Category Archives: Beggers’ Horses

They Say It Never Rains In Upstate South Carolina

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Actually, what “they” say is, “Seems it never rains in Southern California.” Still, I think it’s apropos, especially considering the rest of the chorus of that Albert Hammond one-hit wonder goes

Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours man it pours

Well the last three weeks, it has POURED. Literally and metaphorically. I’m talking frog-strangling, log-floating, fish-choking deluges of biblical proportions and at the moment, Father Noah is awol and they’s nary an Ark in sight. I mean, I’ve been through some rough patches in my life. It happens to us all. I understand that. The Bible says the Lord makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike. We all take our turn in the barrel as the old crude joke punchline says. Here lately though, I think I’m getting my rain and someone else’s monsoon to boot.

Let me give you, my beloved readers, a quick rundown on the last three weeks around Chez Wham.

  1. I lost or misplaced or had my iPod stolen. It was old, but it was mine and it had all my iUni podcasts on it.
  2. Budge’s pool, or as I like to call it “that godforsaken swamp in my backyard,” has eaten chemicals like I eat wintergreen Lifesavers. I hate that pool.
  3. Daddy had to go to Charleston to have a heart cath because his last nuclear stress test wasn’t what it should have been. Turns out he has a touch of heart damage at the bottom of his heart so he’s going to have to add some heart medicine to his daily regime.
  4. My nephew, Mason, had a horrendous allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was taking and for three days, Nick and Sissy though they were going to have to hospitalize him. He was head to toe red welts. He’s better now, but it was terrifying.
  5. Mama’s home healthcare nurse sat her down and explained that her C.O.P.D. has reached the terminal stages. She’s not going down without a fight, but I’m afraid most of the fight has gone out of her. I’m looking at life without my Mama sooner instead of later.
  6. Budge has been gone for two weeks this summer in the midst of all this mess going on and anyone who knows me KNOWS how well I do when I don’t have my Budge around to moderate my moods for me.
  7. Our DSL and phone lines had to be replaced because they were slowly giving up the ghost. Some people might say home internet is frivolous; those people are not teachers.
  8. The pastor on staff at church whom I was always closest to and would have turned to in the midst of all this mess was dismissed from the staff for good cause. To quote Forrest, “and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.”
  9.  I got a surprise from the IRS in the form of a tax bill to cover a mistake I made two years ago. Uncle Sam wants about $3000 of “his” money back. People in Hell want ice water, too. One more payment a month.
  10. Three of four tires on my beloved Honda Element have picked up nails or screws in the shoulders beyond the range of the tire company’s ability to safely patch them. The fourth tire was already patched. I don’t have road hazard protection on them. Lately, I’ve been riding around with an air compressor in the back.
  11. The back porch at the Ancestral Manse (Mama’s house) caught on fire and burned 1/4 of the structure. It’s now unsafe to walk on, much less get Mama’s wheelchair up or down. Estimated cost to replace? Somewhere in the $1K to $3.5K range depending on lumber costs.
  12. JUST LAST NIGHT, I was washing clothes and the sink and both tubs started gurgling like a demon had possessed them. I went in our bathroom to see what was wrong and met an inch of water standing in the floor with more coming from the porcelain throne. It was all thick with lint and suds. Septic tank’s full after 16 years. Cost to get it pumped? At LEAST $350. Might as well be three million.

Now I didn’t tell you all that to get pity and I don’t want anything from anyone. I just had to get all this off my chest or I was going to explode. I’m a talker and sometimes I just feel better getting everything out. Kind of like squeezing a boil.  It has LITERALLY been from one thing to another this entire summer. Like I said before, poop happens. I know everybody’s got troubles. I also know that misery loves company and, sweet brothers and sisters, I could use some company right along now.

Still love y’all and try to keep those feet clean!

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My Only Worries of Being Childless

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"Empty Cradle" by CoryMarchand

My post on how awkward it can be when you’re the only childless couple really garnered a lot of folks attention. I don’t get many comments as a rule, and that post picked up several. With that in mind, I want to do a follow-up on my views of being childless and explain a thing or two in a little more detail.

