Monday, November 28, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
My daughter Gracie is an only child, so getting a dog when she was seven years old, it just made sense. The sign on the window of The Barking Lot, a local pet groomer, announced GOLDEN RETRIEVER PUPPIES FOR SALE”. Just so happened, we were ready for a puppy, a companion for Gracie.
The puppies were at a home in Brookfield and I went there by myself to check them out. It was mayhem, little golden streaking fur balls, chasing each other and having true canine fun. Except one pup, he calmly walked over to me and dropped a little ball at my feet. I picked him up and he instantly snuggled against my neck. Oh God, I was hooked, this little guy, in all this craziness, wanted me…he picked me that morning so many years ago. And by the way, he was the runt of the litter and so I even got a discount!
I brought Mickey home a few days later. The picture, it is the first minutes of Gracie and Mickey meeting one another. Those first days, armed with my copy of THE MONKS OF NEW SKEET, THE ART OF RAISING A PUPPY, I was going to train this dog to be the perfect canine family companion. I had many rules, no barking, no chewing and he was in his cage according to the schedule in the book. Mickey was to live only in the family room and he was to relieve himself in the Poo Poo Palace corner of the yard. I was a psycho, dog training Nazi.
Well, he didn’t flunk out of obedience school, but he wasn’t a star pupil. He chewed, barked and pulled his way through puppy hood. He wasn’t very well mannered; his greeting would knock you down. But yet, this dog of ours, has a heart of gold. Our family fell fast in love. Mickey was an ambassador of dogs, if you didn’t like him, he would win you over in time with his charm and sweetness. My mother has never liked a dog in her life, but she coos to Mickey. The neighbor children that were afraid of dogs, Mickey caught their snowballs at the bus stop and soon they were fans, too.
We are crazy in expressing our love for Mickey. He has his own theme song, yes, he does. We all break into the chorus if one of us starts to sing to him. He in turn, lights up and prances to the stanzas. He now owns the couch, sleeps by the foot of our bed and holds court under the dining room table. Table scraps are expected; especially steak and he can make you feel very guilty if you don’t share. He loves toys, rawhide bones and a good brushing.
He keeps a routine like an old lady, a cookie after he goes outside, a nice long morning nap in the sun and a romp around the yard, early afternoon. That routine, that presence is the most comforting part of my day. He follows me around the house like a shadow. I talk to my dog, tell him about good things, troubles and he listens with total attentiveness. I can also speak for him and tell folks what he is thinking. I’m his bidder, his negotiator and his overall spokesperson.
Recently, we were in Pet Smart shopping for dog food. The woman behind me in the line reached down to pet Mick. “Oh my… what is his name she asked?” “Mickey”, I replied. Her eyes filled with tears as she hugged his furry face and said to me, “Our golden was a Mickey, too.”
And in that moment, it hit me. Mickey just turned nine years old this past month and time is marching on. He sleeps quite a bit more and he tires quickly. When did the gold fur on his nose turn so white? You take it for granted they will always be there. The thought that one day, he won’t be, well, it is just devastating to me. I push this out of my mind, just like the thought that Gracie will be leaving home in the near future.
And so is life, what is so precious and important is to be cherished. When the changes come, I’ll count the years, each one a true blessing and be thankful that I shared my home, my family and my heart with Mickey.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
In my life, I have met stars on Broadway, Pulitzer winning writers, famous TV stars and brilliant academics. They have my respect and admiration for their great accomplishments. But, nothing they have done comes close to the accomplishments of thirty-one young adults I met at a graduation ceremony at Village Glen School in Culver City, California.
My niece, Emma, graduated with her classmates on a recent morning. It was a simple stage adorned with helium balloons. The graduates entered to Pomp and Circumstance wearing red robes and mortar boards with gold tassels. In the audience I sat with all of their parents, friends, and extended family. Like all graduations, there was a thrill of accomplishment in the air.
I can tell you, that nothing comes close; nothing comes close to the respect and awe I felt in the presence of the graduates.
I have thought for several days about how to write about this experience, how to do it justice. Perhaps the young man who stood up to speak can describe it best. “When I was four years old, my parents were told that I was autistic. They were told that I would never read, never speak in full sentences. I’m here today to tell you that I can do those things.”
I have had a front row seat for the past nineteen years watching my sister fight for her daughter. Emma did the work, but Deb paved the way. My sister is my hero and Emma is my beacon in this world that says all things are possible.
You see, I believe that a fine example of true greatness are these kids and their families who have written their own futures in spite of what any diagnosis was given in early childhood. Greatness comes from the teachers that work side by side with the children year after year. Greatness comes from perseverance, set backs and victories.
Until you have watched a child struggle to use scissors in an OT session, you do not know the meaning of hard work, for the child, for the teacher and for those adults that love them. None of it has been easy, in fact, everything is hard, very hard. Yet, the victories and accomplishments are huge.
Through the speeches on that graduation stage there was a recurring theme. “We deserve a chance”, “Even more challenges ahead”. “We believe in us”.
To the graduates and especially to Emma I say this…I am humbled by all of you and I know that you represent all that is good in this world. You are brave, you are capable and you will continue to amaze me.
At the end of the ceremony, Charlie, one of the graduates, sang a song and played his guitar. Perhaps you know the song from Wicked...
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Congratulations Class of 2011….Village Glen West School...
I wish you a world and a future that is worthy of you.