Jiminy Cricket Does Crack

So, in keeping with my almost-daily writing, which is healing and cathartic and joyous and validating my journey through recovery.  For way too many years my sister, who convinced my brother and my husband that I was a  liar, an exaggerator extraordinaire, if you will, no one in my family or home believed me.  I was literally told what to think, how to act, what to like and dislike…….if my emotions or concerns were appropriate.  I don’t know how she did it, but she insinuated her way into my husband’s experience of me….and, in doing so, convinced him that I was not to be trusted, my feelings were borne of a sense of hysteria and depression.  Alcoholism, opioid addiction, CPTSD-it was all fair fodder and it was all behind my back.

It has been a week since the melt down; five days since my relapse-which consisted of a small bottle of vodka and a splash of cranberry juice.  Sweet Jesus, no wonder I was hammered.  Today is my sister’s birthday.  It will be the first time in 50 years that I did not sing happy birthday to her.  I can’t, I just can not be a hypocrite, and more than that I am in fear of her thinking this a peace offering, or that she could ruin our first, last and only family vacation my hard working husband and I had so looked forward to; made it impossible for me to see my own brother at his concert in Philadelphia last weekend-and simply wait it out until I forgave her.   Not so fast, Sweet Baby Jane.  Every time my brother flies in from LA, she makes good and sure she keeps him to herself.  God forbid I have a relationship with my brother.

And so, it was with a freedom I haven’t felt in eons, that I went to visit my homeless friend, Marcellina.  I have been bringing him food and clothing for about 2 months now.  Sometimes I miss him, but when I do catch him- we pray, he tells me he loves me in broken English, and I was really hoping that if I win my disability case that I could help him get back to his home town in Puerto Rico.

I always visit him on Fridays-that’s Market day in PA Dutch country.  He lives behind a phone booth ((NO I DID NOT KNOW THEY STILL MAKE PAY PHONES)) adjacent to the building that houses some of the best food and produce you can find in the tristate area.  I was running late when I saw him standing by his boxes.  He was talking to himself, and flinging his legs back and forth.  “Hmm.  He seems really, really happy.  Something must have changed,” read my thought bubble.  He was happy to see me, bubbly even.  I brought him some bedding and asked what he was craving, as I intended to buy him lunch.  “OJ, I am really dried out, man.”  I proceed to order a whole chicken, a raspberry scone, and a half gallon of OJ.  As I approach him, I notice a young man, thirty something, standing beside him..  Marcellina and he exchange words in their native tongue, so I am pretty much clueless as to what they are saying.  And then I see it……..the small white bag.  My Christian brother, my poor boobelai, my hero as of late appears to be selling drugs.  I am shocked.  I am disappointed.  I am an idiot magnet.  As I turn to go, he smiles and says,

I can’t go back to Puerto Rico until the authorities say I am welcome back.    When you come next?  We talk about the Psalms.”

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Kennedy

I will never forget the morning my sister phoned me, hysterical.  It is usually the other way around, and I was stunned to hear the mania in her voice.

“I can’t do it.  I am physically and emotionally drained.  What was I thinking?”

To be fair, my sister was always the strong sibling.  She spent years listening to me on the phone, often slurring my words.  She became so unhinged at my drunken ramblings, that she asked that I not phone her after 3 p.m.  She told me she was busy with the kids at that time, and I believed her: somewhere in the deepest corners of my mind I knew.  I don’t remember what I said while drinking and dialing; but my sister was suffering at my hands, so I obeyed the curfew.

Back to Kennedy.  A pit bull mix the family had adopted from a local Humane League, he was full of piss, vinegar and the ungodly energy of a pup.  I had never imagined her having a dog, as she had seen first hand how I handled the passing of one of my dogs, and she had her hands full raising three precious children.  But to say my sister gave it her all would be a discredit to sisters everywhere:  she lived and breathed and trained (and retrained) the dog who was to be the love of her life.  Kennedy was his own man, he didn’t like other dogs, and we assume he had a bad experience before the adoption.  I remember our first meeting:  he hadn’t entered doggy school yet, and to be honest, I was a tad intimidated.

“Come on up,” my sister yelled from the girls’ bedroom.  “He’s up here.”

I have been taking care of dogs my entire life.  My father bought my mother a golden retriever puppy the week I came home from the hospital.  Chipper shared my bassinette, and when I went to kindergarten he broke through the screen window on my very first day.  She was my childhood dog, and she was the best.  She did everything with us: from sledding to fort building to board games, Chipper was our right hand gal pal extraordinaire.  I then went on to have four more dogs, and I was the pet sitter of the neighborhood.  I remember one Summer, both dogs I took care of were about to give birth.  Their owners, when told that I believed they were mothers to be, shook their heads and laughed – silly girl, what do you know?

I can tell you that I knew better than they, and both families came home to litters of puppies.  I recall our neighbors dog, an Irish Setter, who never looked healthy, always skin and bones.  I would sneak out of the house and over to the Robinson’s to feed and play with the dog-often at night so no one would see me.  I have raised an English Setter mix, Jesse; her son, a  Dalmatian-and two golden retrievers.  I had a chow-Labrador mix, Chipper II, with my first husband.  I had no idea what we were in for, and I adopted him because he looked like a small bear cub.  He terrorized us, our home and our friends-so I was prepared to meet Kennedy-not so much prepared for what happened next.

I sat down on the floor, my sister next to me with the pup on a leash.  In one fell swoop he had me down on the floor, kissing and biting and licking.  “I give….I give…..” My sister collapsed on the floor laughing.  For the next few years she worked with Kennedy on a number of issues: the most serious-his propulsion to eat anything and everything in his sight.  Eyeglasses, dog dirt, rocks, trash………you couldn’t trust him for a moment.  When he was sick (prone to stomach problems)  Courtney would sleep on the couch, so he wouldn’t be alone.  Many nights were sleepless, and that combined with raising kids – I don’t know how she did it.  She took him on daily walks-even though she was basically risking her life, as Kennedy could find trouble at the drop of the proverbial hat.  No matter what they did, he would not warm up to other animals, but he was an amazingly loving, funny and outright stoic dog.  His favorite toy, the tennis ball, kept him amused for hours on end.  My husband loved to rough house with him, and we grew hopelessly in love with his antics.

Kennedy lost his battle with cancer on May 1, 2016.  As the tears flow down my cheeks, I feel the need to tell the world that he was truly loved, truly treasured……and at the end of the day, that’s all a canine can ask for.

Rest in peace dear Kennedy.  You will be missed.