Category Archives: sad



When the boy was two, we lost our beloved golden retriever, Cosmos. It was a rough time for me, and I was nowhere near ready to get another dog. Mr b, however, kept pushing for it. I wasn’t ready and told him so, but I could see that he was constantly thinking about it. One day, I came home from work and mr b and the boy weren’t home. Not that this was particularly unusual, but that day, I just had a feeling. And then I saw the local newspaper open to the classifieds and that feeling got stronger. A few minutes later, they came home & when I asked where they were, mr b said they had gone to the grocery store. I sighed in relief because my feeling was wrong – I was not ready. Mr b went out to the car to get the groceries and I picked up the classified to throw them away before he got any ideas, and the boy turned to me and said the words that changed my life:

“Daddy got a puppy!”

Admittedly, I wasn’t happy, but then mr b walked in with a goofy, bumbling black lab mix puppy & I couldn’t help but love him. He was a few months old, already and not well-trained (which would be my biggest frustration ove rhte next few years. Mr b had come across an ad by an elderly woman who recently lost a dog and replaced him with a brand new, cute as a button black lab. Well, she soon realized that a new puppy was too much for her (and her remaining old dog) to take, so she gave him up for adoption. And then he was ours. She had named him Boris, which was possibly the worst name for him, ever, so he immediately became Rocky.

Over the years, he turned into a great dog. He was so loving – as a young dog, he would practically try to wrap himself around your head like a turban. And he never outgrew the need to constantly be touching you. He was funny – we’d put him in costumes (like a while polyester jumpsuit – and call him Smellvis) and put things on his head and he’d take it like a champ. He was protective – he’d bark at anyone and anything that came near our house. It could be annoying at times, but I always appreciated it – when there was a rash of burglaries & fraud in the area perpetrated by an Irish Traveler-like group going door to door, he scared them off when they came to his door. He was a love pig, but he sounded like a quivering, snarling, white hot ball of canine terror (Family Dog, anyone?). He was gentle – we often found him curled up with a cat or a kid.

One of his most prominent traits, though, was that he was nervous. And what did he do when he was nervous? He shits He shit Big. Some examples:

Your son has a friend over. The friend’s dad and sister come to pick him up. The kids start playing Twister. Rocky is nervous about the strangers and shits on Twister.

It’s Christmas morning. There is much squealing and yelling and wrapping paper being strewn about. Rocky is nervous about the excitement and shits on Christmas.

Mr b is picking up the boy from daycare. He takes Rocky along. He stops at the ATM machine and gets back in his work van. While he is out, Rocky, nervous about being alone in the van, ignores the 3000 square feet of floor space in the van, and instead somehow balances himself and shits on the driver’s seat. Husband does not notice as he gets in, and sits on the driver’s seat. Husband contemplates murder.

You are 7 months pregnant (and in high-gagging mode). Your 2 cousins come to visit. They pet and love Rocky. When he walks away, all present get the “who farted?” look. Rocky, nervous about the stock market, shits on said cousins’ feet. Cousins contemplate murder. You contemplate barfing. The boy cracks up.

You are 9 months pregnant, and driving Rocky to the groomer. This is already a trauma, since Rocky is not a Car Dog. He is flailing about, falling down, hitting the dashboard and being a pain in the ass. In the middle of a call to the office, you get the “who farted?” look. Apparently, Rocky is nervous about automobile travel and shits on the passenger seat. Rocky is suddenly in the backseat, crying softly. You contemplate barfing. You decide it’s a fine idea and do so. You call Husband and tell him of your murder plans.

Despite all that, he turned out to be one of the best dogs I’ve ever known. And now he is gone. I miss my loving, funny, protective, gentle, nervous puppy.



We called him The Squatter. Because one day in early October 2005, he showed up on our porch and claimed squatters rights. He wasn’t going anywhere. He looked to be about 4 – 6 months old and he was starving. Every rib was visible. He had clearly belonged to someone at some point, because he had a collar. He had clearly belonged to someone stupid because the collar was meant for a dog and too heavy for him – it was dragging him down. And he hadn’t belonged to them in a long time, because even in his starving state, the collar was biting into his little neck, almost choking him. It had to be cut off. He almost smothered me with love when I got it off him.

At first, we didn’t let him in – partly because we already had a cat and partly because he was afraid to come in. So he became our porch kitty. I made him a little bed and put food and water dishes out for him. But as it got colder, I couldn’t stand the thought of him shivering on the front porch, so I coaxed him in. He would come in for short periods of time, but the outdoors were ingrained in him and he preferred to spend most of his time outside, often just sitting on the other side of the door, staring at Pussty (our first cat).

