Borrowed Time

g6XuJI4HSVOSmkQfqdnHZAI have been wanting to write about my friend Ridley but I have been putting it off as I have been with ALL my writing ideas. If I keep putting off writing about Ridley it might be too late as Ridley is living on borrowed time. Ridley isn’t a human friend he is a canine one – and sometimes they are the best friends to have.

Ridley came to us at the ripe old age of 10 – he turned 11 just a couple months after his arrival. I love to adopt senior dogs. I have a heart for them.  Ridley never has acted like an old dog though. It is a breed thing I think. I should mention Ridley is an Old English Sheepdog (OES)- likely backyard bred. I say this because he is a big gangly guy – all legs that splay out in awkward positions when he lays down – and lets just say he is not bright- but he is affable and funny and loving.

Ridley is now almost 15 years old and he is failing.  His back legs are to a point where he is unable to get himself up – though once in a while something motivates him and he gets up on his own. He takes meds to help with any pain issues – and aside from his hips being sore when he goes to lay down he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He is having issues with pottying.  He wears a belly pad and that helps some. He just was diagnosed with whip worm and is being treated. Let me tell you that is not something you want your dog to get! Food goes right though them.  Last month it was a skin bacterial infection. His immune system is likely not what it once was.

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One of his last beach walks. We try to get him out to the bay each trip. Kevin carries him up and down the walkway steps.

We have thought a million times – this is Ridleys last trip to the beach, last walk to see the chickens, last this and last that- but we have been wrong.  Ridley is tenacious – and alert- still funny- and it is for these reasons he is still with us. He is involved in life. But it is getting to the point where we may have to make a hard choice to let him go even if he is still happy and engaged. If he can’t hold himself up at all that will be a problem. I can’t lift him really- I do it but it can flare up my pain.  But at least once up he can motor around ok. He can also motor on his butt and scoot along. People think it is sad- I think it speaks to his determination and his engagement in life. It tells me he is still in the game. He doesn’t want to give up. And that is what makes knowing when to let him go so hard.

Kevin and I are Rid’s prime caretakers and we can’t really go anywhere and leave him with someone else. Our son can take care of him for a night or two- but forget it if we wanted to travel for longer. Believe me, we don’t want to put him down for our own selfish reasons.  I am trying to let him squeeze as much time in this life as I can. But I also want to be a good steward to him.  But there is that self check where we have to make sure we are keeping him alive for him and not for us. Once the scales tip towards keeping him alive to avoid feeling the grief of his loss then I know its time. We aren’t quite there yet but its closing in. I never want to be selfish with his life.

Sadly this is likley our last sheep dog. We are trying to downsize our dog population (we have 5 and mom who lives with us has one) so we wont be “backfilling” when we lose one of the gang we have now.

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The Gang- Rudy, Pierce, Ridley, Reese, And Lemon

The significance of Ridley coming to our home will always be an important part of his story.  He was preceded here by an amazing OES named Dave. Dave was my heart dog..he was part of me and he took part of me with him when he left. Dave was sheepdog through and through…he was stubborn and he never listened but somehow he mostly did what you wanted him to do- but it was always his choice. Dave bit me and bit Kevin on a couple occasions when we went to retrieve some item he shouldn’t have that he was trying to ingest. Mostly it was napkins but once he got a plastic baggie- unbeknownst to us – that was a pricey vet visit and an uncomfortable few days as we waited for it to pass.

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Dave and Rudy years ago

Dave had those OES traits and many good ones. I became his job. I was his person and he was my friend. I loved that guy. Before he left he trained my Golden Rudy about how to take over being my companion.  Rudy has done a great job – he is always at my side-  and  welcomed Ridley  – maybe with some jealousy . Ridley also decided I was his person so is with us most of the time – and Rudy has shared me.  So most of the time in my office it is Me, Rudy, and Ridley. It will feel empty  -literally and figuratively – when he is gone.

So back to the significance of his being here. I told you about Dave- but there was another OES after Dave. We had an OES for 4 days. We got him from a NC rescue group who basically had no idea what they were doing and they allowed a dog that had bitten his foster carer to be adopted.  Long story short- Kevin was attacked by this dog when he went to put a leash on -and the dog went after him. There was no warning growl – nothing.  I had stepped away for just a minute and I heard Kevin yell and ran to see this dog biting and biting my husband. No growls – just an attack. Kevin got away and had significant wounds- he has a hand disfigurement still to this day. He was ill with infection for days- almost was hospitalized- probably he should have been. It was awful. And the idea of ever getting an OES again was shattered for both of us.

But I knew some good people in the OES world. Betsey, the woman I got Dave from who was not doing rescue anymore (which is why I got a dog from NC) was so upset for us. She and two other wonderful women who run rescues in New England and North Carolina (a different rescue than the one we got the biter dog from) encouraged us to take time to heal from this and regroup.

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I loved this and had to take a photo

In my heart I knew I wanted an OES-but I was scared too. They can bite- because they are stubborn – but I knew from having Dave who was a hard head that biting isn’t first on their agenda. I knew the attack I saw on my husband was not a breed thing it was because the dog wasn’t right in the head. So getting another one was an idea that I tabled for a while – I could not quite nix the idea entirely. So I kept in touch with my OES rescue friends.

Belinda Lamm of TOESR (Tarheels Old English Sheepdog Rescue) kept checking in on us. She was so upset by what happened and knew how awful the situation had been for us – the rescue where the biter dog came from was awful to us- and she did not want us to be disillusioned because of that experience.

One day she told me about a senior dog name Ridley that had been in the owners backyard and uncared for and someone had called animal control. The owner willfully gave up Ridley who by then was a matted mess – he couldn’t move his head.  Belinda’s group went and got him and put him in a foster home – once they had him cleaned up and vetted she wrote and asked if we might like to adopt him. I was skeptical – as you can imagine- and I asked a ton of questions. But in the end I trusted her – and Kevin trusted me. So we said yes we would take him.

