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Posts Tagged ‘Charlize Theron’

So—phase I is completed and I’m ready for phase II. I know I can manage life on my own the next question is what do I want to do with the rest of it? There are many societal issues that demand attention; families who are homeless for whatever cause, health care for all our citizens, equal opportunity, the ongoing fight against any and all kinds of prejudice, responding appropriately to natural disasters, saving Puget sound, maybe all the oceans, the list is endless. These problems are all so gigantic they become overwhelming. Can one person make a difference? I hope so and am determined to add my voice and support and personal involvement at every opportunity. The first step in any journey is to actually move, commit, do something. Maybe I can even convince others to join in.

This time of the year we are inundated with requests for financial support from all manner of worthy organizations, some more worthy than others, some just scams. How to decide? Should I donate enough to one or two to possibly make a difference or give a little to as many as possible? If I win the lottery could I make all of them happy? Not likely, especially since I don’t participate in that fool’s game.

Less altruistic than the above goals and resolutions Charlize and I are ready for the next phase. It is a good thing that she is such a people dog because I am considering “dating” again.

Rosalie and I used to tease each other. We would claim the only reasons we stayed together were family, laziness and the fact that dating would be just awful.

“I cannot imagine you keeping a conversation going and being charming for a whole evening,” she would tell me. “How could you possibly date someone?”

“Well, you wouldn’t have any trouble talking,” I would respond “but if you didn’t feel anything for the person you were out with could you really continue to be charming?”

“Probably not, not much patience for that,” she would laugh. “Guess we’ll just have to keep each other.”

It was, of course, just teasing. She was always talkative and charming and wouldn’t have had any trouble dating at all. She was also much too kind to hurt anyone’s feelings. Conversely I tend to be taciturn and especially bad with “chit chat”. I can maintain a conversation of substance, if interested in the topic, but cocktail party conversation eludes me. Rosalie could and often did initiate a conversation and charm complete strangers. I expect I will have to rely on Charlize to break the ice and serve as a subject of conversation.

The good news is that given the realities of the life insurance actuarial tables there are significantly more eligible ladies than men out there. The problem is how to meet them.

Rosalie and I didn’t realize until the twenty-first century came around that we had a relationship, we just thought we were married. Still not certain I am ready for a “relationship”, however that is defined. Doesn’t seem like that much of a challenge says me, tongue in cheek. I’m relying on Charlize’s stamp of approval, of course. Love my dog, love me, or is it vice versa?  What are you laughing at Charlize?

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My travels with Charlize will continue. She is, after all, a great travel companion and provider of comfort and attention. I have searched to discover how to live on my own after so many years of being married to the same wonderful lady. During this past year I made a lot of choices, some good, some not so good, all were important to the journey.

I thought having a camping trailer while traveling around the country was a great idea. It was something I thought about from time to time over the years but Rosalie was never interested. We lived in an eight by fifty foot house trailer when first married and she was not interested in reliving that experience or anything resembling it. Within a few of weeks of her death I went shopping for the trailer I named Frog. During our first trip it was a fun new experience but reality started to settle in soon after. Driving on the open road pulling Frog was OK but extra concentration was needed when parking driving in inclement weather, especially high winds or pulling into a crowded gas stations.

Finding a nice RV Park during was not as straightforward as expected and it took me about half an hour to set up Frog and about the same amount of time to disconnect and get underway again the next morning. It also wasn’t inexpensive, fifty-dollars a night for most of the commercial parks. Then there was the task of emptying the “black water tank”, sewage to the uninitiated. The final blow was gas consumption. My truck, Old Blue, essential for pulling the trailer, was averaging about eight or nine miles to the gallon costing close to or exceeding four dollars a gallon.

Old Blue, although a year old when I purchased her, was also a reaction to Rosalie’s death. I was driving a ten-year old pickup truck while Rosalie drove a year old van. After her death every time I got into her van I started to cry. I was already anticipating taking a long road trip with a camping trailer, so I traded the van and the truck for a year old, high end, Dodge Ram 1500 four-door crew-cab with four-wheel drive and over-sized wheels. Old Blue was built for tough, manly activities. I was anxious to get out of our house and separate myself and my newly acquired rescued dog Charlize from Rosalie’s memory and palpable presence in the house. I was not yet able to clear out her clothes and other things. I needed to escape all those memories associated with all that physical “stuff” of hers. So there we were, me, Charlize, Old Blue and Frog, off to find, what?

