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Two Weeks with a Newborn

January 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This endeavor of early parenthood is at once both sorely trying and utterly fulfilling. The mind runs through the full gamut of emotions in the blink of an eye, as this new life we have created, who was only moments earlier screaming questioningly to the gods about her very existence on this cold and dreary slab of rock, now slips off the breast into a sleepy revelry; one punctuated by small squeaks and twitches emanating from an otherwise unconscious and completely lifeless little rag-doll body. It is at this point, when the belly of my daughter is full and her meager appetite is satiated, that I find the whole of who I am to be complete in a way in which I have never experienced before. As I lift her delicate body and glimpse the slight scowl replacing the previously contented countenance and place that warm head against my chest, her arms hanging loosely at her side, when I feel her relax completely and melt into my skin, it is at this point that my whole world shifts and things that I once deemed important, or at the least worthwhile, drift away in the wind like the tiny motes of dust they are.

Time no longer has its characteristic continuity, the standard flow of cause and effect that I’ve grown accustomed to through long years of labored consciousness. A new baby is a mountain of potential wrapped in an untrained and flimsy body whose sole purpose in this early life is that of digestion and a means of alerting the caretakers to one of several potential discomforts. The baby knows nothing of time. She knows only that she is hungry and has but one way of communicating this fact to those ghastly large beings who supply her with food and torture her with frequent disrobing and diaper changes, who have the audacity to strip her naked and wipe her down with cold and damp cloths splashed with a slight floral fragrance that offers no apologies to this breach of her personal privacy.

Varying degrees of crying alert us to the amount of discomfort she may be feeling at any point in the day or night. We try to make sense of it, to commit it to a schedule or to understand its nature, but as the days and nights progress and bleed into each other, the only thing that comes close to describing this feeling of permanent and ragged wakefulness is the idea that life in its current incarnation exists and is maintained in something akin to a series of disjointed blinks of the eye. Those brief times when we are able to lay down in bed only to be awoken just prior to the onset of the much sought after state of REM sleep, when we suddenly find ourselves already hovering around the house with baby in hand, or fully coming to consciousness in the middle of a nearly completed diaper change, these are merely moments of fractured visions, of slightly diluted clarity, both after one blink and before the next, when time once again becomes unhinged and shifts and the experience of reality is shoved forward violently into the next moment of drowsy, eye-smacking delirium. This is parenthood in its early stages.

blink

The alarm goes off again and I am jolted awake. No, that is no alarm. That’s a baby. That’s my baby. Her cries signify the onslaught of changing time once again, followed by the hand-off to mom for a light snack and a snooze.

blink

I’m still awake? But it’s night-time and both mom and baby have long since drifted off after the most recent feeding. The transition between the alertness brought on by a baby’s cry and the attempt at one more dollop of slumber does not seem to be in the cards for now. This, I presume, I hope, will change as exhaustion becomes unbearable and I find myself jolted awake in some other facet of the day or night without any recollection as to how I arrived.

blink

Some weeks ago, I happened upon a crochet pattern for a stuffed Hobbes tiger, the toy version of Calvin’s sidekick when viewed by adults. I make the audacious assumption that my daughter will absolutely love a stuffed Hobbes tiger and cherish it forever, though in reality, I understand that I may only be fulfilling a long dormant desire from my own childhood. Maybe I’m making it for myself. In the times between sleepings and feedings when I am unable to sleep yet confined to the house, I set out to learn how to crochet.

blink

I hug my daughter close to my chest and pat her back to elicit a burp. Her second breakfast appears to have been quite substantial and she has taken on the air of one drunk on breast-milk. Her tiny body melts against my chest and I repudiate the notion of sleep so I can take advantage of the multitude of recently awakened feelings overwhelming my core being. We lay for hours in the reclining chair with her on my chest as a few streaks of tears dry against my cheek.

blink

It’s diaper changing time once again and I am only milliseconds too slow. In the time between the wiping of the bottom and the application of the new diaper, I hear a faint and brief whooshing sound and, as my reflexes have been dulled by the lack of anything reminiscent of sleep, the sudden stream of fecal matter takes me by surprise. It sprays in a jet at least eighteen inches in length, nearly as long as the beloved baby girl from which it emanated. This changing time takes a little longer than usual as I sanitize several baby garments and the changing table/dresser combination. But eighteen inches? I’m not even mad. In fact, I’m impressed.

