Sam’s Final Walk

trail leavesThe autumn leaves that litter the trail crunch beneath my feet, and dozens of flying insects — grasshoppers I think — flee the oncoming giant tromping through their domain. The late morning sky is a lovely cerulean broken only by lonely scattered cloud wisps. The October air is crisp — like a chilled white wine — dry, bracing, invigorating. I am given a perfect fall day to accomplish my task.

The trees that surround me, mostly oak and linden, a few scattered elms, give way to pines. Now the trail is covered in long pine needles and pine cones. Large birds — falcons perhaps — watch my passing with avian alarm. A brave one flies directly overhead to get a closer look at the encroaching human.

I’m seeking the “Cathedral of Pines,” the place I’ve chosen for Sam’s final rest.

It’s been more than ten years since I walked these woods. It’s the first time I’ve walked them alone. This wild park, this forest preserve, this all but unknown paradise, was a favorite spot for us. The many miles of dirt and grass trail through untamed woods offered a silent and solitary peace difficult for city dwellers to find.

park center

The park pavilion

Few seemed to know the park even exists. The tiny parking lot never had more than a few cars. Today, more than a decade later, that much seems unchanged; only a handful of cars occupy spaces.

Among those who did know, who do visit, many keep to the central area, the well-spaced fire pits that dot a lawn filled with large oaks.

Sometimes a large party, a family reunion, a company picnic, surrounds the pavilion; usually it’s just the occasional family picnic at one of the tables.

But few seem to explore the miles of forest trails, one interconnected loop to the south, another to the north. The view from the central park is spectacular enough. Hundreds of feet below the park’s bluff is Spring Lake, a slow, shallow eddy of the Mississippi.

Sam and I always walked both the south and north sets, and always to their longest extent. Today, uncertain of my aging stamina, I plan only the north trail. My pocket bulges with a package heavy in weight and meaning. Sam’s ashes. The task: my final duty to the best dog I ever owned — the only living creature to share my adult life more than a few paltry years. We were together just over ten — even my marriage turned to ashes in half that time.

Cathedral of Pines

The Cathedral of Pines

The Cathedral of Pines isn’t labeled on any map; it exists only in the chart of my mind. A place far along the trail, inhabited mainly by pine trees growing shoulder to towering shoulder. The forest floor covered in pine needles — a trick pines use to ward other plants from sharing their land.

The living needles of the trees create a hushed sound when wind blows through them. The soft carpet of dead needles on the ground absorb sound, enhancing the hush. Even the birds seem to respect the silence. Nothing sounds quite like a pine forest; few things in life are as peaceful or wonderfully fragrant. This is the spot I’ve chosen for Sam’s ashes.

For all the times Sam and I walked these trails, we rarely met another soul. It was like having our own private woods, our place to forget city life for a few hours. Today I meet what I imagine to be a college photography class on assignment. Two groups of young people, engaged and busy with cameras and light reflectors, an older man who seems to be observing — I imagine him to be their teacher.

“Nice day for it!” I say as I pass them. They smile widely and agree. It is a perfect day.

park bench

I do find the bench on the south side of the Cathedral, but the underbrush is impenetrable.

I have trouble finding the Cathedral. It’s been so long and things have changed. The pines have finally been invaded by others. Wild sumac provides heavy ground cover now, and I can’t find the park bench where I sat while Sam explored. I reach the far north end of the loop thinking maybe it’s just ahead.

I turn back south, following the southern trail, glad that my wind and legs have proven up to the task. The trails are rugged, ankle-turning and with many changes of elevation.

I decide on Plan B. Rather than some secret spot off the trail among the pines, I will scatter her ashes as I walk back. A little here, a little there.

White dust begins to dot my path. Ashes are what remains of bones. Calcium. Sam will nourish the ground. The wind and rain washing away visible trace. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. We return from whence we came.

I like to imagine Sam’s spirit will romp these woods, greeting the occasional hiker (and perhaps their dog). The best place to bury a dog is in your heart — for they are ever with you. The second place, surely, is a place you both cherished and loved.

wild sumac

Yeah, there’s no tromping through that! But it is really lovely to look at!

As I return, my task finished, I met a woman walking her Irish Setter. I tell her about the bald eagle I just saw fly closely by and recommend she keep her eyes open. Woods are life filled with life. Sit silently for a while, in any wood; you will be amazed at what — or who — passes by.

Sam died ten years ago today, but she was very much in my mind (and literally in my pocket) as I walked. I could almost feel her leash in my hand again. It’s taken me long to decide how to repose her ashes. They’ve sat, along with some pictures, favorite toys and other mementos, on a short bookshelf near my bed in a small shrine all this time.

But I am not really the shrine type. A few years ago I realized I never really looked at them or touched them anymore. It was time to take the next step. The problem was picking a place. The home we made at first I sold when I got married. This is the third place I’ve owned since.

But Sam died less than two years after I moved in here (ironically having picked a single-level dwelling to accommodate her repaired ACL). Even I don’t really consider this “home” but rather where I ended up after the fallout of a busted marriage; it’s just where I hang my hat.

lake below

The lake and river hundreds of feet below the park bluff.

