Cancer took another friend.

Cancer– the scourge of our lifetime– took Dr. Lloyd Elliott this week. He was fifty, he was our family veterinarian, and he was a rare individual.

My wife and I love our animals. We regard our relationship with them as a kind of covenant, and Dr. Elliott was a huge part of our lives for the past sixteen years. He was kind, intelligent, patient, and gifted. He was empathic. He was a friend. He took care of our pets in health, and helped usher them on when disease and age made their lives unbearable.

He was with us on the very best of days, and on the worst as well. He cried with us, cheered with us, and cared for our friends as if they were his own. On the last day of Bernadette’s life, my Great Dane was too weak to walk. She weighed two hundred pounds, but Dr. Elliott met me at the car and helped us into the hospital, where she would take her last breath as we all cried, missing her even as her spirit left the room.

Dr. Elliott was– and is– a special human, and I will miss him. I cannot fathom what his family is enduring. I buried my Mother due to cancer, as well as my Nana, my Aunt, and my Grandfather. It’s a ruthless, implacable and capricious killer and I hate it with all of my heart. We lose good and great people to it, and through it all, wonder who is next.

I hope and pray that Dr. Elliott’s family can, in time, find some measure of peace. What do you say? I don’t know. I didn’t even know what to say when my own mother died, how can I articulate the loss for another family? Is compassion really enough? It feels hollow, somehow. I don’t want that kind of hurt to exist for a family who gave us someone loved by so many people.

Sometimes, it feels like sorry isn’t enough. This is one of those times.

WE LOVE TO BARK.

We have five dogs of various breeds. All love to bark. Barking is their favorite thing, other than sleeping, but barking has to take place in strategically placed time zones in order to maximize its effectiveness.

To wit: Barking before 7:00AM? Enthusiastic. Unending. Varying tones, pitches, and reasons. Early morning barking is, in some ways, a medical miracle. Consider the following– our basset hound, Jack Reacher, can go from a snoring, drooling sleep to fully awake and on the verge of insanity, but only if conditions are just so.

These conditions may include, but are not limited to:

Cars driving by.

Trucks driving by.

People walking by, with or without their own dog.

Clouds.

Squirrels.

A change in barometric pressure.

Ghosts.

Among the five dogs in our herd, Jack is consistently the loudest, but not at all times. That honor goes to Michael Dean, also known as Big Mike. He’s a Newfoundland, and his array of barks are topped by what we ominously call his Big Boy Voice, which is reserved for such existential threats as the UPS driver and/or roaming frozen meat salespeople. Generally, one of his window-rattling booms is enough to convince the people selling small, convenient pre-packaged meat that we’re good for this year, and maybe check back never.

Meet Big Mike: 

I write this because it’s Sunday, the traditional day of rest, and yet I’ve been up with the dogs for some time. You see, dog are true biological wonders; they can average fifteen hours of sleep per day, but very little of their rest is actually when we sleep. Rather, dogs prefer to lay on me while I try to write during the day, then rouse their chorus of howls at any time from 11:00Pm to whenever the sky begins to turn that subtle gray that lets them know their human has quite enough rest, thank you very much, and isn’t it time we started letting the neighborhood know that the squirrels are not only still alive, but threatening the very fabric of all that is American.

It’s their job, right?

 

Send Egg Recipes.

I’m on a super complicated diet this Spring. It’s mostly eggs, hot sauce, and eggs.

Regardless, I’m asking the internet and my bookfriends if you have any recipes pertaining to the following food items:

Eggs.

Veggies, preferably a huge amount.

I’m also doing a LOT of pushups, so anything that can help with higher protein (beans? maybe?) is most welcome.

Things I will eat: Everything on the planet except butter beans. Don’t you dare come ot me with butter beans, I will totally roll out a judo chop.

Things I REALLY like: Spicy stuff. Asian food. Mediterranean food. German food. American food. Food. Also, food.

Things I have to avoid for now: Bread and breadlike substances, although rice noodles are cool.

