Sunday, December 10, 2017

You will be missed every single day, sweet girl.

Lucy (affectionately known as "Lucy Lou")
September 6, 2006-December 3, 2017
Waking up to only two pups these past few mornings has been really hard. Even over the last several weeks when Lucy was sick, she would get up, wag her tail, and offer what seemed to be “Morning, Mom” as soon as she saw me. It was something to which I had been accustomed for eleven years, an innocent, “Yes! It’s morning!” happiness expressed on a face, increasingly gray with age, that everyone always described as “the sweetest.” I will miss that daily 6:00 am greeting from the little girl who had the kindest heart and the most loving spirit. In his “This I Believe” essay, Silas House argued that “Dogs make us better people” and the relationship between Lucy and me is a testament to this seemingly simple conclusion. Lucy was one of the few constants I had in my adult life. Despite changes – some tragically sad, others incredibly inspiring – I got to come home to her every day. And it did not matter the city or the house we were living; as long as Willie and I were around, she didn’t seem to mind the specifics. I could count on her to be friendly to every person we met when strolling Main Street in Danville, Glasgow, Burkesville…or any random town on any random road trip; I knew she would be equally kind to Charley and Willie even when they got food first or stole the bed she typically slept in; I knew her ears would perk and she would dance by the door if asked, “Want to go for a walk?” or “How about a car ride?”; I knew she would be excited to see me regardless if I had been gone for eight hours or eight minutes; I knew playing at the farm made her as happy as working it had made Dad; I knew I could trust her completely around Isabella, Averey, and Charlotte, that she was the kind of pup that made little girls want to color pictures of dogs and buy Christmas presents for pets; I knew that she, and her brother and sister, could make even the worst days better. In these ways, and in a thousand others, Lucy helped me appreciate small joys, reminded me to be more patient than I would otherwise be inclined, and taught me that some love truly is unconditional.
Lucy just made everyone happy when she was around and I am grateful for every day I got to be in her life. I’m grateful for all of the kind words my friends and students have offered over the past few days. I’m grateful for the little boy for whom we originally got Lucy (and his father who always commented on her soft ears); I’m grateful for those who attended birthday parties for Lucy, or welcomed her to picnics, or got her an Easter basket, or petted her head when she ran up to them at the park. I’m grateful for family members who came to see her at the clinic to say goodbye, helped dig her grave at the farm, and who warmly embraced the role of grandmother long before actual grandchildren came along. I’m grateful for a father who was known to take his own dog to WKU with him every day, a father who, as an adult, was rarely seen at Marrowbone store without one in tow. I’m grateful for a husband who laid in the floor of vet. clinic with Lucy and me for hours upon hours and who carved her a headstone at the farm (using the type of cursive writing that Lucy always used when signing cards😉). I am certain that Lucy loved all of you.   

I am also certain that while feel-good clichés such as “She had a good, long life.” or “She knew she was loved.” or “You still have two pups that you adore.” apply, none really make me feel better right now. I am heartbroken in a way that I do not know how to describe, in a way that I do not feel like others can understand. Even though we are all sane adults who can mentally accept that other people have loved pets too, when we lose our own, there seems a part of us that concludes, “Yes, but…” The universality of emptiness and sadness suddenly seems less concrete, less truthful. In fact, I’m sitting here right now thinking, “I imagine this all sounds crazy to most people. They just can't understand.” Delusion helps us cope sometimes though. If I tell myself that no one else could have possibly shown her more love or made her feel any more special, I will hopefully reach the point when the clichés at the beginning of this paragraph are indeed the framework for my memories.   
All I know for sure right now, though, is that you will be missed every single day, sweet girl. You were, you are, and you will remain so very loved.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Get a soda and Little Debbie cake on random Tuesday afternoons.

This editorial, shared by Caroline a couple of years after Dad passed, remains one of my favorite essays: "Write your father." I saved the link that Father's Day and often thought to myself in subsequent years, "Sit down and do that. It will be good for you." Last year on his birthday, some six years after his death, I finally felt ready. I'll spare you the details about my wacko, but loveable, herd of animals and the conversation with him about philosophical concepts of "place," and specifically Turner Farm, but I did want to share the closing of the letter. These are things I hope he knew I recognized and respected, but for which I didn't take the time to thank him. On this particular Sunday in June, I encourage you all to take the time. 

Thanks, CLT, for living a life worth living.
You reminded me that sometimes things really are this simple…
Do something. Make a decision. Show up. Change what you don’t like. Just live your life. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Learn to let go of needing explanations; knowing will likely change nothing.  Don’t coerce someone into accepting or loving you.  Know what you believe and be able to explain why.  Don’t force your views on someone else, but don’t stand idle in the face of ignorance or mean-spiritedness. Don’t look for a fight, but don’t be scared of one.  Don’t seek attention, but don’t be lazy.  Don’t be afraid to cuss sometimes. Let your animals ride in the car; clean trucks are overrated. As long as you have a vest on and your ears covered, you’ll probably be alright.  A fire and a crockpot of soup make working in the cold seem worthwhile.  Conservative pundits are ridiculous…but so are out-of-touch hipster liberals.  Work hard every minute that you’re up. Know when to bite your tongue with your parents. Cowboy boots go with everything. Vacations will be rare so try to really be present when you’re on them. Take kids (whether yours or someone else’s) fishing and to country stores and let them steer when coming up the driveway.  All day breakfast places are always a good choice. Keep books and magazines handy.  Tell stories.  Don’t go for the obvious joke.  Kick somebody in the ass if they need it.  Give someone money if they need it, but try first to give them a job.  Don’t overuse “I love you” or hugs.  Wear flannel. Make Christmas presents or go to Grider Antiques on Dec. 23 and look for cookie jars.  Be able to ad lib presentations at school or work, coming across as professional, but down-to-earth. Eat dessert.  Get a soda and Little Debbie oatmeal cake on random Tuesday afternoons. Spend Friday nights with your family at Shoney’s and Wal-Mart. Spank your kids if they’ve earned it (and they will earn it). Make sure they know how to drive a straight shift.  If you want something, make it happen. Create opportunities for yourself. Don’t rely on someone else for your own happiness…but be grateful for those who want to share their life with you; be proud to be theirs, they, yours. Swallow pride and occasionally do what you have to do in order to do what you love. Have the courage to be who you really are.  Live a life worth living.