl walking hand in hand with her dad on the front. Inside it read, “I miss having your hand to hold.”  Cute, sweet, sentimental.

But at the time I mailed that card, I hadn’t spoken to my dad in over five years. We became estranged over a period of a decade when he left my mother after 42 years of marriage. During the ensuing divorce proceedings, I learned what my mother had suspected for quite some time - that he had become involved with another woman, they had fallen in love, and were embarking on a new life together. 

Hashtag

It’s been a queer couple of months since my last post. I feel lethargic. Tired. But agitated at the same time. Disinterested in my normal activities. An odd feeling of disassociation with the things I usually do. I feel myself pulling inward, spending more time alone than usual. Not really caring about much. 

During the first year after I lost my mom, I wrote a lot about grief being like a roller coaster. There were huge vacillations in my emotions - one day I was riding an almost manic high, while other days I was in the depths of despair. I kept extremely busy, scheduling social activities with friends, trying out all my mom’s recipes, gardening like crazy, looking for ways to stay close to her, to keep her presence alive in my life. 

With the passage of the first anniversary of her death, it’s as if the roller coaster has come to an abrupt halt at the bottom of the hill, leaving me strapped inside the carriage, motionless. 

Beautiful House

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been engaged in some home improvement, specifically, updating the kitchen in our condo. When we moved in, the vintage 1994 cabinetry and appliances looked quite up-to-date compared to the 1980’s stuff in our old house. But within a year I decided it would be nice to modernize with new countertops and stainless steel appliances. It would refresh the look and use of the kitchen for me to enjoy, as well as be a good investment for resale purposes.

I started talking about doing this way back in 2014. (One thing you can say about me is that I never move too hastily when it comes to home improvement!) I remember my mom being super excited about it, and she’d nag me gently ever so often. “When are you going to get your new appliances?” she’d say. She even slipped me some extra money in my birthday cards one year. “Put this toward your new kitchen,” she wrote on the inside of the card.