Navigating the Never

It was so good to see Robert this morning. It’s always a great time to get together to share breakfast to share conversation to share our lives. Robert is one of the Tulsa triumvirate. One of three friends I met in the seventies during my first Tulsa pilgamage, and maintain a relationship with today. Robert, Brad, and Nancy.  Three friends that were in high school when I met them in the late 70s and now are just flat-out good good friends

Robert’s the one from out of town. So we don’t get to share face-to-face that often but I’m always blessed when we do.  Conversations about what we’re doing, what we’ve done, and what we might do. He’s always busy when he returns to Tulsa so our time together is precious and compacted and usually over coffee at a Starbucks but this morning it was at his hotel over the morning breakfast bar.

Robert and I are frequent conversants on Facebook and occasional conversations are made by the phone. Whatever time it is, it is treasure when we get together and get to spend time face-to-face.  Even when we occasionally annoy one another, our time is treasured.  And so it was this morning at the Hampton Inn South in Tulsa Oklahoma. 90 minutes of one-on-one time. And our first visit since I lost my beloved dog Tank Fulton. Robert has lost his longtime companion dog Bob named for Bob Newhart several years back. So he was familiar with the loss of a close fur friend Bob, been his dog since he was a Schoolboy.

We talked about my loss and I shared with him that I now understood what it meant when a person has and irreplaceable dog.   I was happy to have my other dogs but it’s true you can’t replace a dog that has been 13 year companion.

On a lighter side we talked about creative projects He was involved in.  Robert is an actor and has appeared in many movies you have seen and I have seen along with many national commercials. A successful character actor, a writer,  a confidante and so much more.

Coincidentally on this Sunday morning in the hotel breakfast area the television was tuned to CBS Sunday Morning. There were stories on the backdrop of the wall as we chatted, really none of them caught my eye nor my attention.  And then the story started about Art Garfunkel. Yes the Art Garfunkel of Simon & Garfunkel Fame.  The Art Garfunkel of my favorite pop Folk rock Duo the 60s and 70s..

The television was on low-volume so it really didn’t interrupt our conversation but I must admit it provided a distraction for that moment that I just didn’t see coming. A cutaway to Simon & Garfunkel performing one of my favorite songs “Old Friends”..

This was our song. Not Robert’s and my song. But this was the song of my dog journey with Tank Fulton.  It became our song one foggy morning at a dog park in Georgetown, Texas…. 2010.

Shared on this blog in 2013.

https://casacaninetulsa.com/2013/12/20/tank-my-friend/

Old friends sat on a park bench like bookends… Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly…..

And just like that the grief Came Upon me. It was at that moment I knew. No matter what else happened in my life. No matter how many other dogs I spend my life with and loving, Tank could never be replaced.

I would never look into his eyes. I would never smell him again. I would never hold him again. He would never lick my face. I was overcome by the realization of never.

tankeye - Edited

It was at that moment that I realized that grief is my conveyance for navigating the Never.

Through my tears I said it out loud to my friend Robert. A person who cares for me and was ready to listen. And this is what I said.

Tank is irreplaceable.  Because no matter what happens in the rest of my life, the likelihood of me having a daily relationship with somebody for 13 years again is unlikely. Even if it were to start today.  And Tank was my everyday guy for 13 years.   Fred and Shelly have been with me for 4 years, check back in 9 years.  And regardless of when the next great companion comes along… on 2 legs or 4, there will never be the connection I had with my wife who died and who was the rescuer of Tank. I will never ever get to live in that connection again. And so today and every day going forward will just be different. Not bad, not sad, not horrible, not filled with regret or tragedy.  Just different.  And currently there are limited ways to visit this moment in time.

Today I learned how to navigate the Never.

Grief will be a vehicle for that Journey.

At least it was today.

Analog or Digital

I am really sorry that my dog Tank is dead.  I really do miss him

tanktongue

 

I watched it happen.  It happened in my lifetime.  It is so commonplace now.  It was a conversion experience.  It is a conversion experience.

One day all the photo film in the store disappeared.

One day are the vinyl 45rpm records in the jukeboxes around the world were missing.

The Encyclopedia changed its name to Wikipedia.

What is a newspaper?

