Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Which Would You Choose?

I was just two weeks shy of my 17th birthday when Richard Nixon resigned the office of the Presidency in August 1974. I can still see images in my head of the Senate hearings that led to his downfall playing out on our TV but honestly, I didn't follow it all that closely. I was too busy learning how to shotgun beers and trying not to sabotage my life beyond repair than I was concerned about current events. I would develop an interest years/decades later. There's an excellent podcast called Slow Burn by Leon Neyfakh that details much of what led up to Nixon's demise and the shifting support for him along the way. It's fascinating listening.

Had Alexander Butterfield (during the Senate Watergate hearings) never mentioned the tape recording system that Nixon had installed in the Oval Office, it's likely Nixon never would've had to resign in disgrace. And had there been a Fox News with the likes of Fox and Friends or Sean Hannity to bolster support for Nixon, it's also very possible he would've finished his term. That we have a large percentage of our population tuning into propagandists such as Hannity or Limbaugh or other conservative media voices for direction is disheartening. I actually know people who believe in Hannity's "deep state" nonsense. The investigation into Trump* was entirely Republican-led and is now entirely being buried by Republicans. I fully support efforts by Democrats in the House of Representatives leading an investigation of their own into what is likely the most corrupt administration in our country's history. You don't get to obstruct an investigation into wrongdoing and then claim exoneration because your obstruction was successful.

We need to hear from Don McGahan because McGahn is to Trump* what Nixon's Oval Office tapes were to him. They both hold incriminating secrets. And just as Nixon tried to suppress his tapes from scrutiny, Trump is attempting to suppress McGahn's testimony. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

We're about to have a national conversation about abortion now that Republican-led states are feeling emboldened by a more conservative SCOTUS and are making challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. What they may want to keep in mind is that Roe v. Wade was decided in a 7-2 decision with 5 of the 7 Justices having been appointed by Republican Presidents. While conservatives love to blame Democrats for legalized abortion in the U.S., they seem unaware that they have their elected leaders to blame (or thank) for it.

There was a time not all that many years ago when you could find me marching with pro-life supporters at the Capitol in St Paul on a cold Monday in January. That seems a lifetime ago to me now. My world is no longer so black and white. In those days, I never once stopped to consider the woman who found herself pregnant with no support, say nothing of a decent paying job with benefits to see her through her pregnancy and for months afterward. And what about the cost of childcare in the years to come? We don't live in an Ozzie and Harriet world, and unplanned/unwanted pregnancies happen. I now get that. But most of all, I get that it's not my place to decide what a woman should or shouldn't do in whatever circumstance she finds herself.

For those trying to use scripture to support their pro-life values—think again. Yes, I've read all of the scripture purporting to show that God is a pro-life God, that he knew you in your mother's womb and such, but does this sound pro-life? There are many other biblical examples.

I truly am hoping for an honest discussion about abortion so that the lies being told by Trump* can be corrected. Doctors aren't taking newborn babies, wrapping them warmly in blankets and then conferring with the baby's mother as to whether or not they're going to kill it. That's just such a ridiculous thing for anyone to say.

A couple of years ago, author Patrick S. Tomlinson penned the following scenario as a way of making a point for those who say that life begins at conception. He details a scenario whereby you are in a fertility clinic when the fire alarm goes off. Before you escape you have the option to save either a 5-year-old child who is pleading for help or a container of 1000 viable human embryos.

Do you A) save the child, or B) save the 1000 embryos? he asks.

There is no "C". "C" means you all die.

Which would you choose?

That's all I've got

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Goodbye My Little Buddy

This is a blog post I've not looked forward to writing. Toby is gone, and with him, a huge piece of my heart is gone as well. The feeling of emptiness that follows a loss like this is profound for me. The color drains from my world and a mild depression takes hold. There's nowhere I can go in our home without some small reminder that he's no longer with us and with each small reminder I feel my heart sink a little more. I was out on a walk with Charlie the day after Toby's passing and imagining that he was with us and recalling all of his special places he liked to pause and sniff. I talked to him as though he could hear me and I told him how much I loved and missed him. My sunglasses hid my tears from passers-by. I wish we'd had one more walk together where I let him sniff as long as he wanted and where I didn't try and hurry him along in the slightest.

