Missing my Friend

Hardly any Focus

Breathing seems Difficult

 

Oddly the mind makes Time seem slower…

while trying to Absorb the Surreal

 

Feels like my Heart no longer fits in my chest

as if somehow Bigger, but actually probably Smaller, having another piece …Broken off

 

an all too familiar Mental Time-Out Torture Chamber

 

The Monster we Simply call Loss is Beating me again

 

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Cheers to you John Kelly

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I heard that John gave someone the gift of sight.  How awesome is that?!

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Every day is a Gift

Spring is a favored time of year, when warmer days grow longer bringing the season of growth.  Almost all are re-energized and happier, unless, something is wrong.  Time had made Sarrah and I a pair of aged Pals, hanging on to moments, savoring them as they slipped… away….  I figured that one way or another; this would probably be my last summer with Sarrah.

In the winter at the beginning of Two Thousand Ten, I started another prescribed pharmaceutical experiment in my quest to relieve some of the struggle with my dragon.  This drug called Gabapentin, in my understanding is supposed to block some nerve pain, was added into my plight to relieve some back pain and hopefully help with the incessant foot irritation that showed up after the car crash.

When I started with this drug the Doctor said that he wanted to draw some of my blood in order to form a base line and check it again, monthly, to “Monitor my liver”.  I asked, “Why, does this drug fry the liver?”  With a wry look, he said, “No, just want to be thorough”.  The drug worked for about a week and then the gains trailed off….  When I returned for blood work and discussion, he doubled my dosage, which achieved the same results.  And a month later he again, doubled my dosage, which would probably achieve…  This last time I held off and thought it over for a couple of days.  I decided “Screw It!” and phased myself off of this drug entirely, over the period of a week, for good.

About a month later I was back to the Doctor at which time I told him that I’d had enough of Gabapentin and had stopped taking it.  He replied that was probably good and that “My latest blood test showed an elevation in some liver enzyme numbers” and that he thought it was “Probably nothing, but that an ultra-sound test of my liver would confirm this”.  He asked me if I’d like to schedule the test.  My facial expression must have portrayed what I was thinking, but I said “Yes” to be certain and he scheduled the test.  I did not mention any of this to anyone as I figured it was probably just due to the use of the drug.

A few weeks later I had the test done, which leaves you with a nice coating of slippery stuff on your clothes to enjoy for the rest of the day, to help remind you… that something might be wrong.  While the lab tech did the test I saw something a little different on the screen and apparently so did she, as she seemed to revisit that area, a few times.  I asked her if she had found something and got the ‘matter of fact’ reply that she “Just does the testing, the Doctor would Interpret the results”.  I left semi-reassured with the understanding that “If Anything suspicious was found, they would contact me Immediately”.

Some more weeks passed and I was back to be seen by the Doctor at which time I was told that “Well, I see something in the ultrasound results.  But these tests aren’t really very good, that another test, a CT Scan would be much more accurate and conclusive.”  What he saw in the ultrasound test “Looks like a 3cm mass, but could be a shadow from a rib or something.”  Somebody forgot to call.  As always I asked him speak with blunt honesty, using words that anyone could understand.  He said, “Well, medicine sometimes speaks with a forked tongue, It could be Nothing or It could be Cancer.”  “Would I like to have a CT Scan, to be more conclusive?”  To give this smart man the benefit of the doubt, I assume that such stupid questions are borne in the legal ass-end of the vile beast we accept as our insurance industry.

I chose to continue keeping this misadventure to myself, completely, at least until after the test results.  While going through the process of having the scan done, one of the two technicians asked, “Why I was having the test done?”  With a smile I said “Could be Nothing, or Cancer”.  I’m guessing my reply wasn’t normal, from their reactions, but we all agreed and hoped for nothing.  Afterward, I walked Sarrah around their beautifully landscaped parking lot in the sunshine.  She found a few suitable flowering bushes to sniff and some manicured grass, to pee on.

