Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy Birthday. Mommy

I am going to interrupt my tour around Internet communication venues to say Happy Birthday to my mother.  She would have been 92 today.  There's not much to tell you about her that I know and haven't said in the earlier days of this blog.  She is, after all, the reason I began blogging in the first place.  My mother was a complicated lady and she went to her rest leaving many, many unanswered questions about herself and her relationship to me.  One of the basics, of course, is who am I exactly?  Who were my birth parents and what were their circumstances?

She led a pretty full life before I came into it, my dad even more so, already a veteran of two wars, so they determined to settle in and be middle American parents once I was their ward.  As a result, the parents I knew were sort of stodgy, fussy and boring.  They could throw a mean dinner party and the New Year's Day football parties were a lot of fun, but most nights Dad fell asleep in his big easy chair with his whiskey and water by his side, some old western or war movie playing on the TV until I saw that he was really deeply out, when I would change the channel.  Mother would drift off not too long after.  Eventually, Dad would wake up, mad as a wet hen that we had let him fall asleep like that.  Mother would grumble some reply, because we both knew it was a fool's errand to try and keep him awake.  If he sat still long enough, he was inevitably out.  Occasionally Mother would leave him there all night.  That engendered some fireworks, let me tell you.  But, that was the routine most nights, particularly in the long winters.  The parents I didn't know were the people I glimpsed when I yanked out their old albums last night to pick some photos for this blog.

I had seen all these pictures before as a young girl, and there are some incredible ones of Egypt, India and the Himalayas from the air that Dad took.  His travels were exotic, but his mission was dark and deadly.  In later years, those memories kept him from going back to any of those places to see the sites again without the shadow of war and oppression.  I always regretted that for him, I hope he's got a bird's eye view of those awesome sites now.  But, of course, the piece is about Mother, so I kept flipping (I'll share some of the war photos later).  I found several pages of photos from a party for the pilots and their wives/girlfriends.  It looked like a roaring good time, with a heck of a lot of beer consumption.  A lot of beer.  Couple that with the slide I found just shortly after Mom's death where a group of women were passed out in their basement, all in formal evening wear, in what I can only imagine was a drunken, exhausted stupor after too much partying, and I realized my parents were young once.  Tada!  They were not only young, but relatively carefree.  I think for that particular generation, carefree is probably not the right word, but they were determined to take joy and fun where they could find it and embrace it.  Maybe that's more like it.

By the time I came along, Mother was preoccupied with seeming proper.  That was a big deal to her - somewhat ironic because at the same time she was hoarding away, which made the house always seem a bit shoddy.  She came from a working class background, but in Montana the economic classes mixed together based on age and world views, so they had friends with more high brow backgrounds.  I think Mother became preoccupied with keeping up with the Joneses, and I lost seeing any of the fun loving girl she had - clearly - been.  As I pondered that, flipping past pages of her at parties, in bathing suits (never, not once, did I witness that in real life), with her family, with my dad, this is the mom I really miss, I think.  The Ruth I never knew.

I mean, I am sentimental of the moments she nursed me through a nasty bout of chickenpox and the measles at the same time, and I remember fondly the hours we would spend playing a card game called Spite and Malice.  I remember our matching spring coats that she made for us to wear on Easter.  I still have hers.  It will move to Pennsylvania with me.  I remember all the years, after she moved here, that she would come over every Sunday during football season, bringing bags of treats and snacks with her - and beer.  She discovered Corona once she moved here.  She loved it.  Our ritual was - mine still is - that we couldn't have a beer until we scored a touchdown.  We'd anxiously await our first touchdown of the day and then reward ourselves with an ice cold Corona with lime.  Our season opener, I will toast my mother with a Corona, hopefully early in the game (Dennis and Byron, are you listening?!).  Already preseason without her is odd.  The regular season will seem extremely off and sort of lonely, even though she stopped being able to come over every week a few years back.  But, I really miss ever seeing the skinny young girl in the cute little sun dresses, her tan radiating up from the old black and white photos.  Who was that person?  She looked so fun.

I hope when she and my dad found one another in wherever it is that we go after this, they were these people, with the exception being that instead of all their cares and worries being ahead of them, they are now behind them:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Face It

I have this love-hate relationship with Facebook.  On the one hand I love that I've been able to get back in touch with friends I haven't seen in years, I've connected with new ones, and I can blast out messages to large chunks of people easily.  I've written about some of this before, so I won't belabor it again.  But, as a social networking tool, it's been completely awesome.  However, to all my Facebook buddies, let me just say this now:  if you want me to know something about you or your family, tell me directly.  Do not rely on me catching what you post because I probably won't.  I follow the News Feed almost everyday, and it's not like I've got 1,000 friends like one young woman I know, so you'd think checking that once or twice a day would keep me current on most of my friends.  Not when some of the friends post multiple times in a day, particularly when they're bored.  I'm never bored, but I am naturally lazy and easily distracted, so I glance through the first page of current posts and then I generally move on.  Problem is that many times that only is the last hour's worth of activity, and I miss things.  And that causes honest-to-gosh issues sometimes.

The biggest issue was when the woman who actually coaxed me into joining Facebook in the first place posted an update on her elderly mother on her wall.  I didn't see it, so I didn't know the lovely lady, whom I also have known for years, had suffered a stroke.  I hurt my friend's feelings when I didn't respond or check in with her, but I was toodling along in happy ignorance.  I've thought about that often.  I tend to get really upset when I've hurt someone's feelings (unless I mean to, which - sorry to say - I am occasionally guilty of), so I was stung by her rebuke, but I've thought about this several times.  I really don't think, even after a lot of pondering, I did anything wrong.  Neither did she.  She didn't have time in a crisis situation to spread the word to all her friends, so she plopped up a quick little post.  Reasonable.  Just don't get mad at me if I don't happen to see it.  It's Facebook, not Big Brother.  Or, wait!  Maybe it is...

The other thing, which I've also written about, is the transparency with which you see how many friends you have.  It's hard, particularly if you're not the most self-confident individual, knowing an exact quantity of your friends and then trying not to equate that with your sense of self-worth.  At first I got weird over that. "Oh, what's wrong with me, I only have [xx] friends..."  Now I'm better about it.  As I've illustrated, I've got my hands full keeping up with all my friends as it is.  Yet, if I got that way, how many hormonal teenagers out there dangerously obsess over things like this?

