Well, here we are, boys and girls, in the home stretch. Seven days from today I will have typed my last obligatory words and tombeingtom will return to its regularly scheduled format: whenever I please.
Not that I haven’t enjoyed these moments we’ve had together. I actually enjoy stretching for a topic each day, or simply freewriting a blank page for public consumption. I even enjoyed my shining moment yesterday, which was halfway cheating but still followed the letter of the original directive. Plus, it made some of you smile. If I can get someone to smile, every day, I’ve done my job.
Did you smile just then?
Okay, then, I will continue.
The wife and I have been busy getting the house ready for the return of the mother-in-law. Her room has been something of a storage unit since she’s been away, visiting sisters and such, and now we need to store our stuff someplace else. I want to build a storage unit in the backyard, but haven’t pulled that $549 trigger just yet. Money is so much easier to part with than to earn. Perhaps once I get my massive tax cut from the passage of the new health care bill I’ll use some of that windfall to purchase a shed.
Perhaps monkeys will fly out of my ass, too.
Last night, around 9 in the evening, I was ready for bed. I had put in a long day of yard chores and house organizing, and finished it up with beers and BBQ. I let the dogs out for a minute, after checking the perimeter for skunks. They did their business and went back inside. It was 103 degrees and the sun was setting behind the distant mountain peaks. I couldn’t help myself.
Realizing that 103 at 9 pm was rare, I decided to indulge in one last beer and a poignant moment alone on the deck. I’m glad I did. Everything in life makes sense when you can take a moment for yourself and indulge in the pleasures of a cold beverage, a big deck, a summer evening, and a beautiful view.
I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I don’t know what I’ll say in this space. What I do know is that I’m happy to be alive. I’m enjoying every magical moment of this thing called life. I hope you are, too.
I have a friend who is fighting for his life this week.
I won’t reveal his name or go into the details, out of respect for his privacy, but the development was sudden, unexpected, and dire. One instant everything was easy. The next, urgent.
Praying people pray in these moments, I know. If you do, and if you think it will help, I appreciate it. I tend to compartmentalize at times like this. I dig in. Unless there is something physically that I can do, then I stick to my routines, wait for word. Hope.
It brings to mind the simple fragility of our journey. The precariousness of our bodies. Every day of our lives we spend time seeking something we wanted, or fulfilling an obligation, or trying to pay the bills. We seek comedy and closure, companionship, and some sort of inner calm. We put off thoughts of mortality for as long as we can. That day is forever away.
Something like this is a reminder. It reminds us to love, to express our love, to fill our days with things that bring us joy. To bring joy to others. It reminds us to take better care of ourselves, and never ignore the signs our bodies give us. Pain is there for a reason. Discomfort. That nagging, gnawing feeling. Swelling. It isn’t always just something that goes away.
Because of the expense, or the inconvenience, we put it off. Because we put it off, things get worse. The worse it gets the more we fear it will cost, in time or money. The cycle is endless and, too often, deadly.
I believe everything will be just fine. I’ll hear the laughter of my dear friend again soon. I think we’ll joke about this moment for years to come, because my friend jokes about everything. I believe all of this because it is the only thing I can believe right now. Any other notion would be unthinkable.
So I get ready to go to work, to fulfill my obligations. I’ll put off any thoughts of my own mortality, or of his. I will pay better attention to my own aches and pains. I’ll pray. Whether there is anything out there to hear it or not, I’ll pray. Words of encouragement cast into the firmament can do no harm. Positive vibrations could bring positive results. He and I will laugh about that someday.
So please take nothing for granted. Go show your love. Spread some joy. Live like you have forever, but understand that you may not have tomorrow. Know your limits but chase your dreams. Do everything you’ve been putting off.
Today, the most important person in the world has a birthday.
Now, you may not agree with who the most important person in the world is, and that’s okay. We can agree to disagree on that. Some of you might argue that it’s a mom or a dad, some other significant person in your life currently, or even yourself. You can make a great case to me that the most important person in our lives is ourselves. I would listen.
But not today.
Today, the most important person in the world, to me, is having a birthday.
I won’t reveal her exact age; that’s not a thing to do. However, there is a hint hidden somewhere in my ode to her a year ago, if you care to look. I said nice things about her then, too. She’s easy to say nice things about.
This weekend we took her out. When I say we I mean our friends and I. We took her to her favorite place in town, Kobe Seafood and Steakhouse, where a very entertaining pair of chefs prepared food for us Teppanyaki-style. We drank sake and beer and cheered loud enough for the whole staff to join us in celebration. It was fun. She was thrilled.