blink

The dog is a tightly wound spring of potential energy, ready to burst at the seams in a frenzy of canine enthusiasm. She hasn’t been walked or let outside to frolic in days. I take her with me for a run on a warm winter morning. Afterward it becomes obvious that the run did nothing to degrade her exuberance. When we get back, she runs in tight, concentric circles in the backyard, reminding me of her continual need for release and lack thereof.

blink

The sun is out and my daughter is awake and fully alert. Her eyes are wide and inquisitive, dark blue sapphires full of a searching curiosity, haunting orbs that I find overwhelmingly captivating and immersive. I lose myself in those wandering eyes, drowning in the life and potential they exhibit. Nora Jones sings a ballad on the radio and I take my daughter in my arms and dance slowly around the living room. I can’t remember a time in my life when the onset of my own tears so completely took away my ability to speak or to form even a single cogent syllable, whereby at any attempt of uttering just a single word, my body convulsed uncontrollably and unintelligibly. I now know such a thing is possible.

blink

I find myself walking towards my wife as she nurses in the early hours of the morning carrying, in one hand, a glass of water and in another, a mini-sledgehammer. I give her the water as we both stare perplexedly at the hammer.

blink

What better way to pass the unsleeping hours of the dark and early morning but to remove a door in the basement and use some power tools in the garage to install a cat flap so that the litterbox is removed to one of our underutilized storage rooms? At least now I know what the mini-sledgehammer was for.

blink

I take a few minutes to swing by the library to find a book on beginner crochet techniques. The librarian tells me that I have a fifteen cent balance on my account from an overdue book. Only later, when I see the receipt left in between the pages of the crochet book, do I realize what had been overdue. It turns out to be Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The librarian didn’t even blink at this odd juxtaposition of crochet and National Socialism. What can I say? My interests are varied and know no bounds.

blink

I’m out on the road again, running alongside several miles of dreary and cold farmland tainted with the sweet odor of recently thawed manure and less recently deceased roadkill, listening to the soothing voice of David Rakoff read through partially-autobiographical and whimsical essays in his book, Half Empty. If this blog entry seems overly drawn out or perhaps a bit dramatic, it is only because I am leaning on David as a crutch and cannot help but hear his voice as I type the words. Whether I have captured his wispy and meandering style is yet to be seen, but as I am barren of sleep and ultimately incapable of finding sleep when offered, I am only able to translate these feelings to the written word by imagining them in his voice.

blink

Something of a routine has been developing for a few days, or for a short while we imagined so. We’ve heard the term cluster-feeding before and our daughter has decided that now is the time to introduce us to its cruel reality. A cluster feeding is defined as a series of nearly sequential nursing times initiated by a baby’s cry at that precise moment when the parents’ consciousness slips from wakefulness to slumber, thereby ensuring that the parents’ promise of sleep is never fully realized but only ever seen as an attainable goal one short feeding away. The beginning of a cluster feeding doesn’t necessarily have to happen during the night so long as it robs the parents of a cluster of naps.

blink

And so on. These past two weeks of sleep deprivation have been heavenly. I was able to take a few weeks off of work so that I could spend the time with my burgeoning family and frankly, it’s not enough time. In the latter part of the pregnancy, some people were making it seem like two weeks would be overkill, that I would become overly bored and frustrated and would be wishing I was back at the office so that I could be out of earshot of a screaming baby and once again productive, at least in a business sense. My experience hasn’t played out like that. If anything, I wish I could spend more time here with my daughter. But alas, duty calls and in a few days, I will head back to the office, back to building websites that sell shoes, and building more things so that they can sell even more shoes, then fixing problems because shoes aren’t selling as quickly as shoes are expected to be sold, then trying to think of new and innovative ways to write software to sell even more shoes. So it goes. But now, in addition to coming home to my amazing wife, I have an equally amazing little girl to come home to who will make it all worthwhile.

PS – The crochet is coming along nicely. I now have two Hobbes’ legs. She is going to love the completed project, but until then, she has offered to model a few of these feline appendages.

RAWRRR!!! I'm a tiger!

RAWRRR!!! I’m a tiger!

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PRK – 5 Years Later

November 20, 2012 71 comments

Today marks the fifth anniversary of having the outer layers of my eyes melted away, then zapped by lasers, only to heal again over the next three months into near perfect vision. Five years ago, I had PRK surgery and blogged about my experience.

