My phone has traces of acquaintances, pets, friends and family who are no longer living.
No longer living here with us.
Their birthday’s pop-up as if to remind and say “Don’t forget me.”
Photos in the memory mix float around and surface at times, blending in with new experiences.
It is hard enough to say “Goodbye” in this life,
making [Delete] impossible.
So, My Collection Grows…
We were off to explore a college.
Jeff and I acquired the correct paperwork, our parents approved it.
Being seniors in high school this accepted right of passage allowed for a few additional days of absence.
All of our individual teachers initialed the forms and counselors filed them with praises.
It was the best ski trip of the season!
In the summer as the sun-sets, bats return to eat their share of mosquitoes and scare the squeamish. The speed and erratic flight of these creatures is part of what I have come to call “Caveman TV”. One evening while sitting in wooden Adirondack chairs next to Sarrah snoozing in the sand by a crackling fire, my childhood friend Andy said “Caveman TV”.
While staring into the fire I replied, “What?”
“Caveman TV is what we are watching” and he went on share this primal-based theory of what is the attraction of sitting around a fire and possibly “the real reason people go camping.”
“Then this is ‘The Remote,’” I concluded while using the fire-scarred chunk of rebar to stoke our TV.
I embraced the expression and have since shared this primal wisdom with all fellow fire enthusiasts.
At first I was Pissed Off!
Nissa ‘set me up’ with an email link to a sad story. I was not ready for a dog, let alone another Dalmatian, I honestly believed that I would not have another. This caused my mind to race and all of the emotions Hit me, I was completely Consumed by this conundrum, for a couple of days.
The story was put out on the web by Jodie Ray Kelley, who founded and runs the Dalmatian Rescue of Puget Sound organization. This posting was about a dog who was rescued for a financially impacted family in California, who could not keep the five-year-old Shelby and her brother. Seems California has a quick death penalty for dogs without homes so Jodie went down and brought a few back. Two of these dogs had been together since birth, so efforts were taken to find one home for both of them. After a few months of issues, the male was adopted, but not Shelby. Apparently she liked living with Jodie and learned that causing problems… got her returned. The post had a worn tone and a few pictures.
There I was mentally; standing in a deep puddle of thick Sadness, heated by Anger and shouldering a heavy damp blanket of Guilt (for a dog I had never met, but could help).
I went for a few long walks and tried to calm my mind, enough to let me find the best reactions. Later, I did let Nissa know that I was Irritated. We talked and I did some more searching… While trying to sleep on it, my mind worked over the situation.
The next day I decided to let fate decide, a little. I typed up an inquiry and the required application for the possibility of adoption. I sat there and stared at the computer, with damp eyes. I went for a walk and talked to myself a little, came home and much like a; cliff dive, gnarly new ski run, first skydive, bungee jump or other self inflicted adrenalized moments that make palms sweat, I pushed the “Send” button. Instantly it hit me, I asked myself out loud “What did you do!?” Later a reply came back that “Shelby already had an interested family”. I felt some relief and at the same time a little disappointment, but told myself that it was for the best. A few days later I got an email briefly explaining that the family didn’t think that it would work out, was I still interested? I went for another walk and replied, “Yes”. This time I felt better about it, but still apprehensive. We set a weekend day for the first step, to met the dog and go from there. The Friday night prior, I got a call that “The interested family had re-changed their minds and wanted to try again”. This hit a little hard and hurt, but I was still going with fate. Almost a week later, I got another email with a longer explanation about how Shelby definitely was not working with the indecisive family and was there any chance that we might still be interested? This rollercoaster process was excruciating, but I found the energy for one last turn, I replied and another semi-blind date was made. Looking back, being put through these sudden painful ups and downs sort of helped me work things out in my mind and show me that at least in part; I knew that I felt some desire to meet this dog.
Rescue dogs have history, who really knows neither what nor how they interpret it. Shelby came with a reserved mellow attitude, like a foster kid, as if suspicious of the world. We shared a look and she showed a willingness to give me a chance by rolling over onto her back to let me rub her belly. Our meeting went well and while we were in the backyard, Jodie quietly left without a “Goodbye” in an attempt to make it easier for Shelby. I have no idea how she can handle this emotional part of her rescue service, but we are all better off because of people like Jodie.
We agreed to have her stay for the required “trial period” of a couple weeks, to see if living together would work out. She did not bring whatever issues had kept her moving and homeless. Maybe Shelby found a sense of belonging, or a purpose that the other places lacked. As I suspected, she chose to keep us and we eased forward. It turns out that Shelby and I made a good pair; both worn down by realities of life, skeptical and unenthused. We drew some energy from each other and got a little better, we continue to get better.
Sharing with cats is never easy for a dog, let alone later in life. With a little quick feline toughness, stubborn human guidance and canine willingness, in time… our animals friends learned to live together. Again, Rah occasionally tests his game, but in a much appreciated awareness of the noticeably greater risk.
Shelby did not find the first beach weekend road trip and stay to be special; she seemed a little on guard. Perhaps, thinking that she was being handed off, yet again. Her first few walks out to the beach surprised me a little. She acted aloof, as if to be wondering, “What’s the big deal?”
Eventually the persistent magical powers of the ocean and its beach took over, suddenly. on a sunny walk Shelby’s eyes lit up and she launched! into a full speed gallop. It felt good to observe this shared passion come alive in her.
To my relief, Shelby and Sarrah have little in common other than obvious similar instinctive traits, looks and a bond with me. Where Sarrah was a smaller version of “perfect”, Shelby is a much larger version. Shelby’s additional twenty five pounds give her much more power and torque, pulling me forward. Shelby is mostly quiet. She does not have the range of vocal expressions, and would rather quietly observe with silent strength. She fiercely feels a need to protect me from, well, the rest of the dwellers. It is as if she senses that I am distracted by damage and commands respect for our space.
I am certain that they would have not liked each other on the same life plane, but maybe a Spirit Dog has an advantage, a power to overcome. Perhaps Shelby had help holding out to find me.
This life experience reminds me of another lasting question, “?Who Saved Who”.
If you see a guy walking a Dalmatian, talking to two, he may not be crazy.
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
* * *
Cheers to you John Kelly
* * *
I heard that John gave someone the gift of sight. How awesome is that?!
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!)
Around two thousand four a song by Pat Green “Wave on Wave” was overplayed on the radio and music video channels. I find it to be a nice easy going, feel good kind of song. I noticed that Sarrah also seemed to like this song and one day asked her a line from it “Am I the one you were sent to save?” She gave me a quick wry glance and then that sort of ‘parenting look’, as if to say “You know the answer” (she gave me the same look every time I asked that question). After that day, every time the song played, we made eye contact and smiled. Years later, I downloaded it onto my iphone so we could hear it frequently, whenever the mood struck or the need arose.
Recently I heard Dean Koontz reading his book (on DVD) “A big little life” sharing a similar experience with his dog. He also touched on a belief held by some that dogs contain reincarnated beings, or souls. I, like him am not sure about this, but then I again I do not have ‘the answers’.