A Special Companion and an Uninvited Guest

KinnonKinnon and I took a prophetic walk out to Diablo Lake on the last night of our Newfoundland trip. He had suffered from an undefined digestive problem before we left and we spent a great deal of time in two countries finding food that he’d eat.

Sitting at the dining room table, looking down, there’s no small red dog warming my feet and ankles. My heart sinks.

Kinnon was always a special boy. Reactive at times, and afraid of new things in his life, he could also be snuggly, especially at meal times and when sleeping in the motorhome. We enrolled him with many behaviorist over the course of his life and his response was marvelous. His last trainer was able to instill much more self-esteem, to the point of almost allowing us to groom his feet and nails.

The backyard is now empty. I count red dogs and now there are only two. I toss the ball for only one Toller. I shake my head in sadness and remember that Jamie needs an enthusiastic human.

The other word for Kinnon as refractory. Just as he would not let himself be groomed without much difficulty, he would not allow the administration of his meds. His ulcer and inflammatory bowel disease required an empty stomach, and giving pills and liquids without food was impossible from the start. He turned his nose up at the low-fat diet he needed. We did the best we could with meds and calories.

Kinnon

The last few days he stopped eating and then drinking water. He stopped coming up on the bed. On his last day we gathered him up, and I held him in my arms while we drove to the vet. We held him as he passed, along everyone at the clinic. I kept saying “go free” as he slipped away.

I miss him every day. The grief comes uninvited. I see him when the light is low in the morning, and then realize it’s Jamie. I look down at Kinnon’s red fur on my feet at the dining room table and recognize it’s Allie.

I want Grief to leave.

But then I realize that he hasn’t come here uninvited to do me damage. He’s come here to surprise me with a gift that I hadn’t asked for, wouldn’t say I wanted, but so desperately need.

The gift he gives me is this terrible, painful bittersweetness that reminds me just how well loved to be feeling such sadness now. This heartbreak is a monument, these tears a tribute.

That’s why Grief is here. He is the tax on loving, and the fact that I am feeling such a deficit in his presence is a celebration of how blessed I’ve been, to have someone to grieve so fully over.

– Adapted from John Pavlovitz
https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/11/21/grief-uninvited-holiday-guest/

Elderly

Allie and I celebrated the new year with a walk in the woods to the south of our house. The area is part of a designated wildlife corridor crossed with trails. We met no one and thus had some time together in the quiet we enjoy here. She walked right by my side, a companion of 13 years matched to my almost 73.

I don’t walk on trails with as much confidence as I used to. Rocks and roots must noticed and avoided. I don’t leave on a walk without my cell phone. Allie has much more grace with this than I, and more spring in her step.

Doesn’t mean I wasn’t enjoying the experience. It just involves a bit more.

My project this year is to explore the concept and experience of what that “bit more” is and might be. I want to start a conversation (with myself if no one else) that’s more than small talk  I would also like to avoid “organ recitals,” the recap of medical history that admittedly builds friendships and gives us a sense that maybe our diagnoses are not that worrisome.

Since we live in a culture that doesn’t value being old, what does the word “elder” mean from the perspective of one who qualifies? Now that I’m not defined by the work I used to do, where am I? To quote Joan Chittester:

“For the sake of our happiness and mental health, we must also answer the question: What am I when I am not what I used to do? And does anybody really care? And what does that have to do with growing into God?”*

*Chittister, Joan. The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully, Blue Bridge, 2008, p 8.

 

Christmas 2017

“Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that.
You cannot hold onto the old, all the while declaring that you want something new.
The old will defy the new;
The old will deny the new;
The old will decry the new.
There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.”
—Neale Donald Walsch

I’ve been silent since the election in 2016. Finding words has been difficult in these times. This Christmas, though, I am drawn back to the image I found in 2015 of the Middle Eastern couple and child in the stable.

 

 

 

 

As I remarked before, the golden halos are missing. This was before the birth narratives were written and the fine robes and incense of Christology became the central message and worship drove out following.

How do we, then, make room for this New? What of the Old must we give up?

In 2018 I’m going to write about this newness from my perspective as an elder. Seems to me that what pudding I liked the best when I was eight is missing the point. Jesus of Nazareth, ageism, sadness, transformation, love, and fear are subjects more to my liking.