It’s funny how you forget about all the little things you had to worry about before the surgery. The daily rituals of inserting and removing and cleaning contacts, the additional pain and effort involved when having a foreign object in your eye next to your contact, the way you couldn’t read the alarm clock at night without squinting or moving extra close, the way you were screwed if you lost a contact while skiing or after getting punched in the face at the boxing gym; I haven’t had to think about those things in years.

I haven’t been to the eye doctor since those last routine checkups in the months following the PRK surgery. At the time, my left eye was 20/20 and my right eye was slightly worse. This still holds true today, though if I really think about it and compare, it does seem like the right eye is worse now than it was back then. I haven’t done a vision test and I don’t plan on it; it just feels a little fuzzy and sometimes, only rarely, does it creep into my consciousness.

I have never had any problems with dry eyes. The halos slowly diminished over the months after the surgery. While I don’t think those halos are completely gone, they are very minimal and non-intrusive. I can look up at the stars at night without being bothered by, or even thinking about halos. That was one of the things that scared me most in the first year after my surgery – in the months following the operation, the night sky was a smudgy mess and the individual pinpricks of light were now splattered across my field of view, as if I was looking through a smudgy and wet windshield. No amount of blinking would make the stars clearer, but over time, the halos and smudginess diminished to the point of forgetfulness, and I could once again appreciate the night sky without being burdened by the thought that it might be forever skewed.

When I opted for PRK instead of LASIK, it was because I was in kickboxing and MMA and I dreaded the idea of getting the corneal flap left by LASIK torn off during a bout. It’s funny though – during my healing time, I happened to read a book called The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and realized that I was probably lucky not to have suffered any long term mental problems from getting routinely pummeled in the head during training and fights, and I should probably quit while I was ahead. That book discussed extreme cases of a variety of brain problems – not necessarily impact related – but it made me a lot more conscious about my own gray matter, and I realized I should probably try to save what I have left. Thus, I closed the chapter on my fighting life. Now I’m just a lover.

I’m very happy that I had the surgery. While I think my right eye may have degraded in visual acuity somewhat, it isn’t something that’s noticeable until I focus on it. And even then, perhaps it hasn’t even changed. I love being able to wake up with full sight, to see underwater, and to not be encumbered by glasses or contacts. I know the experience hasn’t been great for everyone, as evidenced by the large numbers of comments on this blog. It worked for me.

If I were to ever recommend PRK, I’d make sure to highlight a few things:

  1. Do your research. Learn about the procedure, the risks and complications, and the healing process. There are plenty of blogs like mine which describe the experience of different people. I was a patient for whom everything turned out just right. There are also a number of horror stories. Know your risks.
  2. Go to a few clinics and compare the doctors. Review them online. Make sure you trust them with one of your most important senses.
  3. Be persistent with your doctor. Have them explain the healing time and possible complications in detail. If they wave off complications or try to bully you into doing the procedure even though you’re not a perfect candidate, run.
  4. Be prepared for at least a month of barely being able to read text directly in front of your face, and for at least a three month time of very bad vision
  5. Try not to despair. It’s a long healing process and you’ll likely spend the first week of it incapacitated and blind, and in a good amount of pain. The next few months can be agonizing, but if all goes well, you’ll hopefully be in love with your new eyesight and in retrospect, you’ll realize it was all worth it.

In reading a lot of the comments posted here, it seems like there are a good number of fast-food style surgeons who care more about the number of people herded through the zappy laser machine than they care about them as individuals with a life to maintain. Perhaps it’s just a sample bias, in that those are the types of people more likely to complain. Regardless, be on the lookout for any McSurgeons who try to casually dismiss the healing process or the dangers inherent in so delicate a procedure.

I can’t stress that enough. If the surgeon downplays the healing time or the risks, or if they don’t dissuade you from the surgery after telling you you’re not an ideal candidate, avoid it at all costs. There are a lot of people out there for whom this procedure will work fine, but there are a number of people who can be permanently devastated by either a botched surgery, a botched recovery time, or because they were a more “risky” candidate. If you have consistently dry eyes or thin corneas, you don’t make a good candidate and it’s just something you’re going to have to accept, because the alternative of having screwed up eyesight permanently is much more depressing than having to put in contacts or wear glasses everyday.

