the Rainbow Bridge

I didn’t really start believing in an actual higher power until I lost a parent. Many others that I know say the same thing. The notion of a magical place in the clouds that houses our loved ones after they shed their mortal shell, where they look as they did in their prime before sickness or age took them away from their pain is a far fetched notion in this day of science and reason. But it sounds like a hell of an idea and if it gives you comfort, then go for it. It did for me. We all grieve differently.

Grief is a powerful thing. When someone suffers a loss we want to say something, we want to do something. The bitch of it is that there is nothing we can say or do, it’s a personal process that really never ends it only gets less difficult over time. If you are lucky. It is a matter of patching the giant hole that the loss of a loved one leaves in us.

Our human vanity challenges the notion that the loss of a pet can be as traumatic as the loss of a human. They’re only animals after all, right?
Wrong.
I won’t go so far as to say that an animal is on the scale of a human but I will tell you that to many, most(?), our furry friends are not just pets. They occupy our hearts and minds and command a level of love and companionship that comes in a photo finish second.

I lost my first dog when I was in High School. We adopted a Brittany Springer Spaniel from a shelter when I was 4. He was a hunting dog that was trained too early and was gun shy, rendering him useless to hunters. He was my absolute best friend in the world. To call him a loyal companion would be the understatement of the century. He was by my side everywhere I went. He saved my life once. I was crossing our street and a school bus was barreling down the hill. He ran across the street and tackled me. The bus missed us by inches. He wasn’t just a pet. When I drove to NH one summer day over Summer Vacation I was met with the dour faces of my parents, who told me that he was put down. I was crushed and remained that way for a long time. There was a hole in my life. It was at that time that I saw the poem “the Rainbow Bridge.”

We have had a series of dogs since then. I wasn’t as close to any of them as I was to my first but I loved them so very much and losing them was never easy. Recently we put down our Laso Apso of 14 years. That was a tough one for my mother and I, he was an amazing companion. Smart, loyal and goofy and a constant presence. His loss crushed my mother. This time she said “no more dogs. It’s too hard to lose them.”

I agreed with her on the “hard to lose” them part. But I didn’t agree with the no more dogs thing. The one thing about animals that differs from humans is that, while you can’t replace them, you can fill the hole left by a pet. The mistake we make is that we don’t want to do them a dishonor by “replacing” them and in the process we forget that we have an opportunity to at least fill the empty place in our lives.

Having said that, six months after putting down our beloved Laso, we got another dog. A beautiful Cocker Spaniel named Sammy (Samuel L. Spaniel).

My mother’s frown turned upside down from the first day that we got him and I have to say that her life is better with him in it. He is loyal, friendly, funny, goofy and absolutely full of love for her. He has chosen her as his favorite and I’m fine with it, it was her hole to fill more than mine.

If you are a person who doesn’t want a dog because you feel that their lives are too short and the pain is too much, please focus on the wonderful times you are missing out on. Having something that is always happy to see you, missed you like you had been lost at sea, adores you unconditionally and can comfort you without having to know what’s bothering you is a treasure in and of itself.

If you are a person who doesn’t want to get another to fill the hole, remember that it is not about replacing, it is about mending the massive void in your life. Once you’ve known the unconditional friendship and admiration of a pet you really can’t go without it. As you sit on a park bench worrying about everything, your dog is sitting next to you thinking that you are their entire world.

How many people can you say that about?

I’m more likely to believe in heaven if I were to have all of the wonderful dogs I have been blessed to know waiting for me to walk by my side once again as I cross over.

my best work

There’s an old joke that goes like this:
Q: What do a Hooker and a Bowler have in common?
A: They both do their best work in an alley.

Me? I do mine in a supermarket.

I have found so many opportunities in my life to do small but meaningful things to help others while engaging in the mundane act of food shopping. My superpower has always been the ability to notice small details and I have proven especially adept at picking out opportunities for small, random acts of humanness at the market. I don’t call it kindness because I believe that it is our duty and it is what makes us human.

Often, it is merely the observation of a small, elderly person or a vertically challenged young one that needs help lifting something or reaching an item on the top shelf. It happens frequently, the markets pile things so high these days. I see, as bright as day, a person in need of assistance and I am truly amazed at how many people DON’T and instead walk right by. Today, it happened to me twice so I felt compelled to blog about it.

I went to see my son today in MA. I was early so I stopped at the local market to grab him some supplies for his apartment. I was in the pet food aisle and a elderly man was trying to put a 24 lb bag of cat food into his carriage. I could see him struggling with it and I quickly went over and did it for him. He was very appreciative. I said,

“It’s nothing. Have a nice day.” As opportunities sometimes arrive, I was parked next to him and we left at the same time. I grabbed the same bag of cat food and put it in his trunk for him.

