Love

What is love?

It’s not the crap we hear about in pop music, read about in books or watch unfold on the movie or TV screen. That is superficial love. I mean real love. What is it? I’m not the smartest guy in the room by a long shot, but after nearly 42 years of living, I am beginning to figure it out.

Love is when you hold your partner in your arms, rather than turning away in disgust, when they are too sick to control their bodily functions.

Love is putting a piece of your paycheck into a savings account for your kid, even when it means you’ll have to skip McDonald’s for a month.

Love is comforting your sobbing mate at three in the morning because they just lost someone important to them and you’re the only one they can turn to, even though you have to be up in three hours for work.

Love is going to your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party, even though you may have better things to do.

Love happens at that worst moment in a fight when you and your partner are screaming at each other and you storm out of the house, but through the white hot anger, you know you’ll be back.

Love is rescuing an animal from a shelter and treating it like a member of the family.

Love is a soldier in a foreign land, fighting for their home thousands of miles away.

Love is when your mate does you wrong and you have them dead to rites, and you choose to forgive them.

Love is standing in a hospital, feeling your heart break as you decide to take someone off of life support because you can’t stand to watch them suffer one minute longer.

Love is the easiest thing to say and the hardest thing to do.

Love is the universal thing that everyone needs.

Love is the thing that some people have.

Love is the thing that too few of us know how to truly give.

Polish Pool

So I wanted to get this post about 2016 written. But here’s my problem. Marty has me handcuffed to the bookcase; my bed doesn’t have a headboard. We were all set to take our relationship to a new level, but then she accidentally dropped the key and Monty swallowed it. So now, we have to wait about 24 hours for him to poop out the key before I can get loose. So I’m using dictation to sum up this past year.

The fiasco with the key seems to encapsulate 2016 very well. It’s like starting out trying to get a cheap thrill, but in the end, someone has to take a crap before you can find true relief.

Actually, 2016 held a lot of high notes for me. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 and I became a life-long fan. It didn’t really surprise me that my loyalty would be tested so early. I knew this was gonna be a transition year, but who the hell knew we wouldn’t even make the play-offs? I guess Von Miller gets the last laugh, which will carry him all the way to the bank.

My former coworker gave me a beautiful and lovable kitty that I named, Mags. She is everything a cat owner could want. She is cuddly, uses her litterbox, doesn’t eat too much and doesn’t try to play with me when I’m sleeping. I wonder if I could train Marty with those same habits?

I also started an old-time radio podcast. For those of you who have listened, thank you. For those of you who have yet to listen, give it a try. It can’t be any worse than watching Real Mafia Housewives.

In September, I was honored to attend the marriage of my longtime friend Alicia to her husband Mark. Alicia has been through some hard times, but it really warmed my heart to witness as she and Mark gave their lives to each other before God. Life wasn’t so kind to my pal Wes, who was involved in a pedestrian vs. auto accident last April. His knee was injured and he’s still dealing with some PTSD from the encounter. He’s had about as much fun dealing with the medical and legal fall-out as a man would have taking a walk through Chicago without a bulletproof vest. Chin up, Wes. At least your Chiefs are gonna make the play-offs.

I was also honored to be elected as secretary of the Denver Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. Dan Burke is a smart guy. He knew the only way to force me to pay attention at the meetings was to make me responsible for the minutes. Does this mean I have to quit mixing Bailey’s with my coffee? I hope not.

Many of you know that I began a relationship with Marty Rahn about nine months ago. Marty has a tender heart, an agile mind, a courageous spirit and the patience of a teacher. I love her.

Sadly, this year has brought challenges for Marty. In May, she stepped into a hole at work while walking Monty and broke her foot. She had to undergo surgery to get a pin to reinforce the broken bone. During her recovery, she began to experience severe numbness and tingling in her body. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The M.R.I. also detected three benign tumors; two on her carotid artery and one at the base of her skull.

It is a scary time for both of us right now. For the past two days, she has been experiencing intermittent dizzy spells. Getting answers from her doctors is like trying to go bowling in a herd of elephants. She has been prescribed Gilenya and it has helped, but we fear more surgeries lie ahead. All we can do now is ask for everyone’s prayers as we continue to chart these unknown waters.

In lighter news, I was accused of sexual harassment at work. There is no punchline. It really happened. My angry feminist coworker didn’t like something I said, so she ratted me out to the boss. I consider this to be a badge of honor. In this postmodern age of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, I think we’ve learned that sexual misconduct is actually an attribute on one’s resume. You know how in the movie Ted, when the bear keeps getting promoted every time he does something naughty at work? Well, my boss gave me a raise this year. I can only conclude that he secretly approved of what I did.

I should feel guilty for writing that, but I’ll go watch the female Ghostbusters reboot and cleanse my guilt.

Speaking of Trump, I’m not going to write a lot about the election, mostly due to the fact that I’ve already written about it ad nauseam. I will only say that it’s dispiriting to me *though not surprising) to see Democrats willfully refuse to understand why they lost the election. The combination of a fatally flawed candidate, shifting demographics and bad polling lead most people *including me) down the wrong path. I did not vote for Trump, but I accept him as our president and am glad to see that the Republican agenda will have a chance to move forward.

