Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Remembering Jim

Three weeks ago today, I said my final “I love you” to the man who, for the last 21 years, sometimes made me angry, sometimes made me cry, but more often made me happy. He made me a better person.

I miss him.


***

I met Jim on July 2, 2000, at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of North Palm Beach, where I was a member. A woman acquaintance was the day’s greeter. When Jim walked in, she recognized him as someone she had met once before, and introduced us. After saying hello, he went into the sanctuary, and a few minutes later, I followed, only to find that he was sitting in the row where I usually sat. I saw no reason to change my habit, and sat next to him.

Halfway through the service conducted by a guest speaker, I decided to leave. Jim made the same choice a minute later. I am usually shy and don’t initiate conversations with strangers, but for some reason, I drove around to his car and said, “You didn’t care for the talk, either, I guess.” Agreeing, he laughed, and then asked if I would like to have coffee.

Two hours and several cups of coffee later, we said good-bye, but with a date to walk on the beach that evening.

What a walk it was! The waves softly washed at our feet as a soft breeze wafted the sounds of the ocean to our ears. It seemed we walked for miles, just talking, and eventually holding hands. When we finally returned to our cars, he touched my chin and gently kissed me. I still remember the softness of his lips, his gentle touch. It was the best kiss I had ever had.

***

In the months that followed, we slowly became a couple and went to events together. 

We became a couple

I recall two memorable Halloween parties. At the first, we won a prize for the ugliest couple: Jim wore a wig and one of my dresses. He was the bearded lady. I wore my short hair slicked back, painted on a mustache, padded my tummy with a pillow, and wore a man’s suit and tie. We were, indeed, an ugly couple.

The ugly couple

At the second Halloween party, we were going to go as a cat (Jim) and mouse (me). After taking a shower and starting to put on my house makeup, the phone rang. Running to answer it, I slipped and twisted my knee. Ouch! When Jim got home, he wanted to take me to the ER, but I insisted I would be OK, if I used crutches. (We had some.) So, we went to the party. Everyone thought the crutches were part of my costume! Unfortunately, the pain finally forced me to go to the ER. (No permanent damage.)

***

Jim managed a travel agency when I met him. He made me an honorary employee and got me membership into the International Airlines Travel Agency Network. The membership allowed us to travel on “spec” tours free or at reduced rates. One of these was a two-day sailing on a cruise line (I did not like it); another was a week’s vacation on a sailing ship.

What a trip that was! The ship was a true sailing vessel and only entertained a couple hundred guests, unlike the big cruise liners that were small at-sea cities. We sailed out of Granada in the Caribbean, in late September.

The problem with a late-September excursion in that part of the world is hurricanes. One was lurking at sea. The captain of the ship tried to skirt the worst of the storm, but the waves actually covered our porthole, as the ship bobbed in the angry waters. That night, items were had stowed in the bathroom (tooth brushes, combs, etc.) literally flew out of the door. We had to sleep crosswise on the bed, else we would have rolled off. The next morning, the sea was quieter (but not calm), and Jim arose to go to the mandatory life-boat meeting. I sat up, felt the nausea from the still rolling ship grow, and told him they could throw me off the boat, but I staying in bed, flat on my back.

Nobody tossed me into the sea, and I recovered without throwing up. That evening, though, seas continued to be rough, and as we sat down for our meal, there was a sudden lunge. Chairs slid over the dining room deck. 

The next day, all was calm and I was finally being able to snorkel and we strolled in villages on St. Lucie and elsewhere, I never became a fan of any kind of sailing, however.

***

Just prior to 9-11, I had left my place of employment as an editor and began working as a freelance editor/writer. The attack on the World Trade Center changed America’s business outlook. As my freelancing opportunities started to fade, I began to look for another full-time position.

I was given an opportunity to join a publishing company in Pennsylvania. I needed a job, but I didn’t want to move to Pennsylvania. So, I continued to look. A month later, I was offered a position in the Jacksonville area. Of course, that meant moving and leaving Jim.

