Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Where Were You?

It's been a week. Everything still sucks. And I just read this post on the Facebook group "Pantsuit Nation" (which I'll keep anonymous because the group is "secret") about how Trump has gotten more liberals engaged:

"What Trump may not realize quite yet is that he has thrown a single match into a pile of kindling, and once the smoke clears, there will be a blazing fire. That is why this happened."

Taken out of context, you could read that as something a Trump supporter would say, because Trump has thrown the match that has made white nationalists, homophobes, and general bigots feel safe to come out of their shells and burn down the world.

But what this person is saying is that those with liberal beliefs, who were too afraid/weak/indifferent to share those beliefs prior to November 8, 2016, are now going to rise up and save this nation. And that's why we got Donald Trump as our president. That's it, guys. We just needed a racist rapist to be elected to the highest office in our nation in order to realize that maybe the progressive value of "just fucking take care of each other" is a pretty good one. That's why it had to happen! Don't you see?

But, like, maybe too little, too late, right? Where were all these people before, when Trump was talking about grabbing women and building walls? I'm not pretending I was some super activist, but I didn't shy away from making my beliefs known. I was not kindling. And I didn't need facing the potential end of this country as we know it as my match. I was already a flame.

It is just so frustrating to see all the hand-wringing despair and "we will rise" stuff coming from people who were mostly silent prior to last week. We wouldn't have to rise if we were already risen.

Sure, these well-meaning people voted for the Democrat, but maybe no one in their lives knew that was the case, or they didn't donate to any progressive causes, or they simply un-followed friends who posted racist/sexist/homophobic memes on Facebook, instead of standing up for justice, or they weren't the least bit vocal at Sunday dinners with their racist uncles. And speaking as someone who was yelling at her granddad about Obama's "Islamism" way back in 2008, this is hard to reconcile.

But I'm a parent. And if there's one thing my wife and I try to stick to, it's that it's never too late to make it right. You can always start over. I just had to use that line on our son last night, in fact. He went to bed after being a complete jerk, and I was tempted to just let the night end like that. But parenthood (and my wife) sometimes brings out the best in me. I went in to his room and told him it was never too late to make things right, and shortly after he came out and did just that.

If I can swallow my pride with a seven-year-old (maybe you think that's easy; it's not), I can sure as hell do it with people who have always been on my side, even if they didn't know until now how important it was to make that clear.

Welcome aboard, suddenly-vocal liberals. We have work to do.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Why I Fight

I am a grown woman who ate SpaghettiOs (with meatballs, duh) for lunch, lest you get concerned that I have any fucks left to give.

I continue to see posts from friends and friends of friends like, "Can't we all at least agree that we should beg Trump supporters to be kind, request that they repudiate some of Trump's particularly evil statements, and see if they'll work with us to make this world a better place?"

It's truly as if none of the people posting those sorts of things paid attention to Trump or his supporters during the entire run of the campaign. Trump isn't kind. His supporters voted for him anyway. He said all those evil things. They voted for him anyway. He claimed to want to make America great again, which was really just a veiled call to make it white again. And it wasn't even all that veiled. They voted for him anyway.

And they won. Why in the world would they change anything about themselves or the system now? They were not cast aside and regarded as folks clinging to a bygone era of divisiveness. They were instead validated. They walked away from November 8 not with a feeling of dejectedness or perhaps an opportunity to reflect on if their beliefs really hold water, but with a sense of entitlement.

In nature, wildfires are sometimes good things. They are regenerative. You burn the thing down and you start over. Life begins anew and it's all the better for it. Maybe this is why some Trump voters went the way they did. They believed that Trump would be the one to start us over. "He'll bring back the jobs!" they cried. The problem is that what they wanted was a natural wildfire. What they got was a dumpster fire in the back alley of the National Archives Museum, and it's about to jump inside and light up the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.

Do I think every person who cast a vote for Trump is a bad person? I don't know. Honestly. I go back and forth on that about every 30 seconds, namely because I do not want to believe so many people could be so terrible, but I also cannot see how an actual good person could vote for that man. Knowing everything they knew, how is it possible to say, "Yes, that man should be my president"? Even if you believed every nonsense "scandal" they pushed on Hillary, how do the two even compare?

