Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bob - A Remembrance

I was a senior in high school in the fall of 1969. I had just returned from a summer as a camp counselor at the Lake of the Ozarks. I was restless. I was ready for a change, but I didn't know what. It was hard to go back to high school one more time, to sit in class. I felt like I was just marking time.

The highlight of the day was concert choir. This audition-only group met for an hour very day around noon. I was so excited to be part of this exclusive group. There wasn't a lot in my life at the point that made me feel special, but choir did. I wasn't one of the best singers, but I was a reliable alto, that could sight read well, and blend my voice with the rest of the group. The music we sang was interesting and challenging. I looked forward to that hour every day.

Early in the year I started noticing a boy that was a tenor in choir. Bob had dark curly hair, and a beautiful voice. He was new to our school. Who was he? Normally to get into choir you had to try out the year before, but Bob must have tried out when he enrolled at the start of the year. I started watching him from afar.

Bob was also in a drama class I was taking. One day we were split into groups to practice scenes. Our school had open courtyards and Bob's group was practicing their scene out in the courtyard. I still had not actually spoken a word to Bob. I was just watching him. He seemed kind, friendly and sometimes funny. During the course of the scene Bob ran around, laughing and waving his arms. He was wearing a red plaid jacket and a strange thought entered my mind. "He looks like a big plaid butterfly," I thought. And then I had an even stranger thought. I'm going to tell him that!

I think you have probably figured out by now that I was a very socially awkward teenager. Looking back on that confused lonely girl, I cringe in embarrassment for her. Most of the time when I write about stuff in my blog I don't really think about who might read it or what they might think. But it's hard to write about my seventeen year old self without wondering what other people might think of me.

Because yes, you guessed it. A couple of days later, one day after choir, I walked up to Bob. "Remember that other day in drama class?" I said. "Well, you looked like a big plaid butterfly." Before Bob had a chance to say a word I turned and walked away.

I don't really remember the first real conversation I had with Bob, but sometime soon after that incident he started talking to me. Before too long we started to become friends. Many people would have decided I was just a goofy girl and not spent another minute talking to me, but Bob decided I was worth his time I guess.

And it didn't take much longer before I had a terrible crush on Bob. I would go over to his house and he would take out his records of famous opera stars and play them for me, alternating with Joni Mitchell and The Incredible String Band. We would be listening to all this wonderful music and it would be all I could do not to lean over and kiss Bob right then and there, but he never made a move, and I was way too shy to take the first step.

Bob introduced me to some of the people that he had met. I went to a very large high school; there were 600 people in my graduating class. So in spite of the fact that I had been in this school district since 8th grade there were plenty of people that I didn't know.

Bob had met a group of kids that could be called the hippies of my class. I don't really know what made these kids so different from the rest of the teenagers around them. Maybe they really weren't that different. But they seemed different and exciting to me.

What did we do with ourselves that year? Memory is a very strange thing. I remember going over to Stephanie's house and sitting around, listening to music and talking. I remember one evening when the big event was going to Howard Johnson's en masse. I remember a sunny day walking around in Babler State Park. 

But mostly I remember Bob. Driving down to the Central West End, walking around the fancy stores, talking about who knows what. Standing around in the hall before choir as Elliot ran up to us, waving the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album, shouting, "You have GOT to listen to this!" Going over to Sandy's house and meeting her evil stepmother. Watching Bob eat baby applesauce because it soothed his throat. Sitting on the curb in front of my house, crying together over Bob's first true love.

Because Bob was gay, and it was not an easy thing to be gay in the late sixties. I think Bob knew all along that he was gay, but he just didn't want to admit it. He liked women a lot and had lots of girl friends, and sometimes even a "girl friend" but he had never been in love before he met Mark. We were crying because things with Mark weren't working out, because Bob was gay, because I knew he would never be mine, because I loved him, because life seemed so tragic.

That last year of high school was over very soon. Bob went off to Denver University, majoring in voice. I went off to the University of Missouri, trying to grow up. We still saw each other occasionally. I went out to Denver a few times and of course Bob came back to St. Louis too.

But then Bob's parents moved again. I saw him one last time on a visit to Denver. He was slowly coming to terms with his sexuality. He had met a boy and seemed happy. He kissed me for the first time and for some reason I started laughing. My desperate crush was over, but the love was still there, the love of a true friend.

I lost track of Bob for many years. During the AIDs epidemic of the mid-eighties, a friend went to one of the AIDs quilt demonstrations and heard Bob's name read aloud (he had a very common last name). For a long time we thought he was dead.