During the periods of waiting, I did a lot of thinking….  I don’t see how a person could avoid over-thinking and maybe a bit of self-pity in a situation like this, mostly I found my mind racing with it all while trying to keep a chin up, poker face.  At times, maybe half a dozen, I would be in a crowd and would sort of drift off watching everyone else scurry around all caught up in the minutia of just another day.

I also did a bit of online research, while most people were busy sleeping.  I have heard that you should not surf the Internet searching for possible medical issue information, but come on, really?  How can you not?!  With the advent of smart phones, a person does not even need to get out of bed.  I did a little web surfing and found a few disturbing factoids.  Liver Cancer is: in the top five most painful, top three worst odds and does its thing quickly.  I don’t remember much else.

I maintained my silence, even as the odds shifted more against me.  Not having to talk about It was beneficial in trying to not be consumed by constantly thinking about It.  I did not discuss all of this with anyone, other than Todd, my Acupuncturist for an alternate opinion and maybe some educated friendly guidance mostly about how I was handling “the waiting game”, and keeping it to myself.  He concurred with how I was handling it, or at least claimed to, which helped a little.

I was betting on the “Could be Nothing” gift horse.  Also, I kept believing that there was Nothing to lose by keeping it to myself, except of course the probable eventual backlash for doing so.  While many may find fault with me for not sharing, many others do not.  I believe the person in the tough spot gets to decide how to play their dealt hand.  After all there was a fair, OK slim chance that it was nothing and I didn’t want to freak people out, for nothing.  I felt that I needed to spare others from this medicinal test and wait game, at least until there was actual news, for everyone’s sake.

I began keeping a Journal.  In one of those ominous clinical looking (until decorated) Black & White speckled composition books.  Journalizing seems to be something many want to do, some do and most stop.  I wanted to capture my Brain Droppings.  Some notes and reflections recorded to see how I dealt with it for short and long-term souvenirs’, something to look back on one day, maybe.  I wrote thoughts; some rambling’s, made a list, and kept a few practicing medicinal notes and a couple crappy-sketched doodles.  If nothing else, the journal would be left for others to have after, later.  I drew great strength, as always, from my speckled friend.  Sarrah was happy to do whatever I needed; walk, rest and listen to me think out loud or simply reflect in silence.  Not being a practitioner of journalizing (unless assigned or purpose specific), I now felt driven to do it.  I found that writing in my journal relieved a little of the pressure, from my mind.

Yep, in my journal I made a ‘life is short list’ page and started on with it, one that if I only had a few months left and needed to squeeze the most from each day.  I had watched the movie “The Bucket List” a couple of times before this, as noted in my journal, “Wake up, time is short reminder”.  That movie has a different vibe now, but still offers a good message for me, as before.  I have always tried to keep ‘my list’ short, by experiencing those things deemed important and seizing many opportunities, as they became available.  But now I felt an urge to make a quick short list of some things that I would be grateful for experiencing, before being too far gone, to create some fresh memories for me and others.  A favorite one on my list was to eat more Seafood!  Kind of a bittersweet goal as I had developed an “Intolerance” around my birthday ten years earlier, to my favorite food making me violently ill.  I ate a bunch of it anyway, convinced that I could “Power Through It” and did, mostly.

For whatever reason, I have the recollection of a creative writing assignment (from a class that I did not take) in which the students had to ‘write their own obituary’.  This was always a little morbidly interesting to me, but then again, after all who better to sum it up?!  This became a little more important to me, but also in an additional, different, evolving way.

About nine months earlier, I had relented to all of the invitations and joined the cult of social networking known as Facebook.  I chose to think of it a little as a self-directed montage with my directing of the world, as seen through my eyes.  I felt fortunate to have started this in the event that someday, someone, like my Granddaughter Gracey may find it interesting years from now.  I still plan to generate an ‘old school’ obit and keep it up to date, in my words.  Then again maybe enough has already been written.

I contemplated the possibility that if I did have this insidious disease, spending the last of my time, making the best of it instead of in torturous treatment (to end up essentially the same) would deserve an honest look.  In other words, I probably would have gone to a beach instead of a hospital.

