Garry and Marilyn finally — after three or four reschedulings — finally made it to Connecticut to visit Tom and Ellin Curley. Yes, these are real live friends who we have known a very long time. So long that Tom can remember the first house I lived in when Owen was still a rug-rat.
Tom has all his hair. In our world, that’s noteworthy!
Tom and Ellin live in a lovely home in the woods with a stream in the back yard. And a boat called Serenity docked on the Housatonic River in Stratford, Connecticut. Pretty nice boat. Pretty big river. The boat’s transmission is currently MIA, having blown itself up some time back — not while we were aboard, but it’s a great story, in case Tom (hint, hint) feels like writing about it.
We spent last Thursday hanging out on the boat. It turns out, boats are a great place to hang out, even when they are tied up at the dock. Since Tom has a dinghy with an outboard in good working order, we could still motor up the river, even if the bigger boat is not currently able to do more than float.
Tom took me on a ride, while Garry and Ellin chose to hang with Serenity.
The Serenity is named (by Tom) after the brilliant Joss Whedon sci fi/western series “Firefly” that ran on Fox. “Firefly” lives on Netflix. There’s also a movie, aptly titled “Serenity.” Ellen liked the concept of Serenity which seemed (still seems) a perfect name for a boat. If you can’t find serenity on a boat, you’re hopeless. Many years ago, I had a (very small) sailboat and enjoyed some of my most serene afternoons sailing her in the salt marshes off the coast of Long Island. But I digress.
I had brought with me the newest in Serendipity swag-wear — the latest version of our tee-shirt. It’s hard to find gifts for people who don’t need anything. Garry and I don’t need anything either, at least not anything anyone can afford to get for us … so after I designed the tee-shirt, it occurred to me I actually could give them each a tee-shirt since both of them blog.
Tom and Ellin were exceeding gracious by dressing in matching tee-shirts, something Tom had sworn he would never do — not ever under any circumstances because (in his opinion) it’s the final sign of senility. But I said I wanted pictures. I had a camera and a photo-hungry blog.
It was a great little mini vacation. Thank you, friends, again for a really love time. And the weather was perfect too. Not too hot, not too cool. Absolutely perfect.
Garry and I together shot more than 300 pictures, so you’ll see more pictures as I come up with excuses to post them. In the photo galleries, the first set are mine, the second are Garry’s. There are many more! Some days are just incredibly photogenic.
Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of health care, toys, dog food? Grooming?
Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, also called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France, but have become over the past 20 years, quite popular as pets, though they are definitely not a dog for just anyone. They are smart, funny (they will do almost anything to make you laugh), noisy, and into everything.
Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home from the airport (she had just flown up from her breeder’s home in North Carolina), she wasn’t like any other puppy I’d ever met. She was incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else. Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.
She was deeply sensitive. Probably born to be a therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, she knew who was sick. She knew where you hurt. She was the only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine. She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound and a hunter at that, born to track, point and if necessary, kill prey.
She was the smartest of our five dogs, the smartest dog of my life. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit. She knew. We called her Tinker the Thinker because she planned, she remembered. She held grudges. More on that. For all that, she was Omega (the bottom) in the pack, we thought it was mostly her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding and other criminal activities. Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.
When Griffin, our big male Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog!) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally … well … Tinker’s heart was broken.
She became depressed, would not play anymore with humans or other dogs. For the next 10 years, Tinker refused to so much as look at Griffin. Worse, she apparently blamed us, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began her Reign of Terror.
Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs on when she was three years old. She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than a chewer. She would steal your stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys (Kaity was very young), towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.
Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them. She would do more damage in under a minute than I thought possible. For Garry and I, it meant we couldn’t leave the room together unless we put everything away where Tink couldn’t get it. Tinker would strike quickly and she was lethal.
If we were going to bed for the night, every single movable item that was less than 6 feet off the ground had to be put away. If she couldn’t get to any small expensive electronic items, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs …. and for dessert, shoes were always yummy. For many years, I didn’t own any shoes without tooth marks.
We called such items “Tinkerized” and we had a grading system ranging from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.
