Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wrapping Up Our First Month Back Home

For the last couple of weeks, while Joshua has been preparing for his bar exams, I have been busy doing things around the house and yard for my mother and father.

Among other projects, I conducted a deconstruction of my mother’s kitchen, taking apart every item that might be disassembled and subjecting it to a thorough and detailed cleaning. Somehow I managed to reassemble everything without, as far as I know, breaking or damaging anything.

Every floor in the house has been waxed and polished to a standard that would satisfy Admiral Halsey. Every light fixture has been cleaned and polished to a high gleam—even the outdoor light fixtures have been cleaned and polished—and every window in the house washed inside and out.

I performed spot reseeding of the lawn, and I trimmed trees and bushes.

I painted exterior windows and shutters and doors, including the garage doors.

I washed and cleaned the cars.

In fact, I did everything but sweep the chimneys.

I announced that I intended to power-wash the back deck and the back fence, but my mother told me that she would not hear of it.


On Saturday, everyone in my family will head North for our annual July 4 week at the lake. We shall devote Thursday and Friday to getting our things ready.

Everyone except Josh and me spent Memorial Day Weekend at the lake—Josh and I were still in Boston—but no one has traveled up to the lake since. Josh and I have not been to the lake since July 2009, so we very much look forward to it.


The dog has been getting lots of trips to the park. In addition to his early-morning romp, Josh and I have been taking him to the park most afternoons. As soon as we return from our afternoon trip to the park, the dog likes to nap.

At home, the dog has a new favorite rest spot in the kitchen, a spot on which he can keep an eye on Josh in the dining room (Josh’s study center) and an eye on my mother in the kitchen. The dog always likes to observe as many persons as possible without moving.

Whenever I have been at work in the house and yard, the dog has joined me, fearful that he might miss something interesting or fun.

He will have a good time at the lake next week. He will sit in the shade and watch what everyone is doing, and join us in our activity whenever something attracts his interest, and bark at passing kayaks on the lake.

Next month will mark ten years since we brought the dog home from the pound. It seems as if it were yesterday that we first brought him home.

He is aging. He can still be very energetic, but for shorter periods than in years past. Rest is important to him now. If we take him out, when we return home he immediately goes to his rug on the kitchen floor and lies down.

He has aged noticeably since Christmas. He is slower to get up after resting on his rug. It appears that he now finds stairs somewhat of a trial. I generally carry him upstairs now, and he does not mind at all—indeed, I think he welcomes it.

He takes two vitamin supplements and two medications, all designed to ease discomfort in his hind legs—he is developing hip problems common in German shepherds bred in America—and his dosages have been increased twice in the last year. We notice his stiffness when he climbs stairs, or when he attempts to jump up on the daybed in the kitchen, the only piece of furniture in my mother’s house on which he is permitted to sit. I generally lift him now when he wants to sit on the daybed—and he is generally content to rest there for an hour at a time, unthinkable three years ago.

His appetite is still good. He never misses meals.

And he remains very, very good-natured, especially with my nephew and niece.

His hearing is deteriorating. He knows the sound of the vehicles of everyone in the family, but he no longer hears the vehicles until they have reached the garage at the back of the house. In the past, he would announce arrivals when vehicles were within half a block of the front of the house.

His eyesight, too, is deteriorating. En route to the park, he is trained to stop at the end of each block and wait for whomever is accompanying him before crossing the street. He now has trouble distinguishing where the sidewalk ends and where the street begins, and this visibly disorients if not upsets him. As a result, he has stopped running ahead on his own to the end of each block; he now prefers to walk alongside his companion or companions the entire way to the park.

We hope to be able to care for him for another one to two years—and longer if his health holds up. Nonetheless, we can see that he is beginning to fail. We know that our remaining time with him will be measured in months, not years.


Tomorrow we plan to do something unusual for a weekday: we plan to go downtown to see a film and a play.

The genesis of our plan: the fact that Yasmina Reza’s play, “God Of Carnage”, only lasts one hour and fifteen minutes.

“God Of Carnage” is in the current Guthrie repertory, and Josh and I are curious to see the play, and my parents are curious to see the play.

However, because the play is so short, we all decided that we would not make a trip downtown to see the play unless we could pair a performance of “God Of Carnage” with some other worthwhile activity downtown—and, until Sunday, we were unable to identify any other worthwhile activity downtown.

We had been prepared to forego “God Of Carnage” until, on Sunday night, we examined Twin Cities movie listings. We noticed that “City Of Life And Death”, a Chinese film about The Rape Of Nanking, was enjoying a one-week run at an art house cinema in downtown Minneapolis. (The Twin Cities have three art house cinemas: two in downtown Minneapolis; and one in Edina not far from my parents’ house.)

We decided that we would not mind seeing “City Of Life And Death”—and, further, we decided that “City Of Life And Death” together with “God Of Carnage” might make a trip downtown worthwhile.

Consequently, in the middle of tomorrow afternoon, my mother and Josh and I will drive downtown, pick up my father at his office, and catch the 4:10 p.m. screening of “City Of Life And Death” followed by the 7:30 p.m. Guthrie performance of “God Of Carnage”.

It should make for an interesting late afternoon/early evening.

We shall eat out on the way home.

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