One day all the land line phones in my house disappeared.

For all intent and purposes, these things are gone.

What’s next?  Cars without drivers?  Really?

This is not a lament about the good old days.  It is a realization that in my lifetime I have seen, we have seen, some serious “deaths” to thing that were once just so common.

After college, in the mid-1970s, I worked in a radio station.  Reel to reel tape machines, Carts (cartridge tapes), 2 turntables and thousands of LP Vinyl albums.  I was an on air personality and produced radio shows and feature pieces.  Working with tape, a splicing block, and a razor blade and splicing tape.  It was such fun, and visceral.  I could feel the words and music.  Listening through headphones to build and edit a “perfect” interview.  Cueing up the music to hit a seemless musical sequay from one composition to the next.  I did not even know that I was working in an analog format.  I was just working and creating.

I am not sure when I became aware of how the digital age began in my life.  Nor when I started to experience digital  It had to be in the 80s.  Was it when I graduated from the cellular bag phone to my first Motorola Razr.  Was it when my job converted our order entry systems from a MSI transmission system to my first Toshiba laptop with a 128k processor.  I really don’t know, or more accurately I don’t remember.  Whenever it was, I remember I did not understand it.  It made absolutely no sense to me that I was communicating with a binary system of only 2 digits.  How can a “0” and a “1” do all of that work?

I still don’t understand it.  I don’t understand how a 1 and 0 can make a picture or be a song, but I do believe it.

dig·i·tal
ˈdijidl/
adjective
adjective: digital
  1. 1.
    (of signals or data) expressed as series of the digits 0 and 1, typically represented by values of a physical quantity such as voltage or magnetic polarization.
    • relating to, using, or storing data or information in the form of digital signals.
      “digital TV”
    • involving or relating to the use of computer technology.
      “the digital revolution”

I do however understand analog.

At least I think I do.  I understand the touch experience and physical quantities.

an-a-log

1:of, relating to, or being a mechanism in which data is represented by continuously variable physical quantities.
Did I mention my dog of 14 years, Tank Fulton, died last month?  Did I mention I miss him?
His absence is palpable.  He was a cornucopia of touches and smells.  He was soft, and warm, and fit perfectly by my side when we slept.  And I miss him.
I do believe that Tank is in a better place,  I know that Tank is without pain, and can run free.  I even believe I will see him again.   Whether you believe it or not, well that is your issue.
But I still miss him.  I miss him at night when he would snuggle next to me.  I have replacement units.  But I don’t have Tank Fulton.
thebed
You see.
Tank was analog.
And now he is dead and gone.
Grief is not just a theater of the mind.
Every night, grief is analog.

Sleepless

It’s been about 4 weeks. 4 weeks since he died. 4 weeks since my life changed. I tried to prepare for it. I’d already gotten replacement units. I actually was prepared for it. I was prepared for Tank to die. After all dogs die. Everything dies. But this is not about everything.  It probably isn’t even about Tank… It is probably about me.tanksleep

I started sleeping on, by, around, and next to Tank around 2004.  He wasn’t even my dog yet… He was soft, and smelled like a hound, and funny and comfortable and caring.  He was not a therapy dog, but he would become my therapy dog.

What I have learned?

I don’t mean to be self depricating…. but I truly am a mess.  I have been a fairly miserable partner in most of my relationships.  I start strong, but finish flat.  Nearly every meaningful “in love” with a woman type relationship has ended poorly.  I have some long time friendships and am grateful for them.  I did not get married until I was 54.  I was a widower by age 59.  My second marriage lasted only 10 months.  I really thought when I was growing up that I would make a spectacular partner.  That was not, and is not the case.

I have spent the last decade, since Michelle’s death, researching and revisiting old relationships.  I have been motivated to ask for forgiveness.  Some of the relationships are from the 60’s.  Half a century of knowing I needed to apologize for being an ass. Almost no one who reads this will understand.  Well maybe there will be a few accidental visitors.  I know who you are.  I think I have found all of you.  All but Katy.       I so wish I could find you.  By the way, marriage number 2 was to a woman who was among the long ago relationships which was rekindled on Facebook.  I was certain it would be a storybook ending.  All it had was an ending.

So why all these relationship ramblings?

