Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The last thing I bought was a tank of gas on Wednesday. It’s Saturday now and the madness that has gripped some people still race through their veins. They must shop. It’s Christmas. The clock is ticking. They have to shop. The hopes and dreams of their loved ones depend on their sacrifice in the name of the Almighty Dollar. There are retail chains whose very lifeblood flows through the next four weeks of shopping. The country as a whole is either living or dying depending on the Shopping Season.
For Christmas at my mother’s house we draw names. Everyone buys and everyone receives one gift. Traditionally, it is something funny and fun. No one gets or gives anything that costs more than twenty-five dollars. Stunning isn’t it? What can you buy with that?
The high point of the gift giving at my mother’s house is the “Camera Bag Exchange”. Many years ago my father gave me a camera and went on a short soliloquy as to why a company would sell a camera but not supply a bag for it. My younger sister remembered this and so the next year she gave me a camera bag; it was a paper bag with “Camera Bag” written on it. It went over very well indeed. So the next year I bought one of those toy cameras for a few bucks and gave it back to her. She countered the next year with the bag and a camera given away with a magazine subscription. The next year I returned the bag to her with a very, very, very, cheap digital camera that held one photo.
This has gone on now for seven years and neither of us have put more than ten dollars a year into it.
Not only is this the high point of Christmas for my younger sister and myself, but everyone else is waiting to see who has it this year and who is getting what with it this year. It’s exciting for this sort of thing to happen because it’s pure fun. There are no moving parts. There is no warranty. Batteries not included. Just something she and I will do and we will remember it long after the other gifts have all been forgotten.
So, here’s the thing, and it’s really the only thing, are you trying to buy this sort of moment? If you put enough wrapping paper in a dumpster somewhere will someone you love be a better person for it? What’s the price on a family being together and being happy? Does there have to be some credit card company out there hitting their magic number on purchases before you and yours can rest easy?
It’s my turn this year to get the bag. It is the only gift I expect to receive that I am truly looking forward to getting. My older sister asked me yesterday, “Who has the bag?” and I told her I would have to check. I think we’ll conspire to keep it a secret and make people guess. That would be fun, too.
You could get a bag like that for free, you know. And furthermore, you couldn’t sell it on ebay for a dollar. Yet for the last seven years the “Bag Exchange” has been something we all have really enjoyed. It’s simple and it is funny.
Is your Christmas going to be like this?
Who told you it couldn’t be?
Friday, November 29, 2013
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Lucas seems to have padded his way down the road to recovery without so much as looking back. The first few days were bad because his nose was still bleeding, he was still recovering from being anesthetized but most of all I think Lucas was in a state of shock from being away from home. The closest thing we humans can experience to compare to this is alien abduction. Lucas was in a strange place with nothing familiar there and they cut off part of his face. For four days he had to wonder where he was, where I was, and how long this was going to go on.
When I went to get Lucas he was still very stoned. They wanted to keep him one more day but all things medical looked good and Lucas was dying. He wasn’t eating, drinking, peeing or pooping. Lucas was shutting down. Whatever was happening to him wasn’t home and he didn’t want to live without it. I told work I was going to go get my dog and that was what I did.
The whole way back I had to keep Lucas out of my lap. As long as I kept on hand on his head Lucas seemed fine. But he had to have that contact. It wasn’t until we started down the driveway to the house he acted like he really knew where he was.
That was a week ago, Thursday. This Wednesday we are going to have the vet come here to take his stitches out. Lucas as recovered entirely from the Alien Abduction thing. Well, almost. He likes to sleep on top of me more than he used to and he has to lose weight anyway. He wants his nose close to my face when we sleep and I don’t mind, really.
That’s what’s missing from a lot of people’s lives these days, I think. We’ve created a world where connections are made with keyboards but not with faces. Lucas is scarred up pretty bad but I just want to be close to that face. I will admit it freely; I suffered terribly without him here with me. I love my mutts. I wonder how people go about their day to day lives without someone to love there.
When a close friend of mine told me I couldn’t save Lucas that I should let him live out his time in comfort until the pain became too great, I saw the practical wisdom in this thinking. But it lacked love. Love means being able to see past practicality and seeing a way to get things done doe someone because love demands it, love compels you do take that leap, love propels you through the arena of wisdom and logic and dollars and sense and love lifts you above it all so that nothing else matters to you.