At this time I decided upon a park bench for a memorial of sorts, probably somewhere along the Long Beach Peninsula, with the simple words “Bryan Goffe was Here” (in a font resembling a ‘carved with a pocket knife’ look) alongside an embedded paw print.  Instead of a tradition marker, I merely want a bench.  Leaving something useful in a nice place that’ll possibly evoke and contribute, giving those who wish a place to visit and enjoy a bit of tranquility and maybe even some occasional mischievous debauchery.

This life event also solidified a thought that I’d had prior; to have my ashes launched out of an airplane onto the sleeping volcano Mt. Rainier.  I grew up in the once small town of Enumclaw where the plateau meets the foothills with this majestic mountain for a daily view and think this would be a nice place to return to the earth.  Maybe half of’m by my bench.  I am sure there are rules against such things, but also have faith in my friends’ abilities to overlook minor issues like that.  Besides, we try to live with too many… rules.  I still want the bench, now.  I would like to select the locale and enjoy the view, myself on occasion.  Now, I usually spend a moment with each memorial bench that I come across and wonder…

One selfish motive for silence was that I wanted a normal Father’s Day, the kind that should never be taken for granted.  I never knew how much I wanted this, until it got closer to actually happening.  Perhaps I had lived too long with a touch of mental defense against the perceived improbability.  This year’s was to be my first Father’s Day celebration with my daughter, on the actual day, and Possibly my last.  The big weekend arrived; my parents, Nissa, Heather, Gracey and of course the cats and Sarrah all gathered at the Beach House.  I got what I wanted and needed, for all.  Even the weather was on its best seasonal behavior.  We had a very nice memorable family weekend, without anyone worrying about me and treating me differently.  It was my most special, gifted Father’s Day, Ever.

It was a long tough day, waiting for the afternoon Doctor appointment to learn the results of my CT Scan.  As I wrote in my journal the morning of June Twenty Eighth, Two Thousand Ten,

“Yesterday was my toughest, so far.  Probably in part because I was alone with Sarrah and the cats, working on things around the house.  Of course I meet with Dr. Marinkovich today to see/hear what the CT Scan found, which is “real pressure” not to mention a gihugous distraction of the mind.”

That day my clock went crazy.  The ticking sounded off, as if the pendulum was slowed.  But when I did look at the clock, the hours were passing quickly, faster than normal.  I cannot remember the forty-five minute blur of a drive; I must’ve been on some kind of mental autopilot.  I got to the clinic early and soon was taken to one of the rooms, to wait.  I sat there watching… their clock.  He was running late.  I was mentally trading places with him, wondering what ritualistic psych-up things I would have to do, to prepare myself to tell someone “Hey, guess what…” The later he was, the longer the clock ticked off time, the more I was convinced that “I was Doomed”.  He finally entered the room, twenty-three minutes later than I did.

The words “Your liver is Healthy” were awesome!  We wrapped up the appointment quickly and I got out of there.  To celebrate Sarrah and I walked around the parking lot and down the cut-off trail to some other clinical buildings, for the last time.  We were never coming back here, to this place, ever again.  I also called Nissa at work to give her ‘the news’.  It was an odd conversation as she was blindsided and absorbing it all must have been a little overwhelming.  I posted a brief comment on Facebook and received several relief-oriented comments and a few remarks of surprise.  The residual benefits of making the most of each day could now be even sweeter…  I would now continue to focus even more on making the best of Summer time.

I suppose this Scare Dance with Cancer and the possibility of it, was another of life’s unintended hidden gifts.  Being forced to focus on the bright side and making the best of each day, while coping with burdensome facts of mortality is something that I do not think I could have done as completely without having gone through this twist of fate.  I was deeply compelled for a few weeks to constantly feel that each moment, of each day, Is really a gift (Even the Shitty ones).  At least that how is it began appearing to me, in the rear view mirror.  Not enough people get the experiences gained from seeing the end of a road, without it ending.