My life is filled with regrets.  I don’t believe people that say they have a life with no regrets.  That makes no sense to me.  How can a person not regret hurting someone, or disappointing a partner, or betraying a confidant?  Seriously, NO Regrets.  Then I don’t believe you.  I am thankful for the path my life has taken.  I have learned from my bad decisions… at least from some of them.  I have a better life because I have had regrets.  I don’t live in regret, I live in victory over the bad decisions.  But a bad decision…. is still a bad decision.  I have grown….but I regret that I hurt someone else on my blessed journey. A journey in which things “fit into a pattern for good.”  But not all things are good.

What is the purpose?

For me, there is purpose in the midst of this journey.   Well I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, and for all their shortcomings….. and mine.  I learned this in my middle school years at Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Mo.  Thank you Rev. Ted Nissen.   The first question in the Shorter Westminster Catachism.  Most of you will not know this question.  But if you Google “what is the chief end of man?”  You will learn what I “know.”  This line is from Wikipedia…. “The most famous of the questions (known to a great many Presbyterian children) is the first: Q. What is the chief end of man? A.Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

And through this sieve is poured the results of my decisions.  If I understand who God is then this is a glorious time in my life.  Every day is glorious.  At least when I recognize my purpose.

What does it have to do with me now?

Well my today is a sum total of my decisions yesterday.  Life experience is a mathematical equation of sorts.  Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.  A series of events that create form and substance.    Very rarely is my string of life events just a march in forward progress.  The graph of life is a reality.  The ups, the downs, “the two steps forward and……….!”  See you could finish that phrase without me.  Because your life is a graph also.  You also have taken “one step back.”

What does this have to do with my dog Tank?

metank

Tank was a forward march dog.  He never complained.  He was half hound… so he could be a bit hornery if I decided to leave the dog park before he wanted to go.  And in his early days if I let him off leash in an unfenced area, he might disappear for up to 90 minutes (but obviously he always came back).  And there were occasions that he was not allowed to sleep in a stranger’s house and hence we did not share a bed.  But mostly Tank was just a kind, loving, lean in to a new human, hump a new pooch, tolerate a puppy, train a foster, love me without condition, snuggle with me at night kind of dog.  We could just sit quietly for hours.  In his younger days he would chase a ball for hours… always to bring it back to my hand.  He was a good boy.  He was what I want to be.  A caring loving, move forward kind of friend and companion.

tanklean

Tank was a dog without regrets, or so it seemed.  He glorified life and those around him.  Yes I am biased.  But those who were blessed to know him, know he was unique among the dog world.  He was just one of those dogs.  If you needed a hug, he would just give you a hug.  He did however hope you would scratch his butt or his ears.

And now he is gone.  No new pictures. No more kisses.  No visits to the dog park.  No sharing my bed. I had no idea just how critical Tank was to my well being.  I know now.

tanksleep

For since he left

My nights are

Sleepless.

 

 

 

 

Breathless

“Today is a good day to die”

And so it was, September 25, 2017.

I don’t mean to be morbid or unfeeling.  I am far from unfeeling, but it is a day I planned on since June 16, 2013.  The day I adopted Fred.  My number 2 dog. Fred, the Basset/Beagle… the Bagle.  Adopted because I loved him from the moment I saw his picture on the internet.  I had to have a second dog.

Fredday

I had to have a second dog because too many of my friends like Ann and Steve had shared that when they lost their dog, the pain was so great they knew they could not replace their lost companion.  But because of one Canine spirit I had to get a second pooch.  One dog had brought me so much joy that I knew I could not let pain prevent me from living each day without a fur baby.  And so many of you know who this great spirit is and was.  Tank Fulton… the dog I can never replace…

tankrock

September 25, 2017, a good day to die.

Tank’s final week began on Tuesday, September 18.  I called it visiting day.  I had seen Tank begin to slow down, though his energy would ebb and flow…  He had lost his appetite…

I noticed it for real the month before when we went to Kansas City to visit Annie, and Lynn, and my sister Barb.  But Tank was a trooper.. and he did well on the drive up and back, but he would never eat a great big meal again… even when I fixed him steak. But I digress… or maybe I just am remembering.

