Too Much

 

What I wore: four weeks after the foot surgery, I finally got an air-cast. It is a two piece plastic walking-boot/contraption that you wear over a giant white tube sock and secure in place with three enormous velcro straps. The nurse fitted it to me and said “This will be a transition week. You’ll still need your scooter for distances. But do what you can. Your body will let you know what is too much.”

How I got red eyes and a blotchy nose: I couldn’t actually stand in the air-cast at first, and used my knee-scooter to get to the car.

I went to my room and got into bed, bitching to no one in particular about not being able to walk in the walking cast. I took it off and had a long, self-pitying cry.

Who went with me: a couple of hours later FedEx wanted a signature so I strapped the medical-device-gray ski boot back on.  To my surprise I found that I actually could take some steps unassisted. Yes, I was wobbly. Yes, it was stompy. But I got up the killer three stairs and to the front door and realized I was walking. 20 and I went for a short dog walk with the knee scooter just in case. 20 took Captain and I took our 15 year old dog Cherry.

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It was not too bright, not too cold, and there weren’t any cars on our road. The feeling of liberation was real.

What I did beforehand: as Cherry has been disintegrating in her advancing age, I have been throwing remedies at her which seemed necessary and reasonable. It started with joint supplements. Next I got her dog hoodies and a pressure-sensitive electrically-heated dog bed.  After that it was laser treatments for her ear infections and acupuncture for her weak hind-end.  I got her some toenail covers to help with traction, and some Doggles (dog goggles) for when the sun was too bright. And when she started being picky about her food, I started cooking for her. Over the course of two years she went from an old dog to a reason we couldn’t travel.

Where I sat: the next morning I went to the barn and went for a walk on horseback. Staff were divided between the folks who thought it was awesome that I would get on a horse in a plastic walking cast and the folks who thought I was completely, certifiably, nuts. One person actually told me he thought I was crazy to get on a horse with a cast on my foot. The rest of them just looked at me with what appeared to be bemused alarm. The ones who thought it was awesome said so. I was so happy to be there and not just standing around answering questions about my progress that I didn’t care. I rode about 20 minutes and got off.

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Why I saw this show: I wanted a dog almost as much as I wanted a pony as a kid, and I have loved having them in my life, even when they do embarrassing things, or annoy the neighbors, or have violent diarrhea.

Why my sun-room is now a questionable shade of yellow: the next day was Saturday and the Bacon Provider left for a week-long business trip.  I have been very sad about the pace of travel in his job this fall,  and never more so than on this weekend. Also, the painters showed up and took over several rooms. I made some impulsive choices about paint colors.

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How I got wet: the following day it was warm enough to give the dogs a bath. Cherry loved a bath even though she needs help getting in and out, but afterward she wouldn’t settle down on the pile of towels I spread on the bathroom floor and ended up wandering around the bathroom and got stuck in the shower.

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Things that were not funny: the day after that Cherry went outside to go potty and never came back in. I found her collapsed in the grass. I stood her up and got her to follow me in. She was not alarmed. I was.

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Things that were sad: two days later she could not stand, even with help. She was covered in pee and didn’t want to be wiped off, so after cleaning her, I pulled out an old bottle of dog massage oil and after a few minutes of my attention, I settled her back down. I used up the oil and went online and ordered several essential oils.

Then: I called the vet and explained that I needed to bring my dog in but that I was in a walking cast and would need help getting her out of the car. The receptionist gave me the names of three vets who do house calls in my area. I called the first name on the list and left a message. I think he was a vet I had seen in the past. After about an hour I got anxious from not hearing from him and I looked up the other two vets online. The last one seemed to specialize in end-of-life veterinary care, including hospice and euthanasia. She also had online booking. I was able to make an appointment for the next morning without having to burst into tears again on the phone.

