Monday, March 28, 2005


Holy Week was grueling and beautiful. All the things it should be. It also coincided with Spring Break, so JC and I spent plenty of time together, which was nice. We began the week talking about all the things we would accomplish -- cleaning out the closets, choosing wallpapers, making final decisions about home repairs. We did exactly none of those things. Some things we did accomplish: - Finding our new favorite restaurant. - Spending too much money. - Holding Lolita's teensy baby for the first time (my accomplishment; he was chicken). - Staying awake past 11 p.m. (one night only). - Writing what I think was a pretty good column, which I will offer here: ............. EASTER, VOICES FROM BEYOND AND A HAUNTED CHEW TOY The dead always surprise you. I mean, look at Jesus. What could be more surprising than that? Try having your dead mother talk to you through a dog toy. A few years ago, mostly at my urging, my mom got a dog. He’s a little shih-tzu/poodle mix with soft, curly black hair and a face like an ewok. His many virtues in the cuteness department are directly inverse to his virtues in the intelligence department. Also the house training department. Despite the fact that he is a sweet but terribly stupid dog who chews the edges of kitchen cabinets and goes potty indoors, my mother named him Sukha, pronounced SUE-kah, which is a Buddhist word that translates to something like “Joy.” Mom was the kind of person who liked to lift you up by believing in you, even when you didn’t quite deserve it yet. Even if you peed on the kitchen floor. I thought it would be good for Mom to have a dog because she lived alone and needed a project. And, selfishly, I thought that her having a dog on which to lavish her affection might decrease the number of times per day that she called me at work. “Hey,” she would say in no particular rush. “What are you doing?” But because she lived alone, Mom felt guilty about the amount of time she left the dog alone when she was at work or otherwise occupied. So she bought a toy that could keep him company: A red and blue hard plastic ball with a cavity in the center that dispenses treats and a small, motion-sensitive speaker that emits the owner’s recorded voice when the ball moves. The idea is that, while you are away at work, your lonely dog can have so much fun rolling the ball, eating the treats and listening to your voice that he’ll never miss you. Or, because some dogs aren’t so bright, he will believe that you have been trapped in the tiny plastic ball, are calling for him frantically and throwing treats at him in a effort to guide him to your rescue. Sukha was the second sort of dog. He hated the ball and barked anxiously and incessantly at the evil little prison every time he heard his mistress’ voice calling to him from inside its depths. That in itself can be entertaining, but soon you have to take the ball away and put it somewhere a dog can’t stumble across it, such as the top of your refrigerator. That is where the toy was, a month or two after Mom died, when our family friend Penny was at Mom’s house, alone, helping sort through Mom’s things. As she worked in the kitchen, she also was talking to Mom and hoping Mom was in a better place. “Oh, Mary. Just give me a sign that you’re O.K.” “Sukha! Sukha! Good boy! Come here Sukha! Good boy, Sukha, Sukha!” Penny had bumped into the fridge or closed the freezer door hard enough to jostle the ball. And, of course, she nearly peed on the kitchen floor, herself - first from the momentary fright, and then from laughter, because that is EXACTLY the kind of joke my mom would pull from the grave. Exactly. The ball is at my house now. Sometimes I shake it on purpose to hear her voice, or play it for my daughter, who loves it without understanding it. But most often, her voice comes as a surprise. I toss a pair of socks into an open drawer, unaware that the ball is inside, and the socks set it off. I kick the refrigerator door closed because I have apple juice in one hand and a toddler in the other, and there is her voice from somewhere behind the coils. I am tired and overwhelmed and I cannot believe how much life gives and how much it costs and I lean into the desk, and there is her voice. “Sukha! Sukha!” “Joy! Joy!” That’s what grief is like a year into it. You stumble over it in the middle of your day like a child’s sneaker. “Who left that there?” The edges get softer, though. And when you stumble, you’re not as likely to fall. It’s O.K. And it’s O.K. to go after it on purpose. Look through the dresser drawers, behind the refrigerator and under the papers on your desk, and when you find it, take it in both hands, and shake it. Shake it until it says: “Joy! Joy!”


Blogger King of Peace said...

Thanks so much for sharing the story of the dog from Hell with the chew toy from Heaven. It was a joy to read. The Lord is risen indeed!

The Rev. Frank Logue, Vicar + King of Peace Episcopal Church

9:32 AM  
Blogger Moreena said...

This is another beautiful entry. Makes me want to move south to read your column.

I just discovered your blog, and am enjoying it immensely, although it's clear that it's come from a lot of pain this year, but joy, too. Thank you!

12:20 PM  
Anonymous TellingTruth said...

What a beautiful metaphor for grief. Thank you so much for sharing it. Where's your column?

5:07 PM  
Anonymous JaneMac said...

Love the story (loved it in the paper on Sunday first!) and loved that there was more to read when I finally got back here today! You really should write that book!

(Yeah, I'm another Pensacola GTNGer who is hooked on reading witty blogs with religious and child-rearing overtones!)

2:35 PM  
Anonymous said...

Oh how many emotions did you just stir within me?! I felt them all, but with all the time and all the things you had to go through and decide what to do with them, etc., I and my brother's wife didn't have those things. You see, my brother decided after being healed 2x of Leukemia and relapsing from something strange... that he would just get rid of everything he wore, etc! He said, "Nobody needs this many clothes!" I'm sure he was correct. He left the usual things for his son; all the boy toys, the boat, the big stuff :) But a stupid amoeba (worm eating his brain) killed him with a weakened immune system. I looked for something to remind me of him. Something that was 'his' and I found a Bible in a desk drawer. That was all. It's hard isn't it to lose a loved one? I have never been so out of control than in the 'grief process' which so many people speak as if it is an every day life occurance and should be handled that way - i don't know.. I have lost several close friends, but maybe I could justify their deaths. How do I blame something that can't be touched and held or even seen with the naked eye? At least I have gotten that far in my loss that I can admit that I am angry at a worm I can't stomp and scream at!!!! And, I do have some short video clips of my brother for cancer awareness and the news followed him through the hospital while between illnesses he witnessed to patients. I have that. And, I know he is with the Lord. I guess I will have to take up the rest with my little brother when I wrestle him down in Heaven!
God Bless You and Keep up your writing! and thanks (oh, if you want to delete this, I wouldn't blame you).

7:08 PM  

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