Tag Archives: Boston

Home Is Where Your Dog Is

Marley The Wonder Dog, Summer 2011

Marley hobbled down the driveway, as close to a joyous run as she can get, her arthritic joints struggling to support her seventy pound body.  I put my arms around my old Black Labrador’s neck and hugged gently, the cloudy opalescence of age turning her wise brown eyes a strange blue.  Marley, who was born on March 9th, 1996, has been with me since she was six weeks old.  If she were human, she’d be 108.  And until this trip, I had never left her behind.

Tub TIme

We were not home yet.  From Europe we flew to Boston to pick up Marley from the Ott Family, friends who’d been dog sitting since early July.  This spasm of generosity is equivalent to caring for someone’s grandmother with twin toddlers at home, as the Otts already have nine chickens, two bunnies, six fish, three Golden Labs, and two tow-headed kids.  But Marley is treated like a respected matriarch in their home—and via the miracle of Skype, we often got to see her lolling on a giant, orthopedic doggy bed or sniffing around the chicken coop.

Puppy Paw

Marley holds fifteen years of my life in her large black paws, dotted on the bottoms with white.  Through two marriages and one divorce, seven in-vitro fertilizations and three miscarriages, hirings, firings, deaths, births and too many wonderful moments to count, Marley has set the gold standard for unconditional love.  Now, seeing her limp, deaf ears no longer able to hear my voice, and struggling to raise her head off the floor when I kneel to pet her, I knew we were lucky she was alive to see us return.  And it occurred to me that taking my longtime friend home to rest might be the best, last gift I can give her.

Griffin, Age 1, And Marley, Age 9

On walkabout, what I missed most were things I had often forgotten to appreciate.  My mother’s cheerful voice on the phone, the laughter of my girlfriends during a stolen hour of chat, my sisters being close by, and Marley’s musky doggie breath.  No matter how many cathedrals, castles, glaciers, volcanos, or charging hippopotamuses I might catch on camera, without these things, life would be unspeakably lonely.

Marley And Me Feeling Groovy

We left for Logan Airport at 5a.m, choosing the early flight to Los Angeles instead of a more sane afternoon departure so that Marley could stay cool.  The previous day I had given her a bath, wanting her to be looking good for our arrival, and the trauma of standing for so long left her nearly unable to walk.  Ethan carried her down the stairs in the grey, humid dawn and placed her gently into the van.

“Why did she have to be clean?” I scolded myself.  I wouldn’t scrub any other old lady vigorously with anti-itch shampoo and then douse her with cold water—even one I didn’t love!  But Marley gave no guilt trip as she struggled into her crate for the final journey home, probably too stoned on prescription painkillers to care.  Her thick, black tail, so powerful in her youth that it could knock over trashcans, did not wag when we said goodbye.

Sweet Face

In my seat on the 737 jet, just above the climate controlled baggage area where my dog was, I worried and prayed.  Please let her be OK, I asked the Flight Gods–just this one last time!– promising in return never to walk by her again without a pat or a scratch.  Scared she wouldn’t survive the flight, I started eulogizing her in my mind and began to cry.  How could I possibly go home without her?

But worry has a way of teasing those who needlessly invite it in.  At Los Angeles International Airport, Marley bounded out of her crate with the energy of a puppy, sniffing, snorting in happiness, and very thirsty.  The fur of her greying muzzle felt soft as silk under my hands and she panted doggy breath in our faces as we showered her with love.

Welcome To LAX!

Our five member team had made it home safely, the bleached blue Southern California sky cloudless and hot, just as it had been when we left Los Angeles thirteen months ago in a Honda Odyssey mini-van. Somewhere, out on the horizon, a future hovered in which Marley would no longer be with us.  But today, she lay calmly at my feet, her heart feeling at home as long as she was with us.  And there was no end to her story in sight.

What Would We Do WIthout Her?

Oprah And Me

Courtesy: Photoshop

Dear Oprah,

How’s life since you shut down your show?  I’ve been doing pretty well since my show shut me down last year, traveling with my family and trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I’m still unemployed, but saw that you are searching for “America’s Hottest New Homemaker!”  I’ve learned to make an apple pie and Kimchee from scratch lately, so keep me in mind!

I Can Bake (Sort Of)!