Cherry started screaming again and I changed the house-training pads under her.  The supply of pads was down to a half dozen and I had to go to Petco for more. I found that when I lived in North Dreadful visits to Petco could be very sad and lonely for no reason I can easily explain, and this quick trip felt especially echo-y and poorly lit.  I bought pee pads and a pink stuffed pig toy with a good squeaker in it for Captain.

Who should see it: the next day the painters arrived early. From her heated bed, Cherry drank a mouthful of water and a bite of food but no more. The vet came in one of those Mini Coopers that looks like a mini hearse. She wore scrubs and brought in a big old-fashioned black leather doctor’s case and sat down on the floor with me and Cherry. She asked a lot of questions. Captain brought her his Kong toy and made a nuisance of himself. Her opinion was that the dog was pretty far gone already. I got 20 to come down and hear the vet say that again. “If she isn’t drinking,” she said, “She won’t last more than three more days.”

I think I’ve been getting ready for her to be put down for a few months. I don’t remember when she last wagged her tail. 20 had to get ready over the course of a few days.

Anyway somehow in the middle of this difficult conversation the electrician showed up and I had to get up from the kitchen floor and stomp with my plastic cast up the stairs and show him which fixtures we didn’t have yet and which we did and where they went.

Then I stomped back to the kitchen and sat down on the floor and tried to convey to the vet that despite the flood of tears that had suddenly burst out of my face I was in fact ready to do this very hard thing. I announced to the room that there was no treatment at this point that was going to make her strong or well enough to stand and walk again, like it needed to be said. It didn’t.

I stroked Cherry’s face.

What I saw: Cherry’s last four breaths.

What else I saw: Captain sat on his big new monogrammed Orvis ™ bed and saw the whole thing. He stood and came over an checked her out before she was wheeled away.

And: The vet made a print of Cherry’s paw in clay, and left it on the kitchen counter. I said goodbye to the vet on the driveway, thanking her for doing a hard and important job. She gave me one of the nicest hugs I’ve had in a while. Certainly the best hug Ive ever had from someone I’d just met.

I went in and put Cherry’s bedding the wash, unplugged her heating pad and folded it up, wiped the floor, and moved Captain’s bed to conceal the hole left by Cherry’s departure. I texted the Bacon Provider with the news and a picture or two. I did not know he was sitting at his boss’s keynote speech, between two board members.

The very next thing that happened was someone came from the kitchen cabinet shop to measure.

And: a fancy box containing Cherry’s remains were returned to us by the vet a few days later. And a few days after that a bunch of essential oils arrived which I had little memory of ordering. I mixed up a small bottle of oil with lavender and bergamot and gave Captain a little massage. He loved every bit of it, but he loves everything.

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What I saw at home: I am looking at some of the new paint colors with suspicion, but I’m avoiding it by getting back in bed. My body has let me know that it is too much.

I picked one.

What I saw: the trees that were left.

What I did beforehand: the last few years we lived in the country and found places to cut our own Christmas tree. It was never a matter of looking them up; there would be hand-lettered sandwich boards on the side of the road. 

This year, the Bacon Provider has been traveling so much I was worried we’ wouldn’t find time to get one together. 


I asked Google. It offered Hartsdale, NY and Danbury, CT, both of which stretch the definition of “near.” I revisited the garden center mystery, which I have  tried to solve almost monthly since moving here; where do my neighbors buy plants, I ask. I found one a bit over four miles away, on a road I haven’t driven. I called.

“Do you have Christmas trees?” I asked.
“Yes, we still have some left,” a woman replied. “But all of the 11 foot ones are gone. We only have the 9 foot and 7 foot trees.”
“What kind are they?”
“Frasiers.”
“What are your hours?” 
“9 to 5.”

Something I ate: cereal.

What I wore: jeans. Waterproof boots. My biggest puff coat. 

Why I saw this show: my mother’s love of archly tasteful Christmas decorations and slavish devotion to giving us what we asked for color my every Christmas impulse.  

