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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chamberlain: Humanitarian, Statesman, Nazi-Whisperer

This morning, Charlie and I were having breakfast with a tired, and a bit hungover Bryson, who was telling us about an awkward encounter he had last night...

Bryson:  "...And so, even though I tried to be nice, she got very angry at me because she was drunk.  I couldn't say anything to talk her down.  She was really aggressive.  I kinda felt like Wilt Chamberlain trying to reason with Adolph Hilter."
(Charlie and I smile and look at each other.)

Pua:  "Um...yeah, because Wilt Chamberlain has met Hilter....and we know how well that turned out."
Bryson:  (a bit confused by our reaction)  "Well yeah, Chamberlain was a really great spokesman.  He could reason with people.  I wish I had his ability when it came to talking to this woman."

Charlie:  "Because you wanted to add her to your "List of 20,000?"

(Bryson is now looking at us with obvious concern, frustrated at our flippant reaction to his story.)

Bryson:  "Dude, what are you talking about?"

Charlie:  "Bryson, I think you mean NEVILLE Chamberlain.  Wilt Chamberlain was a basketball player who was, among other things, known as a notorious womanizer."

Bryson:  (laughing)  "Well, crap.  Yeah, yeah...Neville.  That's what I meant.  Whoa man, I really need some sleep."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Please Remember: I Miss Her Too

Ellie and Kiva had a funny relationship.  Ellie was Alpha Female.  That's it.  Kiva bounced around her, vying for her attention, while Ellie simply tolerated Kiva's presence.  I always wished that Ellie would take on more of the Mama Nurterer role with Kiva, since Kiva came into our lives when she was a mere palmful in Wes' hand and Ellie was four.  But no.  Ellie had her own idea of the way things would be.  She was the Alpha Female.  That's it.  Kiva always tried, rolling over in front of Ellie, bearing her tummy to her, begging for some morsel of kindness.  Ellie would just give her a compulsory sniff, turn her nose up, and walk away.  Kiva took it all with a grain of salt and quickly switched her attention to the closest shiny thing.  I always laughed and told her she was just like her Daddy.  I never could get Wes to stay focussed at the tiki shop either.  Things were different, however, whenever we'd go outside.  A ride in the car or a walk in the park quickly turned Ellie into the most joyful, friendly, "Hey c'mon Kiva!  Let's play!" girl in the world.  She couldn't wrassle, tackle, chase, taunt, or play with Kiva enough.  The entire park became their playground.  Watching them chase each other was one of the great happy memories I will always cherish.  As soon as we came home though, roles would return to "Her Royal Majesty" and "Loyal Subject".  The house was Ellie's Queendom.  No more, no less. 

Since I've been home from staying with my sister, Kiva has now made her second visit to the house since Ellie's passing.  The first visit was bittersweet.  We watched as Kiva ran in the house in her usual Hurricane Kiva way, barking and crying, announcing her arrival.  She ran from room to room, barking all the way.  She ran out into the backyard, calling her friend.  She began to slow down after checking all the places she always knew Ellie to be, then she quietly walked over and looked up at me.  There was no doubt about the confusion.  "Where's my friend?"  It didn't take her long to realize that things were different, and it seemed to me that she just resolved to go about the business of helping US through our grief.  She just poured on the Kiva love that we have always cherished.  I was the one who sopped it up the most.  I didn't move much from the couch as she layed her head on my lap and let me hold her.  I thought of MYSELF as the mourner.  That was two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, when Wes arrived with Kiva, she went through her usual routine.  Running into the house, barking all the way, checking every room.  She figured it out faster, but she still looked.  I thought she moved through it pretty quickly and then generously slathered her attention on Caris and myself.  Her arrival is always joyful.  But something is a little different.

As the days have passed, I have noticed some little things.  Being a slow human, it took a full two days before I got my head out of my backside to realize...Kiva was grieving.  Yes, she was very attentive to all of us, like she always is, but I began to notice that she had her head lowered a lot.  A few times I found her looking longingly into the backyard and whining.  A squirrel walked along the fence and she didn't budge.  That just wasn't Kiva's regular MO.  At night, she came to the end of our bed and waited for an invite to jump up, which was granted.  She would always stay right at the foot of the bed because Ellie got to sleep further up by us.  So Kiva just waited, sitting down at the end of the bed between Charlie and I and stared at us.  When I told her to come, she SLOWLY moved up, with her head bowed down, and slid her long body the length of mine and spooned in, in an almost genuflective kind of way. 

