Category Archives: Humor

Must Love Like Tolerate Dogs

At the beginning of any relationship, there is often a carefully orchestrated release of information to make yourself seem more attractive to your potential partner.

In what would now be generously referred to as “alternative facts,”  the majority of the embellishments I would share when I first met Jen regarded my relative interest/experience in doing anything remotely outdoorsy.  For example, walking 8 miles after your car breaks down sounds an awful lot like hiking.

But the one trait I would have a hard time talking my way around was my love, or lack thereof, of dogs.  For that, I would be put to the test when I met Jen’s overprotective, 160 lb roommate.  A feisty gal with personal space issues who just happened to be a Great Dane named Tula.

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Tula and I learned to see eye to eye.  Mostly because she was able to get in your face while you were eating.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate dogs.  Or even dislike dogs.  But I have just never had the bond with them that most people do.  I don’t want to be kissed or licked by a dog.  If anything, I would give them a firm, respectful handshake.  Which would require me to take the time to train a dog how to shake.  Which is a real Catch-22.

While Jen grew up as an erstwhile Dr. Dolittle, living in what sounds like it may have been a discount pet store, I grew up with a dog named Spanky who was treated more like an animal who happened to rent a room from my parents.  My only other dog experience came when I lived with my brother, whose dog Rub was a laid-back Spuds Mackenzie lookalike who was fond of eating loafers.  And nickels.  And the occasional downspout.

As I got to know Jen’s dog Tula, I found out that she was a gentle giant.  As if Godzilla decided that instead of smashing Tokyo, she would rather lay on a futon mattress and watch squirrels at the front window.

Over the next couple of years, I would become the step-father Tula never had.  And possibly never wanted.  We grew into a comfortable routine of her scaring the hell out of me when I would wake to find her an inch from my face and having to keep her distracted by throwing pepperoni across the room like tiny cured-meat rodeo clowns in order to eat some pizza in peace.

When we found out that Tula had cancer, I accompanied Jen across the state for chemo treatments at a hospital that also specialized in farm animals.  Chances are pretty good that I will never again have to extend a trip due to an incident involving radioactive horse urine.

When the day came that Tula got so sick that Jen had to make the choice to put her down, I was genuinely sad.  Not just because the person I loved had to say goodbye to someone that she loved, but maybe, just maybe, because I had grown to love her too.

For the next several years, as Jen and I started a family, the subject of a new dog would surface frequently.  With Jen contemplating a puppy each time she was set to be on maternity leave since she would “be home anyway.”  In hopes of delaying the addition of a dog to our household for as long as possible, I would dance around the subject by using every Mom’s passive-aggressive favorite: “I trust that you will make the right decision.”  As steam would shoot from Jen’s ears, she would slowly realize that having a newborn would already take up roughly 25 hours of our day.

I held out as long as I could, but when you are pitted against someone who once threatened to get a hog because you told her that she couldn’t, you can only last so long.

Two years ago, we brought home a Chocolate Lab named Barry, so named by our son Matthew because he “loves to bury bones.”  Little did we know how prophetic that would be as Barry (Bear for short) has now turned our backyard into a permanent trip hazard in an effort to hide rawhides from some phantom intruder.  But who really needs rawhides when you can eat the screens out of basement windows and chew on the gas meter?

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“Is there something around here that I could eat?”

 

Luckily for Barry, he has a lot of fans in our house.  Jen and Matthew both adore him, and Kate loves him the same way that she loves me.  By that I mean that she tells him that she loves him one moment and then tells him to leave her alone and not touch her the next.  It is really, really sweet.

So, in the cheesy 80’s family comedy that is our life, I have definitely been cast as the curmudgeonly father who gradually gains a begrudging admiration for the family dog.  Only to have that dog knock over the Christmas tree as the credits roll.

So, maybe I still don’t love dogs.  But I love people who love dogs.  So I guess that makes me a “dog person.”

Now, cats….?

