Life Topics

Until the Wind Meets the Sun

scoutUntil the Wind Meets the Sun

As many of you are aware, my dog has dementia.  Yes, you heard that correctly. Dogs get dementia just like people do, at least that’s what the vet said.  I realize there is a bit of a giggle factor when I say this.  People have asked, “how does the vet know he has dementia.”  All I know is his behavior showed up on her checklist; staring at the wall, barking for no reason, confusion.  He had them all, especially the barking.  We were given medication to make him comfortable and help reduce the symptoms.  So far the barking has lessened, but my concerns have grown.

You see, he doesn’t have years to live, he has months.  I’m not prepared to let go.  At 13 years old, Scout is on the other side of the mountain.  Sleeping and eating have become his main activities – no more toys, no more running. The tennis ball he used to fetch sits in a basket, caked with dirt and memories. I don’t have the heart to throw it out.  I reflect on the puppy years as I look at the ball, wondering how his muzzle got so grey.  Thinking about how many times I would throw the ball into the lake and with labored breath, he would paddle back with the ball in his mouth, excited for the next throw.  He couldn’t wait.  And, a branch was like candy to him whether it was thrown, or he just picked it up in the yard.  It was his treasure, as he pranced around showing it off.

He was a crazed puppy who joyed in the destruction of clothing and furniture.  Not to mention that he took 6 months to become house-broken.  Every time I turned around he would be gnawing on a coffee table, or come trotting out from a bedroom with underwear in his mouth.  And, if you didn’t walk him, when he wanted to walk, the destruction escalated to pillows and couches.  He was the worst puppy.  I was terrible at disciplining Scout, but Jamie played “Bad Cop” to improve his horrible behavior.  It worked over time, as we stuck by him as he grew into a steady old dog, and a great friend.

Since we got Scout at 4 months old, he has always enjoyed boat rides.  That will never change.  We have to lift him onto the seat just like we do in the car now.  Sitting up in a regal pose, he points his nose to the air to smell neighborhood cookouts, or other scents we could not imagine.  His eyes close, like he is infused with the delight of it all.  The wind his muse, the sun his lover. The two are one in the same to him.  We are there to complete the meeting, and keep him company.  He sits in the seat, or moves to the floor to adjust his outlook allowing him to catch scraps of food that fall off our plates.  We gladly share with him.  Each voyage is one of relaxation feeling the simple pleasure of being in a loving family.

Scout lays at my feet while I type, just happy to be next to me.  He will always be my baby-puppy no matter how old he is, or how confused he now gets.  He has been with us since he was a few months old, but it feels more like a lifetime.  He has worn his loyalty over the years, sitting next to me when I lay crying on the couch, or jumping on me when I got home from work.  Our emotional lives are intertwined, and for that I am thankful.  People who lack a special kind of commitment don’t deserve the love of a dog.  For the gifts that dogs will bring you, can leave you vulnerable, exposing your heart in unimaginable ways.  I am happily exposed.

Scout follows me from room to room, ending up under my desk where I work.  A hound needs to be touching, and will often put his paw on my foot, letting me know he is there.  I take a break from typing, reaching down to soothe him with my words, while giving him with a few scratches  He looks at me with his hound dog expression and chocolaty eyes; that tell me, “I’m still here, I remember you, and now it’s time to eat.”

His wish is my command, until the wind meets the sun, and he will be a whisper in my ear for the rest of my life.

Life Topics

Have Mercy


I woke up surrounded by strangers.  We boarded the boat at 10pm the night before, in Tokyo Harbor.  My son and I were visiting my brother for 10 days, and my sister-in-law, Hiromi, thought it was a good idea for me to visit her friend on a remote island.  Her friend, Raymond, was teaching English as a second language to the native children of Nijima Island. So, my son and I, alone, boarded the ship not knowing where we were going or who we were going to see.

In the bowels of the boat, we carved out some space on the floor amongst hundreds of Japanese travelers.  These were the economy lodgings; a few square feet of carpet.  Shoes were removed and left in the small aisleway.  Adam and I took our spot, sitting indian-style, and tore open a bag of cheese doodles.  While we crunched on our snack, I could hear muffled conversations that had the word “Americano.”   They were talking about us.  Adam was 5 years old, and gave little notice to his surroundings as he chomped on his food.  But, I became worried with the chatter, as well as the captain rattling off life-saving instructions in Japanese over the loud-speaker.  People listened intently, as they moved their heads from one point of reference to the other.  Obviously, I did not understand where the life jackets were, or where to go in the event of an emergency.  I was screwed.  After realizing this, I nervously glanced over at my sweet child with his face covered in cheese dust. I couldn’t help but smile.

