Monday, February 22, 2010

Where's Haley?

By Al Stumph

Although I must have grown attached to her, and there is considerable evidence that she had become attached to me, I never counted myself among the fans of our family dog. Now I’m questioning that. After nearly fifteen years of complaining about her, we had Haley put down a couple of weeks ago, and I miss having her around.

That’s not the reaction I expected. And I’ve been wondering why I have been using the rather curious phrase, “had her put down” to speak about our decision to end her life. What actually happened was that Kathy drove the dog to the vet where she was euthanized and cremated. Nonetheless when someone asks me, “Where’s Haley?” I usually reply, “We had her put down. She was old, in pain, and not eating.”

The euphemisms we Americans employ to avoid saying “died” are legion. We might say, “Mom passed on.” Or “Sue fell asleep in the Lord.” Or “ Dad was called home.” And on and on.

I suppose this is all part of our avoidance of any discussion of death and dying, or even of the aging process. I recall the occasional assignment to meditate on my own death during the thirteen years I prepared for the priesthood. What I don’t recall was any serious attempt on my part to do the death meditation. After all I was young during those years so denial of my own death was as natural as my curiosity about girls. And girls were definitely a more enjoyable focus for meditation.

Since those days of theology studies, I’ve added a few years to my experience with both death and girls. I probably don’t understand girls much better than I did many years ago, but I think I have learned from my varied encounters with death, including those occasions when my mortality has been made obvious to me.

Here are two things I’ve learned:

• Death happens.
• I’m within striking distance of seventy years so by actuarial tables my death is more imminent than it used to be
Because I’ve gained this knowledge I’ve made the following decisions:

• I want to enjoy the aging process so I’m postponing my death for a few more years.
• If that does not work, well, I’ll just enjoy being alive in the present moment because that's what life is.

Haley made her final trip to the vet after the equivalent of ninety years of human life. Not a bad deal for someone whose primary life-long interests were food and affection, coupled with an astounding ability to sleep. She had lost interest in the opposite sex following an operation early in her life.

And on that final ride to the vet, she struggled but eventually managed to stand up. She put her head out the car window, and enjoyed the wind in her face.

Writer Al Stumph was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1968 but resigned shortly thereafter. He took up a career in social services and today helps his wife Kathy operate a children's clothing store in Chatham, New York. The couple has four children and six grandchildren.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

So, Sarah, What Do You Say?

The following open letter to Sarah Palin first appeared in the blog, Dream Antilles, It is published by permission of the author, David Seth Michaels, an attorney in Columbia County, New York.

Dear Ms. Palin:

I know that people have been making fun of you in the media and on the blogs because of your Nashville appearance at the Tea Bag Pay As You Go Event. They're complaining about your irritating voice, your inability to complete a sentence, your having no plan and your writing on your hand. They say you are speaking "word salad." That's sad, but that's how it is in America. People have the right to make fun of their politicians, and they should. And, lest you forget, you're a politician. Or maybe now you're not a politician any more and you're an entertainer. Or something. Anyway, those folks cherish their "right" to make fun of you.

Regardless, I have a small proposal for you to consider. I realize that it's unorthodox to print it here and publish it on the Internet, but after all it is 2010 so I beg your indulgence. How else can I get your attention?

The proposal: How about you pay me $50,000 before your next "speech" and I will write it for you. I am an excellent writer. I know grammar and sentence structure. I know how to construct a paragraph. I had an elite, liberal education, and I have a graduate degree, and I've written books, but I won't tell anyone that. I know how to write. And I'll keep it simple so your audience will follow it perfectly.

I assure you the speech I write for you will be (1) far more whacked out than the one you gave in Nashville, (2) far more clever (you might be tempted to say "cleverer"), and (3) your supporters, all those superannuated, semi and fully retired, more or less rich, white folks, will really love it. They will have something that is akin to an orgasm when you deliver my speech. Only it won't be an actual orgasm, they'll just smile and hyperventilate and cheer a lot. And want to smoke afterward.

You know how to reach me.

Love, davidseth

PS. I can see Uranus from here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Caffe Your Way to Happiness

By Camincha

In Miraflores, the little girl drank café latte, café con leche. Her mother fixed it for her.


Not something to be afraid of. Something to savor. Coffee from Cuzco, Putumayo or Chanchamayo.

Decades later when her fortieth birthday came a' knocking, she decided to confide in her best friend, her boyfriend.

Met him in West Portal Chinese restaurant, $3.50 buffet, ALL YOU CAN EAT. Didn't enjoy it, this buffet she had relished other times. She is usually good humored. She works at it. But that day felt heavy. Moments like this when you are thinking about life there is much too much to deal with, longings, regrets, memories.

The Chinese waitress-owner brought them some tea. They drank it. To her, it was tasteless.

When they parted, he made a suggestion: maybe she should consult a good counselor. Somebody to help her sort out all these feelings. Gave her a name.

I recommend him, he smiled, concern in his kind blue eyes. They hugged, Good-bye. See you tonight.

What I need she decided after they parted, is a good café latté. Café con leche. Un buen café con leche. She remembered a friendly coffee shop nearby on Ocean Avenue. Ordered one to go, a Mocha Especial. The clerk asked: cinnamon and chocolate?

She said, yes. Lots. Added Sweet and Low. Stirred it up, it was good. Muy bueno. She savored the robust, full flavor. It pumped her adrenaline. And the color brought memories of skin that exact tone, Jorge’s! the revolutionary who had never returned.

Moments later she went home driving in the rain, a forceful storm was in progress. At home she sat in her living room looking out at the wind pushing the rain down the hills across the way and against the window panes. The drama. The beauty of it! She savored the rest of her full-flavored coffee and thought of the good-looking guy. The beauty of his dark eyes. She drank it in, that memory of them. She enjoyed the coffee to the last drop. Gave herself completely up to it, at that moment, to the feelings they evoked. Of the strong feisty revolucionario.

Suddenly her good humor was back. She made a toast to birthdays and decided she wanted to live to be a hundred, drinking coffee all the way.

Camincha is a California-based writer and frequent contributor to My Story Lives.