After spending the last six months in South America and Africa, it was a rough return to the U.S.  Two of my friends died in the last week, Oprah—young, wonderful people who should still be here—and I’m still in shock.  Plus, an hour after our plane landed on the East Coast, three-year old Ado tumbled into Boston Harbor, splashing down into 45-degree water amid oil slicks and floating trash.  We fished him out immediately but the little guy’s been sick ever since.  Right now, I feel totally overwhelmed, swigging wine in between getting barfed on and lecturing myself about being both a careless mom and a powerless friend.

Ado, Post Dunk In The Dirty Drink

Do you have days like this, Oprah?  Days when that negative voice inside your head throws insults the way a pitcher hurls fastballs?   I wonder where this detrimental dialogue comes from—and whether all women struggle with it—even super successful women like you.  Could it be an artifact of my childhood?  I mean, in hindsight, my mom could have lightened up on the whole women’s lib thing and stayed home more.  And Dad could have lightened up on the double Manhattans.  But I always got unconditional love and only the occasional spank, so the whole bad parenting thing seems like a red herring.

It makes more sense to blame my ex-husband, don’t you think?  He was that charming, serial cheater guy I met when you and I both worked for ABC in Chicago (you should have warned me then!).  I remember popping a couple of Valium after I finally kicked him out and climbing a shaky ladder to paint the high ceiling of my bedroom.  What else do you do when you find out your husband has the Playboy Mansion’s roster on speed dial?  I slapped on a moody grey color called “Jackrabbit”, feeling foggily ambivalent about whether it would be good or bad if I fell.  Splatters of paint and tears hit the floor while I listed the reasons why everything was my fault.

1.)    Not skinny enough.

2.)    Not cute enough.

3.)    Not funny enough.

4.)    Not smart enough.

How lame is that, O?  If you’d been there, I’m sure you would have talked me down off my ladder and told me that being skinnier, cuter or funnier wouldn’t have saved my marriage.  And that even if I’d been smarter, I might still have picked a dog with fleas.  It only took me about four years to realize that I wasn’t responsible for my ex’s bad behavior—only my own.

The Post TV Me

Lately, I’ve been thinking it’s possible a career in television also contributed to my self-esteem issues.  I can’t imagine how hard fighting your weight loss battle in public must have been, but I do know it hurts when people take random pot shots.  My first week as weekend news anchor at NBC San Diego (a job I took when my marriage imploded), a hand addressed letter arrived at the station.  Joe Lizura, the station’s main weatherman, watched me open it.

“Your first piece of fan mail!” Joe said.  “That didn’t take long.”  Semi trucks must deliver your mail each day, Ms. Winfrey, but I bet a nice letter always makes you feel good and I needed a boost.

“Dear Suzanne,” I read aloud, the handwriting slanted and spidery, the way a witch might write.  “Here are three pieces of advice if you want to make it in the San Diego news market.”  Uh oh! I thought, but kept reading.

“1.) Make an appointment at the beauty parlor.

2.) Hire a make-up artist.

3.) Buy a new wardrobe.”

This was not nice!  Joe seemed distressed that the new gal was getting her ass kicked, but the ass kicking hadn’t come yet, the anonymous writer saving the best for last.

“As they say,” I finished reading the stranger’s opinion of me, “you have the perfect face for radio!” I laughed it off (hahahaha?), but I can still feel the venom stuck between those lines.

Love Is The Answer

So here’s my question, my fantasy friend; how do you unwarp a warped sense of self?  Even I’m smart enough to know that blaming your parents, your ex, or your ex-career isn’t the answer!  But, in the spirit of my departed friends Tracey and James (two of the most positive, kind people I’ve ever known), perhaps the first step is simply to stop going negative on myself.  If I can replace “I’m a lousy mom” with “I give my kids so much love” or “I look old and haggard” with “I can still run four, 8-minute miles”, maybe I can honor my friends’ lesson that life is too short—and too unpredictable– to waste it feeling down or inadequate.  Being a little nicer to myself might not be the entire answer, but since the alternative is climbing into a wine bottle to feel better, why not give it a try?

The Happy Housewife

Let me know what you think of my plan, Oprah. And good luck with the whole owning-your-own-OWN-network thing.  It’s a big job and I’m glad I don’t have it!  But I am trying to think positive about becoming “America’s Hottest Homemaker”.  Maybe I will even learn to knit!

Your friend,