I've been thinking about this pretty much non-stop since Tuesday night, and I'm no closer to an answer. But I did realize today one thing I know about a lot of people -- they're petty.

My dad's side of the family is from Idaho. He has seven brothers and sisters, and he and one of his sisters are the only two who left Idaho. The rest are still there, and most of their kids are as well. It's an insulated bunch, to say the very least. And while there are a few good eggs, the majority of them are uneducated. By which I do not mean that they didn't go to college, because though they didn't, that's not the only mark of education. I just mean there's a general lack of interest in knowledge and bettering one's self through learning. The sort of people who live for hunting season and don't recycle or care about water conservation or reducing their dependence on foreign oil. They are, in short, everything I am not.

Things I have been attacked for by the most vocal of these family members over the years:

  • Expressing my disgust with a cartoon implying that children aren't allowed to say "Christmas" in a public school. 
  • Expressing my concern over the proceeds from the sale of something from my grandparents' drugstore being donated to Salvation Army, because I am more than disheartened by that organization's stance on homosexuality.
  • Expressing my sadness over the word "gay" being used as a pejorative by my cousin's husband.

There were other small incidents over the years. But it turns out they were all really just saving up for the coup de grĂ¢ce. After I called a cousin out for a heinously offensive post after the Orlando shooting (reposting some bullshit from a guy who said those who were killed were "blubbering heap[s] on the floor" because they didn't have guns to fight back), several members of my family had officially had enough.

It's important at this point that you remember that all I have ever been fighting for is inclusion and tolerance. And that doesn't mean that I have to respect your opinion that I am inferior because of my sexuality, even if you believe your religion convinces you of that inferiority. That's not tolerance, no matter how many times some right-winger whines about how liberals only want tolerance when it suits them.

In July, I took my wife and child with me to Idaho to visit my grandma and the three cousins who bothered to show up and say hello. It was at least the twelfth time my wife has been with me, so she's not new to the place. Neither is my son. My granddad loved them both before his death five years ago, and my grandma still does.

At my grandma's house, there's a furnace room in the basement that has a lot of junk in it (decorations for different holidays, old furniture, etc.), as well as a refrigerator and freezer. When you want a Pepsi or a seltzer, you go down to the furnace room. The room is not finished, and so on the studs and other wood of the walls, over the years people have signed their names and written messages. I wrote a really corny passage when I was 16 years old, and a couple years ago, my wife and son added their names.

Early in our week there this past summer, my wife wanted a seltzer, so she went to the furnace room. She came back up, devastated, and told me that there was something I needed to see. I went down there and found this:

Where you see the big black scribbles are where my wife and child's names had been the last time we were in town (the year before). At some point in that year, someone had taken the time to find a marker, go downstairs, get something to stand on (because even a tall person would have trouble reaching this spot), and scribble out my wife's name and my child's name. Not the message I wrote years ago. Not even where I signed my own name. They scratched out my family like they didn't even matter.

I have a pretty good idea about which particular members of my family would have been involved in this. I can see them giggling about it and being so proud of this little revolt. I know they were just waiting to learn that we had discovered what they had done, because getting a reaction is exactly what they wanted. And they did. My wife cried, and my son, who was six years old (and four at the time he signed his name), asked, "Why do they hate us?" They are petty. They wanted to punish me, and so they tried to erase my family.

In other words, they reacted in a childish way to something they didn't like and made a decision that impacted other people, without really thinking through the ramifications of such a choice for those other people or what good it would even do for themselves.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that they also happen to be Trump supporters.

These people are in your family, too. They're your friends and your neighbors. They listened to a man-child bloviating for however the hell long this campaign lasted, and they got themselves riled up. They got angry, and they reacted by voting against our nation's (and their own) best interests. And now we all have to live with it.

So, no, I'm still not interested in accepting these people. I know that when they go low, I'm supposed to be high. But I'm sorry, Michelle, to me that has always meant something like, "I'm not ever going to vote against anyone else's civil rights or for the exclusion of anyone in our society, no matter how much they want to do the same to me," not, "I'm going to accept that 60 million people voted for a hateful bigot, and I'll just learn to forgive and forget."

