Friday, April 30, 2010

Tony Baloney - The Love of my Life - Sorry, Jimmy (Part Four & FINAL)

                           Which one is Tony?  Which is his toy?
It’s two and a half years since Sheri and Old Mike talked me into taking Tony into my life. Remember Sheri predicted she’d either be a hero or I’d hate her?

Well, plans are in the works to invite everyone I know to a special award ceremony where I will present her with a genuine imitation diamond studded Tony Baloney statue. Details to follow.

Sharing my life and my bed and my lap and my arms with this ridiculously sweet soul (Tony, not Sheri) has been the most healing and life affirming thing I’ve done since Jimmy died.

As I zip around my neighborhood I bring Tony along. Aside from restaurants and the Post Office (because it’s a Federal building) he’s allowed and welcomed everywhere.

At my age maintenance is a constant and so are visits to my hair and nail salon Maximus. Tony is the unofficial mascot and if I show up without him I’d better have a good reason.

His “aunts and uncles” there scoop him up, walk him from sink to color to the front desk.

Tony jumps onto my lap and hangs with me and other customers say “My dog would never sit like that.” I don’t tell Tony we’re going to Maximus. To him it’s called “Hi Tony” because that’s what he hears there continually.

This is all good. I just wish I could push a button and delete the memory of what happened when I first showed Tony to Fanny, my mother-in-law. She lives in a condo development where all front doors and small porches follow each other around in a circle. The coveted parking spots are in the center.

I  called to say I was coming by with Tony. I was sure she would be negative, “Oh, what do you want a dog for? It will only tie you down.” Instead, Fanny greeted me outside where practically all of her neighbors were sitting in front of their homes.

I parked and stood with Tony feeling like I was on stage in a theatre in the round. Fanny, well meaning Fanny (the word ‘mean’ is in well meaning) announced (loud because she’s 90 and basically deaf) to all...

“Oh, look – my daughter-in-law has a companion – someone to greet her – She won’t come home to an empty house anymore.” I wanted the ground to lift up and swallow me.

Maybe it's because of that that I still worry that I might seem too pathetic to be so joined at the hip with my dog. Wait, do dogs even have hips or maybe they have four hips –two for each set of legs?

Anyway, then I think about how many dog lovers there are out there and there’s no question that even if I weren’t a widow I would be just as smitten with Tony. 

If Tony was only filling a void he’d be sleeping a lot closer to me at night and in the morning I’d send him out to work.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tony Baloney - The Love of my Life - Sorry, Jimmy (Part Three)

“Bones” became “Tony” the very first day. My friend Henry suggested “Find a name that rhymes with Bones. That would make for an easy transition.”
Bone, roam, Scone, Ton…Tony! My new roommate licked my nose. He liked it! He really liked it!

“Baloney” after Tony was a natural, like Knick Knack. Also, it softened the tough guy image. Who’d be afraid of Tony Baloney Soprano?

Tony was able to settle in to his new home quickly because I’m here on my computer most of the day. I appointed him my personal assistant because I’ve always wanted one and the price was right. He literally works for food.

He lay on my lap, slept at my feet and followed me from room to room. From what I’ve heard that’s the job description of a P.A. and he does as good a job as most.

My friends and family were surprised when I told them I got a dog. It’s not like I was talking about it. My nephew Chuck wasn't surprised. He reminded me of a conversation we had only a handful of years before Jimmy died.

“Why don’t you get a dog Aunt Carol? You love dogs.”
“Someday I’ll get a dog, Chuck.”
“When? When will you get a dog?”
“I don’t know. Someday.”
“You really should. You’d be great with a dog.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“So when are you getting one?”
Suddenly Chuck opened his eyes wide like a five year old who’s just been handed an ice-cream cone.
“Oh…I know - When Uncle Jimmy dies, right?”
“I sheepishly nodded yes.”

After we hung up I picked up Tony and a photo of Jimmy and introduced them. “Look Ton – this would have been your Daddy, but wait, not really. If he were here I wouldn’t have you.”

Then I said to Jimmy – “It’s true. I did always figure I'd get a dog after you were gone. I just thought you’d be 80.”

