My post today is a newspaper column that I wrote in Maryland during February, 2000. You'll notice that my life has changed quite a bit since then.
Valentine's Day will be here soon and the sight of all those heart-shaped boxes of candy in the stores makes me want to open my mouth.
While it's open so I can pop in a little chocolate, ever-so-delicately of course, I think I'll share a secret with you, my closest friends. I know you're my closest friends because, as far as I can tell, you're the only ones who read my writing.
OK, so I have one friend who says she watches for my byline in the paper.
Anyway, the first part of my secret is that I'm in love.
Now let's enjoy a little more chocolate, perhaps something mint-flavored, and I'll tell you the second part. My new love is not my husband.
(***Note: It's not that I don't love my husband, David. I might as well. I have to keep him. Early in our marriage, David and I came up with three reasons we could never get divorced. They must have worked because we're still together after more than 20 years. I quite often share these reasons, as follows, with newlyweds, and I encourage them to come up with their own three reasons:
1) We don't have time to get divorced.
2) Nobody else would have either one of us, and we know it.
3) David's mother -- now think of the shrillest, most grating voice you've heard and magnify it a million times to imagine my mother -in-law -- would say, "I knew it would never last. I just knew it." The fear of that voice keeps us together more than anything else ever could. But back to my new love.)
My darling has a fuzzier face than my husband's. His beard drips every time he drinks water. His breath is pretty bad. He nips me sometimes when we're kissing. He drools. His gas makes my eyes water. He's even left a few puddles around the house of what my daughter calls "liquid sunshine."
Yet I pronounce myself totally and utterly besotted. Cupid has zonked me with his arrow. I adore this dog of a fellow, adopted from the Washington County Humane Society.
Kesey (pronounced Kee-zee, with two long e sounds) is a bearded collie, about five-years-old. I named him for Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. With his gray and white coat, he bears a marked resemblance to the aging author.
I had to give Kesey a new name because I wouldn't use his name from his old life for my worst enemy. Suffice it to say, he wasn't well treated.
In spite of his past, he's sweet and loving. When I arrive home after slaving over a hot newsroom computer, Kesey erupts into a full-body wag.
He has thrown all 40-pounds of himself into his new life with us. Kesey is no mere dog: He is a life-force. He flies through the snow, urging our dignified smooth collie, Faulkner, to romp with him until Faulkner is so exhausted that he has to settle down for a nap, while Kesey continues to play.
He can't remove one toy from the doggie toy basket; He has to tip over the entire basket and dump out all the toys before he selects one.
He runs through the house, using his sense of smell to search for our three cats. They don't have too much trouble staying out of his way. He can't see them very well, for this fearless, playful, loving guy is going blind.
I knew he should be part of our family as soon as I learned he was losing his sight. Some friends have told me how nice I am to adopt this poor little dog. People can go right ahead and have nice thoughts about me, but the truth is that we need Kesey more than he needs us.
Faulkner, whose herding instincts surface quite easily, has become Kesey's guide dog, providing Faulkner with a job. My husband needed Kesey because he didn't have a leash to hold when he accompanied me on walks with Faulkner.
And I needed Kesey because I need to love, more and more all the time. My love for Kesey doesn't mean I have less love to give. The more I love others --- animals, people, and sometimes the two are combined in one form -- the more I'm able to love.
Love: I recommend it highly -- along with chocolate consumption. Both feel awfully good.
Share the secret and have a happy Valentine's Day.
How strange it is to look back at my life in 2000. I had no idea I would be divorced and alone in 2012 and my "husband" would be married to someone else. And look at what I wrote about my mother-in-law, who has been so generous and sympathetic since I told her her son had left me. She was disappointed in him and offered me financial assistance immediately. Sadly, I don't have a photo of Kesey to share with you because I left most of the heavy photo albums in Illinois. I had no idea my ex-husband would deny me access to them in the future.
Kesey lived with us for about five years. His health was never the best because he had been abused and neglected before we adopted him. He didn't completely recover from that phase in his life, but he was a very happy dog. Then one Saturday, he couldn't walk properly. I think he had a stroke. We took him to an emergency vet clinic, but they couldn't save his life. My ex-husband buried him in our backyard garden in Illinois.
After he died, we took him out to our car and I cried so hard I could barely stand up. He was still warm, and I stroked his fur until we arrived at our home and he went to his grave. But I knew he was in Heaven and no longer blind.
I look forward to seeing Kesey, Faulkner, and our hound, Thoreau, in the future.