There are some local wooded parks with trails we walked almost daily. We both seemed to like variety and tried to never walk the same path until we’d explored all other combinations. We knew every street, every path, every trail in walking distance. We curious explorers always did, everywhere we lived.

Those neighborhood trails were my backup plan, but our secret woods was the place that called to me. When it first occurred there was an, Of course! moment. It’s a permanent thing scattering ashes. No changing your mind later. I spent months pondering this choice, and each time the final decision was the same.

I decided to do it on the tenth anniversary of her death. Or rather, very close to it. Thursday was a perfect fall day in a season that’s waning. I didn’t know what Saturday would bring. And I wanted the loneliness of a weekday; I didn’t want to risk a Saturday crowd. It also gives me a chance to spend a couple of days on this post in hopes of making it, too, as perfect as possible.

sam1994And how fitting the day is so perfect.

The weather, the quiet woods and empty trails, the bald eagle in a memorial fly-over. Even meeting another solitary person walking their dog seemed fitting, a continuation of sorts.

Sam is a central player in one of my most perfect memories, a well-remembered perfect winter day. Our final walk together was perfectly on par with that memory.

It was everything I could have hoped for, a perfect coda , the final notes to a very much-beloved symphony.

Requiescat in pace, Samantha.

park view

Such a beautiful and perfect place to rest your weary bones.

park trail

The sense of peace that comes while walking these trails will fill your heart.

[It shouldn’t be necessary in this dayandage to mention you can click on the park photos to see a biggerized version, but you can and I am. Also, you can see the entire photo catalog on my Google+ page.]

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

33 responses to “Sam’s Final Walk

  • Hariod Brawn

    This is so very touching and beautiful W.S. It will probably sound crass or presumptive, but I’ve twice experienced what sounds like similar days, both of which entailed long and navigationally uncertain walks, followed by the scattering of the ashes of first my mother, then years later my father, in a very particular and remote part of Sandels Wood here in England. This isn’t what touches me though, it’s the feeling of yours towards Sam that I know so well in myself as regards Nellie. I can feel the love in your wordsmithing; you’ve done a perfect job my friend.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Neither crass nor presumptive, my friend, Hariod. I can well imagine the powerful and touching emotions involved. (I don’t even have to imagine, just remember.) And I knew you’d relate to my story (and thank you again). Tonight I’ll raise a glass or two in memory of Sam — Ellie’s Brown Ale — and I’ll include Nellie in the toasts. The next post will remember some of the games and fun we had.

  • reocochran

    This is instantly, in my mind, a winner of a short story contest or a movie picture. Much better than other ones I have written about pet’s deaths, walks in the fall and nature, in its gorgeous beauty. It was simply the best story I have read in years. Loved the meaning and heart you show in this, W.S. I think it would be hard not to get a little teary-eyed, since I have had pets from childhood, along with my Toby, yellow lab/german shepherd mix, who I felt ‘knew’ me better than many humans did, helping comfort me, when the day brought me down. The walk was filled with light, too, an eagle, a group of photographers, and losing your way, a little bit off in memory, along with changes in tree growth.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Well, thank you Robin, that’s very high praise. I’ll confess, I got a bit teary-eyed writing the post! I’d bet Toby was a great dog. Labs are almost always wonderful, and GSDs (German Shepard Dogs) are amazing family dogs. I knew someone in college that had one, Otis was his name, and he was a wonderful dog. I think they’re also one of the five smartest breeds.

      Good comment about the light; the sun was shining through the trees filling them with light and painting bright blogs along the path (as you can see if you click on the pictures). Sunlight has always been so important to me — the southern exposure and skylight were key in buying the condo I now have. It was yet another gift how sunlight blessed the day!

  • reocochran

    I meant to include ‘read’ in the sentence starting with ‘much better than other ones,’ instead of ‘written,’ since I have only written one about a pet’s death. The meaning was due to reading many animals’ death blog posts, books and short stories, I felt this was truly one of the best ever!

  • dianasschwenk

    I love this post Smitty. The way you describe the park and your memories made me almost see, smell and feel the things you were experiencing. You’re a good writer and a good friend to Sam. You did right by her.
    Diana xo

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you, my friend Lady Di! I like to think I did; my heart fills with joy at the memory, so I am without regrets and feeling very good about it.

      Knowing I would write this post, as I walked, a part of my mind was very intent about recording what I saw and felt. It was a slow walk, and many times I just stood still and watched what was around me. It really was an amazing little journey.

      • dianasschwenk

        I love that you shared it with us Smitty. I’ve heard you say how much you love computer language and writing about it. I know your love of science and research and technical writing. These are not passions of mine but I respect that they are yours.

        I love stories and this one, and the one you wrote about your mom are deeply moving and surprised me in a good way, with depth of feeling and how you also have the makings of a good non-fiction writer who touches the human experience through storytelling. ❤

        Diana xo

      • Wyrd Smythe

        High praise, indeed. Thank you!