What really threw me was when a couple people dropped off.  Turns out one person shut down his page, but I was legitimately unfriended (is that the right word?) by another.  At first I was horribly hurt by that.  What had I done?!  I genuinely don't know and will likely never find out, but I fully confess that I'm not really sure how we became Facebook friends in the first place.  He knew people I knew and actually friended me originally, but he was extremely religious and conservative.  I am neither.   He was always very polite and sweet, but everything about us was so completely opposite, I speculate he just finally asked himself why he was linked to someone like me and severed the tie.  Once I recovered from being shunned by someone I never actually met, I pondered this side effect of a powerful social tool.  I'm clearly not alone in this.  South Park addressed it even.

But, the thing that I dislike the most about Facebook are the games.  Don't try and get me to play on your farm or joust in your castle.  I did all that at first and a) I didn't get the appeal and b) I nearly unleashed a virus on my computer.  The real Dark Side to Facebook in my opinion is the spyware I'm convinced that lurks in all that stuff.  As a matter of fact, the self same woman who was upset over my not knowing about her mother dropped off Facebook for a while because she was being solicited for products on those ads they run on the side for things she did indeed like, but had never officially tied herself to on the site.  The source had to have extracted information from her hard drive she believed.  Particular music, movies and books that she liked, but hadn't listed anywhere in her profile.  That bothered her so much she just got off altogether, but finally relented so she could keep in touch with her family in another state.  When she first told me about why she was taking her original page down, I thought she was just being paranoid, but one day I gave in to temptation and played some movie game and - BOINGO!  WHAP! ZING! - flashing notices started popping up telling me I'd been infected and to buy this anti-virus software to get rid of it.  According to the messages, I was about to be wiped out!  I have anti-virus software, and hurriedly purchased an updated anti-spyware program.  Turns out I had just unleashed some scary looking spyware and everything turned out okay, but now I've got so much protection loaded on my computer it takes the bloody thing forever to load when I first turn it on.  That was the end of my participating in Facebook's little reindeer games.  This red-nosed reindeer will sit on the sidelines, thank you very much.

Finally, there is the case of the Beantown Brawler.  A month or so ago, whenever it was that Big "Jerk" Ben was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I got a letter in response to it published.  Nothing provocative about it, I merely pointed out that it was a shame that so much focus was on the team because of the actions of this one individual when so many PGH athletes do wonderful things for the community.  I never said anything about any other team.  I didn't point out how many children out of wedlock Tom Brady had, or why my husband and I call the Oakland kicker Date Rapist.  I didn't even take the easy shots about the Cincinnati Bungals (and no, I spelled it that way on purpose) that I could have.  I was a total Class Act, if I say so myself.  A few days after the issue with my letter hits the stands, I get a message on Facebook from someone styling himself the Beantown Brawler (which I've subsequently been told is after a boxer from Boston many decades before).  He was clearly intoxicated when he wrote it, his written message nearly slurred.  I was going to quote directly from it, but, alas, I deleted it.  However, when I went to log in to look for it just now,  I was alerted that someone had tried to access my page last night, so I had to change my Password.  Great.  Add that to the side that I hate.  But, to return to the story: to paraphrase this extremely crude bad speller:  The Steelers all suck and Ben should be in jail.  The Patriots Rule.  I took the bait.  I shouldn't have, but I responded.  That was a mistake.  It just emboldened him.  I imagine him sitting in his filthy little Southy bungalow, a sea of empty beer bottles at his feet, pounding furiously away at his old computer, just getting more and more worked up with every beer he slammed.  I just lit it on fire. With the second message, he was kind of freaking me out.  I had sense enough not to keep my end up.  He must have passed out at some point, and when he woke up with cotton mouth and a monster headache, he had either forgotten about me or realized what an ass he had been.  I know some other Patriot fans, my money is on the former.  I've never heard from him again.  Yet, as I marveled at how this clearly crude individual had the ability to randomly message me, a friend responded, "Of course anyone can message you, that's how your friends reach out to you when they find you're on Facebook."  Of course that's right, but the ease with which he found my page was slightly discomforting.  From there, is it really that hard to find out where I live?

Bottom line, we live in a transparent world.  If someone wants to find me, they will.  I just hope it's a long lost friend and not anymore Patriots fans.

I will conclude my tour with my limited knowledge of Twitter - it should be a short post, but probably more than 140 characters.

Monday, August 23, 2010


The other day one of my co-workers, a woman who is a few years older than I am, was admittedly having a hard time concentrating. She had, as my mother would say, ants in her pants.  She decided to distract me as well, pointing out all the invitations she had for Facebook, which had been puzzling her for days, because she wasn't on Facebook.  Turns out her daughter had created a page for her about a year before and she had forgotten.  She admitted being confused by social networking on the Internet and asked me what the difference between blogging, Facebook and Twitter was.  Well, now I was distracted as well, since I imbibe in all three.  I have to confess, I like the feeling of knowing more about a certain subject than others.  It's an unattractive vanity of mine.  But, when it comes to the mysteries of the Internet, there aren't that many people who know less than I do, so I appreciated an audience and eagerly took her on a tour of each venue.  Since that time, I thought it might be an amusing post to explain what I do know - and by omission - what I don't know about the medium I am writing in.  Therefore, here is a snapshot of what I showed her:

I began blogging in April 2009 as a release from trying to care for Mother.  I was out of work and therefore isolated.  I had no one to talk to really.  I knew several of my much younger friends had these things called blogs, so I knew a little bit about the process. What better way than to vent to everyone and no one all at once.  No one had to listen, but anyone could if they chose to.  One day I decided to try it.  It was easy enough to start one up.  I was writing away within a few minutes.  I fancy myself a decent enough writer, and I was aware of one young man who actually made money by allowing advertising on his blog.  So, I signed up to allow ads and tried to promote the blog.  At the time, it was innocent enough.  My adventures in caring for mother had some humor, if I would allow myself to see it, and I thought I could build an audience.  Two months later everything changed, and my blog has been down a darker road every since.  Without this outlet, I'm not sure I could have gotten through the long months since my daughter's death, but I still feel sometimes as though I am writing for an audience of one.  My daughter has to remind me at such times that this is just fine.  But, my ego gets in the way occasionally.  The stifled writer in me wants an audience.  Yet, at its core, it's an outlet for myself.  Anything else is gravy.  And I'm certainly not getting rich at it.