To be continued...(just one more time)

Monday, April 26, 2010

PART TWO - Con't from yesterday - Tony Boloney - The Love of my Life - Sorry, Jimmy

                      Old Mike Visits Tony Boloney March 2010

It took some coaxing but my good friend, and next door neighbor, Sheri convinced me we should follow Old Mike back to his house where one year old Morkie named Bones was waiting for a new mommy. Old Mike had two dogs besides Bones and he couldn’t keep him. The woman who was supposed to take him never showed. Sheri told me it was “fate.” I believe in fate. It makes tragedies and not winning the lottery easier to accept.

The next thing I knew six pounds of furry love was on my lap in the car. Sheri’s face shined a sweet satisfied glow as she drove me and “the new man in your life” home. She began to hum “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof.

At least someone was happy. This tape kept running in my head: “What have I done? This is a huge commitment. I want to travel. Could I take him, leave him? He could easily live fifteen years. I’ll be 72.”

Sheri read my mind. “Well,” she said, “I’ll either be a hero or you’ll hate me.”

As Yentl drove and hummed I scratched his ears and stroked his head and back to relax him. He looked up at me and I noticed his brown eyes were rimmed with a dark line – beautiful how it outlined is blondish and silver fur.

For an instance I was envious that he didn’t need to apply eyeliner to make his eyes “pop.” I shook my head to throw away that deranged thought. I was relieved that I recognized my thinking was deranged. I’m pretty sure that’s a good sign, although I have thought it again and again over the years. I’m pretty sure that’s a bad sign.

I held his head in both my hands and smoothed his fur back. It made his face smaller and more vulnerable and I felt something rise up inside me. I thought of Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor duet, one of my favorites, “The Last Time I Felt Like This I Was Falling In Love.”

I began to sing it to “Bones” but the constant "Matchmaker, Matchmater" tune threw me off.  It’s just as well. It should be a private moment, a moment to bond just Poor Widow Me and my “widow" dog.

The first night he slept with me was all I needed to fall “the rest of the way.” Love with a human is so much more complicated. I hadn’t had a date since high school, but I knew this. I watch a lot of romantic comedies.

To be continued…

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tony Boloney - The Love of my Life - Sorry, Jimmy (Part One)

After the kids moved out I continued to nag Jimmy for a dog.  My empty nest and I didn't want a dog now but it gave me leverage for things I did want.  Over time I perfected the guilt trip.  Not having a dog even got me a trip to Paris one summer.

I had genuinely yearned for a puppy when Jackie and Doug were little and Jimmy's lame excuse was allergies.  Both kids inherited his 'I'm ruining everything' gene.  I was out numbered. 

In the early '80's our only choice for a non-allergic dog was the non-dog, the Poodle.  Poodle people claim their darlings are misunderstood because of poofie haircuts and glitzy grooming but that's like saying Queen Elizabeth would be pretty if she took off that stupid crown and put down her pocketbook once in a while.

Comedian Rita Rudner agrees: "I wonder if other dogs think poodles are a member of a weird religious cult."

If Tony, my non-allergic Yorkie and Maltese combo, had been invented then he may have joined our young family and might have been still alive when Jimmy died. He would have kept the bed warm. That wasn't meant to be.  Tony, as Edith Wharton said of her dog is "A heartbeat at my feet. " He came into my life in August 2007, almost a year and a half later.

The first year fog had evaporated, the seasons had changed twice and I was beginning to understand that this was my life. Jimmy wasn't coming home. I began to prepare for the rest of my life. 

I didn't know it then but it was exactly the right time to meet my Morkie. I, too, was evolving into a new breed.  "Poor Widow Me" was shaky, but I was beginning to lose the "Poor" and starting to plan.  I had a future to attend to. 

Fixing up the backyard was on my list of "things I felt strange doing without Jimmy and yet happy I could do what I wanted."  That list got longer the next year, but that's another blog.

My landscaper Old Mike gave me Tony.  Old Mike had known Jimmy years before and he was one of the guys who watched my back now, was part of my posse.  Women alone need a brother, a brother-in-law, some man to stand beside her to let a car salesman know she's not going to pay the sticker price. I learned this quickly.

Old Mike was in his 70's. I sensed a 'around her I feel guilty to be alive so I'll throw in a free bed of tulips' feeling.'  Would it be wrong to play 'the widow card' and ask him to plant roses as well? 