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Who went with me: the Bacon Provider was delighted to go. We took the truck. It seemed grumpy about starting, because of the cold. The steering wheel squeaked familiarly as steered out of the driveway. We talked about when we will get a new truck. 

How I chose: I didn’t know where to park since ours was the only vehicle. We were greeted by a guy in work gloves who seemed relieved to have a customer. He apologized for how few trees they had left.
“We only need one,” I said, though on the way over we had discussed the possibility of getting two.

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Things that were funny: the Bacon Provider always wants a perfect tree, and will gladly spend 20 minutes considering every angle of every tree available, including the ones that are clearly too tall. He and the guy who worked there stood trees up for me to look at. After the fifth tree I went back to the first one. 

“This one is the best,” I said. I didn’t mean it. I was bored. All trees are somewhat imperfect. As long as the trunk is reasonably straight, you can find a presentable side.

I opened the tailgate of the truck and went to look at wreaths.  



Things that were sad: another couple arrived, he a tall, dark-haired capitalist in a navy cashmere overcoat, she a gently aging blond trophy in a quilted Barbour jacket. They considered whether the enormous 48” wreath was the right size for what they needed. I tried not to smirk. A very pale, older woman came out and caught the capitalist’s wife’s eye. 
“Oh, hello!” said the capitalist’s wife. “So nice to see you. How are you?”
“Not well,” began the older woman. “I lost my son.” Tears poured from her eyes. 
The capitalist’s wife hugged her. 

I turned to the little live trees and engaged the attention of a third employee. 
“Do you have a matching pair in this size?” I asked. 
“Yes, we do.”
“Do you know how big they will get? If I put them in the ground, I need to know how tall they will be. You, know, eventually.”

Things that were not funny: when we went inside to pay, there was a stack of photos of the dead son. He appeared to have been in his early 40s. The sad, older woman came in. I told her how sorry I was. She told me he had run the business, and had done all the ordering. Then, he had gotten sick, but not very sick. And then, he had died. Just in a matter of days. The whole family had had to come and pitch in. She said everything felt like a dream.


Where I sat: I had driven there. The Bacon Provider drove back. I had to tell him which way to turn. I said that I thought that Christmas would be forever sad and ruined for the family that owned that garden center.


What it is: my mother’s birthday is 9 days before Christmas, and so, though she died in April, for me the holiday season is as much about grieving her as anything else.  

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Who should see it: we haven’t started decorating it yet.

Schwartz moves in for his inspection

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What I saw on the way home: the Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares regraded the dirt road on the way to our house, but I realized that they left many of the potholes intact. They function like speed bumps.

A letter to the mouse that died in my kitchen last night

Dear Mouse,
You’ve probably been living in the basement your whole life, and today wasn’t even too cold. The cat, Schwartz, was feeling lively and caught you. I didn’t even know about you until I heard your peeps and squeaks by the back door.  Were you injured at that point, or just protesting?
Anyway, my first error was calling the dogs. It was an impulse. They found you with Schwartz and started the mad chase into the bathroom and around the toilet. That was me, the one screaming. Why I screamed I can’t say. I had pet rodents as a kid: mice, a hamster, a gerbil, a rat. I picked them up and carried them around. They were my pets. Sometimes they got loose and I had to catch them and put them back. I didn’t scream then. I must have been a better person then, somehow. Well, it wasn’t a little screaming. Sorry about the screaming.
Captain was the next one to pick you up and carry you around. He was the one who got you wet, I think. But when I shouted at him he dropped you and then Cherry snatched you up. She isn’t the quickest dog in the house, owing to her age, but tonight she was the deadliest.
You died quickly, mouse, and Cherry guarded you for a long time. She was very proud of what she’d done, and wouldn’t let anyone look at you or smell you or take you. She didn’t seem interested in eating you, which I would have let her do as the one who did the deed. Somehow, to my mind that seemed fair. Cherry appeared a little confused by the situation. Instinct ruled when she caught you and when she dispatched you, but after that she wasn’t sure. She growled at Schwartz, even, and she never growls at Schwartz.
There was no question of burying you since it’s nothing but ice outside right now. Maybe we could have left you out for the coyotes or the foxes, but where should one leave such an offering? Alas, you went into the trash.
You left a family behind, I’m sure. Schwartz is down there waiting for the next one of you. This is how it is with cats and mice. He keeps his cool, crouching quietly behind the boxes. He knows your habits, and makes a plan. Y’all don’t live very long, do you, mice? Between the hardships of weather and finding food, and then the cat or the foxes and hawks outside, life for you must be harsh and brief. I haven’t had it easy lately either, what with all the injustice in the world.  But I have a warm house, and food, and with any luck I shouldn’t have to watch predators capture and eat my children.