As my friend Jeff’s mom Alice (she was known as Al to friends, many of whom were considered extended family) told me around twenty years ago, “We’re all Dying of Something, Make the Best of the Time you have”.  Being the oldest known person living in the United States with Scleroderma for forty two years, made her a torture humbled, overqualified advisor in such matters of perspective.  I always remembered her saying this to me, but don’t think that I actually really understood it.  Now I think that I do, or at least on a deeper level and will always hear her sharing those thoughts with me, Thank you Al. (Al passed away January Twenty Eight, Two Thousand Eleven.  I hope she’s dancing to her heart’s content!)

Into the Mystyc

Many of my friends and family, including myself were born in the colder winter months sprinkling this time of year with lots of birthdays.  Fortunately Sarrah had the energy to navigate past all of these special dates noted on the calendar.  Possibly, due in part to her lack of tolerance for sharing.

Given a final gift, to have her own day, January, Nineteenth, Two Thousand Eleven, to end her memorable journey here and cast a long shadow… into my future.

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All of the pages of a calendar have been torn off… three times.  Nothing significant has come to me… leafing through Circle of Life ponderings and Next Life beliefs, in my drifting quest of humbled wisdom and peace.

If you have a pet, in Sarrah’s memory… please some extra time for them, often.

Sharing Gifts with Sarrah

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As if quietly nudged, the desire came to preserve what I can recall from the life of Sarrah, the cute little spotted dog that invaded, influenced and ultimately improved my life.

A few days ago my work took me out to look at a house in Belfair near the Hood Canal, then to another at the north end of Bainbridge Island.  On this long drive I was painfully missing my road trip partner and thinking about how much she would’ve delighted in the adventures of that day.  Inevitably she’d have spotted a park, given me “the look” in my rear view mirror, started to use one or more of her many whines, growls, barks or howls from her large vocal repertoire (she reserved snorts for the rare occasion when there wasn’t enough time to stop) and we would have embarked on another new earthen gift, which busy people drive right on by.  Around noon I stopped at Fay Bainbridge State Park to enjoy a sun break, walk around the grounds and along the beach with the spirit of my dog.  Walking amongst the drift logs on a trail from the grassy area to the beach brought back flashes of choices that Sarrah would’ve made, from youthfully bounding over obstacles to maturely-taken steps of avoidance.  Reflections of her dancing with the waterline, inhaling everything and even pawing at decay – played though my mind.  But the solitude of this walk on the opposite side of our lobe of the Puget Sound was quieter, colder and lonelier than my memories.

On this day, March Eighth Two Thousand Eleven, while returning on a ferry I decided to write my story about Sarrah recalling and reflecting on our intertwined lives. . I chose a strong craft beer and a hard seat in an empty section. Between sips and glances at passing scenery; words spilled onto my graph paper.  Surprisingly, this literary epiphany instantly made me feel a little better.  Whether it’s ever finished or shared with anyone remains to be seen and completely irrelevant to me, at least at this time.

Could this form of expression be a sort of therapy?

For me?

Or, will it push me over an edge?

I recall hearing a theory that a portion of grief is an unconscious fear or dread of losing one’s memory(s) associated with what was lost.  Perhaps grief forces the brain to focus on and emblazon cherished memories in order to strengthen them against the inevitable erosion of time.  Wouldn’t it be sweet if the greater purpose of trudging through this dank pile of emotions was actually beneficial?

Like most people in midlife, this is not my first beating from the monster we simply call “Loss”.  A couple of years ago I heard the actor Brad Pitt (in an interview pertaining to his efforts in rebuilding New Orleans following the hurricane Katrina) recall an old saying “The Greater the Love, the Greater the Loss.”  I don’t recall the specifics of what he was referring to, but I can still hear him saying these words and feel their weight.  Our world is full of tragedy and horrific loss, much more than we can imagine, until it pointedly affects us personally.  Though my current experience pales to many, to me it serves no purpose to neither compare nor compete (with others or within ourselves) on these differing events.  Each of us are affected by many different living beings and in turn, by their matters of mortality.

I think about Sarrah often, throughout each day.  And don’t wish to feel worse because of my feelings nor concern others who might fear that “I can’t let go” or “Move on” from my grieving.  Some may be worried that I might replace my lost companionship by seeking refuge within the wilder side of life and keeping a bottle nearby as I did in my early twenties while dealing with the young relationship of my daughter, as it withered before it took root.  Like plants, some relationships can Miraculously come back to life if one is very lucky and stubborn enough to feed and water occasionally.

