It’s been a week since Rey died. I miss him so much.
Mike is out of town, so I’m temporarily a single mom. Michaela and I are used to it, and we do a pretty good job of rolling with the punches. Today is a great example.
6:25 a.m. – my alarm goes off. I browse the news, check emails, look at Facebook.
6:50 a.m. – I wake up Michaela.
6:55 a.m. – I wake her up again.
7 a.m. – It’s late! Michaela eats a bowl of cereal while I get dressed and put on my makeup.
7:20 a.m. – I start making Michaela’s snack (I’m off the hook for making lunch today, because Michaela likes to buy school lunch on Wednesdays).
7:25 a.m. – I fix Michaela’s hair.
7:30 a.m. – I nag Michaela about putting on her shoes and getting her backpack packed.
7:35 a.m. – I gather my things, Michaela gathers her things, and we hustle out the door.
7:40 a.m. – We arrive at school, just in time for the first bell. I get Michaela off to her classroom and head back to my car.
7:45 a.m. – The 5th graders at school are selling Valentine’s Day treats that will be delivered to classrooms next week. I pony up a dollar to send one to Michaela from Mom and Dad.
8:10 a.m. – I get to work.
8:15 a.m. – I get a call that my 9 a.m. meeting is canceled, so I’m meeting-free for several hours. A rare treat!
11 a.m. – I’m hungry! I put off eating for a while longer.
11:30 a.m. – Walk down to the onsite cafeteria and grab some lunch. Yum!
12:45 p.m. – I have to leave work to get Michaela from school. Wednesdays are half days, so she’s done at 12:15, then has Spanish until 1:15. Because I have to attend a board meeting tonight at work and Mike is out of town, my parents were nice enough to agree to watch Michaela for me. My dad had plans this afternoon, though, so I had to grab Michaela from school and run her to my parents’ house.
1:15 p.m. – I get Michaela from school and we head to my parents’.
2 p.m. – I’m back at work. Finally! My calendar is clear until 4:30, so I get some work done at my desk.
4:30 p.m. – Meeting.
5:35 p.m. – Meeting ends. I have 25 minutes until the board meeting, so I sneak in some dinner.
6 p.m. – Board meeting kicks off.
9:30 p.m. – Board meeting ends. Finally!
9:35 p.m. – I’m in my car, heading to my parents’.
9:50 p.m. – I grab Michaela, who had been asleep, and we drive home. Poor thing is bushed! She falls asleep in her carseat clutching Dieciocho, her bear.
10:05 p.m. – Michaela asks if she can sleep in my bed. I tell her sure and once she disappears into my room, I check the mail, unpack her backpack, load the dishwasher, etc.
10:30 p.m. – Settle in for a quick blog post.
10:45 p.m. – Bedtime! The alarm will go off again in just a few hours!
Rey joined our family just two months shy of 10 years ago (part 1 of how he came to live with us; part 2). He was there as Mike and I renovated our first house. He was there when we got married. He was there when we brought Michaela home from the hospital. And throughout it all, he was awesome. Sweet, smart, friendly, charming. People fell in love with him.
Last week, I got an opinion from a second vet at our practice who said we could give Rey steroids to try to shrink the masses in his lungs and appetite stimulants to make him eat. She said we’d be able to tell in a week if the treatment was working or not. I was optimistic at first, but it soon became obvious that it wasn’t working. In the last couple of days, his condition got worse. He started having trouble walking, then he stopped eating (even the turkey meatballs I started giving him when he stopped eating his regular dog food), and he wasn’t drinking much.
I knew Rey was really sick, and I knew he was going to die, but it was still a shock. Last night, his breathing was really labored. Mike was giving him water with a syringe, squirting it into his mouth. Today Mike promised to keep a close eye on him and to let me know if he got worse. He sent me a message this afternoon saying I should come home. That it was time.
Michaela was crying. A couple of neighbors stopped by to say goodbye and they were crying, too. I was crying. Rey? He was laying there feebly. His gums, which should have been a bright pink, were white. He was so anemic. His breathing was heavy and he was making a wheezing sound. It definitely was time.
Mike and I took Rey to the vet. They were very kind. A technician took Rey to place a port in one of his veins and when she brought him back, the site had been bandaged and they’d drawn a heart on it. The doctor told us she would have made the same decision, given the state of his health. She used the port to inject two drugs and a minute later, he was gone.
This is the last picture I took of him alive.
I keep waiting for him to come sauntering down the hall, his nails clicking on our hardwood floors. I’m waiting for him to jump up onto the couch with me to snuggle. I look in the corner of our bedroom where his bed was (I moved it when we came home; it was painful to see it) and see an empty space.