I have yet to make a single penny at blogging, despite having ad space.  I tend to forget I even have an ad on it, and I'm sure the poor sponsor who pays to have it put there is not reaping any benefit from it.  At this point, I simply tolerate it, they no longer try various ads, so it's not too annoying.  It's just there.  At first, the ads flowed with whatever topic I blogged about, which is what they promise you when you sign up; the ads will be appropriate to your content.  Problem with my blog is that it is all over the place.  One day I'm talking about eating disorders, one day I'm spewing about Ben Roethlisberger and the next I'm gushing about Sidney Crosby.  I'm sure it's all automated based on key words, but none of the ads ever got more than a day or two's exposure before I was bouncing off on something completely different.  Occasionally the ads were highly inappropriate given our circumstances.  When the Nordstrom outlet opened here in Austin, an ad for it popped up on my blog with a willowy young model.  My husband called me at work to complain about it.  I told him not to worry, I'd blog about the Steelers and it'd be gone by the next day.  It was.  At some point, I exhausted the folks at Google and they just planted the ad for a non-profit group that probably didn't pay full rate.  Fine by me, it's nondescript and non-threatening.  I admit, I'd have it taken off if I knew how to do that, but that's the thing, I really am pretty clueless about the inner workings of a blog.

This ignorance was illustrated when I began looking at some of the blogs of my friends, with their stunning graphics which draw you in.  My original blog was extremely plain.  After some frustrating days of trying to figure out how to make my blog on par with some others I was seeing, I finally asked my friend and fellow blogger, Jenn B Says how she got her blog to look like it did.  She let me in on her secret:  her cousin designed it.  Her cousin, it turns out, designs blog pages for a living under the name The Frilly Coconut.  Jenn got  her to donate her services to my cause, and I love the results, but it wasn't without a few giggles on her part during the design process, as my extreme lack of technical savvy kept it entertaining.  The most blatant example is when she showed me a sample that I liked, but it had this funny writing across the photo.  I couldn't decide what to do about it.  I was so grateful she had agreed to help me, I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but I didn't want that weird script across my blog either, so I finally spoke up.  After she stopped laughing, she emailed that it was a watermark across the iStock photo that wasn't technically mine until I paid for it.  The end results are what you see now as you read this.

So, with some Frilly Coconut help, I had a professional looking blog.  Finding an audience to appreciate my new slamming site is harder.  I have a core group of loyal followers.  Thank you all.  But, I was motivated for a while to reach a far wider audience.  I felt as though my best bet to honor Kelsey was to prevent another Kelsey.  The only way I knew to do that was to share my story and let parents know the consequences of not acting, or acting inappropriately.  It's a dark message and not one readily picked up for mass consumption like some of the more light hearted blogs out there.  I explained blogging to my co-worker as an online journal that anyone can access.  That's true for me.  I've had readers from Russia, Slovenia, Greece, Ireland and India among other places.  They've found the blog through all kinds of interesting ways, but they're not staying around.  My lone reader from Russia has not reappeared on my horizon.  Finally I've come to realize that I have to continue writing for my own reasons.  If someone finds it and finds some value in it, then that's awesome, and I will find it a great honor, but it can't be why I do this.

Finally, the thing about blogging is that any idiot can begin a blog - I mean, just look at me.  Our First Amendment rights are well worth protecting, but at times they can run amok because people run the gamut from reasonable and sane to NOT SO MUCH.  I confess, my blog is primarily opinion based so I don't spend a lot of time doing research.  I don't really need to in order to explain my feelings, but there are many, many, many other blogs floating out there that do present their own opinions as facts with about the same amount of research and thought.  And gullible people swallow them whole.  I've been pondering the polarization of America (a future blog topic for me to be sure), and I wonder how much the vast dissemination of unsubstantiated crap readily available on the Internet plays into that.  For those of us who blog to try and help others, promote our small businesses, share our love of some thing or other, or just allow our family and friends to know what we're up to, I salute you.  For those of you who spread fear, lies and propaganda by spewing it on a blog, shame on you (Sarah Palin).

Next up...Facebook.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chain Overreaction

One of the things that happened to me personally immediately after Kelsey died was that I went through a heightened paranoia about the other individuals in my family, particularly Marissa and Greg.  At first, if they were out of my sight for even a minute, I was worried.  Not just vaguely nervous, but hand-wringing, brow-furrowing frantic.  I recognized it as a reaction to the shock of losing one immediately family member suddenly, so I tried to control it.  That was a lot of work, I have to say.  What I really didn't want to do was to cast the shadow of my fear onto my daughter.  She was under enough stress at the time, she didn't need my frantic hovering to add to it.  I would fight competing emotions when she would leave to spend time with friends or her boyfriend in the first few weeks, being glad on the one hand that she was getting away for a while, but worrying every second she was out of my sight.  I felt much the same with Greg, but it faded faster.  For one thing, he was older and more capable for taking care of himself.  For another, he's not my child, my flesh and blood.  I still was vaguely afraid if I didn't know where he'd gone or if he was gone longer than I thought he would be.  Truth is, I am still that way.  But, I was able to regain a sense of control over that fear with a lot more ease than I could whenever Marissa ventured out.

Our choice to have Marissa live at the dorm at her college despite it being literally just down the road from our house has been questioned by well meaning friends who view the expense of it in light of our circumstances.  But, for both her dad and me, it was critically important to get her away from these walls and the memories they contained, and just to allow her some space to be her own person.  Yet, at the same time, not too much space (figuratively and literally).  Dorms are a bit like half way houses for young people.  She still had a roommate and a resident advisor keeping at least a bit of a watch on things, plus there were gates and doors on the building.  It wasn't Fort Knox, but I could go to sleep at night knowing she was in a semi-secure location.  She could have a chance to be a normal young college kid, and I could spend those months learning to chill out and stop worrying.  And, best of all, I could be there within twenty minutes if I needed to be.

Despite my inner fears, I honestly will congratulate myself on keeping a lid on them for the most part.  I've encouraged her to go out to concerts and she's traveled back and forth to her boyfriend's grandparent's home down near the coast several times.  But, I'm still just always vaguely uneasy about her well being.  As evidenced by the other day.

