Lucky No. 7 on Friday the 13th (and some bad news, too)

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Big little Zuzu turned 7 on Friday the 13th – a lucky day for us.

Ah, me. I’ve been very remiss with The Lolly Diaries. So much going on, so much energy expended with the resistance, and so many appointments with Mother, partly because of a new serious new wrinkle in the fabric of our lives. And we’re still reeling a bit from the gaping hole left in our household by Tess’s departure, especially Zu. (She will get a baby sister for an early Christmas present – we hope she’s happy about that.)

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Zuzu has just never loved opening presents, as all our other dogs have. But she was intrigued by what might be inside.

I grieve for our country, and for the first time in my life, I start each day wondering what fresh new hell that man occupying the White House hath Twitter-wrought. But this is supposed to be a politics-free zone (my Twitter account is another story), so I’ll move on to other topics, mainly Mother’s newly diagnosed condition.

For tortuous weeks we’ve awaited a diagnosis, since we discovered in July, shortly after she turned 82, that Mother is losing her vision at an alarming rate. Now we know she has auto-immune retinopathy, which, in layman’s terms, means her body is rejecting her retinas. This is in addition to, and not caused by, her rheumatoid arthritis. AIR, as it’s called, is very, very rare – that’s how we do things in this family. No treatment for Mother, so we’ll just ride it out.

Of course she can’t drive anymore, but we’re making do. Wednesday she had back-to-back doctor’s appointments and my battery died in her garage (!), so she had her first Uber rides. She is a remarkably resilient woman – a wonder to behold. She intends to keep painting, though she’ll probably have to go rather impressionistic or abstract from now on. I just got her two packs of playing cards for the visually impaired, since she’s still in at least two bridge clubs and will host one at her house Thursday.

And fortunately and fortuitously (or maybe nothing’s by chance), my daughter finished her master’s degree this spring in orientation and mobility for the blind, so Mother has someone who loves her and looks like her to help her adapt as her vision worsens. We’re hoping it will go slowly. It’s already gone so far.

John and I did get away for two fabulous weeks in Sicily and Southern Italy last month, which I’ll talk about another time. I turned 62 in Marsala – a good place since it’s hard to feel old an area formerly populated by Phoenicians.

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That’s me looking through a street in old Pompeii toward Vesuvius. John, who took this photo, said he loves the juxtaposition of the little modern woman looking down a road to the past at the same distant view the ancients saw – I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the drift. (The three random black dots were permanent fixtures on the camera lens of his old iPhone, which he just replaced.)

 

 

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Good girl gone

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One of my favorite pictures of Tess, from three or four years ago. She loved a camera and cameras loved her. Her eyes were still amber then.

If anyone ever tells you that losing pets gets easier with time, they’re lying, especially if you have to make the ultimate decision for them. Over 42 years, I’ve had the great luxury of only having five dogs – they’ve all lived very long lives for their sizes, and many of those years we were a two-dog family. Trigger, who lived to be 12, came home with me when I was 20. Our beloved Tess came home with my sister and me in the last vestiges of my youth – I was a mere 49, which seems young at almost 62.

But never have I had the luxury of a dog dying in her sleep. Even little Trudy, who at 16 years and 3 months had a massive stroke, had to be assisted in her final exit. Tess, a graceful beauty – we called her “Barbie” for her delicate ankles and catwalk poses (but I also called her “Catfish” in her younger years for her silly, swishy walk when we used to go for miles) had dealt with neuropathy for a long time. She had her 12th birthday party in May, and things just seemed to swarm after that. Her dainty ankles puffed up and she fell more and more. But she never lost her sweetness or her smile.

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Our gorgeous girl spent most of her time sleeping or resting the last few weeks. Our beloved vet, Tim Palladino of AllPets, made a house call so she could depart on her own bed. 

She so enjoyed our big family Memorial Day party, but she wasn’t interested in the hot dogs her dad grilled for her. She did really dig the Caesar salad, though, and cleaned the cheese grits pan.

When Tess was tiny and I was recuperating from a life-changing/potentially life-saving surgery, she stayed in the bed with me and patiently chewed on the corner of our expensive newish nightstand. We’ll cherish those little teeth marks forever.

