15 August 2009

The Edge of Goodbye

"There isn't anymore that you can do for her, except care for her. She will probably have a couple of good months left." The vet paused as though she expected me to speak, but I couldn't. "Call me when...call me when you are ready." I nodded my head and smiled, the salt of my tears burning my tongue.

"Let's go, Beauty Queen," I nudged her and she peered at me, rising slowly, but still with the wag of her tail.

12 August 2009

Signs, Hope, Angels-Not Always What We Think

All around us, I know that they are; I just forget that sometimes, especially lately.

Remember him? It's OK, I wouldn't blame you if you'd forgotten--he'd crossed my mind now and then, but as of late, mostly then. I happened to check an old email account yesterday when I came across this message that had been sent to me two days ago:

On Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 9:37 AM, wrote:
Hi Jenn,
I am sorry if I am wrong but I think you were they Good Samaritan that picked me off of US 127 heading south sometimes around June 2008.
I was going to the court in Ithaca and my engine blew up. I was driving a navy blue Audi Quattro car. You stopped and not only did you take me to Ithaca but you went inside the court house with me to testify as to the fact that my engine did blow up. This was something I will live to remember!!!!
I was going through my files this morning and I saw a complementary card which I guess was the same one you gave me at the court house when you were leaving. If you were not the person I am thinking you are, I am sorry to have bothered you.
I wish you a nice weekend.

After I quit crying, I messaged him back, to which he replied:

Hi Jenn,
I am so glad we were able to reconnect after such a long time. You know people talk about Angels as if they are invisible entities. You were my Angel that day and the fact you went inside the court house with me was like a miracle. I strongly believe in what goes round comes round. There is nothing I can do for you that can repay your good did. No money, which unfortunately I don’t even have (lol) would be enough to show my appreciation. Everywhere you go, I wish you compassion and favor in multiple folds of the one you showed toward me.
I read Physics at both undergraduate and graduate but presently taking graduate classes in Computer Science to have another graduate degree in Computer Science. I also work as an IT person with the District Library. If you ever need my assistance in any way or form, please do not hesitate to let me know.
I also hope we’ll keep the line of communication opened.

Signs, angels, hope--all around--turns out maybe I wasn't the savior that day.

10 August 2009

No More

The thought startled me upon its arrival; appearing without so much as a warning, then taking up room to stay for what appears to be an extended period, easing its way into what was left of the peaceful ruminations in my mind.

I've met the point in my life, I am certain, where if time stopped tomorrow, I would be quite well with it. No longer do my tomorrows hold promises of something new and exciting, or even, honestly, anything that I greatly anticipate or look forward to.

I recall, with great detail, as a child how time was met with such an eager force; the special days on the calendar marked with bright circles: my birthday, the first day of school, Christmas. I also recall, with great detail, the first year that I dreaded the holidays and willed myself to not feel as such. Truth be told, they've been a lie since that year, I just try to fake it for my family. If I could have anything for the holidays, it would be simple innocence again. It would be to believe, if just for a minute, again, with the faith of a child, in anything. 

I am mercilessly aware that without fail, if time continues to be mostly kind and my children continue to thrive, one day soon, Big A will awaken and be taller than me. It will happen as it did the morning that I reached to her wrist to kiss the last of her baby fat, only to find it gone, leaving in its gaping wake a gasp and sob and a woman weeping in the shower who had to leave two meetings that day in order to compose herself.

Little A will become not so little and there will be a day, somehow, despite my strongest wishes otherwise, that I will no longer be able to hold her to me. I will reach to pick her up and it will not be possible and I will try to smile and make light of the fact that she has grown so much as my heart will be breaking into a thousand pieces inside of me.

My two aged dogs will one day very soon, most likely be leaving this home that they have made with me for the past sixteen years, and I am telling you simply: I cannot bear this thought. I will be wrecked, permanently; scarred in ways that will not heal.

My career cannot get better, at least not to me on the levels that matter. My accomplishments are enough, what I want, what I want so very badly is to have this life, for life.

I think of my grandmother, who within this year alone has already buried her husband and two brothers. I think of my grandfather still and cannot remain composed; it is an ache, a wound, a missing piece that I am beginning to recognize will not come to be filled.