During that first trip we wandered for almost six weeks and I was not yet unhappy with my choices. The second trip we took seemed to involve added hassles with Frog and the RV lifestyle. I began to think that the cost of RV parks and extra fuel might cover the costs of a lot of hotel rooms.  Even with the renovations I made, Frog was not all that comfortable, especially without utility hook-ups. Several times I just left Frog someplace and discovered travel was less complicated, less expensive, more relaxing. Gradually I came to the realization that a travel trailer, or any recreational vehicle, was not the choice for me. It was going to be costly but sometimes one has to admit a mistake, pay the price and get on with life. Frog was sold and gone. It cost me, but what life-lesson doesn’t?

Another reality was in store. I really liked Old Blue, but even when not pulling the trailer gas millage was an issue. On the best of days, on the highway at modest speeds, even with “Eco-Boost” I could only expect sixteen or seventeen miles per gallon. Then there were the garages. After I got her home I discovered Old Blue was five inches too long to fit in my garage at home. When trying to park in the parking garage at the Harborview Medical Center or at the building where my lawyer’s office was in downtown Seattle I found that I sometimes had to stop and back up to get around some close corners and into a parking spot without clipping a post or a big car parked in a compact spot. I discovered the deciding factor preparing for surgery on my ankle. With the specter of twelve weeks of recovery and not being allowed to bear weight on my left leg, I practiced getting in and out of the truck using just my right foot. I found it all but impossible because Old Blue was just too high off the ground.

So Charlize and I went car shopping. We found a new crossover SUV that was easy for me to get in and out of using just one foot. The sales people probably thought they we dealing with just another weird old man when they observed my strange behavior testing this ability. The new vehicle, actually a computer with four wheels, gets excellent gas millage, has enough room for Charlize and everything we might need for road trips. It’s also easier to keep clean. Was trading Old Blue for the new car another poor choice, made too quickly? I don’t know yet, but I’m glad I’m not struggling to get in and out of Old Blue on one foot, or stuck in the house because I can’t. The new car also fits into my garage.

So—the journey continues, life’s journey that is. Steinbeck travelled with his dog Charley searching to define the America of that time. My Charlize and I will continue our travels but my search to find out how to live without Rosalie is resolving. I still miss her every day but am becoming more accustomed to making my own decisions and finding something interesting and worthwhile to accomplish each day. I am more comfortable with the philosophy that each person’s life is a journey. Inevitably we end the journey alone and along the way have to learn to deal with the loss of loved ones. Both Rosalie and I lost our parents’ years ago and we cane to accept that as a normal part of the journey. Losing Rosalie was much more difficult but also part of the same journey. Losing a child would be devastating, but many others have coped with even that, I pray I never have to.

Charlize, I realize, has an easier life to deal with. She lives only in the moment. She obviously has memories of some sort of abuse but they only intrude when something happening in the present brings back those memories, for example when I correct some behavior I don’t think appropriate. I wouldn’t ever think of hitting her but someone has, based on the way she responds when I raise my voice.

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The Whale Watch Inn doesn’t have a breakfast room. At eight AM, according to my Timex, a discrete knock on the door announced my breakfast’s arrival. The time I selected the previous evening. I opened the door to find a wicker tray waiting for me. There was a tasty omelet, homemade corn meal muffins, coffee, juice and fresh fruit. I couldn’t eat it all but Charlize was happy to clean up the omelet and muffins. I polished off the coffee and fresh fruit on my own.

We continued north on Highway 1 trying to concentrate on the road rather than the distraction of one magnificent view after another. Less than pacific waves crashed against stark dark rocks sending plumes of white water and spray into the salty air. On the beaches the waves retrieved grains of sand and carried them back to the ocean floor only to replace them with the next tide.

We stopped to stretch at Manchester State Park where Charlize made friends with blonde, sixteen month old Chelsea and her proud parents. Chelsea conducted a long conversation with Charlize who was in a “down/stay”. I had not a clue about the information and/or wisdom being communicated but Charlize was completely focused and responded to probing fingers and baby pats with licks. I asked Chelsea’s parents if they understood anything the little girl was telling Charlize but they told me my guess was as good as theirs. Charlize was totally engaged but uninterested in sharing any of Chelsea’s secrets with me.

We said our goodbyes, Chelsea crying about being separated from her new best friend.  Charlize was thankfully content to stay with me.  Her loyalty is sometimes incomprehensible.