She annoyed the heck our of Toby, who was 9 when Tess joined the family, until Tess was old enough to be her best pal. (Toby made it to almost 14.) She preceded grandchildren but loved, endured, and protected them fiercely as each came along. Zuzu is their buddy, but Tess was their guardian.

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Big little Zuzu will have to learn how to be an only child, at least for a while. She’s wearing Tess’s going-away lei in her honor.

Today we had a little memorial and gardenia-planting for Tess. I’ll close with pictures from that. My heart isn’t in this. It still hurts.

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Pop put the lovely bush in the ground,

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then all the kids helped fill the hole with dirt.

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The kids are happy to have a reminder of Tessie, but Sylvia, who said a few words along with Pop, wanted assurance that we’d never move and leave Tess’s gardenia behind. No matter what, she’ll live in our hearts forever.

Since you’ve been asking …

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High-gloss mahogany, milled and finished by my talented husband, meets soapstone in the upstairs kitchen breakfast nook.

… no, we haven’t moved upstairs, nor is it finished. The kitchen is close, as you’ll see, but the third-floor bedroom and bath – well, they won’t take long either, once we get back to them. But today’s about the kitchen

We keep getting sidetracked – as in rehabbing other buildings, raising baby birds, working on other projects, taking care of Mother (who broke her hip in February but is fine now), helping with the grandkids, resisting Trump – and sidelined (mostly me) by injuries and surgery. I’m officially released this month for light regular activity after my back surgery in October.

But things really are coming together, kitchen-wise and it is fab.

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Master craftsman and sweetheart of mine John explains about the drawers will fit. Yes, that’s maple with dovetail joints – but the drawer front he’ll attach we’ll paint high-gloss white like the cabinets.

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John’s been in heavy drawer-production mode for a few days.

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Another view of the galley kitchen. The color’s a little off in this one, but you get the picture. The top cabinets will have glass doors.

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Love this view. We’ll be using that stove someday soon.

Super-short sweet love story

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Our friend Lee Weber made Bernie’s little tombstone, which the grandchildren insisted he have.

The good news is Bernie’s leg healed just fine. The bad news, really bad, is that Monday evening, he fell over dead. His little life spanned just over a month, as near as we can tell.

That Monday was the day he’d discovered he could run over to the glass door on the screened-in porch to watch for me and hop frantically up and down when he saw me coming. The day he tried to get in the dog bed with Zuzu, who was fine with it, but I told him was a bad idea. She guarded him, but the size differential was too great for safely sharing a bed.

But the last time I went upstairs to get him, he didn’t great me at the door. Zu, who was with me, was confused. I tried massaging his chest, but it was too late. His short little life broke our hearts, and the grandkids were stricken. We miss him, and I still find myself going to check on him before I stop myself.

We’ll never know what happened to him, but we enjoyed him and indulged him. He was a very loved little birdie. And he came along at a good time to teach the grands about life and death and nature. They recognized on their own how much an almost-featherless bird looks like a dinosaur. They watched him mature and cheered all his milestones along with us. The youngest ones, the 4-year-old boys, are learning that when you’re dead you can’t come back. And, that, no, you can’t dig the dead up to look at them one last time. Wouldn’t be proper or pleasant.

I shrouded little Bernie in a beautiful butterfly-covered paper napkin – he’d practiced flapping his little wings but hadn’t achieved flight, at least not in this life. John dug his grave and said a few words, then we covered him with dirt as the dogs looked on mournfully.

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One of Bernie’s milestones was learning to drink, first from this tiny jar lid, then from a bigger, deeper makeshift bird bowl.

Bye-bye, birdie.

Bernie, Bernie, Bernie

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How quickly things change in life and nature. Wednesday, Bernie the starling achieved two major steps: He sat in our ficus tree on the screened-in porch (with an assist from me) and had quite a big time pulling on leaves. And, more importantly, he picked up two meal worms and ate them, instead of just tossing them around and waiting to be fed. Quite the accomplishments for a wee one.

Then I left to pick up some of our grandkids at school. Jude and I rushed upstairs to see Bernie (Jude named him), and evidently he’d had a misstep while I was gone. Instead of being perched on one of the branches in his box or in a chair or on the floor (he’s been exploring a bit lately), he was in his fancy box with his left leg at a funny angle. We have no idea what he did, but we’re hoping it’s just a sprain/strain – a little research shows that to be very common in starlings who land on hard surfaces.

