This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life
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Dog Tales–Welcoming a Dog Into Our Home

  • July 31, 2017 2:42 am

When I think about how happy I am to have my delightful dog Sparkle in my life, I am amazed.

For a long time I resisted having a dog. First of all, I am allergic to dogs, and I feared that I would be sick all the time. Secondly, I knew that a dog would tie us down. My late husband, Dan, and I loved our freedom and being spontaneous—often deciding to take an overnight jaunt to the beach when we got up in the morning. Dogs are very social, of course, and need to be around people—especially their “parents.” I didn’t see how our lifestyle would accommodate a dog.

True confession: I really didn’t like dogs—I thought they were a nuisance and I avoided them as much as possible.  And then there was my fear of dogs, which started when I was just 3 years old. Our family had an Irish Setter—a puppy. My Mom had her hands full with my brother and sister and me—and she was expecting her fourth child. So, I’m sure she had no available time to train a rambunctious puppy. My Dad worked shift work and had a long commute, so the dog sort of trained himself. I remember playing in the backyard and the dog knocking me down and tearing the sash on my dress. (I refused to wear pants when I was little. I told my parents that “Pants is for boys.”) Shortly after that, the dog (whose name I can’t remember) went to “live at the farm.” The result of my interactions with this pet was a fear of dogs that stayed with me into adulthood.

Sparkle came to live with us after my husband’s first cancer. Seeing his transformed face when he cuddled a dog at the hospital during his recovery, I knew we had to find one I could tolerate. People suggested a French poodle, claiming that they were “hypoallergenic.” But quite frankly, I found poodles to be cloying. And I thought that they were probably high maintenance princesses. But,  mixing a poodle with another breed, results in a    delightful dog that I could tolerate.

Finding a reliable, caring dog sitter who charged a reasonable fee to keep our pet in her home when we wanted to travel or had a busy day, made having a dog easier.

With all of the obstacles to including a furry “baby” into our home overcome, we found a little Yorkie-poo puppy that we named Sparkle.

My husband adored Sparkle. I credit her with helping him to recover from his first cancer surgery, which was a brutal operation following chemotherapy and radiation. She gave him great comfort and he loved to take her out for walks several times a day. Dan trained her with love and gentleness, and she was housebroken by the time she was only 3 months old. Walking Sparkle got my late husband back into life and he even met several other “puppy daddies” every day to chat and occasionally go out for coffee. After Dan’s death, Sparkle helped me mourn my terrible loss and I know that she misses him.  I cherish Sparkle as my connection to my late husband.

I’m astonished by how much I enjoy being a dog parent. Here are a few of my insights:

 

What I learned from my Dog, Sparkle

It is easy to love an animal.

A 14 pound,  one foot tall dog can be in charge of a household!

Petting a dog is soothing and helps to deal with stress.

Taking care of a dog is a job— and is a lot like having a toddler.Daddy's Girl

Kissing a dog does not lead to a fatal attack of “dog germs” (ala Lucy in “Peanuts”).

Playing with a dog is not only fun, it is comical and relaxing.

Dogs are a great comfort when you are sick, stressed or lonely.

Dogs love to eat—all the time.

Dogs have the most pathetic way of begging for food—all the time. And it is very easy to give into them.

You can learn “doggie-talk.”  For example, I know the difference between a bark that means, “I want to go out” and “I want a treat.”

Walking a dog is a great way to get to know people.

A dog can quickly learn that if she sits just right, you will give her a treat.

Living with a dog brings new energy into your household.

It’s easy to spoil a dog.

You can give your dog a cute name, and she won’t mind.

Stuffed dogs and dog books are no substitute for the real thing.

A dog will find a place deep in your heart and, at some point, you realize how grateful you are that she is there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Always Something

  • November 20, 2015 2:33 am
Kathy Joyce Glascott

  It’s always something: Something to celebrate, something to mourn, something to regret, something to attend to. I miss my husband. Because it is always something: a phone call or three; a doctor’s appointment; walking the dog; visiting friends, laundry; cleaning; the list is endless. I do it all alone. Alone. If I need help,…

The Widow’s Club

  • June 29, 2015 2:49 am

 

It’s not a club I clamored to join. In fact, none of the members wanted to join it.