Right now I face harder financial times that I ever dreamed possible but I cannot say that I care. My close friend came over and asked me how I was going to manage this and I asked her if she still thought she was right. The math was on her side but now she wavered; now she sat and saw before her the evidence at hand that there was something out there which defied her calculator and honestly I think it daunted her sense of being.
Could you? Would you? Have you? Would you do it again?
I feel more whole for the decision I made. I feel as if there was a trade I did not know I was making has been made, and I got the better end of the deal, by far. Now, I wonder if my friend had also at one time in her life had also made that decision and now saw that part of her soul had been traded away. I cannot say what she got in that bargain but I do know I want none of it.
Love. Lucas was going to allow himself to fade away and die without it. Some would have let him die for the lack of it. We’re all going to go in the end. Love is the only way to live. Anything less and you’re cowering in fear of the loss of something you are too afraid to lose to have.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
One of the first things someone told me about the surgery is that they had to get all of the cancerous cells. Not just a lot of them, but all of them, and there had to be a “clear margin” around the part they cut out of healthy cells which would mean all the cancer would be contained within.
One of the more depression and damning pieces of information that was in the original pathology report was “Margins are not evident” which meant they would have to cut deeper and wider to make sure the operation was a success.
That was the thing, really. There wasn’t any other. Either/or. No middle ground.
This was the text my local vet, who I think is a saint, sent me this morning: (italics mine)
“Got another fax this morning that is a referral summary. It says that we will receive the history pass tomorrow. I guess They sent it to me early by mistake. It says that the wide margins were achieved. It says in this case long-term survival is a strong possibility. They want to do a repeat CT scan in 3 to 4 months. Great news! See you on the 20th.”
I stared at the message for about five minutes. The UF vet called me and told me there is only a ten percent chance of reoccurrence. This was as good as we could have hoped for and more than I thought we would get.
Lucas will live. I get to keep my dog.
More on another day. I am going to spend some time with my dogs right now.
Thank you, thank you ever so much, everyone, for caring about us,
Monday, November 11, 2013
When I joined the Army had many preconceived notions as to what it would be like to speak with veterans of the war in Viet Nam. Of course, once I actually spent some time with these men it was much more different than I thought it would be on several levels. The image I had been fed all my life of the strung out and jittery dead- end soldiers who lived with deep regret over that war was soon replaced with the reality of professional and dedicated men who went to do what they were ordered to do and did it as well as they could.
Some of what I heard might never be told because I am certain they did not want it to be repeated. Some people might not understand. There was a lot of fire and a lot of darkness and there were very long days and even longer nights. It was one of the longest and most futile wars we, as a country, visited upon our military men and women.
The last American general who truly understood the concept of war was Sherman. When the War Of Northern Aggression was declared against the Confederacy it was Sherman who warned Lincoln that the war would be a long war and it would take a standing army of at least nine hundred thousand men to win it. Lincoln’s military advisors laughed at Sherman and he was exiled away from the war. When it became clear those who thought the war would be over with few causalities and in a couple of months were terribly, horribly, wrong, Sherman was brought back. The war dragged out for over four years. In the end, Sherman marched through Georgia and created a sixty mile wide path of death, destruction, and depravation. Those who opposed him were killed. Those who submitted to him were beholding to him for their very lives.
This was, and it still is, the very essence of how to conquer a people using force.
In World War Two, Patton understood this very well but there were now rules in affect that would limit the amount of destruction that might be created. It was even worse in Korea and it was downright terrible in Nam. Our recent military actions in the Middle East were very little but American foreign policy with no thought into consequence and action without regard to cost.
To Lincoln, Sherman, Patton, and the men and women in uniform, war was personal. It was worn like a second skin. The heroics of our military personnel are clearly visible from a level that transcends ordinary human endeavor. The scared blood that ran through the veins of the first man to fire a musket at the British pumps through the hearts of those who fight, kill, and die in Afghanistan. The blood was spilled in the jungles. And it has never been this blood that has failed us and it never will fail us.
The leaders who misuse our military and those who misunderstand history will be revealed in the future as stumbling, ignorant politicians whose inactions or actions led to death and desecration of those who serve.
This day, of all days, let us remember that those in sit in Washington do not reflect the values held by those who fight in uniform. Honor, courage, duty, and commitment to liberty are what these people think their lives are worth trading for.
Remember, on this day, and every day you are able to walk as a free person, that those who believe this, those who live it, and those you owe for it.
They are your true leaders for they have shown the way since that first musket was fired and they will lead until the last shot echoes into eternity.