Endings and beginnings

Sometimes things end too soon– relationships, someone dies before their “time”, games get rained out, an early frost nips a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes, a bird too focused on a tasty dragonfly meets a windshield instead. My Dad advised to leave a party at its height, at the point where I was just beginning to have the most fun. This was logic I could never understand until I once stayed at a party beyond its peak and saw the detritus– people too full of themselves or strong drink saying things they’d regret, others beginning to see more dark than light and speaking of things they might wish they’d kept in their hearts.

I do not wish this for me.

I know this is somewhat prosaic to write about on the eve of the new year (except China, Australia and other places ahead in time) but it gives me pause to think. This is a 24-hour period like any other. For years I watched my parents attend and give parties on this night. Then I, too got caught up in the hype and was allowed to watch the live broadcast of the moment in Times Square when what was new became old and the new was here and unknown. It took a few weeks before I could remember to write the current year on papers, checks, notes.

Somehow as I realize this is another number that marks where we are in our measurement of time it becomes easier. I remember when I was younger feeling sad at the what might-have-beens and now I have no regrets from the year past because I suppose I am living it less fearfully, more consciously. There is certainly nothing I can change about what was done or said, or can I? Things matter, people matter, at least that is what I pray I will better understand as I get older. I give my decisions careful consideration. I seek discernment, direction, am not so impulsive. Not less spontaneous, just less irrational.

I have often admired those people who juggle many things on their calendars. They appear so efficient, accomplished, only to learn their lives are in chaos more than mine because they said yes more times than I did.

I do wish though that people would not feel so compelled to mark such events as New Year’s with fireworks. So do rescue dogs Lily and Lulu.

What begins though is something new each moment. We do not have to wait so many hours, days, weeks, months for this newness. It is here, now. Ok, now… well I’d waste a lot of new moments if I kept marking them. We do mark time though and with each new dawn we see a fresh start.

And sometimes pause. That’s what I do whether out of fear or uncertainty or hopelessness or dependence on something or someone else. Control may not entirely be in my own power but so many things are. How I think, how I respond or react. How much I am sensitive to others or events. Where I go, what choice I make, or don’t make.

We all have these moments, crossroads, times of crisis or decision. Sometimes I handle them well sometimes, I procrastinate, sometimes I jump too quickly, sometimes just enough. It’s just that it does not take the calendar end of one year to help me see this.

The diving in matters most when you cannot see the rock or the shark beneath. Unless you are very hard-headed or can swim really fast.

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Travel plans

Unless I can drive and take my dogs I almost never go anywhere. By choice. It’s true. At my age I figure the few places I have left that I want to see I can either get to by car or train.

Except for family trips.

Most mornings I walk husky-mix rescue dog Lily and terrier-mix rescue Lulu with a small group and their dogs. On some days combined we likely appear to be a formidable pack, upwards of a dozen multi-sized and aged dogs with 4 or 5 persons in tow. So it isn’t unusual to have another walker move to the side of the trail with his/her dog/s to let us pass, though our dogs are very friendly, which the person/s who moved aside soon learn. But we must appear somewhat impassable I suppose.

So on this morning’s walk we were discussing our Christmas travel plans, or I was since I appear to be the only one having to go out of town. I am going to visit family in Texas for literally a Christmas visit. I will go tomorrow, Christmas Eve, and come back home Monday, the 26th. Not even 48 hours. But enough so they won’t (I hope) be sick of me and we will look forward to our annual August beach trip together.

But the length, or brevity of this visit reminded me of a truly spontaneous thing I did about 25 years ago.

US Air and other airlines had something called SuperSaver fares. You had to buy the ticket in an alarmingly close to departure date period of time and it could only be 3 days and had to include a Saturday night. This was how they filled surplus empty seats and got money for it. The fares were incredibly cheap for an international flight, so I bought one. To Manchester, UK.

I know no one in the United Kingdom, then or now. I packed a few changes of underwear, my passport and a credit card. That’s it.