Sometimes I wish Budge and I would have had children one way or another. Having seen how happy Mason has made Daddy as a grandpa, I would like for Mama to have had a blood grandchild of her own. Now she’s a surrogate grandmother to many, many children of my various cousins and assorted other kin, but I know a child of mine and Budge’s would have made her even more overjoyed. Of course, with her COPD robbing her of vitality, she wouldn’t be able to do much with the baby, but hopefully, having that baby would make her sitting confined to a chair that much easier to bear.

Mostly, I’d just like to know what kind of father I would have made. I’ve always wanted a little girl, but Budge said I’d end up in jail or a mental hospital with a nervous breakdown once she became a teenager. I don’t know about that. I’m not worried about my hypothetical daughter. I know she’d be an angel. What I’d be worried about is her finding ME when I was between 15 and 19.

I was the boy all the parents loved because I was so respectful and attentive to not only their daughter, but also them. I guess I’d have had to set the boy down and tell him, “Son, I don’t like you and I don’t want to like you. You don’t have to make small talk with me about my hobbies or sports or anything of that sort. I know your kind and I know what you want really, really badly and I realize nothing I can do will change that. But, son, you need to know one thing. There’s a well in out in the country where I grew up. It’s deep and hard to get to. If I catch you impinging on my daughter’s honor, they’ll never find you.” Well, maybe Budge is right.

The main reason I worry about us being childless, however, IS Budge. See, I’ve got maybe thirty or thirty-five years left before one of the Wham heart attacks takes me on to see Jesus . . . I hope. We don’t have much family in any event, and I’m worried sick about leaving Budge back here alone. I don’t want her to get old alone. I don’t even want her to EAT alone now! People used to laugh at me because whenever I would have a wrestling match or something of the sort and wouldn’t be able to eat supper with Budge, I’d always call one of her friends and ask her to take Budge to supper and I’d pay. I can’t stand the thoughts of her eating alone.

I remember visiting Granny Wham when she was in Martha Franks Retirement Home. Some of the ladies there had outlived all their family. They literally had no one to come visit them or make sure they were being treated well. I get so upset I start crying and get sick to my stomach when I think about my beloved Budge sitting at a table alone knowing no one is going to come visit on special days like Christmas and her birthday.

SHE tells me I’m being silly, but that’s the biggest worry I have since we have no children. I want her taken care of, but I know that if the world stands long enough, I’ll probably go to the grave before she does. Of course, if she goes before me, the funeral home may as well hold the hearse at the house because I’ll probably be along shortly from grief. It will be difficult for me to go on without Mama, but life without Mama AND my Budge is just too much to bear!

Have a good weekend, y’all!

Love y’all and keep your feet clean and warm during this cold snap!

Go Rest High on that Mountain, Papa John

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Papa John on Mama's wedding day.

I’ve found it exceptionally difficult to look out the window all day today and see such a beautiful cerulean sky with the Sun shining warm and high.

Five years ago on this day, rain fell so hard and so long that it made a rivulet beneath the funeral tent where I stood giving Papa John’s eulogy. It rained so hard the canvas of the tent sounded almost like a ten roof. I couldn’t see the highway only twenty yards away.

When the time came to leave, Budge and I drove out of the cemetery and I couldn’t think of the words or tune of a single hymn or gospel song. All I could think about were the words to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s signature song . . . “The Sky Is Crying.”

As unbelievable as it was to me, my Papa John – Mama’s father – was gone and it seemed as if Nature herself was taking part in our grief.

It’s taken me five years to write one word about Papa’s death because all these years later, that wound is no less open, raw and putrescent than it was the day Papa John passed away.

I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with Papa John as I did Granny and Papa Wham for a variety of reasons I will not discuss here. However, of all my close ancestors, I share more traits and characteristics with Papa John than I do any other relative. Some people who read this might not like that. The person writing this doesn’t really care if they do or not.