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Car Ride!

Ridley restored our love of the breed. He is annoying and funny and so many things. He has no boundaries and likes to lick your hair if you bend down or sit on the floor. If you don’t close the door to the potty you will have a visitor. He nags and nags you for a bite when you eat, he drools puddles of slime, he thinks he is the leader of the pack and it has gotten him bitten a couple times too. He loves to ride in the car – he will just lay in zen mode anytime he is in the car- he is the perfect rider. He is not bright but he knows how to love. I think at some point Ridley had lived inside his home and he was cared for as his demeanor says “I like people- they are my friends”.

I will always be grateful to Ridley for reminding me not to judge a whole community just because of one bad apple.

I will miss this guy. I don’t when goodbye will be – but it will be sooner than later.  I try to enjoy the time. Having to care for a dog in their declining days builds a tight bond. I try not to sit and cry as I wait for the day to come. I would be wasting precious time with him – but I cry a little sometimes.  For now, we just love and care for him the best we can – we have frustrating moments for sure he is a lot of work now- but we love him- and we want to enjoy these last borrowed days.

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Car Ride

The day will come soon where Ridley will be laying in the van – going for a ride to get a special treat. Maybe a McDs burger or some other greasy human feast. In that food there will be a bit of tranquilizer, and after his meal we will drive around the country side chatting with him until he falls asleep. Then we will go to the vets and open the side door of the van where the vet will meet us. In that van – that is a calm place for him- is where we will say our goodbyes as the vet helps him to slip away.  Kevin and I will be holding him and loving him as his spirit takes flight to it’s next job.

Ok now I am crying. It gets too real sometimes.

Anyway – thanks for letting me tell you a bit about Ridley.  He is a good guy- and a good friend. There will be a big gap in our lives when he is gone.

Ok I think I am going to grab him a treat because he’s a good boy….

Hover over photos to see who is who!

Hair eating!

On the ground with Ridley!

That Cat

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My barn cat Ziggy died yesterday. A hit and run.

I was outside yesterday morning with my very old sheepdog- letting him pee out front because he can’t get down the back deck stairs anymore- when I saw a young teen get out an SUV that had pulled into my neighbors driveway across the street – she went up and knocked on the neighbors door.  I know the neighbors don’t have teens so the SUV and the teen seemed out of place.

Her knock was not answered and she turned back toward the car.  I think she had seen me when I first stepped outside a minute before but I had stepped back behind the tree in my yard not wanting to be seen bc I was snooping. Yes I admit I was. But I wasn’t hidden well. The teen began walking back to the car.  I had called my dog to come in and I as I turned to go in I glanced over to the SUV and I saw that she was not stopping at the SUV. She was passing it and heading my way. I pretended not to see her. I am not a morning person – and I am not big on conversing before I have some food and my tea. 

 It was 7:30am -I thought she must be selling something. But it was way too early to be selling things- so that theory made no sense. Then it dawned on me as I heard the low ring of our doorbell that she wouldn’t be selling anything – something else was up -so I went to the door.

Maybe they were lost I thought. Some homes on this stretch of road are hidden down long driveways with their mailboxes on the opposite side of the road. So I opened the door and I was definitely not expecting to hear what I heard this young lady say. 

“We-my mom and I-wondered if you knew who owned the cat we saw over there. It was killed by a car.”

“Oh f*ck”. Were my first words. Then my apology for such words. Then I say to this young person – Oh well well you’ve heard them before. I was rambling.

Then my questions – is it black? Yes. Did it have white. I think so. She said – but we aren’t the ones who hit him. No. No I know.  Then I am saying I can’t handle picking the cat up I’ll get my son. (Kevin was out of town). She said –my mom says it has a collar. Oh my cat doesn’t have one. (Later I realize that she misheard her mom most likely).

At that moment I’m still not sure what I’m feeling. I’m not upset – it might not be our cat right? I’m just there bumbling my words -but I know I can’t handle getting too close. I walk over to my driveway and look past the car and I see a black leg with a white paw laying still on the other side of the road. Oh shit. I’ll get my son I say.

Get a trash bag I tell him. Get the dead cat across the road. I think it’s Ziggy. I don’t even know what he said- but my almost 19 year old son went outside and got that cat in a bag- our much loved barn cat. Though at that moment I didn’t want to believe it was him. Then I wonder if he thanked the girl for stopping. Then I think how this could have unfolded had we not answered the door. Would I have found him hours later when I went to get the mail or when I took my mom to the doctor that day? 

The things that go through the mind.

Even after my son had done this terrible chore. I’m asking him was it Ziggy? Can we be sure? He didn’t know for sure. He went back to look. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to look again he didn’t say. When he came back in he still wasn’t sure. I was upset and irritated. How can you not know know your own cat I asked him? But shock is shock. And his was not wanting to know it. And there is his mom in shock wanting so hard to believe it was someone else’s cat. I even texted my neighbor that lives up behind us. Checking- Is Jafar at home? But he doesn’t wander far. He’s bigger than Ziggy. She confirms quickly -Jafar is at home..

It was Ziggy, Ziggers, Zigman, Zig….he is gone…as I write this I still can’t believe it.

I talk to my husband on the phone just before he has to go to a meeting. He told me to have my son take Ziggy to the vet – drop off his broken body. They will take care of him.  I was in shock. I didn’t know what I was feeling. Anything?

But then the like a sheet being slowly pulled off my body reality waves over me. And the tears came. So many tears.

F*ck, f*ck, f*ck. Why?

Just moments before the biggest worry I had was picking up poop on the bedroom from my old dog. But things can change in an instant.