At mealtimes, I had been putting her dish down and walking away.  Usually, Kiva WOOFED her food.  The past few meals, she just weirdly approached her dish and sniffed it, then she layed down, never touching it.  I told Wes that I thought she was missing her own kibble, or maybe she was missing her dad.  She ate eventually, but it took her a long, long time.  So unlike the ravenous girl we know.  Wes stopped by to visit her and she was happy.  He brought a new supply of Kiva's kibble.  When I went to feed her, she still approached the dish with trepidation, sniffed it, and layed down.  I was confused, and she looked at me with her sad eyes.  Then it hit me.  I had been putting Kiva's dish down in Ellie's place.  Kiva's place was over on the other side of the dining room.  Could it be?  I picked up Kiva's dish and moved it to her "regular" place.  She stuck her nose so far into that dish that I couldn't see it, woofing it happily, tail wagging as she ate.

That was it.  All of her weird little quirks, where she would lie down, where she would sit, toys she would and would not touch, where her dish would be placed.  In all of these things, she was paying homage to her lost friend.  Not wanting to replace, or ignore, or forget.  She was grieving too.  In my selfishness, I had forgotten that she had lost someone too.  I felt like an ass.  I got down on the floor and held her and she licked my face and wagged her tail.  I told her that I understood and that I loved her for caring SO much.  We missed Ellie together.  I could almost feel the release of tension in her body.  Yes, she needed us, ME, to see that she hurt too.  I had begged Wes to bring her here for ME, but I was lax in seeing that she needed me to comfort HER as well.  This little girl had spent her whole life playing a lesser canine role and being quite fine with it.  She never minded the way Ellie lorded over her.  She relished her time here and whatever understanding they had, they both found an easy peace with it.  Kiva just needed her pain to be recognized, and she needed someone here, someone in this second home of hers, to know that she missed her friend, her park partner, her sister.

When Charlie got home, we took her to the park and let her play fetch a few dozen times.  It seemed that once HER pain was acknowledged, she moved on.  She's still Kiva.  She's still a bundle of muscled energy.  She still loves all the lovies and she loves getting away with things at Auntie Pua's house that she doesn't get to do at home.  Yeah, we spoil her rotten.  But she still won't eat her food in Ellie's place, and she still won't come sleep between us.  There are some things that must remain sacred.  At least in Kiva's mind.

Blog Update I (3/22/13): Took Kiva to the park. We saw a guy jogging with his dog. His dog was an exact twin of Ellie. I've NEVER seen a dog that looked as much like Ellie as this dog, and I've never seen these two at the park. Neither has Kiva. She kept wagging her tail, crying, and trying to pull me over to them. When I wouldn't budge and kept telling her that it wasn't Ellie, she kept looking at me ...and tilting her head in that "I don't get it" way. I tried to get the man to stop and let them "meet", but he wouldn't. I felt bad for both of us, but I mostly felt bad for Kiva. She just didn't understand why we weren't going to get our Ellie and take her home with us. It wasn't a very fun trip to the park. She didn't even want to chase her ball. Sucks.  There were other dogs at the park, including our neighbor with his dog. Kiva wanted nothing to do with them. When it was time to leave, she just kept pulling at the leash toward the "Ellie" dog and I kept telling her that it wasn't our girl. I felt like a heel. Charlie says I'm projecting, and I know that, but honestly, if you saw her face and her very, very intense reaction to the situation. It was hard. For both of us. Haunted my sleep last night.
Blog Update II (3/23/13): Charlie and I picked up Ellie's ashes today. When we got home, we put the box up on the mantle next to her picture. Kiva came right over and stood up on her hind legs sniffing and whining. She paced back and forth under ...the mantle. She hadn't eaten today, so Charlie took the box, and put it in Ellie's usual place. As soon as Kiva went over and saw that "Ellie" was in her place, she FINALLY went over and ate. If there was ever a testament to an animal's grief, this has spoken volumes to me. This has been a week of soulful lessons. I hurt, but my heart is full of overwhelming love.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Abandonment Issues

Thanks to the efforts of my sister and brother-in-law, with whom I spent THEIR week of vacation (thanks, guys!), I came home on a Green Smoothie kick.  I had actually already been making smoothies for the family for quite some time now, The Grommet being my most loyal "customer", but now I was very much into getting everyone on the raw, green, and organic train.  With the help of recipes from my darling friend Aub, and armed with back-up "ammo" from my brother-in-law Phil, I've been a Green Mercenary Goddess.