I can't forgive. I can't forget. I can't accept that those 60 million people are not awful and petty and just plain wrong. I will not normalize the behavior of their candidate, and I believe that normalizing his voting bloc is just as reprehensible. So I will not tell them that I don't believe they are just like him.

I guess I have my answer -- I don't believe you can be a good person if you voted for Trump. Maybe before that vote? But the moment you chose him, any righteousness you had about your moral code disappeared.

And though at the moment I can't find a whole lot of hope or things I can do, and I am terrified about what all of this means for my family and my country and my planet, I will fight. For my rights, and for the rights of others. Because when our civil liberties are attacked, that affects us all. So, Trump supporters, you won't get it, won't understand how it's possible to believe someone to be awful but still believe in his/her basic human rights, but I'll be fighting for you, too. That's how I'll go high while you go low.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Not Ready to Back Down

I saw a petition this morning that implores the electors of the Electoral College to go with the popular vote instead of the way they’re supposed to vote. Look, every thinking person knows the Electoral College is a joke. I won’t go into it, but if you want to know, read this.

Donald Trump didn’t like the electoral college in 2012, when for a little bit it looked like Romney would win the popular vote and lose the election. It didn’t work out that way, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was right about the Electoral College, even if his reasons for hating it were partisan.

No complaints about the process this year, though. Turns out for all his blathering about “rigging,” the one way the election was truly rigged was set in stone (or on parchment) by our Founding Fathers a long time ago. And it has been further rigged by the appalling gerrymandering of districts that the Republicans have done over the years.

So I saw this petition. And my first thought was, “How would the left feel if those on the right started this petition after a Clinton victory? We would just think they’re sore losers.”

Then I thought about who this nation, thanks to the centuries-old Electoral College process, just elected to be our president. No one needs me to go into the details, because we’ve all heard them for months. He’s awful, and the proof is staggering. And yet 59 million people in this nation still voted for it. Because Hillary’s emails? Or because Bill’s affair? Or just because they’re plain misogynist/racist/homophobic/ignorant? Whatever it was, it was enough reason for them to elect a white supremacist.

But more people voted for the woman. And though I have no hope that a petition will have any impact on it, I also don’t believe that it represents the will of sore losers. I believe it’s maybe the only thing we can do to at least let our voices be heard that we will not stand for this man who has promised to build a wall to suddenly be the guy who’s going to unite a nation. Because though I read from someone yesterday that “Protesting is never the answer!” (let that piece of dumbness settle with you for just a second as you think of every image you’ve ever known from the Civil Rights Movement, to name just one bit of history where the American right to protest has been our only means, and an effective tool at that), a petition and protests are all we have right now. And so I signed the petition. And I think you should, too. Go here.

I’m still numb. Maybe I’m never going to feel anything again? Or maybe it's that I'm afraid if I start letting it all affect me, I'll never be able to stop the agony. But Vienna Teng’s “City Hall” showed up on Pandora today, and my wife wept at the line, "If they take it away again someday, this beautiful thing won't change." And I don’t like when my wife is sad. So you won’t hear me saying that I know that not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, homophobic, dumb fuck. Because I think you all are. Every single one. Your choice to be misled by a sensationalist media (and the megalomaniac they followed off a cliff) into believing that the woman in this race is a criminal is likely to destroy this nation as we know it, to say nothing of any hope we had of halting (or even slowing) climate change. You deserve every bit of anger thrown your way. You deserve to watch people weep for their futures. Because you made this choice. A vote for Clinton wasn’t a vote for hatred or the death of a planet. That vote took nothing from anyone. Even the dimmest among you knows you can’t say the same about Trump.

The closest I’ve come to feeling like I could cry in the last two days is when I saw this picture:


Think about what man has done for us in eight years, what he and his family have been up against. And look at that. We made him sit there and do “the right thing” for the peaceful transition and shake that hatemonger’s hand. If that doesn’t break your heart, I don’t want to know you. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nowhere to Go

I'll tell you right now, if Hillary won, I likely would have done some gloating. I don't have any shame in that, as the gloating would have been like this -- "You idiots who thought America should only be white, that a rapist and a bigot should be its president, you were wrong. That's not who we are as a nation, and you have been soundly defeated. Love won."