  • Maggie Wilson

    Beautiful tribute and lovingly composed. I got shivers when you mentioned the eagle.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you. I got shivers when I saw the eagle! 🙂

      • Maggie Wilson

        I imagine you did. I had a similar experience at my mother’s funeral. As we followed the casket to the hearse, and descended the church stairs, I happened to look up. There was a crow sitting silently atop a very tall spruce tree. I just about lost it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, amazing how images and ideas can really affect us.

        (I used to not like crows for the way they take over, but corvids are extremely smart birds — possibly our eventual masters — so now I try to stay on their good side just in case!)

  • Lady from Manila

    No words from me can match the grace of this solemn event. Sam was extremely fortunate to have had you as a father and a friend.

    The Cathedral Pines is lovely indeed for Sam’s final resting place.

    A very beautiful post, Wyrd.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you, Marj. That park is one of my favorite places in the area. If you followed the link to my picture catalog, you saw just how amazing that place is. I really need to drive down there again one of these days before it gets too cold for a walk!

  • rung2diotimasladder

    Ditto on what everyone else said. Your descriptions of the woods and that particular quiet of stepping on pine needles bring back memories for me of living in Vermont. There’s something very peaceful about that imagery.

    I imagine Sam loved taking those hikes with you. Taking a hike for us is usually really nice, but for them it probably means even more. When Geordie hears the word “walk,” his excitement is like a that of a child who’s just been told he’s going to Disneyland. I can barely get his harness on him because he starts spinning around in circles, too thrilled to know what to do with himself. Their excitement is heart-warming, and their attention to the details of nature heightens our experience of it as well. It sounds like you gave Sam a great life and I’m sure he more than appreciated your willingness to explore all those trails with him.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Heh, yeah, I’ve never met a dog that didn’t love a walk! Sam and I walked 45-60 minutes every morning and (until I got married) 60-90 minutes every evening. After I got married, the evening walk was harder to accomplish. But we always got in at least one really good one every day, so she wasn’t as crazy about “walk” as some dogs for whom it was less regular.

      One of the big questions I always had about Sam was to what degree she had a map of the territory in her head. We lived (and thoroughly explored every byway of) four different places, and I always wondered how well she came to know the area. Sometimes I’d let her pick the direction we’d walk, and she seemed to have the same desire to explore that I did. But when she’d want to go down a certain street I wondered how random it was or just what was in her head.

      I did notice that, if we walked down a new street, or even one we’d walked before, and met a new dog in someone’s yard, the next time we’d go down that street (could be weeks later), Sam would be looking for that dog. So she had some sort of memory and mental map.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        That’s a lot of walking! Geordie could probably do more, but he’s quite a couch potato. Even when we take him to the dog park to run free, he does it for maybe 2 minutes, then parks his butt right next to us and just chills out. I read somewhere in one of your comments that you weren’t planning on getting another dog. Is that still the case? If you’re worried about the walks, there’s always the possibility of getting an older (and maybe smaller) dog at the pound. These are often passed by in favor of puppies, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Geordie’s 5 or 7 years old (no one really knows) and came fully trained. He needs only a little stroll around the block and maybe 5 minutes of throwing a toy around. So I get all the joy and none of the work or stress. (Except, of course, when he decides to get bitten by a rattlesnake.)

        I think they do remember places quite well. I don’t know if it’s so much a map in their heads or if it’s certain smells or features that they recognize once they’re there. Geordie remembers one of my neighbors houses. Every time we pass by, he starts pulling hard to go up to their door because one time they let him in (and they gave him tons of adoration and love). This is especially odd because in that section of the neighborhood, all the houses look the same (so much so that I often can’t remember where people live and I have this fear that I’ll knock on the wrong door.)

        My mother has dementia and it’s pretty severe, but she’ll often remember where things are once she’s in the room. Seeing the entry of the building reminds her of what’s inside, and she might even say, “Oh, I live there.” But if you were to ask her where she lives while driving down the street, she’d have no recall whatsoever. I wonder if it’s the same for dogs.

        On the other hand, some smarter dogs do seem to have more of a mental map. I don’t know that Geordie has it. I suspect he’d get lost if I let him out. Skippy, our first dog, was allowed to roam free throughout the neighborhood and he always knew how to get home. So it’s hard to say.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Sam was a Black Lab — a working dog — and they need a great deal of exercise to not go squirrelly. When I was on my way to pick her up, I stopped at a pet store and stocked up on supplies: food, bowls, leashes, etc. I also picked up a book about Labs and read that they need at least three walks a day!

        Holy crap! Three?! I made a commitment to do two every day (one more commitment marriage made a mockery of), and that worked out well for both of us. I lost over 20 pounds, and we were both in pretty good shape after a couple years those walks. We got the point of running 5Ks nearly every day. (We had one route that I measured at almost exactly 5K.)

        It was a rare time of complete happiness. Work was going well, I had a great dog, and was in great shape. Then I got married, and that was the end of that.

