Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Dog, My Muse, No Voltage

*** Peace and love to you all on this fine March day! Below is an entry I wrote last August, but didn't publish it because I was tweaking it when my sweet brother passed away and I ended up writing something else, more timely, his eulogy. I am posting it now, in part to honor him and also because the concept of artificial limits has recently taken on new meaning. More to come in the weeks ahead. Suffice it to say it involves my new car and my old dog.****

Inspiration is fleeting.

It comes in tufts and whiffs and sights before the eyes, when we’re still enough to witness, when our senses aren’t anesthetized.

I’ve been that way lately.

My brother is dying. Today --or the next day, or the next hour, or minute. I traveled to New Mexico last week to cry at his bedside, to kiss his face, to feed him jello, to say goodbye, until the dictates of my reality -- unpaid bills, unmet deadlines, too little leave, and too many details brought me back to St. Louis to wait for his passing, so I can return to Albuquerque to mourn. It’s parceled out this way. A sad fact of life, or death, for the working class.

For now, I stand and stare a lot. At nothing.

This morning, I sat and stared, from my sun drenched porch, drinking coffee from my mother’s bone china, gold rimmed cup, with a saucer. I do this every weekend, refusing to drink from that slave driver, silver commuter mug I gulp coffee from Monday through Friday. It’s a gift I give myself, genteel, civilized, the luxury of good coffee from bone china and the time to relish the coffee and the morning. I was thinking about the phrase, “sun bathing” reasoning that I needed to absorb of much of this nourishment as possible to fortify me for the next few days, when my peaceful reflection was rudely ripped apart by Libby the Replacement Dog’s frantic barking.

The neighbors had just left for church, where I was thinking I should be, if not for my swollen eyes from crying all night and being on the front porch in my nightgown. They’d left the cat out, crouched under the box wood bushes near their front door and Libby was absolutely going ballistic.

She hates that cat. Pete, the King of Dogs, God rest his soul, hated that cat too. It must be a devil cat. Anyway Libby had her hackles up and was barking like a rabid dog, not seven feet away from the black and white calico with the ineffective camo, crouched in the bushes. But, trained as she is to the invisible fence around our yard, Libby did not cross the line.

But what she doesn’t know is that the battery in her shock collar has been dead for weeks. She barked and writhed and ran up and down the driveway, and barked and stomped, lowered her head and stuck up her tail, but never went close to that invisible line which would stun her into submission. So thoroughly trained, (there’s a reason they say Pavlov’s dog) is she, that she won’t dare cross the line, won’t dare come close, even though the thing she wants at this moment, even more than a pound of raw hamburger meat, is just six feet away. There’s a black and white sandwich, curled up in a ball, ready for the chomping or the chasing and she has nary a shock collar in effect, a false barricade if ever there was one.

The comparison was just too rich. The message from the universe was screaming for me to take notice, just like a billboard for an adult bookstore on a rural highway.

My shock collar has dead batteries. I could break free, if I really wanted to.

My brother is dying.

When he was first diagnosed, I vowed I would figure out a way to spend more time with him, to somehow get funding for my writing so that I could write, observe, listen, record, breathe, write, live, remember, write.

That was eleven months ago. I have gone to New Mexico four times during these months and I am grateful for our time together, but always with so many other things on my mind --so many details to get back to, so many texts and emails and phone calls and arrangements and 50 hour work weeks writing other people’s stuff.

I had so very much wanted to finish my memoir before he passed, wanted to get started on a new book, about our crazy mother, (crazy in a good way, four days out of seven...) and I wanted to take him to California to see if we could revisit the places we lived, the places he could tell me about, San Francisco, Placerville, Folsom. I wanted to see if we could find my biological father’s son, the half-brother whom I don’t recall, but whom Don knew as a child.

But now, I”m losing Don. The real big brother. The man who helped raise me. The steady one, the best one, the one I could always trust. He’s slipping away with every minute I breathe and I am righteously pissed. The days are gone. We didn’t go.

I take Libby’s dead collar off and lovingly load her into the car and back out the driveway, where we park down the street to go for our walk. She’s as happy as a clam to trot past our house, once I’ve carried her safely across the barrier. That’s our drill. Who’s gonna carry me past mine? Aren’t humans supposed to be smarter than dogs?


  1. So glad you are blogging again. I have missed you. Still with Mr. Wonderful, book getting published, kids happy and any grand kids on the way? All this and more has been on my mind when I check to see if you have written. Hope to see all my answers in your wonderful writing. Sorry about your brother.

  2. Great story and am so glad you are back to blogging. Can't wait to hear your stories.

  3. Unable to comment on Salon, sorry.