The bigots and racists were not soundly defeated. They will lose the popular vote, but that hardly matters when more than 50 million people voted for a white supremacist, and the archaic rules of the electoral college mean that those 50 million people live in just the right places to put him in the presidency. And so now they gloat. Only their gloating has a much different ring to it than mine would have. It is the gloating of the entitled, of those who believe themselves to be superior to their fellow man, who think that laziness or immigrants stealing jobs are the only reasons anyone could be poor. These are the gloats of hatred, telling us that the little niggling belief you've always had that the bad guy always wins was actually right. The bad guy won. And love did not.

And I don't want to be positive about it. I don't want to be told that now is the time where we have to fight for what we believe, because while I don't think that fight ever really ends (there will always be some asshole out there trying to ruin everyone's day), it should have been largely dealt with in the last eight years. We elected a black president, which was AMAZING, and a few things did get better. But instead of ushering in a new era of progressive change, our Congress obstructed him at every turn, then ran on the campaign that he couldn't change anything. And now everything that happened since 2008 is likely to be obliterated. Like, I don't know, my right to have my marriage federally recognized, for example.

I don't want to see another screenshot of some flowery text proclaiming, per Maya Angelou, that we "still rise." Because I don't know that we do. Maybe in several generations, I guess? But I'm 36. It's not old, but it's not young. And I don't want to live the second half of my life feeling like I could lose everything at any moment. I cried last night, basically wailing to my wife that I don't want to live in a Trump presidency. Since then I have been mostly numb.

Numb because I do not know how to stop myself from believing that love doesn't win, and that it maybe never has. Numb because it just feels so hopeless. If we couldn't mobilize to stop someone so obviously evil, what possible reason do we have to believe that we can do it now, when he has the presidency and the full support of Congress behind him and the ability to nominate at least two SCOTUS justices?

I believed in hope and change in 2008. I donated and I wrote emails to people and engaged in Facebook debates. I did not knock on doors or make phone calls, because doing that terrifies me. Not because I'm antisocial (though I am), but because I don't know who's out there. Though after last night, I guess I really do, and it turns out my fears were not unfounded.

I believed again in 2012, and again last night. I thought she would win. I thought we could do this, and that the tide was turning in this nation. But I misread that tide, and now it feels like good people are drowning in it.

Long story short, I haven't cried again. But I'm terrified. And really, really sad. Turns out I should have saved the headline of my last post for this one.

Monday, November 7, 2016

It Makes Me Sad

Last night I let a complete stranger ruin my night. I left Facebook because of it (temporarily, obviously), but without making a sweeping statement about it. Because I've gotten less dramatic in my old age. So now I cool off for 24 hours and write a blog post.

But that's allowed. Because it's November, so I'm supposed to write a couple words every day, or a sonnet every hour, or a novel a week, or something like that, right? Listen, I know I could Google this to find out the actual name of the writing phenomenon that happens in November, but then it wouldn't be a joke, would it?

This stranger on Facebook wrote me (on Messenger), which feels like a violation to begin with, because I truly don't know him in even the most distant way. We have no mutual friends. He referred to me "attacking" some friend of his on Facebook. In this entire election cycle, I have been involved in three Facebook debates. Given my history of mixing it up on social media in past elections, this is something worthy of celebration, and I'm surprised Hillary hasn't put me on the shortlist for Secretary of the Interior (because I've been so good at just keeping everything bottled up inside), especially when you consider that all three debates have come within the last week.

In not a single one of these debates was I discussing anything with someone I actually know. These were threads on friends' pages, or the pages of friends of friends. And it sounds like a copout, but I can't even remember the stupid conversations now. That's how meaningless they were. But not so meaningless to Bruce Rigby of Utah.

I've insulated my Facebook world so much that I don't see any posts from redneck high school classmates or redneck cousins. I did this on purpose, because I don't believe that Jefferson quote you see going around all the time about how politics shouldn't come between friends or whatever. Politics does come between friends. And it should. My political beliefs are my beliefs. If my friends do not believe the same things, or are not at least willing to listen and have genuine conversations about my beliefs and theirs, why should I bother keeping them around? Life is short. I have shit to do. "Explaining why being kind to people is a good thing" isn't one of the things I feel like adding to my to-do list. It should be obvious, shouldn't it?