We went through several names before we finally settled on one. We called him Milo and Kitty and Asscat and Mike and Balls (OK, only I called him Balls), and the girl – who was almost two at the time, just called him “My cat! My Cat! MYCATMYCATMYCAT!!” Eventually, we settled on Angus and it suited him perfectly.

Little by little, he spent a little more time inside, but mostly wanted to stay out. Pussty was getting older and more frail by then, but Angus didn’t care – he chased him and tackled him and loved him relentlessly. But as much as he loved on Puss, he wasn’t the kind of cat to sit on a human lap. Until December of 2006 when Puss was very sick and we knew the end was near. On the evening of the 9th, I knew Puss wouldn’t be with us much longer. And in the middle of the night that night, Angus jumped into bed with me and snuggled up. I sort of half woke, wondered why the change of heart and went back to sleep. The next morning, Puss was gone. I swear Angus knew and was comforting me. From that day forward, he came a mostly indoor cat.

He thrived in the next few years – he got fat and happy. He still wasn’t a lovey-dovey kind of guy, but he doled it out when he was in the mood – mostly when you least expected it. He loved me, though. Every night, when I would go to bed, he followed me in. As I laid in bed, he’d come over and push his head under my hand so I’d pet him. After a few minutes, he’d be satisfied and settle down in the crook of my knees. We slept like that every night.

When we got the new cat this December, he spent four days grumbling and mumbling and griping and hiding and asking us, “Are you KIDDING ME??” but then on the fifth day, we discovered the two of them wresting and tackling and playing and rolling around. They’d race into the basement and then come back up with cobwebs all over their heads and whiskers, looking nonchalant. It was good for Angus –he was more active than ever and he lost weight. We had to stop calling him fat (except for his head – it didn’t change, so we could still call him fathead).

About a month ago, he came in limping – not using one of his front paws at all. We took him to the vet who thought it was a battle wound of some sort, gave him some pills and fixed him up. For the couple of weeks that he was recovering, we were able to keep him inside. We have never been outdoor cat people, but since he came to us as an outdoor cat, it was hard to break. We didn’t want anything to happen to him. But as he got better, the call of the wild obviously pulled at him. He would sit at the front door and look out – hollering at anyone in the vicinity to Let! Him! Out! NOW!!! Try as we did to keep him in, he was having none of it. He would lie in wait for the door to open and zip his newly svelte body through the open door. He didn’t stay out long, but he liked to spend a short time out every day.

On Sunday night, he was on the porch playing his “Let me in! PSYCH! Let me in! PSYCH! Let me in! PSYCH!” game. We were tired and eventually went to bed, knowing he would sleep on the porch chair and come inside in the morning (maybe after a few more rounds of “Let me in! PSYCH!”) But Monday morning came around and he wasn’t on the porch. Mr. b found him in the driveway, under the van. He liked to lie under there and spy on everyone, so mr. b didn’t really think anything was wrong. But it was very, very wrong. Our Angus was gone. He didn’t have a mark on him, so we think it may have been poison. I am going to let myself believe it was accidental because anything else is too painful to imagine.

I laid in bed last night waiting for a little fat head to come push my hand and settle in behind my knees, but it never came. God, I miss that cat.

My Fairy Godfather Drank Black Velvet


I posted this Last April and – just like I described in the story – when I called, he came. Shortly after I hit “publish,” Walt and I found each other again. We caught up and had a lot of laughs. We’ve talked on the phone and emailed and chatted on facebook. I was looking forward to getting together with him in the fall for our college homecoming celebration. I laughed as I pictured myself walking around the old campus, yelling, “WALT!” knowing that – as always – he would answer.

But today, I got an email from another old friend telling me the sad news. Walt – my friend – my fairy godfather – passed away on Sunday. He lived in Texas, so I can’t be there. I won’t see him again. All I can do is tell his story one last time. I’ll miss you, Fairy Godfather.

I was having a conversation recently about “the good old days” and we were bringing up people in our past who were “characters” and the one person that always comes to mind for me in that situation is my friend Walt.

Walt was a legend on the campus of my teeny-tiny (first) college. Legend had him anywhere between 21 and 27, depending on who was retelling it. He was an icon. A permanent fixture. Don’t get me wrong, he was a smart guy and loved college. Or “college”, if you will. He was a stocky guy with the white blond hair. He almost always had a smile on his face (probably because he was at least a sheet and a half at any given time).

The first time I met Walt, I was a little intimidated. Here I was, a freshman, a baby, and there HE was – a. . .well. . .I have no idea what he was, since legend had it he was in his 6th or 7th year. But he was older. He was a grownup. As a sophomore, my friend Dave would drag me to Walt’s place to party, and I’d feel uncomfortable the entire time. The crowd there was always (to me, at least) a little older, a little smarter, a lot cooler. I have to admit, the discomfort was totally on my part – everyone there treated me just fine, but I felt inferior and stupid. But in time, Walt became my Fairy Godfather.

