Boys and Broken Hearts

It is said that there are two guarantees in life—death and taxes. I can’t argue with either, but I would add another to the list—-you will suffer a broken heart. For me, I’ve had more than a few. Most often it’s a person, sometimes it’s a career, and if you are lucky it’s from a most unexpected relationship. I’ve had a few boys in my life and all of them have given me great joy. Most have come and gone, leaving me brokenhearted. My teens and twenties included a couple of boys that left an indelible mark, making me who I am today. In simple terms, one broke my heart by breaking my trust, the other by accepting, then rejecting me. Both were painful, but I don’t dwell on them as they each taught me a lesson that strengthened my heart and prepared me for the real loves and losses of life.

In my late twenties, two extraordinary boys entered my life at almost the same time. The first was my amazing husband who I  respect, adore and thank God for, but enough about him. Shortly after we married we brought another “boy” into our lives. He was short, hairy and stubborn. My husband had chosen this tiny, white bichon among the rest of his excited, tail-wagging brothers and sisters. He stood out because he didn’t complain about the hot pavement under his young paw pads as he played among his pack, each waiting to be adopted. He seemed to like Matt much better than me, so I was hesitant to get close to him. However, as boys and dogs always do, he slowly endeared himself to me, especially after I left work to raise the family. He was there for all the big moments in life, the births of each of our two daughters, the many moves from house to house, 3 in all, and even family road trips to the mountains and Florida. With each year that passed, I was unaware of the indelible mark he was leaving on my heart. He became a constant in my life, dedicated to me and counting on me to take care of him. There were times when I counted on him, too. He was by my side when I recovered from surgery. He was my calming comfort during times of family strife. There is no doubt I took him for granted, at least until I started to see the signs, the signs that he wouldn’t be with me forever.

Fifteen years went by in a flash, filled with wonderful memories that always included him. His joints had betrayed him long ago, and now his kidney did the same.Those once bright and happy eyes were now cloudy and tired, pleading with me to let him go.  As much as he didn’t want to leave me, I didn’t want to imagine life without him. It took a few months for me to see that the years of joy he had given me could only be repaid by giving him what he couldn’t give himself, freedom from pain and suffering. The family gathered for two days to shower him with affection and thank him for all he had given us, companionship loyalty and laughter just to name a few. In the end it was my husband and I who took him to the vet to say goodbye. The vet administered the drugs and he took one last look at me then back at Matt before closing his tired eyes. In that moment, as the vet said the words I will never forget, ” he is gone,” I felt a piece of my heart leave with him. This was a different kind of heartbreak I had never experienced. The pain was unbearable, but I had no regrets in letting a part of me go. He was worthy of  both a piece of my heart and my unstoppable tears. It was my last gift to him.

So, hey younger self, many boys will leave you with a broken heart, but the only ones worthy of your tears take a piece of it with them when they leave. RIP sweet Renie.

When Life Hands You Lemonade

You’d have to be living under a rock or be younger than this century is old to never have heard this expression,  “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s basic meaning is if something unpleasant happens, turn it into something good. If only we knew when we were little that life would hand us a series of lemons—-some perceived and some really sour ones. But, what if we were also told that life would hand us a lot of lemonade?

The other day my family and I were at the McDonald’s drive thru, each of us ordering our favorites. I was, as usual, trying to avoid as much salt and calories as possible by adding an extra bag of apples to our otherwise fat-laden order. We were handed our bags of “nutritious” goodness and sent on our way. My job is always to hand everything out to our impatient girls. Matt sits there politely waiting for his, then attempts to eat a sloppy burger while driving with his knee. (Just kidding….. I’ve seen him do this in our younger days, sans precious cargo.) This particular visit I discovered an extra order of fries. At first I said, “Oh no, they gave us fries instead of apples. (That’s also my job— to make sure we got everything.) We can’t leave without something healthy.” Alas the apples were found and Matt exclaims, “When life hands you lemonade, drink it!”

What? I immediately knew what he meant, but was taken aback by the thought of it. How many times in my life have I gotten lemonade and ignored it?  I don’t anticipate being handed lemons at every turn. But, I also don’t live my life thinking lemonade will magically appear either. The truth is, there is a lot more lemonade. The sour lemons take up the memory spaces in my mind because they are so tart and bitter. The lemonade lives there, too, silently taken for granted because I didn’t choose to drink it up. Okay, maybe I indulged in a few glasses. Perhaps if I had indulged more, I would see my lemonade glass of life as always full.

