The dog and I are cuddled up, coffee in hand, listening to a conversation between Krista Tippett and Padraig O’Tuama, On Being. It is aired from Ireland. The scenery around me at my week long pet sit, could be in Ireland. Padraig gives hope for unimaginable repair. It’s worth a listen.
His morning prayer:
“Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder.
“I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus.
“I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day. I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
“I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet. Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast. Hello.”
The windy chilly weather we have been having finally broke. It was still and the sun was shining. I was headed to meet my new pet sitting client out Hwy. 200 winding along the Blackfoot river. The idea that I would have a week of pet sitting out the Blackfoot area felt like a gift. It is my favorite area, my favorite river. I want my ashes sprinkled in the river that has given me fond memories with family and friends as well as solitary restorative time. When I drove up to the homestead situated in large meadow with views of rolling hills and woods I felt even luckier. I have it in my mind to use my week caring for a dog, writing, walking and reading. I knew nothing about the owner. Another client of mine recommended me to her. As we chatted, I learned more about her and her deceased husband who happens to be a renowned Montana writer. “Yes, this is a writer’s home, write while you are here,” she exclaimed. Her dog is exceptionally sweet and stayed close as we walked a half mile to the creek, a tributary of the Blackfoot. I got to hear the history of her home. The more we talked, the more connections we discovered. She and her husband have been to Jackson, MS for a signing at Lemuria bookstore where I used to work. She remembered John, my old boss and owner. We are friends with several fellow writers. I was uplifted by it all. We toured the home, stopping to get instructions for the TV and remote. The TV turned on and there was the news of the Uvalde, TX school shooting. Then it wasn’t a good day. 24 years ago, when my daughter was in high school, our community experienced a school shooting. A fifteen year old killed two and wounded 21 of his classmates at Thurston high school. I remember it like it was yesterday, the community shock and grief, the fear of my daughter even going to school. To think that just this past year, a law was passed in Texas: a permitless carry bill that Texas conservatives had long sought for and failed to achieve. The law allows most Texans to carry handguns openly in public without going through training or having to get permits. Long guns, like rifles and shotguns, had already been allowed to be carried without a permit. Law makers are protecting gun laws, not people. They want to protect the unborn without protecting the already born. It feels overwhelming to think it is out of our hands. In spite of overwhelm I will be writing letters. I will vote in the upcoming Montana election, June 7th, after careful study. Whatever else might be done, I’d appreciate hearing about it. Meantime, I won’t take for granted that I get to “baby” sit for two of my favorite little girls tonight, a guaranteed good time.
The judge did not grant me time with my grandchildren. I was prepared for that. Even so, the tears are there, as well as the need for quiet and reflection. Bottom line: I was not the mother my daughter needed me to be. That is my sorrow.
This thread popped up on twitter. A friend is writing about the repair of her marriage through her husband’s addiction and sobriety. It is a remarkable story. She often post thought provoking questions. What is true for my daughter is she remembers things I did, that I don’t. She felt fear when she saw my anger. She did not have the mother she deserved. That is truth. Yes, I am a different person today, recovered. Even with the news of the court ruling, nothing in me wanted to go get drunk. That is what I would have done in the past. I would have lashed out at someone and lost their trust and respect. My emotions are with me today. What I do with them is what is different. This weekend is Mother’s Day. I plan to walk among the trees and find some water to sit by.
It is the eve of a court ruling. A judge will determine whether I am able to see my grandchildren or not. It could go either way. I am preparing myself for the either way. There are a lot needs in the world that need to be met. One is childcare. The other is for some who are aging; a sense of purpose. Our contemporary world allows folks to travel, to move to a desired place. Often, leaving parents and grandparents behind. I could begin a network of connecting the two. It could be for one-on-one childcare, or a childcare center run by “grandmothers”. Certainly, background checks would be done, applications, letters of reference, all the necessary checks. I’ve operated a childcare program before; I know how to do all that. However, this ruling goes, I want to continue to have a full life and yes, a sense of purpose. When I learned I would be a grandmother, my heart was so full of hope. Hope first, that my child and I would come together and heal our wounds. That she would accept my help, that we would communicate effectively, and past wrongs would be forgiven. Visions of trips to the library, hikes, bike rides, reading, driving to sports and lessons, all the while laughing, embracing and kissing the hurts away with my grandkids came into view when I first heard the news of being of a grandmother.