In the late 90's however, I received an email. Bob had found me on the Internet. He was living in New York City, working as a paralegal, had a steady boyfriend and a English Bulldog. He had started his own small opera company and still sang upon occasion. He sounded happy and content. I was so glad to know where he was and what he was doing. It was great to know that he had made a good life for himself.

When we moved to New Hampshire we started traveling to New York occasionally, seeing shows, shopping, eating, enjoying the city. Sometimes we would meet Bob and Steffen for dinner. Our dogs even had a play date one time! We had a good time together, reminiscing and talking about our current lives.

The last time I saw Bob was about a month ago. We had dinner on a Friday night. Lee had a meeting in New Jersey on Monday. On Tuesday I flew back to New Hampshire, and Lee went over to Asia to work for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday morning I received a called from Steffen. Bob had died in his sleep the night before.
I am still somewhat stunned by Bob's death. He had really only recently become part of my life again in any real sense, and it just seemed so strange to think that he was gone. The teenager with a crush on a cute boy couldn't fathom that he was dead, and really neither could I.

The boy with the curly hair and the angelic voice is gone. I'm so sad, sad for him, sad for Steffen, sad for everyone that knew and loved him. Rest in peace, Bob. You will be missed.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wedding in Houston

Every time I go to Houston I am reminded how much I like this city. Of course in the course of trying to compliment their city, I managed to insult my Houston friends. "Houston gets a bad rap", I say, "But I like it!"

"Who says it gets a bad rap," demands Vickie, "why wouldn't you like Houston?"

Indeed, I think, why not. Houston is big, busy, beautiful, with great food and friendly people. It has gourgeous skyscrapers and historic districts, a beautiful baseball stadium, great shopping, streets lined with stately homes and peaceful parks with quiet bayous right in the city center.

Houston weather does leave something to be desired. It's amazingly humid, and even in late October it can get positively steamy. I get out of practice running in heat and humidity, so the one morning I ran was a bit of a shock.

I flew into Houston on Friday afternoon. My bag arrived without incident, and a good thing too, since my clothes for the wedding and all my stuff for the marathon in St. Louis next Sunday were in my checked bag. I got my rental car, turned on the GPS on my phone, and headed for downtown Houston, around 10 miles away.

I have known this group of lady friends now for close to 8 years. We met via a parent listserve at Trinity University in San Antonio, the school that Daniel attended for his freshman year. We initially bonded over the ups and downs of launching our children into the world, but it didn't take long for our friendships to grow far beyond our children. From bets on baseball, arguments about ice cream, from sharing the joys and sorrows of our lives, to learning to know and love people that are so very different in some ways, we have become a special group indeed.

Mary's daughter Erin was getting married this weekend. Someone said that Mary is the heart and soul of our group, and I agree. It was Mary that inspired many of our now famous institutions. The UPT dictionary of unusual phrases and misspellings that have become part of our shared history. The brooms used to sweep away obnoxious or undesirable people. The weekly chats via IM, and the chat summaries published for those that couldn't attend. The e-showers for daughters. All of these innovations were Mary's doing. We all love her so much!

There have been quite a few weddings in the past eight years, but for various reasons I have been unable to attend any of them, until now. When I heard that Erin was getting married, I knew that if there was any way I could go, I would.

I wasn't the only member of our group that felt like that. Of the 20 ladies in our group, counting Mary, 12 of us made it to Houston. In fact, a few of us had never actually met in person before. It was so exciting to finally meet Hilde and Kirsten. I had seen pictures, and talked to them on the phone, but that was all until I saw Hilde in the lobby of the hotel, and Kirsten at the church. With both of them it was like we had known each other for years...well, we have!

Most of the ladies live in Texas, so they were planning on arriving on Saturday, but since Hilde, Corry and I were all coming from far away, we all arrived on Friday. Vickie took Hilde and I out to dinner. She conveniently just happened to choose the restaurant where the rehearsal dinner was taking place, so Mary could "sneak" out for a bit and join her friends. I was just happy to be there, eating Tex Mex. We even got to meet Mary's husband Tom, a somewhat elusive figure, since he travels frequently for his job and is currently working out of Chicago. He is a very nice guy, talked to all these silly ladies and made us feel right at home.