I cannot help but think of the progression of time; I try to speak of the beauty of the world to my kids, the gratitude I have for our lives, the love that I have in my heart, and the words come out not as words, but tears. I stare out the window into a place that doesn't exist anymore, Big A asking what I'm thinking about. I'm afraid to answer that I'm thinking of how I miss sleeping with my sister and the sound of her laughter and the comfort of knowing that she was there, even on the nights that I hated her deeply for being such.

I am, most likely, by some outsider and all insider accounts, a verifiable mess. Big A said to me the other day, "Let me know when you're done with your mental breakdown," as I stood sobbing in the kitchen over the thought of nothing in particular, but time in general.

The best, friends, is no longer yet to come.

The best lies asleep in their beds at this moment.

The best sits next to me under our willow tree as we watch the dogs and girls run about.

The best lives in my memory, riding the imaginary school bus in our hallway, towels used as our flowing hair.

The best lives spreading out a blue flowered quilt under the summer sun with a picnic basket and reading to me repeatedly storybooks.

The best exists within Tiger Stadium, not Comerica Park, the 1984 Tigers running rampant around the bases.

The best drives a red lumber truck down a dirt road that exists no more.

Time, you son of a bitch. If I thought it would make a difference, I'd beg and plead and bolt my doors and rip the calendars from my walls and smash the clocks with my clenched fists. But knowing that you are as merciless as you are steady, instead I will continue to try to smile through whatever it is that is happening to me, and hug my Queens and express my gratitude for what I've been given in this lifetime. You've broken my heart and I'm going to wear it on my sleeve, a warrior's badge, tattered and torn, but still mine to wear. You won't take that from me as well.

02 August 2009


Gone Smoosh Jennifer Barko
Yesterday, she was here. Today, no matter how many times I've begged it not to be so, she is gone.

I know, of course, that when you get to the age 0f 16 and you are classified as a dog, each moment is a gift. It's just that while I knew that the time left was small, I assumed that the goodbye would be on my terms; when I was ready, when I was able to know absolutely in my heart that letting go was the only honorable option left.

This was not meant to be.

If I told you her story before yesterday, before that moment, I would tell it to you laughing, as would anyone who knew her. She always looked like she was smiling, her tail was always wagging, she was still certain that she could field her duck that she caught mid-air each time it was thrown, and for the most part, she did. She still wrestled with the pups like she was one of them and she still lolly-gagged with Jessie like the true companion that she was.

Beauty Queen Resting Place Jennifer Barko Serving The Queens
After dinner, I walked outside to give her and Jessie their medicine. She was on her bed in the garage. I petted her head, rubbed her ear and said, "Oh, Smoosh". I gave Jessie her medicines and sang, "Jessie is a beauty queen" while I waited for her to swallow. Then I went back into the house to get Little A's P.J.'s on her and stand at the window to wave goodbye to our dinner guests.  

Perhaps a minute passed before I heard a yelp--the sound that Smoosh makes when the pups have caught her and she is telling them to back off. I started to the door with a smile on my face, until I heard screaming. I dropped Little A and ran down the stairs as my friend attempted to hold me back, saying, "Don't go out there." "No! No!" I screamed as I hit her arm and pushed her out of my way, stumbling out into the place where I saw Smoosh lying by their tire.

I took her broken body and tried to put it back together with my hands, thinking, of course, that somehow, this would mend her.

I don't know how long I laid there, sobbing on top of her, begging God, damning God, saying no, saying please. Later I was told that our neighbors had come running over; they had heard my screams, but I don't remember that happening.

Little A went to a friends and I began to search for the things that needed to be with her when she finally was placed to rest.

I found her pink afghan that had been knitted her, easily located her yellow, tattered duck-it was right under her bed that's inside the house-and found some pictures of the three dogs together. I went outside to find a spot to bury her; I knew where she belonged. In the circular part of our drive, each day when we arrived home, there she would be, laying under the trees in the grass.

The world began to weep while her grave was dug in the rain as I whispered my final goodbye to her. I wrapped her in her afghan and my blue Michigan blanket, with her duck tucked between her chin and chest. Jessie nuzzled her, one last time, then slowly made her way to the furthest part of the garage. I kissed her one last time and covered up her sweet face as and I laid, sobbing, over her.

I want to tell you something happy about her. I want to tell you something to make you smile. I want to tell you that everyone she met said she was the happiest and sweetest dog they'd ever seen. I want you to know that she was always smiling, and I need to remind myself of this to get through the days that lie ahead.

God Speed, Smoosh.
I will love you until the day that I see you again.