I’ve enjoyed posting these “oldies but goodies,” posts written long ago but still remembered.

This one’s so old it’s not even on my website. It’s from The Before Times, the posts from February 2009 through June 2018, when I took them all down thanks to an anonymous letter to my employer.

It was posted on December 18, 2011. I had started work at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati that February, commuting from Chicago every week for the first four months, then every other week. Trent (second husband) had been dead for three years, Jenna was his 15-years-old-when-he-died daughter, and Nemo was our ninety-pound dog I had promised Trent I wouldn’t take back to Chicago with me if Trent and I ever didn’t live in Michigan anymore.

 Earlier this week, in downtown Cincinnati, I was trying to get myself some dinner. The first restaurant, where I eat once a week when I’m in town, told me they were full.

I looked over the shoulder of the host to see tables pushed together in long rows, filled with laughing people. The people, their drinks glasses, and the little white lights on the little evergreen trees in pots on the other side of the window all sparkled.

Outside the restaurant, beyond the lit trees, the giant evergreen on the central plaza glowed with multicolored lights. At the center of the plaza, spotlights on the massive sculpture made it look as if light beams, not water, fell from the lifted hands of the giant woman.

I left the restaurant and looked across the plaza to another restaurant, inspecting the second floor with views of the glittering plaza below. The window-side tables looked occupied but I decided to try it anyway. A skinny escalator took me upstairs.

There were clumps of hopeful diners chatting in the doorway. The host said all the tables were full but there was one open seat at the bar and I took it. Crowd noise buffeted my ears. Servers hustled, dancing between packed tables, but none came my way.

Economics drove the servers’ actions. The time it would take from a large table with a large tip to serve a solo diner with a small tip wasn’t worth it. I left and rode the skinny escalator back to ground level.

This time I noticed the extra lights on the plaza, illuminating a small ice rink that emerges every winter. The skaters wore puffy clothes and bright scarves, hats with pompoms. There was a line of families waiting to get on the ice.

This was when I started feeling sorry for myself. “Where is my family? Where is Trent, and Jenna, and Nemo?” “How come other people get to keep their families and I have to lose mine?”

There is no good that comes from asking questions like this, and I stopped myself.

Standing at the counter of the Sushi restaurant, waiting for my takeout, I decided to be grateful for the family I do have, even if my family is different from most.

I started mentally adopting people into my family. Manoj, the cab driver who takes me to and from O’Hare is one of my uncles. (His Bangalore-made GPS pronounces O’Hare as “Ah-her”),

Manoj is my uncle because he is a smart businessman (you should see and feel his business card), because he loves his family (they just welcomed son #2 a few weeks ago), and because he asked me to try a snack his wife made for him (which looked like tiny seeds and tasted like licorice).

Elaine and other strong women are my sisters because I can see them or call them and say, “I feel sad,” and they will say, “Oh, sweetie, of course you do.” And then we will talk about what I might to do feel at least a little bit better.

I have been missing Nemo and wanting a dog, but of course I cannot have a dog because of my travel schedule. Having a dog now would be selfish and cruel.

So, yesterday I drove to Paws on Clyborn Avenue in Chicago because Greyhounds Only was having a meet ‘n greet and I wanted to offer my services as a volunteer.

There was a man wearing a large adhesive name badge that declared ‘Joe’ in thick black marker, huge letters. I said I would like to volunteer, walking dogs or something.

Joe eyeballed me.

“Would you like to do something like this?”

“Like this?”

“Like what we’re doing now.”

The room was not small but it was full. There were 6 or 7 greyhounds, an almost equal number of handlers, plus a family (mom, daughter, grandpa) checking out the dogs. I looked around the room, considered the dogs and my schedule.

“Yes, I would.”

“Would you like to do it now?”

“Like today?”

“Yeah. You could take this leash and hold this dog.”

Joe passed me the leash and told me the dog’s name was Miss B.

I stayed. I handled Miss B and took her outside for a walk. After Miss B, I walked JD who was bigger and more enthusiastic about possible edibles hidden in Clyborn’s back alleys.

Although I showed up planning to simply give my contact info, I stayed for three hours. I stayed because I got to hold a dog and not just any kind of dog but my favorite—a big dog.

It was a good day for Sid.

Sid came to Greyhounds Only in March. Most of their dogs come and go quickly but Sid was an older, slower dog. Ten years old. He had been waiting nine months.

The mom/ daughter /grandpa were looking for two dogs, one for mom and daughter and one for Grandpa, who had just lost his wife to Alzheimer’s. They all thought a dog would be good for Grandpa.

Grandpa sat in one of the metal folding chairs lining one wall. He wore dark blue cotton slacks and a maroon ribbed-knit thick sweater that hung from his thin shoulders. His back curved to a C-shape as he stroked Sid’s head. Sid, in his coordinating maroon ribbed neckwarmer, rested his head in the channel of Grandpa’s lap, the groove between Grandpa’s thighs. Grandpa curved forward even further and Sid lifted his long snout so they could touch noses.

Sid went home with Grandpa.

I don’t have a dog and won’t for a while. I still miss Nemo sometimes. But now I have a place I can go to be with a dog.

In 2006, in Oprah’s magazine, I read something Marsha M. Linehan said and copied it into my little book of good words:

“Because you won’t accept that there’s a hole in your life, you do nothing to fill the hole. Maybe you can never fill it all the way, but believe me, a hole three-quarters filled beats an empty hole.”

Marsha M. Linehan is right. I might not be able to have a dog right now. But I can still enjoy their company.

An elderly tan greyhound

Thankful for finding this photo when I found the photo of Sid.

And this one, too.



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