But Jim had a solution to that weighty problem. “I’ll follow you anywhere,” he vowed.

And he did.

***

When Jim and I decided--four years after meeting and living together--that we should get married, we looked all over Jacksonville for a venue to exchange vows. One evening, while soaking in the swim-spa, we again debated the merits/demerits of the various sites. Suddenly, as we looked out over our backyard “lake” (really a pond), we realized that we had the ideal wedding site­--under the weeping willow, with the pond in the background. It was the loveliest wedding I had ever been to. Under clear skies, surrounded by our families, we pledged our love and friendship forever.


***

Travel had never been a high to-do on my bucket list, probably because I never wanted to travel alone but also because I never had the money for such a luxury. After Jim's mother (who lived with us for about six or seven years) passed away, Jim began teasing me with the idea of buying a recreational vehicle. It took awhile for me to come around; I thought the expense wouldn’t be justified. But Jim finally prevailed, and with the proviso that I would not have to drive it, we bought our first RV. (We eventually bought and sold a total of five RVs. The first was the best, however.)


I admit that I went into RVing “kicking and screaming.” My doubts about RVing gave birth to the Reluctant Rover blog, which served as the foundation for my book, Don’t Back into the Palm Tree.  But long before we sold our last RV (a luxurious and commodious truck camper), I found Jim’s love for camping catching. I was no longer the Reluctant RoVer; I was the Enthusiastic RoVer. In fact, after we adopted our dog Katie and then Lex Luthor (a kitten), we came close to buying a small travel trailer, so that we could travel to state parks and fish. (I am grateful we did not buy one.)

***

Prior to meeting Jim, I was an avid golfer. It was something I could do by myself, as well as with friends. When I moved to Jacksonville, I stopped golfing for awhile. After several years, though, I caught the fever again and introduced Jim to this sport, something he never saw himself doing. Then he caught golf fever. We loved to try out new courses once or twice a week. Golfing, however, was put aside after he had his near-fatal accident (falling off the roof of our RV) in 2013.  As a substitute leisure-time activity, we began fishing.

What a joy! We traveled to an assortment of state parks to cast our lines. We never caught many fish, but we spent peaceful hours by the water and on the beach.


We bought a used bass boat, but sold it when we realized a 10-foot boat was too small to travel safely on the St. John’s River to get to the marshes. We sold it and then purchased a 14-foot Porta-Bote (a fold-up boat), which we could take with us when we went camping. We used it a few times, until we admitted that although we could carry it on the truck we towed behind our RV, it was not as convenient as we’d thought it would be for an octogenarian and a septuagenarian to launch.

Jim decided that to get to the best local fishing spots, we should join a local boat club. As usual, he had to cajole me before I finally gave in.

He really enjoyed driving the various fishing boats; I did not. In fact, I was never comfortable out on the water, despite always wearing my life jacket and being a good swimmer. I did enjoy fishing, however. After about a year of membership, we decided the monthly fees were not worth the cost of membership, especially since the boats were not in the best repair. We had fun while it lasted, even though we didn’t catch many fish. (The fish we caught were the best-tasting ever!)











***

These anecdotes I have written about only highlight the many good times we had and how Jim changed me--and perhaps how I changed Jim. I became more tolerant, (I hope) more loving, and more flexible. I experienced new things with him—not only fishing and camping—but also things like enjoying going to the symphony and relishing the tastes of a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. 

Oh, we had challenging times, too. But I don’t want to dwell on them. I want to remember the good times, the loving and intimate times, which were there right up to the end and will live in my heart forever.

Sometimes I sit on the back porch. Just outside the door are some wind chimes Jim recently restrung. He loved wind chimes; I usually thought they were annoying, although when I saw them in stores, I couldn't help but help them to ring. 

These chimes I think are special: They softly ring in the gentle breeze. And when they do, I choose to believe that my husband is still near me, saying, “Listen! Aren't they beautiful!” And perhaps whispering in their notes “I love you.”


Your Reluctant ROVER,


Linda

 

 






Sunday, November 7, 2021

Katie knows

 They know. "They" as in dogs.

