I knew the exact photo immediately, but I keep this particular one hidden from myself, so I had to search through my files. It’s been almost four years and I still grieve a little every day.
They went from this…
And this is the last photo of them as a family…
PS In case it would be of support to anyone reading this, here is what we use in therapy to help folks walk thorough Endings, in the healthiest way possible. Handy to use for closure in any and all Endings, big or small…job, moving, school, relationships, pets, favorite restaurant closing, new phone, etc.
This is worth exploring and expressing in all its forms…denial, wishful thinking, false hopes, etc.
It takes some practice but being able to express a truly personalized resentment, without any finger pointing or blame toward another, is a valuable, life-long skill
It’s important to acknowledge the things you wish you could have done differently
Remembering the good times is the natural pathway to the 3 stages below. It is why we tell funny stories at funerals.
Release and Relief
There is always a whoosh of peace after wading through the painful parts of grieving an ending
Now true gratitude can happen, for the whole experience, even the hard lessons that usually come from an ending.
To be able to re-unite after an ending, even if just in your mind, without a bunch of leftover baggage, is really and truly possible.
These are the natural stages of all endings.
In order to have healthy beginnings, with no leftovers lingering to muddy the new waters, these phases must be experienced and honored…
not necessarily in this order, but finishing the first four
Ola, the Wonder Dog, left us this week. She hadn’t been herself , activity-wise for a while, but her essence never changed.
“Ola” (the African definition, not “hello” in Spanish), was rescued as a precious puppy, by my sister and her husband more than 10 years ago. Soon after they brought her home, they left on an amazing trip abroad for several weeks. So James and I got to be Ola’s Foster Parents while they were gone.
We seriously bonded with her during that time. I mean, look at this face! Who wouldn’t??
John and Lenore had wanted a young dog while their elderly one, Lily, the Three Legged Miracle, was still able to teach a new dog the lay of the land.
This family lives on a glorious piece of land on San Juan Island. The property includes lots of acreage, a large pond with a variety of water fowl, a Bamboo Farm, and arguably some of the most beautiful and prolific vegetable and flower gardens in the Northwest.
And they live in what James and I lovingly call the Hobbit House. Built by John, using lots of found and custom designed materials, it is so fairy tale-like, you are transported to another world.
I write about this place, our second home, often. Here’s one example:
When they chose Ola as a puppy, they wanted another smallish dog that would not overwhelm Lily, and they predicted Ola was another small, lab mix’ just like Lily.
Being very familiar with Rottweilers and Pit bulls, I took one look at Ola’s sweet face, and said “Uh oh.”
Not many months later, Ola had grown into a HUGE, beautiful, regal dog, over 100 pounds. But she still seemed guided by that angel on her chest.
Lily immediate adopted young Ola, and trained her to be a “stick right close to your Humans” dog.
No fences in the Hippie Valley part of San Juan Island. Dogs (and deer) are free to roam and except for the occasional “play date” with a neighbor Dog, both Lily and Ola were right there, watching over the homestead, 24/7.
Lily left us not long after Ola joined the family but the two of them had some really good times together before she died. She taught Ola how to play Tug O War with ropes and sticks when Ola was still very young.
And she trained Ola to leave the cats alone (probably for her own safety!)
Ola became such a big part of our house-sitting experience all these years. For several weeks at a time, she became “our” dog again. No matter how much time passed between our babysitting jobs, she would greet us with 100 pounds of enthusiasm!
She hung out with us where ever we went,
and stayed close to us at home.
Yep, she was our dog…..But only until her real parents came home!
Ola was always within feet (or calling distance) of John and Lenore during their daily routines.
Ola was one of the sweetest, most gentle dogs I’ve ever met. I will miss her so much. I can only imagine how long it will take her family to get used to the huge empty space she leaves behind.
On a trip to Paradise (which is what we call my sister’s home on San Juan Island), I had a close encounter with some actual Ducks in a Row.
There was just a little confusion though.
(Never wished more for a good telephoto lens, but I hope you get the idea. I took these from the upstairs bathroom window!!)
The pond in Paradise is beautiful and a source of entertainment all year round. Right now, there is not a lot of bird activity but the other night, out on the lawn, we had a campfire, and were serenaded by an orchestra of frogs!!
Last Summer when we were there house-sitting, I got to witness one of those delightful mysteries of Nature.
Here it is in photos. Please forgive the quality, but try to enjoy the story.
It’s a big pond so lots of room for more than one type of waterfowl.
Here are two different duck-Mama’s, each with three ducklings.
Enter mysterious confusion.
I love this one. You can see the two baby siblings of the first born “odd duck” up above on the log with its adopted family.
Anyway, I guess these Mama’s cooperated in raising their ducklings…kind of a Blended Duck Family.
But they each got them all in a row at one time or another.
Here’s my story…long, but it makes me so happy every time I tell it.
Hope you enjoy.
It’s Never Too Late….