I rarely kennelled Tank.  Not it 13 years.  And when I had to leave him since my move to Tulsa… which I rarely did, I entrusted his care to two people.  Tank loved Nancy and Beth.  and so we went visiting.  It was a contrast in styles… he had love for both, but his energy waned as the day lengthened… Nancy first, who saw a boy ready to take on another day, and then Beth who saw an exhausted boy ready to visit the rainbow bridge. I listened to them both… it is why I went visiting.  Their love for Tank was known and their opinions are trusted.

And the week passed.

Off to the dog park to visit friends… but sadly we often missed our favorites… Tank would tire quickly.  I am most sorry that we missed our special friends there and their furry companions… But we tried, we really tried…

Most of the week we just spent together, resting… the park… well the backyard of Casa Canine was park enough for Tank.

Tank was a dog of great spirit and compassion.  And he had eyes that were filled with compassion and life.  That is until they were no longer filled with life.  And so it was on September 25, 2017

It was a good day to die

The night of September 24, 2017.  Tank was restless, pacing the house.  I fell asleep knowing he would come to bed… Tank always came to bed, or at the very least the bedside ottoman at the foot of my bed.  We rarely slept apart.

September 25, 2017.

Tank was missing.  No where in the house.  I have a doggy door.  So I went to look outside.  Tank was in the corner of the side yard, nearly under my window.  I do now know how long he had been standing there.  But the moment I saw him, I knew. Everyone said I would know.  There is no script.  But I knew.

gooddaytodie

Today is a good day to die.

So I made THE appointment and late morning we loaded up to take our final road trip.  The park, the drive around, ice cream and hot dogs from QuikTrip (he ate neither), and time alone together in the air conditioned car just remembering.

And by the end of our conversation, Tank’s gums were turning blue.  He had been gasping for air for too long.  It was time.  It was a good day………. to die.

bluegums

And it truly was time.  We arrived at the vet.  It was a peaceful and quiet room.  We sat together.  Then he was taken to get prepped for his moment… to be brought back to out quiet room… but when the injection site was prepared, Tank collapsed.  He could not stand another moment… He had given me his all for his final week.

And so as he lay on the table, I carressed and held him.  I whispered in his ear.  I told him I loved him.  I knew he was moments from being  with Michelle, the woman who rescued him, the woman who married me and died way too young in 2009.  And then Tank was

Breathless.

breathless

It’s all downhill from here.

20151113_094950

I use to love to ride my bike.  I have not enjoyed that for a long time.  But there was a time.  Century rides (100 miles) in Colorado… Denver to Colorado Springs.  The Springs to the Royal Gorge.  Long, grueling rides.  And the very best part… coasting at some ridiculously dangerous speed heading down the mountain.  Tuck down low and let it all out.  It was like flying for me.

The climb was a GRIND.  But, I love going downhill.  I won’t lie to you.  I feel the wind in what little hair I have when I head downhill.  And unexpected small stings on my forehead and cheeks.  It reminds me of an old joke my Mom told me once… or several times.  “How do you tell you are talking with a happy motorcyclist?”   How?  “By the bugs in his teeth?”  I love going downhill.

I am now an urban dweller.. I don’t really ride anymore.  My life on 2 wheels has been traded in for romps around the park with 4-legged companions.  But every once in a while I return to the hills.

I arrived in front of the school this morning.  Fridays are the days I teach/advise at a high school work study program.  I am always the first to arrive on Friday.  I open the school, prepare for the student arrival… enjoy a cup of coffee.   It is coasting at a slow pace.  I nice time of the day.  Today was different.

I park my car as always,  at the curb by the front door.  Coffee in hand, I retreat to the rear of my car and pop the trunk.  I have a few items to carry in this morning.  While bending oer and head inside the trunk… there is a voice.  I look at me phone… did I butt dial someone.  Nope.  Screen is blank.  I return to retrieving my trunk treasure.  The voice from nowhere… again I check my phone.  NADA, nothing.  And again the voice.  And I do a 180 to discover a woman in a wheel chair.

“Good Morning” say I.

“Good Morning, do you know where the library is?”  I am asked.