We were recruited in the harshest of all possible ways.

The initiation was almost as difficult as any street gang’s—we had to experience the death of the person most of us would call “our best friend, lover and life partner”—our husbands.

My inaugural date is coming on its third anniversary this August—the day Dan died.

I now know  that joining this club has helped me to make sense of all that happened in the eight months preceding my husband’s death. I’ve had many opportunities to share stories and memories, and I’ve received empathy and sympathy, but never pity, from the other women.  Knowing these women who have experienced what I did, and have continued to thrive, encourages me.

I see the common threads that are woven through all of our experiences: the feelings of loss, of being adrift, the anger, the sadness, and the confusion that follows the death of a spouse or partner.

Through the sharing, I’ve felt a lot less alone than I did before.

And on a more upbeat note, I’ve had some fun with my widow friends. We socialize, enjoy one another’s company, and have bonded individually and as a group. I’ve even learned to laugh again.

Losing my husband was a trauma. But I am grateful that the Widow’s Club was here, so when I went into my

woman-511849__180 Pixabay free fall, there was a safety net.

 

 

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Unwelcome Visitor

  • June 6, 2015 4:48 pm

 

 

The most unwelcome of all visitors called on me recently.

This visitor is never welcomed and usually not greeted with any enthusiasm.

If fact, when you, your friends, and family find that it has called upon you, they, like you, are worried concerned and fearful.

The visitor was cancer. The “Big C.”

It intruded into my life sometime in late January with the “incidental” discovery of a (thankfully) small tumor in my right kidney. Unbeknownst to me, it had been there for two years—but recently had started to grow.

I felt overwhelmed at first with the myriad decisions I had to make. Where to seek treatment? Should I go back to where my family is (now that I am a widow) in Buffalo? Stay here in Florida and lean heavily on my circle of friends? Could I still go on my much anticipated trip to Hawai’i? Would I survive? What would be the financial and emotional cost to me, my daughter, family and friends?

I finally came up with a plan—and after much consultation, thought, and prayer, I decided to stay in Florida and seek treatment at the Moffitt Cancer Center in nearby Tampa.

Happily, my surgeon Okayed my Hawai’i trip and I blissfully spent some magical time there.

My friends have rallied around me, doing all of the things I need. My family supported me in my decisions—and best of all, the surgery was a great success—so far.

I still have weeks of recovery to look forward to, but I’m trying to do more and more every day.

Writing this blog post is a huge breakthrough for me. Up till now, I’ve kept the “news” of my cancer limited to family and friends. I did make a onetime status update on Facebook as a courtesy to those who correspond with me on that venue.

Sometimes I wonder why I was  so reluctant to go public (as it were) with my cancer diagnosis.

I wonder if by not announcing it, I’ve made it less real to myself. Or if I was  trying to fool myself.

No matter what, I’m looking forward to being a cancer “thriver”—which is what my many friends who have looked this unwanted intruder right in the eye, and stared it down–call it.

 

 

 

 

April Tenth

  • April 11, 2015 1:39 am
Joanne Poth Joyce

Joanne Poth Joyce

There are certain dates that are more meaningful than others. One of those dates is April 10,1983. That was the date my Mom passed away after almost two years of coping with lung cancer.

I remember that day with crystal clarity.

It was a Sunday—a week after Easter. The weather was perfect: warm and sunny. I had attended noon Mass and then rushed to my parents’ home to see my Mom.  It was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. When I got there, it was obvious that Mom was dying. I helped my Dad change her nightgown and then kept vigil with him as she left this world.

The priest came and gave her the Last Rites.  At one point, shortly after she died, I was aware of her soul—her anima—leaving the room.

My brother Michael was there with his wife and boys and I remember my sister Susan being there, too.

Eventually, the rest of my brothers and sisters (except for my youngest sister who was in Honduras doing research for her doctorate) assembled at the house.

As the daylight waned, we sat on our parents’ bed and talked about our Mom and our loss.  It was both sacred and comforting to be able to be together in that way.

Now, all these years later, all that’s left is memories. I wish I could hear Mom’s voice one more time, or sit and talk with her again.