I used to own a restaurant, so I’ve been cooking for years, but I’m open to the wonders of new recipes.

If you submit a recipe that I go nuts over, is it alright to forward on in a new blog post?

Okay, whaddayagot?

Sincerely,

A boy, asking a pile of cauliflower to be hot wings.

 

 

How To Waste Time

10:12 AM

Bride asks, “Can you pick up fried rice for my lunch? They don’t open until 11. Can you find something to do until then?”

Me: “Have we met?”

What transpires next is as follows:

Gas station. One conversation, fill up, move on. 12 minutes.

Ace Hardware. Furnace filter. Three conversations about, but not limited to:

When to set out my onions.

Welding in cold weather.

Drills. 22 minutes.

Food Lion. Diet Coke (24 pack), Blueberry Nutrigrain Bars. Three conversations:

Books.

Kansas City.

Trucks. 17 minutes.

Arrive at Bento (Japanese Restaurant, lovely people) right on time. Order fried rice (no veggies), double order, and hibachi steak. 9 minutes.

Arrive home, eye my bride curiously as she makes no comment about issue of time. Debate reiterating my ability to waste time anywhere, any way, with anyone. It’s an art.

I’m a problem solver. If there’s extra time, fear not. It’s as good as gone.

I love you.

I am forty-eight, and I have achieved a kind of balance where I can now tell my friends I love them.

It’s liberating and invigorating and a lot of other action verbs (gerunds, I think) and I’ve waited my entire life for the satisfaction of having friends– some who have known me for thirty years or more– to whom I can say, without hesitation, “I love you.”

Yes, we may accompany this with an awkward male hug or no hug at all, but it’s an unexpected benefit of aging that, up until recently, had been wholly unknown to me.

I anticipated the aches and pains, the, ahem, thickening around the midsection. The, ahem, lines of character, hard earned and now worn as an emblem of experience and a life well lived.

What I did not anticipate is what I’ve seen older men doing around me all my life. They are both sweeter– yes, sweeter– and meaner all at once, a contradiction I’d previously only found in childish candy and chocolate milk on the verge of spoilage. It’s a heady sensation to me, since I (among everyone who knows me) am most surprised to see myself here, on the cusp of fifty– happy, rich with friends, and able to put away the concerns of a younger man.

I think it’s the best of both worlds. In my mind, I am twenty-something, an impervious wall of the me I knew from mirrors long ago, but a construct; a thing that existed only at a glance.

I like this aspect of me a great deal more. My son senses it. My bride, too.

I think getting older means that going slower means we are free. Free to say things like I love you without irony or care.

I’m also closer to the senior discount at Denny’s, and yes, I will use it.

I’m a man!

 

My newest addiction: Annie Chun

Before you think I’ve abandoned my wife for another woman, allow me to explain.

I am currently in the spicy, flavorful embrace of some magnificent hybrid between barbecue and hot sauces, known as Gochujang. In my mind, I may or may not be able to renounce it, but in my mouth, it sings.

I am currently eating lunch, which consists of mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, celery, and chicken. I cut these things up, added ginger, then sauteed.

Then *cracks knuckles*, we get to work.

I use Annie Chun’s Miracle Nectar like a five year old with a new bottle of ketchup.

I am not sorry, nor am I planning on changing my usage since amazon delivers it to my door in a case of six bottles.

What a time to be alive.

If you haven’t bought my books, now would be a good time, because I’m down to three bottles and I don’t think anyone really wants to see what happens if I run out.

Must eat. Bye for now.

I made Taylor Swift cry.

In a good way, and in a dream. I’ll explain.

Last night I dreamed she read one of my books (Heartborn), posted a video of herself crying about how it made her feel, and several things happened:

The book became a sensation.

It was made into a show on the CW, and everyone in the show was beautiful (with great hair).

I got invited onto the Tonight Show for banter with Jimmy Fallon. I told him I liked him, and thought he was even better looking in person. We laughed and fistbumped, then he asked me who my favorite band was.