The other day Kevin and I were going to a town nearby to shop and just as the road widens to 4 lanes a groundhog jumped out onto the road. Kevin had little room to do much bc of the traffic and sadly we hit it.  I bent over in my seat and held my ears yelling – no, no, no, no….- on and on. Kevin was rattled- and I am sure my reaction didn’t help. I cried – but calmed enough to shop for the few things we went out for. We were so upset about the groundhog we took a different route home. Since that day last weekend I had been really shook up about that incident. I had been trying to figure it out- look at it. See what it meant. 

But then Ziggy got killed on the road. 

As that sheet of shock wore off the tears burst forth for this sweet cat. For that groundhog too. For the son who struggles in rehab in Florida. For my guilt. Guilt over taking a cat from a nice lady who couldn’t keep him and making him barn cat. But he was born to be a barn cat – he took to it in days. I feel so much responsibility to my animals- and you can’t really control a barn cat. They are enigmas. But still I feel I failed in my responsibility.

I cried and cried. This was why the hitting of the groundhog hung on to me in such a way. I was needing to grieve things I had been holding in. 

There have been so many tears. Guilt and sadness about that and other things. Tears that have needed to come out – not all about this cat – this sweet cat. Tears I have hidden behind a wall that I build in order to be able to walk into each day with my armor on. Those tears clawing to come out and it took the loss of one sweet cat to break the dam.

The cloak of grief over a sweet cat and so much more. That cat that made us smile and laugh. That cat that hunted like no other.. who left us many gifts of dead prey in the barn. Rubbed up on our legs, followed us all over as we did our chores or I rode my horse. That cat who played with his buddy Jet in the barnyard. (Jet has been missing since last week- but I am hopeful he returns.) That cat that went too close to the road. That cat who died and now I grieve for so many things – and maybe in his leaving – in my finally breaking open- because we can only hold things in for so long or they become toxic to us- maybe that cat gave me a final gift. 

Thank you Ziggy- for being our cat…your job with us was complete and on you go to whatever is next. We will not forget you….

 

On the loss of a horse

 

 

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Arizon – or Airy – Arab – she was 26 years old. This is one of my favorite photos of her.

There is a time for everything

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…..

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Authors Note- I want to thank every person who messaged me, commented on my Facebook post about Airy- your support and care means so much….. and thank you Kirsten W. for the muffins ❤

 

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This past Monday  I had plans to go out to Tractor Supply with my son Luke to grab some needed feed and bedding for the animals.  I was ready to go – purse on the counter- I was filling up my water cup..one of the ones that keep your water cool all day. It was a regular day. Then it wasn’t

We had returned from the beach the evening before. -we had been gone for almost a week. When we went down to the barn to check the horses  we found some things that were not done the way we would have wanted them. It seemed like our caretaker cut some corners. We fixed the mistakes. I put the horses out on pasture. They seemed fine- no worse for wear. We headed back to the house.

So back to Monday. Earlier in the morning Kevin brought the horses in and grained them and set out hay for them .  Later as I was readying to go to Tractor Supply and I was filling up that water cup  Kevin was looking out of the back slider at the barn. I asked him what he was looking at. I thought the cats. We have one elusive kitty we only see from a distance. Kevin said , “Airy was just rolling, then she got up and pooped but now she is down rolling again.”  For some reason my internal alarm went off. I just had a bad feeling. You just know your horses and mine will roll but they never roll get up and then go down right away to roll again. We needed to get down to the barn.

Our day just went from normal to super stressful in 30 seconds.

When I got to the barn Airy was down.  Sweating, covered in dust and mud. Her eyes were far away. We tried to get her up but couldn’t. I could see she was very bloated. Oh crap…

I said or maybe yelled “Call the vet – she has colic – hurry”. Kevin ran to get my phone in the house – neither of us grabbed ours as we went out the door. When Kevin went in Airy got up walked a ways. I could not get to her fast enough before she went down again. Rolling….

I should explain what it means when horse colics. I have heard colic as being called  a horse stomach ache – and I guess it is that because there is pain – but it can turn to a deadly situation when the intestines twist causing a blockage that can only be fixed through surgery. It is very painful even in a less serious case. Horses cant vomit- they have a one way in and out system.

Wikipedia describes colic as” abdominal pain, but it is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis. The term colic can encompass all forms of gastrointestinal conditions which cause pain as well as other causes of abdominal pain not involving the gastrointestinal tract. The most common forms of colic are gastrointestinal in nature and are most often related to colonic disturbance. There are a variety of different causes of colic, some of which can prove fatal without surgical intervention.”

During signs of colic, I have been taught try to get a horse up and walk them around and not let the horse roll. As it can make the gut twist up (but I was told differently after the vet got there.). So we had to try to get her up. At one point -when Kevin ran in to grab the phone- I was holding the lead rope that connected to her halter and i was pulling on her with all my might (with my one good arm)as she lay on the ground trying to writhe from my grasp. I screamed “Stop you are going to kill yourself…stop stop! ” But somewhere inside I wondered if it was already too late. But I couldn’t go there. She had gotten colic maybe five years before this episode and we had the vet out and she was good as gold after they put a tube up her nose and put oil into her stomach. Oh and they gave her pain meds too. Surely they could get her straight again. But this time she seemed so much worse than before.

I was in utter panic inside but I was trying to keep my mind straight. I called the vet and tried to talk as Kevin and I worked on getting her up. If anything we wanted to move her from the hot sun. But if we could get her up we could get her walking.

Thankfully they said the vet was able to come right away but it would take time. We were able to get Airy up but she was not happy about it. We kept her walking in the shade and put wet towels on her. Kevin leading me following behind with a crop. I texted my neighbors to see if they had any pain meds. My neighbor, Nora, gave us oral Banamine- an NSAID.  I gave it to her as best I could and we kept walking and walking. My son Luke helped by bringing us water and watching for the vet. Airy is normally somewhat feisty and there was none of her spirit there as we walked on and on.

