Archive for April, 2017

A Grave Decision

April 14, 2017


One of the best things about being single and living alone is I get to make all of the decisions. One of the worst things about being single and living alone is that I get to make all the hard decisions by myself.

Sparky, my Shih Tzu-poodle, is fifteen and a half years old. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He’s mostly blind due to cataracts, and he doesn’t hear much anymore, not even the crinkle of potato chip or dog treat bags. When I come home, he doesn’t get up from his bed or foam mat to meet me. He has Cushing’s Disease so his back is bowed and his back legs don’t work very well. And his front legs hurt. Sometimes he shakes. I’m giving him medication for the shakes but it doesn’t entirely go away and I know he’s in pain.

I’m an expert at ignoring what I don’t want to see. Last week I took Sparky to a dog physical therapist, a referral from my vet. I figured if I could just get those legs stronger, he’d be happier. He perked up for the assessment and the exercises. I bought an expensive harness to be able to pick him up and put him in my SUV. It will also allow me to attach his leash at his back end and lift his back legs when they’re too tired to walk.

He’s never recovered from his workout. I bought the two by two sticks to do some exercises at home, but never used them.

I’m dog sitting for my friend’s dog Lilah. She’s six and very peppy. She isn’t trained to use a doggie door, so I walk her three times a day. By Tuesday, Sparky was barely making it to the corner. After that, he preferred to stay at home.

I’ve been finding evidence of one of the dogs throwing up and peeing, but thought it was Louie, who had dental surgery a month ago. Today I saw that it was Sparky. He looks thin. Since the dogs are on “free feed,” I wondered if he was eating much at all.

Then I realized he hadn’t wagged his tail in at least a week. That was my sign. It was time to let him have a forever rest.

It would have been an easier decision if I lived with someone. I would have had another pair of eyes to prove or disprove my assumptions. And someone to help me make the ultimate decision.

This morning I called the vet and made the appointment for this afternoon. I had Sparky on my lap all morning, petting him as I read the newspaper.

He didn’t want to go for a walk at one when I took out Lilah. I realized he could no longer walk.

I had him on my lap as I read the novel Bel Canto this afternoon.

Finally, but too soon, it was time to go to the vet. He couldn’t walk to the car, so I carried him in my arms. That made my resolve stronger. He no longer had a decent quality of life.

When I got to the animal hospital, he wasn’t at all interested in the dog and puppies needing forever homes. He didn’t even look their way when the scrapped with each other.

When the vet tech weighed him, the scale showed he’d lost four pounds in two months.

I held him until it was time, crying softly. I laid him on the blanket on the examining table. It took but a minute to put him out of his pain. I cried when they left me alone with his body.

He was a great dog. I had fifteen happy years with him. He saw me through many crises: divorce, my mother’s death, my son’s estrangement. He listened without giving advice or telling me what I should do. He was crate-trained but I promoted him to sleep on my bed when my husband left. The last few years he mostly slept on the foam mat because he couldn’t get up or down from the bed on his own.

He accepted Louie when I took him in six years ago. Sparky was always a bit jealous, but didn’t take it out on Louie or me.

I know I made the right decision, but it would have been nice to have someone else confirm it.






Family Passover Dinner 2017

April 12, 2017


seder plate

On Saturday I started The Big Push, as we called it when my mother would start her preparations for a big gathering. Monday, April 10, is the first night of Passover. It’s observed at a seder, a special dinner. For the first time in quite a while I’ll have all my children and their families here. My newest granddaughter, Madison, was a preemie, and not allowed to go into society until after the RSV season was over. We missed celebrating my and Eric’s birthdays, so Shelley is bringing a cake for dessert.

The first thing was to plan the menu, which I did while listening to the Phoenix Symphony play Beethoven’s Ninth and Ode to Joy last Sunday with friends. I decided on matzo ball soup, brisket in the crock pot, asparagus, peas (for the grandkids,) and baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. I also had to get the items for the seder plate: hardboiled eggs as the harbinger of spring, morar, horseradish, as the bitter herb to symbolize the bitterness of the slavery of the Jews in Egypt, ingredients for the charoset (apples, chopped nuts, grape juice, sugar, cinnamon and honey) to stand in for the mortar the slaves used to build for the Pharaoh, and karpas, parsley, to remind us of the hard and cruel work the slaves did. And a separate plate of three matzos.

I also must get a few bottles of wine. The traditional seder calls for at least four glasses, but we take sips instead of downing the whole glass. My mother always served Manishevitz, but I’m opting for Ménage a Trois red blend.

My housecleaner comes on Mondays, so I decided to do all the cooking over the weekend so she could do the final clean up before the family came.

seder table 2017

I set the table ahead of time and put out the heavy glasses so the kids could feel they were included. It turned out no one drank wine and we all drank grape juice.

Only my son Max and I are Jewish, but the family enjoys the traditions I’ve shared with them. There’s a book, the Hagaddah, which is used during a seder to tell the story of Exodus, the story of Passover. We use a children’s Hagaddah to get the gist of the holiday without boring the pants off my young grandchildren, aged ten, six and newborn. And four. All kids like the end of the meal the best. Right after we begin to eat, I hide a piece of matzo, the Afikomen. In order to end the meal, the piece must be found. The oldest adult, or host or hostess, offers a monetary reward and the kids whoop and holler until they find it.

The matzoh ball soup came out the best of all the dishes. I used Susan Bailyn’s Tangy Chicken Soup recipe. I tried a new recipe for the brisket that included Grey Poupon but it didn’t taste any different from prior years. I tried using Wondra to make the gravy. It turned out great except it was impossible to get out all the lumps with the wire whisk so I had to strain it.

Shelley texted me that it was Savy’s turn to take the kindergarten class’s chicks home and they couldn’t be left alone. I said to bring them.

Liz, Max, and four-year-old Charlotte arrived first. I showed Charlotte my “Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly puppet and Liz had to sing it many times. When Savy arrived I did it with her.



Nick and his family arrived. I had expected little yellow chicks. Wrong. These were adolescents and black and white. They still captivated the children.


Eric and his family were running late so the three older children played while Nick and Max did the items on my “honey-do” list. I’d asked for no presents for my birthday, but rather for them to accomplish the items on my list. Nick and Max attached my headboard and screwed in the sliders for baskets under my kitchen sink. Eric was left with the task of replacing my kitchen ceiling fan, which he’ll do at another time.

After Eric, Amy, and Madi arrived, we started the seder. No one wanted wine, so I poured the grape juice into the sturdy wine glasses. Max said the blessings with me. We went through enough parts of the Hagaddah that I think the kids understood the meaning of the holiday. The children kept making up excuses to leave the table to look for the Aikman.

Below are me and Madi, Charlotte and Elizabeth, and Max, Eric and Madi.

Below are Nick and Madi; and Nick and Abby

Below are Savy, Amy and Madi and Shelley and Savy.

Max, Nick, and Liz cleared the table and rinsed the dishes. It’s going to take three loads to do them. I was sentimental and used my mother’s china, even for the little kids. Savy found it and was very pleased with the five-dollar reward.

Shelley had made a delicious birthday cake, decorated with Peeps. Eric and blew out the candles.

Eric and Annie bday cake

When Shelley took the second photo, the family photo-bombed us.

fam and photo bomb

I love doing these family dinners because my children and grandchildren genuinely like each other and have fun. As do I.