Taking Care of Our Elders: A Place Between The Night and the Day

Now is a time we all need to take special care with our elders/seniors and others who need extra help. 

I am running a Taking Care of Our Elders Marathon. These stories are about my elders Eleora and Tellias, but I know many of you will be able to relate. 

From 2013

A Place Between the Night and the Day

Yesterday a call came in. A small whispery voice, like old tissue paper that had once wrapped up lace and flower petals said, “We can’t find Ginger.”

The conversation continued, or I attempted to continue it. I asked where they’d seen Ginger last and if they’ll looked everywhere. But I got the same answer. “YOU have to come. We can’t find Ginger.”

Ginger is an old dog. She is some sort of medium sized Lab and Golden mix with a few other breeds in there. One day 15 years ago she showed up starving and dirty on the Elder’s farm. She was grown even then and seemed middle aged. Like her owners, Ginger is ancient and confused.

The elders are Tellias and Eleora, two ancient Vampires who aren’t even sure how old they are. He met her when he went to Britian with the Roman Army. That was a while back. Theirs was a story of sweeping epic romance, but now, they were calling me to find their old dog.

I brought the kids with me, 17 year old Garrett and 14 year old Clara. When we arrived, they, the Elders were along. The early morning air was filled with smoke from forest fires in the hills. Eleora was afraid of smoke, so she was out of sorts even more than usual. Back in the days of burning rice fields she’d leave town for the coast.

When we arrived Tellias came out to greet us in an old black tux with no shirt underneath the jacket and bare feet. His blonde hair was covered by an old pith helmet. Eleora wore a halter style sundress out of some ugly brown and yellow batik fabric and red cowboy boots. She carried a large butterfly net and a green glass bowl of dog biscuits. Despite their age and frailties they look as though they can’t be much older than 20.

And it is my job to take care of them and make sure they’re safe and have what they need. It is my job to make sure they don’t do stupid things.

My children and I were showered with hugs and kisses. They usually sang songs to us when we arrived, but this time is was all about finding Ginger.

We searched high and low for Ginger. We called. But no answer.

“We’ve looked everywhere,” said Tellias.

“Everywhere,” said Eleora.

“Everywhere,” whispered Tellias.

So we all searched and called more. After taking a break from dog searching, cleaning up, fixing a few things, and throwing in some laundry that had piled up, we sat down for a few moments. There was a click click click on the floor and we turned to see Ginger looking at us with big brown eyes.

We have no idea where she’d been, but we were glad that she was back. She is covered in hugs and kisses. All is well.

It had been a long week with my work, the kids starting school, my husband’s activities and looking after the Elders. Some say don’t sweat the small stuff but it all seems the same. There is no small stuff or big stuff – just stuff. But it is my stuff. It is my choice to be the one who manages all the stuff and take care of stuff and deal with stuff.

It isn’t that I love the stuff, I love the people who bring the stuff to me.

And in the early mornings between the night and the dawn I am left alone to my own stuff, or what I can clear out of my head and heart. I walk the trails near my house under the oaks, on the edge of the bluffs over the water. I can hear the first birds of the morning and see the last bats of the night. The deer, coyote and bobcats walk at a distance and sometimes let me see them in their own world. The squirrels jump through the trees like crazed acrobats.

I think of everything and nothing. I think of things that I don’t have time to think about when I’m looking for old dogs, lost socks, and lost souls.

My mind wanders the hills far beyond where my feet take me. Sometimes I see ghosts, but even they know not to bother me in my Vampire reveries.

At that place between the night and the day.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – but please no yoga pants

Odds and Ends – Musings on my state of mind.

This morning as I was leaving the self-serve dog wash with a clean old dog and a fifteen pound bag of dog food under my arm I saw road rage. Yes, right there in the Trader Joe’s parking lot between the organic bakery and the dog wash.

Fresh from getting her Zen and Zang aligned with the universe at her Friday morning yoga class, a woman in an expensive SUV started screaming “BITCH you can’t have my spot.” She was screaming at another woman who was also in an SUV (woman number two was not wearing yoga pants.) It was one of those WTF moments for me. After helping my old dog with the bad leg into my car I could only hope that nobody would scream at me. If they did there might be hell to pay later, much later, but maybe not. It just isn’t worth my time. Karma will get the screamer much more effectively than any Vampire could.