Walking and walking

We thought the banamine was working because she pooped and passed gas. Later we came to find out thats not a sign of improvement. She seemed to pick up her gait. But soon she was slow and hoping to be able to get down and roll.

It seemed like hours that we walked her around. It was likely only 30-40 minutes. The vet – Dr. Engle – pulled in and immediately he told us to stop making her walk.  Thats when I learned that we didnt need to make her walk and later I googled about it and found this.  Walking can be good but in other situations you are just tiring everyone out. How do you know when then to walk? In our case we all were exhausted. Now I know in her case it wasnt making a difference and now I know to stop walking a horse that is so tired.  I now feel very regretful that in her last minutes of life I was making her maybe more stressed. It hurts my heart.

After Dr. Engle gave Airy pain medicine by injection he then examined her and listened to her stomach sounds he said it was” quiet in there”. So he did a rectal exam and that is when he gave us the news I had not wanted to hear..maybe somewhere I knew what he was going to say but I had packed it away in some far reached area of my brain. He said her intestine was turned some. Not all the way. He didn’t look hopeful. I asked him the question. “Does that mean we have to put her down?”

“It looks that way…but we aren’t there quite yet” He said.  What options did we have? There was surgery  10k.  It doesn’t make sense on a 26 year old horse and he wasn’t recommending it.They also said they could find tumors during surgery and still she might not make it. I knew that wasn’t an option for us – for her.  I began to cry. I tried to hold i together but it wasn’t working.

Tubing Airy – I was in the stall with Harley.

We went on to talk a bit further about trying to stick a tube up her nose and send some mineral oil through her to see if that might help. This is what they did when she had colic before and it worked. So we decided to try this as a last ditch effort on saving her life. I stepped away to try to compose myself.  I went into the gym  which is attached to the barn and  our young friend Kirsten was there  – she was so sweet trying to comfort this very sad lady.  I grabbed kleenex. I headed back out.

My son Luke was running all over the place trying to help. Moving Harley out of the way, grabbing me more water. I can imagine how stressed he was. I could see it on his face. He felt for me and for the horse. Part of the time I didn’t even register he was there but then I would need him and he would be nearby. I am so thankful for him. And there is my husband – Kevin- who is always ready and willing to take on the hardest tasks form cleaning up the grossest of messes to leading a dying horse around in circles hoping she might recover so his wife wouldn’t be heartbroken. He is always amazing but in these situations he is stellar.

Time was standing still or it was my brain – I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next.

I stood with Harley in the stall hugging on his neck. I knew if Airy didn’t pull out of this colic and we put her down he would suffer too. Horses are herd animals and Airy and Harley were very bonded. I hurt for him.

After the vets (there were two of them here now- another showed up while I was somewhere in the barn) finished giving Airy her intubation of mineral oil I walked out and waited with them to see if she perked up. Kevin walked her around the paddock and I asked the vets what were we looking for with her. They said just any change in demeanor. Which mean she needed to perk way up. Her eyes were listless, her demeanor was not good.

I then began to ask the tougher questions because I knew we were at the end of a rope. I wasnt going to let her suffer any longer. What do we do with her body? How do you euthanize a horse? I got the answers as I watched this lovely beautiful animal struggle. She had been such a good horse. A companion to Harley and friend to us. It was my duty to not let her suffer any longer.

Kevin with Airy some years back.

…I had tried to ride Airy years ago. She was all Arab- proud and sleek.  She had a wonderful gait. Nice trot you could sit easily to. But we would get only so far in her training and she would spook or be “on her toes” too much and I became nervous to ride her- I feel off her once but I got back on but it scared me – I didn’t feel experienced enough to handle her –  and then I got Harley.   Airy’s training was put on the back burner. At that time the horses were boarded at Windsong Arabians not far from where we lived back then.  So sometimes I’d tack her up and ride but most often I rode Harley. Then in 2010 we moved them here to our farm and she became the pasture pal that we needed for Harley. I worked with her some while she was here but I never rode her – and I think she was just fine with that. She was the beauty in the field.

I think you know how the story ends here…once we saw no improvement in her demeanor and Dr. Engle did a rectal exam and found that he no longer could get  in as far as he had when he arrived which means things were not getting better and I could see that she continued to be in pain…I called time. It was her time. We took her out of the paddock to a place where she could lay down on grass – out of Harley’s site – and so the person who would pick up her remains could get to her easily.  She did lay down on her own which was better I think. She took a bite of grass- how fitting- she loved her grass. They gave her more sedative and I said my goodbyes. But there are no words that seem enough. I told her it was ok to go. She was a good girl. But the words are flat… but the hearts… they connect. She knew what I felt.

I left Kevin with her and I went into the gym. I wasn’t sure I could see her slip away. I didn’t want to see her if she was afraid…I didn’t want to convey any of my distress to her in what should be a peaceful passing for her. After she was gone I went to her. I knew her spirit was gone – I could feel that-but I pet and kissed her a final time.  She still had some grass in her mouth.We covered her with a sheet and towels and Kevin snipped some of her tail hair for me to keep. She had the most beautiful mane and tail.

The vet checked out Harley as he was distressed even though he couldn’t see Airy. They gave him a sedative. They led him over to see her.  They hoped it might help him to see her. He sniffed her body and then began eating grass. They led him back. Later he began to call for her….that has been hard.

In the end it is a blessing that we can be merciful to our animals. We can hasten their deaths- we can keep them from suffering. We have to make hard choices. In this case the choice was clear…but it was hard.  As my friend Jon Katz writes often- we have to be stewards to our animals.