I get this text from Marissa at the end of the work day, "I think I have a concussion."  I was planning on staying for about another half hour, taking advantage of some quiet time to play a little catch up.  I didn't.  I clocked out quickly, managing to fire off a response text to ask what happened and sped off home.  I don't live far from work, and I'm right by the tollroad ramp, but it seemed to be a long commute.  When I pull into the driveway, Marissa's car wasn't there.  I knew she was planning on spending the night at her boyfriend's condo, but I had no idea she was already there.  Greg heard me drive in, a little earlier than anticipated, and poked his head out the door.  "Where's Marissa?"  I bark.  He immediately gets that something is wrong.  I explain why I'm asking.  He ducks back into the house, shutting the door behind him.  I stay standing in the garage and dial her.  Turns out Greg had gone back in the house to do the same thing, so as she was talking to me, his call is trying to beep through.  She tries to underplay it at this point, explaining that she had lost her balance and hit her head - admittedly hard - on the edge of the stairs, but she is fine, so she says.  She would later clarify that the extent of the pain was, she thinks, attributed to the fact that she hit the back of her head on the sharp corner, more than the fact that she rattled her brain around in its cage.   I'm not convinced, offering to come over there, fetch her and take her to the emergency room, at least check her out personally, any number of things.  Her boyfriend wasn't there, he was at the store and hadn't been there when it happened.  We finally left it that he needed to keep an eye on her and call us with his evaluation.  With that, I went to work out, convincing myself that panicking was not a valid reaction, leaving my phone with Greg so he could snatch it up when Boyfriend called, which he sweetly and obediently did in short order.  And she was right, she was fine.  The next morning she texted not to worry, that she had survived the night, making light of our all out hysteria the night before.

We all had a bit of egg on our face, I guess, but it's just one example of how we are now.  Not that we purposefully neglected her before, or would have been complacent about her texting that she had suffered a serious bodily injury, but we wouldn't have wanted to call out the National Guard either - not immediately anyway.  Having her out of my sight, trying to evaluate the situation remotely was the scary part.  But, bottom line is she's an adult.  An adult with an inherited stubborn streak.  Even when she's right in my line of sight, I can't really force her to do what I want her to do if she really doesn't want to do it.  And I need to allow her to be an adult and make those choices herself, but then face the consequences when she does.  My job at this point is to provide her a safety net as she goes out and learns how to live her life, not a cage.  My greatest fear, bigger than anything else like asthma attacks, bumps on the head or being sprayed by a skunk when she sits out back at night, is that her father and I will smother her sense of self and independence.  I have to guard against that.  The footprint her sister's loss left on our hearts is so massive as it is, we shouldn't do anything to make it bigger.  And that's a heck of a mandate, as it turns out.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dear Sister...

The woman I work for, who has also been a friend for many years, learned that her brother has late stage pancreatic cancer yesterday.  Normally a strong (very), stoic woman, she was devastated.  As she was telling me about it, I thought to myself, "Man, I'm probably the last person on the planet she should be talking to.  I have nothing good to offer."  She's had a difficult relationship with him over the years.  I know the brother just a bit, and he can be boorish.  As she said it yesterday, "He's an asshole, but he's my asshole."  I understand her words, and know her shocking sense of loss is peppered with guilt over their strife off and on, but I can only imagine her pain.  I will never know the loss of a sibling.  Maybe I don't give myself enough credit, maybe I've mourned the lack of siblings all my life.  I'm not ignorant to the fact that I compensate for my lack of family by creating my own, all of them with four legs.  What I don't do any longer is try to attach myself to Greg's family all inclusively.  I have learned there are some places I cannot go, some experiences I'll never be able to share.  Siblings strike out on the road of life together, and however that road may split off for each of them, their genesis was the same and no one else can claim that.  Greg knew that long before I accepted it.

Thus it was perhaps funny that his oldest sister, whom I cut ties with after her last visit in the weeks after Mother died, chose to criticize me for not wanting to belong to their family.  I never would have known she said anything had she not sent an odd apology to me and her brother.  Since she had carefully honored my request not to communicate with me anymore, having her husband send the occasional email here or there if she needed our branch of the family tree to know something, I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about.  But I could guess, and I was right.  She had an exchange with Greg over the weekend that began with discussing the disposition of some of Mother's furniture and other items that she had wanted.  I had told her husband I was going to sell it so we could begin the arduous process of putting our house on the market.  After stating her continued desire for the circa 1950's bedroom set, among other things, she apparently went on the offensive about me, with the lead story being that I didn't consider myself a part of their family and how she wasn't going to tell her two daughters that, because they would be so hurt.  Greg apparently defended me for a couple of volleys until she changed the subject to focus on him.  I know he's not telling me everything.  I can tell by reading between her brief lines - myself being adept at styling business correspondence that is polite yet with a "F-you" underbelly.  Plus, that's just how he rolls.  He doesn't want the drama, so he's not going to tell me the meat of the matter, both to save hurting me, but also to get the whole thing to die down quickly.  Luckily for him, my current coping mechanism is to be a little numb to most things, but unluckily, I also dug into it more than I might have because I don't like being numb, and a little family drama shakes things up for me (hence my taking not one, but two blog posts to focus on it).  Her apology, if I were so inclined to take it this way, almost made it sound as though she were giving him permission to stay with me.  She stated, "Whatever makes you smile."  Whatever.  I don't know what he replied back, but he probably pointed out that not much makes either of us smile these days.

I wish he hadn't chosen to defend my honor quite in the way that he did, so just on the off chance she ever reads this, allow me to say, I don't need excuses made for my behavior.  I confessed my sins in the unseemly little passion play that ended - or possibly just suspended - our relationship.  Childish behavior doesn't have an age limit, as it turns out.  You can accept that or not accept that.  I have to take whatever decision you make and be okay with it.  And I am.  Know this as well:  I am not, nor would ever, try to damage my husband's relationship with his family.  Me, of all people - the person who so desperately sought to attach myself to yours.  Even more so with Marissa.  She is now in the position I've struggled with all my life, she's an only child.  Why in the world would I in any way alienate her from what family she has left?   If I need to say more on the matter, then you're not listening.

But, I know how it must look.  I am dragging them clear across the country to tilt at black and gold windmills in the hopes we can find some peace that way.  I know that, since my mother's family is largely still based in the area, that seems particularly suspicious.  All I can say is that I am not fleeing one family into the arms of another.  And I am really fully aware that this may be a fool's errand.  In the wake of watching my friend's distress all day yesterday, I came home last night to try and file paperwork that's been stacking up since before Mother died.  Greg popped in an episode of True Blood to entertain us as I sifted through piles of bills from three separate households:  ours, Mother's and Kelsey's.  The episode happened to be Adele Stackhouse's funeral.  As I wiped away tears, watching Sookie (the main character) eat her grandmother's last ever pecan pie and coming across the receipt from Mother's own funeral, I thought to myself, "Am I ever going to not get triggered over stuff like this?  Am I ever going to feel normal again?"