During one memorable intermission, Garry and I went to the kitchen to grab something to drink and she dismembered our remote controls. We were gone, by the clock, about a minute. The kitchen is adjacent to the sofa were we watch TV, so she managed to do this with us not 10 feet away. It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to replace them. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but never ate them), then ripped out the wiring and boards. She didn’t waste any time, either. If she had the leisure, she’d also tear out the keys and generally mangle the cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.
For 10 years, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.
Yet we loved Tinker and for the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker came back to herself and played again. She ran around the yard, played tag, joined the chorus when the other dogs pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang. Hounds have such beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the most beautiful of all. When she sang, nature sang with her. I suppose this is a matter of taste, but for those of us who love hounds, you know what I mean.
Singing is a social function for canines. When a pack sings, it isn’t an alert. It’s a chorus. They are really truly singing together. Each dog has a part, joining in, then pausing and rejoining at the right moment. Tinker was a baritone, the deepest and loudest of the canine voices and Bonnie is a coloratura soprano, very musical, but light.
Almost exactly three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down and a slightly lessened appetite. One day, she collapsed. She was riddled with cancer. How in the world she had so effectively hidden her illness is mind-boggling. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died. They were the same age and I don’t believe for a minute the timing of their passing was coincidence. Despite Griffin’s infidelity, the two PBGVs were a couple and would not live without each other.
The house was so quiet with the two hounds gone. We didn’t have to hide everything anymore, though it took us months to realize it was safe, that I could leave my laptop out at night and no dog would bother it. After the two hounds passed, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again. Now, they sing twice a day, early in the morning (get up Mom) and in the evening (pause that show, time for the chorus).
What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a puppy. Who knows how much her medical care cost over? Who remembers? It’s part of the contract between dogs and us. They love us, we care for them.
Other damages? Thousands of dollars in electronic gear, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls — who knows what else.
But she paid us back, you see. Because when I was terribly ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How does it add up? How much was the love worth? What is the cost of a lifetime laughter and love?
After a lot of whining and complaining, I settled down. I filled out the ridiculous amount of paperwork, reconstructed as much of my medical history as I could — anything more than 5 years ago, is more than a little vague — and of course, my list of medications. I got my son to witness my permission to hunt down my records (good luck with that), and signed a new health proxy (everyone should have one — and I do mean absolutely everyone). Then, papers in hand, we drove over to the new doctor’s office — a mere one town over!
I turned them over along with the appropriate Medicare insurance information and went home to notify Blue Cross Blue Shield that I’m changing doctors. They actually didn’t care because I have a PPO and don’t require a listed primary care doctor. I can go to any doctor that takes BCBS payments … which is nearly every doctor in the region except the group to which my current doctor is migrating.
I explained that I needed an appointment with the new guy because I was going to need new prescriptions at the end of this month. Somehow, she found an appointment. Which conflicted with the dental appointment and the finishing up of my crown. So I took the doctor appointment, moved the dentist to the following day, leaving one day before the cardiologist appointment … and the almost immediate arrival of a houseful of out-of-town visitors. June and July have filled up.
Summer always fills up quickly. I’m sure you’ve noticed. The weather turns warm and suddenly, you’re booking stuff for next September. It’s because winter is brutal. You can’t count on anything in the winter. Nature might just decide to throw a blizzard on the day you plan to visit those friends in Vermont. Instead, no one is going anywhere for a few days at least.
It’s amazing how we manage to not see people we really want to see because when we are free, they are not. Everyone is busy seeing the people they need to see while they can … and before you know it, another year slips away.
I haven’t found the cure for not enough time. I’ve been looking for something to do about this my whole life. I thought, after retirement, we’d have all the time in the world. In a sense, we do … but we live in New England. Winter is at best a wild card. You can plan, but you can’t be sure it will really happen, which means we really only have half the year to do stuff . There’s always more stuff to do than time.
I’m working on this. I suspect I’ll always be working on it forever.