A farm has a heartbeat of its own made up of all the beings that live here and for the moment the heartbeat is off.  Airy’s death doesn’t just make me sad it effects my other horse as well – which I will write about later. Everything just feels off. One less horse to feed. One less soul to connect with. There is an emptiness- I feel it..Kevin does too.

I am crying my tears now- many of them. My heart hurts but it will heal. I have my regrets. Why did I let her out into the pasture that night when we got back?  Did anything that was off from when the caretakers were here effect this? Should I have been on the lookout for more signs she wasn’t right? She seemed good Sunday night.  Did she just eat too much grass? But hindsight won’t help. She is gone. I just have to process this and grieve. The vet said this is just a case of bad luck. Her age- 26- the fact she had colic before- all were things against her. Dr. Engle did not want me to beat myself up.

After Airy died, Kevin came into the gym and he told me she was gone. We both cried a bit but then he showed me a picture. It was of a beautiful butterfly on Airy’s leg. He told me the butterfly was there through the entire process of her being euthanized. The vet said he had seen spirits leave before but never through a butterfly.

Well Miss Airy you flew away on butterfly wings….Fly free girl … and thank you….it was wonderful knowing you….

 

 

Happy Birthday Dad


Today would have been my dad’s 82nd birthday. I still can’t believe he isn’t alive. He planned on living a long time. He never would have been ready to go I don’t think. In a way I’m glad his death was fast and he didn’t see it coming. Here then gone. 

I miss my dad and have grieved him plenty over this last tough year. I sometimes felt that I didn’t know how to navigate with him gone. It’s that loss of connection that leaves a hole.  That person I have never not known isn’t existent on this planet anymore. It’s still sometimes throws me for a loop. 

I think I’m to a point where I can sort through some of the boxes I was sent by my brother who went through his effects (aka stuff) and sent me things he thought I might want. That includes many photos. I have purchased albums for them and may sort through them in the fall. Some of his clothing was used to cushion the boxes and that was the hardest thing for me to deal with when I first opened the boxes. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. 

Grief needs to be felt in order to move on I think. I don’t enjoy it. I lost three people who were very important to me in a short time. It’s been rocky. But I see that the only healthy way is to trudge through it. But we all deal with grief in our own way. We let a little in at a time. Otherwise it’s like a landslide that can knock us over and cover us and keep us from moving at all. 

I think when we lose someone we feel like we are the only ones who feel that loss. It’s because grief is a personal thing. It’s lonely.  We can talk out our feelings some and sit with others feeling the loss as welll but -for me at least -grief is deeply personal. Some days it’s lonely. But with my dad’s loss I’m processing it and I’m moving forward. 

In a tough year I have been blessed as well. I went from needing to be in bed bc of severe chronic pain to being able to move again. That thanks to a surgeon who listened and cared. I’ve been able to buy a beach house for my family. That thanks to my brother who agreed to buy me out of my dads Florida condo (and it is on Marco Island and it did survive Hurricane Irma ). My kids are doing pretty well. All working and one in community college and the other two getting ready to apply. Things are good. 

Amidst grief and loss there is so much sadness but there is joy. Lately I’ve struggled some with my feelings about many things and I’ve gone to see a threpist that I really like. This a safe place where I can open up about conflicted feelings and just vent about the last four years and get it all out. It’s a process. 

I’m sitting on the beach as I wrote this.  Something my dad would have done today I’m sure. I’m looking at the Atlantic and he likely would have been looking at the Gulf of Mexico. But we both shared a huge love of the beach. 

I think about the up and downs of our relationship and the hurts. It was quite a ride. You always want your dad to get you and if doesn’t get you then he supports your dreams. My dad didn’t always get me. I think it was easier with him to relate to guys. He was a guys guy. 

When I began my love of baseball we had lots of conversations about our teams. It was a way to bond more with him. I’m glad for that added bonus of baseball becoming my go to sport. It helped when conversations became awkward or tense. 

I began the process of forgiving my dad years ago. We were always waxing and waning. I always wanted him to just see me for me. And maybe finally he did. 

He became enamored with my photography a couple years ago after I gave him a canvas of a little mountain called Sugarloaf that was near our home in Maryland. We hiked there a few times. I think he even went there alone sometimes. I’m so glad he thought I had talent. No matter your age most of us want our parents to be proud of us. 

There are many things about my dad I don’t know. He struggled with alcohol use and it seemed he was happiest when he was buzzed. Well maybe we all are. But he loved his alcohol too much and he would never admit that it had a hold on him and as he got older I decided maybe it didn’t really matter. Let him just have fun. 

And he did have fun. He had friends and he travelled. I’m so glad for that. He even married his long time love a few years ago. That didn’t end well and it’s not a story I choose to tell now. 

My dad is buried about 45 minutes from my home. In a Catholic cemetery- next to his second wife Jean.   She passed away from Cancer in 1994 at the age of 51. His first wife is my mom. She lives with me now. He definitely wanted to have a partner. I’m not sure he ever mastered being a great husband but I know he loved all of his spouses. I’ve found my dad loved people the best way he knew how. Don’t we all try to love the best way we know how? I think it’s never perfect because we aren’t God. 

Everyone has a story. I know my dads story is deeper than I’ll ever know here on earth. But as conflicted as our relationship could be at times I am so glad he was part of my life.  He was funny and charming. He cared and I know he loved me.

 Since he has been gone I come to see how much alike we really are. My impatience and tendcies toward moodiness and my quick temper are all him.  Though I don’t often show my temper like he could. 

My dad was as big as life itself. A huge precense when he was in a room not only in stature (he was 6’4″) but also in personality.  He was more outgoing than I am and he kept up with friends better than i did. Though I am trying to be better at that.

 Stan Wilson was something. And he was my dad. 

