Sometime around 3:30 a.m. this morning , my dog, Sammy, woke me to go outside.
This is his preferred time to do his business.
My husband and Maddie were snoring in bed next to me, and I’ll admit I lingered a bit to see if he might just hold it.
Nope. He stuck his nose in my face.
It was on me to take care of this.
I did a silent scream in my head.
“Why do we have this &%^&%-ing dog?!”
We adopted Sammy from the Humane society almost two years ago, now. He is a damn cute dog. Some kind of rat terrier mix.
But he’s missing a foot.
That doesn’t make him any less cute, of course, but it does make him more interesting.
A few times, kind people have urgently said to me “Something is wrong with your dog! He’s limping!”
I just laugh and say “Nah, he’s fine. He only has three feet, see?”
I was not seeking a footless dog when I found his photo online at the Humane Society. I was just looking for a buddy for our other dog, Sonny, whom we’d adopted about four years earlier.
When I showed up to check him out, he was just as sweet as I knew he would be. Then he stood up and I noticed the foot. “What the hell? Where is his foot?”
Too late. I was in too deep. He had already smiled at me and I fell in love.
After it was confirmed that Sammy got along like family with Sonny and my girls, we loaded him up. Now he’s here. When he first arrived, he ran and jumped and we were all so impressed with how happy he was and how easily he fit in. Maybe this was his “audition” to us. A few months after that, he began to get skittish outside and want back in, immediately. We realized that the traffic on our busy street spooks him. It’s too overwhelming out there.
It was a puzzle. He had seemed just fine at first, then he got weird. Maybe he settled into feeling comfortable enough with us to be afraid. We’ve speculated he may lost his foot getting hit by a car. We will never know.
So now, we are at a time when Sammy poops in the dark, quiet, middle of night. When we take him out in the daylight, it requires coaxing, standing right near him, and constantly assuring him he’s a good boy, and he’s going to be “okay.” Sometimes he still scrambles inside, despite our attention to him.
It’s super annoying, but this is where we are at.
There is a benefit vs. burden quotient on him now. We love him tremendously and Sonny has a real buddy now. We could not imagine life without him.
But honest-to-goodness, he’s a pain in the ass very often.
Maybe I have a need to nurture temperamental things.
In the last year, I’ve taken up house plants. Most of them do very well, and I’m pretty proud of what I’m learning about growing things. They are lovely, but create extra work for me. A few weeks ago, leaving a meeting with a client, I spotted a fiddle leaf fig tree, left for dead next to a dumpster. It only had about 4 big leaves left, most of which were brown. “Oooooh! A fiddle leaf!,” I thought. It was still slightly green, but barely hanging on. “I can save it!”
Whoever tossed this plant had no idea what they just lost.
They didn’t know how to love it. They over-watered it.
I’m sure they meant well, but probably didn’t know what to do when it started having problems and turned ugly.
So they tossed it.
I brought it home, let it dry out. I put it in a good spot. I gave it a bit of fertilizer and I named it Francesca.
“Don’t put it near our other trees, just in case it has some kind of disease,” my husband said.
“You’re right. We aren’t sure what’s wrong with it yet.”
We laughed together at my silly plant obsession.
Turns out I was right. It just needed the right kind of care, and faith in it. Everyday I go outside to find a tiny new baby leaf twisting out of the stems. I think she feels good now. Helping her makes me feel good, too.
Benefit vs. burden, you know?
Last night I talked to my mom on the phone.
“I got your letter today,” I said. “Thanks.”
“I don’t even remember what I wrote,” she laughed.
This is what she wrote:
Just thinking of you. I finished reading “Out of my Mind,” about an hour and a half ago. I’m so glad you sent it to me. It was written by an author that got the Coretta Scott King Award a couple of times – an English teacher. It has no mention of color in it whatsoever. I cried towards the end. It gets very good. Thank you! I love you. Mom. xoxo”
Here’s the Amazon description of the story, for those who have not read it or heard of it.
“Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.”
I reminded my mom of what her letter said, and we had a good talk about the story.
“I didn’t even realize the little girl in the story might be black,” my mom said. “I made assumptions.”
“I know. It’s easy to do,” I said. “We are learning constantly.”
We talked about the author of the book, Sharon Draper.
Draper’s own daughter has cerebral palsy, I told my mom.
“Oh wow, that’s why she is able to understand so much. That must be so hard.”
I told my mom Draper’s age – 67.
“Oh! She’s older than me! Maybe there’s hope for me yet,” she said laughing. “Maybe I can write a book still.”
“Yes, mom. There’s plenty of hope left for you,” I said.
And there is hope for her. She’s made it through state hospital trips in handcuffs. She survived drinking bleach in one of her darkest psychotic moments. She nearly lost her life 8 years ago after emergency bowel surgery and has been living with a permanent colostomy bag ever since.
She’s still around, and strong, for a reason. She’s 64 years old and her best years might be ahead of her still. I believe it. I still have hope for her accomplishing amazing, important things in her lifetime. More hope than she does, probably.
But unlike an abandoned houseplant, or a 3-footed Humane Society dog, I need more help than I have right now to let my mom be her fullest potential.
I’ve been urged by many to begin a fundraising campaign, but have been reluctant so far because of several reasons. I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed to ask for money. I’ve been afraid people might judge me, or us, or question my motivations in my storytelling project. I’ve been full of doubt that maybe I would ask and nobody would give. I have felt like I need to have all the details just exactly perfect before I ask. What if nothing I’m daring to dream about turns out the way I imagine it could?
But I’m going to swallow my fears and ask now. It’s my hope to give my mom an opportunity she’s been missing for her whole life. I want to build her a small apartment or addition on to my home so she can have a clean, safe, and less lonely situation.
My house right now is only a 2-bedroom, 1-bath. We’ve fit here just fine and had a lovely life here for nearly 10 years in less than 900 square feet. But if I want to allow my mom to be here too, we need more physical space.
Additionally, I want to establish a non-profit, named after this project – You Are In This World – which will continue for the rest of my life.
I want to allow my mom an opportunity to work with me, side-by-side, on this project as she is able.
I have 1000 dreams and ideas to do good in this world and help tell stories about mental illness to bring us all together. I think stories connect us and make us better, compassionate and more understanding people. I would be beyond grateful if you are able to contribute a little bit towards my goal of helping my mom, so we can keep telling our story, and yours, too. Here’s the link and a little more detail about my fundraising campaign. Thank you. ❤ https://www.gofundme.com/youareinthisworld
You are wonderful children you your brother and your families! Your Mom will get better as time goes on! As long as she has you all she will persevere I know she will! My mothers health improved as she reached an older age. Not back to 100% but much more in control all the time now. You are very lucky to have her! Take care of yourself too so you can take care of her!
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I just discovered your blog, thanks to a Facebook post. I am so happy to have found it! You are your family are very compelling to me, as I am sure you are to many others. What a wonderful way to share your wisdom and strength in the face of real challenges that most people (in first world countries that are not experiencing war, famine or a natural disaster) never have to experience.
Psychiatry would be FAR more scientific, effective, and humane if it had to DIRECTLY answer to families like these instead of to . . . nobody!