        I know smell has a great deal to do with how dogs relate to the world. I’ve heard it said that smell is to them what sight is to us (I’ve heard that most dogs are a bit near-sighted — they don’t have great vision usually).

        I used to take Sam with me any place she’d be welcome. (We also frequently drove to a nearby lake on Sunday morning for a walk around the lake.) I noticed that, if she’d had a good time and gotten worn out, she’d crash in the back seat while I drove home.

        But as soon as I got a few miles away, she’d wake up and obviously be anticipating arriving home. The only thing I could figure is that the home area had its own smell. Just as we’d recognize a familiar neighborhood on sight, they seem to identify it by smell.

        Some tests indicate they can tell time by how scent decays. There was a dog that always got excited near the time the guy came home from work. They determined it was due to how his scent decayed throughout the day. When they left a shirt the guy had worn in the room, the dog did not react at the given time. Hard for us to really understand a smell sense that acute!

        My dad is in final stage Alzheimer’s, so I know what you mean about dementia. I used to call my folks every Wednesday evening for a chat, and over the years I began to realize my dad usually didn’t know who he was talking to. (Alzheimer’s patients are very good at faking it.) He’d say things like, “So how’s the weather where you are?” (Because he had no idea where I was and ultimately had no idea of what living in Minnesota even meant — despite having lived in the state for many, many years.) At this point, he’s basically a zombie… a living body, but no one is really home anymore.

        It’s a tough deal, Alzheimer’s. Especially hard on mom, being forgotten. They were together in the senior residence for awhile, but eventually had to live separately there.

        Letting Sam run free off the leash in what I took to be safe situations was a big step for me. I can’t imagine letting a dog roam free in the neighborhood. Potential car accidents would be enough to make that a non-starter with me. Our first family dog, a Beagle, was an escape artist. I can’t blame him. Beagles are also working dogs who need a lot of exercise and he didn’t get it. (He’s the one confined to the basement unless outside on his dog run.)

        It’s possible he would have come home once he was bored, but not knowing much about dogs we were always in a panic searching the neighborhood for him, raw hot dogs in hand as enticement.

        First time I let Sam off the leash she took off and was gone for quite a few minutes. It was night, and we were in an area being converted from cornfields to condos. (So huge piles of dirt and digging — Sam loved hills and things.) I called and called, and was just about to the point of giving up… when over a nearby hill she came. Over time I came to have increasing confidence that she’d stick around.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        So sorry to hear about your parents. It must be hard on you and your mom. Is there a separate memory care unit in the same building? My mom went from the assisted living to memory care. It was good to have both in the same building. It made the transition a lot easier for everyone. Well, your mom’s lucky she has you to talk to. It’s one of the benefits of having kids…not that I plan on having any, but that’s something I think about sometimes. I know it’s strange to think about at 32, but after being the POA for so many people, I’ve learned that it’s never too early to think about that stuff. It’s also to important to have a boat load of money and great health insurance. Yuck. I’ll stop talking about that. 🙂

        My mom’s dementia is probably Lewy bodies, which is a different sort of thing. A lot of Alzheimer’s patients do the wandering thing, but with hers, she sleeps constantly. Never did much wandering. She remembers me and all her children, but she doesn’t remember one minute ago. She can’t carry on much of a conversation, but she can say “I love you.” Our conversations last about 15 sec, but I’m lucky to have that much.

        Interesting about the scent decaying…I wonder how the laundry basket factors in?

        Back when we had Skippy, we lived on a residential street with not much traffic. This was Vermont, so people were generally careful drivers. (Here in Arizona, oh hell no. Somehow someone drove into our jojoba bush so hard that it actually knocked the whole thing down. To do this is kind of incomprehensible because there’s a gate not far from our house. I studied the angle of impact and tire marks on the driveway and curb and decided the car had to be entering the neighborhood rather than exiting. I still can’t fathom how it could have gained that much speed to knock over the bush. When you enter the gates, you have to come to a complete stop before you can enter. The person must’ve put the pedal to the metal the second they could get in, in other words.)

        Beagles are escape artists for sure. My parents had one when I was a baby, and this poor baby would jump over the fence to escape. He hurt himself every time, but he continued to do it. One day he escaped and my brother’s friend ran him over. I’m glad I don’t remember this. That was the last dog I ever had in my childhood. My mother was against the idea, even though I begged and begged. I had all sorts of other creatures though: a hamster, two rabbits, a bird. Out of all of those pets, the bird was the best. His name was Max and I let him fly all over the house. He’d come to me when I called his name and he’d sit on my shoulder or on my head. He was great. I never thought a little parakeet could be so fun. He knew the time when I’d come home from school and he’d climb out of his cage and wait for me. I’d hear him chirping from outside the door, and the second I opened the door, he’d fly over to me.

        Well with Geordie, we have him on a leash at all times outside. It’s sad that he can’t just run around in our backyard, but I can’t think of what else to do.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Is there a separate memory care unit in the same building?”