So much has happened since then. Our Dad died only a year and half later, babies were born, my sister and another brother got married, one of my mother’s children died too soon, my husband died, the grandchildren grew up and great-grandchildren were born. The family faced many crises and survived.

While time has tempered the grief, I still mourn for my Mom. She was only 60 years old when she died. We never got to see either of our parents grow to be old. They are preserved at a certain age and time in our memories.

Yet, I still yearn to spend one more minute, hour or day with my mother.

 

Happy Valentines Day

  • February 14, 2015 3:31 pm

 

Valentine’s Day—a day devoted to purchasing flowers, candy and jewelry and maybe something a little naughty for your significant other. Many folks feel it’s overrated as a holiday. It’s too commercialized, and benefits only the florists and candy makers, and of course, Hallmark and American Greetings.

I disagree. To me Valentine’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate love and all that means in our lives. It’s really not about cards, candy and flowers, although there’s nothing wrong with any of that! To me Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to stop and think about all of the people we love. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell others that we love them, appreciate them, and that they make our lives better.

Does that require flowers, candy or trinkets? Not really. It does require extending good wishes for a happy day to the special people in our lives.

All of our holidays are over commercialized, in my opinion. So using that as a reason to shun Valentine’s Day seems quite lame.

Think of how much better our lives would be if we celebrated Valentine’s Day every month; if we took the time to appreciate, love and cherish others.

Valentine heart

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Picture credit: www.2littlehooligans.com

Memories

  • February 1, 2015 1:31 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleeting snippets of events, memories, have flashed through my mind of late. Most of these memories make me smile, or remind me of the love I have for the people who are important in my life.

I wonder about the role memory plays in constructing who and what we are. Various members of a family experience the same event differently. When asked to recall an event, they may have widely dissimilar versions to relate.

One memory that has played in my mind of late was many years ago when I was in grade school.  I was walking to school or church with my brother. It had snowed (we lived in Buffalo, New York and it was winter), and there were soft, light flurries falling around us. The sunlight glimmered off the snow, catching the ice crystals, making them shine like diamonds. My brother wanted to pretend that we were walking through a diamond mine. I still can recall how magical this mundane walk seemed at the time.

When we were kids, my Dad would take all eight of us to the zoo (and other locations) for the day during his summer vacation.  My Mom would pack a picnic lunch and off we’d go with just Dad—leaving poor (or so I thought) Mom home alone! I always felt a little sorry for my Mon until I became an adult and realized how precious those few “days off” must have been to her.

My Dad especially liked to watch the ducks at the zoo. He would try to get us to sit on the concrete bench that was built around the duck pond for what seemed like forever. It probably was to rest his chronically aching back. We, of course, were anxious to go, go, go!  Eventually, the older kids would take some of the younger ones off to see the rest of the zoo while Dad took a breather.

I remember another field trip to Niagara Falls, a short ride from Buffalo. We had a VW bus (remember those?)  Dad, my sister, the three little kids in the family, and I were on this trip. I don’t recall if any of the older kids were along—I was already in high school when we took this excursion.

The rain came down in sheets, making walking around the “Falls” and eating a picnic lunch a little dicey, to use one of Dad’s words. We ended up having our picnic in the fogged-up car, which sounds a like more fun than it was. I had to pass out sandwiches and drinks from the front seat all the way to the back of the VW bus. I felt like a contortionist trying to accomplish that task.

These memories are a part of the history I share with my family. There are many more, of course.

And, as time goes on, they seem to become even more precious.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Joy?

  • December 15, 2014 12:54 am

Christmas tree 2013

Christmas is upon us—again. I’m trying, God knows, to feel the Christmas spirit, but it is eluding me.

I want desperately to celebrate and enjoy the holiday season and all of its trappings: glittery ornaments, happy songs, gifts, Christmas trees, decorated houses. (Notice I left cookies off this list—I have no trouble enjoying them!)

I’ve heard all of the advice—you need new Christmas traditions, you need to focus on the positive, do for others, (which I’ve done), and you need to let go of the memories that hold you back.

Too bad it isn’t that easy.

The harsh reality is that Christmas will never be the same for me now that my husband is gone.

