Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A conversation about Love

I've been hesitating to write this post, because it implies some sort of closure, and I think it's a while before I'll have closure on this. Also because I'm trying to make this blog less about my personal tragedy. But I've also come to realize that this journal is more for me than it is for you. It's more of a public record of me, of who I am, a reflection of my mental and emotional state at this moment. I've been going back and reading about myself.

Anyway. In case you don't know, or haven't figured it out, this is a post about my dog.

We got Phae a little over a year after we got married. It was probably too early for us to get a dog, but we wanted one, and the timing worked out really well. When we went to look at her, she and her brother were romping around, causing trouble, eating grass. She threw up in the car on the way home. I slept on the floor next to her crate that first night, so she wouldn't whine so much.

Phaedrus was always full of love. She was patient, she was gentle... frankly, she was the sweetest dog you would ever meet. We loved her every day of her life, and she tolerated that love, because it was her due.

I have a thousand stories, but I'm going to keep them to myself. Suffice it to say that she played hard, felt bad when she caused trouble, and loved to steal pizza out of the trash or off of an unattended plate. These last few years have been hard. Watching her decline hasn't been easy. But it was easier than this part.

She has been suffering from fluid on the lungs since Thanksgiving. Last Thursday night she was having some trouble with it, but no worse than she's had a dozen times since it started. I got her up and got her leash on for a little walk, since sometimes that helps. A year ago we were able to get her to walk down to the end of the block before her legs gave out. Recently it's just been around the house. That night I was able to get her to the front yard, but I had to carry her back inside. We propped her up so she could breath easier, got her a little water, and then went to bed. At 2:30, Jen checked on her. She was sleeping peacefully. Maybe even dreaming.

She never woke up. I found her the next morning, right where I had laid her down. Still. I can't tell you how empty she looked.

It's been a hard weekend for us. It's hard, right now, thinking about it. It's going to be difficult for quite a while. Every time I walk into the main room, I'm going to look at where she usually was, to see how she's doing. I'm going to hear things in the house, sounds, and think it's the dog settling down to sleep, or getting up for a drink, or just huffing in her dreams. The house is going to feel empty for quite a while.

We named her Phaedrus, after the character in the Socratic dialogues who starts the conversation on Love. She was, and is, true to that name.

She was a good dog, and I loved her. I miss her. I always will.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

As stone sharpens stone

I was watching the last few games of the regular NFL season, and I was thinking about how strange it must be for those guys in irrelevant games. They have this moment, these three hours, and then their jobs are technically over for a few months. Maybe forever. And, as these things tend to work in my brain, that started a whole cascade of thoughts about professionalism, self-will and the writing life. I'll try to parse it all out here, if I can.

First of all, being a player in the NFL isn't really just a job, just like being a writer isn't really just a job. It's a lifestyle, and it's a lifestyle that you only attain through years and years of serious determination and full-time effort, layered on fat stacks of talent. Think about the process players go through to get to the NFL. They were probably the standout talent of their high school team, their coaches marked them as the best they had ever seen, because you have to be that good to get recruited by a real college. Then they need to be among the best at the collegiate level just to get noticed by NFL scouts, playing for a major team and putting up major numbers. And that might get them a high draft pick, and the kind of attention, coaching and patience that the high pressure world of professional football gives to valued players.

And then they have to perform. Because no amount of perceived value will replace actual value on the field. How many players go through all of that, land the good pick, the dream contract, and then wilt on the field? I'll tell you; most of them. Most play a few years, the coaches figure out they can't adjust to the accelerated pace of the professional game, and they wash out. They knock around in the smaller leagues, they do a turn in Canada, maybe they get another chance, maybe not. Maybe they end up installing drywall and dreaming.

And that's a lot like writing. Too many aspirant writers think that first book contract is the win. And it kind of is, for a day or a month or a year, but then you have to step up, suit up, and step onto that field. You have to perform.

Players in the NFL don't end their season on the last down. They may take a break, may get that surgery they've been putting off until this season is over, but then they start preparing for next season. They are where they are, succeeding at the level they're at, because they are finely honed monsters of determination.

Be that.