In Memory of Riley

The things that happen one Sunday afternoon while you are completely unaware.  Just a normal Sunday afternoon where I am doing something really cool, and find out something happened suddenly.  The way life is, most days.  There’s this great video I watch anytime I am having a bad day and while it may not make me feel better, it makes that day suck a little bit less.  In that video there’s a line that says that the real worries in your life is something that will find you on some idle Tuesday.  It also says that your life is 50% chance, just like everybody else’s.  I just got finished putting a peanut butter cheesecake in the oven and decided to call to wish the old man a happy birthday.  That’s when I found out what happened.  The family dog, Riley, had seized.  It was bad.  Now his mind appeared to be gone and he was running around smashing into things.  He wasn’t getting better.  There was nowhere they could take him.  After all his health troubles up to this point, it was clear what had to be done.  Call my old man callous for ending the dog’s pain with a bullet instead of an injection, but it was quick and he didn’t suffer.  That’s more than most can say.

Riley was the offspring of our old dog Zoey, who I did an In Memory post for.  She was given to me after a major surgery.  A pure-bred lab, she was an awesome dog.  But she was not my dog.  Not by a long shot.  Just like her puppy, she was my old man’s dog.  Everywhere he went, she followed.  We bred her with another pure-bred lab and had a whole bunch of puppies.  Riley was unique among them.  The whole lot of them were black as obsidian, except him.  He was white as a sheet.  Little albino dog.  The only one from the litter the family kept, he was the most loyal dog you could imagine.

More than a little of a momma’s boy, everywhere that Zoey went, he went.  Everything that she did, he did.  Make no mistake, for how much bigger he got than her, it was clear that she was the top dog.  It was so fun to watch when he would finally get on her nerves and she would run his big ass down and bowl him over and get on top of him in an act of dominance.  Like the wolves they descended from, she is the alpha dog.  Of that there is no question.  And he was a good kid.

However, like I said, he was most definitively the old man’s dog.  I told this story in the post for Zoey, but I knew who everyone was at the house on the lake by how they walked.  My cave was in the basement, and everyone in the family had their own walk.  Sally (my mother) was always slow and plodding.  She was never in a hurry.  My sister’s walk was angry.  A fitting theme, since anger is her stock and trade.  But the old man always had the clickety-click of doggy feet behind him.  Everywhere that he went, those two were there.  If he was out plowing snow, they were in the plow truck with him.  If he was on the 4-wheeler doing work outside, they were on the back.  It was kinda cute how the two would fight over who got to sit on his lap when he would be watching the news at night.  Never would he have let that be the case when he was younger.  My old man got so much more lenient as his years are getting on.

For example, every day that Sally would leave for work in the summer and he didn’t have to go to work, the two would be up on the bed.  He would bemoan how spoiled the two are, but deep down I knew that he kinda liked having two big pals to do stuff with.  I was never big on the outdoor stuff or the vehicle stuff, so he got to have a couple of happy helpers to be with him.

When Zoey passed, I think it hit Riley hard.  Dogs process death differently than us, and he was a very lonely dog for some time.  But then he came back and life resumed for the big white mutt.  For a couple years he was the only family dog and he was just like Zoey.  Everywhere the old man went, there he was.  If anything, he was much more insisting than his mummy-dog.  He had to absolutely be involved with everything.

Then things took a turn.  He had a health problem which caused one of his eyes to be in a massive amount of pain, all the time.  This was on top of digestion issues and fatty deposits he had.  Pure-bred dogs have a lot more health problems than mutts, and he was no exception.  After surgery to remove the eye that was in pain, he was a happy dog again.  But his health had been declining more and more.  Today, it all came to a head.  As was told to me on the phone, he started having seizures and then subsequently running around and losing it.  He was smashing into things, like he couldn’t tell where he was or what he was doing.  I was told that the old man took him outside to where he wanted to lay him to rest, next to Zoey, and ended it.  Once-again, think him callous, but he did what had to be done to stop his pain.  My family isn’t rich, and his mind was gone. I can’t imagine how much it hurt, but the deed is done.

Riley was a good boy, and while he wasn’t my dog, I am going to miss him.  He was a good boy, and now my parents only have one pet left – my cat.  And her health is declining fast.  She’s completely deaf and I think she is really scared at night.  She yowls like she is in pain, but I don’t think she is.  During the day she is alright.  I think her vision is going too and she’s scared.  Her hair is getting matted and she sleeps virtually non-stop.  I think this will be her last winter too.  I suddenly am feeling very alone out here. But all that is a post for another day.  I’m really tired right now, and I got laundry to do.  Being an adult sucks.

Until next time, a quote,

“A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” – Josh Billings

Peace out,

Maverick

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In Memory, In Ink

I have a friend named Quinn.  Ever since she was ten years old, she lost the ability to speak.  She got incredibly sick.  It was a disease that caused massive inflammation all over her body.  She nearly died.  A fever of 104, death nearly came for her but she came back from it.  Now she no longer has the ability to speak.  It’s been a very hard life for her.  You don’t really think about the value that the ability to speak has until you lose it.  So much of her life was hurt, and she has been trying to come back from it for as long as she could.