In all, do your research and know the risks.

I’ve been extremely happy with my results, and I wish the same to anyone looking to improve their quality of life in this aspect. Good luck on your journey, and thanks for stopping by.

Categories: eyes

How to Win the Grand Rapids Urban Adventure Race

July 14, 2012 1 comment

I have no freaking clue how to win it, but my friend Josh and I did just that. More precisely, we took first place in the Men’s division and third place overall. It was an accident, I swear. We were only trying to have fun and would have been happy if we were the next-to-last group. I was only hoping that my bike didn’t break down out of disuse and that I wouldn’t be attacked by a sudden and inconvenient need for a bowel movement. It was a long race.

We navigated around the Grand Rapids area for four hours, from start to finish. This race started and ended at Fifth Third Ball Park. Every race is different; ours hugged the Grand River and downtown after a brief visit to Belmont.

Before the race started, everyone got two large pieces of paper with topographical maps printed on the front and back, along with another sheet of paper with hints about each checkpoint. The checkpoints were scattered throughout the maps. Most of them were slightly hidden checkpoints where you would stamp your race sheet, and some of them were challenges similar to what you’d see on The Amazing Race.

Without going into too much detail, some of the challenges involved searching a library for a book with a phrase we had to write down, memorizing a paragraph that we would tell our partner and have them write down, a street number and business name cipher, having your partner describe to you a pre-assembled Lego structure behind a screen so that you could build a duplicate, counting a certain pattern of seat numbers in the entire Fifth Third Ball Park stadium, and probably a few others.

There was a part of the course that involved navigating a canoe down the Grand River, stopping at a few checkpoints, then landing and running two miles back to the canoe starting point. We didn’t do this challenge. And somehow we won? My only thought is that there were a few teams who were pushed for time but tried the canoe section near the end and didn’t quite make it back before four hours. That’s really the only way I can fathom we pulled this thing off. We rode our bikes through Riverside Park and saw a lot of people running from the canoe drop-off area, but by the time we saw them, we had around 45 minutes left in the race and there was no way we would be able to do that whole section.

Plus, it was freaking hot out. What an awful way to spend a hot day. Running around and looking for clues, basking in the ever-increasing sun. I felt like a busy little worker ant, scurrying to and fro with no apparent reason, all the while being baked by a demented child with a magnifying glass.

There were a number of checkpoints in the woods off of bike trails. Josh and I went to a clinic the prior week put on by the friendly race staff, and we got reacquainted with the proper use of a topographical map and a compass. I didn’t actually use the compass at all today but the clinic saved us in a few spots because we gained a few helpful hints on how to read a topo map. The biggest hint of all, which I failed at a few times, was not to follow other groups. Had I trusted my instincts in a few places, we would have gained a few precious minutes.

Our running wasn’t great. I kept holding up the team because I was getting too exhausted in sections of the city. It was hard to keep a pace because you’re constantly starting and stopping and checking your map, sometimes running faster and sometimes slower. That, paired with the evil sun and my lack of preparation, caused me to halt our running from time to time under the guise of “checking the map.” And my partner, Josh, rode the whole thing on a single-speed mountain bike, either because his normal bike was in disrepair or because he’s a cyborg.

Now that we’re hotshots and we’ve set the bar too high for ourselves, we’re going to have to participate in next year’s race. As winners, it’s free! Before the next race, I plan on training a little better by mixing running and biking. We were constantly on and off the bike, and some sections were all bike while others were all running. The transitions killed me. I’d plan on riding my bike a few miles, running a half mile, and so on in order to get used to the transitions. That, and get a little more familiar with reading a topo map.

My dad used to chide me that I had problems following and reading a map. I think this originated in high school when our church led week-long junior high bike trips, and I was a group leader and, a few times, I got lost. Well, dad, who’s lost now? In the age of GPSes and smartphones, I won a city-wide race using only a freaking map and I didn’t even have use a compass. Have I made you proud now, dad? HAVE I?!?

After the race: That’s me on the right, Josh is on his back with a leg cramp #winning

Team Blunderbuss

Categories: races

Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachia

May 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Jen and I and the dog took a week off to head down south. There wasn’t much of a plan beyond finding a cabin in the woods for a few days and then poking around the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail for a bit. We didn’t do much serious hiking; just the few-miles-out-and-back walks in the woods to see some waterfalls and overlooks.

