My ex and I had one pet we acquired during the marriage – a beautiful Golden Retriever we adopted in April the previous year. Rosco was intended to be the family pet, but in the end he became my dog as the early months progressed and I was the sole caregiver to him. He followed me everywhere. He slept on my feet as I washed up the dishes each night after dinner, while the kids played in the living room and their dad was out “running leads.”

Two weeks after the divorce became final, my ex attacked me late one night after I came home from working in the restaurant. I ended up leaving the home and moving into my dad’s house with the kids. I returned each morning after I dropped the kids off at school to do my schoolwork until school let out and spend time with Rosco, because I knew my ex wouldn’t be home. One day I came in and found him gone. Subsequent texts revealed only that he had been given to “a good family.” He never told me where Rosco went. I was devastated. All I could think about was that this dog had loved me – I was his person – and one day I left and he never saw me again. It was terrible and my heart was broken.

I learned later that Rosco was with my ex’s father. Good or bad, ultimately this was the best I could hope for, since my lawyer couldn’t seem to negotiate a return of the dog without it costing me even more money I didn’t have. At least I knew the kids would still be able to see “their” dog. They had no idea how I felt.

It’s been over 4 years. I have thought of him periodically, with a heart aching to see him and touch him, to wrap my arms around his big soft body and tell him I love him. For what it’s worth, I know my ex-father-in-law and despite my personal feelings I know that he loves that dog with everything he’s got. He himself got divorced, lost his home (no sympathy there, believe me), and lost all four of his Goldens to old age and illness during this time. Rosco is his constant companion. Still – I needed to see this boy and find some sense of closure I desperately needed.

By coincidence, I finally got to see him last week. Todd warned me not to expect too much. He was worried I’d be upset if Rosco didn’t know me.

In truth – I considered both scenarios. One where he recognized me and got really excited, and one where he only sniffed at me with curiosity and no memory of the “mom” he once hid behind when he was scared of something. I was mentally prepared for both. I knew that either way he was no longer mine and I was okay with that…. and I was okay with whatever happened.

Humans have these stupid emotions that dogs just don’t feel. Dogs don’t hold onto memories the same way we do. But in my mind – I couldn’t let go of the feeling that he’d thought I’d abandoned him, and I just couldn’t stand it.

The day finally came last week. I knew he was on the other side of this gate I was passing through, and I took a deep breath and willed myself not to cry. Four years I have waited for this moment.

When I saw this full-grown Golden crossing the deck, I was awe-struck. He was so big. Much bigger than he was before. He had the paws of a lion. And, when I said hi Rosco!…. he doubled back toward his daddy. He was shy and skittish. I had forgotten this about him, as it never used to be about people. I held out my hand for him to smell, wondering whether he’d recognize my scent, but he gave no indication. He sniffed briefly, and wandered back to where he could watch his daddy to be sure he’d not be left behind. He never lets him out of his sight. He was never that skittish with me. But then, his life hadn’t been quite turned upside down before that day he was taken from our home. I allowed myself this internal thought with a touch of anger toward my ex, and then with a deep breath willed it to go (no word on that yet).

Eventually he warmed up to me as I squatted down to pet another dog who was there, sitting down right next to me – giving me no other choice but to stroke his back. He would later sit next to my chair, not too close, his eyes keenly focused on his dad and what he was doing, but he allowed me to stroke his head and back and tickle his big soft ears. When I knelt down to pet him and see his gentle brown eyes, I whispered the words I have wanted him to hear since the day he disappeared. And I realized that it wasn’t for him. It was for me.

He’s okay. And so am I.