I do, and we chat for just a moment.  I know where I am.  I know without looking, as I face her, what is now to my back for the next three blocks.  She is facing it.  I am remembering it. It is a gentle walk for someone on foot.  But it is all uphill.

20151113_095223

“How can I help you?”  She responded, “Can you help me up this hill?”  And so it began.  Our 3 block relationship.  We did not converse, other than for me to share with here the location of the Tulsa Downtown Library.  One block, two blocks, Three blocks, FREE.

It’s all downhill from here, farewell.

20151113_09491320151113_095006

Enjoy the wind in your face.  And the bugs in your teeth.

 

 

A step away from my cowardice

mlk-love-vs-hate

I saw a quote last week that I must paraphrase.  “How important must a person be to elevate their murder to being an assassination”  You get the drift.

“As Charleston gradually lays to rest nine shooting victims from last week’s church massacre” The report on the AP wire read.  And I say, Truly this is/was a planned act of randomly targeted hate and cowardice.

I was at one of those hotels this morning.  You know the ones that have rooms and also include a free breakfast in the little dining area.  This morning I was at one of those places. So I grab a biscuit, a glass of juice, and a cup of coffee..  and I sit to watch the morning news.  Most folks watch some sort of TV in the morning, The Today Show, Fox and friends, CBS whatever…….   I am not one of those watchers except in unique circumstances.  I sold my TV over 2 years ago.  This morning was a unique circumstance for me.

This morning’s television topic.  The Charleston massacre and the recent burning of 3 Black churches in the South.  And I began to cry.  This all makes me so sad.  This is a continuation and it is just the beginning of the atrocities I believe.  People hating people for no good reason.  I do not expect it to get better.  Cowards are everywhere.  If they were brave, like soldiers, they would put their names on their actions… and face the consequences.  Cowards take lighter fluid to ant hills.

When I was growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, I use to burn ant hills.  As a prepubescent, I would go to our garage, find the charcoal lighter fluid, find an ant hill, spray it with fluid, drop a lit match…. the ants never knew what hit them.  They would writhe in pain and die.  It was fun to do this.. until is was fun no longer.  I couldn’t stand the action.  What was I doing?  Why did I do it?  It made no sense to me.  It was planned act of randomly targeted hate and cowardice.  I walked away from my foolishness, my ignorance, my cowardice.

So I am enjoying my biscuit and juice and coffee.  I am not enjoying the news of the morning.  People killed by a coward.  Assassinated.  I am getting sadder.  I am in public.  My eyes are tearing up.  I am disgusted.  I am appalled.  I am filled with rage.  And suddenly I remember, I am not alone.  I look over to see the couple at the next table.  My God, it is THEM.  THEY are right fricken next to me, and they have seen my tears and sadness.

Should I run.  Should I hide.  Should I pretend I just had something in my eye.  Get up and leave?  What the f@#K should I do.  They are BLACK people, a Black couple, right next to me.

So I look them directly in the eyes… I put my name on it.  I look at them, and I know that they know that I know that they are Black people.  I say, “I am so sorry.”

And they say. “thank you.”

And in this moment, I walked away from my fear.  I am NOT a coward in the moment.  I am Bob Fulton, Man of God, lover of people, griever for those who suffer.

And we talk.  And we never ask each other’s names… we are hotel lobby friends.  Passers by and passers through.  But we talk from the heart.

He is a barber at a “black barber shop”  — his words

Since the church shooting he mentioned that a white guy had come to the shop last week and needed to use the restroom.  Very odd for a white guy to be in this neighborhood.  They said yes.  However they could not help but wonder if this stranger might be assembling a gun while in the restroom and come out shooting.  Copycat, copycat.  Nothing happened.  But he could not help but wonder.

He could not help but wonder if he would be in the room when the next coward came to visit a group of Black folks.  I was saddened that though he and his wife were absolutely at peace in the skin they lived…. there are people who hated them for skin pigmentation.

We spoke for about 15 minutes.

And I shook both their hands.  It was NOT a particularly brave moment for me.  But in that moment I was a coward no more.

Three people brave enough to be who we were suppose to be.

Today I lived…. A step away from my cowardice.

Crappie… crappy….crappie

Crappie!!