Politics wasn’t all bad this year. In April, I had the chance to participate in the process by attending the state Republican convention. I’ve also moved away from most talk radio and have gravitated toward conservative thinkers who express themselves through the written word. For those of you who will need a strong dose of sanity throughout the next four years, read the National Review and the Weekly Standard. Conservative stalwarts like Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, Amanda Carpenter and Ben Shapiro have been beacons in an otherwise gloomy populist landscape. And for those of you who think that all politicians are bad, please follow Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on Twitter or Facebook.

2016 saw the deaths of many celebrities. The ones that peaked my interest were Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, Merle Haggard, Kenny Baker, (aka R2D2), Gene Wilder, Holly Dunn, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

Special note for Antonin Scalia, who’s untimely death high-lighted the polarized D.C. electorate. I’ll see you in hell, Fidel! Trying to rationalize with Castro supporters is like trying to play a game of pool against a Pollock. You confidently walk up to the table with your pool cue in hand, only to discover that the Polack is carrying a pool noodle.

Is anyone reading this a fan of the original Law & Order series? Steven Hill, who played the first (and funniest) D.A., Adam Schiff, on that series, died this year. Is anyone reading this a fan of the cop show, Homicide? Jon Polito, who played Crosetti, the first character to die on that series, also passed away. Also, a respectful nod to the memory of Curtis Hanson, who directed one of my favorite movies, L.A. Confidential.

In the personal loss column, Nehemiah Hall succumbed to cancer last Spring. He and I weren’t close, but many of my friends cared for him. I was truly shocked and saddened at the sudden passing of Ahimsa Wishneski. She and I were forming a friendship, all be it an online one. I hope someone finds that Merle’s gift card I gave her for her CCB graduation and puts it to good use.

Another friend left Denver in the person of Beth McGarr. My pal Drew and I reconnected in a heartfelt conversation at, of all places, a casino. Robin and I have also reconnected. Drew and Robin have reconnected. Special thanks to Katy for introducing me to the Joe Pickett novel series, written by C. J. Box. Art is still the best listener ever.

Many people seem to treat 2016 as if it’s a living entity. I don’t buy it. Life is what we make it. If you want 2017 to be better than 2016, go out there and make it happen. Don’t rely on external events that are out of your control to reinforce your happiness. This is a personal challenge I make to myself as well as everyone else. Happy New Year.

Monty is sniffing me and his whiskers kind of tickle. 22 hours until the key reappears.

Wait! That’s not Monty. Oh whoa ho ho whoa!!! Marty just found the feather duster. I gotta go!

E Is For Elope

The following is a guest post, submitted by Lenore from Sioux Falls. Here she is, writing from room 209 of the Castle Hotel.

I will not add any preamble or post script, except to say that I am not, nor have I ever been married. If others with more knowledge or experience would like to speak to this issue, your comments are most welcome.

Here is Lenore:

Years ago on an old blog, Ryan posted an entry titled “The top 10 lies people tell themselves.” Inspired by that entry, and my own marriage, I am now writing “The top 5 lies told to the bride and groom about their wedding day.”

Before I begin, I feel the need to make two disclaimers. The first is, I acknowledge that I am speaking in generalizations. The statements I’m about to make do not apply to all people or all weddings. The second is that I realize the tone of what I’m about to write may sound as if I don’t favor marriage. Given that I am married, nothing could be further from the truth. I do indeed favor the institution of marriage. I would be remiss, on the blog of the conservative blind guy, if I didn’t also state for the record that I’m talking about traditional marriage, between one man and one woman. I stand in awed wonder that I’ve found someone I love enough to make those vows to, and that loves me enough to make them to me. Even as I type with my wedding ring on my left hand, I have trouble rapping my mind around this. In short, this is not an anti-marriage entry. It is, however, a commentary on the darker side of wedding planning, and weddings in general. So, with all that said, here are the top five lies told to the bride and groom about their wedding day.

5. “I’ll help you with anything you need.”
While many people do want to help, most want to help with the things that are considered fun, convenient for them, or that land them in the middle of the glitz and glamour of the wedding day itself. For example, people are quite eager to go dress shopping, stand up with a couple, or take pictures. However, when the couple starts asking people to help with running needed errands before the wedding, or to assist in the bureaucratic process of changing one’s name after the wedding, most family and friends will suddenly find reasons why they are too busy and don’t have time to help after all. The reality is that these things are not fun, not convenient, and there’s no glory for the person helping. They are the inconvenient and unglamorous necessities that come with a wedding and a marriage, but which the bride and groom may need assistance with all the same.

4. “I don’t’ want anything in return for my help.”
Again, most people are well-meaning. However, most also do, consciously or not, want something in return for the support they give a couple. This is not usually related to money. Perhaps it would be easier to deal with if it were, and if thanks could be shown in the form of some cash or a gift card. Unfortunately, in return for their assistance, people usually want one of two things: public recognition, or a say in the decisions that are made surrounding the wedding. When the couple doesn’t give these things, or doesn’t give them to a person’s satisfaction, drama is likely to occur.

3. “It’s your wedding, you shouldn’t have to do all the work.”
No matter how much work a couple is able to delegate to other trusted individuals, weddings are exhausting. The exhaustion seems to start about a month before the ceremony actually happens, and is at its worst during the days before and after. Even when other people are supposed to be the ones playing host/hostess, in the end it’s the bride and groom who are still responsible for ensuring that everyone else around them remains happy, appeased, and has what they need and want.

