Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Lead Balloons That Night!

Okay, as you can tell from my lack of posting – and Lainey’s face sitting at the top of the page for so long – that I fell into a funk. A deep, dark funk.

And the deeper the funk, the more OCD I get. Facebook has taken up an absolutely inordinate amount of time. So has my search for the perfect truths and dares for the game Truth or Dare.

(Sorry Tom. You mentioned it from Matt and Laurel's party, and it manifested into something much more interesting to me over the weekend than it should have been. Think I nipped in the bud.)

I’m trying to pretend the funk doesn’t exist. Call it Scarlett O’Hara syndrome… tomorrow is another day.

But I did make some effort to be productive. In fact, part of my attempts to pretend that everything is okay was an excursion to the Balloon Glow in Forest Park on Friday night. Tom and I had been planning on going for a small handful of weeks, but at the last minute Barry joined us. We all had a blast.

(Get it? Hot air balloon humor, folks!)

There isn’t much to tell about a balloon glow. Once it starts getting dark, the balloon owners and/or operators illuminate the balloons, without actually taking off. Every few minutes, a horn goes off – increasing in frequency the darker it gets.

Afterwards, there was fireworks. Normally a sucker for a good explosion display, I agreed with the guys that it was kinda lame. So off for ice cream!

All in all, it was the perfect Friday night. The weather was wonderful, the company was perfect, the event was practically flawless. And ice cream is the perfect way to top any evening? Who could have asked for anything more?

Well, actually, I could use a few more days/nights like that. Just a few.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Day After... even worse than yesterday. Poor Lance is looking around for his sister. Trying to keep us distracted is proving difficult as no one slept well last night.

These pictures were taken Tuesday. In a rare moment of sweetness, Lainey gave me kisses -- and even posed pretty for Barry.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And 5 Suddenly Became 4...

I put my dog down this evening. I can’t think of a single thing worse than making the decision to end your pet’s life. And while I thought I would hate myself for it, I feel surprisingly guilt-free.

Lainey came into my life in August of 2001, right on the heels of my mother’s passing. I wanted to bring my Dad home from the nursing home, but dog, Lance, hated my father. Hate might be too strong of a word, but Lance was shy and timid – very much a victim of abuse – and my Dad was loud and made sudden movements. So I figured a buddy for Lance who liked my Dad would be a perfect addition to the family.

Only thing was, Dad didn’t do well at home. He was more incontinent and less able to ambulate than I thought. But I had already made the adoption. Lainey, the scared little Border Collie with a limp, who hid in the back to the cage in sheer terror of the other barking dogs, was now mine.

Lainey adored my father. It could be because she only saw him sporadically. She loved everyone she met. It was after she got to know them that the affection sometimes turned to loathing. On a daily basis, it might have been different with my Dad. I know that soon after becoming Lance’s sister, the bloom soon was off the rose between Lainey and I.

I’ll spare you all the details, but a lot of days dealt with Lainey biting me. Biting Barry. Biting both of us. One moment she would be happy and content, then next she would be snarling and snapping. Seven years of this went on. I hired behaviorists. We went to obedience classes. I took her places. I tried brushing her. I used T-Touch techniques to soothe her. Nothing lasted for long.

We had some fun. No one could look as cute as Lainey did… when she wanted to. Not even Lance, who is cuteness personified. Maybe she was so gosh darn cute when she wanted to be because Barry and I were never used to it. We had some adventures. Going to the park at the end of the street. The Great Forest Park Balloon Race. The Easter car show in the Muny parking lot the day my Dad died. Visiting our friends Paul and Kim (Lainey was going to take Paul away from Kim and go to the Caribbean, where she was going to dump his ass once they hit the beach.) Picking out dog treats at Petsmart.

I don’t know what her life was like before I took her in. One leg, her right hind leg, was shorter than the rest because she had been hit by a car as a puppy. The ball part of her ball and socket joint had been surgically removed, a common practice in dog versus vehicle accidents. She was covered in white paint when I adopted her. She used to get out of the backyard whenever she could, hightailing it for the creek behind the house and making her way up to the park.

