Minnie and BowWow Discuss Bow-Shaming


BowWow: This bow makes me look really stupid.

Minnie: I think it’s very becoming. It’s nice to get a bath and a haircut and then have a little bow or something to pretty things up.

BowWow: Pretty things up? I’m a DOG. The haircut they gave me makes me look like a stuffed animal. Pisses me off. Every time I come home looking like part of somebody’s Easter basket. I wish they had more manly cuts. You know, like a fade.

Minnie: A fade? You want the groomer lady to give you a fade? Maybe she could shave BW on each side right behind your little teeny ears.

BowWow: Don’t mock me. Help me get this bow off.

Minnie: No.

BowWow: Well, how the fuck am I going to get it off myself? I don’t have hands, remember? And it’s too close to bite. But you aren’t.

Minnie: I don’t respond well to threatening talk. What is it with males that you all have to be so bellicose?

BowWow: Belliclose? I’m not that close to you. And besides she’s got us crammed into one seat. I’m like hanging on the fucking edge here. Belliclose. Fuck that.

Minnie: Oh good grief. BelliCOSE. Like Donald Trump. Yelling about things, threatening to send people to Mexico, promising to bomb countries on Day One. Bellicose. You’re a great friend, BowWow, but sometimes I wish you were a bit more sophisticated.

BowWow: Do you mind if I lick your collar for a while?

Minnie: Yes! I do mind. Just keep your creepy tongue to yourself. Looks to me like you’ve got a lot of nice shaved parts to check out. Why don’t you go ahead and do that and I’ll tell you when we’re almost home.

BowWow: I get out first. Remember that. I’m first. Me first. The guy’s first. That’s the deal.

Minnie: No problem, BW.   I would have to step over you anyway.




So, How Was Your Day?

‘You know, he’s like a BB in a bare room.’

My brother used to say that. Man, I love that. So descriptive. Roll here, hit the wall, roll there, hit the other wall. You have to have kind of a level house though for the analogy to work. Otherwise, the BB rolls to a corner and just stays there.

That ought to happen in my house because it’s old and out of kilter. Another phrase I love. Things and people can be out of kilter.

So reflections on my day can be either like a BB in a bare room or out of kilter. Or both.

There was a massive white freighter just off shore on Lake Michigan this afternoon. I pulled over to marvel at it but when I took its picture, it seemed small and unimpressive. Writing that, I know at least one person who will quickly correct me. It’s not a freighter, it’s a cargo ship, a cruise ship, the Sloop John B. That’s fine. Be right.

As one reader keeps reminding me, it’s shallow to worry about one’s looks but at a meeting today I pondered the oft-visited question, should I go without pantyhose? When I go without, I feel like I’m going to meetings in my nightgown. When I do, I feel like somebody’s grandma. Oh wait….

I almost fell over in Tai Chi trying to twist around to watch the teacher doing amazing slow motion hand jive. I could never learn the actual hand jive and have almost no muscle memory except typing which I think I learned as a baby because my father was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to make a living which now makes me think that he gave up early on any plan to make sure that I married well. I not only married well but I type like a bat out of hell. Time me.

I was wrong about somebody and corrected that today, with the somebody. I love people who do that and I’m one of them.

The date for my cochlear implant surgery seems to be set which made me elated to the point of tears but has caused me to wonder how much of my current personality has been formed by being so communication-impaired. My life is on paper. I like it like that but I think it will change. Maybe I will need a reintegration coach.

In the hour between Tai Chi and a meeting, I went for a drive along the lake in my old convertible. And like I do every time I drive with the top down, I love the sky and the clouds, the lake in the distance, my good fortune, my long life, and my beautiful car. No one talks to me in the car and I never listen to the radio. I don’t have to.

Being there is enough.

Life This Morning

My people don’t talk in the waiting room.  They are already tired from asking directions at the front desk and figuring out the receptionist’s instructions. Once they are sitting down and waiting to be called, they want to be left alone. After all these years of becoming increasingly deaf, I know what other hearing impaired people are thinking.

Don’t talk to me.

Don’t talk to me. I’m saving my concentration and effort for the doctor. He’s the one I need to hear today. You look nice. But don’t talk to me.

I look from one door to the other, worried that if I look down at my phone to kill time, someone will call my name and I won’t hear. So I’m vigilant. Waiting and vigilant. I don’t want to be caught unaware, be the person whose name is called over and over, appear to be really far gone, need an escort to do this simple thing. Go see a surgeon about a cochlear implant. I can do this on my own.

A young couple with a baby in a stroller sits down a few seats over. The mom fills out paperwork while dad looks straight ahead. They both look at the baby, a boy maybe a year or so old, when he drops his little fire truck on the floor. His mother bends over to pick it up and he drops his other toy, obliging her obvious interest in retrieving his belongings. They keep looking at him, saying nothing but radiating their disapproval of his dropping things and the boy sits still. Silently chastised.

I wonder why they are there. I wonder if the baby is deaf.