2. “It’s your day, do things how you want them done.”
I can’t tell you how many times my now-husband and I heard this line, told someone what we wanted, and then were immediately told why that was wrong and we shouldn’t do it that way. Even when the bride and groom give their reasons why they may want something done in a specific way, there is always some well-intended person who find something to criticize about what the couple wants, and thinks they have a better suggestion. This leaves the couple with one of two choices. They can stand firm and have their day as they wish, but risk the anger or hurt feelings of family and friends when their advice is not taken. Alternatively, a couple may cave in to pressure in an effort to keep the peace and avoid the drama, but give up having “their day” as they wanted it. In the end, it’s an exercise in strategy and tactics, and picking battles on a near daily basis.

1. “It’s your day, it’s all about you.”
The wedding day is, in fact, not about the couple getting married at all. Even the bride and groom initially try to convince themselves of this one, because if recognized for the lie that it is, not nearly as many people would put themselves through the stress of planning and carrying off a wedding. Certainly society tries to convince themselves of this, in part because it’s the lie that drives America’s multi-billion dollar wedding industry. The truth is that the wedding day is about the family, friends, and acquaintances of the couple. It is done to give those people something to attend, to remember, and to talk about. (Particularly remember, as the bride and groom will likely not remember 95 percent of that day, even when they look at their pictures later.) For the couple, it is about the end result, that they are married in the eyes of God and society. A big, (or even medium-sized) ceremony/reception is not needed to achieve this result. It is, however, seemingly needed for the rest of society to view a couple as having legitimately gotten married.

As stated earlier, I am not anti-marriage. Bottom line though: Eloping is a wonderful thing that I now dearly wish I had done, and would advise any couple who wishes to avoid stress and drama to do as well!

Ho! Lee! Cow!

“I don’t want to be a killjoy, but it’s been my experience that it’s always safer to bet against the Cubs.”

That is what I tweeted a week ago last Monday. Now, I have to eat my words, and I couldn’t be happier!

I’ve always been a casual baseball fan. As a kid, my family supported the Mets because our uncle was a scout for them. Our local radio station carried the Royals.

As an adult, I lived in Lincoln for 14 years and I knew a lot of Cubs fans, but I didn’t care. I moved to Denver nine years ago and have been to more than a few Rockies games, but I’m not passionate about them.

Having said that, I admire the dedicated loyalty of Cubs fans everywhere. To paraphrase Eddie Vedder, Cubs supporters are not fair weather fans, but foul weather fans.

They’re people like my pal Amy B, who always wore a Cubs T-shirt when the weather got nice. I watched a lot of the competition between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in 1998 on her living room floor. Or her Uncle Ray, a school teacher who took a day off every year for the first Cubs game of the season

Or my buddy Wes, who was more interested in the Cubs match-up against the Marlins that night at Applebee’s in 2003. I was more interested in guzzling Long Island ice teas and flirting with some girl or other.

Wes was perfectly in character when he dragged Amy M and I to a Cubs game when we visited Chicago over Labor Day weekend of 2007. The Cubs won that day and I affectionately chuckled at the fans who stayed around and sang, “Go Cubs, Go!”

Then, there’s my folks. I’d like to think that they would have been Cubs fans if not for family loyalty. Whatever the case, their association with Jim Hendry brought them around in the early 2000’s. I texted Mom the other night that I didn’t think the Cubs would win. Her response was classic Mom: “Shame on you!”

As an aside, I would’ve tried much harder to kiss Mr. Hendry’s ass that night he came to dinner at our house if I’d known he was gonna turn into a baseball big shot.

Even those Chicagoans who are not Cubs fans can’t help but be impacted. My coworker Matt, for instance. He’s a White Sox fan. I asked him if he was stoked about a possible Cubs victory yesterday and, in his trademark flat Chicago tone, he stated, “I’m indifferent.”

And yet, we’re having lunch today from a place called, Mustard’s Last Stand, which serves Chicago-style hot dogs.

I was pleased to see the Cubs win last night. I love the fact that we have back-to-back Midwestern championships. But this victory isn’t for me. I’m just the guy who occasionally had a game on in the background.

This is for Wes, Amy B, Uncle Ray, Mom and Dad, Jim Hendry and all the thousands of long-suffering fans who took the jokes and the affectionate contempt in the name of something bigger than themselves. They stuck with their Cubbies year after disappointing year, but they kept coming back. If that isn’t love, you tell me what is.

So, congratulations to the Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series champions. And congratulations to their fans. 108 years is a long time.

“IT MIGHT BE…IT COULD BE…IT IS!!!”

By the way, did Steve Bartman ever come out of hiding?

Everybody Lies

One of my favorite entries from the old blog was titled, “The top 10 Lies People Tell.” There was no official study taken for this compilation; only my life experience served for the parameters.

Here, as best as I can remember, are the 10 lies with very abridged explanations.

By the way, lest you think I make these proclamations from an elevated position, I’m as guilty as the rest of you for propagating many of these lies, especially numbers 10 and three.

10. “I will pay you back.”: Everyone uses it and no one ever means it. It’s why we have a crushing national debt, why credit card companies make a killing and why your best friend secretly resents you after five years of waiting.

9. “I do.” If people really stopped and reflected on the meaning of these two simple words and the vows that go with them, the divorce rate would not be at 50 percent and professional florists and photographers would have to take up panhandling to supplement their income.

