waiting for a parent to die

A fear that looms large in our childhoods and throughout our lives.

There comes a point (around age 30?  40?  50?) when we start to feel lucky.  Our parents have beat the averages.  We’ve seen our friends go through this while our parents are still with us.  We’ve talked about mom and dad with people who have no mom and dad.

The fear eventually becomes anticipation, and then expectancy.

We’re lucky if we have time to say the things we need to say.

But what about the time after the things have been said, while the fragile consciousness slowly slips away?

And it nears — this approaching shift, this moment, when we become the orphan?  We enter a stage of exquisite, unmatched drama.  What about this time?

It’s so close, yet so far away.  The way we measure time disappears entirely.  Hours.  Days.  Weeks.  These concepts lose their meaning.

Each moment in our lives become stretched to the snapping point, while we wait for the singular moment that we know, in days to come, we’ll never forget.

If we take the time to make a pot of coffee or take a walk or go to that Christmas party or take a long, long shower — this could have been time we could have put to other use.  This could have been time spent with Mom.  This could have been the last chance to see her alive.  What about that pot of coffee?  Or that…anything…

And is time itself really that precious?  So full of choice and possibility?  Did it take this long to learn something this simple?  This basic?

Certainly this applies to death and dying and loss, whether it’s a parent or another loved one.

But the loss of a parent is the one that has other implications.  It puts down a marker.

And I wait…

Losing some weight with 'my favorite foods'

I’ve lost eleven pounds the past four weeks and plan to lose a little more.

Using a great little iPhone app called Lose It! It’s basically an easy way to log food and count calories.

Lose It! also has a website that offers a forum, social networking, and some interesting reports.  When data is entered on the phone, it’s immediately recorded on the website.  The site, however, doesn’t allow data entry; that’s strictly on the iPhone.

It’s actually been quite easy.  The biggest change I’ve made is cutting down on bread.  I love bread.  I’m also eating smaller portions of rice and pasta.  I also love rice and pasta.

I’ve increased my yogurt intake substantially.

Today, I took a look at the website and noticed it records my favorite foods.  No surprises here, since they are, after all, my favorite foods.

reduced calorie bread
half & half
brown rice
reduced calorie cheese
another kind of yogurt

The Tipping Point (lowering my IQ just enough to do something stupid)

This past year I’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s books in reverse order, and just finished his first book, The Tipping Point. In it, he explains, among other things, how the little things, the things in the margin, often make all the difference.

Such was the case with something I did last night.

Apparently, I pulled a muscle, sort of close to the hip region. It’s a very minor injury, nothing a couple of Ibuprofens can’t handle. I’ll probably forget about it by the middle of the week. But it hurts a bit, and it’s an aggravation.

stupid cartoonI did this because I was stupid — and the reason I was stupid was because I drank two beers.

Those two beers, in combination with other things I was doing, caused me to reach the tipping point, in terms of stupidity.

That is, two beers in three hours is not enough to make me drunk, but it’s enough to lower my IQ just enough to do something stupid.

Here’s how it happened:

A few days ago, I weighed.

I noticed that I’ve gained six pounds in the past year — despite the fact that I set a goal to walk 10,000 steps per day and have done so each and every day since January 1, 2009.

I needed to lose twenty, and I gained six (I didn’t weigh all year — a bad sign).

Having watched Michelle Obama on Larry King Live (followed the next evening by a discussion of Bill Clinton’s heart situation), I decided to go on a diet.

Twenty-five years ago, I became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and I thought about going back.

But, I don’t feel like it. I love the Weight Watchers program, but don’t enjoy the meetings that much — especially since I’m usually the only man in the room. And I don’t feel like wracking my brain trying to learn whatever new calorie counting system they’re currently using. And I don’t feel like spending that money.

So, I checked my trusty 2G iPhone and found Lose It! — a free app that is excellent.

Lose It! allows me to input my weight, my goal weight, and how many pounds a week I want to lose. Then it assigns a number of calories to consume each day and calculates the date on which I will reach my goal.

I’ve used a similar system before, years ago — a Weight Watchers knockoff for the Palm Pilot. iPhone is much, much quicker.

It’s quite easy to enter food as it’s consumed, along with exercise.

I had the choice of losing one, one and a half, or two pounds a week. One pound a week gets me to October before reaching goal. Too long.

Two pounds a week is quicker, but not enough food.

I chose one and a half pounds per week.

In order to reach my goal by July 10, 2010, I’m allowed slightly better than 1600 calories per day. With my walking and yoga included, I’m able to eat a bit over 2,000 calories a day.

I’m already a vegetarian, and quite a healthy eater, and I quickly learned that this constriction is no problem, as long as I drastically reduce the amount of bread and pasta in my diet (my weakness, and the source of my weight gain).