So I’m sitting here in the beach on a beautiful day on Sept 23 remembering my dad on his birthday. I thought I could get through this without tears. But I am not. And that is ok. I cry because I loved. 

Later today I will take some of his ashes and scatter them in the bay just near our beach cottage. I want to release him into the water which he so loved. Later when the gardens are done being put in at our cottage I will scatter some of his ashes there- so he is part of Cool Breeze Cottage. I can just hear him saying “Cool Breeze! Here comes Cool Breeze!”  My high school nickname -he loved nicknames. I hated that name then but now I have three teens and I so get it! 

So happy Birthday Dad. I’d like to think you are with loved ones -your dad, Nana, Jean , keenie. And Ernie , the haleys,and mr Deveraux, mr Vogelsinger and many more. 

Happy Birthday. Your daughter here on  earth misses you so much and will love you always. 

Faces on Paper 

The thing about feelings are they ebb and flow like the tides. One moment I’m ok. Having a good day. Doing fun things. The next I’m just something else. 

I wrote the post below in one sitting. After the purge I felt better went out had a great day with my family. We are down on the shore at our new cottage. I Sat on the calm bay during an eclipse that was anti-climatic here on our longitude and latitude but the serenity in the bay was medicinal as always. 

I’m trying to piece my way through these shift that I am experiencing. During the “normal” times where things feel more I balance I wonder if I am being over sensitive to the feelings I’m having.  But that’s the point my senses feel what they feel when they feel it. Body and soul. We have to honor what we are feeling. It’s so easy to push it away. I want to. But I’m also aware that this is a season of change and I will have to navigate it and face it   .  

So below is what I wrote two days ago and there has been an ebb and a flow again and again.  At some point maybe I will feel on a more even keel again. It been a long four years.

……

I sat crying in the shower -it’s a good place to cry. Hopefully nobody hears you. 

My sense of a numbness and a loneliness began about four weeks ago. It had be creeping up before that but it reared its ugly head in mid-July. A sense I wasn’t living my life, like I am living outside it it sometimes – a sense things have changed. I felt everything  is off kilter. Would it right itself? Will it? 

In the shower I felt the need to write. My words always form in the shower. Then I have to jump out dripping wet and run to type it all out. My words are never as eloquent as they are in the shower. The shower breaks me open sometimes. A cleaning of the body and opening up the soul. 

I think I am having a battle of body and soul. My body is trying to push my feelings down and my soul which usually wins is trying to push them up. The soul is protective and honest at the same time. 

I have experienced huge losses in the last two years. My father-in-law, then my dad -which was very sudden- and four weeks ago my mother-in-law. Add in the four years of dealing with the aftermaths of cancer and two major surgeries for that aftermath in six months and more to come and three teens that keep being -well , teens – my mom moving in – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I feel the way I do.

I stood in the shower and drew a big heart on the wall and put my hand in it as I cried. Maybe I wanted to feel something familiar as I touched that wet or maybe I wanted it to heat up as a sign from someone who I loved that has crossed into the realm. I just wanted to feel something. And I felt sad so maybe that was ok. 

 I wanted something bc so many things seem shifted. 

Am I depressed? Shell shocked? Is it the meds I have to take?  Or am I just feeling the pangs of so much grief that I am holding in? 

My mother-in- law -Doris Sweeney- whom I called mom was one of my very best friends. She died July 18. She deserves a blog of her own and I will write about her when I can. I’m not ready but  I do miss her terribly. Sometimes I think maybe it’s wrong for me to grieve this loss so much bc this wasn’t my mom this was Kevin’s mom. Doesn’t he deserve to have this huge chasm of loss to himself? I feel like I am stealing his mom or the loss of her somehow. I know that’s not rational. But bc I must feel that way somewhere deep in my brain -my body is like a dam only letting bits of grief sink in. 

I think this and the fact that three people that I considered parents to me – even if two weren’t – have left this world. And crap do I miss them. 

My soul will win and require me to feel what I need to feel. It’s pushing me to deal with it all. I hope that it will get me off this rocking boat and help me to feel like I’m on dry sound land again. 

It’s lonely here. I have felt this loneliness before many years ago before I married Kevin. The alone feeling even when in a room of people. 

Kevin and his family brought so much light and balance  into my life. They have no idea. 

The other day at the memorial lunch I think I hoped it would feel like a reunion of family. That i would feel that warm feeling – like the room gets a bit warmer bc people love eachother and are happy to be together. But I just felt lonely. Nobody did anything wrong. It’s just that each of us was so sad and the part of our soul that touches each other was curled up hugging our own selves – protecting us. Or maybe it was just my soul was curled up and I couldn’t reach out. But everything was off. Sadness prevailed and was visible under the laughter and greeting of friends. Because the humans whose lives we were celebrating should have been there. 

It was a beautiful place and so many words of love were shared.  The gathering of friends was beautiful and I wanted to see my inlaws faces but all I had to look at were the many family photos we shared in collages that we all put together. 

Faces on paper were all that was left. 

I know I looked at the collages but I hardly recall any of the pictures. I even made three of the collages myself. Pinning the photos onto the framed boards one by one. I cried some. But I stealed away the feelings as best I could because other wise I couldn’t have done it. 

Faces on paper. And love and memories. I know this. But I’m not there yet. I know this is what life should be. Parents going before their children. 

Rationally I get all that. But I’m not there yet.  I’m off kilter, I feel this hole, too much has happened. 

I will begin counseling again but right now it seems too exhausting to tell someone everything that has happened.  Maybe I should give the therapist this blog post:) 

I just need a little time to see how this all processes. Writing helps. It does. It’s something that is familiar and balances me. Thank God for it. 

