Saturday, December 24, 2011

Enjoy small moments.

The Red Wheelbarrow 
by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

                               so much depends

                               a red wheel

                               glazed with rain

                               beside the white

Monday, December 12, 2011

Losing Dad: One Year Ago

The night my father fell for the last time, he and my mother had attended the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in S. California and listened to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto, no.2 and Dvorak's Symphony no. 9: The New World. 

“The music was terrific!” my father said. “It was wonderful! Jeesh.”

That night, my father returned alone to his assistant living facility, and later that night he fell. He was 88.

We'd stopped counting the times Dad had fallen in the past five years—and the number of visits to the emergency room? He went as often as some people go out to dinner—weekly, several times a month, at least. But, my father had 17 lives. He survived World War II. He survived jaundice, appendicitis, lung cancer, a brain tumor. He lived with diabetes and heart palpitations that required medication. He lived with blood clotting and blood thinning issues, and balance challenges, and depression. So, when I got a call that Dad had fallen, again, and was in the intensive care unit for observation, again, to watch for internal bleeding in his head from the fall, I’d gotten careless myself.

Dad had another fall. La di da.

While he was recovering in the hospital, and doing nicely the first day, I called and talked to my mother.  She reported that he was having soup. A little tired but doing okay. 

"Mom," I said. "Tell Dad he should wear a helmet."

"Wha she say? No! I'm not going to wear a helmet."

I didn’t expect him to obey. He wasn’t that kind of guy.

“Okay. Keep me posted,” I said, and hung up.  

The next day, I went to my neighbor’s house for dinner. When I realized  I had left my cell phone in my coat pocket in another room, I got a strange, sudden fright and hurried across the hall to get it. Not long after, my cell rang. My mother had been unable to wake up Dad earlier in the day. The bleeding hadn’t stopped, she said. In fact, it was worse. He was in a semi-unconscious state.  

I won’t go into those details of the next hour, or the bi-coastal conference call with the doctor. I’ll just say that for much of my life, my father told us that he wanted to go quickly. He had written documents to that same effect—no extraordinary measures were to be taken, etc. Those documents are still in my drawer.

Early the next morning, my sister and I flew across the country to California. He didn't linger long. 

4 a.m. in the morning is such a pristine time of day. It's the time Dad often started his day,  scuffing around in leather slippers to water his beloved plants. Who knew that 4 a.m. would be the hour he'd let go of his earthly breath?

But what I find myself thinking about on this one year anniversary of his death--is that evening of music, the one he enjoyed so much, the one that filled him with otherworldly delight, perhaps even a feeling of timelessness.  

Dvorak Symphony no. 9, The New World; and Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no.2.--I'm going to listen to both of those today (though I started last night), while I circle my house and remember him. He doesn't feel very far away.

Rachmoninoff, piano concerto no. 2

Second movement

Third movement

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Beautiful Joe

I adored this book as a child--more than adored it. This story lit every capillary in my body on fire.When my mother called me for dinner, I didn’t want to leave the pages. Everything inside my ten-year-old body was invested in the outcome of this puppy that was suffering abuse by a sadistic man.  Beautiful Joes’ ears had been cut off and his sweet soul was heading for early, horrendous death by a cruel miller.

Now, many decades later, I have discovered that Beautiful Joe was based on a  true story and that the book I read so long ago was, in fact, an international bestseller. I had no idea! I only knew that I needed to save this dog and prayed, as I turned the pages, that the young boy in the book, my hero, would save him for me.

Written in 1893 by Margaret Marshall Saunders, I discovered this lovely website where you can learn a whole more about Ms Saunders who in 1934 was recognized for furthering the humane treatment of animals.

I also found this short recap of what inspired Saunders to write the book:  

In 1892, in the town of Meaford, Ontario, Margaret Marshall Saunders was introduced to Beautiful Joe--a mongrel dog that had been cruelly mutilated by its owner. The author was inspired to write this true story to emphasize the plight of domestic animals everywhere.  Upon publication, Beautiful Joe quicly became a Canadian classic, enchanting readers of all ages. Although Margaret Saunders relocated the story of Beautiful Joe to a fiction town in Maine, readers know the story is actually based in Meaford, where a park and monument have been dedicated to the dog's memory."

And this interesting tidbit from Amazon about why Saunders called herself Marshall Saunders (and not Margaret):

"Published in 1893, Beautiful Joe was the first Canadian book to sell a million copies and was extremely popular in America, too (selling almost a million copies by 1900). A work of fiction told from the dog's point of view, it is based upon the true story of an abused dog (in the tradition of 1877's Black Beauty). It reflects many of the unfortunate realities of society in those days, but it had an incredible impact upon the Western world's ideas about humane treatment of animals. Interestingly, it is still published with the author listed as Marshall Saunders. In fact, it was written by Margaret Marshall Saunders, and published using her middle name since it was felt that no one would want to buy a book written by a woman. (She was in fact the first woman to write a book which sold a million copies!) Every animal shelter and rescue organization in America and Canada owes a debt to Beautiful Joe."

Do you know this book? Have you read it? Do you have a copy of it? Tell me, please!

I’m off to order it, thrilled and grateful that this story is still alive.