After helping my son I headed home and on the way stopped at a different market. As soon as I reached aisle 3 there was a vertically challenged woman staring at a box of rice pilaf. The shelf was partially empty and it was a good reach, even for me to get to it. I asked her,
“How many do you want?”
“Excuse me?”
“How many boxes of that Pilaf?”
“Oh, 3 please. Thank you.”
“Not a big deal, have a nice day.” It really wasn’t a big deal after all. It is my duty, my obligation, my pleasure.

About 3 months ago my youngest boy was up visiting me and we went to the local market. After grabbing a few items we jumped into the 14 items or less checkout lane. As soon as I got in line I knew that we made a mistake. There was some kind of holdup with the person in front of me. My son pointed out that other lanes were moving but I didn’t move. I had a feeling I knew what was going on. The person didn’t have enough money and the cashier was voiding out items. I knew what I was going to do. As she voided her last item I noticed that the cashier had piled the items behind her at the register. The woman had just gotten her receipt and was about to walk out and I asked her to hold on a moment.
“Would you please add those items to my order, bag them separately so that she can have them?”
The cashier smiled and immediately rang them up. The woman vehemently objected. I told her,
“It’s done. Don’t worry about it.”
She thanked me profusely, I waved to her and told her to have a nice night. I caught my son’s eye.
“Nice move, Dad.” As we walked out I told him,
“It’s nothing she wouldn’t have done for me.”
“Not really Dad, not everyone does stuff like that. You don’t even know if she has money. Maybe her card was bad and she’s rich.”
“It doesn’t matter kid, what matters is that at that moment she needed help. Remember the homeless guy at Walmart?”
He did. When he was very young we got caught at the begging section of our local Walmart. If you miss the light, the homeless with signs walk up to your car and ask for money. I gave a guy two dollars. My son asked me if it was a good idea. After all, he might be an impersonator (it was known to happen).I told him,
“Maybe he is. But he may also need that money. I may never know but it only cost me 2 dollars either way.”
I know he retained it, hence the attaboy.

I’m not looking for a cookie here, I’m hopeful that someone will be inspired to keep their eyes open for an opportunity to help someone. It doesn’t take a lot; buy a homeless guy a McMuffin and a hot coffee on a cold day, reach for something off of the top shelf, help carrying groceries, let someone go before you in line, just say hi to someone who looks like they need it. It’s so damn easy and could make someone’s day.

If you live your life like your funeral is tomorrow, have the goal of someone reflecting on your life and thinking “Now that was a nice person.” You may have been a Captain of Industry, a CEO or a Nobel Prize winner. But were you a good and nice person? To me, that is the nicest thing someone can say about you.

Hi…come here often?

If you follow me you may know that I endured a pretty hard kick in the emotional nether-regions on Sunday. The ill-advised “long-distance” relationship that I was involved with crashed and burned like the Hindenburg when I went on FB and saw that she had posted “in a relationship” with some random dude. I was shocked, hurt, confused and quite pissed off. I texted her and asked why I had to learn of this on F’ing FB and her only reply was “Don’t curse at me.” I then asked her if that’s all she had to say to me and I then found myself blocked on the phone, FB and my blog.

I was over it the next day. I don’t dwell. My takeaway is that I was most mad at the way I was treated. Looking back on the relationship I do know that it wasn’t going to end well. The only reason I allowed myself to have feelings for her was that there was a strong possibility of her moving here. Once I allowed myself to feel for her we developed a very powerful connection and in the ensuing months I can honestly say that I fell in love with her. I was actually happy for a while. But circumstances changed and it soon became clear that it wasn’t going to happen. But I continued to correspond and support her as if she was my girl. Hence the feeling of betrayal when I was unceremoniously dropped like a candy wrapper.

Every kick in the nuts should result in a learning experience and I indeed learned something. I need someone in my life. I so enjoyed the feelings I experienced during my fling. I felt desired. I felt wanted. I felt attractive. I felt needed. I want that again and I’m not going to find someone just sitting here on my ass. So I joined Match.com.