And God. I have written many times about my faith. I would admit  my faith has been tested sometimes in the last year especially. But in the last four I have had so many questions and some have been answered as best as they can be answered and others still flutter waiting for understanding that I might not get. But I think sitting in a church of any sort could help bc I feel a connection to God – but definitely not to a religion. I like bits and pieces of many but dislike bits and pieces too. But sometimes just sitting in a church worshipping and singing can help the soul heal. 

I sat on my horse yesterday. I longed for it. Needed it. For those few moments working with my horse some balance was in my life and that post horse buzz haloed around me for a good while.  But today that sense of unbalance of doing life but it really being part of it is back. 

I’m going out to paint some shutters for our cottage I’m hoping brush to wood will lighten this load o me at least for a while. 

There is a path that I must walk to get to a place of balance even if it is a new familiarity of my life. It’s changed the patriarchy and matriarchy that was once there is now mostly gone. What a gaping hole -albeit wound – it leaves. 

Lonely souls that have to learn to ride the rivers without a beacon ship. 

So much has happened my body and soul are trying to protect me I guess. Trying to keep the dam from breaking. In the meantime I’m floating down the river without a beacon ship  to lead me. Because now I -we- kevin and I and all my sweeney family -we- we are the new beacons  and I’m not ready to lead quite yet. 


Father’s Day without a father 

My dad and me -1963


This will be my first Father’s Day without my father. I’m not sure how it will feel tomorrow when the actual day happens. Right now it just feels like Father’s Day is tomorrow. I dont have dread. I’m sure tomorrow will bring some emotion though. Just writing about him still brings tears. 

In the recent past Fathers Days have been about my husband really. I would prepare the day around him and sometimes his dad if we made a visit to see them or if I had my in-laws for dinner. 

My dad lived far away in Florida. So we often weren’t together on Fathers Day. So I usually would send him a card or small gift and then call him. We would  chat for a bit and then go on with our day. My dad didn’t like a lot of emotional declarations and he hated goodbyes. 

We did have a Fathers Day at the beach during a reunion weekend maybe six years ago now. I loved that day because we were all together- my brother and his family and my dad. I loved that the kids got him little gifts. I can’t recall now what they were. 

Father’s Day 2011


For the life of me I can’t recall a Fathers Day from when I was young. Though I’m sure we celebrated. Maybe we just left my dad alone on those days. Gave him time to himself. He would have liked that. 

I miss my dad a lot. The initial sting of grief has abated mostly. I get those times where it really dawns on me that he’s gone and I get that gut punch. I say “dammit dad your really freaking gone!” Then the pain fades.

 I still can’t listen to his voicemails  saved to my cellphone -some from his last days. The rawness of the loss is still under the skin. I feel it as I write this. 

I still have boxes of pictures and some clothing items to deal with. They stay hidden in my storage room. Eventually I will know when I will be able to handle looking through those things. I don’t know when it will be but I do know it’s not now. 

Navigating through the grief of parental loss is different from other losses I’ve had. It’s more profound or deep. 

Losing my grandmother was the first loss I had years ago. She was my best friend. And I miss her still. That loss was my most profound until I lost my dad and that felt like someone ripped a part of me off. It hurt physically as have other losses but this was so much more painful. My body just hurt. Part of that was because my dads death was sudden. I had no time to prepare my mind that he was leaving. It just happened. Poof. I told you he didn’t like goodbyes. 

That’s the part that still gets me. The suddenness. A huge presence   here and then gone. Like the air being sucked out of the room. The emptiness and feeling of being abandoned was something I hadn’t expected. But he and my mother are people I have never not known. So the loss of that is really like losing a part of yourself. And it hurts for a while. 

But the grief has ebbed. I miss my dad. We had a complicated relationship. At times we were mad at eachother. Or at times one of us was mad at the other. Seemingly we were very different but really a lot alike. But I didnt see it until he was gone. 

I know we were in a good place when he died and for that I’m grateful. But I sure wish I could chat with him. There aren’t too many people like my dad and maybe that’s good. He was one of a kind. He made people laugh and he made people cry. He was far from perfect. But he was my dad and I loved him.  

So tomorrow Fathers Day will be about my husband – he already got his gift – a gas grill for our beach cottage- but it will also be about our dads.  Kevins and mine. This is Kevin’s second Fathers Day without his dad. 

Kevin on the right with his dad and eldest brother. Taken a few years ago.


So we will go to the cemetery where “part” of my dad is buried next to his second wife. I have some of his remains here at home in Maryland -they are to be spread somewhere but I don’t know where yet -another thing I’m not ready to deal with.   

After the cemetery we will go to the assisted living home where my mother-in-law lives. She has my father-in-laws remains in an urn next to her bed. Those will be buried with her when she leaves us. They were together for 68 years – but really they will be together forever. 

We will spend some time visiting with my mother-in-law. Some relatives that Kevin hasn’t met before are making a trek to see my mother-in-law- we hope to catch them during their visit. 

It’s important to honor those who are gone but it will be good to embrace the family who are alive. I think that will take the sting out of the day for me. 

For my husband -he doesn’t have huge expectations that my teens will do anything for him. A hug is good enough for him. I love that about him.  If we are lucky maybe we can get everyone in the same room for a meal. One to honor the dads we have known and the ones still here. The ones we miss and the ones we can still hug. 

Do I need to caption this?


I think it will be a day of mixed emotions as so many days are. 

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads reading this and many blessings to those who have lost their dads. 

Why I won’t vote this year -thank you Dad. 

Last Sunday I lost my dad suddenly and the pain is profound. I can’t even write much about it all yet. I still feel as if this is all just a horrible dream. 

I’m really worn out. I’ve had chronic pain issues over the last few years after breast cancer treatment. It hit high levels this summer and I had surgery on Oct 12 – on that day we hadn’t been able my to reach my dad and not the day before either- which was very unusual. Eventually he was found on the floor of his condo the next day Oct 13. He was rushed to ER which began a journey of ups and downs that ended in his unexpected death ten days later. 