I never really thought he noticed me. I figured he saw me as the kid Dave dragged around with him. I didn’t even think he knew my name. But one day, I was walking to Victorian Literature (otherwise known as Stick Hot Pokers into My Ears and Eyes Lest I Explode from Boredom class) and I heard a voice from across the quad yell, “Hey! MaidenName! Let’s go drink a bottle of Black Velvet!” And given the choice of going to the world’s most boring class ever and downing a bottle of Canadian whiskey with a somewhat intimidating near-stranger – no contest!

I sort of thought he was kidding – that he just had some beer or a partial bottle left over from his last party or some good bud and was just looking for some company, but when we got back to his place, he pulled out two shot glasses and a brand new bottle of Black Velvet and we got to drinking. We spent the next couple of hours drinking and talking and having a great time. By the time his roommate (another older, even more intimidating silent-type) got back, along with some of the other of the usual party crowd (including Dave, who was until now, my only ticket into the place), Walt and I were pretty much trashed and laughing like fools. The roomie gave us a raised-eyebrow and everyone else looked a bit surprised. So perhaps I right and they were just tolerating me, or maybe they were just surprised that Walt was drunk on whiskey with a sophomore they all barely knew. Or maybe they were just surprised that I wasn’t with Dave – we were pretty much inseparable and I found out years later that everyone thought we were a couple.

Regardless, from that point forward, Walt became my Fairy Godfather. No matter where I was or what I was doing, if I thought about Walt, he would suddenly be there. We’d be partying in my friend’s dorm room and we’d say, “Walt should be here”, and a minute later the door would open and he’d walk in. Or we’d be at a hotel for homecoming, and wonder where Walt’s room was. So, we’d walk up the halls and just say, “Walt!” In 30 seconds, a door would fly open, and there he’d be. I’d be walking to class and think, “I really don’t feel like going today – I wish Walt would come rescue me” and before I knew it, I’d hear the by-then-infamous, “Hey MaidenName! Let’s go drink a bottle of Black Velvet/tequila/case of beer/” and off we’d go.

My favorite magically-appearing Walt occasion was after he graduated and I had left our small-town college for the last time (as did Dave). It was 1980-something, at a Dead show. It was the first of two shows and I had a ticket for both nights, but my friend Trish only had one for the second night. She came along anyway and we met up with Dave and some of his friends to party. A few hours before the show, we were making our rounds of the parking lot and a few people cut through our group, and in that sea of people, that was all it took to be separated from all my friends. I spent the next couple hours walking around looking for them and occasionally hanging out with some fun strangers. I finally gave up when it was time for the show to start. My ticket was a single, so I couldn’t even find them in their seats, since I had no idea where they were (not to mention, that at a Show? Seats, Schmeats!). I ended up running into a guy I knew who was also on his own, so I hung with him during the show. Afterward, we parted ways and I was once again alone in the lot.

I went to where they had been parked, but they were gone. I spent about an hour walking around, wondering how the hell I was going to get home (it was after city buses quit running, I had no money for a cab and it was way too far to walk, especially since I’d have to make my way through the Hill District to get home). I was feeling pretty freaked out and was about to find a group of folks who would let me hang for the night, when I started thinking about Walt. So I took a chance and said, “Walt!” And I swear – a van door popped open and there he was! That’s when I knew it was official – Walt was my Fairy Godfather.

Since last night, I can’t get him off my mind. We got in touch a few years ago and emailed a few times. He lived several states away and was married with a child. We lost touch again and I regret that. He was a good guy and a lot of fun. He was an unexpected friend. I find myself thinking about him quite often. So I have one thing to say:


The Good Uncle – Reprise


I wrote this entry back in November, and have thought about Uncle Paul almost every day since. I got the call last night – the one I knew was coming – the one I was dreading. Apparently in his last days, he mended some fences with estranged family, had a reunion, and got ready for his next journey. I’m glad to hear this. I was sad, though, to find out that it happened several months ago. Apparently, he didn’t want fanfare – just his wife and kids and a quick cremation. I understand and respect his wishes, but it still hurts. It’s not like I had seen him in ages, or even would have the chance to see him again. But I hate that it happened and I didn’t know. And now that I DO know, I find myself in the weird position of grieving for someone who wasn’t even in my life anymore. But in the time we spent together, he forever imprinted himself on my heart, because he was, indeed, a Good Uncle.