Which brings me to last night. I went out on the town and drank two beers, my usual number. This is not a daily practice, but something I enjoy doing once, twice, or zero times a week.

In any case, last night I entered the two beers on Lose It! before drinking the beer.

When I got home, about midnight, I had about 300 calories left to consume.

Confession:  I’m a night owl and often do exactly what everybody says not to do.  I eat snacks late at night (usually in the form of a sandwich).

Last night, I had a bowl of black beans, with salsa, and still had over 100 calories to go.

That’s when I did the stupid thing that I would not have done had it not been for that damned beer lowering my IQ.

I ate some sesame crackers — and I ate them very carefully.

According to the information on the cracker box and the calorie count on my pedometer, I would have been fine eating four crackers.

And here’s where I got stupid. I ate five.

The reason I ate five is because five is the “serving size,” according to the box, and required no additional math on my part (this, despite the fact that Ak-Mak crackers are packaged with four crackers per section).

And I ate five because that beer had me wanting one more cracker, and I thought it would be no sweat paying for it by burning thirty more calories.

But it was actually a bit of a chore.

I walked around the kitchen and the calorie counter on the pedometer barely registered an increase.

So I went outside and walked up the street a bit.

Having consumed those beers, I didn’t have the intelligence to wear a coat.

Thirty calories is not a long walk. Halfway up the block and back was sufficient. But it was quite cold, and I wanted to get back inside the house, so I started running.

Hence, the tipping point.

Breaking into a sprint, on a cold night, slightly under the influence, was stupid.

My weight loss program is right on track, but I’ve got a pulled muscle to show for it.

My daughters’ puppies died too young

Last night, my daughter’s new puppy died from Parvo.

It’s hard to lose a pet, especially a dog.  They are nothing but love.

We never knew the puppy personally.  Sarah lives in Alaska.  We did know how much she wanted and loved it.  She visited the puppy in the shelter since it was three weeks old and finally brought it home — only to have it live two weeks.

Murphy, Sarah's puppy
Murphy, Sarah’s puppy

In those two weeks, she posted pictures on Facebook and asked her friends to suggest names.  She named it Murphy.  When the dog became sick, she posted updates about her feelings and about Murphy’s battle.

I’ve always been a liberal Democrat and disagree with most things Charles Krauthammer writes — but I was very moved by a column he wrote in 2003 about losing his dog.  At the time, we had just lost our dog, Honey.

He talks about growing up in a city apartment with few pets, and then being introduced to the joy of dogs by his wife.

This is the concluding passage that has stayed with me:  “Some will protest that in a world with so much human suffering, it is something between eccentric and obscene to mourn a dog. I think not. After all, it is perfectly normal, indeed, deeply human to be moved when nature presents us with a vision of great beauty. Should we not be moved when it produces a vision — a creature — of the purest sweetness?”

His column is available here.

I also remember hearing an interview on NPR about how much we learn about loss — and the human condition itself — from having pets.

Our dog, Honey, died a week after her first birthday.  I had just gotten my video camera and recorded the grand event, which was carefully arranged by my other daughter (see video below).

Honey spent her days at my parents’ house, with my parents’ dog, Zellie.  Zellie, who is still my mother’s constant companion, was Honey’s mother. My younger daughter — whose life revolved around this dog — visited my father each day after school, while we — her parents — worked.  She played cards with my dad, sometimes for hours, and then put Honey on a leash and walked the three blocks home, often stopping to discuss dog ownership with all the other dog owners in the neighborhood.  When she was outside, Honey required a leash at all times, and we had several of them.

Honey’s miracle was that she was a total surprise.  My parents thought Zellie had been spayed and didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth. My daughter had been begging for a dog for years — so she had her puppy only minutes after it was born.

At one point, when Zellie was nursing her two puppies, the proud mother found a baby possum outside and brought into the bed with her puppies.

I remarked to my father, “She can’t tell the difference between a possum and a puppy.”

“She also can’t count very well,” my father said.

She kept bringing baby possums in and I had to eventually take that possum deep into the woods and let it go.

The tragedy occurred when the guy who mowed my parents’ lawn left without closing the fence gate.  Honey and her mother, Zellie, decided to leave the yard.  Zellie came back home.  Honey was Lhasa, part Jack Russell, and part Chiwawa — and much younger.  She sprinted two blocks and got hit by a car.  The person who hit her took her to the vet’s office.  It was our vet, and we found her there after an afternoon of frantic searching.

We do learn about grief, whether we want to or not.  Sarah, I’m sorry about your broken heart.  I wish you weren’t so far away.  I’m glad we have Facebook.  I know, with Parvo, you have to wait before getting another dog.  But when you do, I can’t wait to see the pictures.