I’ll see you next week!

 

 

 

Intention for Today

American FlagI’ve seen many memes and aphorisms on Facebook with the general theme of “pray for peace.” Nothing wrong with that, but as the woman in full hijab rang up our purchases at Wal-Mart in Grand Forks ND three weeks ago I got to thinking about how results might be better if we were more specific.in our intentions.

My thought is to imagine a place where you have been (or want to be) that invokes serenity. For me it’s the forest, quiet and green. I envision a circle around a campfire where many people can sit comfortably and see each other easily.

I would invite people to sit and share their vision of America. The woman in hijab, my African-American cousins, several of my neighbors here in Port Townsend and maybe that guy with the pick-up truck with the Confederate Battle Flag in the rear window. The refugee from a war-torn country seeking a place for her family and a member of the DAR. The guy who runs a pharmacy on Main Street. A grandchild or two. The nurse who cared for me whose husband had died and was living paycheck to paycheck. Just folks. You can make up your own invitation list.

We’d go around the campfire and share our vision for America and how we might achieve it together. Deep down, what is it that gives us pride in where we live? What values can we share to build us up as communities and not tear apart? What is about our country that makes us grateful?

America has always been an experiment in self-governance. We are an imperfect nation that paints over our flaws with myths and symbols that perpetuate that imperfection. I’d ask my group what new myths and symbols would help us build a country that was inclusive and compassionate. Can you envision such myths and symbols?

The campfire would close with an affirmation to hold these specific hopes and dreams in our hearts and to look forward to a fresh new direction for all of us.

The Ballot

BallotPut a stamp on my Washington state primary ballot this morning, marking my affiliation with the Democratic party and voting for Bernie Sanders. The primary here doesn’t apportion delegates, but it was a positive thing to do, one small way of witnessing this year’s presidential race.

I believe that Bernie and We The People who support him have something valuable to add to the party and the nation. I am hoping that all the enthusiasm that he has generated can be heard and that change will occur. He may not be the Democratic nominee by virtue of establishment politics, but change has been incremental in this country rather than violent.

I hope that Bernie supporters will remember that the other party will probably nominate a man who would be an extinction event for the republic if he won. Hillary is not my choice for many reasons, but third parties are not the best answer to this dilemma. Sitting out the election in a pique, in my opinion, would be an abrogation of civic responsibility. Sometimes we need to morally make choices that are not black and white.

 

 

The Shock

The CrossIt’s that first week. You’ve been doing your best to follow the teacher who has been saying words of enlightenment that only upset the religious and political order of things. He has spoken in parables because these ideas are hard to comprehend after believing something else all your life. He has simplified and lived the words by his example.

The events of the past week have turned it all into chaos. The anger in the temple, the cryptic farewell at Passover. The execution.

Now, huddled and hidden, you wonder what will happen next. No Christology of men in purple robes yet, just your own shock, disappointment and fear.

Spending some time inside with this, far from the eggs and rabbits.

Hurry and Christmas

There is a close connection between speed and impatience. Our culture has become so speeded up today that no one has time to be patient. People in a hurry cannot be patient—so people in a hurry cannot really love. To love, we need to be sensitive to those around us, which is impossible if we are racing through life engrossed in all the things we need to do.
Eknath Easwaran
Blue Mountain Journal Winter 2015

Part of Christmas for me in the past has been that the season was tied to the retail clock, which runs increasingly faster from the first of October through Christmas Eve. The increasing activity that runs toward Christmas morning didn’t leave any time for reflection, not that I’d have slowed down back then.

Now that I’m older I value my quiet and withdraw from the popular culture and commercial frenzy of the holidays.

I finally found the picture which gives meaning to me for Christmas. A Middle Eastern couple, resting in a stable after the birth of their child. No glowing halo on the baby’s head. A tired mother and a thoughtful father. Centuries of human theology and religion yet to come. The invitation for our transformation is here in the beginning, before all the pomp and circumstance, before all the hurry, in the poor circumstances of the child, in the repose of Mary and the quiet contemplation of Joseph.The Birth

Blessings and Merry Christmas!