The Good Uncle

My mom called me a little while ago to tell me that my uncle is dying. He’s not really my uncle – not anymore. He married my Aunt Twin when I was just a baby, but they haven’t been married for many, many years. But he was there throughout my childhood, so regardless of blood relations and divorces, he has always been Uncle Paul, and I have always loved him.

He was an awesome uncle. The kind that is silly and fun. Always joking, rarely serious. Quick to stick up for you when you’re fighting mom for a later bedtime, or one more cookie. Generous with his money and his love. And he had lots of famous friends, which was pretty cool. Although, looking back, some of the closest of these friends – in retrospect – said something about him, I guess. I won’t mention their names, but I can say that they might possibly rhyme with Feet Blows and Weevil Believel. Back then, though, this stuff was all the makings of a Good Uncle. Good Uncles don’t always make good husbands, though. Mr. Good Time isn’t generally Mr. Responsible.

But Mr. Good Time he was. They had a beautiful house in Florida – it was big and exquisitely decorated – for the 70’s that is. I was in love with that house. Every room had a different color scheme or theme. Each had its own bathroom, which was unheard of (to me at least) in those days. The bathrooms were two rooms and Aunt Twin always had these soap sculptures on display in the outer room. I adored those things – they were beautiful and they smelled so good. We spent much of the summer there every year and I probably spent 10% of that time just taking in all the beautiful things she had there. The formal living room with the fur couch. The Florida room with the black patent leather couches and red hanging lamps. The bullfight statue that I used to imitate with my best friend Tracy and almost broke my nose. I still have the scar and the chipped bone.

I remember the kitchen with its mushroom theme and the state of the art appliances. My room was my favorite, because it was mine of course. It was crazy psychedelic blue and green, with twin beds (a novelty to me, since I had a big bed at home). There was white modern furniture including corner table that one bed slid halfway under when not in use. And there was a stereo built into it. God, I loved that room. My second favorite room was my Aunt Cee’s. She was a teen during those times and she got the super psychedelic room, with the black and silver wallpaper and the black furry bedspread and the groovy wire-sculpture hanging lamp and the white tree with hidden colored lights. I know it all sounds crazy and tacky now, but this was the 70’s – trust me – it was AWESOME.

He had a great mind – he was a businessman. He invented and marketed an exercise device that was very successful. His brother was a very famous NFL player and he himself was in the NFL for a while, so he had lots of connections to athletes that he used in his ads. He was clever, too, and had some funny, smart, and sometimes risqué advertising campaigns, which contributed to his success. But he liked to spend and party and gamble and live the high life. He made tons, but spent more. He had a wandering eye,. Hard for a wife to take when she is already 15 years his junior, I imagine. When I was about 11 or 12, Aunt Twin and Uncle Paul moved back to PA. I didn’t know why at the time, but I guess they were struggling both financially and emotionally. I didn’t know any of this until years later, so when they split up, I was devastated.

I cried and cried at the thought of losing my favorite uncle. The one that took me to get ice cream even though I didn’t finish my dinner. The one who would pose for photos wearing big, silly hats and glasses. The one that bought me presents just from him. the one that could always make me laugh, no matter what. I knew that no matter what happened between them, he would always be my uncle.

I was wrong.

I didn’t see him for years after they split. By the time I was an older teen, there were a few brief sightings and (I think) a graduation card. I sent him Christmas cards over the years, but never heard anything in return. I invited him to my wedding and never even got a response. If it were anyone else, I would have said, fuck him; he’s an asshole. But not with Uncle Paul. Even after years of no contact and rejection, I still loved him and missed him. After the boy was born, I sent him a card and letter, telling him about his new “great-nephew” and telling him how I felt – that I still loved him, that he was still my favorite uncle. He didn’t respond.

I never tried again, but I caught news of him occasionally through Aunt Twin, who got her news through the grapevine. Occasionally – as and recently as this summer – I would google him to see if there was something – anything – out there. Sometimes there was, and recently I even saw a photo. I was struck by how old he looked, since in my mind he is still big strong Uncle Paul.

Apparently, Aunt Twin talked to his brother recently – what prompted it, I don’t know – and found out that he is dying of cancer. I guess the brother passed on her love and this morning he called her. He was very kind, telling her how sorry he was. He said that his good time friends always told him what a mistake he made with her, and that he knows it. Even though he’s happy now, he still has regrets.

And then he asked how his favorite niece was.

He said how he missed me and how he wished he had stayed in touch. He said he was so moved when he got my letter, and that he regrets never replying. That he loves me. I shouldn’t care, but I do. I shouldn’t grieve him, but I will. I shouldn’t be crying, but I am. I’ve missed him for years, and now I am going to miss him more.

I love you, Uncle Paul.