Monday, December 24, 2007

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." -Elf

As the days have gotten shorter, the darkness longer, I have been feeling increasingly stressed this holiday season. There is the usual stress of dealing with the commercialism and materialism of Christmas, planning and executing a huge gathering in a small house, and not being able to give as much as I’d like because I’m really broke. (Yes, this does seem to be a USUAL circumstance.) This year, there is the added stress of a Grandma’s illness, the dog’s illness, a broken car, and a broken relationship with my friend, T (recovering heroin addict, now on a month-long fix of methadone, benzos and alcohol). I have not been feeling very festive.

This week of solstice, I have had a few glimpses of light that have brought me cheer. It would make me really happy to share these little things, which have brightened my days.

One day I happened upon a local blog I had not visited. (OK, I was looking for a funny cat video.) There was an amazing painting that immediately captured my attention. (Dec. 19 entry, I don't know how to link to it specifically). The power of art can be mysterious and wonderful. When I saw this painting, I felt a sense of joy. I have revisited the blog several times to view the painting.

Last night, I was traveling east on 474 getting ready to cross the river, when I saw four deer between the road and the trees. As soon as I said, “oh, look at those deer”. There were two more. And two more and two more, all the way to the bridge. What made the view more spectacular, was that the deer seemed to be in a spotlight from the bright and gorgeous full moon. I was mesmerized by the moon all the way home. It was glowing big and bright and kept being framed or obscured by moving clouds. Sometimes as the clouds would pass in front of it, they would be eerily transparent. I could see the different density?, thickness?, in different parts of the clouds. It was like looking at cloud X-rays.

The most surprising (to me) burst of joy, I experienced during my son’s band concert. The band was playing a holiday medley of songs and the program had the lyrics to carols. The audience was supposed to sing along with the band on the conductor’s cue. I am not Christian; I don’t feel any strong sense of Christmas tradition; My singing voice is about as atrocious as Jennifer’s; but as I was singing “Oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore hi ii im, Christ the Lord”, I felt a swelling a Christmas cheer. I sang loud and joyfully and really did feel a sense of peace and goodwill in my heart.

I have been trying to recapture that feeling all week, driving around, singing Christmas carols to myself, but apparently it is more effective when you are part of a crowd in the really cool new Five Points Community Center in Washington with an awesome High School Band playing back up music. But hopefully my spirits will improve soon. I can make it through (and hopefully enjoy) the next two days. Then I will look forward to New Year’s Eve (Little E’s birthday). And the days are lengthening and the light is returning. (In my head I have an ominous preacher voice saying “And in my spirit, so shall it be.”)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Living with Doobie (I wish that title was not misleading)

When I started caring for my grandma, I also started caring for my grandma’s dog, Doobie. (He was once my brother’s dog. My brother named him.) Doobie is a 14-year-old lhasa apso. I love animals in general, but I am not really fond of being around this dog. He smells bad and barks a lot and wants in and out all day long and recently, has been peeing on the carpet in Big E’s room every night.

The first time or two he had an accident on the carpet, I mentioned it to Grandma and she had some exaggerated emotional outbursts in which she would essentially cry because he would need to be put to sleep. I was really confused by this response and after a few hours had my own exaggerated emotional response, (the only time I ever remember swearing to my grandma), “I can’t believe you think I would value a fucking carpet more than an animal’s life”. She cried. I cried. We agreed to take him to the vet. This was over the summer. The vet talked about other things like his cough and skin condition and wanted her to spend a lot of money on X rays so he could prescribe a diuretic for the cough, which could make the peeing worse. At that time we decided against the X rays and ended up focusing on getting some medicine for his itchy skin. After that, I have not mentioned the peeing on the carpet again and figured when she and the dog move out of the room, we will just get new carpet.

Doobie was due for a distemper shot, so we took him to the vet on Friday. Doobie has cataracts, and according to the vet, can barely see. He has a “bad tooth”. He still has skin problems and a heart murmur and a cough that is due to a heart problem. I mentioned the accidents to her, and she said Doobie is so old, that he might have a form of dementia like human Alzheimer’s and not remember to go out to pee. This really stuck an emotional chord with me. She then talked us into getting the X rays and also testing his kidney function.

Grandma and I went to the waiting room, I and just felt so weighted down. I already feel overwhelmed caring for my ailing grandmother; I do not know how good I will be caring for her dog as well. I started seeping some tears, feeling sorry for myself and scared about what the future holds and how much stress I can handle.

After awhile, the vet called us back to look at the X rays and discuss the results. As she told us about Doobie’s congestive heart failure and early stage kidney failure, I just started crying. She kept telling me how sorry she was, but how Doobie can still have a decent quality of life for a while. In fact, with medication, he will probably be more comfortable than he has been for many months. I smiled and thanked her.

While we were waiting to get checked out a couple of the technicians came up and hugged me and the vet stepped out to tell me again how sorry she was. I didn’t tell them that I wasn’t crying for Doobie. I was really just crying for myself.

When we got in the car, Grandma started to cry a little too and said, “Well, Dinky sure has lived a long happy life, hasn’t he?”