I BREAK DOWN SAFELY

A friend told me about an exchange between a grandmother and a young grandson:

“Are you very old?”

“I guess I am.”

“Are you going to die?”

“I guess I am, but not yet.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll do it really good.”

Bernie always said that he had no fear of dying. I can confirm that when he died, I saw no signs of fear at all. But the three years before!

I used to tell him that I didn’t feel much fear of dying either. It’s what comes before—stroke, pain, illness, dependency, loneliness—that gives me pause.

I brought Harry the Cur to Elise McMahon, a highly regarded dog-trainer in these parts, for some help with training. Elise trained our last generation of dogs, Bubale the Pit Bull and Stanley the whatever, and remembered Bernie bringing Bubale to earn her Canine Good Citizenship papers and my bringing Stanley for the same purpose.

We had to do that after someone walked around our property when no one was home, saw a pit bull and a whatever with some tell-tale German Shepherd marks on him, and reported us. We were told that our home insurance was being canceled within the month.

“What do I do?” I asked the company.

“Get rid of those dogs,” was the answer.

“They’re peacemaker dogs,” I told them. “We’re Zen Peacemakers.”

That didn’t have the desired effect. Instead our agent found us another insurance company that was ready to insure us provided both dogs got Canine Good Citizenship papers. And they did.

“You look good,” Elise says this afternoon, 14-1/2 years later.

“Thank you, but I’m in the process of breaking down,” I tell her.

“That’s too bad,” she clucks.

Then we talk about how it’s déjà vu all over again because Harry’s learning how not to jump on food (after finishing half a blueberry pie on Sunday that was left on the table) and how not to jump on people coming through the front door, just like Stanley in a previous generation.

One generation follows another. Elise looks the same except for some very cute blue strands of hair covering her forehead.

When I’m not terribly anxious, I feel fine. My friend and blog mentor, Jon Katz, recently wrote that anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity. I am lately very spiritually insecure. My mind isn’t clear. In making arroz con pollo, I bought fresh olives and put them in back of the cabinet rather than in the refrigerator. I also left the pollo in the car. This morning I managed to lose my car keys, two handfuls of Brussell Sprouts, and Aussie, who loves to run away. I found everything except for the Sprouts.

This is the time of dismantling and being dismantled. It doesn’t feel so great. But I’m remembering our meetings in Rapid City, South Dakota, with our Native American hosts. One of them, Violet Catches, came late from Pine Ridge due to the funeral of her aunt and a malfunctioning car. When she arrived in dangerous, sub-zero weather someone said to her, “You arrived safely.”

“I broke down safely,” Violet said.

I wrote it down right away. That’s me in a nutshell. I break down safely.