Through all of that, there was her incredibly supportive mother.  Even when she found out that her daughter was gay, and her father kicked her out of the house, her mother did everything she could to help her.  To the point that they ended up getting a nasty divorce because the mother hated the father for how he treated their daughter, which in turn translated into how well he treated her sister because she was the child he had always wanted.  Meanwhile, Quinn had her mother.  When she was really little, as I understand it, Quinn was a very talkative little kid.  Her mother called her “Chatty Monkey.”  It was with this in mind that when she died, Quinn had an idea for a tat.  But since she has no artistic talent, it just stayed as an idea, until now.  With the help of my dear friend Kathryn, it has finally come to fruition.  As it will when it is immortalized on Quinn’s skin forever.  One of three tats, all of which have great significance for her.

16901932_10155070158909111_1716337255_nThe monkey is to stand for the nickname that her mother had for her all her life.  The gun is because her mother was a crack-shot, most specifically with a revolver.  The smoke is because, the unfortunate truth is that her mother was a chimney.  You can extrapolate how she died based on that.  Woman went through a pack a day.  I try not to judge how people live, but as her coughing got worse, even Quinn felt terrible.  The woman left our state to go be in a warmer climate, and it did help.  But it only went so far.

A wonderful woman has passed away.  She left a legacy of a connection between mother and daughter that is unmatched, from a girl who life has been horribly unkind to.  How people keep their memories close.  Quinn is putting this memory on her hip.  So when you see this image, keep in mind the connection it symbolizes.  Let me know the connections that you have with people who have left your life and how you keep that alive in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss in life is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins

Peace out,

Maverick

In Memory of Ellis and Betty White

Ellis and Betty (right and center-bottom) with Patty and Frank Merrigan (left and center-top)

Ellis and Betty (right and center-bottom) with Patty and Frank Merrigan (left and center-top)

Man, I don’t even know how to start this.  How do you start talking about the lives of two people who have affected so many? How can you begin to explain the emotional attachments that they formed over the course of their long and happy lives?  This is genuinely the most difficult In Memory I’ve had to do, to date. It will probably be the most difficult one I will ever have to do, until…well, I think we all know who that will be.  My grandmother, Betty White (not the actress, although I have joked with her about sharing the name with her), passed away this morning.  I’ve been pondering, for hours, on how to write about this.  It’s unfathomably difficult.  See, my grandpa, Ellis White, passed away before I was doing this.  Now, I thought that I would do this for both of them.  I may not believe in an afterlife, consciously, but there is still a comfort that comes from believing that two people who have been apart for a little while are now reunited.  There’s so much to talk about.  Bear with me.  I’m doing this while a lot of emotional dust is getting stirred up.  Don’t know how long to get it done.  These two people, Ellis and Betty, led a life that shaped a community.  They won’t be remembered by all America, but an entire generation of people in this part of the world that my folks still live in remember.  But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ellis and Betty white didn’t originally live in Alaska.  They came up here from South Dakota.  When they first came up here, they lived in Anchorage.  They set up a house on Raspberry Lane.  My granddad owned a gas station, and they lived pretty alright.  Well enough that they eventually came to live in Wasilla.  They homesteaded out here, buying a pretty sizable chunk of property.  From there, they became part of the web of life out in Knik.  Back when it was all people homesteading.  They were here.  Something that

Betty and the kids

Betty and the kids

people don’t know is that Betty lived out in the Homestead on her own, most of the time.  Ellis had to work in Anchorage, to put food on the table.  But she wasn’t living here alone.

The two of them had five children.  The oldest was Kathy.  Then there was Dick (his name is Richard, but most everyone calls him Dick.  Always have), Scott and Jim.  The last was the youngest of the family – Sally.  She just happens to be my mother.  Funny how that works, right? (Just kidding.  Sort of) Five kids, four of whom were absolute hellions, but the telling of some stories around the campfire (I’m lookin’ at you, White Man!).  Betty had to raise them, for the most part, by herself.  But don’t you go thinking that she was some pushover.  Oh no!  When Betty got mad, that woman meant business!  You were getting an ass-whoopin’, you better believe it!  She had to deal with the homesteading life and raise five kids, she was a tough old gal.  They just don’t make them like that anymore.

But her toughness was directly tied in to how much she loved her kids.  See, Betty had to deal with a lot of stuff.  The foremost was her son Scott.  I barely got to know him.  I hardly remember anything from before my head injury, but I barely knew him before that.  The last time I saw him was when I was around five.  He had some problems.  Scott was gay.  He wrestled with that in a time and a state where that lifestyle was beyond frowned-upon.  It was part of the reason that he ended up having a severe substance abuse problem.  I’m talking the hard stuff.  This substance abuse, along with some mental problems, eventually lead to his death, many years ago.  Betty had had to deal with that for a long time, and she was able to keep her composure.  I have no doubt that it was hard on her.  I can’t even imagine.  But she carried on.