8. “I don’t want to date you because I don’t want to ruin our friendship.”: A lie commonly told to men by women when they are just not attracted to him enough to take the next step.

7. “It’s what the people want.”: This lie rests at the foundation of every honey-coated untruth that drips from the forked tongue of politicians, activists, false prophets and social architects. What they really mean is, “It’s what will give me more power.”

6. “It’s not you…it’s me.”: A lie commonly told to women by men in the course of a break-up. What they are really thinking is, It’s not me…it’s you.

5. “I don’t have a favorite child.”: A lie commonly told to children by their parents. It is usually followed by the compounding lie, “Parents just love each child differently.”

4. “Violence never solves anything.”: Think about this lie the next time you see President Barack Obama on television, and realize that he might very well be picking your cotton for you if it weren’t for violence. Or maybe we’d all be eating chicken teriyaki with chopsticks. Or English tea would be a hell of a lot more expensive. Get the picture?

3. “I’m sorry.”: Usually said when someone who committed a wrong merely wants to smooth over the hurt feelings of the injured party without really feeling regret for what they did.

2. “I don’t judge.”: This lie is my biggest pet peeve. Everyone judges. We can’t help it. As human beings, we make dozens of judgments every day. We’re wired that way. It’s what we do with those judgments after they are made that really counts. I don’t give a damn how non-judgmental you are. If you come home after a hard day of work and find your wife shagging the grocery delivery boy on the kitchen table…you’re gonna judge her.

1. “I love you.”: The three most over-used, misused words in the English language. People use it as a mask for lust, envy, control, manipulation, fear, violence and even hate. Parents, children, spouses, friends and even leaders use it without truly understanding it’s deeper meaning.
I posted this abridged entry to Facebook a year ago. The longer entry, which is now gone, was written sometime in 2011. If I’d known then what I know now, we could’ve added two more lies to the top 10 for the sheer number of times we’ve heard them over the past year:

“I’m gonna build a wall and Mexico is gonna pay for it!”

And…

“I thought C stood for Clinton.”

I’m paraphrasing that second one, but you get my point.

I’m done now. Thanks for reading this. Love you guys.

It’s Not Funny

I promised not to comment on the election in this blog until November 9. That still goes. But let me put one toe over the line.

I heard the infamous Trump tape. I will let all of you make your own judgements about The Donald. I will only say that, if any of you were surprised by this latest revelation, you haven’t been paying attention. I’m sure there’s more to come.

What I really want to talk about is sexual assault.

I’ve known many women in my life. Many of these women have been victims of sexual assault; that is, the unwanted sexual advances or contact from either men or women.

I’ve known women who were abused by their friends, boyfriends, husbands, authority figures such as bosses or coaches, strangers, or worst of all, by their relatives. The impact of this trauma is nothing less than heartbreaking. It never strikes women in the same way.

Some of them lose their basic sense of self-worth and believe that the only way they can relate to men is to have sex with them. Other women suppress their sex drive entirely. Some learn to hate all men.

Some women battle depression or other mood disorders for years afterward. Some go into deep denial and pretend it never happened. Some women want to talk about it. Some don’t. Some talk about it too much. And some women choose to go on a long, painful journey that leads to healing and recovery.

Some women have chosen to come forward, either privately to trusted friends or family, or publicly by exposing their abusers. The women who come forward are sometimes believed, sometimes not. Often, their revelations lead to fractures within families and friendships that never heal. This is why most women who are molested choose to stay silent. It’s just easier.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m far from a feminist who thinks that every woman has the right to be believed. I am firmly in favor of due process and the constitutional guarantee of innocent until proven guilty.

Whatever the case, sexual assault is not a joking matter. It’s not funny. Any man who would find humor in it doesn’t have a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend or a coworker who has survived sexual assault.

One defense I’ve heard over the past 72 hours is, “It’s no big deal. All men talk like this from time to time.”

That is flatly, patently false! I’ve said and done many things in my life of which I’m not proud, but rape jokes are not part of that. Moreover, most of the men I’ve known over my life would not joke about such a subject. I am hard pressed to imagine my father joking or laughing about rape or sexual advances of any sort.

This election really has brought out the worst in our country, not the least of which is abject hypocrisy on both sides.

For those of you supporting Hillary, I suggest you study the term, “Enabling.” Those who enable sexual predators are little better than the predators themselves. If you want to call yourself a feminist and brag about the first female president, think long and hard about Bill Clinton’s victims. I’m looking at you, Ms. Albright and Ms. Pelosi.

As for you Trump supporters, many of you were around during Bill Clinton’s era. Why is it that character no longer matters? What makes Trump so much better than Slick Willie? I’m looking at you, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Limbaugh.

Finally, to any man or woman who has been sexually assaulted, I won’t presume to tell you how to feel. I won’t presume to tell you what you should do. The only thing I will do is beg you to please share your burden with someone you can trust. Don’t go through it alone.

Witches Make the Best Fertilizer

A lot of people are shocked when they learn that I get up every morning at 5 AM and commute from Littleton to Boulder. I take two buses and one light rail to accomplish this. The round-trip time comes out to about 4 1/2 hours daily. What can I say… I get a lot of books read.