The truth is I did resent him and his age spots. I resented him right up until that day in my kitchen when he brought up, "I have a dog who needs a home." 

 From that moment on Old Mike's liver spots made him look like a lovable Dalmatian.

To be continued...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Die of a Broken Heart? Not me - I'd Rather Be Run Over By A Bus!

The other night an old friend said: "My mother passed away ten years ago.  Within six months my Dad died, too.  He died of a broken heart."

I asked her how old he was.  "84" was her answer.  I felt a mean smile coming on so I picked up my wine glass to hide behind.  Since my lips were hovering by the rim I took several quick sips.   Now the Cabernet buzz made my big mouth blurt out:

"Well, at 84 anything can happen.  It's almost a decade past life expectancy."

Her face contorted like I had smacked her.  She moved her head from side to side as if to shake out my stinging words.  

"There was nothing wrong with him! There was nothing wrong with him! There was nothing wrong with him!" 

Was she trying to convince me, herself or a jury? 

Fortunately for us both the mature part of me woke up and whispered, "What are you doing, Carol?  She's been romantasizing her father's death for years. Must you destroy that to make a point?"  I almost answered, "Yes, I must!"  But, I didn't. I let it go. 

It didn't let go of me, though.  I fretted the rest of the weekend. It was a natural weekend to fret, though.  Jimmy will be gone four years tomorrow, the 13th. The week, or few days before a death anniversary brings me back to a more vunerable place.

This dying of a broken heart question actually was nicely timed.
Why waste depression?

And why was this such a strong issue for me?  I thought Friendly's Chocolate Cookie Dough ice-cream might hold the answer. It did!  Halfway into my third scoop I had a brain freeze, and when I winced it sent me a message. 


But, that thought and brain freeze only lasted a moment or two. By the time I put my dish in the dishwasher I was free of them both. 

Human beings keep breathing.  This is what we do. We suffer all sorts of bad stuff in our lives and like my fortune cookie told me: "A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water."  I'd like to think this goes for men, too.

Still, I began to ask around.  My friend, whose parents are both in their 80's, told me she was sure if her Mom went first her Dad would die in a few months.  "Oh, please," I said, "Don't put that kind of pressure on him."

Today I posted, "Can you die of a broken heart? (literally) to my Facebook friends - 25 widows and widowers responded YES although I tried to point out that they were alive enough to type.  Some insisted that medically it's a fact - Grieving makes your immune system break down.  Yes, so maybe you'll get a cold or the flu.

Finally, Mickey, (a widower) wrote, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  If you don't believe that you're not dying of a broken heart, you're committing suicide." 

Doesn't that sound sane?

Let's stop this knee jerk reaction and take a step towards healing. In an effort to support one another through rough times are we really helping or feeding that "Poor Widow Me" mentality? 

Personally, I don't want the legacy of being so weak that I died of a broken heart.  I'd rather be hit by a bus...on the way to a party.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Daughter Trys to Steal Widowed Mom's Date

Dear Poor Widow Me,

I lost my husband almost three years ago in a small plane accident. We were married 60 years and have a 44 year old daugher, Lisa.  (NOW she is 44)

Even though I recently turned 83 I began to date trying  Lisa encouraged me and even helped me write my profile and she took my picture.

I just found out that she called both men I dated and asked to meet with them.  Then she told them that they don't hold a candle to her father and for them to leave me alone.  They both called to tell me this. That's how I know. She found their phone numbers on my calendar.

Even more upsetting is that they told me she got all flirty with them and said something like, "Don't you want to touch young soft smooth skin and not a wrinkled old witch?"

First of all - My skin is beautiful.  I have taken excellent care of it.

Second - What is she doing?  Should I bring it up to her?  She has never married and has never had a steady man as far as I know and I would know because she lives with me.

Mom/Widow Miriam

Dear Mom/Widow Miriam,

Next you're going to write to say that your daughter and one of these guys are engaged.  We'd better nip this in the bud.  I'm not sure what a bud is or where to find it but we're going to nip it, Miriam.

Absolutely bring it up to her.  She is certainly not upfront with you about your dating.  Obviously, she resents you and your skin.  She is after your dates and your wrinkle cream and I don't know which is worse.

Get a family therapist involved and quick!

Your daughter sounds like she is an adolescent in an adult body.   And I suspect her body has more mileage on it than you think.