So I took the first leg from Charlotte to Philadelphia. On schedule, everything’s fine. Then there is an announcement our flight to England is delayed. Half an hour later it’s cancelled. I schlepped over with all our other passengers to the res desk to see what I could get, if anything.

“Well, I can get you to Frankfurt, then to Manchester?” a weary but kind agent explained.

“Hmmm, ok, this was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing for me, I have 3 days.” I looked at her hopefully.

She thought a moment, then, “Well, I can leave you in Frankfurt?”

Knowing no German and willing to await an opening to Manchester I thanked her and accepted the next option out, to Frankfurt and connecting on to Manchester.

So began an adventure that, only 60-hours or so, I will never forget.

The night before I left a friend from church had called and I explained what I was doing. Did I know anyone over there? he asked. No, I replied, why? Well, in case you get into any trouble here’s my cousin’s number (–forget where cousin lived–), oh, and you will want to visit Chester, not far from Manchester. OK, thanks, I say. We hung up.

So on arrival (finally) I found the “i”desk my friend had also mentioned — i for information, which was truly wonderful. I learned prefacing anything I said with “I’m an American ” helped prepare them for: accent, ignorance, many questions, some small amount of expressed fear, copious thanks. And consequently the interchange went much easier.

I was instructed to go to currency exchange, then bus stop, which bus, the name of a pub in Chester which lodged visitors. Everything was just as I had been told and I wandered the streets of Chester (which was having some sort of festival at the time) enjoying the shops and savory smells of different kinds of food. I found the pub, was assured of a room and went out again with camera to capture this lovely gingerbread town nestled into the hills of northwest England.

This being a Saturday the pub was pretty busy and knowing I needed to find my way to Manchester the next morning I turned in early but nobody else did. Once the pub finally closed revelers continued the party outside, singing just below my window. Exhaustion won out so I did get sleep and found the train station easily in the subdued quiet of Sunday morning.

At Manchester I found another i booth and let them know what I needed. A brief phone call later I was told to wait outside the station for a couple who would pick me up in a gray Range Rover shortly. I did, and they did, to bring me to their bed-and-breakfast. The couple and their children were attending a sort of reverse July 4th celebration, one where England celebrated being rid of the mischief-makers. As it happened I had bought a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer which headlined the 225th celebration of our independence from tyrannic British rule, would they like to have it? Oh yes! And they were only too happy to drive me to the train station so I might do some more exploring, they recommended a nearby town called Wilmslow they thought I’d enjoy, but I would need to be on my own going back. Fine, I agreed.

At the train station I carefully pored over a map of stops and distance, the time it would take, allowing for my not-too-far walk back to their B&B. While at Wilmslow I stopped in a bakery which had some delicious looking finger foods and pastries, I purchased some and went outside to enjoy, al fresco.

On my walk back a slow drizzle began and even though it was mid-summer it became chilly. I buttoned my grey sweater and braced for a cool but brisk walk. A car approaching from in front of me slowed to a stop and the window rolled down. A gentleman popped his head out and looked at me, so I stopped.

“Do you know how far ‘ -unintelligible name of a town I wouldn’t have known anyway’ is?”

“Oh! I am very flattered but I’m an American visiting, I’m sorry I don’t know.”

He laughed so hard I thought I’d committed some sort of horrible international faux pas. Finally he recovered and said, “Typical! I’m a Scot, I would ask an American for directions!” We both laughed heartily at that.

So I returned to the B&B which had been a mews of a larger estate hundreds of years ago. Built of stone my cozy room was in the loft. Very comfortable, but since this was July and England is at a latitude that allows for some of that midnight sun it never quite got dark. Still, the thrill of what I accomplished afforded me sleep, and I woke bright and early for the day of my return home.