So, hey younger self, with each new year when life hands you precious golden lemonade (even in the form of free golden fries), for God’s sake drink it up! Your glass is all full, my dear.

Fear and dog years

Fear took hold at an early age. Bumps in the night, shadows on the wall, and dangers of the world on the television news surrounded me, or so I thought. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just these kinds of fears that would paralyze me. Fear of failing and fear of disappointing someone are what stopped me from experiencing youth to the fullest. I didn’t allow myself to be pushed to the edge to find out just how far I could go or what I could achieve. I don’t think I’m unique in that personality trait. I do think, if I had paid attention, there were plenty of influences in my childhood that tried to teach me the “life is too short” lesson. One of which was of the canine variety.

I was lucky enough to have many dogs in my life because me parents realized the value of a family pet. They teach responsibility, patience, and the simple joy of companionship and play time. I am told I had one or two before I can even remember going off to Kindergarten. Then there are two I have vivid images and memories of. Carie was a tiny Cairn Terrier full of energy. That little spitfire gave us many days of fun. If my sister or I didn’t chase her around the family coffee table enough times to satisfy her, she would bark her disapproval until we relented. It was what made her happy, and she was smart enough to know it made us gleeful, too. Casey was a beautiful Cocker Spaniel who had come to us after he spent a year living on a ship. Talk about adventurous! He needed a quiet, country setting to live out his glorious years and we had just the ticket. He became the son my dad never had. Casey went everywhere with him and would ride in the Jeep or the back of the pick up truck for as long as my dad would allow. He laughed in the face of fear as he hung his head off the side of the truck bed as far as he could just to catch the wind in his fur. He truly was a risk-taker and even leaned so far one time he fell out of the moving truck and hit the pavement. Other than a bloody nose, he was no worse for wear and completely unaware he nearly gave us all a heart attack. Casey was fearless and I admire him for that now.

Both of these special souls left the earth too soon in tragic ways that were difficult to accept. There was a lesson in that as well. But, the most important lesson they could ever give me is that life is too short to live in fear of failure. Let the wind hit your face, take a leap of faith and play with the kids until the sun goes down. That’s what I see in our Boxer puppy who is just starting life. I see it on the rare occasion in my Bichon who is nearing the end of his days. The lesson is always there if we choose to see it.

So, hey youngerself! You don’t live life in dog years. But if you did, what would you dare to do?

First memory

I can’t remember a time in my youth when I saw the humor in most things that were happening around me. I just wasn’t that kind of kid. I was “uptight, out of sight.” (Those of you as old as me will remember that Stevie Wonder reference.) Okay, so I wasn’t really out of sight. But I thought I was, right down to my roller skates and rainbow-striped knee high socks. I definitely didn’t see myself as uptight. But, as I put the memories together it’s clear as a bell—–so began my life as an A-type personality. Driven, dedicated, sensitive, impatient, and painfully afraid to be imperfect. Not a lot of humor in that. No need to feel pity though. Those qualities led to success more than failure. So much so that I didn’t  hear “no” very often.

But, let’s start from the beginning—-the day I was born—March 3rd. 1970 something. I was told it was cold, but bright blue and beautiful. Surely, I must have controlled that as well. Right? From that point on I was the bane and the joy of my mother’s existence. My first memory is a snip-it of my older sister scribbling colorfully on our shared bedroom wall. My first vivid memory wasn’t quite as charming. They say your first real memory is traumatic and hence why you can recall it out of all those snip-its in the back of your mind. I was three years old and on my way with mom and sis to see a new house we eventually would buy. It was a 45 minute drive and mom thought we needed to self-entertain. Back in the day, that meant hard-covered books with water-colored illustrations on the front and a gold binding. Out on the lawn of our current home I watched my sister come down the 4 or 5 concrete steps with an arm full of them. I couldn’t allow her to have more than me, so back up I went to grab my arm full. Either coming or going I must have missed a step because all I can remember is my mother’s distraught face and blood-soaked clothes. At the hospital I received 3 stitches in my tiny chin. It was poetic really. I was born on 3/3 and now I was 3 years old with 3 shiny new stitches. Is that why my lucky number is 3? It all comes back around, and I should have learned a lesson at that tender age. But, that type-A personality endures.

“So hey younger self!, that scar is a reminder that you are good enough even when what you have isn’t equal to someone else.”