It’s all been too much for me. The last there years – the cancer – the pain – financial trouble- the loss of my father in law – trying to find doctors to help me – moving my frail mother in law to assisted living – worrying about newly widowed mom living alone and in pain in PA. – finally having some complex nerve  surgery that seems to have helped some of my problems but maybe not all  (BC I’m still healing) -but then the icing on the cake is the loss of my father. Sometimes I just think I can’t face another second of this life. I’m so tired and beaten down. I’ve yet to figure out what I’m supposed to learn from all this. Maybe it’s resiliency but now it feels like shit. 

My Heart is cracked open. And if you’ve had that happen and most of us have – sometimes there are no words to really express what we feel. And sometimes we just don’t want to share those raw bits and pieces. But I’m a writer and I eventually will need to get out the things I feel. Now there are too many questions. Too much sadness and anger.  Just too much. 

I am as close to my breaking point as I’ve ever been. Sometimes I just want to follow my daddy to the other side. But my dad was not one to give up and neither am I. But lord I’m so tired in so many ways. 

In these last few days I’ve yet again been reminded that the very most imperically important thing is In this world is love. LOVE.  

And that’s why I’m not voting.  All I’ve seen in the last few months as I’ve layed in bed in pain -is anger and hate. And I’ll admit I’ve had a lot  of anger on my own I didnt need to feed off of more of it from other sources.  

 Anger and hate have lashed out over this crazy dance we call running for president -and it’s really not the election and really not politics. These forums just bring out the anger and hurt that’s in our world. It magnifies it. It’s shows the opposite of love.  Its just one of the focal Hate cancers that permeate our society. And I can’t bring myself to vote In a system that magnifies hate from it. It might just be too soul crushing for me. And I need things to enlighten my soul right now. Not things that poison it. 

When my dad lay dying in the hospital we formed a circle of love around him.  Most family unable to get there because it all happened so fast. My brother at his side in the ICU of a hospital in Florida along with his friend Jeff by his side – I was here in Maryland on the phone with Jeff which he held next to my fathers ear  -and Kevin and my kids were in the room with me and my brother had his family on his phone. We surrounded my dad with love as we said goodbye and prayed and told him how much he was loved. Later my brother sat with just me on the phone in that quiet ICU while we waited for my dad to take his last breath. I was holding my brother’s hand metaphorically as he held that phone -and in the opposite hand held my dads hand in his.  I spoke prayers and verses I found on the internet. The nurse removed his breathing tube -We prayed that God would lift him up – We cried – and my brother and I waited for our dads soul to rise into eternity – our hearts breaking.

 My friends this is love. 

And this is where I belong. In the realms of love  Not in the hatred of this world. My fragile soul was born into a world of such love but where there are cancers of hatred. I can no longer bring myself to be part of that sickness.

My soul seeks so much of a different path.  

My dad who loved politics and who loved to tell me often and in detail of his dislike of the candidate he planned on not voting for -would be appalled at me for not voting. I think I told him that one year many years ago  I wrote in my dog as my choice for president. Now thinking back I may never have told him that. He may have stopped speaking to me. Well dad- if you can read in heaven – I voted for Gator my greyhound and I chose Jay Jay Star his greyhound friend as be his Vice President. Sorry. But it’s what I had to do. 

And this year I won’t be voting and  I am not voting ever again if all that permeates from an election is hatred. I don’t expect profound love coming from any competitive race but what I expect is respect and decency.  Not venom from candidates which lathers people who watch with that venom and then It begins to spread. Friends hate friends for opposing views. Slinging barbs to someone they once would have never considered saying those things to. It’s a cancer. 

I know my dad would have given me many reasons why my vote matters and what a priveledge it is that we have such a system in our country.  But sadly his death made me drive my stake in the sand even more.  “Not gonna do it.” If I can paraphrase  Dana Carvey who used to parody former President Bush. 

I wish people would remember  that the nucleus of humanity is love. We see it come out sometimes when we least expect it.  We humans can really rally when shit hits the fan. And love really does win.  But it’s our human condition that seems to so easily allow us to gravitate to the cancers of hate. Why do we forget we are all worthy of compassion and respect? 

I don’t feel strong enough anymore to spend my time among hate. I’m not sure it’s from my wisdom where this comes – I think it’s just a worn spirit that knows from where it needs to get its water – the clean spring bringing waters of love. Not the dirty one bringing waters from sewage of hate. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m supposed to be here on this earth. Like maybe there is another planet I was supposed to be on. Like my soul got delivered to the wrong place. Maybe the only such place I dream of only exists in heaven -on the other side of this place called earth.    

 In my own humanness I’ve had anger issues of my own. I’ve lashed out at my kids when they’ve hurt me or frustrated me. I held some anger for my own dad for years. Most of my anger comes from hurt or fear. Once you can see where it comes from you can try to work on it. And I’ve found as I’ve aged that I just need to try to step away from my fear and move very far away from hatred machines as best I can. 

In that moment when I knew I was saying goodbye to my daddy for a final time until I will -God Willing- see him again – all that I felt was love for this man. And in that sterile ICU –that I could only see in my imagination – all that exuded was love. And then it’s so obvious to me – in that moment of pain and sorrow that it’s all that matters in this world is Love. Why is that so hard  for humans to live each day by?  The answer is because we are human. 

If I only get to go through this journey of life on earth once I’m going to stand away from things that permeate hate.  And this includes this thing we know as an election – -it can unfold all on its own.

 I’m out.  

And I don’t even care anymore. My heart is ripped open and all I want to put into it now is love and as best as I can I want the output to be love – for as long as I live. 

My vote is for LOVE. 

“Love one another” –Jesus Christ. 

“I hope you Dance “-Lee Ann Womack