Or that I will delve into another endless labyrinth of excessive work to fill my void, as I did in my late twenties after my brief marriage disintegrated.  The lyric from my favorite song by The Eagles “Desperado” comes to mind “….Don’tcha draw the Queen of Diamonds boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able…”

A seemingly hidden gift out of this immeasurable loss appears to be the unveiling of a new series of coping tools, unused in this way, by me, prior to now.  A yellowed old fat dictionary, relic tape-recorder, worn mechanical pencil, new smooth flowing pens and cool computer keys will be my companions as I wade thru and attempt to let this out.  It seems that a special dog can teach an old boy, a new trick.

Like before… I will work hard through the pain and hoist a few glasses to celebrate the survival of yet another day, but plan to lean most heavily on these writing instruments for balance.  Hopefully crafting something stronger than time and worthy of pride.

As feelings flow and memories surface I’ll attempt to capture them by starting with “Brain Droppings” on paper.  Over time sweep them into piles like bits of sea glass and arrange them into sentences while watching them mosaic…into paragraphs.  Eventually shuffling paragraphs into chapters sprinkled with a few treasured pictures, creating a record of Sarrah’s life with me.  My main purpose of collecting these moments on paper, is to preserve some of my many fond (and a few less than wonderful) memories of her for solace, as I try to move forward in my life without her, here.  Maybe I can repair myself through gradually wrapping the shards of my fractured heart back together, in layers of weathered paper softened by tears and covered with words from reflections of brighter days.

Perhaps I am grappling with a bout of depression, but I have a level of peace with this probability knowing that Sarrah deserved a person who would struggle in a world without her.  If nothing else, spending time with this self-imposed writing assignment gives me an excuse to let my mind wander in the past, while trying to stumble along in a fog as I seek a path into my future.

Lately, people often ask “Are you going to get another dog?” and I struggle with this issue each time I hear it.  Initially I wanted to strangle people who asked me that, especially while Sarrah was still alive, failing… but alive.  Now, each time it’s just another Punch to a wound that won’t seem to heal.

For many reasons I make myself walk on our old usual route, most days.  The obvious motivation for me getting outside and walking is a feeble attempt to retain some fitness, mental and physical.  After all, if one doesn’t over think it, walking is good.

As the seasons change I encounter more “fair weather” people out walking who’ve noticed that I’m alone and many ask “Where’s your dog?”  These questions feel like slow Scratches to my wound, some deep, others faint depending on their chosen words and reaction(s) to how I answer their painful question.

One warm day an elderly lady, who lives about a half-mile to the south, asked the dreaded question.

She replied, “Oh I am so sorry” and then proceeded to tell me how she’d recently lost her poodle.

“He was ready, he just stopped eating.”

As I started walking away after saying, “Sorry.”

She surmised, “Maybe people should learn from their pets.”

I half-smiled and replied, “Perhaps.”

I know that all of these questions come from good people with simple curiosity, but interestingly it also makes me wonder how often a few quick words out of my mouth have inadvertently touched others, with a sore note.  Perhaps we’d all benefit from more pause-induced thought and fewer spoken words.

Despite the overwhelming crushing feelings of late, I would never go back and undo having her in my life.  So these are logical questions, but logic and feelings…collide.  I do not know, can’t even think about, having another dog in my life at this time.

Dean Koontz, in his book “A big little life” wrote that “It took he and his wife eight month’s to ‘have the courage’ to get another dog.”  In my case it’s probably strength, or lack of.  Another emotion could be fear that a new dog would chase away my fond memories and the spirit of Sarrah.  Regardless of whether or not another dog ever enters into what’s left of my life, this story is about the wonderful spirit that lived in a little dog and the gifts of life that she shared with me and others.

 

On Sarrah’s last morning here, I freed her from the collar that she loathed and placed it on the head of my cement gargoyle that resides on a cedar stump in the backyard.  It remains an evolving contrast – a shining chrome chain becoming a halo of rust.

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