I can be called a lot of things -- morose, grumpy, surly, Madam Secretary of the Interior -- but "hateful" has never been, and will never be, an adjective that could describe me accurately. Hatred is literally the opposite of everything I believe. I want everyone to get along. And none of the Facebook debates this past week involved me "spreading hatred." Even a little bit.

So this message was a bit of a shock to my system. Not because I don't know there are people out there who disagree with me, but because in order to find those people these days, I have to go looking. I have to read comments on articles and Tweets. I don't generally see the awful stuff on Facebook because I've made the choice to remove it from there. It was my safe space, if you will. And I was glad enough to have it.

Bruce destroyed that last night, because my decision to defend a qualified presidential candidate against a white supremacist made him "sad." This man saw something I wrote on Facebook that apparently disagreed with whatever friend of a friend of a friend needed his saving, and so he took time out of his day to write to tell me that I was wrong. First to tell me that hatred is bad, then to tell me how great he is because he respects people, and finally to tell me how sad this little lady's words made him. I don't think it's at all a stretch to say that this happened because he saw I'm a woman, and women aren't supposed to talk that way at all, let alone to any man in a semi-public setting. Whether Bruce realizes it or not, he mansplained, patted himself on the back, and displayed his fragile ego, all in two sentences. Remarkable, really. He could go on the road as a one-man band called "White American Male." Though I think maybe Ted Nugent has that market cornered.

There was not much to the conversation that ensued. I told Bruce it was creepy to write a stranger about something that was none of his business. He said he was defending a friend (but wouldn't say which one), so it was his business. When I told him it bordered on harassment, he thoughtfully explained that I could report him to the police if I wished. Then he blocked me so I couldn't respond further. Which, naturally, made me fucking insane.

I wish that any part of what Bruce wrote had been genuine. Realness might have gotten him somewhere. But he wasn't sad. He was angry. He just wanted to point out, to a stranger, that he disagrees with her. I don't know what the motivation is there. I get it when there's an actual conversation happening on a thread, and someone jumps in. I don't understand writing someone out of the blue, days after an incident (whatever incident it was), to condescend.

Is anyone even nice anymore?

It was at this point in the post that I had a lengthy rant about kindness and what government means to me and how "Webster's defines 'general welfare' as..." Because I do believe in the government's role as caretaker, because we are the government and it is us, and that even if I really don't like someone I'm still not going to vote against his/her rights. But I had written that all last night, after the Bruce incident, and then wrote the first half of this tonight. I just read that part aloud to my wife, who laughed a lot and then said, "But you still have all the boring thousand words about government in there?"

So, no, I don't have those boring words about freedom and democracy, and the nature of our ability to exist and even thrive for the last 240 years, babe. Nor do I have your next suggestion, which had something to do with me writing about how I wasn't going to let Bruce get to me and instead was going to shoot "rainbows and positivity out of my fingertips" as I wrote.

Because remember that "pick three fictional characters that describe you" meme that went around a while ago? These are the characters my wife picked for me:

Nothing shoots out of my fingertips. Bruce did get to me. And it's going to take a little while for me to let it go, largely because the sense of entitlement -- this belief he must have had that he was going to effect change by writing his asinine message -- is just so maddening. Knowing he's out there right now, self-righteous as all get-out, is so damn frustrating.

But Clinton's going to win tomorrow. And then we're going to brace ourselves for the largest misogynistic rain of shit ever to be seen in these United States. But a woman will be president. And won't that be something?

Besides, as Secretary of the Interior, cleaning up the shitstorm will be my responsibility. And my experiences with the Bruces of the world might have just made me the right woman for the job.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Losing Us

Last week, on one of his last nights with the dogs he has known since before his second birthday, Merritt sobbed uncontrollably over the thought of never seeing them again. He cried for an hour at bedtime, calming himself down again and again, only to think of something else that would get him going again. It began with the heartbreakingly simple -- "I'll never be able to touch Chapin's hair again" -- to the cute but absurd -- "We'll never get to take them to Disneyland."