It has been three weeks since Jim left the house never to return. Katie misses him.

Like most couples, Jim and I each had a chair we almost always sat in--one on the back porch, and an easy chair in the living room. Until yesterday, Katie had avoided jumping into either of Jim's chairs.



But yesterday, as I was taking a break outside, she decided to check out his chair on the porch. She sniffed, and sniffed, and sniffed. She could smell Jim's scent. Finally, she jumped up and nested in his seat. She looked sad as she sat there.

She did the same with his recliner in the living room. I cannot smell his scent, but she can; she has a really sensitive super-nose.  (If she could talk, she could probably tell you the name of every dog in the neighborhood and when they last passed by on the sidewalk.)  Just as she had sniffed the outdoor chair, she did the same for Jim's easy chair. She finally jumped up into it. She wanted to sit in his lap; she had to be content to sit in his chair.

We both miss him.


Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

Friday, October 15, 2021

Nurse Katie

In 1979, when I bought a house in Indianapolis, I promised the kids I would get them a dog. Shortly before we were scheduled to make the move to our "new" little house on the northside, we went into a pet store to get some medication for the kids' hampsters. Enclosed in a small pen was a wee little puppy, so tiny! He was a poodle-chihuahua mix, and he cost $15. (I'm sure today he would be considered a designer dog and the price tag would be in the hundreds!)

We took him home and named him Poochi. 

My little Poochi

My little Katie reminds me so much of Poochi, except she is a lot smarter (most of the time).

One thing I remember about Poochi is that whenever I got sick, he took care of me. He would cuddle; he would not demand. He was patient for me to let him out and to feed him. He always made me feel better. 

Fast forward to now...

For almost three weeks, I have been suffering from a horrible ear infection. The ENT thinks it is viral (possibly shingles, although I have had a shingles vaccine), combined with a bacterial infection. The pain at first was utterly debilitating. It finally subsided, but not before I lost my sense of balance to the point of having to use a cane to walk around the house. I went deaf in my right ear; slowly my hearing is returning (as well as balance). The medication (or the illness) caused me to lose my appetite and taste. That is not all bad, because I have lost 13 pounds since September 21. (Now, to keep it off!)

During this time of convalescence, I have not been able to walk Katie. She knows that something is wrong with her mama. 

When Jim puts the drops in my ears, she hops onto the bed and smells my ear (before the drops). She then cuddles up to comfort me. The other night, she had to go out to potty. But instead of licking or woofing me awake (a rare thing to do, incidentally), she jumped on the bed, cuddled and nuzzled. I finally got up, let her out, and she promptly pottied, then went back to her place under the bed (near me). 

Nurse Katie comforts me while Jim puts in my ear drops

Katie is a good nurse. 

Jim has been taking her for walks, but she is often reluctant to leave. And often, once they start, she virtually runs around the block, to get home fast. This a.m., though I was feeling well enough to go on a regular (not a short) walk. When I sat down to put her leash on, she was a happy gal.

There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.

Until later,


Your Reluctant Rover,

Linda

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Play time!

You just can’t help smiling. 

When we brought Katie home from the dog adoption agency, she was a trembling mess of curls. So scared. No social skills. She didn’t even know how to walk on a leash. Interaction with other animals, including dogs? Nada

All of that is changing, thanks to the addition of her feline “brother,” a black kitten named Lex Luthor.

Lex Luthor


The playing skills Lex intuitively knows, Katie is learning. Whether by emulation or by having something triggered in her canine subconscious, Katie is coming out of her pre-adoptive shell, and it is so much fun to watch. 

Since we brought Lex home from the Human Society a few weeks ago, Katie has tolerated his cavorting. She has not minded him swatting at her face, grabbing her tail, and attempting to jump on her back. She tentatively even started to reciprocate. 

This week, however, Katie did something new: She started to initiate playtime with Lex from chasing after him in and out of the bedroom, under the bed, around the dining room, through the living room…again and again to urging him to carouse with her: She gets up close to Lex, nudges him with her nose, and tries to (harmlessly) nip at him. She even makes noises at him if he does not respond. But usually he does, and they go at it until they get tired. 