Did you leave behind hopes and dreams, unfulfilled? Will your family sigh over your promises unkept? Are they dividing your possessions as I write this, or do they not yet know? Will they be left wondering whatever happened to you? Maybe they heard the screams. I’m still sorry about the screams.

Vizsla, with mouse

On Breakfast, Humoring Your Mother, and Remembering Your Friends

I woke up the other day feeling like a big farm breakfast. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, I had slept well and things felt right with the world. I found four pieces of bacon in a bag in the freezer, sliced off some mighty fine bread from our favorite bakeryin TriBeCa for toast, and scrambled two of those farm-fresh local eggs—the ones that are in the carton all brown and greenish blue, and every size from wee to woah. I made two different pots of tea (gen mai cha and rooibos) and a glass of juice and sat down for a rare breakfast feast.
Farm-fresh local
free range organic eggs
My mobile phone rang.
I wasn’t planning to answer it. I had breakfast to eat. I looked at it, though. The number was not one I recognized, not one my phone recognized, and a suburban St. Louis, Missouri number. I expected it was a call from my high school, maybe, asking for money. Something like that. I looked up my St. Louis aunt’s number—it was not a match. I ate my breakfast. When I saw there was a message I hesitated to listen, but curiosity got the better of me.
The first time through I fumbled the pressing of the speakerphone button so I didn’t hear the name. I had to hear it twice. It was my brother’s good friend, saying I should call back, that he had important news that I would want to know about a friend. He was cheerful and pleasant in his message, and seemed a little flustered.
Breakfast
I finished my breakfast. My delicious toast lost its buttery wonder. The finishing of what was supposed to be a special, feel-happy meal becoming mechanical.
I called back, struggling to identify myself. I forgot my own last name.
My brother’s friend got around to telling me that he heard through the grapevine that my childhood best friend, B., who he knew from those ski trips and because their kids went to school together in St. Louis, had died.
I’m not sure when B. and I spoke last. Maybe the summer after my mother died.
When my mother was dying, in her last weeks, one of the last conversations I had with her was about the light fixtures in her house and how she and I should go over to B.’s house, to see how B. had the exact same light fixtures in her house. When a person who is dying of a brain tumor tells you this—that you should go someplace together—flat on her back from her hospital bed that is set up in the dining room so she can die at home, you agree. It sounds like a great idea. Let’s go over to B.’s house to see her light fixtures. You humor your dying mother’s nonsensical suggestions. Your mother isn’t going anywhere, will soon forget what she just told you, might even tell you again, a couple of times.
When you are a kid, your best friend is the most important person in the whole wide world. It matters whether she does Girl Scouts; even if you don’t want to sell cookies, you will do Girl Scouts if your best friend does Girl Scouts. It matters which class she is in, because if you have the scary teacher, at least you have the scary teacher together. It matters that she goes to the same day-camp in the summer, and it matters that you can walk to her house. If she gets new Jack Purcell sneakers, you get them, too.
I think B. and I became friends after my 4th grade best friend T. moved away. In the 5thgrade, B. was already tall. I was still the smallest in the class. B. was a foot and a half taller than me and had the most beautiful strawberry blond hair and bright blue eyes. I had dark brown hair that I never brushed. B. showed up every day with a huge pink lipstick print on her forehead, deposited there by her mother as she left to make the short walk to school. My mother would lock the door after I left for school, so I didn’t try to sneak back in the house.
