Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ray of Light on a Rainy Day

So much sadness these days, from personal loss to global tragedies, and I'm tired, so very weary of being sad. It's starting to feel chronic. That's why this email, received on a bleak, rainy day from a former contributor to my SF Chronicle Pet Tales column, was like a tonic for my heart.

Hi Eileen,

I want to share something that just happened, thanks to the article about Stella. One our more prominent philanthropists read it and contacted me about helping. She asked me to ask each class for a wish, which I forwarded to her. She just called to let me know she bought over 100 items for the Janet Pomeroy Center for the Handicapped. These go from small art supplies, to furniture, Karaoke machines, and a scoreboard for the gym.

I am so touched, and on a dreary day, thought you might be too.

What a positive reminder that there is goodness to be found.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pennies From Heaven

It was a gloomy Saturday morning with a damp, gray fog that was doing a number on my curly hair. My neighbor had just picked me up from the Toyota dealership where I'd left my new car for a tune-up.

The car belonged to my mom; the quintessential vehicle owned by the quintessential "little old lady" who never used it for anything beyond grocery shopping and church. My spirited mom certainly wasn't that "little old lady" -- she just didn't have much need for driving.

That's why, when she passed away four months ago, her 2004 sea foam green Corolla had just 25,000 miles on it. And talk about mint condition. She detailed it religiously. Performed oil changes and tire rotations like clockwork. The exterior shines like a mirror and I'm sure the interior would still boast that new car smell if she hadn't taken her dogs, Lucy and Holden, for rides every morning when she drove to Starbucks. Someone would be extremely lucky to get this prize.

Turns out that someone was me.

Because while I proposed selling the car and splitting the money with my sister, she had other ideas. "YOU take the car," Jennifer insisted. "You're the one with an old car and long commute. I want you in something reliable." She absolutely refused to let me buy her out. That's the kind of person she is.

And so, I accepted her generous offer, albeit reluctantly. Because while I'm grateful to be spared the financial burden of buying a new car, I also can't forget HOW I got this one. The day I went to the DMV to transfer the title to my name, my hands were shaking so badly, I could hardly sign the documents. When the DMV clerk, an older Indian woman, saw that I had checked the "deceased" box, she immediately understood and her abrupt attitude changed. "It's okay," she said in a gentle tone, patting my trembling hands. "It's okay."

On this misty day, while waiting for my car to be ready, I was thinking of Mom. Remembering the last time we went out for dinner at Chevy's, and the last movie we saw together, which we both loved. It was "Up." Missing her. Wondering when this ache might lessen just a bit.

That afternoon, I returned to Toyota to pick up my car. And as I was driving home, I heard a strange rattling sound coming from inside that I'd never heard before. For Pete's sake, had Toyota messed up? As the rattling continued, I traced the sound to the driver's side and ran my left hand inside the empty door pocket. There I found a penny.

Now I've never subscribed to that popular psychic belief that pennies are messages from people who have passed. The explanation is that copper is supposedly easy for a spirit to manipulate, and if you believe in that type of thing, well, whatever. I've figured the most likely explanation was that people in pain were grasping at straws. Desperate for any type of message from their loved one.

Yet I can't deny that after Mom died, and without even thinking about it, I started finding pennies in the oddest of places. Underneath my watch on the dresser. On the exact spot where Holden's paw landed when he jumped down from the car. On the kitchen table, right next to my soy latte. And now, on this day when I was feeling particularly sad, in the door pocket of her former car.

Could the mechanic have dropped it? Possibly. Although I don't think they're in the habit of leaving money behind: usually, they're the ones squeezing every penny out of the customer.

Think what you will. Maybe I'm grasping at straws, too. But as I drove home, accompanied by that rattling sound, I found my spirits lifting along with the rising fog.

Monday, January 4, 2010

We Have Lift-Off

When my mother passed away, there was no question about it, none whatsoever. Of course, I would adopt her white greyhound, Lucy. I could no more give up Lucy than I could my own beloved fawn greyhound, Elvis.

Lucy is a sweet and affectionate little dog who curls up alongside me on the sofa and has invited herself on my bed. An unhygenic no-no, I always thought. That is, until the first time she snuggled her head in the crook of my neck and heaved a contented sigh. Not only did I not have the heart to push her off, I found I didn't want to.

There has been one major challenge, however: Lucy has been deathly afraid of the doggie door. No amount of bacon bits, begging, cajoling, pushing and pleading has convinced her to push the flap with her nose and go through the door. Like it was a doggie Guillotine or something.

And so, for almost four months, despite watching Elvis use the door, Lucy has gone through it only if I've Velcroed the flap open. Not a good thing in warm weather when flying insects are rampant. Or in the winter, with my furnace serving as a heater for the entire backyard. But it was either leave the flap open or come home to find my Oriental carpet transformed into a $600 pee pad.

Until this morning.

At 5:27 am came a moment to remember. After finishing her breakfast, Lucy tentatively approached the doggie door. Stopped. Sniffed it. Stepped back. Turned around and looked at me. “Good girl,” I coaxed her softly, using the word a trainer had advised. “Outside! Outside!” She stepped towards the door again. Sniffed it. Tapped it with her nose. And then, as I held my breath, she gently pushed the flap with her nose and stepped outside.


And while it may not mean much to anyone else, I'm embracing it as the most subtle of signs that 2010 is off to a promising start.
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