(Branding VS Bonding)
“Maternity is a matter of fact; paternity always a matter of opinion.” Unknown Author
When I was two, my Mom and me found me a Dad. They got married and had my sister Eileen when I was three. They had my sister Barbara when I was six. When I was nine, I found out that Dad was not my first Dad. I don’t remember that fact being particularly bothersome. But when I was twelve and my folks divorced, well, that was definitely bothersome. When I was fifteen, being fairly exhausted by the role of Junior Mother to my sisters while my own Mom drank herself into oblivion, I left home in search of the rest of my childhood. When I was nineteen, my mother made her first (at least discernible) suicide attempt. (She took pills.) She survived, but only after being in a coma for as many days as I had had years on the planet. She woke up saying, “I don’t want to sleep anymore.” I thought she meant it and was really relieved and hopeful. Her narrow escape from death seemed to inspire her. She turned her life around dramatically…but only for a couple of years. When I was 21, my mother was more determined…no reprieve this time. It is much harder to survive suicide by gun.
When I was 24, and had a toddler of my own, the difference between a biological parent and a step-parent right in my face, I wrote my Dad a note. It said, “Now that Mom is not alive, you and I are not REALLY connected by anything, do you want to stop being my Dad?”
As of this writing, I don’t remember how he answered that question. I think it was something sweet and positive.
I do know that after he died in 2001, when we were going through his belongings, I found that 30 year old note from me, crusty with age, in a small box full of obvious treasures; like a very beautiful picture of my mother (his one and only love), correspondence from his father, and a very impressive letter of endorsement from his commanding officer in the U.S. Cavalry recommending him to West Point. My barely camouflaged plea for parental reassurance was in very admirable company indeed.
When I was 40, I received the following letter from my Dad:
When your mother and I got married, we didn’t have much money and you were very young so we didn’t think you would mind if we skipped the legal proceedings for me to officially adopt you. Then, as it does, time passed and we just never got around to it.
Would you think it silly now, at this late date, for me to make it all legal? Would you let me adopt you?
I think you know that you have never been any different in my eyes from your two sisters, except that you were my oldest. Your biological father left before you were ever born, marrying your mother in name only, at the “insistence” of your grandfather, so I knew I would be your only Daddy.
Have I ever told you when I knew you were mine?
When your mother and I were dating, we always brought you along. I knew from the start it was a package deal with her and that was just fine by me. One afternoon when we were out, I picked you up to carry you on my shoulders, as had become our routine. Well, while you were up there, you had a little accident and leaked all over my neck. That wasn’t too bad really. But when I went to change my shirt and tie later, I found that you had marked me. My white shirt and neck were stained a bright crimson, the color of my tie. I didn’t think of myself as a “red neck” but I proudly wore that red mark around my neck for several days until it finally wore off. I told the guys at work that my new little girl had branded me. That’s when I knew I was your Daddy.
Now, I would like to make it official if that’s OK with you. Let me know what you think.
My response to him was a no-brainer.
So, the Christmas after my 40th birthday, my Dad flew to Seattle from San Diego. My sister Barbara was there. My sister Eileen, who had rarely seen any of us since our mother died all those years before, flew over from Hawaii, and my 2 long time best friends, Lee and Linda, attended as witnesses. It was definitely official, taking place in a courtroom in front of a judge who asked both my father and I a peculiar series of questions. “Do you have any ulterior motives for taking this step?” “Does doing this help you to avoid legal action in any way?” “Are either of you doing this for financial gain?” etc.
Then the judge pronounced us legally “father and daughter” and leaned over his bench to shake my Dad’s hand. He said, “Congratulations on your new baby girl.” And to my sisters he said “She is your real sister now.” Then he thanked us all profusely saying, “Usually during this week between Christmas and New Years, we have nothing in Family Court except Child Protective Service cases or maybe the termination of parental rights. How refreshing it is for me to have participated in this long awaited and obviously joyous occasion.”
Judging from the things my Dad did during the time immediately before he died, my legal adoption was not the first time he had considered my sisters and I being re-united.
Although he had never uttered a single word of criticism or advice concerning our long-time estranged sibling ties, clearly he had thought about it. He simply carried on three separate father/daughter relationships. He developed his own connection with his 3 grandchildren and before his death he fixed it so that at least once more, we had no choice but to all three be together. I mean really together. We had to join up and cooperate in the dispersal of his estate. All papers had to be signed by all three of us at the same time. There was even plenty of money designated specifically for travel expenses from our respective far corners, etc. Clever, clever man. Either that or he was a real brat.
If Dad was nearby, and we believe he was, we know he got a real kick out of it as his lawyer innocently said, “Yes, I thought this was an unusual request that there be 3 executors and that all must be present in the same place for all procedures. This is not how it is commonly done. Your Father must have known that you three get along really well to put you in this position as equal trustees.”
I wonder what that attorney thought of the look of shock, dismay and wonderment that passed among my sisters and me in that moment.
Dad, I’m sure, was chuckling. I guess he really believed that it is never too late.
Not sure if my choice this week fits the theme but I do love the melody of this song.
It’s just that the song, and especially the video, mean so much to me. It has been around for a while but I fell all the way in love with it when I heard it on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. (Historically, this TV series has given me so many favorite songs.)
A couple of weeks ago, a baby, in serious trouble, was born into my extended community, and somehow this song gave me comfort. (She’s going to be fine but it was close…way too close.)
My son’s birthday was yesterday, and everything about this song made me think about him…his life…his path.
My favorite lines:
This is not love you’ve had before This is something else
It describes the love I feel for my children and my grandchildren.
It’s just a beautiful song and video. I hope you enjoy.