All I know is we have to try something.  And all I can tell you is that I got nearly giddy when my Realtor answered some of my questions because it meant we're getting closer to finding something, and Greg seemed excited when I showed him a new listing with a massive backyard.  It's not that it's Pittsburgh really.  It's just that it's not here.  I don't really expect everyone to understand.  For their sakes, I hope they never have the opportunity to have to.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

He Ain't Heavy, He's My In-Law

I have been contemplating my husband's relationship with his family since the night he agreed to pack up and move back east because I knew I'd been pulling him away from them geographically.  Then yesterday something happened that opened the door to me writing this post.  I got a strange email from his oldest sister.  As I contemplated it and what likely took place to put her in a position to write it, I thought now was a good time to open those family dynamics up and take a look at them.  Because, let's face it, the in-law relationship is an odd one.  You, whether you are a sister, brother, mother, or whatever, are tossed in with this other group not by mutual interests, economics, religion (necessarily), even ethnicity simply because somebody in your family happened to fall in love with someone in their family, and you're all expected to get along.  We've all heard the jokes and the millions of hours of sitcom fodder these forced inter-familial workings have spurred.  Those of us who are married have - c'mon, admit it - nodded knowingly at many of them.

For me, and maybe for a lot of only children, it takes on something even more complex.  There is absolutely no secret - Greg and I have discussed it openly - that I was in part attracted to my husband because of his large family and their seemingly tight, well-adjusted relationship.  I throw the word "seemingly" in there not because they weren't/aren't a loving, committed family, but because their dynamic was much more complex than I originally thought.  I am pretty sure I've blogged about some of this before, so I'll apologize in advance for repeating myself if that's indeed the case, but I recall very specifically where I was and what conversation was taking place when I had the epiphany that every family is dysfunctional to some degree.  I had always thought, in all seriousness, that mine was uniquely screwed up.  But even this happy, tight-knit group of fresh-faced, intelligent children of well-educated upper middle class Caucasians had conflicts, doubts and the occasional storm cloud on their sunny horizons.  This did not make me love them less, it made me actually love my parents a bit more.  If my highly maternal, nurturing mother-in-law couldn't spare her children a few childhood scars, then how in the world did I think my parents could manage it?

Yet, while maybe they weren't the Brady Bunch all the time, they still were a bonded family, and I yearned to be a part of their world.  My first Christmas with Greg, with my parents in Montana and me with no money to go home, was magical.  Greg's mother always went overboard for the holidays, lavishly decorating her home and over flowing it with the spirit of the season.  There was an excess of everything:  food, presents, atmosphere and family time.  The siblings had a ritual of all going out to a movie together on Christmas Eve.  They took me with them.  I remember we saw Tootsie.  I felt so - I struggle to this day to find exactly the right word - integrated, included, warm, fulfilled, all of them work to a degree, but don't quite capture it.  I felt whole, I guess.  As much as I ever had to that point.

Problem was I wanted that feeling of belonging so badly I often overstepped my bounds and came across as meddling, needy and desperate.  Greg sometimes had to hold me off a bit, both before and after we were married.  I remember how utterly crushed I was after his middle sister's wedding when he wanted to spend some time with his cousins without me.  Granted, he was too young to handle the request graciously or to understand where I was coming from, but it felt as though my entire world was shattering, the weight of the rejection was so immense.  Somehow we recovered from it and, as everyone knows, we eventually married ourselves, and he made me officially a part of the family.

Of course, officially now a Veldman, I was just that much more emboldened to stick my nose into things and places it didn't belong.  I specifically got way too involved and interested in his brother's marital woes at one point and Greg admonished me about it, reminding me that "it wasn't my family."  Those words would haunt me for years.  Again, he wasn't subtle, he wasn't gracious and, given our own marital rockiness at the time, he wasn't trying to be anything close to sensitive, but he was right.  Actually, what the young couple was going through wasn't anyone's business but their own, but it really, really wasn't mine.

The task since that time was to find the right balance.  To be involved with the family I married into without overstepping my bounds.  And yes, that's a two-way street.  I've occasionally been stung by actions or comments of the individuals who lived nearby while we struggled with Kelsey.  They were close enough to see some of what was happening, but not to really understand it, yet comments got made and judgements passed.  So it goes with family, I guess.  I mean, I can only guess - they have been the only extended family I ever got to really know.  What I have come to conclude is that there are some places where I don't belong in their lives, and there are places they can't come into mine.  I am also mindful that, no matter what becomes of my marriage, there is an integral tie to his family in my surviving daughter.  I cannot remove myself completely from them.  I don't want to.

That's a snapshot into my side of the aisle.  Then, there's Greg's relationship with his family and how my involvement with him sways it.  I am concluding that the ideal is for the in-law to try and travel through the land of family relationships like one is in a national forest.  Don't damage the eco-system, don't remove anything.   I am also concluding it's easier to move through like a bull in a china shop.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


First of all, just let me begin by saying, "Okay, Coach LeBeau, I heard you."  The Defensive Coordinator who guided our defense to our last three Super Bowls and won two of them was inducted as a player into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night.  Long overdue, it was awesome to see him in a light I never have before (talking:  I've never heard much from him), and it was beyond awesome to see that the entire Steeler team, coaches and ownership was on hand for the induction.  You could tell it meant a lot to him.  He's given a lot to the game; he deserved this moment.  Old enough to be my father and therefore a grandfather figure to the young men who came with him from Latrobe, he ended his acceptance speech with a resounding testament to what his mother always told him, which is that age is just a number.  Wow, almost as though he'd read my blog and was responding to it.  Of course, I have to do whatever the Steeler coaches tell me to do, so I will bear that in mind as I contemplate the next phase of my life.  But, I'll be sure to take my vitamins just to bolster the cause!

However, the next phase is in the plotting still, not really the doing.  I look at the new listings my Realtor sends me everyday, marking the ones I like and the ones I love.  Finding available houses in the area is not the problem, but trying to figure out how to secure the one we love the most (a foreclosure with a Frank Lloyd Wright flair sitting on a little over an acre) while still owning this one is the trick.  And then how does one sell this one with six dogs milling around?  I watched my neighbor down the street try and do it a year ago.