It was very intimidating for me. I haven’t been on a date since 1990. I haven’t had sex since Obama’s first term. I worry about being a poor candidate to attract someone. I’m not financially secure, not particularly healthy and don’t have my own place. Creating my profile was going to be a challenge.
Hi, I’m Bill. I’m 54, on dialysis, I’m bald, have one testicle and I live with my mother. I don’t have money but I’ll be happy to take you to McD’s and buy you something off of the dollar menu. By the way, the last time I dated Milli Vanilli was relevant. Can I wear my acid wash jeans? Seeking…well, ANYBODY

That was my first draft. I then decided that the one trait that never fails me is my stark honesty. So I went that avenue and this is what I came up with..
This is the most honest profile you will ever read. 2 years ago health issues cost me my job and marriage, ending with my moving in with my mother 2 years ago. I am rebuilding my health and my life. Yes, I live with my mother. Not in her basement, but in her attic and that’s better, right?I haven’t been on a date since 1990 so this is very new to me.I am a doting father of 4 amazing (grown) children.I enjoy volunteering. I’m charitable and active in several charities through my Masonic lodge. I am an aspiring author and an avid reader. I’m a great cook. I love animals. If the sun is out so am I, probably on my motorcycle. I love a good conversation and I have a great, if not occasionally inappropriate sense of humor. Life is a gift and I am trying to live mine to the fullest.I am looking for a companion to spend time with and have a few laughs and some great conversations. If it leads to something more then that would be great.I’m not financially stable yet but I’m not broke. If you aren’t about money and want to meet an old-fashioned, optimistic, funny, sarcastic, kind, grounded and nice guy then look no further.Life’s a garden. Dig it.

You saw the part about me living with my mother, right?

The first response (match) I got was from a 43 year old woman who lives fairly close to me. I was excited when I got a message from her.
“Hi, not looking for anything romantic, just trying to make friends and I like chill guys. We should hang out.”

Not exactly a swimming start. I replied to her.
How about that ? My first response to my new dating profile is from a woman who just wants to be friends…what guy wouldn’t love that?

She was amused by my response and we chatted a bit. I may meet my new friend who doesn’t find me attractive at all. I can never have enough friends, maybe she has a cute friend.

I’ve received a few likes, nothing too promising but I signed up for 6 expensive months so I’m going to be patient. One thing I know is that dating did, does and will continue to suck. It’s just reality.

There has to be someone out there who values honesty, wisdom and a warped sense of humor in a guy. Kindness, caring and integrity wrapped in a scarred but earthly package should have some appeal. I know I have a lot to offer someone, if they just scroll down.

We’ll see what happens. At least I can say I tried.

It’s worse at night

It’s worse at night. But lately the days aren’t any easier.

The endless streams of FB posts of friends and family thriving in life. I watch them celebrate milestones, drinks and dinners with giant smiles on their faces. I am happy for them, I really am but it inevitable comes back to me as a reflection of my own situation.

I’ve been to two weddings recently where my only takeaway was “I wish I had that.”

2 years ago I thought I had lost everything. By all accounts I did. The only thing to survive the toppling of my entire former existence was my optimism. I had a resilient and omnipresent ability to look at my situation as a phase that would inevitably get better. After all, it has to doesn’t it?

It hasn’t. With the exception of a fleeting romance, it has all been going downhill emotionally and physically. That romance was a blessing. She was exciting, vibrant, sexually charged and above all it gave me hope. There was hope that we would bridge the distance and be together. I saw it as a new beginning, a chance at happiness. A beam of sunlight piercing the clouds of my every day existence.

For months I found excitement in the constant texts and phone calls. I found solace in our similarities and embraced our differences. I felt excited, giddy, loved, wanted, desired. I felt like I had a purpose again. I came to believe that we would be together one day.

Then it started to fade. She got sick. Plans changed. She was no longer willing to pick up everything and make a change. With me. Still. I remained emotionally invested. I loved her. She was my happily ever after. A shiny and sharp sword to fight my battles with. She gave me hope.

This morning I saw on my FB feed a picture of a guy on her page. The post was titled “This is love.”

A heads up would have been nice.

I suppose it wasn’t enough that I feel sick all the time. That I am lacking purpose. That I am uncontrollably envious at the happy people all around my island of solitude. That I am out of work, broke and dealing with the social stigma of living in my mother’s basement. I’ve now hit for the cycle and I get to add heartbroken to the mix.

It’s an act after all. To portray oneself as a Phoenix rising from the ashes when in reality you feel like just another burning ember that will eventually die out and end in obscurity.

I really need something positive to happen in my life right now. I’m not sure how many more hits I can take before I finally decide it’s not worth fighting anymore. I’m not sure how many more nights I can lie awake writing my own obituary in my head, wondering if the people in my life would understand if one day I just wasn’t around anymore.

Is this really as good as it gets?

Nothing is an accident

Nothing happens by accident. Everything happens for a reason.

Wait…who said that? Was that me? It sure as hell doesn’t sound like something the old me would ever say. The borderline agnostic, the “I stop at being spiritual” guy who reluctantly opened his heart and mind to the possibility that there is a driving force in the universe just said the unthinkable.

