(1) TEDDY AND TEARS
First let me apologize for missing the DAILY post yesterday. It was the first time I missed one since I started this new Monday – Friday feature. I had a full day of doctor’s appointments and preparing for Tbilisi and my lectures there and running errands etc. I had planned to do it last night but after a leftovers dinner, I lay down to snuggle with Teddy and watch some of Poldark which we are binge-watching now and fell asleep and just didn’t feel like doing it at 1:14 a.m. when I looked at the clock – pissed off that I had not awakened only three minutes before so I could have seen it was 1:11 but realizing even if I posted at that hour, I would have still missed a midnight deadline for something called the DAILY. So I guiltily went back to one of the guilty pleasures of my life: snuggling with Teddy. It’s not the snuggling with him that causes the guilt though, just not doing whatever I am supposed to be doing and choosing to snuggle with Teddy. But maybe I am guilty of even getting that wrong. When I snuggle with Teddy, there is a kind of comfort for me because I feel instinctively that it is exactly what I should be doing when I am doing it.
For the last two days, I was already missing him knowing I will not see him again until August. Part of yesterday’s business was squaring away his care while I am away. He will be in good hands with his Uncle Scott who has watched him the last few times I have gone to NYC for a few days and whom Teddy adores. Scott feels the same way about him. Scott is watching him today and tomorrow. Rachel, a colleague of mine at Camphill Hudson, is going to care for him the rest of the time with Scott as her backup. She just moved into a a new apartment with a big fenced-in backyard and is going to be spending a few carefree Cabin days at a New England lake. i saw Rachel last week during one of my Supernatural Coffee study-hall mornings here in Hudson. Teddy often goes there with me. As he does here at home, he finds his way at Supernatural into my lap at some point, tucks his little nose beneath my armpit and slumbers as I type away on whatever it is I am typing to find my way forward in life because we writers are finally just writing a survival guide for ourselves no matter what sections of it are labeled – memoirs, fiction, journalism, journaling, poems, freelance assignments, Facebook posts or this very sentence I am typing right now here at the DAILY. it is all a guide for our own survival. Sometimes we are so busy writing it – so busy surviving – that we forget to read it.
Rachel had never met Teddy and was immediately smitten with him as so many are. It prompted her to tell me that she had only recently lost her dog and how heartbroken she still was and how she was still in the grieving process over it. I told her about Teddy’s brother Archie who died while we were all living in San Francisco. “He died in my arms there atop Telegraph Hill,” I told her as we both were tearing up and bonding over sadness. “He was only 10 years old, but I think he was put into my life to get me to a certain point. He sensed his mission was complete. He had herded me toward recovery and then after a year’s sobriety, I took Teddy and him to San Francisco and that garden apartment atop one of its hills. I had never felt grief like that. But it wasn’t as if the grief were new. I think the grief was always there, but I had just never felt it. His death lanced the grief that I had been carrying around with me all my life.”
I lost my parents when i was a child within one year of each other. The childless sissy is the term that has defined my life. I am of the generation of gay men who lost so much during the AIDS plagues years. I think those of us who survived sort of lost everything but our own lives during that time. I think there is a kind of PTSD that so many of us still experience but internalize just as we did the emotional violence of homophobia during our childhoods when our worth and dignity based on the signifiers society has developed to certify one’s worth and dignity were denied us until we fought to our claim on them as well. I think my own addiction issues – and honestly my own struggles still in the last couple of years in this seven-year journey so far in recovery in which there are many, many more DAILY reprieves than there are DAILy relapses – are all tied up in a childless sissy lacking a sense of worth and thus dignity. Archie – and Teddy – restored a sense of self-worth in my life with their dogged dignity. If such creatures could love me unconditionally and I could find a way to return their love in kind, then maybe I could find my sense of worth. Dignity? That is just a byproduct of worthy behavior.
I told Rachel some of all that the other morning at Supernatural. And then I told her, “When Archie lay dying in my arms, I began to make amends to him for all that I put him through during my active addiction years. i hadn’t realized that we who are in recovery could make amends to our pets. But no matter to whom I have made amends in the past and those to whom I will in the future, no amends will be as important as those I made to Archie as he lay dying in my arms. I promised him that I would be a better person in his memory. When I pray in the morning, I pray to honor that promise. I have broken it a a few times. I don’t think there is any guilt in my life now that can equal what i feel when I break that pledge to Archie. I think about him every day.”
Teddy took notice of Rachel’s teary eyes with his soulful ones and sent that message that dogs can send to us humans in need: comfort me so you can comfort yourself. I took notice of such a moment that morning. “I am about to go away for about three weeks and am trying to find someone to take care of Teddy. I even prayed this morning when I was praying my Archie prayer that I would meet someone this morning here at Supernatural who would be significant in my life. Not sure why I prayed that sentence. I was sort of thinking it was going to be a boyfriend – or at least someone I might date. I was not expecting this and it would be you. Would you like to take care of Teddy while I’m away. He’s such a healing presence. I think we were meant to see each other this morning, Rachel. I think this would be good for both of you maybe.”
Rachel kept looking into Teddy’s soulful eyes and comforting him as she comforted herself. “Yes. I am ready to heal,” she said.
Is there any greater sentence in any language than that: I am ready to heal. Some might say it is instead: I love you. But that sentence is just another way of saying we are ready to heal.
Here’s to healing. And everything we can find to help us toward it – the dogs and the lovers and the spouses and the friends and the recovery programs and the guide books and the acts of kindness and the acts of service and every form that God takes in this godless world that God created for us as a home when we had fallen short to remind us that we are not God. We are only human. That is not a failing. It is a condition. Our first loss as humans in so much of the mythologizing of the human condition in the texts of all religions is the loss of innocence. In that, we have all as human beings been carrying around grief since the day we were born kicking and screaming into such a world. Each life that unfolds is about the journey toward healing. To stop kicking. To stop screaming.
I am so thankful that Archie and Teddy found me on this journey. Teddy has taken my leash handed off to him by Archie, but Archie continues to lead me forward. I think he just gave me this morning the beginning of one of my lectures in Tbilisi.
(2) STARS IN BLACK TURTLENECKS: Ann-Margret
(3) SOME JOY: Anne Tyler. ““If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”
(4) BEFORE GOOGLE: Ann Rutherford
(5) TWO POEMS BY DAVID GROFF: I had a lunch on Tuesday wth poet David Groff here in Hudson here which he is using as a kind of writer’s retreat to work on his third book of poems. Here are two of my favorite poems by him that tie-in to my first post above.