Tag Archives: death

Good bye to a good dog

We had to say goodbye to our 14-year old Labrador Retriever, Casey, last week. Casey had been failing for some time. His cataracts left him mostly blind and we really don’t think he could hear a thing anymore. He had a bad case of arthritis in his back legs. As a pet owner, you always hope you will know when it is the right time to put your pet down — not too soon, but not too late either. We think it was Casey’s time.

Casey in 2009

Casey in 2009

We adopted Casey in January 2003 from a lab rescue group in Atlanta. We had driven to Atlanta and spent the night so we could be at the “adoption day” event bright and early. Casey won Mrs. Poolman’s heart when he leaned up against her leg and just slid down her leg to lie on his back in a definite “Please scratch my chest” pose.

As it turned out, Casey wasn’t the brightest dog in the animal kingdom, but he may have been one of the sweetest. That was one of his two definitive personality characteristics. He loved children. When he was still spry enough to go on walks, I used to joke that he was the post popular kid in the neighborhood. Small children would literally run out of their houses, calling his name. When we stopped, they would hug is neck, and he would respond with a big slurp on the child’s cheek.

His other defining characteristic is that he loved to carry things around in his mouth. He rarely chewed anything, but he had a real oral fixation. Shoes, stuffed animals, you name it. If he could pick it up, he would carry it. He wasn’t really a very good retriever, because, although he liked to chase and fetch, he didn’t want to give up whatever he had. He loved rolled up newspapers. They were the perfect size and shape. The highlight of his day was to fetch the morning newspaper from the front walk. He was known around the neighborhood as that well-trained dog that fetches the newspaper. “How did you teach him to do that?” We hated to tell people that he just came that way.

Shortly after he came to live with us, my brother- and sister-in-law came to visit us. Brother-in-law was carrying some luggage in from his car and his home newspaper was dangling from his hand in its plastic bag. They had not met Casey before, so he was shocked when Casey came running up from behind, jumped and grabbed the newspaper right out of his hand. Casey pranced around the yard, tossing the paper up in the air and very proud of himself.

It wasn’t all cotton candy and unicorns. He had a strong storm anxiety and on one occasion managed to eat the better part of two couches and a down comforter.  That doesn’t even count the numerous rainy nights we were kept awake by his whimpering and pawing.  And the last year or so hasn’t been easy.

All in all, though, he was a great member of our family for just over 12 years and we will miss him.

‘Life After Life’ — Different but interesting

life-after-life_originalEvery once in awhile, I’ll read something that is miles outside of my usual material. Usually, I’m pretty happy I did, and “Life after life,” by Kate Atkinson is one of those books. I read a review when it came out last spring and when I saw it on the library rental shelf, I went ahead and checked it out.

This is the first book I have read in which I was really waiting for the main character to die. And Ursula Todd does die… a lot. That is the point of the story. Ursula is a girl born to a middle-class British family on a cold, snowy night in 1910. Over the course of the novel, she dies and then is reborn as the same person to the same parents on the same day. However, in each new life there a slight change in events which steer Ursula’s life onto a different course. (Think of the movie “Groundhog Day” but on a larger time-scale and fewer laughs.)

In the very first chapter, Ursula attempts to kill Adolph Hitler in 1930, before he reaches power. (No spoiler alert here. The reader will know this in the first ten pages.) Atkinson leaves it until the end of the book to resolve the issue of how that transpired and the result.

Atkinson is creative in the way she offs her protagonist. Ursula initially dies as she is being born. She falls out a window. She is murdered. Eventually she starts to develop déjà vu feelings about her previous lives and starts taking steps to change her fate and prevent her pending death. She doesn’t always get it right. Although she succeeds in changing the course of events, she ends up in the same place anyway and still dies. She usually takes several tries to get it right.

Ursula is an interesting character, so as a reader, I didn’t mind living her successive lives with her. After some of the longer sequences, I felt myself wishing, “So hurry up and die already, so we can get on to the next story.”

I won’t spoil the ending, but I have to say I was not happy with it. Maybe I just didn’t understand it, but I was left with the feeling that Atkinson did not resolve all her remaining issues.

Otherwise, it was an interesting, although different book that I would recommend.

Passing of my evil twin

We had a weird experience last week. Mrs. Poolman and I were over at Poolboy’s condo for dinner when Mrs. P’s cell phone rang. It was one of our friends asking if I were OK. There was a rumor sweeping the hospital where they work that “The Poolman” had died suddenly that afternoon. I pinched myself and then asked Poolboy a question to make sure I was still really there. (Remember “The Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis.) Once I confirmed I really was alive and breathing, I started wondering which of the other “The Poolman”s in town had deceased. The next morning I discovered it was the many I jokingly referred to as “my evil twin.”

We were never very close, but we had a long, and incredibly coincidental relationship.

We first encountered each other in 1984. I was a TV news director in Nashville. I read in one of the trade journals that another “The Poolman” had recently been promoted to news director at a station in Kansas City. I wrote him a letter (This was before e-mail, twitter, Facebook, etc.) to congratulate him.

“I hope you do well, so anyone who confuses us will also think well of me.”

Several months later, we met in person at an ABC affiliate news director’s meeting. A couple of years after that, again at a news directors’ meeting, we met on a sidewalk in Salt Lake City. Our conversation turned to family history and, to both of our surprises, we discovered we grew up with a few blocks of each other in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon. He was about six years older than I, so we weren’t there at the same time. By the time, my family moved back about the time I was starting high school, he was already off at college.

We ran into each other from time to time in the world of television news. In 1992, I moved to the CBS station in Savannah. In 1995, I returned from lunch one day to find people in the newsroom acting strange towards me. I pulled someone over and asked them what was going on.