I appeared at the main house for breakfast, a full English breakfast with fried bread, bacon rashers, fresh fruit, fried tomatoes, eggs and coffee. A golf team had also stopped for breakfast before arriving at the course for their tournament. Someone mentioned an American was in their midst which was exciting news for them.

“Do you know Tiger Woods?” they asked.

My safe return home was a wonderful feeling, though I’d had a memorable time in merry old England.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and Happy 2017 y’all.

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Teeth

Combs have teeth. If something is said to have teeth it is thought to be strong, effective. It matters. People covet things and would give their “eye teeth” to have them. People are said to fight “tooth and nail” (i.e.: hard) for something.We clean teeth, floss, brush, whiten, examine teeth. Horses are bought and sold by people who look at their teeth. Floating a horse’s teeth isn’t anything to do with lofty etherea at all but taking a large rasp or file and working them down so the horse stops cribbing or gnawing on the doors or walls of its stall.

Teeth are important.

So when I broke a tooth eating a lot of roasted almonds a week ago I probably should have gone into some kind of panic– will it keep breaking? Is it going to hurt? Have I exposed more of the tooth or just the filling that was in it? I could not see this tooth. It was the last molar in the upper right side. Too dark, and I don’t have one of those little mirrors hygienists and dentists use to see in those dark crevices and corners of people’s mouths.

It was not the first tooth I’d broken, either. Kind of like having more than one child I guess. After the first one things don’t seem so strange and stressful anymore.

So with this tooth.

It broke on a weekend so I had to wait until Monday to call the dentist. I had a lot of things to do that morning– mail Christmas packages to family far away, take my dogs for their morning constitution, take care of some things at home, so I called about 10 or so and at that point it was raining like we needed another ark.

Yes, the receptionist said, it was raining there, too. And thunderstorms. And a tornado warning. Ok, so could I come in that afternoon to have a temporary crown put on?

Sure.

So I get in that chair and they pretty much inverted it so I was at an obtuse angle, I guess reflective of my stupidity in being so hard on my teeth, with that halogen lamp shining directly into my eyes. They went to work on what was left of the molar. They ground, and ground. They changed the grinder and ground some more. It was about the point where I smelled something burning in there that my body began to stiffen a little.

“This bothering you?” they asked.

“Ahh gnahh,” I mumbled.

Finally the grinding stopped, smoke cleared. The tip of my numb tongue touched where the tooth was– operative word, was. I felt nothing.

“Is there anything to glue a crown onto?” I gasped.

“Well, not much but sure, we can get a crown on there.”

Finally after about a dozen or more questions the dentist walked out of the room, so I harangued the poor assistant. Dentist reappears.

“You got the temp made yet?”

Her eyes gaped. I covered: “Oh, I never let her get to work, so many questions!”

Dentist leaves again.

I apologized profusely to this beleaguered woman. Clearly she just wanted to get on with her job and her day. I was positive I didn’t deserve that much of their time but this dentist is relatively new to me and I haven’t had the best track record with many dentists.

Dentist returns, places the temporary crown, explains payment procedures,exits again. Assistant rights the hyper-flexible chair and I’m so dizzy I can barely move as she wanders out to the lobby where I have to pay for all this entertainment.

Somebody asks me if I say Merry Christmas, I reply in the affirmative, my voice sounding miles away.

So a couple more weeks and this ordeal is finished with a shiny new crown for what used to be a molar.

Does this count as my real tooth? I mean the root is still there…

Oh well.

Happy Holidays  christmas-snow-tooth-cute-cartoon-whiten-75653559.jpg     !

 

 

Attachments

Because my step-mother survived my father when he passed away my brother and I were given 48 hours to collect our family belongings from his home. At one point we found ourselves sitting at Dad’s desk going through silly, superficial things– his pen holder, desk drawers filled with miscellany– paper clips, empty medicine bottles, toner cartridges, a pair of cufflinks, things that he touched, considered worth keeping. We wished hard for a transference of him as we looked at them, these insignificant items, representative of something that we wanted to give us just one more tangible connection to him, now gone.