We meandered on north to Mendocino. I don’t know why that small town seemed so familiar, I can’t recall ever being there previously but it is quaint, a throwback to Hippie times. Mostly old buildings, many of them decorated with street art. I found a coffee shop, of course.  After collecting my two Splenda latte I had a short conversation about German shepherd dogs with a couple of seriously un-bathed, heavily bearded, philosophers who were occupying the sidewalk in front of the shop. Charlize sniffed each of them once and indicated she was ready to leave. I avoided getting close enough to challenge my olfactory senses content to trust her judgment.

Charlize stayed in Old Blue while I took a quick -self-conducted tour of the Mendocino Art Center followed by a slow drive-through tour of the town. Inside the art center the volunteer docent on duty indicated that there were a lot of writers living and working in the area, along with many local visual artists and musicians.  I spotted an open real estate office and went in to chat about local housing prices with one of the agents, just curious to see what living in that mecca for artists might cost. Half a million buys a thousand square foot, or less, fixer-upper without a clear view of the coastal scenery. I thought California real estate had been hard hit, apparently not in Mendocino.

Back on Highway 1 the road swung east to Drive Thru Tree Park where the road magically converted to Highway 101. We continued northward, inland from the coast and experienced several groves of Redwoods including the Richardson Grove State Park and the Humbolt Redwoods State Park. The highway was now identified as the Redwood Highway offering tantalizing samples of once many hundreds of square miles of Giant Redwood forests. Once again I wished I could have travelled with Jedediah Smith to be one of the first Americans to experience that time and place. Charlize, Old Blue and I crossed and re-crossed the Eel River continuing north past Humbolt Bay and on into Eureka where we had reservations at the Carter House Inns.

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We found the place, actually three separate buildings on the north end of Eureka’s Old Town. Our room was on the ground floor of the Victorian Bell Cottage building with a private outside entrance to the room.  I was trying for an “artistic” view of the building framed by the setting sun, didn’t get it. Our room had wood floors, a bathroom with Victorian fixtures and a large bedroom with Victorian furniture but a comfortable bed. There was an extra charge for Charlize but came with a flannel blanket and a stainless steel food bowl as mementos of our stay.

After dinner Charlize and I went for a walk past the marina where we encountered a middle-aged man riding a bike outfitted with a single wheeled trailer stacked high with his possessions. A pit bull dog was comfortable on top of the collection. We were never closer than twenty yards or so but Charlize strained against the leash and the pit bull rose to his feet, both of them with hackles up. I presume both animals were just defending their respective pack leaders. I put Charlize into a sit/stay and blocked her line of vision to the other dog. I made her pay attention only to me by touching and talking to her whenever she tried to look for the other dog. She calmed and the bicycle man and his dog pedaled away without incident.

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Recently the Gross family gathered at the Chevy Chase Cabins overlooking Discovery Bay for a week. My brother and his family including his son and family who live in Germany along with my two sons and their families. It was great fun and Charlize played well with the granddaughters and grandnieces.

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Charlize has a new buddy, Chloe. I wrote previously about my Denver friend’s tiny dog. She, reportedly weighs five pounds, I doubt she tips the scales at much more than four.  My friend and Chloe recently returned with me to Edmonds in Old Blue. We visited Mount Rushmore, Great Falls and other interesting spots along the way. The two dogs, Mutt and Jeff, formed a bond along the way. Here’s Chloe in possession of her owner’s couch:

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Charlize likes Chloe and they play well together but she is also jealous. Chloe left her bed to peruse other interests and this was the result:

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The two of them invented a game involving one of Chloe’s toys, a hollow rubber ball with another squeaky ball inside. Chloe grabs the ball and runs all over my house daring Charlize to take it from her, hiding under chairs and beds where Charlize can’t reach.  Eventually Charlize corners her and takes possession, then teases by retiring to her bed and pretending she doesn’t want the ball, but snatching it up again when Chloe gets close.

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Chloe and my friend flew back to Denver a couple of days ago and Charlize is very quiet, almost depressed since they left. I have also been depressed, but for a different reason.  After eight months of procrastination I am removing Rosalie’s clothes from the four closets they occupied and bagging them up for transport to a charity that can put them to good use.  She was a discerning shopper and purchased good stuff, but rarely got rid of anything. I found some clothes I remember her wearing in the seventies. She must have thought she would be able to get back into them and/or the styles would regain their popularity. In any case it’s not an easy chore, but one I know I must face down.

I had a long talk with our oldest son last night, about how difficult it is for me to get rid of her clothes. He confessed that he still has emotional problems when he and his family visit me, too much of his mother is still in the house. He is still grieving too. When does it become easier?