        Separate buildings, actually. When it became apparent they could no longer live on their own at home (even with my sister’s kid living with them), they moved to a senior facility. As dad sank deeper into Alzheimer’s, it got to the point where they had to live separately, dad in the high-care one, mom in the regular building. Mom died a year ago this past March; dad somehow keeps on ticking physically.

        Mom was a teacher in the Los Angeles city school system, and that gave them great health insurance. Took care of them in their old age, big time. (At least the thankless and low-pay job had some major benefit!)

        “My mom’s dementia is probably Lewy bodies”

        I’d never heard of Lewy bodies before. Turns out Robin Williams had them in association with his Parkinson’s. The body and mind fail in such interesting, albeit tragic, ways. Funny thing, the human body, isn’t it (knees, especially).

        “I wonder how the laundry basket factors in?”

        Oh, good point! It must be part of the normal background? But then you have to wonder why just leaving the man’s shirt out would change the dynamic.

        My theory when I first heard about it was that scents changed during the day (flowers and trees do have a daily cycle), so maybe the dog had connected the “scent time” and the master’s arrival. But they seemed pretty certain they’d “proved” it was scent decay.

        But what about the laundry basket? Good question!

        “I still can’t fathom how it could have gained that much speed to knock over the bush.”

        Never underestimate the bad driving of others. Also, they say there’s a lot more drunks driving cars than any of us would be comfortable with. I’ve heard figures like “one-in-five drivers” is drunk. That seems hard to credit, though.

        But I suspect it’s a lot more common than many may realize.

        “Beagles are escape artists for sure.”

        They are highly energetic dogs and really need a lot of exercise. Dalmatians, I’ve heard, are even worse. They were breed to run alongside coaches.

        Before I was married, Sam and I had a townhouse, and one of our neighbors also had a black lab he’d gotten from the pound. He took it back after several months, because it was chewing everything in sight.

        Because he didn’t walk the poor thing. Supposedly, other than teething stages (which happen at a very young age and then, apparently, around one year), if your dog chews stuff (especially not theirs), they’re bored and need exercise.

        Sam (other than teething) never chewed a single thing of mine. (Even during teething, the only things she ever chewed were a book cover (The Silmarillion, so, like, who really cares?) and the rung of a wooden stool.

        I’ve never had any other pet than a dog. We never did the hamster, guinea pig, fish, or bird, thing. (To be very honest, dogs are the only animal I’d really care to live with. Birds and fish are, to my mind, generally food. (Sorry!))

        “It’s sad that he can’t just run around in our backyard,”

        Because of the snakes, right? I wonder if there’s any way to keep them away. Like how garlic or beer supposedly keep snails away from your garden? (Or is that even true?)

        You need some sort of “Snake-B-Gone” remedy…

      • rung2diotimasladder

        So sorry to hear about your mom. It sounds like we’re in a similar situation. My father passed away a few years ago, and it’s mom who keeps on ticking. Luckily he didn’t ever have to experience her decline. He thought she’d go on for a good long while at the time he passed away. She took care of him until the end, then went into decline almost immediately after that. It was like she held it all together just to take care of him.

        Yes, I’ve heard that Lewy bodies has some connection with Parkinson’s. At least they are somewhat similar. My mom had that shuffling gait and tremors associated with P.

        The human body is indeed a funny thing. Especially nipples on men.

        Knees are a source of great fun. I like to pinch mine to made them into lips and have them say, “Bonjour, je suis Jean Genoux.” (“Genoux” is “knee” in French.) The problem is, I can’t figure out anything clever for the other knee to say in response.

        It’s so sad when owners take their dogs to the pound. I can’t imagine it. I think people just need a little more education about their needs in picking the right kind of dog. I know I wouldn’t be able to handle a dog that needs a lot of exercise.

        Yeah, Geordie can’t run around because of the snakes. We’re still thinking of ways to keep the snakes out, but there’s no surefire method short of destroying our garden. We already have all the holes covered, but critters dig little tunnels constantly. There’s no way to keep up with all that. I’m not sure what to do. So far we just keep him on a leash and stay outside with him. He does get a walk every day and lots of running around the house. (We play this game where I “hide” in the bathroom and he runs around with this toy and tries to “find” me. When he finds me I jump out pretend to chase him. This is great because I don’t have to actually chase him. He does all the running and I just make goofy noises and do jazz hands.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “It was like she held it all together just to take care of him.”

        That definitely seems to happen. Mom was similar WRT dad. As she became more and more convinced he would be well-taken care of, she was able to let go. Perhaps even worked somehow with me in that, I’ve not expected to make it to 30, 40, 50, or (soon) 60. Mostly due to a “devil may care” lifestyle and a lifelong sense of “live fast and hard.”

        But it’s tragic when parents outlive their children, and I sometimes think only strength of will kept me in the game. But as 60 approaches, I find myself wondering if I have that same “healthy as an ox” thing my dad did (wouldn’t be genetic, if so). I feel old and tired, but I think that has more to do with how much the state of the world bothers me than my actual health (which, all things considered, seems okay). [shrug]

        How’s your thing going? Any better diagnosis? Do you even know what you’re really dealing with?