That family is actually the reason we are here.  The woman, who passed away a couple of years ago, was friends with my agent and, after an exasperatingly long search for a lot large enough to give my pack room enough to roam, she suggested we try this neighborhood, where she lived with her nine dogs.  Within the month, I had the keys to this house, which had been owned by a vet and was therefore highly Dog Friendly.  She fed the deer long before I did, so you would have thought we'd be fast friends, but nothing could be further from the case.  Her nose for gossip and the gospel, and my family's troubles being perfect fodder for sanctimonious tongue wagging kept us divided.  Then there was that time Marissa went along with her boyfriend to vandalize their truck because of some silly teenage feud with their son.  Nothing that couldn't wash off with a custom wash, paid for by Marissa's allowance, and they handled it pretty well (although I was thoroughly mortified and wanted the ground to swallow me whole), but it didn't make for very good neighborly relations through the years.  Nonetheless, I was sorry to learn she had been sick and passed, as a fellow animal lover.  So now her son and widowed husband tend to all those dogs and clearly wanted to do what we do, which is begin anew some where else.  They held a massive estate sale to clear away their excess and stage it for sale, and then there the house sat.  After a month or two they reduced the price.  And still it sat.  It's a decent house, a large lot.  She was a Realtor, so they probably know what to do to market it.  But, still the months went by and nothing.  They switched listing agents.  Nothing.  Finally the signs went down and they live there still, sans a lot of their furniture.  I am mindful of that as I look around at the six dogs remaining to me.  One of whom, at 15, is aging fairly rapidly, which makes her a little unpredictable behaviorally and definitely prone to the occasional accident, and another whose nickname is Seabiscuit.  If you're not a dog person, one look at him with his powerful head will stop you in your tracks.

That's one challenge.  The next is physically hauling all of them back east - along with two cats.  I worry that Noelle, my 15-year old, will not be up for it.  But, even without that worry, how the hell does one handle six not particularly leash trained dogs at various rest stops across over 1,000 miles?!  Then what hotel operator in their right mind is going to let us stay there?  I guess it could be worse.  I could have chosen Philadelphia.  At least I am on the western side of the state.  To combat at least a couple of these transport issues, I got the brilliant idea to buy an used RV.  Right.  If money were no object.  Used, they still run about $35,000.  I literally was looking at a house that was only $4,000 more than that (and should have bought it too - it's under contract now, and I am kicking myself).  I know you can rent RV's or buses, but I'm pretty sure there would be a problem if they found out I'd be hauling half a zoo in their vehicle.  Greg is less worried about this end of it than I am.  That's probably because he can control them better than I can.  I'm the Disneyland Mom, the one who lets them all get away with things that he doesn't.  They obey him better than me.  And we've discussed sending me back there first with most of them so he can finish some of the smaller things with this house that are "dog damaged". 

That's one aspect of it.  The next is: send me where?  As I stated earlier, finding listings is not the problem in Pittsburgh.  To say it's a buyer's market is probably an understatement.  And, once this house sells based on what this market will bear, buying a home that's at least as nice as this one is not an issue.  I have to say, I'm super excited about some of the houses there. They're what I've always fantasized about owning, and that's just run of the mill stuff for the area:  formal dining room, hard wood floors, stained glass and basements.  I got a kick out of Greg early on when I showed him one of the houses that caught my attention and his eyes got big and he said, "Wow, it has a basement."  Texas born and bred, he's never lived in a house with a basement.  He finds them extremely novel.  What does seem to be fairly novel for an older area, however, are bathrooms.  We can live with one full bath if we have at least a half bath to augment it.  What I'm not sure my husband and I can do is survive sharing just one commode.  Add Marissa home from college for the next few summers and then all the guests I hope to have and the idea fills me with dread.  We had a trial run recently when Greg and Amazing Handy Man were working on the bathrooms and we were down to one operational facility.  Just trust me:  it wasn't a happy time.

Then there is the issue of garages.  I am a Subaru driver.  Have been since 1995, will be until the day someone pries my license out of my hands.  I love my Subaru.  She takes care of me.  I work to take care of her.  So, the idea of parking her on the street is abhorrent to me.  Unfortunately, one of the areas I really like in Pittsburgh, Mt. Washington, has a lot of sweet, affordable houses with one bathroom and street parking.  There was one house there I loved so much I was trying to convince myself I could do it when Greg and Marissa both brought me back to reality and asked me to visualize parking my Forester on the street every night.  That pushes me out towards areas like Ross Township, Shaler (which I don't really understand why it's called that when the mailing address is Glenshaw) and Crafton.  Which means I'm a commuter most likely in a town not known for its ease of commuting.  But at least my baby will have the shelter she deserves. 

But, anyway, I strayed a bit from the original point:  cash flow.  How do we buy a house there so we can clear out the impediments to selling the house here when we need the money from the house here to buy the house there?  It's like being stuck in a maze.  I have toyed with what I call the Get Me There House.  The house I eluded to earlier would have been just that.  Cheap, yet not gross (trust me, there are a lot of absolute steals, but you'd need a HazMat suit to walk into them), that I could snatch up, live in for a year or so, then buy the real house and keep the first house as a rental.  Problem there is two-fold:  we're living on the cash I would use to do that since Greg's out of work (and yes, that causes some tension), and do I really want to move all this stuff and all these critters twice?  Plus, we'll need a fair amount of savings once I launch because then we'll both be out of work in a city not brimming with jobs.

I looked at rentals.  Again, the dogs become an issue.  And, ironically, while houses are a dime a dozen to buy, there didn't seem to be a lot to rent, at least not affordably.  Which bolstered my keeping a rent house idea because it seems more people want to rent there than own.  I've been in contact with one woman with a town home on the North Shore who lives in Dallas now.  She flat out told me she can't sell it, so she's renting it.  She'd roll with a couple of the dogs, but not all of them.  I saw a great house listed for $2,200.00 a month.  Criminy, if I could afford that, I could just buy a second house.  So, that idea's fading.