We managed to find a great cabin south of Asheville that was nice and cozy, and could actually have fit another half dozen people. It was part of a little private drive that was filled with empty lots, so we had the area all to ourselves. It had a wrap-around porch circling the entire cabin, with the most scenic section being screened in so you could sit outside but avoid the rain and bugs. We weren’t quite roughing it, but it was nice and relaxing.

(pic stolen from home-away.com)

We got a little freaked out when we read the lone one-star review that said all seven vacationers got full-body staff infections from the hot tub. Yikes. We played it safe and steered clear of that cauldron of disease, just in case. The managers assured us everything was ok, but something about rotting flesh simmering in a fetid bubble bath didn’t appeal to me. Besides, just sitting on the porch overlooking the mountains and thunderstorms was plenty to keep us occupied.

We, of course, went up to the Biltmore Estate because we’re both big Hannibal Lecter fans. We did the tour and went to the wine tasting room. Most of the wines were, how do you say, rather shitty, but I purchased a bottle for the in-laws, then promptly dropped it after the cashier completed the sale. I tried to catch it on the way down in a flail of arms and it bounced once unscathed, but shattered on the second impact. They gave me another bottle out of pity, so I commend them for that, but my original point still stands. Their wine tastes like fermented Welches; like Jesus. You know, vile communion wine, this is my blood and all that rubbish. It’s that bad. My only regret is that I broke just one bottle.

That was by far our cleanest day. The remaining days were spent walking miles and miles on mountain trails, applying layers of bug spray and suntan lotion on top of sweat, dirt, and deodorant. We dragged Piper with us everywhere, and she was quite a trooper. She never complained, but I found out that she does have this bad habit of trying to kill you if you happen to trip or stumble while having her on a leash: She bolts, so as soon as you commend yourself on the fine job you’ve done of staying upright, the frantic dog has just reached the end of her thirty foot leash and jerks you forward with the clear intention of avenging gravity’s recent loss. Other than that, she handled the mountain trails like a champ.

We hiked up several thousand stairs to Chimney Rock (near Bat Cave, NC. AWESOME), saw plenty of waterfalls and back-country along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and hiked up to McAffee’s Knob near Roanoke. We camped for a few nights at random rustic campsites along the Blue Ridge Parkway and I was glad my wife didn’t wake up to the sound of coyotes howling, because they sounded too close for comfort.

All in all it was a pretty relaxing time. A friend asked me, a bit confused, “So, what is it you plan on doing? Just walk around in the woods?” Yes. Absolutely. I would love to someday do the entire Appalachian Trail; to get away from it all for a few months of mind-numbing serenity. If that ever happens, I’ll be sure to write about it here.

Categories: dog, travel

Salesman of the Year

April 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m sitting here at the Kia dealership getting my oil changed (for only $20!) and I just ran into the guy who sold us our new car in January. I jokingly asked how his finger was to see if he remembered me. He did.

You see, when we were first looking at cars, we were narrowing it down and he was showing us the interior of a Hyundai when I slammed the poor schmuck’s fingers in the car door. I was speechless. So was he, though you could tell he was really struggling to keep the expletives behind sealed lips. I urged him to go inside and walk it off or to put some ice on it, anything to make the situation a little less awkward. He valiantly stuck around and began to point and explain about the cupholders before shaking his head and going inside, leaving us the keys and telling us to take our time driving around the neighborhood.

We thankfully left ol’ Eight Finger Freddy and cruised around a little bit, wondering whether his digits would be all right; wondering how anyone in their right mind, who sold cars for a living, who got paid showing cars to strangers day in and day out, could be so dense as to leave their fingers directly on the part of the car door everyone’s mom most feared. His hand had been splayed out across the rib of the frame between the driver’s side front and back door. He was peering through the open front door; I was peering through the rear. He had finished a sentence and I nodded and shut the door. Simple as that. His right hand fingers got smushed by the rear door at the worst point possible – where, if you remember your physics class, the movement of the lever is at its shortest length but the applied force is the most magnified.

Then we thought, maybe he’s trying to take us for a ride. Maybe this is his thing. He sacrifices a few fingers in the name of a sale. If he did, I thought, he earned it. We ended up buying the Kia Sorento we test-drove earlier, and though we’re very happy with the car and I’m pretty sure we made our minds up before circumcising his right hand, there’s a part of me that wonders how much those nearly severed digits played into the sale. I’d like to think not at all, but the skeptic in me says I’d be a fool to rule out the possibility.