        “The human body is indeed a funny thing. Especially nipples on men.”

        😀 Especially if they have three! o_O

        “[Geordie] does get a walk every day and lots of running around the house.”

        He’s a little guy, so maybe that’s fine. He has you at home all day, and I think that’s a real saving grace for a dog. All the best dogs I’ve known were able to spend the bulk of their time with their master and/or mistress. They are pack animals and do crave — even need — company.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Sounds like you’ve done some interesting things in life! And you’re not that old. Carpe diem, really. Someday we’ll all know what old really is.

        I had a “devil may care” attitude about health up until about five years ago when I looked down at the scale and realized I’d put on quite a bit of weight. I was never one to exercise or worry about diet. That was not long after my father died, and he certainly had a “devil may care” attitude. Boy did he. I don’t think he ever went to the doctor, and if he had, that would have saved his life. I started taking health more seriously after that, and then of course just as I’m in the midst of running and hiking and zumba-ing and eating right, this whatever-it-is hits me. Still don’t know what it is. Thanks for asking. The spinal tap results came back normal, so now I have to wait until May 8th to see the neurologist. My PCP is sending me to Mayo clinic, but I haven’t heard from them yet. I’m surprised they’re not sending me to a psychiatrist at this point. I looked up an MS differential diagnosis and ruled out hundreds of things, all except “it’s all in my head.” I keep asking my doctor if it could be psychological, and he keeps saying it’s possible, but he says my symptoms are atypical of that. So who the hell knows. Anyways, I’m taking medication for both epilepsy and narcolepsy and trying to time them right. That’s about where I’m at now.

        I’ve rigged up a remote-controlled car with a mouse attached for Geordie to chase. That way I can sit on my butt and watch him play. It’s really funny. Oddly, he knows not to attack the car, only the mouse.

        So true about the pack animals. He can’t go to bed until he rounds us all up. He doesn’t seem really happy unless we’re all together.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Sounds like you’ve done some interesting things in life!”

        Very much so. To the point of not really having a “bucket list” anymore. There are things I would enjoy doing, but there’s really nothing left I feel I just have to do before I kick the bucket. If I died today, I’d feel okay about my life, both in terms of having lived a full one and in terms of having lived a good one.

        “And you’re not that old. Carpe diem, really.”

        Heh, well, that’s been my motto all my life! (One carp per day, right?) That’s why I’m feeling like my tank is empty. Well, that and the whole ‘having been an island, and no one should be an island’ thing. There are things I’d love to do, but not alone — that’s just no fun anymore.

        “Someday we’ll all know what old really is.”

        It’s never been my intention to get that far. Being really old sounds awful!

        “I don’t think he ever went to the doctor, and if he had, that would have saved his life.”

        Sounds like me. Unless it’s a sucking chest wound or severed limbs, I figure it’ll probably heal on its own. (So far, that’s been true.) I’d have a different attitude if there were people in my life dependent on me (wife, kids, etc.), but other than a few friends who’d mourn my passing (and some online folks who might wonder briefly whatever happened to Wyrd Smythe?) there’s really no reason to stick around.

        Part of it is really hating the state of the world. The wanton and willful ignorance. The actual evil and corruption. The growing incompetence as more and more adults who slid through a broken primary education system start running the world and doing it badly. (What I’ve referred to as “The Death of a Liberal Arts Education” for going on 40 years.)

        There is tremendous beauty and joy in the world, but there is also tremendous ugly and pain. The latter has begun to wear on me more and more, and the former fills my heart, but with no one to share it with, it loses some of its fullness.

        So part of me is just waiting for ticket out of here.

        I’ve long said that I have no intention of ever being a cancer patient, for example. If I were ever diagnosed with a fatal cancer, I’d probably drive down to Key West… and keep driving. 🙂

        “I started taking health more seriously after that, and then of course just as I’m in the midst of running and hiking and zumba-ing and eating right, this whatever-it-is hits me.”

        Yeah, living healthy will kill you every time.

        “I’m taking medication for both epilepsy and narcolepsy”

        Yikes, wow. I know a number of people with forms of epilepsy, and that’s totally survivable. Never actually known anyone with narcolepsy.

        It sucks when the docs don’t have a clue. I’ve had that happen. A dentist prescribed an antibiotic for me about ten years ago, and within days of starting the course I broke out in giant hives. I mean giant. Like, from my waist to my armpit sized. One giant hive.

        It had to be the antibiotic, but it was supposedly a good one for people with problems with them, and I’ve never had a problem with them. Docs were mystified. Prescribed all sorts of antihistamines and steroids (which really do make you both horny and aggressive), and none of them did diddly squat.

        Doc said they may just clear up in about a year. Which they did. Almost exactly. But then for many years after, I’d have a resurgence of medium-sized hives every spring on the annual anniversary of when it all began. To this day my skins is weirdly sensitive, and I get minor hives all the damn time.

        At this point I figure it’s either communists or microwaves. Possibly aliens.