When I first took the job, I knew I would never give a single tax dollar to what we conservatives affectionately call, “The Peoples’ Republic of Boulder.” I have worked there almost 2 years now and I can tell you that the stereotypes are all true.

One example is blatantly obvious. Boulder recently banned the selling of ice cream at all municipal parks and swimming pools. They did it for, “health reasons.” This is the textbook definition of a nanny state. Don’t let Mom And Dad decide if their kids should eat an ice cream cone in the hot sun. Leave it up to the government.

If you use plastic over paper at any Boulder grocery store, you’re going to get taxed for it. The potheads can stink up the Pearl St. Mall with no consequence, but tobacco is a mortal sin.

Speaking of foul odors, my coworkers imposed a new recycling program at our workplace about a month ago. Now, we get to sort all of our trash into various containers, including a compost bin. The compost bin, which contains all organic items, sits right outside the control room where I work. It’s supposed to be put out once a week for pick-up, but no one ever does it.

Last week, the smell of rotting food wafted into the control room and down the hall. On Thursday, I finally snapped and moved the bin outside the back door. My coworker (the crazy Wiccan), threw a hissy fit because I left the bin outside her office window, thereby blocking her view. She didn’t care that the smell of rotting food was stinking up our office, as long as she got to enjoy the blessings of the sunshine from Mother Earth.

This is the environmentalist movement in a nutshell. 53 square miles surrounded by reality, indeed.

OK, so why don’t I just move to Louisville, Broomfield or even Westminster? After six months of working there, I realized I don’t want to leave Littleton because I love living here!

I would describe the political vibe here as libertarian; as long as you obey the law, we don’t care what you do. But more to the point, it feels like a community here.

I have within walking distance, a grocery store, my bank, a dental office, my doctor’s office, a UPS store, a post office, a vet clinic, a liquor store, an antique gallery, a park with a duck pond and much more.

I eat out a lot, and neighborhood restaurants include Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai and American cuisine. Yes, there is a Starbucks nearby. Duh!

I live a block away from a major bus route and a light rail station is a 15-minute walk on a nice day. Even though I don’t really have any reason to go there anymore, I also like living near the Colorado Center For the Blind. I respect their basic mission of teaching blind people the skills of independence.

So, I will continue to grown and gripe as I turn off the 5 AM alarm and stumble to the shower. The job kind of sucks, but the paycheck is worth it if I can stay comfortable here in Littleton.

In the meantime, I will pass the hours in Boulder trying to figure out if Wiccans make better fertilizer since they are more earth-friendly.

The Road to Omaha

I’ve never been a diehard sports fan. Strange, since I grew up in a house full of jocks. Football, baseball, basketball, golf…they never interested me. I got dragged along to various sporting events wherein my brother was the center of attention and I viewed it as a good excuse to slap on my headphones and read a book.
I became a casual Husker fan during my first college years in the ‘90’s. It’s sad that it took the death of Brook Berringer to bring me around, but that’s human nature. I cheered for the Big Red along with almost every other Nebraskan, but I never bought any Husker memorabilia.
The same rule applied when I moved to Denver eight years ago. Broncos games were an obvious event, but I was along for the social interaction with my friends. Every Sunday, the guys and I would gather, turn on the radio, drink beer, smoke cigars and eat chips and bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos. It was all wonderfully stereotypic. I didn’t like the Broncos. I didn’t hate them. If they won, I was glad. If they lost, I would be over it 30 seconds after the final second ticked off the clock.
I cheered for the Rockies for about a month in 2007 until they got crushed under the treads of the Boston Red Sox. Then, it just got harder and harder to care. The Nuggets never interested me. The Avalanche were kind of cool to watch live, but I never actively followed them.
Then, Peyton Manning came to town and things began to change. This was on the heels of the Tim Tebow phenomenon when it became clear that media hype drove celebrity every bit as much as talent. At first, I was sure Peyton was an overrated package. He was coming off of a two-year forced hiatus due to a neck injury. My pal Steve (who knows far more about sports than I do) was so psyched over Peyton’s career change that he bet a dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings that Peyton would take the Broncos to the Super Bowl his first year out. I won, of course, and Steve was very gracious.
However, I couldn’t help but be struck by Peyton’s demeanor. The guy was practically a sports god, yet he talked like a small town grocery store owner. “Ma’m, let me wrap up those Patriots for ya. Would you like your Tom Brady in paper or plastic? And how’s Mike and the kids?”
I make it a point never to become too invested in the projected public persona of a celebrity. There’s just too much we don’t know about Peyton’s private life. Yeah, he’s got a wife and kids, which probably means he’s got four mistresses or a gay lover on the side. That’s just human nature. Yet, I can’t help but admire the guy. He’s my age and he just won his second Super Bowl trophy.
I was one of the many who reluctantly predicted a Broncos loss against the Panthers. The sting of the embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Seahawks two years ago is still felt. I can’t be happier to be wrong. After the victory, I became a diehard fan. When my paycheck permits, I’m going to own my first ever football shirt. It will be in honor of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 win. I think I’ll throw in an AFC champions shirt just for good measure.
Nebraska will always be my home, but Denver is my adopted home town. I think the Broncos are a more accurate representation of the culture here than the ever-present stench of marijuana. There is much I still don’t understand about the numerous nuances of football, but I know that, when Peyton retires, I will cheer for the Broncos and proudly display their banner from now on.
As for the Rockies…I don’t know. A man can only take so much punishment.
Go Broncos!!! Super Bowl 51, baby!