Afterwards, the entire contingent of us, nearing 30 in total, returned to our home on the west side of Redding and drank more beer, spirits, and sake. We cut the cake and everyone made kind of a big deal of her. Like she was the most important person in the world. She is. To me, she is.
My wife, Suzie, celebrates her birthday today. To tell you how much she means to me would be a lengthy novel in and of itself. To tell you how much I cherish her love and company would be more than mere words can say. Even for a typically loquacious guy like me, there aren’t enough words. I can tell you that after 20 years of marriage I’m happy to renew our vows this year. I’ll find some words to say then and, if I can’t find enough of them, I’ll make more up. She’s worth all that.
And today is her birthday.
I’ll take a second in this spot to thank everyone who has reached out to her already, everyone who spent time with her this weekend. Each and every one of you made her feel like she was on top of the world. You made me proud to call you friends, to call you family.
And then I’ll return my attention to her. It’s her day.
We met very young and have adored each other for decades. She has been a part of every critical moment of my adult life. I have been there for every triumph and tragedy in hers. We have shared ideas about the world, about life, about the people we know now and knew then. We have stumbled and caught each other. Nobody in the world knows me better. Not even me.
So I wanted to indulge upon readers today and wish a very happy birthday to the most important person in my life, my beautiful wife. Today she turns the page on a chapter behind her, and opens another to the great adventures ahead. No one can know what tomorrow brings, but I know that whatever she faces – be it triumph or tragedy – she faces it with me.
Happy Birthday, my love. Happy Birthday, dear Suzie.
You are the most important person in my life. And you make this man the happiest one alive. On your day you are my gift.
Not like, “again,” like the first one didn’t work out so I’m trying another one. Not like “again” like I’ve done it a hundred times before, like “again” like I’m marrying the best person I’ve ever known all over again.
The good kind of again.
On July 19th, 1997, the lady and I stole away to Vegas with a few close friends and family members and swore in front of an officiant that we would love each other forever. We exchanged rings, exchanged kisses, took pictures and saved the video. We still have the video, somewhere. We just don’t have a VCR.
That’s for the best, I looked hideously nervous in the video and it embarrasses me to watch.
But the missus – though she wasn’t quite that yet – looked amazing. If you ever get a chance to watch it, you should, to see her and to hear her mom babbling off camera through the whole thing. That part is funny. Just remember what I said about me; you’ve never seen me quite like that.
I was so nervous in the hours before the ceremony that my soon-to-be betrothed demanded that I head downstairs, play blackjack, and drink some beer before we go on stage. She knew me that well. I told you she was the best person I’ve ever known.
I got lucky. I got lucky to have found my soul one early. I got lucky it was her. I got lucky because she feels she’s lucky, too. When you get it right the first time, and when you hang in there with each other through all of life’s changes, it’s really something special. She’s really something special.
That was 20 years ago this year. We had meant to renew our vows on our 10th anniversary, and even toyed with the idea around 15, but things just never came together. Whether it was money, new work schedules, or me being an occasional ass I don’t recall, but it didn’t happen then.
It’s happening now.
On July 22nd, 2017, Mr and Mrs C will reaffirm their bond in the city where it all began, near the chapel where it all began, with the promise to begin again. I can’t wait. She’s worth it.
Everyone is welcome.
Please be aware that if you are there I might not even notice. My eyes will be on her. My soul one.
There are more than a thousand Mondays in twenty years. More than a thousand. I say that because early on in our courtship we used to say we made it (through the wild weekend) to another Monday. It seemed when we were young that the people we knew were always breaking up on the weekends, but we would always marvel that we made it to another Monday. Now we say that we love each other times infinity, plus a Monday.
Forever and a day. A specific day, at that.
I hope you’ll join us in Vegas. I hope you’ll join us all year, at least, in celebrating our first two decades in matrimony. This summer we will vow for decades more. A lot of things can go wrong in this crazy journey of life, so it’s nice to pay heed to the things that went right. Just right.
In dog years I’ve been married for 13 decades. If you throw in courtship the wife and I have been together for nearly two centuries.
I’m sure it feels like that to her sometimes. 🙂
But as long as we’ve been together I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have a dog. This is a tale about them.
Mickey was our first pup, and we picked him up at a party some time in the early 90’s. It was a New Year’s party, as I recall. I don’t remember the hosts and, in fact, I don’t think I really knew them. I only remember they had some puppies they were giving away. I also remember some clowns at the party thinking it was funny to let some curious little dog get too close to their cigarettes and I remember asking the owners if I could have that one. When they said yes the future Mrs C and I let those clowns have it for messing with “our dog.” Mickey was with us for the next 13 years.