And dreaming up new traditions seems to be daunting right now.

Strangely, this feeling come upon me full force after what was supposed to be the start of a “new tradition.” (Isn’t that phrase an oxymoron?)

I attended a spectacular Christmas show at a local church the other night. A show that is famous in Orlando for the singing and the extravagance of the production.

It was all that—200 massed voices, all on key, singing favorite carols while perching in the branches of two gigantic Christmas trees. Meanwhile, an actor portrayed a harried director who doesn’t get the real meaning of Christmas—only to discover it before the end of the show. There was a recreation of the Biblical Creation story, complete with life sized elephant and giraffe puppets. Children danced, sang, and were incredibly sweet.

Yes, all the elements were there…

But I came home feeling even emptier.

Now I’m dragging myself through the season, trying to find something to cling to in order to make this a Christmas to celebrate.

So, I’m heading to snowy, cold Buffalo hoping to find the meaning of Christmas in the arms of my family.

 

I Turned Around

  • August 30, 2014 10:20 am

 

 

I turned around and my daughter was leaving home for college. She was eighteen, a pretty, raven haired girl.

We packed her stuff (there was a lot of it) into her red car and our car, too, and drove to the Southern Tier of New York State.

Dan bought walkie-talkies so we could communicate. From time to time, he made her call me to tell me that I was driving too fast. I was aggravated then, but now this memory makes me smile.

I turned around, and it was time to say goodbye. In a cavernous dining hall in Binghamton, we embraced our lovely daughter whose tears mingled with ours.

We drove back home, a four hour trip, alternately crying and driving. Dan kept saying, “Just keep busy. It’s like a death…” I was annoyed by these words, but now I know he was right.

I turned around and my daughter was living on the other side of the continent. Our visits were happy occasions, but too far apart. Dan said, “At least she didn’t move to Alaska.”  And that was our comfort.

I turned around and she became a professor at a University and found her soul mate and life partner.

I turned around, and Dan and I left our friends and family and moved to the land of “always summer.”  We made a new life for ourselves and basked in the sunshine and warmth of friendships. Visits home were joyous and nostalgic.

I turned around and Dan was seriously ill with a life threatening disease. He recovered and we adjusted to our “new normal.”

I turned around and the unwanted visitor came to our door again. He forced his way in and sent our lives into a tailspin.

I turned around, and Dan was a man old before his time, emaciated, lying on his death bed in Hospice House. At first, he knew his life was ebbing away. There came a time when he no longer seemed to understand that, mercifully. But he clung to life like a baby to his mother. His days became a living death.

I turned around, and he was gone. And I was alone.

I turned around, and my life changed in ways I could not have foreseen.

 

 

Wedding

  • June 25, 2014 7:33 am

 

There was a wedding in my family this past weekend—a celebration of and an affirmation that love does exist.

It was a wonderful weekend, bringing together family from both coasts and points south and west.

The bride and groom (my nephew) glowed with excitement and joy. It was obvious that they entered this marriage because they love one another and are committed to making a life together.

The wedding was distinctly theirs—it was held at a farm, outdoors, on a truly glorious day filled with soft breezes and sunshine. The guests gathered around the young couple in an arc to witness their vows and their love and connection. The presider at the wedding, an uncle of the groom, spoke wisely of the nature of marriage and the responsibility the family and friends bear in supporting the newly married couple.

Afterwards, there was delicious food, music and dancing.  Like all really great weddings, people sang and dance, hugged and kissed, took photos of themselves and others and basked in the warmth of the marriage of two people who have melded their lives together. The young children who were welcomed at the celebration played together (even though they didn’t know one another) and added a lively note to the evening.

I like weddings because they are usually happy occasions with the essentials that make a great party: good food, dancing and an event to celebrate. They are an opportunity for all generations of a family to spend time together.

My family has had a rather difficult two years filled with loss— my husband and brother in addition to friends and a mother in-law and a sister in-law.

We delighted in the opportunity to be together to celebrate a joy filled occasion.

Thank God for weddings—and especially this one that was a celebration of life and allowed us to share memories, happy and sad, to be together free to laugh, sing, dance and love.