My Dog

The following entry is the only surviving offering from the old Blurty blog. It was written on February 1, 2009. It is dedicated to family pets everywhere. They make us more human.

………………………………….

Sunday, February 1, 2009

9:39PM

My Dog

I come from a family of animal lovers. It is no surprise that we had an abundance of household pets during my childhood. We had everything from hunting dogs to fish to gerbils to horses. When I was a kid, I was very fond of a grey cat we had named Tequila. Some nights, particularly during the winter months, she would come up on to my bed and lie with me as I went to sleep. She purred and licked my hand with her rough tongue. Eventually, she would jump off the bed and I would drift off to sleep.

My father always insisted on a big hunting dog, but my mother wanted a dog of her own. She finally insisted on a small white mix-breed poodle and named her Dolly. Dad called her, “the little white rat.” He didn’t have much use for an animal that couldn’t carry a dead bird in it’s mouth. I was also very partial to Dolly and Dolly liked me a lot. She would often come jump on my bed at night, but wouldn’t stay very long. Sometimes she would lie on my lap and nudge my hand if she wanted me to pet her. But Dolly was my mom’s dog and if Mom was in the room, Dolly followed her around like a small, white shadow. Mom had to put her to sleep in 1989 because she was losing control of her bodily functions and was always making messes in the house. I was sad, but my grief didn’t last too long.

My younger brother Nate was the biggest animal lover of the three of us. He had everything from hamsters to boring fish in a tank to pet rats to a horse. I never thought he’d get the horse, but Dad gave in one year and imported a horse named Conrad from a ranch out in western Nebraska. Nate had a pet rabbit whom he loved, but who met an untimely end in the jaws of Dad’s chocolate lab, Waylon.

Waylon was the third chocolate lab I remember Dad owning. The first was Benjy, but Benjy was around when I was very young and I only have vague recollections of him towering over me as I tried to feed him cookies from an empty margarine container. The next dog was Samson, who we owned when I was in the second grade. Samson wasn’t with us for long. When he was still a puppy, Dad took him to exercise outside of town one day. Dad got in his pick-up to move it and Samson decided to run along side the truck. Dad lost sight of him for only a second, then felt the truck run over something. He realized too late that Samson had run under one of the pick-up wheels. Samson was badly injured and Dad knew that he was a goner, so he got his pistol from the truck and put him down.

Jared was angry with Dad for not taking Samson to a vet, but Dad knew animals and knew the vet could do nothing for Samson. I didn’t learn about Samson’s death for three days. No one bothered to tell me. I learned about it from an off-hand remark by a babysitter. I cried in my pillow that night, but the tears didn’t last. Samson had only been with us for a short time and he was certainly Dad’s dog.

Waylon came to us in the fifth grade. We got off to a bad start because Waylon didn’t understand that I was a blind kid who couldn’t tell where he was. In his puppy days, he would often lay somewhere and wouldn’t notice me coming until I stepped on him. I wouldn’t have a clue that anything was wrong till I heard a squeal and felt something under my foot. Luckily, I never injured Waylon when I stepped on him, but he never really liked me because of the accidents, so we were never close. Waylon wasn’t really impressed the night I took his tail and put it in the end of the vacuum cleaner, hose then turned it on. It was the only time I heard him give off an angry growl. He would sometimes get very friendly with me, but that usually coincided with the moments in which I had food in my hand. He was Dad’s dog for sure, but I think he also liked Jared a lot.

Waylon was very laid back in his temperament and only had one bad habit. When he was put outside, he’d stand at the door and whine and wale until someone let him in. Mom and Dad tried everything from harsh scolding to a rolled-up newspaper to cold water. Nothing worked. One day I found a strange collar around Waylon’s neck. It had a battery device of some kind on it. I asked Dad what it was and he told me it was a shock collar. I was not happy. Dad promised that it would only deliver very mild shocks to Waylon if he barked too loud. Dad is a very gentle-hearted guy and I know he would never be cruel to his dog. Waylon was more spoiled than most dogs had a right to be. He just wanted to make Waylon quit barking when he was put outside. Still, I hated the idea of the shock collar. One day, for some unknown reason, Waylon’s shock collar disappeared. Dad suspected me of stealing it. I’m not sure why. Dad never bought another collar like that. He probably knew it would be pointless as the damn thing would just disappear again. He and Mom just tolerated the barking until Waylon passed away in 1999.

In 1994, Dad took Waylon to hook up with a bitch so he could get her knocked up. I was told later that Waylon was the proud father of 12 tiny lab puppies. Waylon was kind of a deadbeat and didn’t give his bitch much emotional or financial support. This may have been why Dad brought home another chocolate lab puppy in the late summer of 1995. Waylon had no choice but to acknowledge his son when he was forced to share the back yard with him. Mom and Dad named him Yogi.

When I came home in August of ’95, I went out on the back patio to meet Yogi. Yogi ran up to me, jumped up on my chest and started licking my face. Dad told me to make him get down, but I didn’t care. I let Yogi love me up and I scratched and petted him all over. Then I went over and sat down on the back deck steps. I expected that Yogi would run off and play. To my surprise, he came over to me and jumped up on me again. I knew right then that this dog was something special to me.