I said, “The Cult” without hesitation, to which the curtain drew back and there they were, ready to rock. Ian Astbury invited me up and I got to sing Love Removal Machine and OH MY GAWD it was amazing even though I can’t sing and I’m fairly certain that even in the dream world, my mic was turned off.

It’s going to be really tough to top this dream.

A Bear Attacked Our House.

Last night, my bride made fresh ice cream with fresh baked honeycomb, from a recipe by baking genius Mary Berry. My bride has her own blog (http://www.buttereggs.com/, in which she’s making her way through various items from the Great British Baking Show.

Unfortunately, at some point in the night a bear (or other large mammal) pierced our home defenses and savaged the tray of ice cream (with home made honeycomb) as it chilled in the freezer. In case you would like to make this allegedly delicious recipe, here it is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03jmctz

I haven’t notified authorities, but I promised her I would be on the lookout for a bear. Or other large mammal. It should be noted, despite the savagery of the attack, that the bear (or other large mammal) was kind enough to put the plastic wrap back over the ice cream, and I think we should consider that as a mitigating circumstance in case the bear ( or– you know) is caught.

Carrots. Fuel for adulting.

Where I’m at in life today:

I plan on writing in the car at the pickup line. I arrive about an hour early to get Optimum Line Placement, assuring that my son gets in and we take off with near military precision.

Side note: If you told me to invade a country and gave me whatever resources I’d need, I would select the teachers who supervise the pickup line. I could have my forces in Moscow by noon. They do not play around when it comes to getting the kids on their way.

Ok, so I’ll write a chapter today– around 1500 words. The fuel I’m choosing is white carrots, purchased from the Hendersonville Produce Stand. It’s the kind of place that has fruits and vegetables that look real, rather than the polished, waxy approximations of food in some stores. I like the irregularity– it’s the same in people, I think. It’s the cracks that make us good, to quote Dozer from the book Heartborn.

Why white carrots, Terry? Welllll, glad you asked. I really dig parsnips, and these are rather like them. Add a touch of butter, salt, pepper, thyme. Roast until tender. Add protein of your choice. Boom. Writing fuel, or fuel for whatever you’re doing.

In my case, it’s writing. I’ll report back on the efficiency of carrots as Fictional Fuel.

Waking Up Kids.

There are three species of animals in this house.

Cats.

Dogs.

A manchild. He’s eight. He’s five feet tall and weighs one hundred pounds.

I am, at various times, tasked with waking/relocating these beasts as demanded. Cats are the easist; I make cooing noises in my ridiculous pet voice, they glare at me, flick their tails, and leave.

Dogs are a bit more complex. If it’s cold outside, or raining– then they’re comfortable, and that means they have no interest in moving. I may be required to physically lift and transfer them to another area. I may bribe them with food (usually what I’m eating) or I may coax them on the rare occasions they’re feeling charitable.

The kid is a different story.

For one thing, I feel an enormous sense of wonder watching him sleep. Yes, it’s vaguely creepy to hover over my spawn and keep repeating, “Aww, would you just look at him!”. If he were older, he’d most likely open a baleful eye and ask me to stop making him feel like the subject of a study on overbearing parents.

More often than not, what I feel is guilt. Here’s the kid– five blankets, all strewn about like a crime scene after a hurricane, limbs in positions that would make a Yogi proud, and gusty sighs of contentment. Here I come, ready to disgorge him from this toasty nest and ask him to go to school. I don’t like doing it. I’d rather drink coffee and let the kid sleep, then start school at a civilized hour– around ten would be nice– and do away with the feeling that I’m some cruel warden who works in reverse. Winter mornings are the worst. I certainly don’t want to be up and out among eight hundred screaming kids, why would he?

Today, he slid from bed and thumped across the floor with a half-smile. It took a little of my guilt away. At least until tomorrow, when I have to rouse him again.

Just ten more years, kid. But for now, I might let him sleep for a few more minutes. It’s good for both of us, I think.