In the end, I didn't want to let him go, thinking that we could keep him comfortable and that the increased pain he was moaning so loudly about the previous night was just temporary. He seemed so normal when we arrived home from Babbitt on Tuesday afternoon. We had already scheduled an appointment with our vet for 3:30—in less than two hours. Reluctantly, we stuck with the plan and made the quiet drive into Farmington with Toby in Tammy's arms. And at precisely 3:30, with a small whimper, he was gone. I'd never broken down in front of the vet before in an end of life situation, always able to keep my composure until reaching the relative privacy of my car but not this time. There was no holding these tears back for either of us. I closed his eyes and kissed him one last time before turning toward the door with an emptiness in my heart that I don't think I've ever felt before. We held each other in the car and cried for our loss. It's been especially difficult for Tammy because she's still deeply grieving the loss of her mother just eight days earlier.

We received a card in the mail yesterday from our veterinarian. I opened it to find a sympathy card and inside it, 4 cards with Toby's pawprints. I burst into tears at the sight of it. I know this emptiness will lift in time but for now, I'm okay with feeling the pain of losing him. He was such a big part of my life. To allow him to pass with little more than a ripple before resuming my life wouldn't be right. I'll stay in this pain for a while and reminisce about what a special being he was and how he brought so much joy to my world and how I'm missing him dearly.

Some thoughts about Toby in the following paragraphs.

Toby was such a mellow and sweet boy, seldom ever raising his voice toward another dog and never toward a person. Here's a rare video of him barking in his younger days. And he had the sweetest kisses. Up until a few years ago when it became somewhat difficult for him, he used to pause at least once on every walk, look back at me and jump up to give me a kiss as I bent down toward him. He would then hurry along to resume his walk. It was one of the small things I'd live for. We literally walked thousands of miles together. He loved his walks as much as he loved his treats. He was a master at leading us over to the kitchen drawer that contained our pups treats. It was impossible for me to deny him in those moments where he was communicating his wants so clearly—prancing his way over to their special drawer.

I recall the time Tammy had all three pups at the dog park near Cleary Lake. I was riding my bike past the park when I saw them. I pulled over and we chatted. After a few minutes, I pedaled away and noticed that Toby was running so hard along the fenceline to try and keep up with me. He strained a muscle in his effort and had a limp for a few days afterward. He just wanted to be with me. It's a memory that will remain with me forever.

I always let him choose the direction our walks would take us. He wasn't at all an alpha male but he liked to be in the lead on our walks. Seldom would he ever choose the same direction two days in a row, always preferring to change it up. His favorite walk was the Fleet Farm loop because it was typically the longest route we'd routinely take at 2.4 miles (3.8 km). I didn't always have time for that length of walk (especially when I was still working) so Toby would try and get me to follow him across Jonquil Ave, knowing that if he got me to cross the street, we were in for the full Fleet Farm loop. I can still see him crossing Jonquil and looking back to see if I was following. How could I say no? It's been more than a year since he's led me on that route, knowing his limitations. I did the Fleet Farm loop with Charlie on Thursday morning in memory of Toby. It was sad to not have him with us.

Up until 2-3 years ago, it was common to come into the laundry room from the garage and see a shoe out of place on the rug. It meant that Toby had been there, quietly chewing on its laces. He wasn't destructive—just gnawing on them and making them wet. I would smile whenever I'd see that telltale sign of what he'd been up to.

In the last couple of years, he'd lost much of his vision and most of his hearing but that didn't stop him from wanting to go for his walks. And up until just a couple of weeks ago, he would still like to turn on the speed at least once each walk and have Charlie and me running to keep up with him.

I was watching some videos of our pups a few nights ago when they were just a year old. There's one video where Rachel was practicing playing her violin and it was (I think) hurting Allie's ears. She would cry out in protest at Rachel's feet. Charlie heard the video and had to chime in. It's cute.

I was in contact with a friend recently who works a lot with dogs. I was telling him of Toby's failing health and seeking advice on when it's time to say goodbye. He told me that there's a window of time where it's the right time: too soon and you live with the regret that you could've had more time together, and conversely, too late and your pet suffers needlessly. Toby was definitely within the window of time Jim was speaking of.

I was able to spend more than four hours in the car with Toby as we drove back from Babbitt on Tuesday morning after attending Tammy's mother's funeral. He seemed so content, at times sitting up in his seat and looking around. We stopped at the Warming House Coffee Shop in Cloquet where I bought a decaf coffee and a ham sandwich. Toby used to love to drink the dregs of my coffee but not on this day. He did, though, happily take all of the ham from my sandwich. It would be his last meal.

I have to keep reminding myself that we gave him a very good life, as if that will help alleviate the sadness I'm feeling. What I wouldn't give to go back in time and relive the last ten years again. We all had so much fun together. If nothing else, Toby's passing has reaffirmed in me how precious life is and how every day matters with the ones you love. Make the most of your time with them.

You will always have a huge piece of my heart, little buddy. I will always love you. Until we meet again.