At bedtime, Katie likes to get up on the bed with me and be rubbed. She turns over on her back and starts “running” in place with her two front legs, begging for attention. But the last couple of nights, her play time with Lex has been extended to this "bed" time. Instead of turning toward me for a rubbing, she turns toward him, flops over on her back, and begins her “run,” as a way of begging him to play with her some more. He always obliges. 

I think Katie is a bit confused about feline behavior, though. When we go on walks and she spies a cat, she tries to approach it, thinking it will play with her just as Lex does. Of course, most adult cats don’t want anything to do with dogs. Katie will just have to get used to the rejection. 

 Until next time, 

Your Reluctant ROVER, 

 Linda

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Have clippers, will cut

 Katie needed a haircut.


About two months ago, we took Katie to the PetSmart grooming salon, where she was pampered with a bath, haircut, and pedicure. Cost for seniors? $46. We wouldn’t go the poorhouse spending that much every two months, but it would be nice if we didn’t have that expense. We thought we would try grooming her ourselves.

Years ago  I would periodically shear my little poodle-Chihuahua mix, Poochi. His face resembled a poodle, with curly hair on top. The sides of his body with more Chihuahua-like, soft and long. He did not shed. I confess that it never occurred to me to take him to a groomer. Instead, I would plop him on the floor and take out my scissors and trim him. He was my beloved little Benjie-dog.

Yes, that is a picture of me, holding Poochi, around 1986. 

Poochi really was a Benji-dog. He needed a trim here.

When we decided to adopt Katie, we knew she would need regular grooming. We thought we would take her to a professional the first time and then see if we could do it ourselves. As you know, we are big on DIYing.

Unsure how our grooming experiment would turn out—whether she would be patient with us and if we (Jim) were adept with the clippers—we decided initially to use the equipment we had on hand. Jim rigged up a stand to hold a leash on his potting bench, and we got out the electric hair clippers I use to cut Jim’s hair.



This was the start of our Great Experiment. Jim rigged up a leash by his potting table.

The first phase of our experiment went well: Katie was patient, and Jim was mastering the cutting technique. However, we quickly saw that our Gerry-rigged leash stand needed to be improved, and we should get cordless (and quieter) grooming shears. After one clipping along Katie’s backside and a bit along her legs, the hot sun got the better of us, and we decided to postpone the rest of the grooming until after we purchased better equipment.

Fast forward one week: Amazon delivered our new equipment and we were ready to try it out.

Success! I can’t say Katie was particularly pleased with the leash stand (we finished the pedicure and face-grooming on the ground), but she was good. And the clippers! Wow. It was like shearing a sheep, the way the fur came off.



We are pleased with the results of our grooming experiment. I don’t think we will go into the grooming business, but we will recoup the cost of the equipment with the next haircutting we give her.

Such a pretty girl!

Until next time,

 

Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Play time for Katie?

Katie is an awesome dog: She is smart. She is loving. She loves her walks. She lavishes me with affection whenever I am gone more than 15 minutes. She rarely barks, except to tell us she needs (or wants) to go out or if she wants to play.

Playing to Katie means going through her training routine; it’s a game to her.  “Katie, come!” “Katie, sit!” “Katie, place!” “Katie, up!” She especially like “Katie, up!” because this give her permission to jump up onto a chair or couch. (She rarely does this on her own.)

I sometimes get down on the floor to play with her, but this play is very limited, since she does not know (or care about) tug-of-war or fetch. I’ve purchased several different balls to try to get her interested in playing fetch. The only one she liked was a solid rubber one, which she started chewing. Rubber is not good for the digestive system, so that ball has been put aside.

Play time started to change last week after Jim and I adopted a kitten from the Humane Society.