Her dog was a white German shepherd named “Princess,” a fat panting thing with a violent grudge against certain strangers. Sometimes, B. sleep-walked. B. taught me how to be preppy in junior high school, when preppy was about to be a thing. B. was popular in Junior High School when I wasn’t, but then I changed to private school in 9th grade, and left her behind. Yet, we stayed friends. She invited me to her school’s 9th grade dances; we invited her skiing on our family vacations.
My brother’s friend says B. was very private and no one knew she was ill.
Once, B. and I went to Christine’s house, where her dad was sitting in his upstairs study. Christine’s dad saw B. and got a sly grin and held out his index finger, “Pull my finger, B.,” he said.
Now, I grew up with brothers and uncles and cousins and second cousins and great uncles and grandparents and all the rest and if there was one thing I knew, it was that you did not pull the finger of anyone, avuncular or otherwise. B., being from a protected and tidy little suburban household. B. was not so prissy as to be a push-over, but still was rather reserved.  To me, B.’s mother was a throw-back, with her hair teased up and Aquanetted, her crisp housedress covered in an apron, her lips slathered in fuschia lipstick before she ever left the house. My mother wore her hair long and straight and parted in the middle, and had butterflies embroidered on her bellbottom jeans. B.’s stockbroker dad sang 50s ballads when he puttered in the basement. My dad had huge sideburns and played rec league ice hockey. B. had had none of the random forces of avuncular jocularity to contend with, and had as yet not encountered the offered finger to be pulled. 
Hence the suggested pulling was dutifully performed by B., and Christine’s dad tipped theatrically onto one butt-cheek like a pouring tea-kettle in his comfy smoking-and-paper-reading armchair, letting rip from the sitting part of his esteemed personage with a ripe and thoroughly air-tearing, wet, percussive and voluble fart, rending B. colorless and limp, nearly lifeless and faint, well before I could intercede, grab her by the arm, stop or steer her away.
We were different, B. and I, with complementary areas of expertise.
B. grew up, got married, became an architect, had three kids. She stayed in St. Louis. I grew up, got married, became a math teacher, had three kids. I stayed away. We exchanged holiday cards some years, but I’ve fallen out of the habit of holiday cards, haven’t I? I blog.
Death isn’t in and of itself evil, it’s just what happens at the end of life. It has to happen. Being dead at 51, though, with children still in school?   Sometimes I think some force of evil is erasing my childhood. Ok, maybe not evil, it’s just the way things go. Just life and death, and loss. Everything we ever have that is wonderful or good or special will go or end or shrivel or die or break or run away or collapse or have to be put down, put out of its own misery. Our job is to make the most of what we get, I guess.
Until B.’s obituary ran, a few days later, all I could find out about her online was her nominal LinkedIn presence. I saw her brother there, and her husband and oldest daughter. I have many mixed feelings about LinkedIn, but one thing I am absolutely sure of is that it is not a place to send a condolence email. I was utterly distracted by not knowing what to do, how to reach out, whom to contact, and also by what happened. It makes it hard to focus on even the littlest thing.
I have written and re-written this post, trying to come up with something to say about how the death of my childhood friend fits into my life.  I can’t. It doesn’t. I live in New York; I don’t go to St. Louis anymore. I guess I do regret not being at her funeral in St. Louis to tell that one story, preferably to the whole assembled and somber mass of grieving friends and colleagues. What would the people who posted comments in her online guest book saying they know she’s already an angel in heaven think of me? I’d like to tell them to pull my finger.