The summer of ’95 had been a difficult time for me. The Heidi affair had come to its disastrous end and I went through those hot months swinging wildly from one volatile emotion to another. The only time I could feel some semblance of inner peace was when I would go over and hang with Shane and the ’95 WAGES kids. They were a rowdy bunch, but they gave me something to focus on other than my misery. But the WAGES group eventually went home and I entered September of that year feeling depressed, angry, guilty and aimless. I went home one weekend to visit my parents and headed outside to say hit o Yogi and Waylon shortly after I dropped my bags in my room. Yogi ran up to me and gave me his customary slobbery greeting. I hugged him and scratched his ears, then went to sit in a lawn chair. Yogi came over and started head-butting my hand and arm with his cold nose. I pet and scratched him some more, then Dad came out on the patio to light up the grill. Yogi ran over to him and I prepared to turn on my Walkman so I could read more of my book. Not two minutes went by before I felt Yogi’s cold nose again on my arm. I started scratching him and he kept licking my hand. Any time I stopped petting him, he’d go back to nudging me with his nose again till I gave him some more attention. Dad was still out there firing up the grill, but Yogi stayed by my side. When Dad went back into the house, Yogi laid his head in my lap for a while and I just pet him non-stop. For the first time in three months, I’d felt an inner peace with myself that had not been there. I think I’m only projecting, but it almost seemed as if Yogi knew I needed a kind of unconditional love that only a dog can give.

Anyone who knows me understands why the break-up with Heidi hurt me so deeply. Anyone who knows can understand why a lot of guilt went with the parting. Yogi reminded me that animals can love humans no matter what sin they have committed. It was a lesson I never forgot and I was always grateful to Yogi for imparting it to me. But more than that, Yogi came back to me and loved me up even though Dad was nearby. He did this many times after that. He was certainly Dad’s dog for sure, but for the first time, it felt as if he was my dog too. I came to find out later that Mom loved him deeply as well. For the first time in my life, it felt as if we had a real family dog that belonged to everyone, including me.

Yogi perfected a technique that Waylon had started to learn. Somehow, Yogi figured out early that I couldn’t see where he was, so whenever I came into the family room and he was lying on the floor, he would thump his tail so I could locate him. He did not pick up his dad’s habit of constantly barking and waling when he was put outside. He would bark now and then to get our attention, letting us know that he wanted to come in, but it wasn’t a constant noise. His temperament was more hyper than Waylon’s. He was the stereotypical Labrador, always demonstrating enthusiastic glee whenever he was happy. Mom and Dad made him stay outside in the garage or back yard at the old house, but once they moved across town into the new place, they began letting him sleep on a pillow in their bedroom. All three of us boys had moved out and the grandkids only came home on occasion. I think they were so used to other family members sleeping under the same roof that Yogi was a good substitute.

Over the next decade, I’d come home for various reasons and Yogi would often run through the kitchen and attack me with his nose until I gave him a proper hello. It didn’t matter if my hands were full or not. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I paid him some attention. I would be sitting on the couch watching TV and his cold nose would eventually bump my arm, asking for some affection. Yet, he somehow surpassed his dad in the manners department. I don’t remember him often sitting at the table and begging for scraps of food. Maybe that’s why he always got extra steak, ham or chicken from the leftovers. Mom hated it when Yogi got up on the furniture. He learned to mind her and stay on the floor, but sometimes I would secretly sneak him on to my bed when no one was around. Mom found out, of course. Dark dog hair is pretty hard to hide, but I didn’t care.

One Thanksgiving, I brought Alicia home and we hid out in the basement. We were lying there listening to the radio when we heard the telltale “click, click, click” of Yogi’s toenails on the wooden stairs. He came bounding into the room and over to the bed, shoving his head at us demanding attention. I rolled to the other side of the bed and called him up, allowing him to lie between Alicia and I. We both stroked and petted him for a long while until he jumped off.

The years went on like that. Yogi was as much a part of our family as any human. It seems that pets have a way of creeping into your heart and staying there. Hunter, Josi and Jackson came into the world and they all loved Yogi as much as he loved them. My Grandpa G. also took a liking to Yogi once he moved to our home town to live in a retirement home. He was mostly a serious man, but had a great affinity for animals and always loved Yogi a lot.

I don’t remember exactly when I first noticed the small lumps on Yogi’s body. I think it may have been sometime in early 2007. I was lying on the floor petting him one day and found a lump on his chest. I asked Dad what it was. Dad told me that Yogi had some tumors, both inside him and on his body. They had taken him for two operations, but the vet told him that the tumors would multiply too quickly. Better to let him go when the time came. They estimated that he had only about a year left. Yet, a year later, Yogi was still feisty as ever. The tumors were still there, but there were no signs of him getting sick. He grew tired more easily, but he was about 13 years old at that point and it was to be expected. Mom told me his dark whiskers and the hair around his muzzle had turned white. His coat was still dark, but was lighter than it had been in his younger days.

Even though Yogi seemed to be relatively healthy, I kept waiting for a phone call or Email that broke the bad news that the tumors had gotten the better of Yogi. But the message never came. I went home this past Thanksgiving and Christmas and spent a lot of time with Yogi. I didn’t know how many more times I would see him. He had developed a bad habit of frequently farting and the smell was hideous, but none of us ever kicked him out into the garage. Mom would just grab the matches, strike a few and hope that would clear the air. I think we all knew that we didn’t have a lot of time left.

