Last year I set out to video a second from each of my days. Well, I didn’t quite do it. So this is finished, but it’s not complete. I forgot frequently. And my Macbook died in the fall so I lost a good chunk of it. But there’s always this year to do better.
Seems like 2016 was a bad year for politics and celebrity deaths, but not terrible personally.
Lots happened though. I saw great live shows. I wrote. I edited. I traveled a little. I ran. I mostly stopped running. I met lots of interesting people. I lost my dog. I made friends.
Here are pieces of my 2016.
When you die, they should take that list of things you were gonna do —
The cities you wanted to visit
The foods you would have tried
That grudge you’ve been meaning to forgive
— put in the pocket of your dress, and bury it with you.
I haven’t been great at keeping up with the video clips each day, but here are clips from the days over the past couple months when I remembered to take them. I’ll try to do better in the coming days and weeks.
I went home today, almost to the very patch of ground where my parents raised me. What is it about the years that stretch out memories so that they have holes we must fill to make sense of things?
I fill in mine with good things that make me long for home, even from 10 miles up the interstate.
When I am lost or lonely, I drive the back road past my old high school, my church, my grandmother’s house. Or I browse the internet for listings somewhere off the main road where there is land. I dream of raising a dog there until I am loved and love enough to raise a child.
I’d take her berry picking, or firefly catching on the same Appalachian hill where I grew up. We’d look for the same constellations my father once pointed out to me.
But Nostalgia is as big a liar as Someday.
That boy who first kissed you, he took a wife. I heard they live in a house on the same property where his parents are. They look so happy in the Facebook photos.
At that church down the gravel driveway from your house you learned to say the Our Father and to love God, but you didn’t learn to love your neighbor well.
They say you can’t go home again, but that’s not true. You can. But you might not recognize home any more. And it sure doesn’t remember you.
Note: Found this in my drafts recently. It made me thankful for water under burned bridges.
Deciding the pieces were not small enough, I picked up your picture from the gravel-covered ground and began to tear again — limb from limb, head from body, clothing from flesh.
It felt good to make you smaller, if only a paper you.
I answered the phone in a tone that sounded more frustrated, angry, than I had intended. It was 10 till 9 on a Friday morning and I was late for work. She caught me in the bathroom trying to run a straightener through my unruly hair in an attempt to look like less of a total mess.
“Hey, are you busy?” My mom had asked. “Yes. What?!” I had snapped.
“I just called to let you know we’re taking Maggie to the clinic on Tuesday.”
I immediately regretted my response. I’d been waiting for this call. It wasn’t that she was taking our 9-year-old golden retriever/lab mix dog for a vet appointment, it was about what would happen there.
Maggie had been sick for a while and we were nearing the end. A tumor on her throat had grown to the size of an orange, something her sandy blond fur made it difficult to see. It was easier to notice with your ears. The tumor made it hard for her to eat or drink. Each time she tried she went into a coughing fit.
I hung up the phone and made plans to be in Kentucky Monday, Maggie’s final day.
Everyone says this about their pets but she really was the best dog. She was good with kids — even with three little girls clamoring around and sometimes catching rides on her back.
She used to visit me in Charleston on weekends sometimes. She got along with my jerk cats. She won over my coworkers, who gave her cheese fries and belly scratches. I don’t think she met anyone she didn’t like.
She loved you, too. It doesn’t matter that you never met her.
That night my parents and I kept a strange and modern death vigil — me with my laptop, headphones and the new season of House of Cards camped out next to a blanket on the floor where Maggie rested. Mom and dad sat near by, watching TV.
I went to bed, but Mom couldn’t stand the thought of Maggie alone like this. She slept on the couch by her. It wasn’t the first time she’d done it, but it would be the last.
There’s nothing like a dog’s love. We should all be so lucky to experience it, a friend posted on my Facebook the other day. And I can’t stop thinking about the truth of that.
Our love was mutual and not complicated. I never had to earn it.
When I arrived in Ashland Monday afternoon, she didn’t ask me where I’d been. I went to see her in the hallway where she slept behind a baby gate, separated from my little nieces, who were visiting.
“Hey girl,” I said. She perked up a little at my voice. That stump tail of hers began to wag. So I laid down beside her, ran my fingers through her fur a little. She lifted her leg, an invitation to scratch her belly that I accepted.
The next morning, Mom and I loaded her into the back of their SUV, picked up my dad from the office on the way into town.