My Papa John was special. He faced down more calamity and disaster; overcame more ill will and hard breaks; and fought off more despair and personal demons than any man I’ve ever known. Whenever I think of Papa, I think of the quote some attribute to Rabelais “What cannot be remedied must be endured“. My Papa John endured where others would have fainted, if not fled in terror at what was happening to them. Death alone could stop him and even then, he didn’t go without a fight.

Papa was a Pentecostal preacher. He was never happier than when he was at the front of our little white church playing his guitar or delivering a sermon. When he wasn’t preaching, he was busy doing the Lord’s work and when he wasn’t doing the Lord’s work, he was working in textile plants all over Laurens and Simpsonville, SC.

Papa worked hard, but he never had anything to show for it. I’ve seen him give the coat off his back to someone who needed it more than he did. He was big-hearted and generous and kind and the world hated him for it. He was slandered and lied about and run through the petty small town rumor mill over and over — because he was good to people.

Throughout all the false accusations and tribulations in his life, my Papa never lifted a finger against anyone. He didn’t have to. God had Papa’s back. Oh, I know a lot of you reading this, especially members of my own family probably don’t believe that, but again, ask me if I care. You weren’t there. You don’t know as much as you think you do. What I know is everyone — man and woman, kin and stranger alike — who mistreated my Papa John either had to come to him to apologize on bended knee or else died in horrible, Old Testament ways. One wagging tongue silenced itself with a blast from a 12 gauge shotgun. Another died choking while drowning on his own blood. A family member who spoke too harshly about things which weren’t her business one too many times died of a horrible wasting lung cancer . . . and never smoked a day in her life.

Believe what you want to.

From the time I was 13 until I was 35 and he passed, Papa had MULTIPLE strokes and heart attacks. I was with him the night he had his first stroke in our church parking lot. I was 13 and didn’t know what the change in his voice meant and neither did he. The ailments took his body, but Papa never succumbed to the slightest bit of dementia. Until he lapsed into his final coma, he was as sharp as the kitchen knives he used to keep to cut radiator hoses.

For years before he passed away, his left hand and arm were completely useless. He drove his car with a steering knob. His left leg was halt and somewhat withered. He walked anyway.He never stopped. He endured.

I could fill a book with my papa’s life, but most people — even many who knew him — wouldn’t believe parts of it. He was a mystery to most people. I don’t have space or time to talk about cars and restaurants and the Harakin Pine Woods. I could make an entry about Papa in this blog every day for the rest of my life and the half wouldn’t be told.

Papa John didn’t measure success in dollars and cents. That confused lots of people. People might not have known how to take Papa, but they knew who to turn to for help. He never stopped his ministry. When he could no longer stand in a pulpit, he’d sit in a Waffle House at 3:00 AM talking to a stranger about God over a cup of coffee. Five years later, Mama and I are still finding out about lives he touched that we knew nothing about.

Here’s what matters though and here’s what you need to take away from this post about my grandfather. He didn’t have a bank account. He never owned a house. His only possessions were his bible, a few clothes, and a hand-me-down Ford Fairmont. The day he died, he had one $5 bill in his wallet. As I said at his funeral, according to our vision of “The American Dream” he had NOTHING to show for his life. Some people might have looked at him as a complete failure.

I’ll tell you what he did have though — in the middle of a driving rainstorm that would turn to sleet later that day — he had more people at his funeral than the Fletcher’s Mortuary tent could hold, but the people came anyway and stood in that driving rain to pay a last visit to a man who had a heart no one could measure.

THAT is what you need to know about Papa John. That and the fact that I loved him more than breath and since his death nothing has been the same and never will be. Men like Papa John leave a hole too big to ever fill on this side of the Jordan River.

Rest on the mountain for a little while, Papa, and look for me . . . I’m trying.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

 

So It Goes . . .

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In an absolutely perfect world, I would go to Bell Street Middle School and spend the day getting ready for my 8th year spreading library love amongst my students and teachers. In a slightly less perfect — but wildly-superior-to-the-present — world I’d be headed back to Woodmont High School for my 17th year teaching lit or history– preferably to sophomores or juniors. In any iteration of a good and righteous world, I’d  be going somewhere to educate some kids.

