Monday, September 22, 2008

Two Years

It was two years ago today that we lost Arthur... I was going through Flickr and found the worst picture of my kids and dog that was ever taken.

Worst Photo Ever

As it happened, it was also Arthur's last photo. It didn't seem like such a bad photo after he died. So I dug up the blog that I wrote when it happened and I'm posting it again today... because it sucks to lose a pet.

September 22, 2006

After what happened to Arthur, I just don't have the heart to be an asshole today. This morning Blythe tied a rope around her little stuffed dog's neck and pulled it around the living room saying, "Come on doggie, come on." I've got a headache that won't go away and I feel like I'm going to be sick at any moment. So, instead of wallowing in other people's failings in art, I'm going to talk about a couple good books.

What You Know First
By Patricia MacLachlin
This is a story about a young girl whose family is forced to leave the family farm and how she comes to terms with leaving the only things that are familiar to her. It was written by Patty MacLachlin, author of Sarah, Plain and Tall and illustrated by my friend Barry.

What you know first stays with you, my Papa says.
But just in case I forget
I will take a twig of the cottonwood tree
I will take a little bag of prairie dirt
I cannot take the sky

Big Fish
Daniel Wallace
The book on which the movie was based. It's a cliche, but the book is so much better than the movie. A story about a man who begins to understand who his father was by reconciling the tall tales his father told against the reality of his life.

On one of our last car trips, near the end of my father's life as a man, we stopped by a river, and we took a walk to its banks, where we sat in the shade of an old oak tree.

After a couple of minutes my father took off his shoes and his socks and placed his feet in the clear-running water, and he looked at them there. Then he closed his eyes and smiled. I hadn't seen him smile like that in a while.

Suddenly he took a deep breath and said, "This reminds me."

And then he stopped, and thought some more. Things came slow for him then if they ever came at all, and I guessed he was thinking of some joke to tell, because he always had some joke to tell. Or he might tell me a story that would celebrate his adventurous and heroic life. And I wondered, What does this remind him of? Does it remind him of the duck in the hardware store? The horse in the bar? The boy who was knee-high to a grasshopper? Did it remind him of the dinosaur egg he found one day, then lost, or the country he once ruled for the better part of a week?

"This reminds me," he said, "of when I was a boy."

I looked down at this old man, my old man with his old white feet in this clear-running stream, these moments among the very last in his life, and I thought of him suddenly, and simply, as a boy, a child, a youth, with his whole life ahead of him, much as mine was ahead of me. I'd never done that before. And these images - the now and then of my father - converged, and at that moment he turned into a weird creature, wild, concurrently young and old, dying and newborn.
My father became a myth.

Thurber's Dogs
By James Thurber
This book contains one of my favorite dog stories, Snapshot of a Dog. I remember reading it in my literature book back in 4th grade and it was the genesis of my love of James Thurber.

I want to thank everyone who has expressed their sympathies. It's funny, the night before Arthur died, Fletch and I were sitting on the couch talking about our cat that we had to put to sleep last year.

"I miss Caitlin," he said.
"I do too. But everything dies eventually. Arthur will die someday too."
"I know. And you will too... someday."
"Yeah, but not for a long time. Ok?"
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," he said.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have slept on the floor with Arthur Thursday night. And we would have eaten great blocks of cheese, and mountains of pizza crusts and all the other things he liked. We would have waited up for the skunk and barked in the moonlight if he dared to show up again. And in the morning we would roll in the grass together as the sun came up on the last day of summer.

That's it... that's all I've got in me today. It's going to be a cold winter.

I had no way of knowing that less than a month later my father would die as well. It made my choice of that excerpt from Big Fish all the more apt.

From Arthur

1 comment:

Michael Kusek said...

so great Joe. So great.

and it does make me feel better! Thanks!