Rey was such a big part of our lives. He was here everyday. He counted on us to meet his needs. And now he’s gone. It’s different than with Elree, who I hadn’t seen in a while. And yet in many ways, it’s the same. Both were bright spots in my life. I’m thankful for the time I had with them.
Just to give you another idea of how Michaela’s brain works…
She came home today with a sheet saying she needs to come up with something for the 100th day of school. There has to be 100 of something, on a paper no larger than 12×18 inches, to make up a larger picture, which can be decorated with whatever else she wants so long as there are 100 of one thing.
Michaela started racking her brain for something. She wanted to pick her item first, before figuring out what the larger picture should be. She thought about macaroni, to make a sun. I suggested chocolate chips – they’re flat on the bottom so easy to adhere to the paper, plus they’re cheap and plentiful. I said maybe she could have them spilling out of a bag. She didn’t like that idea.
All of a sudden, she yelled, “I GOT IT! I can use chocolate chips to make a poop emoji!!!!!”
So I guess that’s what we’re going to do.
(Also, Michaela’s teacher deserves extra credit for having Michaela in her class this year.)
For years, I’ve had in my office a framed postcard with the Martin Niemoller quote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” I try to live by that approach and to speak up when something isn’t right.
I’ve also seen a meme going around lately that says, “Remember sitting in history class thinking, ‘If I was alive then, I would have…’ You’re alive now. Whatever you’re doing is what you would have done.” That has really stuck with me.
When Donald Trump issued his order blocking refugees (refugees!!!) from Syria, stopping immigration from a handful of Muslim-majority countries, and adding a religious preference to our immigration policy, I was pissed. There’s really no other way to describe my emotional reaction. It’s such a short-sighted, Islamophobic, pandering policy… so guaranteed to have no positive outcome and in fact only make things worse for our nation and especially our troops serving abroad… that I just couldn’t sit by and do nothing. And even though I was tired yesterday, even though Mike was out of town and I had Michaela, even though going to a demonstration doesn’t seem very impactful… I did.
I saw an alert on Facebook about a gathering at the local Islamic Center, to show opposition to the Muslim ban and to demonstrate support for our Muslim neighbors. I called my mom to see if she’d watch Michaela and she immediately agreed. I ran over there and my dad helped me make my sign. They’re good people.
I was pleased when I got to the Islamic Center that there were about 30 people there. I took my spot on the street, holding up a sign that said “Muslims Welcome Here.” As time went on, more and more people gathered. We chanted and waved our signs. Some people driving by honked their horns in support, and, in a moment that touched me deeply, a couple of men from the center came out and offered us water bottles.
I stayed for about 45 minutes before heading home. I was going to leave my sign for someone else who’d come without one, but I realized I will probably need to use it again, so held onto it.
It’s not much, but I’ll keep doing it until I don’t have to anymore.
We got word from Michaela’s teacher a couple of weeks ago that starting this week, each student would be required to make a speech on the topic of their choice. The speeches are to include a greeting, an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion, as well as some sort of visual aid. Michaela chose to do her speech on mammals, which she learned a lot about at Zoo Camp this summer.
She wrote notes on a clipboard about mammals: They have hair or fur. They have a spine or backbone. They are warm blooded. They produce milk. They do (do? What’s the right verb here?) live birth. The smallest mammal is the hog-nosed bat. The largest mammal is the blue whale, which is the size of her school’s lunch arbor (or “harbor,” as Michaela pronounces it).
Michaela is very artistic, so I suggested she make a poster for her visual aid. She had a different idea.
First, some history.
Michaela had a small brown stuffed bear that she named Ocho. That’s Spanish for eight. She got a larger bear who looked similar, but bigger, and she named him “Dieceocho,” or 18. Because he’s the same, but bigger. (Clever, right?)
Flash forward to now.
Michaela decided that for her visual aid, she was going to bring Dieciocho and Ocho… to demonstrate live birth.
I tried to dissuade her. The bears aren’t alive, I said, prompting jokes from Mike about the wisdom of sending her to school with a live, pregnant bear to actually demonstrate live birth. Wouldn’t you rather make a poster, I asked. Nope. She was determined.
Except… Michaela doesn’t know how birth works. She still thinks babies come “from their mommy’s tummy,” so when she was practicing, she said “Dieciocho has a baby in his [!] tummy. And now he’s giving live birth,” and then pulled Ocho out from Dieciocho’s back. Mike showed her that babies usually come out “more like this,” pulling the smaller bear down from the bear’s mid-section, and that was that. She was ready for her speech.
When I picked Michaela up from school, she said she felt really confident giving her speech and that it went really well. She said she demonstrated live birth and answered questions from the class afterwards– but no, there weren’t any questions about live birth.
I can’t wait to chat with her teacher before school tomorrow morning to get her take on it.
Anyone else tired of bad news? If so, you might want to skip this post.