I suppose if one wanted to analyze my reasons for adopting Lainey – and Pudge and Gana soon after – it had everything to do with the loss of my family. Yes, Dad was still alive at the time, but he wasn’t the guy that I knew and loved. I needed to fill the hole in my heart. Very much the symptoms of a hoarder, and I was aware even at the time that I had the makings of one. But soon after Lainey showed her true colors, I realized that I would keep making the same mistake over and over again, adopting the wrong pet for the wrong reasons. They had to pick me as much as I picked them. And Lainey certainly never picked me. It was obvious even at the end.

And while I don’t think that I failed her, I do have to question whether I could have done more. I know I did so much more – and put up with so much more – than just about any person should have to. But knowing that I have the best dog I’ll ever meet – Lance – makes me wonder how Lainey ended up so wrong. I tried, God knows I tried. But it feels like it wasn’t enough. Even though I put up with more than any normal person would put up with. God also knows how she would have ended up if someone else had adopted her. Certainly no one else would have put up with her as long as I did. So she had a good run.

So maybe guilt-free is misleading. I feel bad. Horribly bad. But short of letting her continue to bite me – and making me feel sort of like a battered spouse in the process – I know I did the right thing. Even if it sucked worse than I could have imagined. She was healthy – physically at least – so every atom in my body is screaming that this was the wrong thing to do. But my heart feels lighter. As scary as that sounds, I feel somewhat liberated.

There is no doubt that I loved Lainy, my “little girl.” My “pretty girl.” I just didn’t know how much I loved her until now.

Elaine “Lainey” Anne Poynton
February 12, 1999 – September 17, 2008

Rest in Peace my darling dog. Goodness knows you never got it in life.
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From Beauty Contestant to Contest Winner?

Funniest five words I've heard in a long time...

"Did she win a contest?"
~Jon Stewart commenting on Sarah Palin's remarks about the economic crisis

I think if I had been drinking milk, it would have shot out my nose. God bless Jon Stewart and his dry, deadpan, sarcastic sense of humor. And shame on me for not watching him more often. I am just so glad I tuned in last night!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

A Case of Neglect -- Of My Blog

I have been neglecting my blog of late, something one of my friends brought to my attention LAST weekend by saying it was sparse. I had some exciting adventures that weekend and the most recent, of which I will have to write about some other time.

But in light of the rising gas costs on the heels of Hurricane Ike et al, I thought this picture was rather appropriate.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I was excited when gas dipped below $2 a gallon. I think those days are long gone, despite all the political promises. I think that if they ever dip that low again, everyone's reaction would be like the tagline on the picture.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

At the Ol' Ballgame

I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents lately. I suppose that it’s only natural this time of year. Dad’s birthday was not that long ago and before that was the anniversary of my mother’s passing. With some birthdays coming up – my husband’s, my friend Cara’s (who knew my parents from the time we were both 9), mine – as well as my parent’s wedding anniversary on October 1st, how can I not reflect?

When I woke up this morning, I hopped on the internet and read the headlines on CNN, KSDK and the Post-Dispatch’s websites. I always skim and then go back later… unless something really catches my eye. One of the headlines on STLtoday pulled me in.

Today is the 10th anniversary of Mark McGwire breaking Roger Maris’ home run record of 61 in a single season.

Dad was a Cubs fan through and through. And that’s actually what led us down a strange and wonderful experience. Not the Cards, but his beloved Cubbies. He had wanted to see them play the Cards at Busch in July, but the series was sold out. Although a bit disgruntled, he settled for seats during the Cubs return trip in September.

I’ll admit that I hold players of sports up to a high level of conduct. They get paid big bucks to play a game for their career. I know it takes a toll on their bodies, but they are supposed to be playing for the love of the game. Players’ strikes in any profession leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And while I normally support anyone who belongs to a union and who feels they are being poorly treated, I want an effort to be made to reach an agreement before the contract is up. Doesn’t have to happen before the expiration date, but waiting until the contract has expired is just silliness.

Hence why I am still boycotting hockey. Maybe someday I’ll go back to the sport, but it’s going to take some doing.

It was the rivalry – the supposedly friendly rivalry – between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire that brought a lot of fans back to baseball. I was one of them. The baseball strike in 1994 – and the resulting lockout – had left a bad taste in my mouth, but the Sosa-McGwire march towards the home run record set the world on fire. Would the record be broken? Which one would do it? Were they really that friendly with one another or was it just for the cameras?