For the past three days, it's been recipe experimentation.  Caris and I have been playing and tweaking, deciding whether we prefer this kale or that kale, or Charlie's favorite; Swiss chard.  Bry's a spinach kinda guy.  We're loving the "boosters" of protein, chia, spirulina, or maca.  Omega this, and energy that.  Whatever.  If it doesn't taste like V8, but is better for me, I'm in.  All in all, it's been fun and painless to get our fruits and veggies on.

This morning, as usual, I got up and started my usual routine.  Soon after, The Grommet came out of his room.

Me:  "Morning, Buddy.  You're running a bit late today.  I'll run in the kitchen and make your smoothie.  What kind would you like today?"

Bryson:  "I was thinking about those potatoes you made for dinner last night."

Me:  (scrunching up my nose)  "Ew.  That sounds gross.  I'm not gonna put those potatoes in a smoothie.  Why don't you just take those to work with you and have them for lunch?"

Bryson:  (ignoring me completely while he plays with Kiva)  "I don't have work today.  They owe me PTO."

Me:  (turning and walking back to my room)  "Awesome!  You can make your own smoothie today." 

Bryson:  (getting up and chasing me) "No, no, wait!  You can make my smoothie!  I love when you make my smoothie!  Please, please!  Don't abandon me!"

Me:  (smiling at his antics)  "Excuse me?  Abandon you?"

Bryson:  (smirking, then playfully pouting)  "Well, yes.  You abandoned me all last week.  No smoothies, no leftovers for lunch, no yummy dinners.  I need my mama-made power smoothie!"

Me:  "Wow.  Just wow.  Abandoned?  That's a bit harsh, isn't it?"

Bryson:  (looking hopeful)  "Did it work?"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Her Spirit Runs Free

I think it began on Tuesday morning, though as time has seen fit this past week to "glob" itself together for me, I couldn't be quite sure.  At least, that's when he told me it about it. One evening, quite randomly, Charlie mentioned that in the wee hours of the morning, he had heard what he recognized to be Native American flute.  Nothing else, just the soft sound of a flute.  Not just any flute, he was adamant that it was definitely Native American.

Charlie is the type of person who sleeps light.  I'm sure it is the protector in him that causes him to just sleep at the edge of the dream zone.  He hears everything and he always gets up to investigate until he has identified whatever night sound he has heard to his comfort and satisfaction, until he returns to bed.  He said he'd heard it for two nights straight.  I was surprised, because he hadn't mentioned it the first night.  I was even more surprised to find that he'd gotten up, gone outside into our backyard to listen, and came back to bed without my knowledge.  I never even stirred.  I honestly didn't think I'd been sleeping that well this week.  At least, when I woke up every morning, I felt like hell.  I just attributed this to my grief and that he'd heard what he'd heard in such a place during my sleep that I was deep enough not to be stirred.

I began to ask him how he felt about what he'd heard. 

"Mmmm.  I don't know.  I guess I just thought it was strange to hear something like that on a weekday, at 2 or 3 in the morning.  I thought maybe someone in the neighborhood was playing it and the conditions were just so that the sound carried on the wind.  When I figured out exactly what the sound was the first time I heard it, I just smiled.  You know how I love Native American flute, so it was nice.  Just seemed weird to hear it at that time."

Then, he told me that on the second night, when he heard it again, he got up quickly and ran outside because he wanted to see if he could actually SEE anyone. 

"I stood out on the backyard patio, looking over our fence, thinking that someone was walking behind the house in the easement.  But there was no one around.  Again, just the sound of the flute."