However, the judge chooses to rule, I like the idea of connecting the needs of children and an older generation. I’ll run with that idea and see what I can make happen.
He has risen. Yes, Jesus did. But Robert, who owns the hotel, went through a bad bout of shingles, got hit by a car and had two cataract surgeries this past year, will turn 83 on Easter Sunday. The second cataract surgery was this past week, so eye drops are still happening four times a day until the first of May. He refuses to do them himself. He knows his short term memory is going and could forget. Also, I know he loves all the attention, as he hears the latest of any goings on in the house, telling a joke or stories of his past (which he has begun to repeat often). I usually do the drops. When I am away pet sitting I stop by to help when I can. Otherwise, someone created a group text to organize the giving of the drops. Robert still stays active each day. He plays cards regularly and goes for walks. He stays upbeat and positive. One evening he said, “I am feeling discouraged.” I replied, “Oh, how so?” His come back was “I didn’t say anything.” That was the end of that.
Sunday, someone is cooking a ham. Housemates will potluck around that. The birthday man loves mashed potatoes, they will be my contribution. Certainly, we will fill the house with flowers. Robert with his dutch heritage loves his flowers.
Just last week, I showed Robert a picture of a great horned owl, I captured on camera. He loves it and wants a print. We looked through some of my photos from other potlucks, etc at the hotel. I’ve printed those as well and will add to the photo albums of past years at the hotel. Those will be his gifts.
It will be a simple, yet sweet celebration of an 83 year old Dutch man who continues to rise.
It’s been a week since I’ve had to do Robert’s eye drops four times a day. My last day of dog sitting for two very sweet Aussies is today. It has felt like a vacation, in a house on the south side of Missoula overlooking the valley, waking to springtime songbirds. After Robert’s cataract surgery that’s been the routine, eye drops 4X/day. At his post op appointment they discovered an infection in the other eye, so more drops. Once that’s cleared up, then surgery on that eye. After two weeks of this routine, I realized I needed a break. That’s the beauty of pet sitting. On the other hand, I’ve become somewhat attached to Robert, who I sometimes refer to as my pretend grandfather. Thankfully, our newest housemate, has the same caretaking gene I do and jumped on the eye drop routine. Tonight when I go home, I’ll be sleeping in new room. Yep, moved again. This time into truly the best room in the hotel. The person before me moved away. Robert asked me to move in as it is above his room and he wants someone quiet, above him. You may remember me writing about the system he and the previous occupant had, if Robert had a emergency and needed help, he would bang on the pipes. The room was remodeled back when Robert’s brother moved in for a bit. It’s large, at the back of the building. There is a shower, larger closet, but no toilet. I’ll also get back to helping with eye drops for a week before pet sitting again. In the writing world, I’ve got a few essays submitted. I like writing essays. It’s the waiting game and very competitive. But you keep trying just as Maurice Ruffin, a now established writer did. His submission spreadsheet revealed 291 rejections and 3 acceptances.