Home run mania took over St. Louis and Chicago… and the rest of the country I’m sure. Baseball was back to what it always should have been – the love of the game. There was no trash talk between the two most likely successors to the home run crown. Sosa and McGwire said nothing but glowing remarks about each other and the late Roger Maris, something that the world seemed to realize that was late coming, but oh so deserving. And the fans filled the stadiums in droves. The great American pastime was back and the boys of summer had two marquee players. Who kept hammering them over the back wall and out of ballparks across the country.

As August began to slide into September, I joked that I was going to see the record get broken. Surprisingly, not a single soul believed me. In fact, the more people told that I wouldn’t, the more I believed that I would. After all, I was a huge Cards fan and Dad was a die-hard Cubs fan. What was more fitting?

September 8, 1998. Summer was wrapping up. Baseball season was winding down, but the level of excitement in the stadium was palpable. McGwire had tied the record of 61 the day before in an oh so fitting tribute on his dad’s 61st birthday. In a fairy tale for sports fans, could this script play out any differently? Of course the record was going to be broken in St. Louis. We are the best fans in baseball after all.

And McGwire did.

And I was there.

Okay, so I saw it on the TV while I waited in line to get my Dad a hot dog, but dammit – I was there!

Time can cloud memories and change facts, but I remember having a game plan when we got to the game – get all the food and drink we wanted before the game started because we weren’t going to move until it ended.

Except Dad wasn’t hungry when we got there.

He got hungry sometime in the 3rd inning. Dad hadn’t fallen ill yet in those days, but he still wasn’t as strong as he could have been, so I reluctantly offered to go for him. Which he gratefully accepted. And I was ever so pissed about. They have beer and soda vendors at the ballpark. Why the hell don’t they have hot dog vendors?

It’s a moot point now. I went back to my seat with his hot dog, tossed it on Dad’s lap and proceeded to pout. We fought, we made up and Dad got to see something magical before his body and mind started to betray him. And I made it just as all the festivities began. Heck, I probably saw it better on TV than if I had actually been in my seat. It all ended well.

And while I know that both McGwire and Sosa juiced, something that I think is heinous and unforgivable, knowing that doesn’t diminish the impact of knowing that I got to see the game with my Dad. I went to a lot of games with my Dad over the years, and they all have sort of blended together, but that day… that day we got something that brought Dad to the sport in the first place – and showed me a bit of insight into my father – the pure love of the game.

Allegations and Congressional meetings have stolen some of the thunder of my return to baseball games, but walking out of the stadium with my father that day is something I’ll regale to my kids someday although I’ll fall short on words to explain how special it was.

Kinda like right not.

But although the world cheered, it was a moment in my life with my father that stood out. Yeah, McGwire broke the record, but I couldn’t have witnessed it with anyone else. Because if it wasn’t for my Dad’s love of the game, I don’t think I would be a baseball fan. He tried to force football on me – a sport I came to on my own – but baseball was something more transcendental.

I got it that day.

And seeing my Dad as more than just my Dad, but rather the child that played his beloved game for the sheer adoration of the sport was something that I hold close to my heart.

And a small aside, but still a baseball related note… I know the Cards are out of the running in the playoffs. I’m fairly certain that statistically they can’t even make it for a wild card spot.

But the Cubs… the Cubs are having a stellar season. I follow my Cards during the season pretty religiously, but only as to where they are in the standings compared to other teams. I don’t do individual stats of players. I don’t follow other teams. I’m a fan, but not a fanatic.

However, it’s impossible for those who follow baseball not to take note of the Cubs. The laughing stock of the National League – of all of baseball – they are riding a wave of incredibility. Who woulda thunk?

I, for one, hope that they go all the way to clinch the World Series.

And I know that my Dad will be somewhere – up, down, somewhere that none of us know about – and he’ll be dancing a jig, singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’ and crying tears of joy.

If they make it, I know Dad will have had something to do with it. I just know.

And so I wear one of his most prized t-shirts to bed tonight. His Cubs shirt that says ‘If It Takes Forever.’ Some might say that I’m a traitor for not better supporting my team. I say, blood runs deeper and that although he might be gone, my Dad’s reach is still strong.

I had hoped the Cubs would do it the season my Dad would pass away. Close, but not quite. I just think that it ended up taking my Dad a little bit longer in the haggling behind the scenes.

Dad always did like to talk. A lot. Maybe he just finished up his negotiations.

Go Cubbies!
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