When I found a house we all three totally love in Ross Township, already empty and ready to go, Greg thought he could convince our bank to give us a bridge loan based on my retirement as collateral.  I didn't think it would work, but he was so sure of himself I let him try.  I was right.  They were mightily interested until he told them he wasn't drawing in any income.  That caused several days of an icy chill in the air.  I knew exactly what would happen, but when it actually happened, I was angry.  If he had just held on for a little while, I reasoned, I could have gotten all of us what we wanted.  But, finally I thawed a little.  What is, is.  I can't change it, so continuing to be mad about it wasn't really getting me any where.  Now we're trying to think outside the conventional box and get creative.  I try to remind myself we're not on a specific time frame.  There are lots of choices now, so there will be in a few months if that's what it takes.  But, there are days I'm better at that than others.  As I read reports from training camp, I wish I could be there.  As I get emails from the Penguins organization about the completion of the new arena, I wish I could see it.  As I watched the entire Steeler team sitting in the stands yesterday in Canton, I vowed never to miss another Steeler inductee as long as I live.  I confess it, I'm getting anxious.  I am beginning mentally to think of myself as belonging there.  And I'm homesick.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Half Way to Antique

The alternate title to this post is:  Myrna Loy, Michelle Kwan and Learning to Live with Regret, Wrinkles and the Occasional Hot Flash.  I figured that one was too long for the header...

Courtesy of Flickr.com
Monday was Myrna Loy's birthday once more, so it is time to contemplate becoming yet another year older myself.  This one will be a milestone for me (I won't say which, but I'm sure you can figure it out), so it is only natural that I would contemplate what led me to this point.  Some may say that looking back does nothing but keep you from moving forward.  I would argue that having a good, long look at yourself every now and again prevents you from making the same mistakes twice.  And maybe it will prove to be a morality tale for someone else.  Don't do as I do, do as I say was a favorite saying of my father's.  Same concept here.  Because, let's face it, regret is a major part of my diet these days.  How can it not be when I couldn't prevent my daughters from suffering so utterly, one of them paying the ultimate price?

Not that I want to necessarily wallow in self pity, mind you.  What I hope to achieve is a pretty honest look at the path that I took to get to this porch on this weekend morning.  Because mine is a life swept along by the course of time and circumstances, not the other way around.  And I never thought I would be like that when I was growing up.  I always thought I was destined for something that would make a difference in the world.  I would imagine a lot of people are like that - maybe particularly in my generation.  We were born in a period of relative peace and prosperity.  We were coddled, I think.  Most of the parents of my friends had not even seen war themselves - some had served in Korea, but few had shared my father's path and served in multiple wars and grown up in the depression.  As a result, we were sheltered from any real strife and grew up with certain expectations about career, family and self-fulfillment.  We watched shows like Leave It To Beaver and The Brady Bunch where family strife was not all that serious and always resolved by the end of the episode.  I can't and won't speak for anyone else, but it made me soft and lazy growing up, without any specific direction or determination.  The world was my oyster, so why worry about how I was going to open it up to find the pearl inside.  That would just happen, wouldn't it?  I was absolutely unprepared for how hard real life actually is.

I had a lot of fantasies about what I wanted to do with my life.  One of the biggest issues I had was that I liked so much about a lot of different things.  Even after I grew up a little and realized life was flying by, so I'd better get myself back in college before it was too late, I could never complete a degree because I could never settle on anything.  I loved history, but Criminal Justice was great fun to learn.  I wanted to write, so I took a lot of English classes, but I was interested in politics and the economic classes I took were interesting.  I liked law, so I dabbled a bit with that.  I contemplated being a park ranger early on, but at the time it was a hard road for women (not the work per se, but the Good Old Boy attitude of the male dominated profession), so I abandoned that thought quickly.  It struck me just the other day that, if I had to do it over again I would stick to a history degree and would have pursued a career in a museum.  I realized that whenever I go to the Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg, I am jealous of the people I see working there.  I could have rocked a career like that.  So, regret No. 1.  Anyway, the point to all of that is, I didn't have the resolve and sense of purpose that I think generations before me had coming out of the gate, so I meandered down the track, and it took me a while to realize the race was quickly passing me by.

The result of that was that I had to make a living somehow with no real discernible skill.  I take that back.  I had my father's massive work ethic and I plied that - eventually, after a few messy starts - into a job skill that got me by.  I've related that story before, of course.  I wasn't around for my children.  I've often said that I raised the company, not my family.  And I worked really hard at a job I didn't like, in fact loathed.  Face it: association management is a totally thankless job.  There is zero possibility you will make everyone happy. You're telling people what they can and cannot do on their property, after all.  Some of them will think you're too tough (if I had a dime every time someone called me a Nazi, I'd be sitting deck side on a yacht right about now), some will think you're too lax (all time favorite insult from a woman whose neighbor kept parking his Mercedes in front of her house:  "Your mother wasted her time giving birth to you."), and the rest are too busy living their lives to pay much attention to you.  Of course, as I've said before, I loved the people I worked with like family, which is why I stuck with it.  As much as I love many of those people, I still have multiple regrets about that period of my life.

But, am I a bad person?  I don't know.  I'd like to think not.  I have a mighty mean streak in me that comes out more often than I would like it to these days, but...  Anyway, even if I am less than an awesome individual right now, the great thing about humans is the ability to change.  I can still do that.  I can still be better than I was and be more like the person I envisioned I would be.  Yet, there are some things I cannot change.  The biggest being the fact that my oldest daughter lives only in our memories now.

Enter Michelle Kwan.  I've blogged about her before (when I explained why I sit out the Winter Olympics).  I think she is one of the most beautiful women on the planet, both inside and out.  I hold her in high esteem.  So, I was excited to see a brief article about her in the Sports Illustrated's Where Are They Now issue.  Not surprisingly, she is doing a lot and doing it well.  She looks gorgeous.  But most importantly, she is actually using her experiences as a skater toward diplomatic missions under the Obama administration.  Her confidence on the world stage as a competitor is serving her well, and, as the article stated, even her disappointment in the Olympics is working to her favor, teaching her valuable lessons she can now apply to work as a diplomat.  I was so relieved and glad to read that; the last I had heard she was plotting an attempt at a comeback for the most recent Olympics.  Obviously, I didn't know what had happened, but I knew she wasn't there, and I was secretly relieved.  I mean, for the most part, these come-back missions athletes plan are pretty sad.  Lance Armstrong, Brett Favre, Todd Eldredge just to name a few.  Some would say they all performed well in their attempts to re-enter an arena they had originally left behind, but I'm not one of the some.  I tend to think those aging athletes would have been served better by allowing the public to remember them in their prime, when they were at the top of their game.  Michelle Kwan, thankfully, figured that out and took her talents onto the next stage in her life.  She is still young, beautiful, intelligent and capable of changing the world.  Just not as a world class figure skater.  I continue to be inspired by this young woman, 20 years my junior.