After dinner we went to a bar owned by a friend of Mary's in a rather strange part of Houston. I know the bar was called the D and W, at least I think that was its name, but I really can't tell you any more about it, because I was just so very tired. Vickie and Hilde left to pick up Corry and Jeff at the airport, and Tom and Mary took pity on me and took me back to the hotel.

I slept the sleep of the dead that night, but woke up early, since I was still on eastern time. That's okay, because I decided it would be a good idea to do my last long run on Saturday instead of Sunday. That way I could relax the day after the wedding and not worry about meeting everyone for breakfast on time.

The Alan Parkway and a park with a bayou and a trail were right by the hotel. It was a very nice run. I ran 7 miles out and back, through the park and a neighborhood of beautiful Houston homes. By the time I returned to the hotel and showered it was pretty late, but some people were still having breakfast so it was okay.

After breakfast some people were having second thoughts about the shoes they had brought to wear to the wedding. It turns out that Macy's was having a great shoe sale, so off we went. I had no need for more shoes, but when did that ever stop me? I was pleased with the sparkly silver shoes I had brought to wear at the wedding, but you never know what you are going to find in a shoe department.

Macy's sale was 30% off if you bought 3 or more pairs of shoes. They let us pool our resources so we all got the discount. How cool was that? Corry and Vickie tried on wedding shoes, I don't remember what Hilde was trying on (sorry Hilde!) and I gravitated toward the boots, what else? I still seem to have a bit of a boot obsession going on. It was on hold during the summer, but cooler temperatures seem to have revived it. A pair of short brown suede boots made their way into my possession.

With my suitcase already very full I asked them if they could ship the boots to New Hampshire for me. They were happy to oblige, and not only that, by shipping them to New Hampshire the Texas sales tax w removed! I decided right then that anything I bought on this vacation would be shipped!

After completing our shopping expedition we walked back to the hotel, taking a slight detour to view the Houston light rail and the exterior of the church where the wedding would be held that evening. It was getting close to 2 pm and we needed to eat some lunch, but it seemed like all the places to eat in downtown Houston are closed on the weekends, so Vickie was kind enought to drive us to a nearby area where we ate at a very nice restaurant called Baba Yega's. A strange name but good food and a very eclectic atmosphere.

By the time we finished lunch it was getting time to head back to the hotel and start getting ready. More and more of our group was showing up. Ginia was to be my roommate that night so we headed up to our room and started getting ready.

My dress was a simple blue silk shift. It was loose and swayed nicely, and it was comfortable too. I had also bought some nice black stockings, which of COURSE I managed to run as I was putting them on! Same thing that happened to the stockings I wore to my high school reunion...just amazing, you can't take me anywhere. But unlike that time there was no time to run out and get a replacement pair. And it was a pretty big run too. What to do? Ginia to the rescue! She just happened to have some hairspray with her and suggested that I spray it on the end of the run so that it wouldn't spread. It worked!

We trooped down to the lobby and hopped on the darling trolley that took us to the church. The trolley was such a great idea. I had printed out all these maps, concerned about finding my way from the hotel to the church to the reception and back, but now that was unnecessary. The trolley took us to the church in nothing flat.

What a beautiful place of worship. The congregation sat in a semi circle, facing the pulpit and a dramatically colorful stained glass window. My group of ladies took up two pews. We were so busy admiring each other's dresses, shoes and jewelry, it took us a little bit to settle down and pay attention to the matter at hand.

Before too long, the bridesmaids and grooms came down the aisle, followed by the groom himself. The groom was so sweet. As Erin, the bride, came down the aisle he started crying, and cried off and on throughout the ceremony. The bride lent him her handkerchief and wiped away his tears. I was completely charmed.

Some of the other ladies commented later on the choice of hymns, but of course that meant nothing to me. I enjoyed the music which was beautifully performed by the organist and the soloist. The preacher was very personable and enthusiastic. I thought at first he must have been a friend of the couple, the way he spoke so knowingly about them. But, I think actually it was just his way.

Some people commented that the service was very long for a Methodist service, but it didn't seem very long at all to me, compared to the typical Jewish religious service! Soon enough the bride and groom were introduced as Mr. And Mrs. They turned and faced the congregation as man and wife. The tears had turned to broad smiles. I love weddings!

Now it was time to hop back on the trolley and head to reception, which was held at the top of One Shell Plaza. We were greeted at the entrance by hor devours and a much welcomed glass of wine. We found our tables, and got busy exploring our goodies and taking pictures of the lovely center pieces and each other. We had peacock feathers, chocolate, and more hor deovers to sample. It took awhile for the wedding party to arrive, but when they did it was great. I loved watching them dance together. They looked so happy.

