Tag Archives: grieving

Boards and Bags

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“Mighty fine-lookin’ bean bags you got there,” says the Bearded One.  I’m sitting in the hut at my 1980 Singer sewing machine scowling at the Instruction Manual and trying to complete the simplest project — 8 regulation 6″x6″ Cornhole bags.  I look up.

Ever since the Bearded One proposed last week, he’s been flirting shamelessly — he calls it sinuendo — and I smile, because I’m not really irritated.  “Ha!” I say, and then he tromps up the half-finished new deck stairs into the house and I return to my bobbin problem.

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We’ve got a new project — construction of a horseshoe-esque lawn game called Cornhole, including 2 outdoor game boards and 8 bean bags, for our daughter’s wedding reception in less than two weeks.  Neither of us had ever heard of it before, and thought the name a bit sketchy, but it’s actually a real game and there’s even an American Cornhole Association, and we’ve been asked to make a set for use at the picnic reception.

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The Bearded One’s doing the boards and I’m doing the bags.  And even though I’m wrestling with this machine, it’s truly a minor glitch.  For some reason, we both have seized upon this project and thrown all else — deck construction, gardening, chain-sawing — to the wind.

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Garfield walks past the open hut door to get my attention.  Then he sits on the deck and looks out at the backyard, clearly thinking about Ruby, our late dog, who he would most certainly be pestering right now if she weren’t still dead.

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He returns to the hut doorway.  “Meeee — Owwwww?”  I keep explaining this to him.  Dead means gone forever.  Things are different, or at least more different than usual.  As if he can’t tell.  Ruby was his only other “animal” companion.  Gone.

I’m moving things around.  Like this sewing machine, which I haven’t used in eons.  I set it up out here, where all the deck action has been, around this 4-foot-diameter cedar tree which has a little lagoon between roots and where the hose waters it for hours.  It sounds like a fountain.

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I bought the machine brand new in 1981 and I’ve sewed curtains, window shades, Princess Diana-style 1980s skirts and jackets, and lots of children’s Halloween costumes including a buckskin suit and the famous Batman ensemble.

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Four of the Cornhole bags are cut from leftover buckskin scraps — polyester ultrasuade — and now I’m remembering how hard it was to sew this plushy stuff.  I have to wrestle it under the presser foot so that the little metal table beneath it rocks.  I made the buckskin suit in a little rental house 17 years ago.

The other four bags are denim from the hem of a forgotten skirt.  The officially correct cracked corn I’m filling them with is from our barn,

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where the Bearded One has cut and sanded and stained the two Cornhole boards, the same dark stain as the deck.

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“She’s dead,” I say, “and you are a sweet, sweet kitty.”  He licks his paw then walks away, down the deck steps and out across the dry lawn to inspect the lawn chairs the Bearded One set up for us to watch the meteor shower.  If it’s not cloudy.  Which it probably will be.  But maybe not.

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The screen door at the top of the deck opens and the Bearded One clomps back down the steps with a Coke.  He stops at the hut and peers in, inspects the two finished bags on the table again and raises his eyebrows.  “Yes sir, a matched pair if ever I saw one.”

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Ruby Slippers

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She lies in the woods just 100 feet from the house, under the crook of a young cedar which branches from an old nurse log. I can see her vertebrae she’s so thin.  The lumps on the side of her neck are thick and growing.  Her stomach rumbles very loudly, almost without end.  She woofs out air to clear her lungs.  Everything is going at once.  Besides that, she’s calm and serene and deeply tired.

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Two days ago Ruby entered this cave, after two weeks of not eating.  Yet still she breathes, and occasionally opens her brown eyes.  She’s an old dog and is dying and we are caring for her, but not trying to rescue her, and it’s hard. Planes rip across the dawn sky.  Coyotes scream in the night.  We visit often to stroke her bony head and rub her ears and paws.

*   *   *

“Where’s Ruby?” the Bearded One and I began to say to each other last week in greeting.  In the high weeds under the plum tree?  Behind the hut in the salal?  Under the house?

The Bearded One knows dogs.  He used to train sled dogs in Alaska, and he has had to put dogs down with a gun.

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If Ruby shows signs of pain or distress, I’ve asked him — after he offered and after studying the euthanizing options — to take her into our woods just off the nature trail where we’ve already dug her grave next to her brother Jake and shoot her with his gun.  She adores the Bearded One.  He is her person.  This is her home, and there’s no place like it.  He has agreed to this.

But neither of us believes it will come to that.  She is too far gone.  “She’s trying to ride it out,” he tells me, and I get an image of her galloping into the sunset.  In fact, the one thing Ruby seemed to enjoy this last week, before instinct pulled her under the log, was lying in the sun.

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*   *   *

Our daughter the nurse knows about dying from up close and knows how long it can take.  “She’s dying, but not dying fast enough,” she says.  I laugh at this raw truth and take a breath.  Dying is a process as consuming as marriage or divorce or graduation or any of life’s big transitions.

*   *   *

Saturday we helped our neighbor Brooklyn Man harvest his 53 meat chickens.

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Weasels killed all of ours, 58 total, in just two hours in broad daylight on June 29, but Brooklyn Man escaped the weasels and he gave us 10 birds as a thank you for helping with the 6 hour harvest.

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Momma Goose wasn’t there.  She’s in her own empty-nest transition to some new life and, fingers-crossed, a job with her brand new license driving truck.  Maybe a crane.

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Their son, Jonah, was there, his new golden wedding band twinkling in the sun.  He got married two weeks ago.

Our oldest daughter gets married in two-and-a-half weeks and I have finished the 235 half-pint jars of 4-berry jam she’s giving all the guests.  The Bearded One has about 70 labels to go.

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He also made the sign holders for the reception out of plum and alder and cedar cross-sections.  Earlier he finished the 9-foot arch under which she’ll take her vows.

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My reoccurring college nightmare forever, which thankfully I have just once or twice a year, is the Bearded One refusing to marry me.  I beg and beg and he won’t do it.  And of course I had it last week, on Thursday.  I woke up crying.  Weddings bring it back.

“Will you marry me?” the Bearded One whispers in my ear in the kitchen that afternoon.

Tears spurt from my eyes and drench my eyelashes, then my glasses, then drip down my cheeks onto my lips.  I click my heels together and say “Yes, yes, yes.”  So what if we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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*   *   *

Ruby died at about 6pm, August 6, 2013.

The Bearded One was with her at 5:30pm.  He held her close and sang her the Dogsology.  He put an ice cube to her parched lips.  We loved her and her litter mate Jake very very much.

 Born 2/23/2001 — Jake died November 17, 2009

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