Instead, I will spend the third consecutive first day of school sitting home or helping Budge prepare her room. Barring an unforeseen parting the Red Sea or feeding of the 5,000, I will never set foot in a classroom as a teacher or librarian again.

When a plummeting economy, archaic policy, my complete lack of tact, and Wayne Brazell’s disingenuous ineptitude cost me my librarian’s position at Bell Street following the 2007-2008 school year, I should have seen the handwriting on the wall. I had been offered a position in the District’s IT department at a third of my salary for twice the hours worked. Faced with this unpalatable scenario, I spent March through early May taking home my office, hounding friends in other districts, and chasing leads to find a new place to land. When I didn’t get a call back from any of my three interviews, I chalked it up to competition and cuts.

I was wrong.

One night in May, an HR staffer I knew risked his  job to tell me the assistant principal I thought I had at least a civil working relationship with had BUTCHERED me in a reference. My buddy called it the worst reference he’d ever seen.  Well, anyone who knows me can guess how I responded to that revelation. I went into a fine rage and, while extremely angry, had a FaceBook chat with a “friend” about this odious person, said “friend” felt the need to print said conversation and give it to Bosslady. That got me into a gorgeous shouting match with D.O. people and I ended the year suspended with no contract.

I managed to get her damning reference deleted, but the milk was thoroughly spilled. I have always burned my bridges behind me fairly well on my own, but this woman started a conflagration AHEAD of me. I never knew or even suspected such animosity. When no position came up, I sat out the school year and hoped unemployment insurance would stay funded. I couldn’t even sub because districts within reasonable driving distance had hiring freezes on subs.

I took a fresh shot at the resume circuit last summer. I was called for one interview, then called back a day later and told the job was being filled and not to bother coming in. What was costing me was what any accurate reference about me would show, even from people who think highly of me. I have a tremendous work ethic, drive to get things done, and a boundless love of young people accompanied by a complete disregard for idiotic policy red tape and no patience with stupid people who think a title, a suit, and a big desk give them some special power.

Another year started and ended without me teaching. The black dog started making a tremendous din and the clouds rolled in. Around Christmas, I started looking into other avenues to income if I couldn’t get back into a school. I tried public libraries, private schools . . . anything. In the end, with little hope this summer — or realistically any summer — being any better, I bowed to the inevitable and on the advice of my therapist, I consulted a lawyer and filed for Social Security Disability.

With the OCD, BPD, GAD, and SRDD, the United States Government feels I have enough issues to prevent me from working.  I now have a small but steady income to supplement Budge’s salary, but — at the age of forty — the game is over for me. I have ceased to be a contributing, constructive member of society. For any of my readers who are devotees of the Tea Party or Rude Limburger and Company, I am now one of the “entitlement” parasites on our country’s economy you hear lambasted with unmitigated passion on talk radio and Fox News. I am — barring the aforementioned miracle — permanently “on the dole.”

Please let me assure you that no political pundit will ever despise me more than I despise myself. I never had a great plan, but being a washed up nervous wreck at 40 wasn’t part of ANY plan. No one has ever loved being a teacher any more than I did, and still do. Then I got a chance very few people ever get — I got to work my all-time dream job. I got to be a school librarian. Unfortunately, some demons who have plagued me since late childhood just kept rearing up and causing me to wreck my career track. I had help going off the rails, but the blame for my plight must lie finally at my own feet. It is a fearful thing when your greatest asset (in my case, my mind) turns on you and becomes your worst enemy.

My attitude and behavior cost me two jobs and the root of those problems has now cost me a career. I’d try again, but I just don’t have the emotional strength and I can’t bear to put Budge or Mama through any more seasons of drama and despair than I already have. Budge told me she feels like a weight has been lifted off her back now that she no longer has to worry about getting “the call” from me telling her what fresh hole I’ve dug myself into this time. I’m trying to think of her and not myself.