I’ve read differing accounts of the long term effects of anesthesia. Some say it lingers in your body for up to a year. I’ve always been a low energy person, slow to get going in the morning. Lately after meniscus surgery three weeks ago, I want to nap in the afternoon and have pj’s on by 8:00 PM as well. Last night I went to a friend’s house for dinner at 6 PM. Embarrassingly, my eyelids were suddenly heavy at 8:00. Of course, my body is still in healing mode. I was fast asleep in my bed (the bed where I am cat sitting) by 9:30. But I wonder after a total of ten surgeries in my life, starting with a tonsillectomy, then appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, C-section, uterus removed, then an ovary, then the last ovary (three separate surgeries), ACL repair, ankle tendon repair, and meniscus repair if long term effects of anesthesia has any effect on my low energy. With summer around the bend, sunshine, a healed pain free knee I may be bouncing out of bed with new found energy. How’s that for positive thinking?! Meantime, Robert had his cataract surgery on Friday. All went well. Now we are continuing eyes drops four times a day for three weeks. Every time I’ve done them the past two days, he acts surprised when I say, “we have to do these four times a day for three weeks.” “REALLY?”, he exclaims! As if the questioning will change the fact. What do you question, hoping it will change the facts? Are there situations where the question will change the facts?
The hotel smelled of perfume when I came home after a week of pet sitting. On tables, kitchen counters, bathroom counters, and window sills, purple hyacinths sat bringing the hope of spring. This same scent and color came to the hotel last year at this time. Robert is dutch. He loves flowers. Throughout the year, he brings home bouquets. We are lucky to have a farmer’s market across the street in the spring and summer. Each Saturday, he brings us fresh flowers for the community dining area. Otherwise, he picks up a bunch at the grocery store. But he goes all out with the hyacinths. Once we have enjoyed the blooms, Robert gathers all the bulbs to take to a friend who plants them in his garden. Thankfully, I don’t have any pet sitting for a couple of weeks. Robert will have cataract surgery on Friday. Thursday I’ll make sure he gets the eye drops that have to administered four times that day, then drops each day for a week. He will be seeing the world through a new lens. I woke up at 6:00 AM to the sound of wind pushing at my windows, the dumpster being pushed with it’s force in the alley and Brenda the cat meowing to be fed. My 3rd floor windows are practically at the mouth of the Hellgate Canyon, which is notorious for its winds that blow into Missoula from the northeast. An arctic front has blown in with temperatures in the teens. Thank goodness we have hyacinths to remind us this will pass. So Brenda and I are snuggled up under my down comforter going nowhere. At least not until 2:00 this afternoon for a physical therapy appointment. Before I turned on my computer to write, check email and before I went to social media land for all it’s good and bad, I opened Brian Doyle‘s book of essays, One Long River of Song, Notes on Wonder. Reading his words are a spiritual experience. We lost him too soon to cancer. I am making it a habit to not turn on my computer until I have done some reading each morning. As always I grabble with social media. Twitter has become my media of choice as of late as I follow and connect with writers. However, it can feel a bit overwhelming in the pressure to keep up with tweets.
For now I will leave you with the last paragraph of Brian Doyle’s essay, The Greatest Nature Essay Ever: “And finally the last paragraph. It turns out that the perfect nature essay is quite short, it’s a lean taut thing, an arrow and not a cannon, and here at the end there’s a flash of humor and hint or tone or subtext of sadness, a touch of rue, you can’t quite put your finger on it but it’s there, a dark thread in the fabric, and there’s also a shot of expresso hope, hope against all odds and sense, but riveting there’s no call to arms, no clarion brassy trumpet blast, no website to which you are directed, no hint that you, yes you, should be ashamed of how much water you use or the car you drive or the fact that you just turned the thermostat up to seventy, or that you actually have not voted in the past two elections despite what you told the kids and the goat. Nor is there a rimshot ending, a bang, a last twist of the dagger. Oddly, sweetly, the essay just ends with a feeling eerily like a warm hand brushed against your cheek, and you sit there, near tears, smiling, and then you stand up. Changed.” Brian Doyle
My first pet sit, a week after meniscus surgery is perfect. It’s not far from where I live, a single level small home and two dogs that do not require walks. They have a fenced in back yard. And it’s just for a couple of nights. Physical therapy has started. I’m moving around pretty well and have visions of summer hikes. But when the dogs and I had lain down to read at 2:30 in the afternoon yesterday, they fell into a delicious nap with me for the next two hours. I still get tired.