Over the years I, too have an embarrassing accumulation of odd things that I cannot seem to bring myself to discard or give away. Someone will have to do it someday if I don’t. I particularly have a huge amount of Christmas ornaments and decorations. I have most of the ones we put on our trees when my brother and I grew up. Funny little porcelain angel bells with dainty faces, a reindeer painted on a sand dollar, a partridge in a pear tree a dear friend of my mother’s made for us.

Then I have ornaments I made the first Christmas I could not spend with my family because I was married, 8 months pregnant and my doctor advised against travel. So I made ornaments. Christmas patterned-fabric wreaths fashioned from little wooden curtain rings, sequined candy canes with little holly leaf and beads, and tiny bells. Sequin-covered stocking shaped styrofoam forms with little brown pompoms to make a bear with googly eyes. Ornaments my son had made in school, at festivals, on his own, and some he and I made one year together.

Then I moved and could not find any Christmas decoration boxes, so I bought kits to make new ones. Eventually over the years I have made or accumulated enough ornaments to decorate at least three Christmas trees. So I had to go through them.

Many of them were not hard to put in the give-away box. My marriage had ended in divorce so those ornaments no longer held any joy. So many of those purchased or made later, though pretty were also non-essential because I bought them in a panic. Not panic that I would have nothing to put on a tree but panic that I could not find those I loved so much.

That proverbial “Someday” when someone will inherit these, or buy them at an estate sale they may not find hands gently holding them with loving memories. But I was a part of what they represented for me, as well as others who were so important to me. And that is what matters. Not so much the things themselves.

The memories, echoes of laughter, and loving hearts.

A different kind of ring

Ok, so when I adopted husky-mix rescue dog Lily in 2008 a year after my precious rescue border collie mix Savannah died of lung cancer I really did not think my other Australian shepherd mix rescue Murphy would learn much from her. After all, Murphy was a dashing young seven-year-old (around 40, in dog years), while Lily was only a year. But she did teach him things– like barking when something moved outside the house without her permission, or flinging herself at trees when squirrels were faster than she was.

But the best thing, he thought, that she taught was how to bury a precious treasure of a bone with your nose.

Oh, Lily dug with her paws like any other dog. She dug holes when she heard a mole under ground, or when the mood struck because the springy earth was nice and soft. But burying something took the finesse of a delicate nose.

So now fast-forward to this year, the night before Thanksgiving. There are no vets open, at least none except the unimaginably expensive emergency vet. Lily is sitting next to me, I look down at her adoringly, and notice something not quite right with her nose. It actually bulged.

I touched it gently, and here will spare you the sordid details of what ensued just prior to the actual skin of her nose slipping away. That’s right, her beautiful coal-black nose, the part just at the top, fell off.

I ran downstairs to get some peroxide, witch hazel and anti-bacterial ointment. I knew none of those things would sting and believe me, that had to hurt. So I proceeded to doctor this as best I could (Lily, though a mature, refined dog now still wiggles a lot). And she proceeded to lick all the ointment right off.

So we progressed this way through the weekend. Ok, I thought, a scab is forming, we’ve got this. Then Tuesday she decided to “bury” a rawhide chip with her nose. She presented herself in the kitchen proudly looking like a Rudolph nosed-doggie. So more doctoring. Then by Friday her nose was  (not bleeding) looking an angry red. Ok, I’m in over my head. So I called the vet.

We know this time of year all about bells ringing, whether sleigh or jingle. And angels getting their wings when a bell rings. And five golden rings, which, by the way I recently learned represents the Torah. But for Lily?

Ringworm.

At least that is what her vet thinks she picked it up from the backyard. Is it transmissible? Yes, wash your hands after treating her nose. Should I disinfect my yard? No. Evidently it is everywhere. I just never encountered it before, not with a dog anyway. He took a culture, sent us home with an anti-fungal medicine, so we will see how this goes.

It’s always something!