Mickey was the only true “mutt” we ever had. In 1997, when we got married, we picked up a companion for Mick, a black lab/german shepherd mix we named “King.” Suzie wanted to name him “Hades” because he was black as the night, but I thought that sounded a little too evil. We compromised on “King Hades,” and just always called him King.
We had talked about a companion for Mickey for months and had decided on a black dog because I had loved a black lab a friend of mine owned as a kid. I was working one day when a neighbor across the street from where I was came out and asked me if I knew anybody looking for pups. I asked what kind. Black kinds, he said. I sighed heavily knowing the universe just works that way sometimes. He brought out King. I brought King home.
King passed away five years ago yesterday. That boy made it 14 years in our lives.
The story of Maverick, our first golden retriever, is documented in another post back in March. Maverick came along in 2002 and stayed with us for 11 years. Maverick is the reason I always shop for golden retrievers now when it’s time to get another.
If Maverick is the reason I shop for goldens, then my next dog Moxie is my validation. Moxie came along in 2009 when Maverick was already 7 and King was already 12. Moxie fell asleep on the ride home from the breeder and basically slept through his infancy. I’m not kidding. When we took him down to the vet for his first examination the doctor slid Moxie back and forth across the table trying to get him to wake up. He wouldn’t. We asked the doc, laughing, “is that normal?!” and the doctor cackled back “NO!”
I think Moxie had the benefit of those two very senior brothers during his childhood because he just seemed to learn very quickly how to listen, understand commands, and stay out of trouble. He is also the most food-motivated dog I have ever known. I can remember a time when Maverick was shrinking like crazy in weight and Moxie was ballooning to nearly 100 pounds. We found out why … the little sucker was stealing all of Maverick’s food and Maverick was letting him. Maverick was always more motivated by “play” than “food.”
Speaking of which …
About a year ago, 2 years after Maverick left us, Ludo joined the clan. Ludo, it turns out, means “I play” in Latin and he took that name literally. Food? Sure, if I must. Love? Yeah, I guess, if it doesn’t take too long.
Ludo and his ball are inseparable. Or I should say “balls” because he has about 15 of them to choose from. Let me tell you, though, when he chooses one of them no other will do. Go ahead, pick up a different one and throw it, he’ll watch it in the air and if it isn’t the one he brought you, forget it. I believe that Ludo is the smartest dog I’ve ever had, but he is the most willful one, too. He literally talks back to us when we’re scolding him, with furrowed eyebrows and guttural bark.
Moxie loves him. We do, too. But I believe Ludo is the universe’s way of paying me back for Moxie. 😉
It’s amazing how different they all are.
Thinking about King yesterday on the five-year anniversary of his passing prompted this post; it got me thinking about the pups we’ve had together, the missus and I. He was our second dog and the last dog we owned that wasn’t a golden retriever. We’ll probably go gold again next time, but that story is still another 5 years away.
So there it is, the Cummings line of amazing companions. Each had their virtues and each had their vice. Each had our hearts. If I could have them all here together I wouldn’t hesitate; King would love Ludo as much as Mickey would hate him. Mickey would probably slip through a crack in the fence today and go find something smelly to rub in by the pond. Maverick and Ludo would be chasing balls while King chased a frisbee. Moxie would sneak into the house and eat all their food.
Mrs C and I would be in heaven.
I can’t imagine a life without these dogs. I’d love to hear stories on here about some of your animals, if you have the time to share. I know I’ll be sharing more in the years to come.
In the meantime, have a great day – and go hug something furry.
Our lives are so complicated. The world is all expectations and it is easy in the hustle and bustle to lose ourselves, to become something other than genuine. I have, in many times past, lost myself to the distractions of life, lost my way – if I ever truly had one – and wandered far afield of my path. One thing has always brought me back.
Today is April 17, 2016, and the person that means more to me than any in this world is turning 41.
To celebrate, me and this amazing group of people we are somehow lucky enough to call our friends threw her a surprise party. She was stunned. She thought for all the world that she was going to the party of another friend. Whenever she suspected, I deflected. “It’s not always about you, baby, we have to be there for others. We’ll make it up to you after.” I am the devil.
But it worked.
For the last twenty-some-odd years of my life there has been a constant, this thing called love that saves me and breaks me in equal and powerful measures; this woman that humbles me and empowers me like no force on Earth. I cannot imagine a single step in my journey without her.