        “I’ve rigged up a remote-controlled car with a mouse attached for Geordie to chase.”

        Dogs never seem to get into the laser pointer thing like cats do, but remote controlled toys are great! Funny he goes for the mouse but not the car.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Wow you sound like everyone on my father’s side of my family! You sure we’re not related?

        You may not care now about health, but I urge you to get your check ups. Please tell me you do this. So many people in my life have died because they didn’t do this, and they regretted it. I wish I had taken a more active role in pushing my family to take care of themselves. I wish I had taken a more active role in monitoring my mom’s pill compliance, because this might’ve prevented her kidney failure (trust me, you REALLY don’t want that). I’d never thought about these things before, but now I’m finding myself telling my overweight friends that they’d better get their act together. (I’m sure they chalk it up to the Asian no-filter thing.) Our culture is sort of “mind your own business,” but I’ve lost too many people to simple negligence and it’s hard for me to keep quiet about it anymore. You sound like you’re active and in good health, but please do the check ups!

        Another thing I learned about aging—death is unpredictable. You always hear stories of people keeling over one day and that’s it, but really you never know how you’ll end up. Keeling over one day would be ideal (assuming you’ve got your paperwork in order and don’t make a mess of things for those still alive). I used to think, “Oh, if it gets bad I’ll just take some pills and go quietly into the night.” The thoughts of a mind too young and healthy to really understand. Often you’re in a grey area at the point. You don’t know what will happen to you, you don’t know your prognosis, maybe life doesn’t seem as bad as it does to the outside world. Or even if it is that bad, what if you can’t physically or mentally do this? Sorry, to sound so negative, but it’s a possibility that never occurred to me until recently.

        I hung out with this woman with Parkinson’s in my mom’s assisted living on several occasions. She was a smart woman surrounded by dumb Okies, and with aging minds on top of that. Here she was hunched over in her wheelchair, barely able to talk or move, asking me questions about her iPad so she could read the NYT. (The fact that she learned how to use an iPad is really remarkable. My professor husband has problems understanding the touch screen.) I met her because she was always placed next to my mother at dinner (another stupid move on the part of the institution. She was always kind to my mother, and my mother always helped her with eating and things like that, but there was no way they could really talk to each other. My mom probably thought she was mentally superior, and this woman was a slobbering idiot.) I went in once to ask how she was doing and she gave me this ice-cold look, then said, “How does it look like I’m doing?” (The really sad part of this was I had to ask her to repeat this several times, and lean in close to her mouth to understand the words.) She was not a pessimistic sort of person, I could tell. This was not the sort of thing she’d normally say. But her circumstances were indeed special. Everything in her eyes said, “Please end it now.” (I think I freaked out a little and “Sorry, dumb question,” and started cleaning up this long dribble of slobber coming out of her mouth, which sparked my usual OCD cleaning frenzy. I was cleaning stuff all over her room, which she watched with mild amusement.) BTW, Speaking of not being able to tell white lies…I think she appreciated that I didn’t say, “Oh you’ll be all right.” So while people may not appreciate us now, Wyrd, they will when they’re dying and everyone else around them is pretending it’s not true.

        I’ve just been in a lot of weird situations and I’m getting the idea that most people have no idea what they’re getting into when they get older. I think about what I’ll do a lot. Phrases such as, “Could you please accidentally leave that bottle of pills within arm’s reach?” occur to me, but even that’s far from the truth. Maybe I shouldn’t get into this too much…

        I know what you mean about the state of the world. Especially the part about education…that gets me riled up. I almost dropped out of high school, I did drop out of college. (Then went back.) In each case I thought, “Fine then, I’ll educate myself.” I have a lot more to say about this subject, but I’m gonna end up sounding like a conservative. The funny thing is, I did in the end get a pretty decent liberal arts education, relatively speaking, but it could have been a lot better. What I learned in college should have been old news by then.

        As far as the world itself goes, I think there’s always been disappointment with it, and being lonely is terrible in an insidious way. I don’t mean to rub this in your face—really I don’t—but the only thing that’s stopped that feeling of disappointment with the world for me was finding my husband. I realize I am supremely lucky. I never expected love to ever work for me. You might be thinking, “Oh you’re so young, etc.” But I really did feel this way about love and I fully expected to live alone for the rest of my life. I was and still am a realist about it. I never had fantasies of getting married and picking out a wedding dress and all that stuff. I always thought men weren’t capable of commitment and honesty and communication (that was probably age-related). At the time when I got together with my husband, I thought along with the rest of the world that I was insane and it wouldn’t work out since he’s so much older. Turns out I couldn’t have made a better choice. None of this was wisdom on my part, just chance and youthful recklessness that happened to go my way. It might have been the fact that neither of us thought it would work out, and we both thought we were nuts. So we proceeded with caution and a lot of talking. And we learned how to fight well.

        “If I were ever diagnosed with a fatal cancer, I’d probably drive down to Key West… and keep driving. :)”

        This would be a good way to go. Too bad it can’t be like in the movies:

        BTW, I really like that song. I’m sort of embarrassed that I do, but I do.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “You sure we’re not related?”

