Monday, January 23, 2017

I have no pets.

I know that I'm supposed to show pictures of my pets here, but I have none. Instead, I will simply cut and paste a story about the last pet that I had. I still miss the little guy.

Dinner For One: Part Twenty-Eight “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” –Mark Twain“Only love lets us see normal things in an extraordinary way.” –Author UnknownAs I write this I’ve turned in the latest rewrites on two rather long short stories, resubmitted a series proposal to my agent and have also spent the better part of the last week working the day job without a break. This is my first day off in a while. As you might have guessed, I don’t really do days off very well. There’s not much to them for me. I do the day job and I work: I stay at home and I work. There are exceptions, of course, but not really that many.  That’s okay. I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic. Okay, maybe not always, but since I met Bonnie at the very least. It’s not that I don’t like having fun. I do. I happen to find the notion of having fun high on my list of things I like, in fact, but I don’t always have the same definitions as a lot of people around me. I genuinely enjoy both the day job and the writing. They both help pay my bills, and as an added bonus, the retail gig at Starbucks lets me get out of the house and meet people. Without that one I’d very likely be a hermit.In the morning I will be burying another pet. One of my very rare exceptions and a constant companion for several years. This time around a very special little fellow whose formal name was “Donnie Ducko.” He was named, rather tongue-in-cheek, by Bonnie after the movie we’d watched about a week before, Donnie Darko. As you might have guessed by the name, he was another duck. He was also raised by us from the time he was one day old or less, and he was a bit unique. His nickname was Little Bit, because, of course, he was just a little bit of fluff when we got him.
While we were at the park one day, handling the feeding and care of Bonnie’s adopted masses and keeping them from the road, a man came up with a small blue bucket and asked if we knew anything about baby ducks. Said bucket contained heavily chlorinated pool water and one very tiny duckling. Bonnie immediately said yes. Long story short, we adopted another duck. In this case he’d been caught on the filter door of a swimming pool that had just been bleached. He was caught on the door. His five siblings were pulled into the filtration system and drowned.
Little Bit was not waterproof. The chlorine from the pool had stripped most of his new-hatched glands and he would never be properly waterproof. He was also agoraphobic, and so was an indoor duck.For around nine years he’s been my constant companion. For the last couple of years we mourned Bonnie together, two bachelors in a house with too many rooms and too much junk.
And he is gone. I have no doubt whatsoever that he is winging his way to Bonnie even as I write this. I will miss him very much and I already miss him enough to leave me feeling a little punch-drunk again.
I am remembering in particular a time about five months before Bonnie passed away. As I have said on more than one occasion I was often astounded by her strength: with everything she was going through she kept her good spirits by and large and she fought hard to keep herself alive.  But on that particular night, just as I was putting Little Bit to bed (in his cage in the bathroom, where he could not get into any mischief) I came out and she had tears in her eyes.
Naturally I asked what was wrong. Bonnie looked at me and shook her head and said, “I just love him so much and it kills me to think that he won’t be around as long as me. I don’t think I could take it if he died.” What could I do or say? I held her and reminded her that he would not have even been alive if not for her, and that whatever time he had in the world was a blessing. She cried a bit more and said she knew she was being silly. I told her she wasn't being silly at all. The heart wants what the heart wants, and I have never run across a person who had a good heart that wished to be without their loved ones in this world.
One more reason not to be angry with Bonnie’s passing, I suppose. She did not have the heartbreak of losing her little boy, the closest she truly ever had to a child to call her own.
When I put him in his bath tonight he was quiet and barely swam around. I knew what was coming. As mentioned previously, you get to understand the signs if you look for them. Within an hour he was gone. Nine years, give or take. More than he’d have had in the outside world. Seven years of bringing Bonnie joy every day, even on the rare occasions when she dreaded life without him.
One last time then, I will cry over the loss of a duck. Foolish man that I am, I opened my heart again. It’s almost a guarantee of pain. A promise of suffering to come. I should know that I suppose. Had I a lick of common sense, I would look at the words of Mark Twain that are posted at the top of this particular essay and I would wish desperately to be sane above and beyond all else. Sanity would be wiser, I think. Sanity would mean not opening my heart, not risking my feelings any longer. Not once again testing the human soul’s capacity for grief.
A duck. A waterfowl. A feathered bird that always made Bonnie happier and yes, made the loss of my wife just a tiny bit more tolerable. If sanity and happiness are an impossible combination, than surely sanity and grief must also be impossible. So surely sanity would be the wiser choice.
But there are still people out there who have already won their way past my defenses. And even if I wanted to shut myself off completely from the world, I don’t genuinely believe that would be the wiser thing to do here.
As I write this, a friend of mine is just leaving the hospital with heart troubles. As I write this, another friend is hours or days away from giving birth. As I write this there are people laughing and crying all over the world. As I write this, life is occurring all around us, and death, too. They still go hand in hand, much as I might currently wish for a different end result.
As I write this I find I am once again crying, and trying to find the damned keys on my keyboard past the tears that are blurring my vision. That’s fairly common when I write these particular articles. They deal, unfortunately, with matters of the heart.
As I write this, the logical part of my mind is telling me I’m an ass for crying over a duck and I am gleefully, insanely, telling my mind exactly where it can go and how little I care what logic has to say.Because as I write this, I can remember the sound of Bonnie calling out “Little Bit!” In a loud, joyous voice after we got back from dialysis and I settled her on the bed to rest, and I can also hear the sound of our house duck lifting his head and calling back to her with excitement.
Bonnie was always happy to see her baby boy. And Little Bit, the silly little duck we rescued from a very certain death, the waterfowl who we took home and raised and kept and fed, who spent part of each night on the bed between us and who liked eating lettuce shreds almost as much as he liked throwing them across the room when he was eating them, he was always happy to see his momma. It may not have been a biological thing, but there was most decidedly love and joy between the two of them.
I’m a romantic. I asked him to tell his momma I said hi and that I love her and miss her.
I suspect she already knows.
It is what it is.