The 10 hour journey was uncomfortable, but we managed with what we had, rolling up our sweatshirts to make pillows.   I opened my eyes in the morning to see palm trees through the portholes.  What an amazing sight.  People were snoring all around me, when in my half-conscience mind, I noticed that Adam was not there.  I momentarily panicked, but realized he couldn’t have gone far.  He was always independent, so his absence was not really a surprise.  I jumped up, put my shoes on in the aisle, and headed to the upper decks.

As I emerged from below, I was in awe of the sight of Japanese fisherman coming from around an island cove.  I squinted in the sun, while watching their tiny boats bobbing up and down in the rough waves.  It looked like at any time one of these waves was going to break the boat into pieces. Each boat would emerge from around a shoreline and speed past our ship every two minutes or so.   The wind was gentle and kind, keeping the air crisp but not cold.  I had one eye on the fisherman and the other looking out for Adam.  He finally appeared chasing a boy a few years older than him.  I turned to embrace him, as he smashed into my legs.

After calming Adam down, we walked along the pristine deck, stopping every few minutes to soak in the sight of the chain of islands we were passing.  The boy and Adam decided to continue their game of chase, as I stood at the railing of the boat.  A Japanese woman walked up to me and started a conversation.  She told me that she was on the boat with her boyfriend, and that they were very happy together.  As the conversation continued, she mentioned that she has a little boy, who she sent away to live with friends in Georgia, USA.  This was important to her because she now had a boyfriend and there was no room in her life for her son.

I listened feeling a bit odd, as I am a single mother and would never send my child away for a boyfriend, but OK.  She then asked me if I was a Christian.  I said yes, and she requested that I pray with her.
I figured it is a duty to pray with a fellow Christian if asked, so I accepted.

She began, “Dear God”
I followed with, “Dear God”
She said, “Have Mercy on Me”
“Have Mercy on me” I continued.

She stopped me right there and corrected me, saying, “No, No, Have Mercy on ME!”
My mind came to a complete halt.  I thought, this woman just deliberately dumped her kid to take on a lover, and she is looking not only for mercy from God, but wanted me to have mercy for her too.  That was too much to take.

“Lady” I said. “You just got rid of your kid for a guy, and think that you need all of God’s mercy for yourself.  It sounds to me like you have everything figured out to suit your needs.”  She implied that I wasn’t worthy to receive mercy, it was all about her.  I was disgusted.

She looked at me with feigned shock, as her boyfriend stepped closer to her.  Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut I thought.  I had a grave vision of this tall, strong guy throwing me overboard, to defend his love.  And me, not knowing where the life rings were or how to scream help in Japanese.  I slowly backed away and said, “have-a-nice-day”, as I tensely shuffled away to collect Adam at the other end of the deck.

We had a wonderful visit with Raymond on Nijima Island, going to the public baths, singing Karaoke and drinking sake.  Adam and I toured the small island, meeting craftsmen in the village.  We enjoyed local treats and traditions.  We even watched the world surfing championships on the beach one day.  So when it was time to go home, I silently asked God for mercy as we boarded the ship to take us back to Tokyo.  I said a few prayers for our safe return, and for the safe return of all on board.

We didn’t have cheese doodles for the return trip.

Life Topics



I check Facebook with the sound of hammering in the background.  Jamie is in the yard removing the legs to the dock.  He needs to put new legs on for the summer season, these are too short.  I just finished raking about a half hour ago.  I’ve had enough for one day.   I used to be “outdoorsy” but prefer the company of my computer as the tapping keyboard lulls me away.  It’s time for the spring cleanup and my mind is still frozen in the Winter.

I do prefer the Spring to Winter, but this time of year is a waiting game.  The dredges of the last season are scattered on our lawn.  Leaves, branches and twigs remind us of the toll our trees payed over the cold biting Winter.  Acorns crunch as I walk across the lawn, soon to be mulched by the lawnmower.  Should I think about buying flowers?  Not yet, I decide, as the temperatures are still too turbulent.  The Sun is beginning to be our ally again though, melting the Spring snow quickly and giving us some warmth as we do our chores.    I cringe when I look at the empty flower pots, thinking about the work to come.  But,  the thought of lazy summer days and the beauty of the blossoms melts my heart.

We wait for our boat to show up from the boat yard, so we continue to spend our free time picking up and unpacking.  No snow in the forecast this week.  I still don’t feel like there’s any progress, as I look at the calm lake. The lawn looks better, but the dock still sits above the shoreline waiting to be put in the water.   Temperatures will be cold tonight.  The boat will be here in two weeks, but it feels like an eternity.

I type with my feet wrapped in layers of warmth, just thinking about shorts and flip flops – and no more cleanup.  The stripped down ease of the Summer engages my mind to wander.  Why does this transition to Spring bother me so much?  I don’t mind the work; it’s just the anticipation of Summer that gets me out of sorts.  Transitions are neither here nor there.  They are usually a placeholder for better or worse things to come.

I know that this Summer will be fantastic entertaining our friends and family.  Until we put away the boat, and start raking leaves in the crisp Autumn air, waiting for Winter to come.