That my friend is how we met.  On Facebook.  We were both fans of George Takei.  Oh My! And one day around 3 years ago he posted some toilet humor cartoon with a fish.  I don’t recall the joke.

But I remember what I typed in the reply line.  And I replied “Crappie”  (for the non-initiated, a Midwest freshwater pan fish similar to a perch, and actually pronounced Croppy) But it looks like it should be pronounced Crappy.  And it really was a perfectly funny response to the “fish turd” joke.  And apparently  you were in a laughing kind of mood…. and you “liked” my comment.  You and several other absolute strangers.  And I felt good and that was that.

BlacknoseCrappieNorrisNegus

But that was not that.  You mustered up the energy to message me and asked to be my friend.  Now I must say… I was attracted immediately to your picture.  And I hoped you were not some Nigerian scam artist, targeting my massive American wealth.  Fortunately it was my humor that you were after.  And we became friends.  You moved outside of your comfort circle… and friend-ed a stranger.  Someone you would never have to meet.  And we would joke and we laughed and just enjoyed each other…. and then came the second day.  And someone you thought would be a random, never meet, make me smile kind of guy from some distant land…. well…. if I may put words in your mouth… “Holy Sh*!, the guy lives in Tulsa, less than 30 miles from my Owasso home.”  Spoiler!!

The first months were delightful.  We were funny together.  We never met.  We planned on it, we never followed through.  There were discoveries and journeys via phone, text and facebook.   We we members of similar “clubs”  The multiple dog owner club.  The I lost my spouse to a horrible accident club.  The quick wit/funny club.  The on a spiritual journey club.  The enjoy a good wine club.  And the being in a relationship is exhausting and leave me alone clubs.

Crappy!!!!

So during “our” first two years, I think there were 3 befriending and 3 unfriending events on Facebook.  We were together.   We were silent and apart.   We lived alone.  After a period, there would be a tap on the door, an open moment, with smiles, laughter, and even one meet for brunch event.  Two hours at the cafe in Utica Square.  Delightful, refreshing, for both of us I believe.  And I will add…. glorious for me.  You were just a joy to be with and talk with.  You are so attractive… what a wonderful breath of fresh air.   And then you would “disappear.”  For those moments, closeness was not to be a part of your life.  I was asked to lose your number.  I had not “done” anything, it just was NOT time.

But there were big changes coming.  You became a Grandma.  And frankly, you changed I think.  “Boo” changed you.  That little boy was a big life changer.  I will not attempt to put words in your mouth, nor outline the changes.  Nor even suppose to understand, having never been neither a parent nor obviously then a grandparent.  But I will say, your world exploded and expanded.  And around a year ago, I became a part of your new expansion process.  I will be forever grateful.  Though our together times are infrequent, they are a part of us…. and for me they are wonderful.

We have indeed become friends over the last year.

We have done business together.  You have entrusted me to sell things for you an Ebay.  I have been blessed financially because of “us.”

But more importantly, you have given me some firsts and lasts.  The kind of things that will linger in my brain for the remainder of my life as I think of you.

Our date at the Tulsa state fair.  You where there… for my first ever scorpion and meal worm pizza.  I will think of you every time I am stung by a scorpion.  It will be our dance.

And you are the last woman to let me in her bed.  You were not in it, you were on the couch. Because after and evening in your home, with conversation, dogs, a beautifully cooked meal, jinga and yahtzee, and too much wine… you took my car keys and safely tucked me in.  Among the many reasons, I love you for that concern and level of sharing.

And the truth is, I don’t remember any dates in our together time.  Couples often remember dates and times.  I will for the moment say that I now will remember one.  June 2, 2015.  I was suppose to visit you at your home, I had to postpone.  However, during the evening we did speak on the phone.

It was so nice to hear your voice.  You just cause me to smile every time we speak.  You are just a light.  I am not always good at listening, though I try.  And I am not always good at remembering unless I write it down.

This is my June 2, 2015 memory.  This is what I heard.  “liver disease” and “auto-immune” and “terminal” and “six months.”

I promised you I would not feel sorry for you.  I don’t.  But I do adore you.  I do love you.  I will be here or there for you.

Maybe while there is still time… we can escape Tulsa together.

Maybe a trip to Grand Lake.

Maybe

Crappie.