gratitude-a-thon day 2066: grief

Grief is a magician. You will think you have your feelings of loss under control and then up they will pop up, like the groundhog on his day of seasonal reckoning. Be prebared to be caught unaware. The waterworks will begin no matter where you are. You can be talking to the funny guy in the meat department at Whole Foods, or driving your car, or in the middle of a work meeting and suddenly you will be in a puddle of your own making. With absolutely no notice you can be diminshed by tears, engulged in the deepest emotion, brought to your very knees to the ground. And there’s no telling how long this can go on. Nope, don’t go do any betting on grief’s timeline because you’re going to walk away a loser.

Riley as a puppy with his lifelong companion, Tige (14 years without a wash).

And do not think that the loss of a dog cannot put you into this elusive state of pain. Because I am here to tell you that they very well can. In fact, because they become implicit in your everyday life, like say, an arm or a leg, they can throw you down faster than Ali could master his opponent in the ring. Down. For. The. Count.

I miss my dog. We said goodbye to him last week and I miss him as if he was part of my living, breathing body and now that part is MIA. I am dazed and confused by the world without his constant presence. I cry so much I look like a monster from a Hulu original series.

The sense of loss seems senseless to those who aren’t “dog people.” “You must feel better today, right?” they say. They don’t understand. They have no comprehension of the love, the fun, the simpatico an owner and a dog can feel for one another. They can’t contemplate the closeness or the bond. Life without a dog cuts out a giant portion of some of the happiest feelings a human is capable of. Talk about grief, I feel it for those poor people who miss out on the good love, the pure love, the devoted and loyal love of a dog.

Every noise I hear, I think it’s him. Every day as I go through my mental checklist, there he is, until I remember that he is no longer here, but now resides in the land of endless green grass, and long stretches of beach, where steak grows on trees and days and nights are filled with shenanigans.

But for me, there are crying jags and the constant nagging pain of thinking I’m missing something. I am, I am missing my 14 year old relationship with my guy Riley, with the Andy Rooney eyebrows, the penchant for sleeping on laundry, clean or dirty, the single-minded adoration of eating and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade welcome he would greet us with whether we were out for a minute or a week. I miss that love. Damn, I miss that love. And I am oh so fucking grateful for it. That dog gave me everything and I think I returned the favor. He made me better. There is no question in my mind that he made me a better person. And although I was convinced he would one day, he did it without talking! I will carry Riley with me for the rest of life, which would be a little easier if I could just stop crying.

gratitude-a-thon day 2063: the writing connection



Lately, I have been reading books more for the writing than for the story. When I shop on Kindle, with it’s “get a sample” option, I don’t have to commit to buying, until I’ve done some reading, which really helps me to find stuff I don’t just think I’ll like, but actually like. (I am notorious for buying a book and then just hating it and having to fight with myself about reading it when I don’t want to).

Recently I read a wildly emotional book which normally, I wouldn’t have wanted to read because of the topic, but the writing, the writing was so absolutely gorgeous, a pack of rabid wolves couldn’t have kept me away.

The book is called Once More we Saw Stars: a Memoir by Jayson Greene. And bloody hell, its apt and beautiful writing and awe-inspiring gut wrenching story telling is stunning. Greene tells the true and horrific story of his two-year-old girl getting hit on the head with a piece of a New York city building (a total freak accident), while in her grandma’s arms. I’m not ruining it to tell you that she dies. You find that out pretty quickly. And it hurts, but what is extraordinary about this book is not only the way the parents move through this horrific loss, but the telling of the story, the candid, raw and apt way he describes the aftermath, the pain and the path he and his wife take to carry on.

Why, you might wonder, wouldn’t I find a book that was just as well written, but more, well, upbeat? Good question! And I wondered it myself. With all of the exceptional books out there, the zillions of choices, why read about something so painful?

I’m visiting my son in California right now and I’ve had some time to think about this. And here’s what I’ve come up with. It’s the humanity factor.

When people share their worst moments, the kind of pain that forces one to question everything about living, they’re getting to the heart of the human condition. And we can all relate to the searing darkness that can exist amidst the bright blue skies of that complexity. I think this is what connects us, this examination of the broad range of experiences, of the investigation into what we can endure, because in the telling, we connect.

My son is 24, with his first grown-up house and job. There is a beauty in seeing this for me, but it is also tinged with a wistfulness over his no longer being a kid anymore, that the days of his childhood are gone. When I tell you this, you can maybe relate to it from your experience, and it is here that we create a connection to one another, to the greater humanity we all share. The more we share, the more we share.

So, while I haven’t had something as horrible as Jayson Greene had happen to me, his bringing me into the tent of his experience, his grief, he brings me closer to everyone and everything. This is what good writing does. It brings us closer, and gratitude for that.



gratitude-a-thon day 355: you grieve until you don’t

I brought these to Peter’s memorial service, which was perfect and beautiful–in his backyard–with friends and family gathered under a large tent, taps and a bag pipe player, too.

The thing is, I didn’t think I would be this sad. But here I am days after my cousin’s memorial service, still crying at the slightest provocation, feeling fragile like a piece of delicate high-end wedding china, small in the face of loss.

The sky is light blue, my hydrangeas are in full bloom, and the beach is ready for the taking. We’re smack in the middle of my favorite season, and yet it might as well be winter, because Nina Simone, you got nuthin’ on me; I’ve got the blues.

Dying is part of this show, but Jeez, it’s not the fun part. They should really try to make this death thing a little more fun.

But to know that you loved someone so much that you feel a little part of yourself has been surgically removed, is lucky in some bizarre (and painful) way. And that’s how I feel, that gnawing in the stomach that loss delivers like UPS, an overall sadness, an achy breaky heart.

The gratitude comes in waves, of having been fortunate enough to have known someone you truly loved. I just wish it didn’t come with this heaping side order of sad.