I never claimed I was a particularly good teacher, and I wouldn’t claim to be more than a mediocre librarian. I couldn’t care less about copyright issues. I think Wikipedia isn’t even a minor devil, much less the offspring of Satan. I think every scrap of paper with a bubble on it should be taken to Iceland and dropped into the gaping maw of Eyjafjallajökull along with the people and politicians who believe testing is the be all and end all of education. I didn’t learn any of those traits in library school; I just feel that strongly.

I will also be the first to admit that, despite my dreams, I was never in any danger of being  Teacher of the Year or holding an office in SCASL. I don’t play with others well enough. I WILL say without hesitation what I lack in tact and judgement, I tried to compensate for with passion for my craft and undying love for my students. I can’t count all the run-ins and heated exchanges I had with administrators, professors, and other “higher ups” in 12 years in schools, but I can tell you the number of serious altercations I had with a student in those 12 years — ONE.

But none of that matters anymore.

The book of my education career is closed. I try to keep a spotless house for Budge. Mama says I make the best cheesecakes. I have this blog and other writing I dabble in, but honestly, I don’t know where to go from here. I never figured on things turning out like this. I can’t say how I expected them to turn out, but I know it wasn’t like this. How this will go from here, I don’t know. I know it makes me sad. I miss my library. I miss my kids. I miss being strong and steady enough to enjoy both of them.

So all my teaching colleagues and librarian buddies, this is where I leave you. Please pass this along the grapevines to my acquaintances and friends who do not patronize “Granny Beads and Grocery Store Feet” so they will know I have not died or joined a monastery. Should either of those events occur, Budge has instructions on who to call, what to post, and how to make news of my demise or decline known to anyone who cares.

In any event, I still love y’all and hope you’ll stick around — clean feet or grubby.

In the words of the late Kurt Vonnegut, “so it goes.”

What I Want for Christmas

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Today is Christmas and everyone who survived the rush and crush of people are gathered around trees or tables with friends and family swapping stories, opening presents, eating, drinking, and generally making merry. It’s been a common custom for people to exchange lists of gifts they would like to get from their significant others while children practice their penmanship on those all important letters to Santa. I thought that, in the spirit of the season, I’d like to make out a list of what I want for Christmas this year. Just for fun and variety.

I want to eat Christmas dinner at Papa and Granny Wham’s. I want Papa Wham to say the blessing — his blessing — the same one I can still recite in my head: “Father, pardon us of all our sins; we thank you for these and all other blessing, in Jesus’ name, Amen.” I want to eat Granny Wham’s bone dry turkey and her dressing that she never put onions in because she knew I hated onions. I want Granny Hughes’ English pea dumplings as a side dish. I want one of Aunt Nell’s cakes.

I want us all sitting around a huge table. I want Papa Wham at one end and Papa John at the other. I want Granny Wham to sit down and not walk around with the tea pitcher asking to fill everyone’s glass for the twentieth time. I want Budge next to me and Mama and Rob, Mama Lowe and Jessie, Travis and Dani, and Chloe stretching down from Budge’s side. I want Chloe to have a bottle of cereal held in two good hands. I want Daddy and Teresa, Nick, Keri, and Mason on my other side stretching up the table. I want Daddy to be holding Mason and genuinely happy, smiling and at ease instead of on a ragged emotional edge because of Vietnam rooted PTSD.

I’d say I want Mama and Daddy still together, but even my wildest fantasies have their limits. Also, wishing carelessly can reduce happiness as much as expand it. For instance, had Mama and Daddy not divorced, MAYBE some things in my life would have been better. Maybe not. However, no divorce would then mean no Rob. No Rob; no Baby Huey; no Baby Huey; no Dani and without them both I wouldn’t have my beautiful baby niece, Chloe. It would be the same story on my other side as well. No Teresa would mean no Nicholas; no Nick would mean no Sissy; no Nick and no Sissy would mean no precious baby Mason.

Unfortunately, Mason and Chloe don’t completely erase the pain, anger, and frustration of a busted up family and all the excess arrangements and holiday misery such a lifestyle brings with it — memory is a killing thing in that regard, but they DO give the pain, anger, and frustration new and happier context. They’ve given meaning to the madness. Having those two bright eyed centers of the universe giggling and laughing at the table make the tears worthwhile.