Getting out of the car, I couldn’t bear to put a leash on her — I don’t know how much pain the tumor gave her. Instead I lead her through the parking to the clinic without it.
It felt a little strange, taking her in past the other dogs in the waiting room. One owner made a comment that I can’t quite recall, something about her own dog looking like Maggie when it gets older. And I wondered if she saw the tears that streamed down our faces — by then we’d stopped trying to disguise them.
The vet tech explained things to us in calm, compassionate tones.
No, she won’t feel anything. Yes, it will be quick, probably even before the injection is done. Yes, you can pet her while it happens.
They lift her onto the table and before long Maggie has drifted off.
“I don’t know how you all do this everyday,” I say to the vet and vet tech after everything is over. You have to think of it as helping them, she says, and I know she’s right.
Taking her into that vet’s office was the last loving thing we could have done for her.
All you can do with a love like that is return it, and hope you’ve done right by it.
I’m doing this thing this year where I record one second of my day (mostly) everyday and I’m editing it together to make a video of the year. I shoot video on my iPhone at random, mostly, so they’re not particularly special moments. They’re just regular moments.
And sometimes I forget until right before I go to sleep so I end up taking another cat video. I saw the idea from a New York Times reporter. I’d like to think recording a second from my day will push me to do interesting or fun things so the video turns out better. (Not sure that’s happened yet but we’ll see).
Anyway, here’s January.
Note: I was digging through my drafts this week and came across this beauty that I wrote last fall and didn’t publish. The guy it was written about is no longer a boyfriend (and his sinuses are rejoicing), but he’s still a good friend. (And I told him I was posting this).
What do you get when pair a self-proclaimed cat lady with a funny guy who claimed he’d never date a girl who owns cats? As it turns out, some pretty hilarious conversations between the boy and the cat. I have one orange cat named Frank (@hello_imfrank on Instagram) who can’t stand to be out of my presence, one gray one named Mouse who’s happy hiding from everyone and one boyfriend who’s allergic to them both.
Don’t let him fool you, he actually likes Mouse. More than once, I’ve heard him call her “Pretty girl.” He feels less than love for Frank, though, and it’s made for some pretty funny interactions. Here are some of my favorites recently:
“Are cats just scared all the time? What’s the deal with cats?”
Him: “Why’s he vibrating?”
Me: “He’s purring.”
Him: “Oh, I though he was getting a text.”
Me: (Picks up Frank as guy opens the front door): “You want a cat?”
Him: “I don’t even want you to have a cat. Write that f***ing down.”
Me: “OK, I will.”
“F*** you, Frank.”
“If it were up to me you’d be in a glue factory… Actually I don’t think they make cats into glue… Oh, by all means get on my lap.”
“You’re meowing at the one person who hates you the most, how stupid is that?”
(Whispering) “I don’t like you.”
“Hey Frank, I’ll give you a peanut if you tell me you’re allergic.”
“I wish you were nicer… and a dog.”
My mom was going through old things to take to a consignment sale when she came across one of my earliest-known journalistic works: a biography of my hamster. It’s a pretty short work: four pages of notebook paper stapled together. The first is a title page and the other three have short paragraphs of surprisingly legible handwriting.
I don’t know exactly how old I was when I wrote it. The story says I got the hamster for Christmas 1992, so I would have been 8, but I don’t know when the hamster died or when I decided to give an account for his time on earth. I was home schooled at the time and I’m pretty sure it was not a part of my school work.
I write about getting him and naming him, about my brother also getting a hamster, about going to my grandmother’s house to spend the night, and about my sister finding Little Bitt near death in his cage. “We still don’t know how he deid, but he did,” I wrote before summing it up quite succinctly with “the End.”
I do remember the hamster well. I loved that hamster. I used to put him on my shoulder and walk around the house with him. I remember begging my mom and dad for a hamster. I didn’t think they would get me one, but low and behold, on Christmas Day, here was this tiny baby hamster. I called him Little Bitt because of his size but I think it was also a reference to a popular cartoon of the time.
The story has pretty good spelling and grammar, considering a child wrote it. And it’s not much of a story, but it has a beginning, middle and and end. It’s fun to go through old personal artifacts like this and get a glimpse kid Lori. I like it that she was already writing even then.
**UPDATE: as requested, the following is the full text of Little Bitt’s Life.