Katie sat next to him, crying, but trying to keep it together for our little boy. I sat 15 feet away in our room, mostly unable to hold back my own tears. Katie did her best to explain the situation. To tell our child why we had to take our dogs to a rescue group so someone else can adopt them. 


We met our out-of-pocket max for health insurance this year, thanks to Katie's dumb head tumor. So while that means we had to pay a big chunk of change to get that thing out of her head, it also means that any medical costs for the rest of the year are going to be free. To take advantage of that, we decided we should all get allergy tests. Katie developed an allergy to shellfish at 12, and she wanted to confirm that it was still present (several attacks, even some in the last few years, already told her that, but she was clinging to a bit of hope), and Merritt has displayed allergies to some tree nuts. So it see wise to go in and get an official diagnosis.

And so Katie went first. And while there was good news -- not allergic to mollusks, so she can eat clams and oysters and scallops! -- there was also devastating news. Her lungs, which have dealt with asthma since she was a very young child, are not performing the way they should be. After a spirometry test, which measures, among other things, how much air you're able to expel from your lungs in the first second of a big exhale, the doctor told Katie she had a target on her back. That her lungs are in bad shape for someone her age and that all the things she's allergic to -- grass, weeds, dust mites -- are making things worse.

In the first second of exhaling through this spirometry gadget, a healthy person in our age range should be able to get rid of 80% or more of his/her air. Even with her asthma, the expectation for Katie was 81%. So she blew... and got 68% of her air out. Then she took some puffs on an inhaler. There should be improvement as a result of a bronchodilator. Her improvement was marginal. Like, two-percent improvement. Still well below where she should be, especially with the medication on board. A sign that her lungs need daily help.

Merritt went next. The test confirmed the tree allergies, and also an allergy to grass and dust mites. They didn't do a spirometry test on him, because it's next to impossible to get proper results from such a young child, but the doctor told us that reducing allergens is the key in order to keep him healthy.

And so now there is a twice-daily asthma controller (a steroid) for Katie. And $350 worth of allergen mitigation products (air purifiers, pillow and mattress covers). And the toughest one of them all -- re-homing the dogs in order to cut down on all the allergens they bring in every time they go outside, and to reduce the number of dead skin cells present in the home that dust mites love to feed on.


I don't know why we got dogs. Almost five years ago, after having lunch, Katie and I decided to stop by a Petco that was holding an adoption event. There we found 10-week-old Chapin, who weighed 3.2 pounds. And when she snuggled him on her shoulder, Katie didn't want to let him go. And so we had a dog. And every other week, when Merritt went to his dad's and we didn't see him for seven days, Chapin was the one who helped Katie get through it. A therapy dog, if you will.

About six months later, I became obsessed with the idea of getting a second dog. I don't know where the need came from. But it was strong. After searching lots of different places, we ended up at a PetSmart adoption event on a whim. That's where we saw Gilmore. We watched her brother get adopted, and then another dog in the same kennel went, too And she was alone, and my heart broke. And though Katie said, "Someone else will adopt her," my will won out. And we had two dogs. We were in the middle of transitioning Chapin to a new food, and his stomach was not appreciative. He showed that when, on the drive home with the new addition to our family, he sprayed diarrhea all over the front passenger seat. At the time we joked that it was a sign of things to come. 

We were right. Having two dogs was incredibly hard. They were messy and annoying and expensive. Boarding them for our first trip to Disneyland was more expensive than our own hotel in Anaheim. They shed hair everywhere. Our house was always full of dustballs. Their stomachs were sensitive. One loose Cheerio could lead to a nightmare digestive situation for Chapin. Gilmore was always nervous. Even after having her for years, if we approached her with a harness in a way that she somehow found threatening, she would pee a little.

I complained about the dogs all the time. Made comments about how I would gladly give them away. Living with me while I lived with these dogs was likely a nightmare for my wife. But she loved me and she loved them, even though they also drove her crazy, and so she put up with all of us. I would dream about how nice it would be to have a life without the responsibility that came with having pets, knowing that I could never give them up because of the unending guilt that would accompany such a decision.