Fast forward to today, when I get the oil changed and run into him in the main waiting area. I jokingly ask about his fingers and he smiles and holds up his right hand, and that’s when I notice the splint holding his ring finger straight, wrapped in an athletic bandage. He says that some other customer had smashed his hand in the car door, just like I did three months ago.

I bet he made that sale, too.

Categories: life, pondering

I Traded My Jeep for a Pile of Human Kidneys

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

The National Kidney Foundation came by today to pick up my Jeep. They’ve got a donation program where you give them your car and they give you a sack full of human kidneys in about thirty days, after they auction off the vehicle and convert its value to kidney currency. At the going street rate, I’m expecting one, maybe two pillow sacks full of kidneys. I probably won’t keep them. Probably.

We tried selling the Jeep, but people from the internet are too quick to low-ball you. That, and I’m a horrible salesman. I figure, if I’m up front and honest, they’ll find out what an upstanding person I am and that in and of itself should raise its net worth. Instead, they’re all like, “I’m not buying a Jeep with an engine that goes CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK when you turn it on. Is there something wrong with you?” And I tell them no, you read the ad; I was straight up, now give me some money. And they don’t. They try to haggle by asking me to cut the price in half, and instead, after I bid them farewell, I just raise the price on Craigslist. But even that doesn’t work. They just keep going lower. I don’t think they understand haggling.

What they truly don’t understand is that its sentimental value is through the roof. I got this Jeep when I got my wife, though at that time I had only duped her into dating me. It was on one of our first dates that I asked her to drive it home for me from the car shop. I trusted her even then.

I have always been disappointed in this Jeep. I only got it out of necessity after I spun out my old black Cherokee on the East Beltline and slammed into the side of a car three vehicles ahead of me while leaving the in-between cars unscathed and slack-jawed. Ta-da! The Grand Cherokee was a step down from the Cherokee. I seemed to have lots of problems with it. It got horrible pick-up and, when driving up slowly sloping inclines, it would often feel the need to jump down two or three gears at a time, sending the RPMs and your heart-rate sky-high. I had to get the transmission replaced after it started swapping spit with the radiator. The back hatch wouldn’t open for a few years. The cruise control and air conditioning went in and out regularly. My wife’s favorite was the windshield wipers which were tragically crippled and sporadic, and it was they who decided when the time was right to oscillate, not you. Three of the four electric windows’ mechanical arms failed and left the window flaccid in the down position. A few months ago, the water pump went out on the first snowy day and my toes were cold while I waited for a tow-truck. And then the engine started making its death knell, a loud clacking sound that signaled an imminent and potentially catastrophic explosion. On top of all that, I was regularly taunted about the fact that it looked more like a van than a Jeep; a fact which I could not argue. It was time to move on.

That’s not to say we haven’t had our good times as well. We drove that thing everywhere. It has seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. We’ve had it on countless trips up to northern Michigan where, during the twilight hours, you can build up a exterior shell of blackflies an inch thick. We drove it to Cape Cod with the engine coughing and sputtering, forcing us to get new spark plugs, and I’m pretty sure the guy ripped me off by replacing something else unnecessarily. We drove it to California loaded with everything we needed to keep us going for four months on the road and, on the way back, we had a brake caliper seize up somewhere east of Lake Tahoe and we drove back to Michigan with a horrible grinding sound that you could feel in your feet. Ah, the memories of me yelling at my wife on the highway not to use the brakes. You can’t put a price on that.

That Jeep had a wonderful aroma that will be hard to reproduce. Last night I just sat in it for a minute, trying to capture what remained of it, remembering all the good times. It’s got a hint of dirty mountain biking socks hidden under the seats for weeks, mixed with a broken bottle of Aftershock and two broken bottles of Guinness absorbed into the back seat carpet (we weren’t drinking, only transporting); the remnant aroma of a bag of weed which cooked in the hot summer sun for a weekend in the seat pockets, left by an unnamed acquaintance; it has absorbed the campfire smoke of trees in the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Coastline, as well as trees from the West Coast near Big Sur and Yosemite; it’s got a year’s worth of dog hair, mud, and saliva seeped into the carpet and seats without the slightest chance of ever coming out; and years of sand and sweat from biking, hiking, running, and beach excursions. I don’t think they make an air freshener powerful enough to take that aroma away, and that’s good, because I kind of like it.