I recently met someone I now know in my heart of hearts that I was supposed to meet. I was in need of awakening, of hope, of inspiration and of expansion of what I know now was my very small world.

This person challenges me in multiple ways. To think bigger, to look deeper, to question the unquestionable and embrace the once unthinkable. As I was called “Mr. Practical” and “Stubborn Yankee” and other gems I was challenged to delve into schools of thought like Mysticism, Numerology, Astrology and Eastern Religions and Philosophy. I pushed back on all of them and then when the person wasn’t looking I studied it and found myself believing.

I’m now a better person for what I’ve opened myself up to. I am open to things I once scoffed at. It’s difficult for me, pragmatism, logic and reason have been my Navigation tool my entire life. I can’t help but look at things and ask “How is this going to work?”. “What’s the end game?”, and “Shouldn’t we do this first?”. I don’t just plunge into the pool, I stick my toe in first to see if the water is cold.

I wish this was good enough for my muse, but I’m afraid it’s not.

It’s amazing how difficult baby steps are for this stuck-in-his-ways-grownass-adult. Maybe the reason you entered my life is for me to learn to take bigger steps with a carefree jaunt.

Be open to the experience

I woke Sunday morning feeling compelled to go to Church. That was unusual for me because while admittedly spiritual, I’m not particularly religious. I call my faith Kayaking…

Religion is sitting in church thinking about Kayaking. Spirituality is sitting in a Kayak thinking about God.”
Author Unkown

In short, I’m an Omnitheist. I believe in multiple faiths and their version of God. I believe that a higher power is everywhere and I spend a fair amount of time looking for him. The place I spend the least time looking for him is in church. Irony?

But Sunday was different. I had someone on my mind and I stooped to the level of the opportunistic Christians that I normally detest and I went to pray for something close to me. Not entirely a selfish act, I was praying for the health and recovery of a very special lady and I was feeling helpless. I was exhausting all options.

I got there a bit late and I was fortunate enough to find a seat in the very back pew. My late Grandfather taught me this, in case my presence causes the plaster to crack and the ceiling to fall, I’m close to the door. That aside, there are several good reasons that I sit in back. First of all, if a person wanting to cause trouble comes in, I have my trusty 9mm and a great vantage point to stop an incident before it starts. Also, I’m not a real big “responsive reading” and hymn lover. I don’t do ritual of any kind so echoing unoriginal prayers is out for me as is singing those dreadful Hymns. I know the writers meant well but to me they are just insufferable. Finally, in the back pew, nobody is behind me to look at me in disdain because I’m not fitting in by playing along nicely. I like to sit in back and pray my own way, in a room full of positive energy and well-meaning people.

I suffered through the first 3 hymns and responsive readings and when it came time to pray, I broke from the ranks and said my own. I really don’t know how to pray. But I sometimes talk to the Universe and in this case it went something like this…

Dear big guy, you know who you are. I’ve been living a straight forward life that I think you approve of, can I ask you to watch out for my girl? She needs a little help right now and so do I. If it’s not too much trouble, while you’re at it can you tell me what you want from me? Oh yea, would you please grant the man in front of me the wisdom to trim his ear hair? And could you have the big guy in the choir tone down the “holier than though” look on his face? Take care of the meek. Punish the dicks. Save the children. Thanks big guy, has anyone asked you how you are today? Peace brotha…

When the prayer was over it was time for my favorite part of the service. The sermon. Our pastor always delivers a good one, relevant and timely. He didn’t disappoint on this day. He spoke of a young man, Jesus, walking into a village only to be shunned and ignored by the people of the village. They had been taught to be skeptical of strangers and the moral of the story was closing yourself off to that which is unfamiliar can limit your experiences in the world.

This particular sermon resonated heavily with me, for the very person that I came to pray for has caused me to open myself up to a myriad of experiences and phenomena that I previously dismissed as, in the words of Sheldon Cooper, “Hoakum.” She has made me a believer in destiny. In past lives and loves. A believer in providence and the existence of empathic connections. In the short time that I have known this magnificent lady my “horizons”, as it were have broadened exponentially. And none of it would of happened if, when asked by her “do you believe?”, I said no. I started with “I’m open to it.” Which evolved to “that can’t be a coincidence”, to “Holy Crap I can’t believe what just happened.”