The connection to family that Ellis and Betty had was profound.  See, a ton of their family ended up living up here.  The foremost was the Merrigans.  Betty and Patty were two peas DSCN0153in a pod.  There are so many stories about the two of them arguing for a LONG time about who would pay when they would be out eating.  The two of them were tough women, both of whom had their fair share of problems, but were made stronger because of it.  And that tight bond led to two families being close in a way that most singular families aren’t.  But don’t think that their ties to family only went to the extended one.

Betty and Ellis were very close to their own family.  There are pictures out there of them sitting with their grandkids, back when we were babies.  They would love to see their grandkids.  Thankfully, because they lived on a lake and were down the road from a large chunk of them, they got to do this rather often.  I always got the impression that this was a happy thing, for them.  They also liked to travel with their family.  There are fond memories of time spent in Seward, with them in their ancient-ass motorhome and me and my family in the camper on  the back of the old man’s truck.  You ever see the vehicles that the family drove around, we looked like the Clampetts, sometimes.  The Clampetts go to Seward!  But they never mind.

Indeed, traveling was something that the two loved to do.  There are so many stories of the many trips that they took.  They could have told you, for hours, about how many times they had gone to all sorts of places across the country.  But I like to think that their trips to Seward, fishing with members of the family, was their favorite.  Or at least Ellis’ favorite.  He loved his old boat.  It was a pretty small craft, but I have vague memories of him sitting in his chair, fishing pole in the little holster on the side, looking peachy as can be.  Maybe I’m wrong.  We do color history with our own perspective, don’t we?  I admit that mine is less colored than most.  After all, with my head injury, most of my memories before my head injury were mush.

Homesteading Ruggedness!

Homesteading Ruggedness!

And the two weren’t just big on helping their family.  They were tight with the old community of both Knik and Wasilla.  The two of them were among the ones who started the Wasilla Food Pantry, at Good Shepard Lutheran Church.  That’s the place that I grew up attending.  Nice people, there.  Unlike some people, I left religion on good terms, due to how I grew up in a church filled with pretty nice people.  It’s going to be hard, seeing how hard it is on them, when I am there for the service next weekend.

There are so many people who could tell you so many stories about Ellis and Betty.  So many people who have stories that are just bursting about their interactions with those two people.  They lived a life that was fuller and more enriched than almost any of us are going to have.  Part of me wishes that I had taken the old journalist approach and cataloged all the stories that they had, from as many people as I could.  I know that the White Man has a thousand and one stories to tell.  Although, with him, you gotta take it with a grain of salt.  He’s the king of bullshit.  To live a life and touch the lives of so many.  It’s a little overwhelming.  How can I give those two the credit they so rightly deserve about a life that they lived that was so full?  I’m still debating this.  I’ve given you all pockets of knowledge, but it goes so much farther.  How can I do justice to a life like that?  It’s too much.  As I sit here, Chris Botti playing in the background, I am so uncertain.  Maybe I should have waited a few days, to collect my thoughts.  But you know, this felt right.  It felt right to talk about this now, when it is fresh on my mind and I can think of the most to say.

Still, I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the lives they shaped and all the memories they share.  Now, I won’t claim that my grandma and I were the best of friends.  We had our disagreements, and those were sometimes very unpleasant.  But you know, I don’t hold on to stuff like that.  Especially now.  Old disagreements fall by the waist-side, and we think back to the good memories.  Memories of days gone by, that make me lament for a history that I barely remember, where things were so much easier, and I didn’t have to be scared about everything the way I am now.

I also know that, writing this, it is going to give a lot of people pain.  I do hope that, eventually, this helps people more than it hurts.  I hope that this post can inspire good memories, not sad thoughts.  I mean that, from the bottom of my little black heart.  I hope that each and every one of you can have good memories in your own lives, of the people you know who have touched you so much.  To any family or friends of the two who end up reading this, feel free to share a story in the comments section.  Like I said, I haven’t even been able to touch on how many stories there are.

And to Ellis and Betty, I hope that, wherever you are, you are happy.  Your suffering is done.  Age and pain can’t touch you anymore.  That long good night has given you both the peace that you had a fair amount of in life.  A service is going to be held at Good Shepard Lutheran Church.  You are going to be missed, by so many people.  It is with that in mind, that I am going to share a quote that is of great significance to me, to end this.

Until next time, a quote,

“This may not make much sense to you now, a young man at the beginning of his career, but one of the things you learn as you move up the ranks and get a little older is that you wish you had more time in your youth to really absorb the things that happened to you. It goes by so fast. It’s so easy to become jaded. To treat the extraordinary like just another day at the office. But sometimes, there are experiences that transcend all that.” -Capt. Katherine Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager

Peace out,

Maverick