I Don’t Know How to Answer That

How was your summer?

I don’t know how to answer that. 

I’ve always hated that line of questioning. How was your weekend? Your break? Your whatever? I’m not completely convinced that anyone really cares how my time was spent. It’s a knee jerk social convention that I am guilty of employing myself. 

The asker just wants the other person to respond with “Good” or “Fine”, or possibly with a short but interesting anecdote. Often the question is a jumping off point for the asker to launch into a story of his or her own. “Oh, well let me tell you what happened to me. You’ll appreciate this!” Chances are good that I won’t, but by all means proceed. 

Much as we may or may not appreciate witty vacation stories, no one REALLY wants to know how it was if it was bad. Unfortunately for others, it is completely within the scope of my personality to stop people in their tracks with exactly how bad it was. 

My beautiful friend died this summer. That’s how it was. 

Yes, I did some fun things and had adventures. I could pull out an amusing anecdote if needed. Heck, I was at the beach with my family for the first time in five years when she passed. I wasn’t there for her alcohol soaked bedside vigil at the hospital with her family, and all our friends and a red wagon full of booze. I could only post photos and memories to the Facebook group from afar, going back as far as possible in my digital archives. So how was my summer?

I hovered around the idea of emailing our school staff and begging them to pinky swear not to ask each other the dreaded question. After all, our friend and colleague’s fight against cancer had been the entire school’s fight for nine months. But my reputation as the person who says the inappropriate thing or the snarky thing stayed my hand. Somehow it would have come across wrong. As school started, inevitably the question was asked even by people who had been directly active in her care. 

So I’ve tried to be a good kid and answer with stories of caterpillars, zip lining, yardsales and the like. But a part of my brain screams about her as I tell those stories. 

Particularly today. Her sister reminded us that it was a year ago today that everything changed. What she had spent most of a year thinking was sciatic nerve pain hobbling her movement, was an insidious creature absorbing her hip bones and building tumors up and down her fragile spine. It was so wretched and evil that doctors wouldn’t be able to identify its source for another six months. 

Running its course, the cancer immobilized her, then teased her and us by letting her build back the strength to walk unassisted again. It took her hair. It took her appetite and stole her taste for favorite foods. She could no longer stand chocolate. That’s a horror story. It played with creating new lesions and growths in different parts of her body just to keep the doctors guessing. For a while it gave her a lazy eye and double vision. And in the end, it sucked up her ability to get enough oxygen on her own, and her dream of seeing her two-year old at Disney. But all through the ridiculous ups and downs, and loss of dignity, she smiled her gigantic Disney princess smile. A smile that had a little bit of the villainess behind it. I couldn’t have loved her as much without a little wickedness being there,and a shrieked “RIGHT!” and cackling laugh in response to my own sarcastic commentary. 

She was a life-long cheerleader, positive but not a Pollyanna. Where I would have been the worst and grumpiest patient, she was gracious to all. She gladly absorbed all the tributes, signs, tshirts, videos, and projects created in the name of keeping her strong; or more likely keeping us strong as we powerlessly watched everything happen. 

There had to be times when she just wanted a private life instead of constant well meant bombardment. Times when she was overwhelmed by the pain and the fear of what was happening. She must have leaned on her mother, sister, and husband’s shoulders in those moments. I only had a few moments like that with her. As always, she worried about other people, not wanting to make them uncomfortable by talking about how she really felt or things like planning her will. She was more often in the role of comforter. 

The first time I visited her after the diagnosis and initial surgery, I cried because all the pain killers made her voice sound strange. Of course, she just kept saying,”I’m sorry. It’s okay.” As if this was her fault. It’s a cliche, but I’ll never feel like I did enough or visited enough or did all that I could for her. But I desperately cling to the idea that she was mine. 

The last time I visited her with a friend, she was groggy and in and out of a very disturbed sleep during the visit, not really aware of us until we were leaving. When I told her I loved her as I kissed her goodbye for the day, she managed to make eye contact and mumble a “love ya” back. 

So that’s how my summer was. 

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Just One Soft Pet

MomBert and the BF stopped by for a quick visit and a cup of coffee. In his formal role as The Helper Cat, Miles greeted his grammie with lap cuddles, and then attempted to welcome the BF to our home. Miles sat on the footstool conveniently within petting distance, looking attentively at the BF.

 

Nothing happened. To demonstrate what was supposed to happen, he went back to Grammie who cuddled him and told him he was handsome.

Miles then gave the BF another opportunity to pet him from an even better angle, the arm of the chair.

Nothing happened.

Miles could tell that Grammie and I were encouraging the BF to “just give him one soft pet” so he extended his head at the ideal trajectory for soft pets.

Nothing happened.