Respect, Accountability, and a New Name

It’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, the day after MLK, Jr. day. Not a sound in the house… because my children are still sleeping. That’s because they were up late partying with their uncle Matt, playing Wii, until Veruca came and woke me at midnight to announce she was going to bed.
Why Veruca, you ask? Because I’m changing her name. (As for the late bedtime, you can address my parenting skills or lack of them, later. Just after you explain to me what a perfect parent is.)
I actually started a blog post 2 weeks ago about this very topic… and it looks like this…
~I have decided to rename everyone in the house. Out of frustration, it’s all I can do to cope with the ridiculousness that is my house.
I’ll start with the youngest. My daughter will now be known as Veruca. Little Veruca wants what she wants and she is none too happy when things don’t go her way. Little Veruca is worse with daddy, which isn’t “really” funny but in a way I feel like karma has been served up rare and tangy like my tuna tartare. Veruca doesn’t get away with much here. Plus her evil stepfather calls her out on her bullshit in a much calmer way (read: not screaming like a lunatic and foaming at the mouth) than her mother.
This morning she laid in bed until the last minute. We did an insulin pump set change and after 7 years of pumping you would think that would go smooth as flan. Not. She will twist herself in a panic over where I’m putting the site, and then insist the spot isn’t a good one – as if I have no idea what I’m doing. It is positively maddening. Then she wanted a sweatshirt that was in the wash, and complained she had “nothing to wear.” Or, rather – that the sweatshirt was the only one that goes with her outfit.
As I walked out of her room and back to the kitchen, the door slammed shut. Back down the hall I went, took a deep breath, and reached for the door handle. She opened it suddenly, and tried to tell me it was “an accident.” That’s her favorite excuse for missteps these days, like on New Year’s Eve when I called her and she ended the call telling me that Owen couldn’t come to the phone right now because “he’s taking a shit.” Oh yes, she did. It was an accident.  I can only guess where she learned the phrase above – she certainly didn’t hear it here.
Nevertheless, we had a long, one-sided conversation where she learned that the next time she complains about her clothes not being clean and/or slams her door at me, she’ll be doing her own laundry. And then I reiterated that communication (without raising your voice, too) is key to getting what you need without conflict. Pat me on the back. I know Todd would be proud. ~
Anyway, I guess I had planned to continue reassigning names, but I got stuck on#2. I don’t really have many complaints about my firstborn – other than his inability to say he’s sorry and his annoying habit of interrupting. Which, for the record, are not meant to be downplayed.
I hate being interrupted. It’s a peeve I’ve had as long as I can remember – one of the most memorable being my 17th birthday. Every time I opened my mouth, someone else would start talking. It pissed me off so much, I just stopped talking. I mean, it was MY birthday and they wouldn’t have been enjoying this fine dinner on a deck overlooking South Street if it weren’t for ME. (The only-child syndrome notwithstanding. Which I was, until somebody decided it was a great idea to give me a brother when I was old enough to be his mother.) (Did that sound sarcastic and ungrateful? It wasn’t meant to be. I love my big little brother – and his ability to put away an expensive bottle of single malt.)
Todd remembers it differently – and snickers as he recalls how every time my mom went to take a bite of her chicken I’d start clucking under my breath. I think he’s wrong. I do not remember this at all.
Anyway, the “I’m sorry” issue is a big fish to fry. My son, at fifteen, will always respond defensively to any accusation and then make excuses why he did the offensive thing, rather than apologize. His dad is notorious for placing blame on others, rather than be accountable himself. I don’t recall the words ever leaving his lips in the 13 years we were married. As for me, and being always the target of blame, I rarely apologized to him. The reasons may be wrong, but they are quite clear. To apologize to him meant he was right to blame me, and that led to more accusations and more opportunities for me to BE wrong.
What O took away from that? You don’t have to say you’re sorry, there’s always someone or something else to blame, and – especially when you’re the unfair target of blame – you refuse to be made further wrong. In dad’s house, he is blamed a lot for Veruca’s reactions. As a young child, he was chastised for not giving her what she was screaming for. In our house today, everyone is accountable. However, that doesn’t make the “s” word come any easier. It’s a work in progress.
The house is quieter these days. Neph has taken his leave and moved home. I have mixed feelings about it. It was nice to have a “third child” but he is, in reality, an “adult” with very definite ideas of what he does and doesn’t want. He is the oldest son in his household, and with that comes a sense of entitlement that is difficult to grasp at times. He has a great deal to learn. As do my kids, but I’m hoping to do it with a lot less drama – God willing. Accountability is high on the list here.
And now, in an effort to keep my posts to roughly no more than 1,000 words, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘ what are you doing for others?’