But now that life is here. Katie took the dogs to the rescue group alone one Tuesday morning, four days after they said they would take our pups. Those were the longest four days, with endless crying from all of us as we pictured a life without our dogs and, more importantly, their life without us. I looked at them and wondered if they would ever understand. I pictured our house without them, but I couldn't imagine it. My mind offered an onslaught of questions that I couldn't (and still can't) answer, each of them bringing a deluge of tears. Who would adopt them? Would they go together? Will they always miss us and wonder when we're coming back? Are we doing the right thing?

We have cried every day since. I cried while alone in the house that day, setting up air purifiers, putting on mattress and pillow covers, vacuuming all the furniture, and doing laundry. When the UPS truck came to deliver a package, I rushed to the door to get there before the dogs could go crazy. Only they weren't there -- wouldn't ever be again -- and I cried. Every time I walked past the red chair in our parlor, I expected to see Gilmore's head pop up and look at me. When it wasn't there, I cried. Katie stayed gone for a while, because the thought of coming home to no dogs greeting her at the door was too much to bear. And then she came home. And it was quiet when she opened the door. And we cried. We went to coach soccer practice. And then we came home to no one jumping at us as we walked in. And we cried. It's now been nearly five full days without our dogs, the longest we have ever been without them, and it just keeps feeling terrible. 

I am sorry for how much I complained while we had them. I am sorry that my attitude created any sort of negative energy in our home. I am really sorry that I adopted them in the first place, especially being pretty certain from the beginning that the addition of Gilmore was a mistake. We promised them a forever home, and we could not keep that promise. My family is in agony now, mourning the loss of these animals. And though I know in the end it has to be the right thing -- even a tiny improvement in Katie's lungs, or the ability to prevent damage to Merritt's lungs, will make the changes worth it -- it was still a horrible decision to have to make.

Right now our dogs sit in Oregon, in a house where the rescue group operates. Or maybe in a foster home by now. They're either together or they're not. They're either eating well or they're not. They're maybe happy. Or they're not. The hardest part is not knowing. We turned them over and said goodbye, and that's that. But if we walked back into that house right now, they would greet us and think, "I knew they were coming back!" Or maybe that's me projecting human emotions onto animals. Except all of you on Facebook post videos of dogs greeting their owners after a year's deployment or two years of being missing. Dogs remember who they belong to. They know their people. 

I was right about the guilt I would feel if we gave them up. What I did not expect was the grief.


On that night where Merritt cried and cried over losing his dogs, Katie worked to try to make him feel better, even though there was really nothing she could say. She pointed to a piece of art that hangs in our room, which reads, "Nothing can do anything to us." She said, "See? We'll be okay. Nothing can do anything to us."

"But they're a part of us," Merritt wailed. "And so it can never be okay."

He's partly right. We will move on. We will still be us and we will survive this. But after having to make this decision and say goodbye to two-fifths of our family, I don't think any of us will ever be 100% okay again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day: Please Don't Die

About 29 years ago, I met a girl. We were seven, possibly eight, years old. We met at school. Or at church, in preparation for our First Communion. There is a picture of us together (with a few people between us) on that most holy day.

I remember the day somewhat well. My maternal grandmother was in town to witness the occasion of the day her granddaughter married Jesus and then ate his flesh and drank his blood for the first time (or something -- I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the doctrine); my parents and siblings were there as well. I wore white, ever the traditional bride. I even had on white gloves. There is a picture of my family with my grandmother. I remember sitting there waiting for that picture to be taken and then climbing a tree in the church yard afterward.

What I do not remember is the girl.

She will tell me, 23 years later, that we were friends. That we played together frequently. She will provide pictures to prove she’s not a liar -- me dressed like Danny Zuko at her ‘50s-themed ninth birthday, my sister roller skating on the back patio of the house where this girl lived with her family.

But my memory will not budge on this one. I remember so very much about my time at Edwards Air Force Base -- like the first time I met a girl named Erin, who was a year older than me, and we raced our bikes down the street, smiling at each other, the wind blowing in our hair like it was a god damn Pantene for Kids© commercial. That girl I remember.

I remember being on roller skates on my front porch, slipping, and crashing to the ground so hard I had the wind knocked out of me. I remember trips to the ER for asthma-related trouble; trips to Golden Cantina, the Mexican restaurant off-base in a town called Rosamond; parties where we “roof-stomped,” because the 1950s housing at this desert base had perfectly flat roofs, and everyone thought it was hilarious to have kids get up and jump on the roofs during baby showers or other parties where kids weren’t invited.