There are two morals to this story:

1) Regret is part of life and is a valuable teacher.  If you say you say you have no regrets in your life, you are either a candidate for sainthood or extremely arrogant.  I believe most of have regrets about some of the things we did or didn't do with our lives.  Rather than bemoan this, I think the key is to learn from them and move forward.  And, not just to manage to escape a repeat performance of whatever caused the regrets, but to help others avoid the same level of pain.  The key, I think, to living with regret is to turn it around into something that helps others.

2) Age is more than just a number.  I don't think I'll realistically be able to pursue a second career as a park ranger at this point.  Can you imagine me holding up an investigation into a bear mauling in Yellowstone because I need a moment to work through a hot flash?  The reality is there are indeed some doors that have shut and locked behind me.  It doesn't mean I'm all dried up and can't add anything to society, but I have to balance my own aspirations with the reality of where I am in life.  The question remains just where the limit of that ability lies.  But, I accept I'm no longer a young woman with all my life in front of me.  I am half way to antique as of Monday.  Some doors may be closed, but half of them are still open! 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Precious Moments

Death found our house again last night.  This time it was not a surprise, and arguably, perhaps, over due, but we still sit here tonight minus a member of our family, and I want to give her her due at long last because she lived much of her life in the shadow of stronger personalities and was often overlooked as a result.

Precious came to live with us on the Saturday before the AFC and NFC championship games in early 1996.  At the time she was a year old and had been loved deeply by a family who lived around the corner from us.  The man was a state trooper who was being assigned to a canine unit, and they were not allowed to keep a family pet along with their assigned police dog.  The man had been very close to Precious, and it was hard for him to give her up.  I never met him.  I met with his mother and wife to meet her initially and pick her up a few days later.  He could not bring himself to come out to say goodbye to her. And she was clearly close to him, a strong male figure.  Greg wasn't home yet from his newspaper job when we picked her up, and she was terrified of me and my daughters.  She ran to a side corner of the back yard and refused to come out until Greg finally came home.  She immediately warmed up to him, and for the rest of her life it was clear he was the main star of the show.  She loved him best.  And I never bonded as closely with her as I have with my other dogs.  She came to our home only a few months after I had lost my Daphne, a collie mix that I loved utterly.  Precious was roughly the same size and coloring, so the comparisons were inevitable, and she wasn't my Daphne.  As a result I've always cautioned people who have lost pets from getting a new one too soon.  But, before long, she would become a member of the whole family, and I did love her.

She was a quiet dog, not easily excited nor quick to anger (although Noelle got on her nerves often - when she had enough she would put her mouth over Noelle's muzzle and apply some pressure as if to say, "Stop it now!"), but she was always a little timid.  That timidity was part of the reason I remember the day we got her so clearly.   The next day the Steelers beat the Chargers for the right to go to Super Bowl XXX.  I watched the game with my friend Suwan - Greg went to a friend's house for the NFC game - and I lost it when we pulled it out, jumping up and down and screaming.  Precious was so freaked out, she broke out of the yard and ran two doors down to the neighbor's house, cowering next to their dog until I came to retrieve her.  Later in her life that would become a problem and make it hard for me to keep her healthy.  She wasn't a high energy dog, so walking her was the only way to get her ample exercise.  But, as she began to age, she wouldn't walk past our property line without Greg along.  She would walk just fine until we hit that line, as though she could sniff it out, then she would lock her legs and pull back.  As the drama with my children increased, I didn't even try any longer.  She began to lose muscle mass in her back legs as a result a number of years ago.  And keeping her weight under control was not something I was very good at.  I don't think any of that particularly bothered her, but the vets who treated her over the years were constantly aggravated with me over how I neglected her (my words, not theirs, they veiled their terminology).  They were right, I think.  As our family dramas unfolded, causing the other dogs to act out or fight, she remained sweet and calm, but that made her easy to overlook.  Mother would comment on it occasionally, saying how Precious was always so sweet and no one paid attention to her.  There was some unfortunate truth to that.

Her name, however, is part of the Veldman Lore.  The family who originally adopted her from a local shelter had somewhat accidentally named her that.  The shelter, as often happens in those kinds of institutions, had spayed her way too early and probably not done a good job to boot, so when they went to pick up their new puppy, she was extremely ill.  They told me that it was touch and go for weeks; she wore a scare on her right front leg all her life from the IV she had been treated with in the fight to save her.  Thinking that she was sure to die, they hesitated to invest a name on her, so they used the term "precious" when referring to her.  When she pulled through, the name just stuck.  As touching as that story is, I hated the name for a large dog and figured she was young enough that we could change it without confusing her too much.  The Steelers and the Cowboys (Greg's team) were set to face one another in Super Bowl XXX, so a wager was born:  which ever of us emerged victorious from the Super Bowl got to rename the dog.  I was supremely confident that it would be me, and I didn't think to put additional restrictions on the bet at the time.  As we all know, I in fact lost.  And Greg kept coming up with the most purposefully horrific names for the new dog:  Deiondra (for Deion Sanders), Prime Time (also for Sanders), Emmett (for Smith)...  I vetoed them all and Precious retained her original name.  And Greg was left with a story about how I welch on my bets.  He loved to tell that story and continues to tell it often.  A couple of years ago it gained another dimension when we met a man in line at the movie concessions, me wearing my typical evening attire of Steeler shirt and Steeler purse.  He looked me up and down and then said to Greg in utter sincerity, "You are so lucky to have a wife who likes sports."  Greg responded, "No, I'm not.  She welches on her bets." He related his version of the naming episode, at the end of which the man says, "Oh, you're right then."  Men.

But whatever inappropriate name she remained hampered with all her life, she was rock solid.  A good and patient dog.  I said my final goodbye to her last night.  I was glad I had the power to order an end to her suffering.  Greg thought we had waited too long to see it through, allowing her to suffer longer than she needed to.  Maybe he's right.  I hesitated over the last year, as she became increasingly senile and incontinent, because I had seen enough of Death.  Finally, when the emergency vet was reviewing our options last night, I looked at her poor suffering face and knew it was time to put aside my concerns and do what was right for her.  I wish I had given her a better life when I could have.  She deserved it.  I hope she and Myrna are somewhere together now, keeping Kelsey good and constant company.