Several weeks ago, I went home for my grandpa’s funeral. As usual, Yogi was there to greet me and hang out as I watched TV and talked to Mom and Dad. He seemed more attentive than was normal. Whenever I got up and moved around, his tail would thump more rapidly than usual and he would often follow me from place to place, waiting for more loving. He hadn’t done that before. It was customary for him to wait until I was stationary before he clamored for attention. Still, I was happy to oblige him and spent extra time with him. I didn’t know anything at the time, but I wonder if dogs can sense when their time is close.

Two weeks and one day after my grandpa’s funeral, I got a text from my brother while I was eating lunch at work. It said simply, “Better call Mom and Dad. Yogi got hit by a car last night and they had to put him to sleep this morning.” I felt an instant wave of sorrow come over me. I wanted to cry right there on the spot, but I fought it down and spent the rest of the day feeling numb. I figured the grief would hit me when I went to bed that night, but I drifted off as usual. The next day, I continued to feel detached all day. When I got home that night, the following Email was waiting for me from Mom:

Guys: Last night about 9 Dr. Mason hit Yogi in the middle of the street. Nate and your Dad took him to the Vet on call @ Riverside. There he was in “Comfort Care” all night, (which means that gave him a shot to keep him comfortable) and would be evaluated this morning. Because of Trauma to his head he wasn’t able to move a front or back leg ~~therefore, we had to send him on his ”way”. So……. needless to say last night and this morning have been a rough go for us. Your Dad is taking this event hard as Yogi was the best dog WE had in the last 40 years. January continues to be an emotional month. Maybe my Dad needed his company. That’s how I have to think, you know !! Love your way, Mom~o

Dr. Mason is a neighbor who lived nearby. My reply was short and to the point: Gonna kick the shit out of that prick doctor next time I’m home. Mom answered my message about 20 minutes later:

Well…….. it was going to be “sooner” or “later” with the Yogi dog. It’s just that timing was hard and your poor Dad had to witness the trauma of it all. Life is Life…. and Yogi has gone on to take care of my Dad. …. and it’s ”OK”. You know how much my Dad loved that old chocolate dog, too. It’s crazy how people get so attached to their animals…. because they are so UNCONDITIONAL and trust us to honor and take care of their well being. Yogi was a very loved and adored dog in this household. I am crushed that he would meet his end in a brutal way, but he was pushing it the last year…. sick in the night, going on long walkabouts and not minding his orders to come home. The last days of his life Yogi was able to go very free about the neighborhood and mark his territory. So.. in that respect I think all is well with his great soul, disposition, and forever I will be happy that your Dad and I finally had a dog that we both loved equally. Yogi was a dream dog, a loyal and faithful joy to your Dad and me. He was my bodyguard when your dad was gone for days, and he had the most loving and gentle eyes. Labradors are a gift to humans. Thank goodness I softened your dad along the way and convinced him that great water dogs can still be “house pets”. It was Yogi’s good fortune that I loved him……. spoiled dog. He was worth it. Love you, Ryan O and Peace Be With You. MOM ~O

I waited for the tears to come, but still they would not. I crawled into bed and fell off to sleep. Sometime in the early morning, I dreamt that I was standing in the street in front of the house waiting for Yogi to come back from a romp. A car came along and hit him. I heard his scream as the car went right on past. I ran over to him, knelt down and felt his blood-soaked coat. I stroked his head and he turned his nose into my palm, then gently licked my hand one more time before his head went limp. It is one of the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had. I woke up and cried for a half-hour straight. Then I had to force myself to rise, get into the shower and head off to work.

As it is with the passing of my grandparents, going home will never be the same again. I won’t come through the front door anymore to the sound of those quick clicking toenails on the tile. I won’t get to feel that insistent cold nose on my arm, or Yogi’s tongue kissing my hands. But Yogi was loved and his memory and spirit will live on in my heart and memory. He was part of our family and he will always hold a special place in my heart for the love he gave me when I needed it most. Unlike my grandparents, I never got to give Yogi a proper funeral. This is the only memorial I can give him and I hope it serves. I have no idea what becomes of a dog’s spirit when it passes from this world, but I hope he knows how much I love him and will miss his company.

Several years ago, I wrote a scathing letter about the practices of guide dog use by the blind in the U.S. Naturally, this angered hundreds of guide dog users who felt compelled to write me and tell me of their displeasure. The most common charge I faced was, “Boy, you really must hate dogs.” Most of the charges they fired at me were ludicrous, but none more so than this. I believe that dogs, as well as other domesticated animals, are a symbol of worldly innocence and love. They serve as a reflection of those emotions that they feel from their owners. They stand as a responsibility for us when we take them in as pets, requiring our constant care and attention when they are sick and when they are vital. They return this joyous burden by giving us unconditional love and happiness in all seasons. There is no greater reward that one could ask for than that. Dogs are harder to house when you are a bachelor living in an apartment, but I know that, if I ever own a home, the first thing I’ll bring into it is a dark Labrador. He won’t be Yogi. I’m sure every dog is different. He will be the first animal who is solely in my care, but thanks to Yogi, my future companion will be the second animal whom I refer to as, “My dog.”

Goodbye, Yogi. Thank you for the 13 years you gave me and our family. I love you and miss you.

Current mood: sad