“Well, Poolman, your secret is out. We all know you are moving across town to the competition.”

“What?”

“They announced it to the staff this morning. The Poolman is the new news director at the NBC station.”

I knew immediately what was going on. So for the next five years My Evil Twin and I competed directly with each other as rival news directors with the same name at TV stations in the same town.

We both left our respective stations around the same time in the early 2000s, and both stayed in Savannah. My Evil Twin, aka “the other Poolman” ended up with two tours of duty at the third station in town. So we continued to run into each other until he got out of the business entirely a couple of years ago.

His death leaves just three “The Poolman”s left in Savannah. So to quote Mark Twain, “Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated.” — hopefully, for some time to come.

Going out with a bang!

This is almost too good to be true. Man dies of a heart attack while having a threesome and family successfully sues for medical malpractice. I wonder what St Peter had to say to him when he showed up at the Pearly Gates.

Everything is relative

As we get closer to Christmas, you hear many people complaining about the holiday pressure, crowds in the stores, traffic on the streets or difficult family issues.  Just the other day, I was talking with someone and expressed my belief that troubles and inconveniences are all relative.  It seems whenever I have something to complain about, it is very easy to find someone who has difficulties much, much worse. In perspective, my worst problems and lowest days are much better than many people’s best.

I was so reminded of that today.

I have a work-related friend I got to know at my previous job. We were not all that close, but we did a fair amount of work together. He helped run a meeting center in Savannah, and would reserve me a parking spot there on St. Patrick’s Day. One year, he, his wife and two young sons joined us for our St Patrick’s Day tailgate party. We haven’t been that tight, but we’ve stayed in touch.

Via Facebook, I had heard that his two young sons had been in an automobile accident early in December. One son was in rehab and recovering well. The younger son was “making progress.” Today, I learned the sad truth. The younger son has a severe brain injury, from which he is not expected to recover. This afternoon, the family is transferring him from peds ICU to a hospice to spend his last hours or days.

Don’t you know those parents wish all they had to worry about was last minute shopping or crazy traffic?

Count your blessings.

Why blame God?

I had conversations with two women recently, who both expressed the same question in nearly the exact same words.

“What did I ever do to make God so mad that I deserve all this?”

Both women have had their share of tragedies and difficulties and are facing more now.

Julie lost her husband two years ago after a year-long fight with cancer. He was in his 60’s. Now, her 89-year old father just died, while, at the same time daughter delivered a pre-mature baby.

Sharon’s son (early 20s) was killed in a traffic accident three years ago. Now her husband has just been diagnosed with ALS.

My heart goes out to both of them. They both have taken and continue to take some hard hits. I would not want to trade places with either of them.

However, I cannot agree that they should be blaming God and themselves for their problems. A loving God does not punish someone by causing suffering to their loved ones. Sometimes things just happen. Diseases like cancer and ALS are tragic, as are fatal traffic accidents. However, they are not part of some sinister plot by God to inflict pain on the victim’s families.

It is a common religious belief, one to which I do not subscribe, that God has some sinister plan, and that everything that happens to a person is because of that plan. You frequently hear people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”

In the extreme, people see God meddling in the details of their life. This was a common theme among the ancient Greeks. The epics of Homer and the plays of Sophocles and Euripides were filled with the Greek Gods messing around and manipulating the mortals. To one degree or another, it remains a common theme among some religious groups today.

Some bad things that have known and tangible causes. A life-long smoker need not question the metaphysical source of his lung cancer, just as a drunk driver need not examine the reason behind his car becoming wrapped around a tree.

In other cases, like a brain tumor, a pre-mature birth or ALS, things happen without any reason, at least none we can fathom. Those breaks are not evenly or fairly distributed among us. Nothing guarantees that life is just. So there is no benefit to torturing yourself by asking what you did to deserve your fate. The answer may be “nothing” or “everything,” but your loving God doesn’t use your past actions to punish or reward you, at least not in this life. Sometimes stuff just happens. That’s life.

The beach, pizza and other things

It’s Sunday afternoon already. Where did the weekend go? Actually, for the most part it went to the beach.

I got home from work Friday evening and went ahead and took care of most of my usual Saturday morning chores. I mowed the lawn, vacuumed the pool and cleaned up the back yard. So Saturday morning, Mrs. Poolman and I packed up and headed to the beach for our first visit of the season. It was a beautiful day and the beach wasn’t overly crowded. Our friends the B’s joined us and we just chilled with books in our laps for a couple of hours. We came home earlier than originally planned because it was too windy to keep our umbrellas up, and it was too hot to just sit and bake.

We all came back to our house and floated in the pool the rest of the afternoon. Writer Princess, Son-in-Law and another friend, Susan, eventually joined us.

We picked up some pizzas from a new place that opened near us in just the last month or so, Papa Murphy’s. This is a different concept in a pizza franchise. They don’t cook the pizzas there. They assemble a pizza to your specs and you cook it at home. The prices are very reasonable, and every pizza we have had from their has been absolutely fantastic. I think they are on to something.

We found out yesterday that the father of a friend of ours died unexpectedly Saturday morning. He was 83 years old, but it came as quite a shock. He hadn’t been ill. His wife found him slumped over on the couch with the TV on and the remote in his hand. Apparently he had a sudden but fatal heart attack. It must have been quite a shock, but as callous as it sounds, that’s not a bad way to go.

His granddaughters are two of Writer Princess’s best friends. The girls have been hanging around Casa Poolman since middle school and are close enough to us to call us “Ma and Pa Poolman.” So today, we picked up WP and made a run to Sam’s Club to stock up on some food to take to them.

The visitation and Rosary are tomorrow evening and the funeral Tuesday morning. The Poolman family will be properly represented at both commemorations.