Thursday, January 6, 2011

Enjoy Every Sandwich


It's a new day in Austin. The sun just came up in the window, taking the place of a bright morning star. Gabi is at school, looking perfectly perfect.  Lindsey is doing yoga in a 105 degree sweatbox, discovering what's possible.  I have the house to myself.  Almost. There's a big black dog on a round brown bed in the corner and another one, a little  older and a little stiffer, upstairs. There are two cats coming repeatedly in and out of the bathroom window, because they can. And I'm thinking about this guy in the picture above.

His name was Bill Brown. The smile on his face says it all. For all the years I've know her, he was my friend Brenda's constant companion. In the car, at the dojo, sitting under a bench near the Wild Rose, Bill was always around. He'd sit at the edge of the mat at the Dojo, yearning to come out and play but he knew he wasn't supposed to, so he'd put his paws over the edge and just inch his nose out a tiny bit, trying to get just a little closer to his girl.

He's gone now. My friend, Karri, was there to help him on his way when it was time. She took care of him when she could and then she took care of Brenda when she couldn't help Bill any more. She's done the same for me and my cats. It's her mission. Giving us a little more time to recognize what we've got and appreciate it just a little longer. Maybe to really appreciate it for the first time.

Losing your animal really sucks. But sometimes you can see it coming. If you're lucky, you have someone like Karri to help you through it. People always wonder why their pets can't live longer. Wouldn't it be great? No. Probably not. I mean what if they outlived us? Watching Sombra dreaming in the corner, I tremble to imagine what kind of memorial he would arrange for me. "Okay, Lindsey, you fling Greg out into Barton Springs and I'll go fetch him. About a million times. It'll be fun!"

This has been a year of tremendous loss, for me and so many  folks around me. I've had people taken from me in the blink of an eye. I've seen worlds turned upside down by secrets  coming into the light. Loved ones struggling with things programmed into their genes. Cancer, addiction. Lifetimes of hanging on to bad habits and false assumptions. But I'm  still here. And I'm grateful for so many things, so many people that enrich my life. They challenge me, care for me, frustrate me and entertain me. I watch my brother work his program so hard and I have to admit that if an Irish Catholic laborer in New York City can quit smoking and drinking after 40 years, truly I live in a world where anything is possible. I watch my friend Tony show up on the mat  to work out looking like Professor X because the chemo has made all his hair fall out and I realize just how strong a person can be. I talk to my kid sister and I hear a clarity in her voice that I haven't heard in years and know that sometimes you have to be satisfied with just a tiny success. For that moment. For the right now.

I am grateful for friendship and love and sweetness and faith and support and forgiveness and for laughter, especially laughter. It saved me over and over again. I'm grateful for knowing that out there there is one person who has promised to shoot me if I ever lose my sense of humor and  also knowing that it ain't gonna happen today. I'm grateful for Craig Ferguson for reminding me  that there's no shame in striking out, so why not swing the bat? I'm grateful for dogs like Bill  and Sombra and Bear Cub that look me right in the eye and say "Don't think about last week, don't think about next week. Be here now. And give me a snack"

And I'm grateful for this guy down here. He was a great writer and a lousy role model. He abused himself and all the people around him. He lived like there was no tomorrow until there wasn't. But he was lucky enough (or maybe not) to know when his time became short. Like a friend of mine long gone from this world, he kicked it all up a notch and cranked out as much good work as he could. He made no secret of his circumstances. And when Letterman asked what he had learned from the process, he said "Enjoy every sandwich".

So there. Enjoy every sandwich.

And share it with the next dog you see.
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