He shrugged his shoulders.  We don't have neighbors behind us.  No houses, just an easement utility dirt "road" that the county uses every once in awhile.  He just attributed it again, to pristine environmental conditions that allowed the sound to carry a distance, perhaps from a wanderer stopping to rest in our nearby park.  Wherever it was coming from, it was coming from a distance.  At least Charlie thought so.  My thoughts I kept to myself for the moment.  I did ask him, however, if the sound bothered him or made him feel uncomfortable.

"No.  It was peaceful, serene.  Almost meditative.  Very comforting.  I went right back to sleep."

On Saturday morning, Charlie and I drove to my sister's house in San Diego.  Having lived near tribal land her whole life, and working with and for indigenous people her entire career, Lokelani is well acquainted with Native American lore and tradition, so when Charlie started to tell Loke and her husband Phil about what he'd been hearing, she crossed her arms in front of her, rubbed them with her hands, like one would do if they were cold, and asked him if he'd seen any owls.  I knew where she was going with her question.  It's interesting that in both Native American and Hawaiian cultures (which is basically saying the same thing because Hawaiians consider themselves Native Americans) the owl holds a very strong place in spiritual belief.  To Native Americans, the owl is the ruler of the night and the seer of souls.  To Hawaiians, the owl is revered and considered sacred.  Pueo, The Protector.  Charlie told her that no, he hadn't seen any owls LATELY, but we do see them every so often in the neighborhood.  Still, Loke said; "You're being visited.  Someone will either visit, or has already been to visit you.  That's the flute." 

Now, Charlie is a realist.  He doesn't really believe in folklore or native beliefs, though he doesn't dismiss them out of respect to me and my culture.  He's also seen a few things since he's known me and my family that cannot simply be "explained away", so he's open-minded when we have discussions about our own spiritual experiences.  As is well-known, I struggle with my own belief system, but NOT with my spirituality.  Though I don't really believe there is a heaven or hell or that you have to "work" your way into them or have "faith" in the promise of a paradise in the hereafter, I do find a comfort in thinking that I am occassionally "visited" by loved ones who have left this mortal coil.  Also, following the belief of native people, I believe those spirits can visit us in different forms.  I have very much felt the presence of two of my lost loved ones numerous times.  So when my sister mentioned a visitor for Charlie, I KNEW exactly who it was.  I felt it when he told me it happened, but now I was sure.

He had mentioned that he'd first heard it on Tuesday morning, at 2 am.  Ellie left us on Monday morning.  That would have been our first "night" without her, the first night he didn't have to get up to let her outside.  Yet, he'd been "summoned" to get up, and he went outside, just like he always did with Ellie.  It didn't happen just once, it happened again the next night.  Although, that was a few days prior and it hadn't happened since.  Just twice.

 "It's Ellie. I know it's Ellie. She came to you at the time she always came to you. In the wee hours of the morning. You were the one she came to.  Always to Daddy.   It was her way of telling you that she was ok.  You grieve quietly, but you've been watching out for all of us.  She wanted to connect with you in a comforting way.  I know it's Ellie."  My sister nodded her head in agreement.  Yes, it was Ellie coming to see Charlie.  What else could it be?  Charlie didn't disagree, but he didn't quite get on the bus.  He was still of the mindset that it was someone in our neighborhood.

Charlie thought quietly and then said; "Well, maybe.  She did come to me without fail every night.  But why the flute?  And why the Native American flute in particular?"  I knew his hesitation to latch on to what we were thinking

None of us really had a response for that.  So we just let it marinate and we moved on to the next subject as we do when we're together, the four of us.  After talking about everything under the sun, we all called it a night and retired.  The next morning, over coffee, Charlie told us that he'd heard the flute again.  Here, 90 miles from home.  And again, it was between 2 and 3 am.  So now, he couldn't attribute it to something in our neighborhood.  It was HIS sound.  It was a message meant for Charlie and Charlie alone.  The third time's a charm.

