Tuesday, November 17, 2009

east meets westie


The therapy llama is Smokey. Duffy was impressed.
Raising a puppy on a dementia unit (a "memory care community" for the faint of heart) has its plusses and minuses. My spelling may be called into question in that last bit. Anyway, Duffy can hardly be to blame for all of the, shall we say, leavings, here and there. Today, for instance, somebody pooped in the tea room and somebody peed in one of the trash cans. We didn't know about the latter until Duffy had rooted around in it and came out smelling like some old bum's jockey shorts. Bums may not wear jockey shorts but I'm sure you get my drift. So I grabbed Duffy, stuck him in the sink and washed him with quarternary disinfectant. Nah, not really, but I did use good soap. Not baby soap. Not for THAT smell.


So being a puppy is relatively easy. You can blame the little round wet spots on Nate and nobody is the wiser.


The dogs are blissfully asleep, Duffy has learned to sit and that fact alone gives me hope for the future. He can learn.


My aunt died and I'll be making a pilgrimage to Arcata soon, me and the pup, back to one of the places of my youth, rich with time-twisted memories, to the place where my father died. I'm not sure if I've told the story or not, but I'll go ahead and spill it here.


My aunt was married to a logger. His name was Earl and he used to throw us up in the air, scaring the crap out of my mother. He drove to work on the old Oregon Mountain Road to and from Arcata through the Smith River Canyon during the days when they were logging the redwoods. Bad. I know. Anyway, one June morning before the crack of dawn, he drove off the skinny little road and plummeted to his death, leaving behind my aunt and seven children.


My father was between jobs at that time, so he and my mother and us five children moved to Arcata so my father could run his business (the Shadow Lodge in Trinidad). This was in the days before welfare and that's what families did. We were a close family, spent summers camping together, all that. So, we got Earl buried and my dad began working at the lodge. Mid July, my father laid down to read the newspaper and never woke up, leaving my mother and her five, and my aunt and her seven children to fend for themselves.


Twelve children and no welfare. I don't know how they got through the next months, but they did. Eventually, it was clear that there were too many people in one space and we moved back to Portland, I think, to be with my grandmother while my mother grieved my father. I think what really happened was that my aunt moved on, went to school, sold the business, made good financial decisions; my mother cried until she found whiskey some five years later, then her problems took a backseat to alcoholism.


The house in Arcata was an old, Spanish style stucco castle, with inlaid tiles, near Humboldt State, a block from downtown Arcata, heart of the Emerald Triangle. I spent a summer there when I was thirteen, I think. My aunt was an intellectual. A republican intellectual, which must be harder, don't you think? She travelled far and wide to follow genealogical threads of the Morris and Forster clans. And now she is gone, the last of the Forster children, at 91.


People who want to live forever haven't taken the time, I think, to talk to very many 91-year- olds. I have never met one that wanted it to go on indefinitely.


3 comments:

asha said...

I love the therapy llama. Very cool.

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