No You Don’t, by Rich Paschall
In his early adult life, George was a rather active young man. He kept a moderate social schedule. He met with friends, did a little volunteer work and even joined a bowling team for a few years. As the years wore on, George became less active, saw less of his friends and was mostly invisible to the neighborhood.
As he passed fifty years of age, he kept to himself and seldom visited friends and family. There was little family left actually, and the cousins seemed to have forgotten about old George. This is not to say that George was totally inactive, for that was not the case at all. He did a lot of maintenance on the old house. He spent plenty of time doing gardening in the spring and summer. He even tried to learn a new language online.
He signed up for a language site that had a social component. On the site you could help someone learn your language and someone else could help you learn theirs. The site gave learners the opportunity to ask others for a chat in the language they were learning. Since this was all anonymous, you could decline to chat.
George was not bold enough to ask anyone to chat with him live, but others contacted him when they saw an English speaker on-line and he would always accept. Some visitors came and went quickly but a few became friends as George explained life in his city and heard about theirs. It was all very exciting for the older, single gentleman to be talking with young people around the world. George had a friend in France, Egypt, Russia and Brazil. He also had a friend in another South American country who liked George a lot.
Soon George and Jonathon were friends on Facebook, hanging out on Google+ and talking on Messenger and Skype. They chatted about their countries, cities, jobs. After a while, they were talking everyday, even if only briefly. Both loved the attention they were getting from the other.
When they were nearing the end of a year of friendship in December, George was surprised to learn he could not roll over his remaining four vacation days to the following year. Jon, of course, felt that George should come to South America and spend some time with him. Jon was not originally from the big city where he lived, so he had few friends and no family there. He was excited at the thought that George would visit.
Aside from never having met Jon in person, George felt that the 30 year age difference would mean they would soon be bored with one another. Besides, George never had a desire to go to South America or just about any place else any longer. But Jon was persistent and George decided to be adventurous.
True to his word, Jon was waiting at the airport. He greeted George like a long-lost friend. He spent every minute with him for four days. They traveled around the city like tourists. They spent an evening in the street watching an important soccer match and celebrating with the locals. They spent another evening at something that was like a Christmas market. There they had local beer and too much guava liquor, frequently ordered by one of Jon’s friends.
The weather was perfect the entire time. Jon was nicer than George could ever imagine. He was a good cook and excellent host. The last-minute vacation was one of the best ever.
Upon his return home, Jon called or wrote every day. George thought that when they met in person Jon would see that he was a lot older and the friendship would die down, but in truth the opposite happened. Jon’s enthusiasm for the impulsive visit did not wane.
Not knowing what to make of this friendship, George called on Arthur, an old friend, to discuss the matter. They met at local inn and George proceeded to explain the whole story. He told how they met, how the friendship developed over the year and that he impulsively went to visit. George had never mentioned Jon to anyone before. Now he was telling the entire history.
“By the way,” George said, “he does not want me to mention that we met on the internet because people might get the wrong idea.”
“What idea is that?” Arthur asked.
“I don’t know,” George exclaimed.
“So what’s the problem?” Arthur wanted to know after listening to over 45 minutes about some South American guy he had never met or seen.
“He calls every day or leaves a message to say he loves me and misses me!”
“He wants to come here and be with me. He says he will be my prince.”
“Oh,” Arthur responded as if the light bulb just went on.
George went on to detail his responses. “I explained I was not rich and he would have to get a job. Despite my efforts, his English still sucks and he would have to improve. The weather here is very different from his homeland, and he knows no one else here”
“What does he say to all these points,” Arthur inquired.
“I love you! What kind of response is that? Besides, I am too old for him, but he just says we will be together as long as God wills.” George took a deep breath and continued
“So, I told him he just says that because he wants to come to America. Since I like him very much I offered that he could come and stay and I would introduce him around and take him to places where he can meet other young people.”
“And?” Arthur prompted.
“And he said he does not want to meet others, he just wants to be with me. I don’t know what’s wrong with the young man.”
“There is one distinct possibility,” Arthur said with a knowing tone to his comment.
“He really loves you,” Arthur said simply.
George looked as his as if he did not understand the words Arthur just said. After a long pause, George finally spoke.