It didn't take me a minute to figure it out, and though I hestitated to say it because anyone else would think it was a ridiculous stretch, I felt it was right on target.  I knew instantly.  It could only be Ellie.  One of the things that the four of us used to love to do is to go to the indian casinos.  We don't do it anymore, but back when we did, one of Charlie's favorite games was called "Wolf Run".  The wheels have pictures of wolves and their cubs, and one of the wolves looks exactly like Ellie.  So Charlie would always say; "I'm gonna play the Ellie game."  The music that plays during that game is a Native American flute.  On Charlie's birthday last year, Sis and Phil gave him "Wolf Run" for his computer, so that he could play it at home.  There could be no doubt, it was his little wolf coming to tell him that she was okay.  That her spirit was running free, but that she was with him.  My husband's patronis is a wolf, and her name is Ellie.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Role Reversal

In the twists and turns of life, there come those times where the caregiver becomes the care receiver.  This week has been a bit of a lesson in this for me.  It isn't as though I haven't known that life lesson, it's just that it has been so sweetly and poignantly clear in the last few days.  In the midst of my sorrow, it is another point in gratitude.

Since Monday, The Grommet has come home for lunch every day.  He always has some "reason" for doing so.  Some small "errand" he's running for his boss.  But I can read between the lines...he's been checking on me.  On Tuesday, I never got out of my jammies.  I don't think I even brushed my hair or my teeth.  Pretty pathetic, I know, but I kinda felt entitled.  When Bry got home and saw me he came over and rubbed my shoulders.

     "Hey, why don't you go to the beach?" 

That made me smile because that is truly our mantra; his and mine.  I shrugged my shoulders, thanked him, and declined.  I just didn't have the energy. 

     "You gotta get outta here, Mommy.  This isn't good for you."

I told him I knew, but I honestly couldn't pull myself together today.  He gave me one last, gentle admonishment about grief and how I can't let it take over my life.  I smiled at him because I knew where his heart was.  As I've mentioned, grieving is hard enough when you're the one in mourning.  But it's ten times harder watching people you love grieve and feeling helpless.  If you could take the pain for someone you love, you would.  The universe knows this young man has had more than his fair share.

     "Bry, I know you are more acquainted with grief than a lot of people.  So please understand when I tell you that I feel like I deserve to grieve today.  It's only been a day.  I promise, it'll be okay.  But for now, I need to work out my sadness.  I love you and I know you care about me and are worried.  I'll be okay."

He nodded.  "Okay, but if you need me, I'm five minutes away."  And off he went.

Yesterday, The Grommet and Charlie knew that I had cancelled my "date" with my friend Zack, who was kind enough to ask me to accompany him to a special premiere event screening of a movie he had worked on.  His partner was working and couldn't attend, and when he asked me last week, he said that he just thought I could use something fun and happy to do.  He was right.  At the time I was overjoyed.  In my heart, I thought that Ellie was doing so well, and I had my head convinced that she would be with us at least another month or so.  Maybe longer.  Interestingly, I had no idea when I talked to Zack on Monday to tell him about Ellie and how I didn't think I could pull myself together for the premiere and how I hoped he could find a new "date" for the evening, that I'd also be without transportation.  Caris was having car trouble, so we did some family car-swapping, which left me without my car since Tuesday.  I would have had no way to get to Hollywood.  When it rains it pours.

When Bry came home at lunch, he TOLD me that we were changing our regular Thursday Pub Night to Wednesday instead.  "You have to get out of this house.  We're going."  I laughed, but did not argue.  He was determined.  We did have a nice dinner together as a family.  It isn't often that the four of us who live under the same roof are able to do that, schedules being what they are, but for some reason, the stars aligned.  It did my heart especially good to see Caris happy and laughing.  Ellie's passing has been immeasurably hard on her too.  Bryson's humor has helped there.  He makes her laugh like no one else can.

They say that one day the child becomes the parent.  They also say that with grief comes gratitude.  "They" sure are wise.  "They" must have had some pretty loving people in their world.  I know I do.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Yesterday, we rode home from the vet in silence.  Charlie, Caris, and I.  All of us knowing that our girl would suffer no longer, but all of us lost in our pain.  Together, but alone. 

Charlie had to return to work, but he took the time to hug each one of us, making sure we felt very hugged.  His arms were comforting.  I watched as he hugged Caris.  She held on tight, returning his embrace.

