Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fur Face

Barney had to be put down yesterday. I knew it would be any day now, but when "any day" came I still wasn't prepared for it. For the past half-year he'd been plugging along steadily but eating less, dropping weight, and retreating more. His balance wasn't so good and he'd miss his jump now and again. I knew he was tired. He looked ragged and ruffled and his legs made short, shaky strides. He'd lost half his body weight. I knew it was coming.

He didn't come to greet me after work Monday, and I was a little frantic after finding spot after hiding spot empty. I found him lying under the basement steps unable to get up. Poor thing. We made it over to the vet shortly before they closed. I grieve for the hours he lay exhausted, waiting.

He'd been irritating at times lately, especially his 3:30 AM cry that emanated for no apparent reason. Sometimes it was a squeak, other times a yowl. Regardless it was enough to get me up stomping, before realizing I really did have to hit the restroom anyway.

We had routines that had gradually faded during the past year, but one constant was his habit of draping across my shoulders while I read the morning paper. I'll miss the close-range purr.

I know he was just an animal. But he was routine and comfort and humor and irritation and connection...and for me, all of those are changing.

- The Empty Old Bag

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I was about 6 when I got off the teeter-totter and walked home. It was time. I was done playing. As I sat touching the ground with my knees scrunched-up next to my ears, I just eased my left knee over the handle, got off and walked off home. I was done playing. It was time. Unfortunately Barb was still on the other end and didn't know I was done.

At 44 I’m ready to be done again, but if I get off now it's not Barb, it’s the house payment, the ability to gas up the car, the knowledge that I’ll have the life I want when I retire. I don’t live in extravagance -- got a few pair of jeans in the closet, a couple bicycles in the garage, I tile my own floors and mow my urban plot. My car is rusting, but it will run forever.

And I like what I do, I really do. I've done what I do for so long I don’t realize the art surrounding it flows from me. I got off once before, and got back on.

So I'm on...for now.

- The Old Bag

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Almost a Life

I've quit keeping track of the percentage. For the first three weeks of the schoolyear I was proud of my 50% bicycle commuting rate. I wasn't setting an unrealistic goal of every day -- I knew the increased stress of being back at work was going to be enough to throw me off physically -- but I thought a couple three times a week was realistic. I forgot the exhaustion of being back on a schedule and of structuring nine-year-olds all day every day, of getting up at 5:30.

This year I'm not going to bring home a nightly pile of work. This year I'm going to stick to getting in before 7 so I can leave at 4. This year I'm going to cut back on the papers NO PAPERS to make the kids' learning real. This year I'm going to ride to work regularly because it keeps me sane. This year I refuse to let the clutter get in the way of knowing my kids and experiencing my life.

This year those goals are still malleable and real. It's the closest I've ever been.

- Old Bag Learning New Tricks

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Pork Chop on a Stick

I'd forgotten what it was like to ride all day and hang-out in the sun at a small town festival. We'd made the parade in time to see the Shriners in precision formation on their go-carts. Old men. Maroon fez with tassles blowing in the wind. Weathered faces squinted out the afternoon blaze as they drove the figure-eight at crazy speeds. The training was obvious...grueling practices, day after day drills at mach speeds 4 inches above the pavement. Terrifyingly fun. The crowd expected no less.

We crossed at a handy break and headed over to the food tents. Corn, chops, cheese glop with a baked potato underneath, Coke and pie. Small towns have the best pie.

We were a little slow heading out of town, and the hammerheads were content to stick with the pack and contribute -- I'm sure it was the desire to keep the group together as we battled headwinds, not the need to keep the brats down.

- Old Bag