Rey, our dog, got sick just before Christmas. He has seemed better… and then worse… and then a bit better… and then worse. I had the vet do a physical exam, blood work, and analysis of his urine and stool. He’s lost a lot of weight. Nearly 20% of his body weight. I took him to the vet yesterday for x-rays and got a call around noon with bad news. It seems that Rey has cancer nodes in his lungs. He’s dying.
This handsome guy, who has been with me and Mike for the last decade, will be leaving us soon. I thought my heart was broken after Elree died, but it turns out there was still something left to break.
I read today that John Lewis recalled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saying, “there is no noise as powerful as the sound of the marching feet of a determined people.” Having attended the San Diego Women’s March today – along with approximately 39,999 other people – I can say that feels right to me.
Michaela and I woke up this morning and made signs for the march, which was about affirming women’s rights (vs. protesting the new president). Michaela chose to focus her sign on peace; mine was a series of hashtags.
I put on my “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate” shirt and she put on her peace sign shirt and we were off to meet a friend and her daughters for the march.
The weather was cold and there was about a 25% chance of rain (it did, in fact, rain off and on throughout the morning). There were a lot of speeches – too many speeches, I’d say – and while that was happening, the space around us filled with people. Women, men, children of all colors. Families. Friends. Strangers who became friends. Women were going around giving out free donuts, a danza Azteca (Aztec dance) group shimmied through the crowd, people banged drums and shook tambourines. We all sang the national anthem, which gave me goosebumps. The signs were amazing– serious ones and funny ones, wordless ones and ones covered in writing, Trump-focused and otherwise.
Some of my favorites:
It felt amazing to see so many people come out. The feeling in the air was electric. I hope people will remain engaged and be vigilant in standing up for the things they believe in as the new administrations makes laws and policies. I certainly plan to.
When Mike and I met, I fell in love with Mike and with his best friend Elree. Elree would give you the shirt off his back. He was a great friend to Mike, and to me. Whether we were hanging out at his house playing Uno, doing laps at the rollerskating rink, visiting a local bar, or even spending time with my family (Elree fit right in– he and my brother look so much alike that Facebook can’t tell the difference in pictures), Elree was a bright light in our lives. When Michaela was born, we drifted apart a bit, but would periodically exchange text messages and well wishes. That’s why I was devastated to get a call yesterday morning from his girlfriend, who said Elree committed suicide this weekend.
I don’t know what happened that made him take his life. I don’t know if he had gotten help and it wasn’t enough. I don’t know why he didn’t see that he was loved and special and needed. I only know I miss my friend and can’t believe I’ll never see him again. I’ll never send him a text on August 8 to wish him a happy birthday. I’ll never mail him a Christmas card. I’ll never invite him to another Easter dinner.
In December, for Mike’s birthday, I asked friends to share a favorite Mike memory. Elree wrote a beautiful piece that ended with, “I remember some really great times my friend. I hope this note helps you remember great days, too.”
Here’s to memories of great days, and to Elree.
After our first couple of days in New Orleans and then a couple more days in Jackson, it was finally time to head home. Our flight wasn’t until Monday afternoon, so Michaela and I had time to soak in a little more of the Big Easy.
We started the day with beignets from Cafe du Monde. If you’re keeping track at home, we were in New Orleans for four days and went to the cafe three times. Michaela enjoyed peering through the back windows, where you can watch the workers make the beignets.
It’s small but interesting. I was fascinated by how old some of the tombs were, and how they continue to receive new generations of the various families.
The cemetery is across from Commander’s Palace, the famous restaurant (that opened in 1880!), but it’s very hard to get reservations and they didn’t have a table available for us for hours. Instead, we ran back to our hotel, checked our bags at the bell desk, and grabbed a last bite to eat at a local diner. Our waiter, Peanut, was charmed by Michaela and gave us free fries and her two complimentary scoops of ice cream. Needless to say, she was charmed by him, too, after that. Then it was off to the airport for our return trip home.
While passing time playing Uno, Michaela saw a little boy and said he went to her school. I told her she was crazy, but she insisted. I told her to go ask him and sure enough, he does! Turns out that they (the boy, his two siblings, and parents) live a couple of blocks away and had been in Louisiana visiting family. They’d been on our flight out, too, but we didn’t know it. The boy’s mom said that when she went to take her son out of school early, the school secretary said that another family was also going to New Orleans. What a small world to have us then meet in the airport on the way back!
Mike picked us up at the airport and it was officially back to the real world. I can’t say enough good things about this trip. We travel a lot, but this was the first time Michaela and I had taken a trip just the two of us (outside of us flying somewhere where Mike already was, and then the three of us vacationing together) and it was really special. Michaela is a good traveling companion and I really enjoyed having this time together with her. I can’t wait to do it again!