Sadly the BF was apparently raised in some type of cult whose doctrines must have preached that animals are dirty, and the only good “pet” is one that is outdoors preferably far from humans.

Miles just wants bring happiness with his handsomeness. He talks to everyone-they might have treats-,offers his assistance to delivery and repair persons, and even stays visible for the entirety of visits by toddlers intent on treating him like a plush toy. He’s not used to rejection. He really stuck with him.

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Hours later…

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I am nuts, but Miles is a very clean, non-stinky boy. The BF is stinkier. She may mean that the BF is a stinky boy.

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Evil Weevils

It seems like every year I get to go up against some new insect that wants to stir the pot in my garden. Fake wasps dry humping my vines, mutant Japanese beetle things a few gamma rays away from a Godzilla movie, threatening spiders, and worms disguised as leaves to infiltrate my tomatoes. 

At least the hummingbird moth hasn’t wronged me.

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This is a really bad photo. I’m sorry, but they’re so fast!

 

This summer, I’ve become aware of a higher percentage of broken off coneflower heads. The heads are left hanging by the barest scrap of stem. I’ve blamed the evidence of my new adversary on my darling goldfinches who are constantly in and out of the flowers eating seeds and screaming, “Heeeyyy, yoousse guys!!,” but the way the stem was broken just doesn’t make sense for the birds.

On a hunch, I dissected three hanging flower heads, and three for three I found evil in the form of a shiny beetle with an anteater’s nose. My gut said “Weevil” and the Internet clarified “Sunflower Head-clipping Weevil.” That’s so frigging specific!

It was time to go to war. War with a bucket of soapy water.

Warning: The following portion of this post has been approved for “mature audiences” only due to language, implied violence, and maybe an implied sex scene.

If you’d like to read a thoughtful explanation of the Sunflower Head-Clipping Weevil and how to deal with it, please follow the links above. My version is much more sweary and less scientific.

Mother pus bucket!

Here’s what the motherfuckin’ Sunflower Head-Clipping Weevil does. It really likes coneflowers, but I’ve also found them on my Black-eyed Susans and blanket flowers. It likes them so much that it uses its giant nose teeth to snip a perfect circle around the stem just an inch or so below the flower, leaving one little leftover bite so the head of the flowers still dangles from the stem.

Then.

THEN!

Then the Sunflower Head-Clipping Weevil goes inside the flower head and HAS SEX. It fucks inside a decapitated head like some conquering Game of Thrones incestuous viking, dragon motherfucker! (I don’t watch Game of Thrones. I just know there’s a ton of boobies and dragons. So I’ve heard.)

Then.

THEN!

Then they eat all the pollen on that flower, and lay a bunch of eggs inside the head where they just had weevil sex. When the flower head finally falls off, the larva crawl into the ground to winterize and repeat the whole goddamned cycle!

You can’t spray for these assholes because they invade blooming plants and you don’t want to kill the pollinators. Drowning was the only suggested solution. So I rolled up on these bitches with a bucket of soapy water, shears, and my bug squishing gloves. They have plastic coated fingertips. I spent my morning drowning weevils like some kind of gardening mafiosa.

Tired from mass murdering bugs (and doing some planting), I went inside for lunch, and that is when they retaliated with a surprise strike.

Eating in the Happy Morning Sunshine room, I glanced out the back doors to the garden. Something was off.

The head of my “Now Cheesier” coneflower (Ok, there are all kinds of varieties and colors of coneflowers. The “Mac and Cheese” coneflower which is a lovely Velveeta shade came out in 2008. “Now Cheesier” is the follow up.)  that I had planted not even an hour ago appeared to be drooping. Not drooping. PERFECTLY SNIPPED! FUCKERS!

It’s like they left a horse head in my bed! The war will continue.

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Look at them gleefully dancing! Right before I crushed them.

Blowing it up!

The neighbors started blowing shit up Saturday night because nothing says happy holiday weekend like explosions and things that sound like gun fire. From what I can see, they’re not even getting fireworks that make colors. They’re literally just making noise.

Olivia Wigglebothum does not approve. Even Miles has his limits (it takes a lot to piss this boy off) and gave the window a good hissing.

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Olivia Wigglebothum and friends would like to remind you that fur kids are not really in to all things associated with the 4th of July: crowds, intense heat, strange human foods (even though they will ask for it), and above all loud, startling, frightening noises that lead to irrational, fear-based behavior.

Even some humans aren’t that into it-this girl! It probably doesn’t help that Gpa said that fireworks makes him remember phosphorous bombs from WWII.

Olivia’s  irrational, fear-based behavior will be to inconsolably low-belly around the house, stopping to cower in various spots such as behind the toilet probably through the leftover explosives that someone will drag out Wednesday night. So…yea…Happy 4th.