Our dinners were delicious, steak medallions and grilled shrimp. There were asperagas and real mashed potatoes. In my current state of pre-marathon hunger I managed to eat every bite, and most of the wedding cake too.

Then the dancing began. Some of us ladies hung back. I know how silly I look when I dance, and I hadn't drunk near enough not to care. But Hilde had a plan and it was irrisitable, asking the dj to play "We Are Family" and dragging all of us out on the floor. And once she got me out there it was lots of fun!

I stayed up way past my bedtime, but eventually it was time to hop on the trolley one more time and make my way back to the hotel. I had a great time at this wedding, seeing friends and celebrating with them. It was great to be in Houston again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cosmo Part II

Adding another member to our family has been an adjustment, for all of us. I had certain expectations about how it would be. Some things are like I expected; others have been a surprise.

I thought that Harper and Cosmo would play together right from the start, but instead they have been getting to know each other just like anyone else. Harper loves all dogs, but somehow she knew right away that Cosmo was different, it would not be false to say that at first she was jealous. She pretty much ignored him, and if he tried to instigate play she would simply walk away.

But Harper is a nice dog. She wasn't mean to Cosmo, she was just a little aloof. She shared her toys, and had no trouble with him at feeding time. After almost a week they started playing with each other more and more. I would say they are well on their way to being friends.

Dinner time has been, well, interesting. Harper has always been a finicky eater and one of our hopes with getting a second dog was that she would start acting more like a dog, instead of a fussy princess, when it was time to eat. Well that has definitely been the case! Cosmo is much more dog-like when it comes to food. Little Cosmo is always hungry and eats his food like a starving coyote. Harper has speeded up her eating so that she doesn't have to share with Cosmo. But Cosmo still has to go over to Harper's bowl and lick it thoroughly when dinner is over!

I find it confusing to give commands to one dog, without the other dog thinking that I'm also giving the command to them. I guess I need to be sure to use the dog's  name when I give the command. But I still sometimes get funny results. For example, I want my dogs to sit and wait for their dinner, before I put down their bowls. Harper knows all about this routine, but Cosmo had to learn, and still sometimes forgets. So I tell the dogs to sit and wait. Harper sits immediately, but Cosmo sometimes just stands there, or after he sits, stands again before I've put down their bowls. Meanwhile Harper is waiting patiently, but sometimes she'll decide that maybe I want more. So while I'm waiting for Cosmo to sit, Harper will lie down, and I've even had her roll over once or twice!

We have an electric fence, and Cosmo needs to be trained to respect the fence boundary. I've started the first part of the training, where we go around the boundary of the fence, call him away, and give him a treat when he avoids the fence boundary. He is a follower, and not very adventuresome, so this part of the training is going really well. Next I need to introduce the correction aspect of the fence to Cosmo. I need to be very careful though. Since he is a little timid I don't want to scare him by giving him a big shock, so I need to have the collar just give him a very mild buzz at first if he gets too close.

Another danger with the electric fence is that although it will keep my dogs in, it won't keep bad things out. There have been reports off and on of coyotes grabbing little dogs and carrying them off in our area.  At night I always take Harper out on a leash. Cosmo is still learning, however, that it is okay and in fact desirable to go potty while on a leash. So for the time being when we go out at night I let him just follow Harper and I around the yard. As long as he stays right beside us I figure this is okay. But still I feel better if I remember to take the pepper spray with me when we go out for the last time before bed.

Taking both dogs on a walk has been another challenge. Cosmo walks beautifully, thanks to Diane, right next to me, never pulling. Harper on the other hand, well, it's our fault I know, but she is much more, er, challenging when it comes to walking. She pulls, she runs ahead, she tries to dash off after squirrels. After a couple minutes though, on most days at least, she settles down and walks nicely. But she walks much faster than Cosmo, and I get confused, and tangled up too. Sometimes I think I should see how much Diane would charge to "fix" Harper's leash-walking habits!

Cosmo is sweet and affectionate. I can tell that it won't be much longer until I love him as much as I love Harper. But I'm kind of funny when it comes to love and affection. I've never been a love at first sight kind of girl, maybe lust at first sight, but that's different! But true and abiding love takes awhile to build. Even with my children, while I immediately felt that powerful motherhood protective urge, it took awhile before I fell desperately in love with them.