But now it’s time to part. We’ve had some good times, but there comes a point when you painfully realize it’s time to move on. I’ve managed to avoid the catastrophic engine explosion so far, and I think that she’s holding out just long enough so I don’t have to see her die. I’ve made my peace, but it’s hard to watch her go. She left quietly today while no one was around. Some people came by in white suits and a long white truck, and silently loaded her up to take her away. You know, I don’t even need that sack of kidneys. There are other people who could probably use them way more than me. I’ll let the Kidney Foundation keep them and distribute them however they see fit. It’s what she would have wanted.

Categories: life, pondering

My Dog is a Luddite

March 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Piper spontaneously developed a new and unfounded fear this past week as Jen and I were watching The Time Traveler’s Wife. She wasn’t frightened by the complexity of the narrative, or by pondering the nature of the lead character’s debilitating temporal handicap, or even by the thought of knowing the time and place of your own death. No, it was the mundane explosion of an on-screen firework which startled her from her sleep, awakening her to an entirely terrifying world in which nothing would ever be the same; a world dominated by a big-screen TV and loud, unearthly noises emanating from the walls.

Her acknowledgement of the TV has changed her life forever. Up until this firework explosion, Piper never quite got the concept of TV. No matter what was showing or how loud the speakers became, she never paid it the least amount of attention. This goes for computer screens too. While Jen and I were away for a few months in California, we would Skype home occasionally, and Piper would be immune to our faces and barely register our voices. This has all now changed.

She has now become a quivering wreck of a canine whenever we watch a movie or play a video game on the big screen. She’ll spend the duration of the movie trying to force her face between your leg and the couch, often stretching her facial skin beyond what even Barbara Walters’ face could handle. She’ll hide under the end table with only her nose peeking out, wide-eyed and panicked at the large, moving images coming from across the room. Several times, she has sneaked up from the side and half-climbed up onto the back of the couch before we shooed her down, at which point she just runs to the front of the couch where you barely have enough time to snap your legs shut before she stabs her head into your crotch.

It doesn’t even matter what’s on the TV. The fireworks freaked her out, so we tried out a nature documentary showing whales and a bunch of fish. Who wouldn’t be soothed by the lush and calming voice of David Attenborough? My dog, apparently.

Instead, she finds comfort in unfathomable things. Like tonight, I see her happily sitting on the rug with both arms outstretched, merrily nuzzling the ground between her elbows; licking and peeking at the space between her arms over and over again, content as could be. I figure she’s got a disemboweled toy down there, void of stuffing, as she so often entertains. This goes on for a good fifteen minutes before curiosity overcomes my placidness, and I take a look at what she’s doing. I’m horrified to see a spider; really, half a spider, covered in saliva and mushed into the carpet. She’s so proud of her new friend that I just leave her to finish the dirty business. I mean, come on! A freaking spider?!? And a slow painful death for the thing? What, did my dog love the feel of those eight, then seven, then six legs scrambling against her tongue? What kind of monstrosity is this? I certainly didn’t teach her that.

It’s yet another one of those differences I’m finding between my dog and me. For example, if I were to be suddenly awoken by a gummy fruit snack hitting me in the head and landing on the ground, I would have a few questions; like, who the hell is throwing fruit snacks, why would you waste them like that, and where has this tainted gummy snack been prior to bumping into my head? Piper has been observed to take no more than one second to come out of a deep and sublime sleep to being alert enough that she eats the fruit snack without question, hesitation, or chewing. I think she gets that part from Jen. I’ll have to test that theory the next time Jen is napping.

Regardless, I’m coming to realize that there is a large distance between my dog and me that goes beyond our oft-attempted but always failed attempts at verbal communication. We may never cross that divide. She’s going to continue to be utterly freaked out by romantic dramas and nature documentaries while being hypnotically entranced by the possibility of a live arachnid on which to slowly feast, or by the occasional magic fruit snack falling from the sky like a sweet, chewy gift from above. Despite her wildly illogical idiosyncrasies, she’s a lot of fun, very entertaining, and keeps the house mostly spider-free.

Categories: dog