I stood in the kitchen for a long time.  Not quite knowing what to do with myself.  My whole world has been Ellie for the past few months, and intensely so for the last two weeks.  Pretty much every moment has been dedicated to her care.  I wouldn't leave the house without her.  I became a bit obsessed, I know.  I micromanaged her food, her feedings, her snacks, her walks, her naps, her love, everything.  I listened to her breathe at night.  I slept on the far edge of the bed if she found a comfy space that "infiltrated" my sleeping space because if she was comfy, I didn't want to move her.  In the daytime, I tried not to move about the house too much because she would want to move with me, and I didn't want her to use her energy needlessly.  I didn't think anyone really noticed.  Except Ellie. 

She looked to me for everything.  Well, everything except the lovies.  She gladly accepted that from everyone.  But I was the caregiver and she knew it.  She came to me to ask for food, treats, and walks.  The only necessity that she went straight to Charlie for was the 2 am trips outside.  She must have learned as a puppy that you have to go to Daddy's side of the bed in the middle of the night if you have any hope of getting attention, because Mommy doesn't wake up. 

I thought of all of these things as I stood there like a zombie in my kitchen.  I stared at her pictures on our fridge.  Charlie scooped me up in one more hug and asked if I needed anything before he went back to work.  I shook my head.  "I'm good."  I told him.  "Liar."  He responded, and hugged me again. 

Caris mustered up all the power she had in her and started on her interrupted schoolwork.  I know it was difficult for her, but she did what she had to do.  I envied her a little because I wondered what to do with myself now.  Ellie was my day.  Whatever Ellie wanted to do, I would try to make possible for her.  If she wanted to sit out on the front lawn all day, I would sit with her.  If she had he energy for the park, I would take her.  If she wanted to go for a car ride, I would drive with the windows open so that she could take in all the smells of the world.  Now what?

Before Charlie left, he told me not to do anything.  Just rest.  He kissed my forehead, told me to remember all the sweet things, and went back to work.  I couldn't do nothing.  So I just started putzing.  I did some laundry, I washed some dishes.  I really did feel like the walking dead.  Going about my business without thinking.  Just doing.  It was about an hour or two later that I began to notice something strange.  Ellie's water dish was gone.  Not in its usual place on the kitchen floor.  Even the mat that her dish sat on was gone.  Ellie's treat jar was moved from its usual place on the counter.  In my office, Ellie's sleeping mat was not next to the aquarium, just next to my desk.  There were no toys on the living room floor.  I didn't really notice it until the mail lady came.  No boofing.  No barking.  Ellie always barked when the mail got delivered.  Then, all the things that were usual, just weren't there anymore.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then I had a flash of memory.  As I was standing there, zoned out in my kitchen when we got home from the vet, Charlie was moving quickly around the house.  I hadn't paid any attention, so lost was I in my grief.  Like Caris, he had gone about the business at hand, doing what he felt needed to be done.  He was protecting me and my broken heart.  Even in his own grief, he was taking care of me.  He knew that as I tried to move through my day, I would see things and my world would stop and I would cry and he wouldn't be there to comfort me.  So he took care of what he could and tried to hide the "triggers".  My broken heart melted.  Sometimes, he is forgetful beyond belief, but when it's really important...when it has something to do with my heart, no one watches over me like Charlie.

These next few days, weeks, months, will be hard.  We won't be rushing to the shelter like we did after Shanny died.  I don't have it in me this time.  I know we are a family with so much love to give, and it's always going to be in us to adopt a dog again one day.  But this time, for some reason, is different.  This time, I feel like Ellie deserves a time of reverence.  This dog, this sweet, sweet, sweet furry girl took pieces of us with her.  Caris made a comment about how you know in your life, you may have a lot of pets, you may have a lot of dogs, and they're all great, but you have that ONE dog.  THE one.  Ellie is that one.  We all agreed.  She was definitely that one.

We're luckier than most people in a way.  I can pick up the phone at any moment and call Wes, and he will bring little Kiva and she will help to kiss our hurt away.  Just for now, though, I would give anything to hear a little jingle of tags at the foot of my bed.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Hurts to Breathe

I know we did right by her.  I know she knew how much we loved her.  But right now, in this moment, I am so completely heartbroken that it hurts to breathe.