Lex Luthor

I think the “play gene” is activated as soon as a kitten is born. Lex Luthor (the name the Human Society dubbed this tiny, 10-week-old black kitten) flits from one toy to another—or creates his own by grabbing (and untying) shoelaces, swatting electrical cords, and chasing himself around the house. He especially likes to play with little balls— fluffy greens ones, crinkly rosy ones, and plastic red ones with bells inside.

Katie has decided that if Lex wants to play with a ball (especially the red jingle-bell balls), she wants to play, too. 




As soon as she hears Lex batting the ball around the floor, she comes up to him (no fear of cats) and she noses it away from him, nabs the ball with her mouth, and then tosses it into the air! When it lands, she quickly grabs it before Lex can get to it and takes it back to her “place”—an area rug behind the couch where we keep all of her chewies, unused toys, and grooming equipment. Once she has brought “her” toy “home,” she chews on it for a few minutes, and then disregards it. Play time over. A bit of jealousy?

It is fun to watch Katie and Lex together. As I have mentioned in other blog entries, Katie was raised as a breeder dog. She had no social skills—with people, nor with other animals. She barely knows what to do when she meets another dog. When she spies another canine down the block while taking a walk, she eagerly trots up to within a few feet of the dog. Then she stops. She lets the other dog sniff and check her out. Only occasionally does she reciprocate.

Because of she was cloistered for her first three years, she  does not know that dogs naturally chase squirrels, lizards, and cats. The squirrels and lizards in our yard are safe. When we come upon a cat during our walks, she stops to look but does not do anything else.

Given her lack of experience with cats, we were not concerned about her accepting even a grown cat, although an adult cat probably would not want anything to do with her. So, we decided a kitten would be a good choice.

Lex doesn’t know he is supposed to be afraid of this gigantic canine, and Katie doesn’t know she is supposed to chase this tiny feline. (Perhaps that will change if or when Lex lets her feel his claws.) The two are not best friends, nor are they yet especially playful with each other. But the friendship is new, and it is fun to watch as it grows.

Until later,

Your Relucant ROVER,

Linda

Sunday, June 13, 2021

A Marmaduke wannabe

 In the Sunday comics section of the local newspaper, Marmaduke, a Great Dane, famously buries (and digs up) bones in his back yard. I always thought bone-burying dog behavior was an exaggeration exploited for the funny papers.

It is not.

Katie does the same thing.

We noticed this behavior several weeks ago. I had given Katie a hard-chew  that was shaped like a bone. After gnawing on it for a while, she picked it up and carried it outside with her. She then explored all of the flower beds to find an appropriate place to bury it.

Jim and I both chuckled over this, and didn’t pay too much attention to what she was doing or how she was doing it. But over the weeks, we have continued to watch her and enjoy her treasure-hunting/retrieval.

Just like cartoon canines, Katie sniffs around until she finds her bone (the same one she originally buried). Once she locates it, she exhumes it, takes it in her mouth, and scurries around the yard to scout out another appropriate internment. She will stop, try the soil, and go to another site if the dirt is too hard or if there are too many tree roots with which to contend until she finds the perfect burial ground.

Once she has found the right spot, he uses her front paws to dig a hole deep enough to entomb her treasure. Then she plops the bone into the hole and proceeds to cover it up—not with her paws, but with her snout! (We always know when she has buried a bone: She snorts to get rid of the dust in her nostrils!)

Here is a short video:


Not every treasure gets buried outdoors, of course. Some get buried in the house. I gave her a commercially purchased four-inch long beef bone filled with a peanut-butter concoction. After licking out as much of the “marrow” as she could, she repeatedly has carried the bone around the house until she finds an appropriate grave. I have found the bone hidden in a corner and under the couch, and concealed under some pillows on the couch. She keeps very busy safeguarding her cache.

Surprisingly, Katie does not bury real bones. When we have treated her to the remnants of our barbecued ribs, she enjoys chewing for every bit of leftover meat, grist, and marrow. Then she walks away from them. No burying attempts.

Katie, you are puzzling; you are amazing.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

  

Remembering Jim

Three weeks ago today, I said my final “I love you” to the man who, for the last 21 years, sometimes made me angry, sometimes made me cry, b...