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Won this award in the Memoir/Personal essay division of the Writer’s Digest contest this year for the following:8102-WD%20An-hires-AW-1

Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone

I was holding Rosalie close, cradling her head in my arms when she died. As I write this, it was ninety-four days ago. On April 23, 2013 we would have celebrated fifty-three years of marriage. I’m coping, sort of.

A week before she passed we were sitting next to each other on our recliners, not paying attention to the endless commercials incessantly interrupting the program struggling to interest us. “Well,” she said, pulling out the nasal tube flowing oxygen into her nostrils, “pretty soon you’ll be able to get a dog.”

Bear, our previous German shepherd died six years ago and we didn’t get another dog.  That was the only period in my life that I can remember, being dog less. Rosalie developed balance problems, the aftermath of a viral encephalopathy and a brain biopsy, and we were worried that she would trip or fall over a dog. Thus we were dog less. She knew I missed having a dog and her out-of-the-blue statement was typical of her dark sense of humor.

“Stop talking nonsense,” I told her, gruffly.

The last six months we had together I prayed that the end would be fast and with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Her diagnosis was stage four-lung cancer. It came on January 4, 2012 after we noticed she had trouble breathing after only mild exercise. I have to explain that she was an animal on our stationary bike. She routinely logged eleven to fourteen miles in fifty or sixty minutes and burned more than three hundred calories and did this four or five times a week.

Our oncologist at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance explained that the average statistics for her diagnosis were survival for three to six months. As a scientist I was, and still am, convinced that the brain can heal any disease of the body if we could only figure out how to invoke the necessary killer cells, or immunological responses or whatever other body defense mechanisms are necessary, by sending the correct messages from the brain. So I nagged her with all the determination I could muster about the power of positive thinking and prayer. I encouraged her to visualize her tumors and direct her body defense mechanisms to kill those nasty, unwanted and unwarranted growths.

With her typical quiet determination, Rosalie made it to six months, then eight, then ten and counting. She tired easily but appeared normal to all but me, and our two sons. She was a very private person and didn’t want friends, or especially acquaintances, to know she was seriously ill.

In mid-December she needed supplemental oxygen and on Dec. 27 the oncologist suggested home hospice care. The hospice people showed up and enrolled her on Jan. 2. She died two days later.

***

My first German shepherd was named Mister. He and I hooked up during the summer before my second year in veterinary school. His normal home was the back seat of my car. Before I met Rosalie all the girls I dated made a big fuss over him but he was a regal sort and mostly ignored them. When I held the car door open for Rosalie on our first date Mister was all over her. She gave him a perfunctory pat on the head but he would not leave her alone. He kept nuzzling her, pushing his head under her arm and hand begging to be petted. I twisted in the seat to order him down and to stay and noticed he had an erection. Mister was always very discerning and I decided then and there to not ignore his intuition. It wasn’t long until I agreed totally with his first impression.

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Charlize, pronounced Charley, is a rescue dog, the third German shepherd I have been responsible for. She is about three years old and has been with me since January 15. We are two injured beings who need each other. The first two days she was apprehensive and distraught but every day since we have bonded more and she is now calm and protective of me. I keep her with me all the time. She is housebroken and vehicle broken (yeah), and fetches a tennis ball like a retriever, good exercise for her and saves my gimpy ankle.

The frustrations of the last four days before my obsessively determined departure date were over. Who would believe that a newly single adult male and his dog could experience so many last minute problems trying to get out of town?  But all came together and Charlize and I, comfortable in Old Blue and pulling the Frog, were the last to board the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

Old Blue is the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 in charge of making our journey possible. The Frog is my brand new, albeit slightly crowded with both of us in attendance, camping trailer. Frog pulls like a dream sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.

The purpose of the road trip was to try to figure out what I should do with my remaining years and how to do it. I’m seventy-six years old and was married to the only girl I ever truly loved for over fifty-two of those years. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own. Charlize is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.

Charlize and I traveled familiar roads, taken previously with Rosalie, to Port Townsend, Sequim, and Port Angeles. Once west of Port Angeles we were in new territory. We took a short detour to see what the destruction of the dam had wrought to the Elwha River, now flowing grey with silt and debris, but I hadn’t seen it prior to the return to a more natural state. Undoing our well-meant but destructive “improvements” to Mother Nature may take some time.

Decided, at the last moment to forego the civilized amenities of an RV park in Forks and pressed on to the Kalaloch campgrounds, where my Senior Pass to all the National Parks and Recreational Lands bought a night for only $7, there are some advantages to being “senior”.

We parked about fifty or sixty feet above the beach, where gentle breakers provided a soothing, monotonous background to my day of calm healing, away from the reminders of our house, her things and a previous life. Charlize kept close watch on me. She seems to need respite from her previous life as much as I do.

