Happy Birthday, Dog

I celebrated my birthday last night with a can of Chef Boyardee.

Well, sort of.

Actually I’d gotten my real celebrating done early since I heard a few weeks ago that winter would be arriving on my birthday, which it did.

It’s amazing how the weather folks can nail down their predictions, but not those political prognosticators.

Anyway after scraping ice off my car locks I drove safely back home in snow and a howling wind. I could have picked up chow mein and chocolate cake, but putting the car to bed and grabbing a can from my personal blizzard bistro seemed much more inviting.

I partied briefly with the dogs afterwards, ignoring the big mess of papers on the floor from a bag of recycling I’d forgotten to take out in the morning. My terrier Tucker had been particularly tense and had torn them all up into tiny pieces.

It seemed the screen door near Tuck’s crate in the kitchen had been banging for hours from the 50 mph wind gusts.

We all decided to try to turn in early to stay warm, even though we knew it could be a restless one.

This morning still hearing those high winds and feeling a draft in the house my spirits sank some.

I got down on my hands and knees finally picking up the tiny bits of paper I’d ignored that were now lodged into the back of Tuck’s dog crate.

Looking out the window, I was blue looking up at the gray sky and the return of a frozen white landscape.

And I was likely blue as well from missing my big brother Scott whose birthday was today.

Being just one day shy of two years apart, we typically celebrated together until he passed away unexpectedly some years ago.

Scott was experiencing a few challenges right before he left us, but I’ve been reminded by my sister that he’d begun work on making changes in his life and “he’d even gotten a dog.”

‘Dog’ had always been Scott’s nickname.

And he loved every one of them.

As I was about to finish cleaning the crate, Tucker walked over and licked my hand just as the old Bing Crosby holiday song, “Counting My Blessings” began to play on NPR.

Suddenly a picture from a stack of old photos resting on a shelf in my kitchen slid down towards the floor.

As the rest of my canine crew trotted over my way, I picked up the photo.

I saw it was a picture of Scott and myself with a big birthday cake.

And I’m thinking it’s from the last celebration we shared.

“Happy Birthday, Dog!” I said softly walking out the door into the day with my little pack of blessings on leashes.

All was calm and the sun was bright once again.

And that’s another blessing for sure I thought, as I made myself a snow angel.

Month of Gratitude: Day 14

I’ve been thinking about my brother, Scott. Next week would have been his yearly birthday celebration, but he passed away suddenly 20 years ago.

I have so many good memories of my brother. Scott was a bundle of fun. I’m thankful for the joy he brought to so many people in his life, particularly the ladies. But I don’t mean the young ones.

Scott had a special bond with the seniors. He was incredibly loving to both our grandmothers, his great aunt, our next door neighbor. He brought to the relationships respect for the wisdom of the years, and a thirst for knowledge of the past through the stories he’d convince them to tell.

Scott was patient and kind to these special ladies in his life. He would create just enough mischief to entertain, then make them laugh to the point of tears.

I miss him a lot.

But I’m grateful for the ample joy he spread so freely while he was here.

He may be gone but I’ll still be raising my cup of coffee to him next Tuesday on his birthday.

Scott would like that. And so would the ladies.

A beamer, a brother and some burgers

Looking at old pictures tonight, I got to thinking about my brother Scott. We weren’t very close growing up. He was social and good looking, while I was the chunky, nerdy little sister. Scott was merciless in his teasing of me as I tackled how I could eat more Twinkie’s and still lose weight.

But one day when the teasing went too far, my best friend and I dumped a big bowl of tuna salad on his head. That stopped the behavior though Mom was mad, mumbling something about the price of tuna as she stomped out of the kitchen.

Anyway about five years after college we were to meet for dinner at the Minnesota version of a French bistro. “Ya sure, you betcha,” was being spoken at almost every table, with fake french accents thrown in for fun.

As Scott entered the room, I noticed he had gained every pound I’d lost in the year before. I smiled smugly.

Slurping the watery French onion soup, he announced, “I got an idea. Lets drive to Laramie for the weekend.”

“Like in Wyoming?” I replied.

We had a relative graduating from the University of Wyoming and he thought it’d be great to make the trip for the ceremony. I agreed. Though I’d been to cowboy country before, I didn’t know Laramie was approximately 1000 miles each way from our hometown and we both had to work on Monday.

When the weekend came, Scott cruised up in his spiffy new baby blue BMW (beamer) to pick me up. After I interrogated him about how he’d managed to finance that little sweetheart, I learned we were driving straight through.

No rest for the weary, I thought. And we’d be alternating as drivers. I began to rethink my decision.

But then looking over my shoulder at ‘the beater’, my old Pinto wagon with rust spots worse than acne, Scott’s beamer was looking mighty inviting. Especially considering the Pinto was missing a door handle on one side and a door knob on the other. The ‘climbing in the windows thing’ was getting old, especially on days when I had to dress up in a skirt for work. No wonder they were considered one of the worst cars ever.

So I excitedly opened a functioning beamer door and jumped in, after packing the cooler of water and juice to get us started on our trip.

Here we go, I thought.

Well actually it was more like off we went for 10 minutes, maybe 15 tops before the first stop.

Scott had eyed the first donut shop on the road and ran in to fill up a bag: caramel, custard, jelly, chocolate. The counter clerk complimented him, anointing him a connoisseur.

He’s finally ready for the road now, I was thinking. But by the time we got to the Iowa border we’d stopped 3 more times, for bagels, a bacon breakfast in a bun, and burgers.

Now I was getting grossed out and nauseous from the new car smell of the beamer, the sweet smell of the donut bag, and the nose wrinkling odor of onion grease from his burger cartons. I stared up at him as he bit into another buttery bun.

“Hey Scott, do ya always eat like this when your on the road making sales call?”

“Sure, it keeps me awake, energized.”

Here I am logy just adding up the calories he’s consumed.

But it’s my turn to drive so I take a big gulp of coffee. As we’re now nudging towards the Nebraska border, I’m thinking we’ll surely make some traction. Scott was dozing off, and with the big interstate and fewer small towns there would’t be as many fast food joints calling his name.

So I’m feeling good, cruising along, and feeling very cool in the beamer. So cool that the semi-driver nexts to me wants to play games.

I speed up. He speeds up. I slow down. He slows down. And this truck cowboy’s trying to make eye contact. I’m trying hard not to be scared.

But I’m angry knowing I’ll have to wake Scott up to help with this goof ball. Which I did. And as expected, after we rid ourselves of the toothless traveler in the truck, we took a side trip for takeout tacos. It turns out Scott knew the state of Nebraska real well. Maybe too well.

Sad to say, at this point I was starting to get used to the smells in the car, and even the skunks out the window. And with enough calories consumed to compare with ten Thanksgiving meals, I was hooting and hollering, and plain grateful to finally land in Laramie.

Turning the car off while wiping off his hands from the greasy steering wheel, Scott turned to me and said, “Ya know, that’s really neat how you lost all that weight. And you really did turn out to be a cool little sister.

I sat silently and smiled.

You betcha, I thought. I’d knew that. But I was glad he’d finally noticed.

We then walked arm in arm down the street, in search of some real cowboys.