I didn’t necessarily need to be reminded that an open mind is the portal to growth. I did need to be shown that it has fundamentally changed my life. Good things happen when you simply allow yourself to be open. When I joined Freemasonry I learned that I needed to believe in a higher power, any higher power no specification required, to join the sacred fraternity. At that point I was a agnostic (never an atheist, I am not arrogant enough to tell you that I know for sure that there is no higher power) I decided to open myself up to a non-denominational, outside the church approach to faith, which is essentially Spirituality. Since that time, I have found “God” in everything. The laughter of a child, the gait of a beautiful woman, the chirp of the bird and the magnificence of a sunset.

I went in to pray for a person. I left with a deeper appreciation of what she has brought to my life. All it takes is to shake off your initial reaction and say “I’m open to it.” Seems simple enough doesn’t it?

A nice day for a wedding

He sat in the back of the little white church. It doesn’t matter where or the occasion, if he was in a church he sat in the back. He got it from his Grandfather who always joked that if his presence in a church causes the ceiling plaster to crack and fall in, always be near the door for a quick escape. The mere recollection of his Grandfather brought a bemused look to his face. Without realizing it he was studying the ceiling for cracks. The guests shuffling in must have gotten a chuckle out of the middle-aged, balding man laughing to himself alone in a pew.
Hell, I don’t think I know one person in this room so who cares? He mused to himself. Except the groom, for whom he had driven 120 miles to this admittedly beautiful but out of the way location.

The church was almost half full of guests. Without even hearing them speak, he could tell that the guests on the “Brides side” had come a long way. For starters, they were tanned. It was late October in NH and they were not wearing warm clothes. He was impressed that they had come so far for the bride. From what he had heard from his buddy the Groom, this girl was worth traveling across the country for.

He shifted his people-watchers back to his own section and reflected on the tale that he had been told, the story of the bride and groom as told over a few beers in July. He was in disbelief over the details as his friend the future groom told it. Amazingly, the groom was almost equally in disbelief. The nuts and bolts was that he was head over heels over a woman he had never actually met. Their “relationship” had started as a online friendship that evolved to emails, then to texts and calls. Soon they spoke in some manner for most of the day. Every day.
He could recall the look on his face as he said,
“I love her, man. This is fucking crazy. I fought it and fought it but I can’t anymore. She’s the one.” He was equal parts incredulous and smitten.
It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to him, but he really enjoyed seeing his friend happy. Happy is a word that had not been associated with his friend in a long time.

His thoughts were interrupted by the organist. He hadn’t noticed that the little church had filled a little more and that the minister, known only as “Pastor Larry” had set up at the podium and the small wedding party, including his buddy the groom, was at the front of the church waiting for the entrance of the beautiful bride. He was excited about that as well because he had not met her yet, only seen pictures of her.

As if in synch with his thoughts, Yours by Ella Henderson began to fill the church. It was a beautiful, powerful song and it filled him with emotions as he watched the bride enter the foyer. Man, she was everything his friend had said. Tall, with bright and beautiful eyes, shoulder-length brown hair and bright red lipstick she practically flowed into the room in her floor-length strapless gown. She was stunning. He glanced to the front and saw the tears forming in his buddy’s eyes. He was so happy at the very sight of her.

As if sensing that the moment was getting too intense. the bride briefly tripped over her dress and uttered a pretty audible “Fuck!” and then sheepishly smiled, laughed it off and made her way to the altar. He had heard about that side of her as well. His bud the groom had joked that her vows would probably include the words “Fucking right!”. He could picture it. He had heard all about this beautiful lady and she had quite a story. One that had seemed destined to have tragedy written all over it until their chance encounter. Now, she was fond of the words “happily ever after.”

It was a beautiful ceremony. Simple and elegant. When they exchanged vows, the couple were barely able to choke back tears as they proclaimed their love for each other. As he listened to their exchange he wondered if everyone in the room was as familiar with their remarkable story as he was, of the myriad of events and the tumultuous events that occurred that would have derailed so many relationships in person, never mind from a distance. Yet they had believed and fought for it and they made it happen.

Soon, they had their kiss and the crowd cheered and they made their way down the aisle. As they passed the groom reached out to him and grasped his hand.
“Glad you’re here, bro. Thank you”, he said.
“Wouldn’t miss it, man,” he replied.

He watched as they filed out the door into the late afternoon sunlight. Among all of the commotion of pictures and family members swarming around them he studied the groom. The way he was looking at her, like she was the center of his universe. The guy that had once told him that he was not destined to ever be happy was beaming with his beautiful new bride at his side. He had proven himself wrong and in the process had proved her right.

There is always the opportunity for a Happily Ever After.

He squeezed his way past the crowd and stepped off to the side to light a cigarette. He looked at the clear blue sky, the radiant fall foliage and its reflection on the still lake behind them. He could see what his friend loved about the area. It really was beautiful. A fine day for a wedding indeed.