I got the most delightful email. I want to share the highlight of it with you. A dear friend of mine, LeBrie Rich, is a felt artist. A few years ago I was lucky to pass through Portland, OR while her art show, “Groceries” was up at an art gallery. It was remarkable. Almost twenty years ago, she and I chatted while safety pinning wool together in order to create beautiful felted scarves. Next we would sit with a bowl of warm soapy water, rubbing wool around in our hands to make colorful felted balls for an assortment of her creations; earrings, ornaments. Her craft has become fine art. She loves to share her love of felting through her workshops and felting kits. I love to share what my artist friends are up to. Her emailed announced her as a featured artist with PBS Oregon Art Beat. It’s fascinating and up-lifting and it’s not long. You’ll be glad you watched it, Lebrie Rich on Oregon Art Beat.
I’m getting back to writing my memoir. I submitted a couple of essays, still waiting to hear back. It can take up to four months. Meantime, tomorrow I have an online memoir writing workshop I’m eager for.
Now it’s time to do my physical therapy exercises. Have a great day and thanks for reading.
Not long after I moved into the hotel, a year and a half ago, the aloof black “house” kitty tip toed into my room, began hanging out and sleeping with me at night. The story is; she wandered in about 13 years ago during a party and never left. Doug took on feeding and caring for her but she belongs to the house and everyone in it. Most folks call her black kitty, some call her Brenda. I prefer Brenda. She is another blessing of living here. As a pet sitter, I have often thought of getting a pet of my own, always deciding against it. It would have to be the perfect little dog that could accompany me for pet sitting. Having a pet would work with most of my clients, but for some it wouldn’t, such as the all cat households. Also, I do enjoy my freedom to travel some when I am not pet sitting. Now that Brenda and I have bonded, I feel like a pet owner. Whenever, I am home she is in my room. I have treats and food for her. She’s not cuddly, sleeping in a chair or the very end of my bed. But every now and then she surprises me and gives me some love. Just yesterday morning, as I laid around waiting to be picked up for meniscus surgery, she found her way to my tummy and stayed there. Same this morning, purring away, sending healing energy throughout my body. My friend, Katie, drove me to surgery, giving me the inside scoop on what to expect. She had this surgery earlier in the year. She was my inspiration for going forward. After I had two cortisone shots with lots of pain as the shots wore off, it was clear surgery was the best choice. I trust Dr. Willstein, my orthopedic. He did my ACL surgery a few years back. He knows my knee. My house mate, Jennifer, picked me up. Her smiling face was there, soon after I woke up. She found me chatting away with the nicest nurse. He moved out here a few years ago from Nashville. The comfort of his southern accent, story telling and kindness along with Jennifer next to me gave me the feeling all is right with the world. The pain meds didn’t hurt either. It’s been a weary few years, so a few hours of artificially induced happiness was appreciated. So far not too much pain. Keeping knee iced and elevated with a kitty taking good care of me, recovery is going well. Housemates are checking in on me. Robert comes up to my room to get his eye drops and a visit in. He and I drove to Lolo Hot Springs last Sunday. We both needed it. He likes to take his car, but I drove (really he shouldn’t be driving at all, that’s another subject.) Boy, is he a bossy backseat driver. Reminded me of my mother, the way she would tell me which way to turn, what the best route was. I learned it’s best to take directions with grace. I want to share one more sweet hotel story. Night before last was Chinese New Year. Our housemate, Anne is Chinese. She is quiet and keeps to herself. The day of Chinese New Year, she wrote on the community board that she was cooking a feast to celebrate. All day she labored over dumplings, noodles and soup. What a delightful treat as she served up a beautiful spread, educated us about the dishes and shared a little more of herself. She left China when she was two and is adopted. She is just beginning to embrace her heritage. You could see the pride on her face from learning more about her self. The night ended with a send off of a red lantern to bring good fortune for the year of the tiger. May the year bring you good fortune. Thanks for reading.