The point is, my memories of this period are very specific. Certain smells will bring back memories. The base has changed drastically since I lived there, but if it looked the same today, I could walk around blindfolded and not run into anything. I can see it all in my mind, no problem. My parents are still friends with so many people we met at that base (including Chris Hadfield, to just blatantly name-drop), and I see these people somewhat often. My connection to this time in my life is strong.

But short of a vague notion of having once eaten okra at her house, I do not remember this girl -- this one who is now the most important person in my life -- at all. It is a point of consternation these days, especially when I say things like, “My friend Natalie and I once [insert childhood memory here],” only to have the girl say, in exasperation, “I was THERE!”

Despite not remembering her at all from my childhood, I fell in love with her anyway, packed up and left my life in Los Angeles, and flew headlong into the unknown/abyss of a real relationship. I even married her. I hope Jesus didn’t mind too much.

It has been 2,057 days since I showed up on her front porch and we started this insanity. And 1,579 days since we got married (the first time). Merritt was 261 days old when I got to town; he’s now 2,318 days old. We’ve moved four times. We’ve purchased a house. We’ve refinanced that house’s mortgage. We’ve accrued debts and paid them off. We’ve made dumb mistakes and amazing decisions. We’ve fought hard, with each other and for each other. And we’ve loved harder.

Tomorrow, that girl who I’ve known for decades but only remember for about the last six years, is going into a hospital, where doctors will give her some sedative, cut a hole in her groin area, insert a catheter into her femoral artery, and feed a wire through her arteries until they reach her right temple. They will inject her with dye so that the fluoroscope can do its job. There is concern here, as the dye contains iodine, and she has always been believed to be allergic to iodine. It may be a misplaced concern, thanks to my research on the shellfish/iodine connection, but I digress.

She is terrified. I am terrified. And this thing is only a diagnostic procedure. It will only tell us what (potentially) terrifying thing has to come next. I was working in my office today, and she was in our bed, telling me that she was too paralyzed by fear to move. And so I went in there and held her. And we cried a bunch, until we had to stop because my tears were flowing into her ear.

If anything goes wrong in this procedure tomorrow, or the next, or the next, I will lose everything. My wife. My child. My family. The very reason for my being, what keeps me getting up every day to do a job I don’t particularly enjoy and live in a town I don’t particularly like. The loss would be unbearable.

We know that this is a relatively safe procedure. We know people have them done every day. We do not need to be told that anymore. The rational mind is not at work when it comes to fear, and so we fret and we picture the very worst.

For the last nearly six years, we have been making all kinds of memories. I’m backing up 40,000 photos to the cloud right now, the evidence of so many of those moments. There is nothing in my life right now that doesn’t tie to something Katie and/or Merritt has said and/or done. Every piece of this house has meaning. Every song is one we’ve listened to together or talked about. Every show, every book, every stretch of highway -- all of it holds a memory of my family.

This girl left my life for decades before she found me again. And I couldn’t remember a moment of knowing her. But if I lose her now, either tomorrow or at any point in the process of getting this thing out of her head, I will have six years’ worth of memories, reminding me of her every single moment.

I don’t know what the deal is with this universe. If there’s a higher power, I’ve only seen evidence that it’s a nasty one. But I don’t know that there’s any truth to the idea that sometimes it feels like the universe is out to get you. I don’t think the universe really cares that much about individual people who essentially amount to nothing when compared to the size and age of space.

But wouldn’t it just be a kick if somewhere there’s a being in charge saying, “Oh, you didn’t remember her from childhood, so we gave her back to you. But 2,057 days is the limit. Now we’re taking her away.” Like a script from a particularly depressing episode of The Twilight Zone. Even writing this, I feel like I'm putting some sort of juju out there that is tempting the universe to do something awful. But by acknowledging that I'm putting it out there, I'm counteracting that juju, right? 


I can’t stop my mind from running through the worst scenario again and again. If she goes away, I will be left with only memories. The blessing (or whatever non-biblical word means the same thing) and the curse is that, barring some Eternal Sunshine situation, this time I won’t be able to forget.