Half the campground was closed, the road barred by a red and white-stripped railroad-crossing-type gate. I suppose only those seeking solitude find their way to that place, normally rain soaked but now dry. There are thirty odd camping spots in the open half but when I went to bed last night only seven were occupied. Charlize and I walked the place before and after dinner and not a single person greeted us, everyone holed up in their campers. In the fifties my family used to do a lot of car camping, with a luggage trailer and big umbrella tent. The only type of vacation my folks could afford. Our sons and I backpacked and many momentous decisions were made about their lives while we sat freezing on a mountain. Rosalie wasn’t much interested in camping, preferring modern plumbing. I remember campgrounds as friendly places.

Thirty feet west of where I parked Frog there was a sharp drop off to the beach, guarded by a split rail fence. Relentless waves worked their way onto the sand. The sound they made was similar to a busy highway. A vez en cuando, (the English translation of this expression would be “from time to time”, but in Mexico in 1967 when we lived there for a year, it conveyed a connotation of inevitability, an inability for any human to change events) a wave much larger than its brothers breaks over, roaring its delight.

That night, about four AM, I woke up thinking about Rosalie’s last minutes and started crying. Charlize immediately came over to stick her nose under my arm, determined to comfort me. It worked. The next day in Old Blue she barked when a highway construction flagman approached to kibbitz about Frog, not that incessant barking typical of some dogs, just one sharp warning to let the person know she was on duty. I guess she decided I belong to her and am in need of both comforting and protection.

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Seems I can’t stay away. I’m back in Denver visiting old friends who have made a special effort to welcome and include me in their lives even after a fifty plus year hiatus of minimal contact. Some of their friends are people I knew back when CSU was still Colorado A & M and we were all young and unbelievably ignorant of life.

Denver is now a cosmopolitan city and my friends participate in many of the activities that make it so. Their lives seem very different from mine in quiet, artsy Edmonds. I’m certain I cannot live here full time. I have come to rely on the moist air, overcast days and lush green, not to mention my son and his family who I am already missing after only twelve days, but the Mile High City is a great place to visit. Maybe I am destined to just wander then return to Edmonds only to wander again. Not so terrible a thing to contemplate.

During the last few months Charlize has developed some troubling behavior. When she is on leash she is extremely aggressive to other dogs when we encounter them while out walking. I have been using the techniques promulgated by the Dog Whisperer on his TV show and we are making good progress. If I spot another dog before we are too close I put Charlize in a “sit” and make her pay attention to me. This prevents her from getting her “ruff” up, snarling and lunging at the other dog. What is remarkable about this aggressive behavior is that when I take her to a dog park she is not aggressive to the other dogs at all.

My host recently adopted a Maltese/Pomeranian that might weigh five pounds before she shakes off her bath water. When we introduced Charlize and Chloe I put Charlize in a “down stay”.  She wagged her entire hind end and although Chloe was a little apprehensive and slightly aggressive at first they are now getting along with no problems and have started to play together when the spirit moves. Chloe hides under a chair or couch, where Charlize can’t reach her, then launches preemptive strikes with a quick retreat to safety. Charlize seems mostly bemused at this behavior but seems to be getting the idea that it is a game. Occasionally she responds and lands one of her big paws knocking Chloe off balance, but only for an instant. The little dog is almost cat-like in her ability to ability to instantaneously regain balance, change directions in the air and leap onto surfaces twice her height. A couple of mornings ago the two of them shared a plate with a taste of leftover quiche, fun to watch.

A few days ago I went on line and found an off leash dog park not far from my host’s home. Charlize and I have been there several times now. This morning it was already in the high eighties, supposed to reach mid-nineties today, bright sunshine, clear air and high altitude. There were a dozen or more dogs when we arrived shortly after eight AM, some of them already old friends. As usual Charlize was completely focused on her ball. She races after the ball when I chuck it more than a hundred yards using the plastic throwing stick. She ignores the other dogs and if not the fastest she is the most focused on the ball. So far she has outraced all other dogs to retrieve her ball. She also ignores the other dogs as she retrieves but holds the ball in her mouth until she catches her breath then drops it for me to throw it again. If someone throws a ball for one of the other dogs or even if they intercept her ball and throw it, she ignores all but her ball and only if I throw it for her. When she brings it back she continues to ignore the other dogs even when they try to interfere with her progress back to me. No aggressive behavior at all in response to the challenges by any of the other dogs. Good girl!

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