My name is called and I see the doctor. He explains the surgery. He tells me how he’ll make an incision behind my ear and create a pocket to hold the internal receiver. Then he will bore a hole through the mastoid bone and thread a wire with electrodes on the end into the area of my cochlea. Then he will stitch everything up and I will wait two weeks for the implant to be turned on. When it’s turned on, it will take weeks or months to get used to.

He says to me, “your word recognition will improve a lot.” And when he says this, I get tears in my eyes. Here is the only place people know how bad it is. There are numbers on the paper, measurements “Your word recognition without looking at someone is almost non-existent. This will change that.”

I feel like someone is airlifting me from a sinking ship.

A doctor is holding the door open for the couple with the baby and keeps holding it open for me. We all go back to the waiting room and then down the hall to where the elevators are. I look sideways at mom and she is crying. Dad says nothing and the baby looks at me. I wave at him. I wonder if he knows to wave. His parents are silent and miserable but he isn’t. He is being a baby.

I head to the bathroom. When I come out of the stall, mom is changing baby’s diaper. It is silent in the bathroom. The baby placid and happy. But I know mom is still crying. I think about talking to her but I know she might say things that are important that I won’t hear. She is a new person. New people take so much time for me to learn to hear. A second in a bathroom wouldn’t be enough.

So I leave the bathroom and I see dad waiting. He is solemn, his hands on the baby’s stroller like he is a taxi driver waiting for a tardy fare. Sadness covers him like a sheet. Is he sad for his boy or his wife? I don’t know. I have no way of knowing.

At that moment, I want to be their mother. I want to wait with him until she comes out of the bathroom. I want to hold their hands and I want to tell them, “Pull together or you will pull apart,” a lesson I’ve learned from a long marriage that has had some hardships. “The silence will kill you,” I want to say to them.

“Don’t let the silence kill you.”

Finding the Narrow Lane

Brian Rea, NYT

Brian Rea, New York Times, 2011

Four years ago, I sat in bed on Sunday morning and, in a state of disbelief and incredible gratitude, read my essay in the New York Times. The Times’ editor gave the piece the title, “Fury Cannot Touch Me.”

The title seemed overly dramatic to me but as years have passed, I see it as the essence of being a grandparent. Being the port in the storm and not being in the storm or causing the storm is the beauty part and the hard part of being a grandparent. It’s important that the fury not touch me or the people who seek my shelter.

Not that it is always easy. It has required a redefining of my lane in life, of what is my business and what isn’t. Hard challenge for someone who used to feel that everything fell in her job description. I had an opinion about everything and no hesitation to express it. It sometimes put me in the thick of things when I should have been reading a good novel somewhere off to the side.

My lane narrows and that’s good. It also has fewer on-ramps and that’s good. And my people have their own lives to live and that’s good.  Still I watch the weather very closely, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I’m proud of this piece of writing but prouder still of what I learned writing it. Writing’s like that, sorts out things that seem messy or unrelated, puts borders and sense around things, shows the way for the future. That’s what I love about it.


“Fury Cannot Touch Me,” Modern Love, New York Times, September 29, 2011

I Lost the Rule Book


When she’s here, I make a bed on the floor next to our bed by stacking comforters and pillows. I turn down the blankets and put a stuffed animal on the pillow and my nine-year old granddaughter climbs in and goes right to sleep.

She ought to be sleeping in her own room. None of our own kids ever slept in our room except one very sick boy, fresh from being adopted in Nicaragua, who was sweating through the flu. He was sticky and fretting all night, his diaper sodden and reeking in the morning. “That’s the last night he’s spending in here,” my husband said in the morning, “That’s it.”

I pretended to disagree but didn’t really.

I had enough of my kids during the day. There was no reason to sleep with them, too.

But now I don’t care if my granddaughter is sleeping on the floor next to our bed. I don’t even need a reason. If she was thirty and visiting, I’d probably be curious. But now? I don’t care. She visits. She’s here for a night and then she goes home. Whether I let her sleep on the floor next to our bed or insist that she sleep in her room is just so many angels on the head of a pin.

Who really cares?

It makes me wonder how many meaningless things I worried about when I was raising my four children. So many things fell under the rubric of ‘preventing chaos,’ as in chaos will result if people are sleeping on the floor or eating pizza for breakfast or wearing the same shirt five days in a row.

What would have happened if I hadn’t cared? Would there have been more energy for other things? Like reading books or having conversations?  Not their books necessarily or conversations with them but overall, would I have had more time for life had I not been focusing on each one’s shirt-wearing behavior?

The forensic detective in me wants to go back and dust for evidence, find a link between my oatmeal obsession  (not for me, for them) and their success in life. What exactly was the ROI (Return on Investment) of my elaborate chaos prevention program?

Two of my four children always eat breakfast. None of them sleeps on the floor. When I see them now and then, none of them seems to have on the same clothes. I think these achievements are substantial but might have occurred without me.

I pose this question – whether I worried about the right things when my children were growing up – for no particular or useful reason. As mothers we both grossly over and underestimate our important in our children’s lives. When I finally sort this out, I will be staring at the satin lining of my casket.

But right now? It matters not. I had my run with my children. The season for chaos prevention has passed. I relax into chaos. I am at home with chaos.

I may sleep on the floor myself.