Saturday, October 8, 2011

Not All That Spins Becomes Cotton Candy

When I was a child, I hated naps. I suppose I was afraid of what I might miss if I slept in the middle of the day, Now it is my habit to take a nap on Sunday afternoon whether I'm tired or not. The problem with that is that if I'm not really tired I just lay there with my brain spinning. If I do doze a bit, it is full of dreams that sometimes spin  bizarrely as if to simplify chaos theory. Typically I can follow a line, however crooked or fractured, and connect the dreams to something that has happened recently-though that doesn't always explain some of the people who populate the dreams. Every single time I have a disagreement with my husband, I have a dream about my first husband. Why is that? My first husband and I have been apart longer than we were together, and there are almost no similarities between the two men. Recently I talked to my friend who has an Italian boyfriend, Frank from Jersey, and I dreamed I had an affair with one of the characters from the television series, "The Sopranos." (Sorry, Frank!) Once, when I was sick with a high fever I dreamed I was being spun ever tighter in some sort of cocoon-it turned out I was wrapped in my blanket. I'm not sure that dreams really mean anything, but they do connect to our daily lives. When I married my second husband, in January of 2000, we moved from the town in Texas where my family lives to a small house in a small town in Illinois where he grew up. He knew one thing about me-that I love dogs. To the extreme--to a point sometimes where some people have accused me of liking dogs better than people. Which is not exactly true-I love most dogs better than I like some people. But after living in this house without a dog for a little more than a year, I asked him if we could get a dog. This was in March of 2001. Time passed, and still no dog. I started going back to school, along with my full time job, my eyes open all the time to the right possibility of the right dog for our family. On September 11, 2011 we still didn't have a dog-but after the terrorist attacks of that day, there were suddenly other things on everyone's mind. But, as we were told by our president, if we didn't carry on our normal lives, the terrorists won. On November 6, 2011, I went to have a fairly normal thing done-getting my teeth cleaned. My husband and his son who lived with us were at the fall sports banquet celebrating the football season. As I was lead to the cubicle of the hygienist, whom I had never met, but who had known my husband since he was a kid, it was lined with photos of dogs. I asked if these were all her dogs, and she said that she was involved in dog rescue and fostering. I asked if she had any that were adoptable, and she said yes, she had two that had been orphaned by the 9-11 attacks. One she thought was ready for a home, and one might never be. Did I want to meet them? I was her last client of the day, and I "followed her home."

Years before I had picked a name for the next male dog I got; he was going to be "Nestor," after the character played by Antonio Banderas in the movie, "The Mambo Kings." The dog I took home with me that night had been called "Louie," since no one really knew anything about his history. He was beautiful-a border collie mix, with a full black mask instead of the Harlequin mask that one sees on many border collies, and much more white on him than black. I took him home, and when my husband and step son arrived home from the sports banquet, we were sitting in the floor of the living room. I had my arm around him, we had already begun to bond, and my husband said, "Did you get a dog?" Since we didn't have a fenced in yard Nestor had to be walked twice a day. Every day-seven days a week. That duty fell to me, since I was the real dog lover in the house, and we walked all over the little town. I lost forty-five pounds, and Nestor and I were attached at the hip. I was, no doubt, his human. We later did get a fence, and I injured my sciatic nerve, and had to have help with the walking, but Nestor and I were almost psychically, and probably in an unhealthy way, connected. If we were walking and met up with someone who would talk to me, unless it was someone else with a dog, Nestor would snap at them. He did also chase things that moved, like the bicycle of our next door neighbor's daughter. When he, in true border collie fashion, nipped at the back tire and caught her ankle, it caused a neighborhood kerfuffle, to be sure. I was not familiar with the breed before I had fallen in love with this dog, but had I known more about them in advance, I probably would have known that we didn't really have the lifestyle for such an active dog. Sometimes if he was left alone he would tear things up-like the blinds, not just papers and small things. We replaced the blinds several times. The lady I had adopted him from attributed it to boredom and possible separation anxiety, considering he had been orphaned by the 9-11 attacks. I often called him my little orphan boy. His biting became more serious, and despite the fact that he was healthy and had all his shots, he had to be quarantined four times because of biting people. Once I went to visit him at the vet when he was in quarantine, and the vet said that he had never once shown any sign of aggression. Then when I started to leave, he bit the vet. The vet looked at me and said, "This is about you." I was getting more and more hopeless that I would ever be able to stop this behavior. I contacted a trainer who advertised that she could help with aggressive dogs, and we agreed to bring him back. But in April of 2007, I noticed that when a UPS man knocked at our door, he went psycho. I knew that if there had been no glass between him and the delivery man, there would be some real damage done. A few days later, he bit the hand of the neighbor who lived behind us, drawing blood. I will say, that man was not very nice, and I'd been tempted to bite him myself a time or two. But I knew it was the end...I called our vet, and took him to be put down. We couldn't afford the liability of an aggressive dog-and we couldn't risk small children coming to the house and being bitten. He was also prone to nip our guests if they hugged me; I had no choice left but to put him down. We went to the vet, and were placed in a room while the tech discussed with the vet, seemingly forever, how this euthanasia was to be handled since he had just bitten someone. I was falling apart, he knew something was up, so he was going psycho-hound all over the room. The vet finally came in and gave him "the shot." He was wobbly, but still walking around-I was still hysterical, and told her that I was close to changing my mind. She said, "Boy, he's not going down without a fight." They had to give my little orphan boy twice the regular dose, but he finally laid down in my lap and went to sleep. That was the first time I'd experienced this. I'd had other dogs put down before, but I could never bring myself to be there. I'd say my goodbye, and wait outside. But with this dog, I had to be the one to do it.

