21 May 2013

Hell, Mary! Where's Your Grace?

I started writing this several days ago. Yeah, you've heard this before.

ADD sucks. Anyway, I reread this and figured I'd let it stand, but now it's changing a little in context. You won't see that until a little later.

Thanks, for checking in and feigning interest.

The dishwasher was ready to be emptied this morning, and in the top rack among the sparkling glass and stainless steel were a couple of my favorite, well-worn coffee mugs. Looking at them, then studying the crowded cabinet where they reside, I had a thought about gifts and how the gracious recipient might deal with perfectly lovely thoughts that are incongruent with his or her design sense, decorating style or the manner in which he or she approaches a typical day.

I thought to myself, I wonder what other people do since I seem to fit in the group that has a house full of stuff that reminds me of those Sesame Street quizzes... none of this stuff looks like the other...

Is it graceful to throw said gift in a closet until one sees an opportunity to regift? Is it more acceptable pass things along to Goodwill after they've collected dust/been dusted for years? Would it be acceptable to donate it within days of receipt?

Usually for me -- particularly when it comes to items designed for specific uses, but are redundant because I already have the same thing in a style I've chosen -- I use the gift seasonally. Maybe it works well as an Easter brunch platter but looks out of place as a Cinco de Mayo chip bowl. Maybe, in cool weather, it works better as a soup mug than a coffee cup.

I read an article that mentions other alternatives for handling unwanted gifts "unless you need to keep the gift around to showcase it whenever the giver stops by your home."

Something about that sentence feels so slimy to me. I know we've all seen the situation unfold on tired sitcoms or heard acquaintances mention hiding something until said giver is coming to visit.

Why can't we just be truthful?

In the past, I've expressed my gratitude and sometimes have offered the gift back with the explanation that I'm switching things around or not using the article anymore. Perhaps the people to which I'm offering these things are exercising more grace than I, but I think I ought to at least offer before I consider one of the previously mentioned alternatives.

Then, there are other times when I've made a complete ass of myself, calling a set of dinnerware I'd been given "tired" in front of the person who gave it to me.

An esteemed colleague of mine has told me more than a handful of times, "just because you're tired of looking at it doesn't make it tired." Of course, this is in reference to the brand and brand guidelines I worked with him to create for a locally revered institution. And, he's right. The thought is applicable here, too, regarding the things we accumulate whether by choice or by gift.

Here is where the context of this post changes: this entry was meant to explore gratitude over arrogance, or grace, when it comes to maintaining order in one's mind versus letting others' interpretation of that place be a part of that order.

Being open. Letting others in.

Being grateful. Being flexible.

Finding beauty in things one may not have been drawn toward without the gentle nudge from someone who wanted to bestow their love in a physical, tangible memento....

I posted on Facebook several weeks ago that our eleven-year-old Boxer, Billie, has been diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. Within hours of that post a very good friend called me to talk about how he and his husband handled the same exact diagnosis with their baby, Zara.

From what I know, and am now experiencing, it's an ugly disease very similar to multiple sclerosis.

Please, don't be offended by my oversimplifying of either of these maladies that follows. I am not a doctor. I am a complicated, but simple guy, a creative/art director by trade, who has worked for nearly thirty years to research then distill a message to its core and blast it out there for the three seconds' attention I may get from a passerby hoping to keep them interested in staying longer.

If you're still here, thank you. Apparently, I've done something right.

The simple explanation: the protective sheath around nerves deteriorates, making signals from the brain become lost before they end up where they should. In my Billie's case, this means she's losing control of the back half of her body.

In late October or early November, the best I can recollect, I started noticing that her hip/leg function had become a little odd. She was still getting around well, jumping on the bed, doing her normal things. But, as time has progressed, the things Dr. Carol told me to expect (during Billie's annual checkup in January) are coming to fruition.

First, feet dragging. We got rubber booties for protection on our vast concrete patio areas so she wouldn't make herself bleed a second time. As a bonus, they helped with traction on the linoleum and hardwoods indoors.

Then, it was knuckling over. Booties getting stuck on her bed. Doing the splits in the kitchen while waiting for a cookie. Legs getting crossed. Falling down. The look on her face as she fell and landed on her hip in a puddle today, in the rain, just about did me in.

But, she's doesn't appear to be frustrated, either.

I think I may have seen confusion in her face today, though. I try to be reassuring. I tell her "it's OK." I tell her, "go pee pee." She goes, even in the effing downpour that was our gift from the front that destroyed an Oklahoma City suburb. So -- really -- I'm not bitching about the weather in the wildest stretch of any imagination. My heart and prayers are with each an every soul in Monroe. I just hate to see my little girl suffer in the torrent just so she can "go pee."

Because Dr. McCutcheon tells me that Billie isn't in pain, I'm not going to have my usual sign that it's time to return this gift.

I'm going to have to look at this beautiful face one day, and decide when it's time to let her go without any indication from her that she's ready. This once fawn and black but now completely white face, the one that visits me in my office twenty or thirty times a day, head tilted like Nipper, ears up, waiting, that seemingly says, "I'm focused on you so I can be ready to respond gleefully when you finally get your ass out of that chair and follow me to the cookie jar (first) or the back door (last). I love you. Please come with me."

Billie, this gift, is as inquisitive as she's ever has been. For the past eleven years the curious, interested, full-of-life Boxer has been at her core. But, her body is not keeping up. Lately it seems as if the latter is in a wicked, hateful race to abandon her.

I suppose I've said all of this to say, "Grace? Yeah. I've got that -- most of the time." Do I fall down? Youbetcha. Am I now? I'm not sure.

So, I pray, God, give me the grace to know when it's time to express my gratitude for the extraordinary amount of time we've had with this blessed gift, and help me trust when it's time to let her be at peace.