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Filed under Dogs, Humor, Pets

Home for Christmas

The windows were filled with the morning’s frost, and the red and green lights twinkled among the 20 year’s worth of handmade, grade school Christmas ornaments which filled our tree.  Not a creature was stirring……except my 28 year-old brother.

Well beyond the years when people begin to be jaded, Sean was still filled with Christmas Spirit, and I could always expect to be jostled awake at 5 a.m. to let me know that it was time to see the bounty which awaited us.  Or, time to wait until a somewhat reasonable hour to wake our parents.

With everyone moderately conscious, we would begin our Christmas tradition of taking turns opening gifts, my Mom telling us the story of how she got bought each one of those gifts (“I had to push a woman at Venture to get that He-Man figure.”), and my Dad cluelessly saying “You’re welcome” when we thanked him for gifts which he was obviously unaware that my mother had purchased.

Unlike my brother, I was always more than willing to sleep in late, since I had begun the process of finding hidden Christmas presents in Mid-August.  A cat and mouse between my mother and I.  She, always searching for new and unique ways to hide gifts, and me, always finding new and unique ways to locate them.  I went so far as lowering my little sister Megan into the narrow opening of a locked cabinet to retrieve gifts.  Things finally reached a tipping point when Mom hid a Nintendo NES in the home of our elderly neighbor, who then died shortly before the holidays.  My parents had to convince her next of kin that Ann was not, in fact, a big fan of Duck Hunt.

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Posing in front of the tree, and the world’s most uncomfortable orange love seat.

 

Sean had led me down the path to become North County’s most prolific Christmas gift spoiler when he fulfilled every big brother’s duty of ruining the mystery of Santa Claus.  I can still remember he and Jeff Lewis matter-of-factly letting me know that it was all a big lie as we strolled past the Electronics Department at Target.

With my world shattered, Sean and I began scouring the house for gifts.  But he never had the stomach for it.  When a previously discovered race car set was a no-show on Christmas morning, Sean caved almost immediately when our Mom simply said, “Looking for something?”  He would have never been cut out for a life of crime.

Our Mom always made Christmas special for us, and my Dad always let my Mom make Christmas special for us.  She took such joy in making us happy at Christmas, even when we didn’t make it too easy.

Like when my Dad had to hold my Mom back after I almost kicked the tree over because “Stupid Santa” brought me the Bat-Cycle instead of the Bat-Mobile, or when Sean launched a plastic Godzilla hand through a hand-painted Christmas ornament purchased on a trip to Frankenmuth,MI.

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Godzilla may have defeated Rodan, but he was no match for Eileen McMullin.

 

After, the wrapping paper had stopped flying, Sean would don whatever Generra sweatshirt or Swatch that my Mom had gotten for him and we would head to St. Martin’s for mass.  Our favorite Christmas homily remains Fr. Marty’s “Christmas is about the three F’s.  Food, family and fun.” sermon.  We really thought one of those F’s was bound to stand for Faith, but he really threw us a curveball.

Then, after a few more hours of enjoying our gifts or possibly napping, we would head to our Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary Lou’s house.  Even though I now realize that they lived maybe 30 minutes away, it seemed like it was the other side of the planet.  We would play, compare Christmas gift notes with our cousins and sit down for a fancy dinner.  Or at least my idea of fancy.  All of the plates, glasses and silverware matched!

Even though, at 43, I still don’t think I would have graduated from the kid’s table, I miss those days.  Falling asleep in the back seat on the way home as my Dad drove, and knowing that everything was right with the world.

This will be our first Christmas without Sean.  When I type those words, it still doesn’t feel real.

We all have our own families now, and we have created our own traditions, but the Original Five coming together has always been a part of that.

I take solace in the fact that the Christmas Spirit, which was so alive in Sean, lives in on in his children and all of his nieces and nephews.

I love you Sean.  You will always be home for Christmas in my heart.

jjj

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Filed under Humor, Humor(?)