At the time this happened, April 12, 2007, I was in graduate school; right in the middle of the big project. I can imagine that someone might think the death of a dog would be something to move on from, but I basically fell apart, and wound up flunking out of graduate school. My job was temporary-a grad assistantship that now had to be changed to an 'academic hourly' and would only last until January. My life, and family became very difficult as I tried to deal with the grief over Nestor, and the still unremitting feeling that I had failed him. Bad owners make bad dogs; there had to have been more that I could have done. We had adopted a lab, Maddie, to be his friend, and she and I were the only ones who really grieved for him. I didn't think I would be ready for another dog for some time, but I didn't expect her to be as sad as she was. In fact, I thought she would be happy as an only dog. But she wasn't. In January of 2008 I was out of work, and the economy struck Central Illinois WAY before it spread through the rest of the country, so I could only find part time work, which was not near enough to support our family. My grief and feelings of failure regarding Nestor and school had started to come between my husband and me-things were really spinning out of control. On May 31 I got on a train and moved home to Texas. Supposedly there were lots of good jobs in Texas, my family kept telling me. So I moved, not sure if my husband would join me, but he and Maddie moved down in August of that year. I was glad to be close to my side of the family, but it was hard for Jim to be separated from his side of the family, especially his three sons. Maddie died the following February-at the age of 12, which is pretty old for a lab. Life goes on.

On May 15, 2010 I wrote a blog post, "To Ian, With Pride." Ian is the son of my youngest sister. The night she went into labor, all my siblings were gathered at my house. At that time I was a practicing Christian, and Teresa, Ian's mother, and I were the only ones in the family attending the Episcopal church. As a result of that, and the particularly close relationship we had, my first husband and I w ere Ian's godparents. So, despite the fact that my religious world-view has changed completely, I have always felt a special bond with Ian. May 14, 2010 was the night he graduated from college and received his commission as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. I remember telling my sister that night that one hope I'd had was that by the time Ian graduated from ROTC we would no longer be at war. Last Sunday, as I took my nap, we were preparing to go to a going away party for Ian, who left for the Middle East, his first post after tech school, on Tuesday. On Thursday the news media were announcing that it was the tenth anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan. As I cried on the shoulders of my mother and youngest sister Sunday night about that baby boy whose birth is so etched into our lives because his placenta tried to come out first, and his birth was an emergency Cesarean, leaving my apartment where it all started looking as if an axe murder had occurred there, was a grown man, a military officer, going where it was WAY more than a couple of hours to come home for a visit. The spin of dreaming about my dog began to make sense. I wouldn't have had Nestor if not for the 9-11 attacks, because of the 9-11 attacks, we are still at war, and Ian was going to the Middle East. I will add that he is going to a friendly country, and has a fairly safe job-but suddenly it all made sense how much our lives have become defined by the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01.

So, we can take the events of our lives, blend them into the pensieve of our subconscious, turn on the spinnaker and the heat and spin a single thread into something that resembles a full life. It may be completely connected, but it won't always be sweet.

Pensieve-a device used in Harry Potter books, written by J.K.Rowling, which allow a person to see into the memories of another person. 

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