        I am adopted, so I guess anything is possible. 🙂

        “So many people in my life have died because they didn’t do this, and they regretted it.”

        I don’t know to what extent someone can regret dying — we have no data on that — but I suppose someone could regret not taking care of oneself and thus becoming ill, but the stuff I’m talking about (cancer, stroke, etc) isn’t fixable or preventable other than leading a healthy lifestyle (which I more or less just don’t choose to do other than by coincidence 🙂 ).

        In any event, you provide my core answer yourself:

        “As far as the world itself goes, I think there’s always been disappointment with it, and being lonely is terrible in an insidious way. I don’t mean to rub this in your face—really I don’t—but the only thing that’s stopped that feeling of disappointment with the world for me was finding my husband.”

        Exactly so. And I’ve been to the well on love, to one degree or another, well over two-dozen times. They’ve all be fails, and they’ve all taken a piece out of me. At this point, there isn’t much heart left to give, and I have no interest — dead zero — in even trying to have another relationship again. (I was on Match-dot-com and another singles site for a while after the divorce dust settled, but I realized I just wasn’t interested in that hunt anymore and dropped off after a year or so.)

        Love. Getting through the crap in the world with someone, and having someone with which to share the beauty and joy, that’s the thing that makes life worthwhile.

        And other than for short, often stressful, times I’ve never had that. At some point one just has to accept that it’s not likely and that one has been alone too long to really be of much value to anyone on that level anymore.

        “Often you’re in a grey area at the point. You don’t know what will happen to you, you don’t know your prognosis”

        I’m talking about situations that are clear-cut. A cancer diagnosis being the main one. I have no interest in being a cancer patient. Most of those I’ve known ultimately died and only had a difficult delaying period. Screw that. I’m not spending the last months of my life desperately being a medical pin cushion just to buy a few more months.

        Harry Nilsson, on his Son of Schmilssion album has a great song sung by a bunch of very senior folks. It goes: I’d rather be dead… than wet my bed. I believe in every word of that song (and the recording session — see below — was classic!).

        Look, I live in a world I don’t much like. There is joy and beauty, but no one to share it with, and there is no one to make all the crap worthwhile. I’ve had a good life, and if circumstances offer an early exit, I’m taking it.

        I’m not a quitter — I’m not going to just give up without reason. But if the quality of my single little life drops below a certain level, then I want out.

        “I really like that song. I’m sort of embarrassed that I do, but I do.”

        Yeah, it’s a good song (and a classic movie)! And good example of what I’m trying to say here. Even Rizzo had Joe Buck to have his back. That’s never happened to me. It’s probably my fault somehow, but it is what it is.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        “I don’t know to what extent someone can regret dying — we have no data on that” LOL!

        I just mean detecting cancer before it spreads, in the early stages. Then you really want to catch it. It is sometimes a life saver. Same goes for stroke…which might mean taking some pills, something my uncle refused to do. Of course, none of these are guarantees, but I figure it’s worth it.

        Yeah, a lot of times docs can tell you your prognosis when it comes to cancer. My father initially refused to do the chemo, same reaction you have. Then he changed his mind, even though he knew he’d die anyways. It’s just one of those things, I guess. It wasn’t until he did dialysis—one time—that he decided to end it. (Apparently it was really horrible for him. I think about that and the fact that my mother has to do that three times a week.)

        Imagine you have a stroke and you can’t move and you have no way to end your own life. You’d like to think a friend would help you out (like Million Dollar Baby) but that’s putting your friend in a jeopardizing situation. This is the kind of thing that gives me the chills. Although you might convince a friend to transport you to a state where assisted suicide is legal. Probably a good idea to make your wishes clear now—in writing—in case you can’t talk!

        Oh never mind, don’t get me started on paperwork and legalities.

        BTW, that rash you were talking about as a side effect of a pill is something that happened to my aunt just recently. Not the exact same thing, but she sent me photos and her reaction to some medication was horrendous. I mean all over red spots. Pretty shocking stuff. And this was some medication that many people take. Luckily in her case, it went away quickly. I can’t imagine having that for a year!

        As for love, I’m sorry you haven’t had that in your life. Failed relationships don’t mean it’s not possible; in fact, they could mean it’s now more possible since you’ve had experience. However, I understand not wanting to look for it anymore. Maybe it comes when you’re not looking? In any case, good luck.

        As for the video, some of those folks look like they’re already wetting their beds! 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “It is sometimes a life saver.”

        I understand that, but that’s not my goal is the point.

        “Imagine you have a stroke and you can’t move and you have no way to end your own life.”

        I do need to make sure I have a DNR on record, but the problem about a stroke that leaves you unable to move is that you actually can’t leave instructions (as far as I know) for any medical facility to end your life other than a DNR.

        “Failed relationships don’t mean it’s not possible; in fact, they could mean it’s now more possible since you’ve had experience.”

        Perhaps, probably even, but there’s just no more gas in the tank.

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