Then I want Aunt Judy and the family she’d have sitting next to Aunt Cathy and Uncle Larry and Blake and Zack and Ashley. I want them all sitting right across from me. I want Granny Wham sitting next to Papa Wham and Aunt Mary and Uncle Carroll sitting — happily — side-by-side next to Granny.  I want Aunt Polly, Aunt Nell, and Aunt Mot — The Three Sisters — sitting together. I want Shane and Ashleigh sitting together nearby. I want little curly-locked Gabriel sitting on his all-grown-up Uncle Scott’s lap.

I want Dad and Sandy nearby — and quiet for a change. I want Missy and Charles and Jackson and Harry somewhere close by. I want Richard, bright-eyed, unhaunted, happy and sober, sitting next to Ki-Ki with Ryken on his lap. I want my beloved Kayla with her mom and stepdad, PJ and O.J,. there with the boys and Celeste, calmly smiling, eating and talking instead of screaming and fighting. This is another case of wishing for wholeness would mean wishing away much happiness. In some convoluted “perfect world” Rich and PJ wouldn’t have divorced and Kayla would have grown up in a stable family, made excellent grades, and gone to a fantastic college on a soccer scholarship. However, if that were true, Budge and I wouldn’t have Ki-Ki and Ryken in our lives, so — as painful as the road my be — I’ll take the demonic with the divine and keep on keeping on.

I want Laura and Rachel and Jen and the rest of Budge and my Florida family sitting with us around the table. I want to sit next to Grandma Sims and ask her if Dad was always as stubborn and hard-headed as he is now!

I want Papa John to read the Christmas story out of Luke from Papa Hurley’s huge family Bible. I want Uncle Claude to pray for us all after the meal. I want Aunt Mildred sitting with him, calm and well. I want Aunt Betty and Uncle Raymond and Rhonda next to Granny Hughes. I want Mama singing Christmas carols (instead of hacking and coughing) with Aunt Lib and Big Granny while Papa John plays his guitar and Aunt Margie plays the piano. I want Jenny there with Bubba and Diane. I want Bluford and Chad, Connie and Gen all sitting together. I want Aunt Margaret passing around her biscuits with one hand while holding Uncle Leroy’s hand with the other.

I want Brooke and Smallwood, Daniel and the Sledzianowski Brothers, Angela and Christian, and of course, my buddy Tina all sitting near me. I want Coach Candler and Mrs. McCuen and all the rest of my Woodmont family sitting around the table and tree with us. I want Maureen and her 3 boys and Dr. O and his three girls with Lance and my District 56 family with them too. I want my “sister” Laura sitting with Cameron and Jacob, smiling and not worried about paying bills or being alone anymore. I want Erica sitting hand in hand with David, happy and satisfied.

I want us all together and happy one more time.

That’s what I want for Christmas.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Hug and kiss the ones you love today. Next Christmas might be too late.

And I Alone Escaped to Tell Thee

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This has not been a week I shall look back on and recall fondly. Normally, I try to put a humorous face and spin on everything, but the last ten days have been anything but humorous. I’m posting this to assure everyone I am still alive and kicking, but I have been absolutely and completely overwhelmed by life or a reasonable facsimile thereof. To quote Cathy of the comic pages, “I can handle one day at a time, but recently, several days ganged up on me.”

To start matters off, my beloved Eastern Painted Turtle, Comet, died last Thursday. She was going on nine years old and I had raised her from a hatchling. One of Budge’s students brought her to school with a bit of egg still attached to her. She contracted some type of fungus which led to some other ailment and by the time I realized she needed a veterinarian, it was too late. Now I’ll carry the picture of her floating, eyes closed and skin cold as death with me like so much of the other baggage I’ve been lugging around for years. Maybe people will laugh at me for being so attached to a reptile, but raise anything and spend nine years caring for it then come tell me if I’m being silly.