Too Many Words About Annual Giving

I do believe in supporting educational institutions, both public and private, and I have a record of doing so. I attended six colleges and universities in getting my degrees, and have contributed to all but one. My children’s schools have always been well supported by us, also.
The house I grew up in
In the summer of 2004, perhaps a month and a half after my mother died, my mobile phone rang while I was driving west on 520. I answered, about halfway across the bridge, using the speaker phone. There was rowdy cheering in the background, and a voice identified the caller as someone I went to high school with. His message was simple: he was calling on behalf of our high school. It was their annual fundraising call-a-thon. He rattled off the names of some other classmates I could hear carousing in the background. “You guys have money,” he said. “You should donate.” This was followed with a roar of laughter in the background.
I do not remember saying much in reply. I may have even hung up on him. I would prefer to think that I used the catch-all I like to use in such occasions: “I am not in a position to help you right now.”
My mother’s death was widely publicized in the local papers, as she was a high ranking administrator at a prestigious university there. My high school published their condolences in the quarterly newsletter, just as they had for my father a few years before. I can certainly imagine that for the purposes of fundraising, using classmates to make the calls is a good way to get participation; it’s someone you know, if not an actual friend. The problem with this system is that if you invite a group of obnoxious drunken bullies (who were obnoxious drunken bullies in high school and seemingly never stopped being obnoxious drunken bullies since) to make the calls, they will behave in the obnoxious, bullying, drunken ways that they have always behaved. The call was an error whether or not I had just lost a parent.
I was not in the worst possible state of mind for such a call. I was still very hardened to bad news. My mother was never old, not even a little old. She was only 20 when she had my older brother and 22 when she had me. She battled brain cancer her last year and a half, so she was sick, but she was never old. My dad had died after a year and a half of bad news about his cancer, and then my mother had died after a year and a half of bad news about her cancer. I had arrived at the point where both my parents were gone, cut down in their prime, and I was still barely feeling like a real adult myself. I had arrived at the point where the unthinkable had happened, where I was among the oldest trees in my woods: my brothers and me. A phone call from obnoxious, bullying drunken idiots from my (seemingly) distant past was like squirrels playing chase up and down my trunk, for I was the unimaginably old elm. What are squirrels to a 300 year old tree?
Back when this elm was a sapling, she went to an exclusive, private non-religious, college-prep high school in suburban St. Louis.  I received what I considered a quality education; I sailed through my freshman year at an elite college with mostly As and a few Bs, feeling completely prepared for rigorous writing assignments. 
The high school partying scene was alcohol-fueled, though kids from the classes above mine were still smoking pot and a few of my peers regularly dropped acid. It was not a come-to-school-shitfaced thing, more of a get-plastered-on-the-weekend thing. Bad choices were made on a frequent basis. If my children partied today like we did in high school, I would be very, very alarmed and would probably not let them out of my sight.
In St. Louis in the late 1970s, our parents played tennis and golf, rooted for the Cardinals, went to church on Sunday (but were disdainful of actually religious people), and went to parties and had parties where they got drunk. My parents were different, in the end, because they liked to go camping, my mother was a fine artist, and my father ran marathons; we did not belong to a country club like my classmates’ families did. We were different, but we were also the same.
About a year after my mother died, in the summer of 2005, I went back to St. Louis to go through her things. This was a painful process, and I made a few mistakes which leave me with some regrets. It was a thing done as quickly as my brothers and step-father and I could manage, and it was a big task. I have not been back since.
I almost went back this past August. The previous August, I saw pictures on Facebook of a gathering of my girlfriends one weekend. Their kids were all there, and so were many of my old friends (and none of the obnoxious drunken bullies). I had just moved to New York, and pretty lonely, and St. Louis is an easy flight from here. I was sorry to have missed it. I promised to go the next year. When this August rolled around, I was invited, but I was in the midst of the move from North Dreadful to New York City, and really could not manage it.
I went to our tenth high school reunion and our twentieth, but I do not think I will go again. I did enjoy seeing some of my old friends, but there were just enough obnoxious conversations, just enough bullying questions that I did not feel like answering, and just enough drunken gossiping for me to say, “No, thanks.”
Lately, I have had to make many (if not almost all) of the folks I went to high school with invisible to me on Facebook. One of my classmates likes to post videos of business leaders who sell cheap goods (mostly made in China) in their big-box retail stores, but claim that we need the presidential candidate they endorse to create good jobs for college graduates. Another accused me of being “brainwashed.”  
Missouri is the home of some famous obnoxious, bullying public figures, including Phyllis Schlafly (who certainly deserves her very own blog post at a later date) and Todd Akin. Akin is one of the many members of the GOP who have used the extra attention of this election season to share with the world their interesting and unusual but appallingly unscientific and degrading thoughts about acts of violence towards women and human reproduction. I was wondering what kind of terrible high school was responsible for Akin’s obviously poor science education. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he went to my elite, college-prep high school.
I try to be a person who is hard to embarrass, but Todd Akin makes me embarrassed to be from the state of Missouri.  When someone who publicly and willfully flouts facts to serve what he claims to be his religious calling turns out to be an alum of the school I have been more or less proud to say I graduated from, I am chagrined. My first thought was one of, “Well, now I can continue not to contribute to annual giving.”
After some more reflection, though, it has become obvious to me that a donation is in order. If we allow the manipulative idiots and the drunken, obnoxious bullies to completely control the conversation, everyone loses.  I am thinking about contacting the school library, to ensure that they have the books I have found particularly influential to my current mindset. I am compiling a list, but, for now, two such titles that come to mind are Alice Sebold’s rape memoir, “Lucky,” and Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” I plan to buy the school copies of any books they do not have.
I believe in education: that when we expose good ideas to people, the world becomes a better place.
Readers, I strongly encourage you to add your suggested books in the comments, below.


