Dealing with Reality
In the Human and Canine World

It is interesting to me that the background music that I enjoy when writing articles often reflects were my mind is emotionally at the time. This essay was started ironically while I was listening to Rod Stewart’s Way Back Home.

I have written a couple recent essays about the two worlds in which I live: America and Myanmar. However, this essay is about the timeframe from birth to around the time that I was ten years old. During WWII, I was born only a couple month before my father was shipped off to the South Pacific. While I was present, I don’t recall the emotional experienced by my mother and father had introducing me to my father and then saying good-bye to each other. It had to be an extremely bitter-sweet moment. He left his wife and newborn to command a battalion on Imo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa.

During the war, my mother and I had lived with her parents in Merchantville, NJ.

Fortunately, my dad returned safely from the South Pacific. After the war, America went back to normal. They got a home and continued creating a family. We moved less than five miles my grandparent’s home to Pennsauken.

It was for me as much of a paradise that a young kid would want. I had my grandparents, my Aunt Dot, and the rest of my extended family nearby. It was a utopia for me. When I was around nine years old, I worked in my cousin’s candy store during the weeks before Christmas.

While it was idyllic, not everything was. I clearly recall being sick when I was around five and heard Dr. Hadley at the door of my bedroom talking to my parents about me. I remember Dr. Hadley saying the word, polio. I had no idea what polio was, but, in their concerned voices, I grasped that I might be in deep trouble. A couple of weeks later, it was as if our fake president said of COVID-19, “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” It would have been the first time that Donald the Dumb wasn’t lying. Fortunately, I didn’t have polio.

From my Weltanschauung during my first decade, everyone seemed impervious to health problems. However, my mother had a radical mastectomy just before we moved to Mt. Lebanon in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Nearly seven decades ago, the only thing that doctor could do was to cut everything out and hope they didn’t miss anything during the surgery.

Nevertheless, my mother was worried. It wasn’t long before she developed rheumatoid arthritis, which deformed her hands causing her a great deal of pain and discomfort. Within the next decade, she developed lupus. During that time, she would improve for a couple weeks and then become worse for months. My mother danced with death for a long time.

What did I learn from her couple decades of agony? I realized that my father loved his wife. The cards that had been dealt to her weren’t fair. Nevertheless, she and my father were always in love…in sickness and health.

In my twilight year, I’ve done the dance twice. One dance was a subdural hematoma (traumatic brain injury), and the other was prostate cancer that had spread beyond the prostate. In both dances, I was lucky. I had lead death on my dancefloor of life.

However, Ginger, my eighty-pound Irish Setter, was around two years old when she began a litany of medical problems. At first, they were not too serious. With medicine, she got over all of them only to have another medical issue. It wasn’t long before my mother’s medical nightmares started to haunt me. This time, it had to do with Ginger.

Then early last summer, Ginger got very sick. Ginger and I were visiting Dr. Sabedra, her vet, at least twice a week. Her condition just got worse. Dr. Sabedra told me that Ginger needed to go to Purdue’s Veterinary Hospital. I drove her down to Purdue and signed her in. They ran tests on her for two days. The staff talked to me about Ginger having irritable bowel syndrome. They put her on budesonide.

I wondered how many times my father had sat with my mother during her talks with her doctors. Both my mother and Ginger would get treated and get better for a short while and then get worse.

Ginger’s new medicine worked…for a couple of months. Then she got worse. I was taking Ginger to Dr. Sabedra several time a month. I took her to see Dr. Sabedra a couple of weeks ago about a litany of issues. She added and changed dosages of Ginger’s medication. In addition, she said that it might be time to go back to Purdue.

I was to bring Ginger back a week later to see if the changed meds had helped. Guess what? Ginger was much better. We were all relieved. However, Dr. Sabedra gave her another medicine that would resolve a recent issue with diarrhea. Ginger, Dr. Sabedra, and I were all happy. I took her home and gave her the pill for diarrhea. In less the fifteen minutes, Ginger vomited all over the floor.

For a moment, I couldn’t believe it. It just didn’t make sense. Then I realized that Ginger gets nausea when she is in the car. I gave her a drug to resolve that problem. For the past week, all is well with Ginger…for the moment.

I am fully aware that her irritable bowel syndrome, which is the major problem, isn’t curable, but I hope that we can keep it at bay. I tell Ginger every night since I first got her as a puppy that I love her. She sits on my bed during our chat before we go to sleep. She understands what love means. Interesting, I have seen a kind of concerned expression as I talked to her since I took her to Purdue a year and a half ago. Occasionally, after telling my love for her, she would lick my hand. However, in the past couple of months, she licks my hand every night for fifteen minutes. At first, I allowed her to show her appreciation. Then I would say to go to sleep. Ginger continued to express her to me. Now, I tell her, as she is licking my hand, that I love her, which only intensifies her licking.

I remember how my father loved my mother. I also remember Randy Pausch said during his Last Lecture. Pausch pushed listeners to express their love and gratitude for those who have helped us. He added a short postscript. We need to express our appreciation, because, someday, we won’t be around to do so. My father and mother told each other. It is like déjà vu all over again for Ginger and me.

I realize that both Ginger’s clock and mine are ticking. We live and enjoy the time that we do have. Every day, we circumnavigate the lake, which takes an hour. During the day, we take a break several times and play Chuckit at the end of the lake. This video is of Ginger catching the ball that I throw very high.

This is video of her retrieving a couple of me long throws.