Matters only worsened Monday morning. I got back from taking Budge to school and went into the backyard to let Beau and Jack out of the outbuilding. Beau had been acting very poorly for two days straight and the Sunday night before, he wouldn’t come out of the pouring rain, so in desperation, I locked him and his kennelmate, Jack, in the building for safety. When Beau came out the next morning, he staggered over to his favorite spot on the grass and lay down heavily. Rain was falling like a tall cow peeing on a flat rock so I went to get him up and over to his doghouse. When I patted him on the shoulder, he lifted his head and dropped it right back into the soaking grass. He couldn’t stand up anymore. Icy fear-daggers lanced into my heart as I realized that which I had greatly feared had come upon me. After 16 loyal and loving years, the Old Man — my best buddy in the world — was sick unto death.

I went into autopilot mode. I’d been preparing myself mentally and emotionally for this moment for six months. He’d been going down and I knew in my head it was only a matter of time. All that preparation didn’t account for squat when the time came, but I managed to scoop him up and lay him in the passenger seat of the Element. I barely remember the drive to Cedar Lake Animal Hospital. Dr. Melanie had just arrived and she and Misty, who was always Beau’s favorite technician, examined him and found his fever was off the chart. Melanie looked at me and sadly shook her head. I signed the euthanasia papers. At this point, I’d like to say I sat bravely by his side as he walked to the Rainbow Bridge, but, as much as I wanted to, I simply couldn’t summon the courage. I kissed him on that precious muzzle, now hoary and grey, and left him with the two people who had taken such good care of him for so long. At least I know he was with loved ones when he passed. I picked his ashes up Wednesday and placed them next to Thomas and Loki on my pet shelf.

I picked him up after visiting with my much loved psychologist who has played a big part in helping me keep my marbles all in the bag. She is tremendous and she’s the first therapist I have actually told the truth about stuff to. Mostly, I’ve been ordered by someone or another to see a therapist, so I developed the habit of just lying to them so they’d think I was fine and leave me the hell alone. Dr. Scott is different though. She’s been a huge help.

Now she’s leaving Greenville for Hilton Head.

Anyone out there have any idea how impossible it is to switch therapists after four years of work? No? It’s bloody, freaking hard. I don’t know at this stage if I’m even going to bother. It hardly seems worth it . . . but wait!! There’s more!!

What can possibly top the death of my oldest and dearest fuzzy baby? The birth of my niece, Chloe Aurora Lowe. We had all been delirious with excitement waiting on her for nine months, but when I got to Mama’s house to take Mama grocery shopping on Friday, the look on her face was anything but excitement. She said the baby had been born at five o’clock that morning.

The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around her throat and she wasn’t breathing.

Nurses immediately snatched her up and took her straight to NICU where she was revived and started breathing on her own, but those of us who are honest with ourselves, like me, know the damage has been done. Her precious little brain was starved of oxygen for at least five minutes by the most optimistic estimate and anyone with any rudimentary knowledge of biology knows what that means.

Unfortunately, her mental development may be a moot point. As I write this, her kidneys have refused to act to void any waste. Her body is poisoning itself and if something doesn’t give, she will not survive the night. To make matters worse, if that was indeed possible, she desperately needs a PIC line established in her, but none of her blood vessels have been able to withstand the pressure of the IV. Finally, about two hours ago, Mama called and said they had performed a “cut down” and surgically inserted a supply tube directly into her little subclavian artery. What happens next is firmly in God’s hands. Danielle, her mother, is being discharged tomorrow and we’ve all pretty much decided that leaving the hospital without her baby might be more than she can take, emotionally. As for precious Baby Chloe, none of us have been allowed to hold her and only Mama, Rob, Travis, and Danielle have even been allowed to touch her. Of all the tortures devised by man, devil, or demon, being made to watch your newborn child scream at the top of her lungs with pain, hunger, and fear and not being able to pick her up to comfort her must be the worst of all.

So, I feel a kinship with old Job on that day when every time he turned around, another sole surviving servant was arriving to bring news of yet another earth shattering tragedy. I only wish I could close this book and the troubles would cease.

But I can’t.

Remember my family and me when you say your prayers tonight, please. It’s all up to Someone with better medical skills than any doctor at this point.

Love y’all and I’m sorry this post isn’t funnier.