Puppies are no different. I currently regard Cosmo with a mixture of amusement, exasperation, and yes the beginnings of love. Some mornings when his bright black eyes are wide awake at 5:30 am and I know he needs to go outside soon, but Harper is still asleep, and Lee is out of town, I sigh and wonder why we agreed to take this puppy. When he has an accident on the rug because I let down my guard, I'm angry, mainly at myself for screwing up, but also at this little guy that isn't catching on to the rules fast enough for me.

Then he and Harper go tearing around the house, making up some silly doggy game, or I find them both asleep, side by side. Or Cosmo and Harper both decide they must be in my lap while we watch TV, and I'm filled with love for these little beings, that put their trust so thoroughly in me. And yes, at the same time I need them to get the hell off of me, because I'm having a hot flash, dammit!

Like with babies, these first months of new dog ownership will go quickly. Before too long the changes in our routines will settle into a new schedule, and what is odd and inconvenient now will become comfortable and ordinary. In one sense I really can't wait for this time to be over. In another I wish that time would slow and my memory was better, because this time will be over much too soon.


Almost three weeks ago another little white dog entered our lives. We have talked almost from the start about eventually getting another Westie.  Westies live pretty long lives, so if all went well we would be well into our 70's by the time Harper reached the end of her life, pretty old to be getting a puppy. But if we staggered our doggies, and got another one when Harper was older, then we could have Westies gracing our lives almost until we turned 80. Anyway that's how my thinking went.

We had been talking about maybe getting a puppy next spring, once Lee wasn't traveling so much. But one day this summer Diane our breeder, friend, and source for all things Westie sent me an email. "Are you interested in a trained 5 month old Westie?" We could meet him when we picked Harper up at Diane's next week.

All the way home from our vacation to Minneapolis I fretted. Another dog...more work..and a puppy too. Did we really want to do this? What would Harper think?

But when we walked into Diane's yard and met this rolly poly curly friendly little guy, we didn't hesitate. "Of course we'll take him!" There was no question that Cosmo would very shortly be part of our lives.

Cosmo was part of a trio of puppies born to a litter last March. I remember him because at the time I was going to Diane's once a week to help her with socializing puppies because she had a lot of litters being born at that time and they all needed to be handled and exposed to other people so that they would turn into well-rounded little dogs. The two females in Cosmo's littler were a normal size. Cosmo was twice as big as the other two puppies. He was going to be a big Westie, that's for sure.

Normally Diane doesn't name her dogs, unless she plans to keep them. So all of these puppies were scheduled to go home with new families, but the day before Cosmo was scheduled to leave he started limping. Diane told the family sorry, but "puppy" would need to stay behind.

It took a long time to figure out what was wrong with Cosmo so Diane decided to name him. She names all her dogs after flowers, so that explains Cosmo's name. Eventually he stopped limping, and they narrowed down what could be wrong with him. It wasn't cancer, or a blood disorder. They decided that he had something called CMO, cranial mandibular osteopathy  which is a disorder of the bones of the face. But for some reason Cosmo's leg bones were affected as well as part of his jaw, which didn't fit. But at the time it was the only diagnosis anyone could find for what was wrong with this poor little dog.

Diane began to get very attached to Cosmo, but she has a lot of dogs, and if she kept every little dog she fell in love with she would be in big trouble. We live nearby and board our dogs with her, so she would still get to see him occasionally. She knew we took good care of our dogs, and she knew we were interested in an older puppy that was at least partially trained. It seemed like a perfect fit.

The first thing we needed to do when Cosmo came home with us was take him to our vet. She came up with a more plausible diagnosis for Cosmo. She decided that he probably had HOD, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, another bone growth disorder. But HOD primarily affects a dog's long bones, hence the involvement of Cosmo's legs. And they think that it might be an auto-immune disorder, possibly brought on by the distemper shot. This made sense, since Cosmo's first episode of lameness occurred at 8 weeks, right after his first shots. HOD usually occurs in large breed dogs, which is why no one else thought of it as a possibility for Cosmo, but other that that it made sense. Dogs with HOD will experience inflammation, pain and lameness as they go through growth spurts in their first year of life. But these spells only last a week or so and can be controlled with pain meds and rest. Cosmo has a fairly mild case, thank goodness, as severe cases can involve all four limbs and cause a lot of pain. Cosmo continued to limp for the first week he was with us, but now he runs and plays like any puppy. Dogs grow out of HOD once they complete their growth, so with any luck Cosmos will be fine by the time he is a year old.


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