Sadly, he’s lost the ability to perch (or maybe it just hurts right now), though he can walk and had a great time playing in a puddle in the yard yesterday. But for the time being, this seems to be one of his favorite things:

 

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Poor baby

From what I’ve read, he can recover, regain his footing, and, we hope, leave the nest. If he wants to live in our yard, that’s just fine. At least we won’t have to worry about cats here. But we want him to go free, and he already prefers the great outdoors of the screened porch upstairs to his safety box in the laundry room, where we put him at night (and kept him yesterday for recuperation, to his dismay).

Whatever happens, we’re giving him our best shot and our love. Even if his life is short, it’s better than being a snack for a feral cat, which is where he was headed.

Please send him your healing thoughts. He’s a good little bird. Now I’ll go back upstairs to check on him and see if he’s hungry again. But mainly, we wait. And as my man Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part.

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Golden girl

 

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Tess Among the Flowers

Today our darling Tessie is 12, quite a geriatric for a German Shepherd. She came to live with us in July 2005, when she was 8 weeks old and I was recuperating from a life-changing (and potentially life-threatening) surgery. Her tiny teeth marks are still on the corner of my very expensive nightstand from where she entertained herself while I snoozed.

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Official 12th birthday portrait – she’s always loved to be photographed.

She’s still an elder beauty, a natural blonde, but in her early years, she was dark and her future appearance was a mystery, as is always the case with shepherds.

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That face! That white-tipped tail (which she still has)!

Tess LOVES presents, so we started early this morning (early for her – she sleeps in most mornings and takes her morning pain medicine before she’s very mobile these days).

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In action

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Another squeaky toy!

In November, when Tess came screaming to us with bloat, formally called gastric dilatation volvulus – GDV – the emergency vet clinic wasn’t so sure she’d make it. We knew she would, and even though the vet was nervous, we opted for emergency surgery. Not only did she survive, she got to go home in record time. She was an invalid for a while, and she’s still terribly hobbled by neuropathy, her permanent condition.

A heartbreaker for us, but she’s still happy.

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Excuse the blur – they were a little too excited.

We know her days are numbered – I won’t embarrass her by mentioning some of the indignities of doggy old-age – but for now, she still loves her family and the grandkids and still has her glorious smile, so we persevere. Her neuropathy prevents her from taking the long walks she so loved, and her glorious tail hangs down these days, still with its white tip – not from unhappiness, but from numbness.

But in our minds, she’s still the cutest puppy ever and still has so much to say. Happy birthday, Tess!

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Precious in pink

 

Birdie with a yellow bill

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Our mystery baby was misidentified as a robin. We think he’s actually a starling but aren’t sure.

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This is how he looked the day after John found him. The first day, both eyes were still closed.

Our little bird didn’t hop up on our windowsill. (For the record, he doesn’t hop at all. He walks. Robins hop. We’re not sure what he is now.) He apparently blew out of a nest that my husband couldn’t find and landed in a feral cat jungle – right before a torrential thunderstorm hit, so we had no choice but to rescue the homely little guy (or gal). He’s quite handsome now, but you can see how he looked in the beginning.

We and others assumed from the beak that he was a robin, but now that most of his feathers are in, we’re thinking starling but really aren’t sure. But a baby’s a baby’s a baby, so it doesn’t matter.  And after reading up on starlings (and watching videos), they’re much cooler birds than I ever knew.

He wakes us up early but goes to sleep at dusk. It’s rewarding and exhausting.

 

 

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A few days later, you can still how he could be a robinThe dogs are fine with him.

The dogs are fine with him. The kids think he’s cool and cute, and it’s been an educational experience. We just hope he’ll fly the coop when the time comes.

In other news, the diary has been closed for a while because life got in the way. For one thing, I’ve been writing and editing on another project, which we’ll talk about later. Politics have had me off my game, but I try to keep that topic out of the diaries. (Twitter is another story.) I had back surgery in the fall, which waylaid me for a while, then Mother broke her hip in February, which kept me busy for a while. She’s recuperated beautifully, even though she has osteoporosis, so all-in-all, it was a lucky break.

But we have much to catch up on, so I’ll try to be here more regularly. Until then, happy spring …

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How quickly they grow!