The Last Pluto Story

One day, Pluto followed me out on the front porch, just as he usually did when I got the paper. I picked up a tennis ball and headed down to the sidewalk in front of our house to throw the ball for him for a few minutes, just as I had done every morning for many years. Pluto watched me earnestly, and sat down at the edge of the porch, just at the top of the stairs. I knew immediately something was wrong. 
Within the next twenty-four hours, he was suffering from a set of strange and painful symptoms, including a huge swelling. The veterinarians treated him with steroids, which rapidly made him more comfortable, but within a couple of weeks he came down with acute pancreatitis. At this point, he was hospitalized, and given IV antibiotics. After a number of days he was doing well enough to come home. Right before his discharge, an attending vet heard him coughing, and did not like the sound of his cough. An ultrasound revealed that his lungs were full of metastasized tumors. We brought him home having been told that the next medical crisis would be his last.
Over that week, he enjoyed a modified version of his normal routine, with short walks and lots of naps. When Pluto left for the hospital, our other dog Wheatie frantically searched the house for him, anxiously barking and whining. The excitement and relief when Pluto returned were strong enough to trigger a seizure in the young dog. We were all playing outside, and he fell into a small depression in the grass. At first he seemed stuck in a hole, like a turtle on his back.  He was such a goofy dog we did not recognize it as a seizure until we touched him and realized he was not really awake. We did call the vet, and kept him under close supervision the next few days, but Wheatie was fine and never had another seizure for the rest of his life.
The day before Pluto died I was headed out for a longer walk with Wheatie.   Pluto begged to come along. I followed his lead and let him join us. We made large, concentric circles around our neighborhood, since I wanted to be able to take him back to the house when he was done. We saw all his favorite places one more time.  The next day, Pluto could no longer get up, and had to be carried up the stairs. Wheatie was looking for him before he even went to the vet. 
Pluto struggled at the very end; we had to carry him from the car into the vet’s office. He was dehydrated, so a vein was hard to find.  I held him in my arms and calmed him down, they found a vein, and then he was gone.