If I had to do it all again I would change almost nothing, except somehow find a way to be a better man to my wife. I would remember more things that I had forgotten, concede more victories that I have won, create more moments of sheer exhilaration like the one I saw last night on her face, when she saw the truth. I would never miss an opportunity to make her feel unique. To make her feel cherished.
The beauty of life is that it goes on. All the promises we never kept can be made again. All the love we left unattended can be regarded going forth. I vow to do that very thing, to make me worthy of the love she gives. I truly hope that I am.
Happy Birthday, Mrs C. Happy Birthday, Suzie Cummings. Happy Birthday, love of my life. Today I am your servant, and I am your servant for every day that comes.
This morning I woke up to the bitter news that a friend had passed. I don’t know the circumstances of his passing, only that one day he was doing the things he loved best — bowling and laughing with friends — and the next day he was gone. I’ve heard rumors of heart failure, which can strike in an instant. If older than me, this friend was not by much. It is alarming.
To know this man you would know that he had a heart of pure gold, and was always there with a quick wry comment and always willing to pitch in. He had a big, strong smile that would make his eyes squint. He got the jokes, and I could often hear him laugh at things I said from two lanes away. He was one of the select few that would stop at my work to say hi just because he was driving by. It is a pity that the weavers of destiny do not take into account “nice guy” when they decide your fate.
To hear of the passing, to feel the loss, of someone so close to your own inner circle is staggering. He was only one lane over in my journey of life and maybe two cars ahead. To take that curve and see the wreckage is a warning to me, I know. The warning isn’t to beware death or live cautiously in the slower lane but to live fully, to accelerate through the curves, and keep a big, strong smile to share every day. Life is too short, by far.
I don’t know when the end will come for me. Nobody does. I don’t know what happens after. Nobody does. I can only hope that the hereafter is a place of peace, in whatever form that takes. I hope that our memories live on somehow, but if they do not it becomes all the more crucial to hold the memories of those fallen in our own hearts and to share their stories compassionately.
In some cases that just comes naturally. This is just such a case. Farewell, my friend. Keep the heavens smiling; and teach the angels to bowl.
We had family in town from the south and the missus and I were walking the tall coastal redwoods with them, it must have been about 1999. My wife Suzie and I had two dogs at that point in our life, a beagle mix named Mickey and a Black Lab/German Shephard named King. Mickey was getting up in years. A man came down the trail with the most beautiful Irish Setter I had ever seen, or at least I thought it was an Irish Setter with that long-haired, red-gold coat. Jogging, the man stopped very quickly and asked if any of us minded if he let his dog off the leash to run down into the water. There was a river running along the trail, down an embankment, I would say about 30 or 40 yards.
We didn’t mind.
The big pup – I don’t remember his name, Suzie probably would – ran down that embankment and played for a few minutes in the stream, basking in the glory of the warm day and the cool water. The man stayed up there with us and we chatted briefly, about what I don’t remember. Suddenly, he gave a simple command down the embankment, repeated the beautiful dog’s name, and that pup ran right back up without a single thought. He got back on the leash without fuss, and off they went again.
I was in love.
I told my wife immediately that the dog we had just seen was the next dog I wanted. Suzie explained to me that it was a Golden Retriever but I didn’t believe her because I’d never seen a Golden Retriever so red.
Almost three years later, a few months after Mickey passed, Suzie said she’d found our next dog. She asked if I remembered that encounter in the woods and I said I vaguely did. She remembered word for word our account and said she had found somebody selling dark Golden Retriever pups. I said there was no way I was spending the kind of money she was talking about on a dog. She said come look.
I fell in love.
The puppy we brought home that day we named Maverick, or she did because she always wanted to call a dog Maverick. He became the first of three consecutive Golden Retrievers in our lives, each one just a little pricier than the last but I never flinched at that again.
Maverick stayed with us for 11 years, far too short a time in my opinion. He would have been 14 years old today. Moxie, whom we picked up in 2009, adored him. Moxie got to experience both King and Maverick for a couple of years before having nearly two years on his own. Ludo, whom we picked up last summer, is so much like Maverick it scares the hell out of me. Maverick would have adored Ludo.
I hope both of the Goldens we have now last 15 more years, but I know they won’t. You never know how long you’ll have each of these treasures, our fur-babies as some of my friends call them. I only know one thing for sure; my next dog will be a Golden Retriever as well. Maverick set a precedent in my heart that could not be matched.
Rest in peace, sweet boy. It was my honor to have known you.