As a rule, aside from swimwear and underwear I never wear anything with an elastic waist band. I do not have road rage. Yes, of course I swear in the my car and curse enough to make the Devil himself blush – I’m a mom. All mom’s swear in the car, just as any child. BUT I do not have road rage.

I’ve been out and about during the day a lot more lately. Things are different in the light of day. At night people are predictable. They are usually tired or drunk or happy to be where they are. During the day the world if full of women who are full of rage. Raging women with well manicured hands and yoga pants. There are also the moms with a baby in one hand and a dog pulling the other with a leash. Yes, it looks good on paper, but in reality the dog and the baby rarely want to go in the right direction. The three I saw today were so cute. I remembered those days except I had two exceptionally large hairy girl dogs (90 and 125 lbs) and babies in tow. Auto pilot time!

When my children were small I always knew a lot of the well-kept raging women with their aligned Zen were blissfully ignorant of their husband’s girlfriends or of their market value going down in the workplace. I was never Zenfully aligned in any way shape or form. The universe has never been an aligned or straight forward place for me. That makes things difficult at times but you know, it just the way things are.

Disclaimer: Not everyone who does yoga is one of those women so don’t get all pissed off.

Then I saw two guys with a lot of hair and backpacks. I don’t know if they were homeless or just traveling through. At the light a Lumbersexual (you know, the long hipster beard, boots and red plaid jacket or shirt) talked to the hairy guys. It was cool.

I saw the old guy with the purple mohawk who rides his bicycle along the streets. I saw the tiny kindergarteners in their cute sun hats all holding on to a rope and walking to the park with their teachers. With a rope no kids can complain of holding hands with blisters or a hand of someone they don’t like or being paired up with a hand squeezer. Ropes rock when it comes to controlling children. And it is sooooooo cute.

As I’m driving home with the now clean dog, I realized that now I smell like dirty dog. When you wash a dog it is just a matter of you transferring the vile smells to your own body. I turned on my music because the dog can’t use the car stereo system like the rest of my family. Nobody was there to change it. I played my own soundtrack for my own movie.

I keep adding songs and pushing some off of the playlist. Some are on the list forever while others only last a week or two. And I am still pissed off at Apple their asshattery when they slapped the U2 album on my iPhone. More mom swearing. But back to my yen and yang…

We all have to find our own soundtracks. We all have to find what route we want to take on any given day. Even when we’re forced to take another road to another place, even if that place is unknown, it isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it is usually a good thing.

Then there are those rings that are old and new like my fifteen year old and her sixteen year old partner skating to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” In two hours he’ll be listening to Metallica and she’ll be listening to Night Riots or some sort of smooth jazz but for now, they dance like Fred and Ginger on eight wheels. Today it is International (nor organ music like American dance, just orchestral.) They’re really beautiful out there on the floor.

Other things run through my mind like calls from my brothers about getting out blood stains, dealing with females, and dealing with the ends and outs of living in world that is just a little bit different. Not bad, not wrong, not strange to us, just different.

I thought about the time, a long time ago, when my brother Val and I were kids. We were walking along the edge of the river and found a giant dead sturgeon on the beach. We swore it was at least twenty feet long. Looking back I think it was about six feet long – still a large beast. It was just one of those random thoughts that I’ll call him about tonight or maybe tomorrow. I thought about a lot of things today with my only company being the dog.

Rummaging through the dusty files in my brain I pulled out cracked faded folders on old lovers, images of places I can’t remember and things I remember as if it had happened this morning. Closing my mind I could feel the warm summer breeze on my bare skin as I walked along the beach, hoping it would stay warm, if only for another few hours.

Next I sent Garrett (who is off at college) about a dozen photos of the dogs and cats playing in the tall winter grass. I also sent him pathetic photos of the dog being washed. Fun stuff. A lot of xoxoxoxo sort of stuff followed and came back. He sent selfies and some included friends. I thought again of the mom with the tiny baby and the dog. She has no idea how much fun she will have or how much love.

So reach into your brain, take out your files and throw them into the air, with all of the brittle paper that might fly into bits along with dust and old love letters and bits of this and that. Holy crap, what a mess that would make.

I’m looking forward to a calm evening for tomorrow… who knows what it will bring but it is always something.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Jasmine

First posted in February 2015

That was the last time I took Jasmine to the dog wash before she passed away. She wasn’t feeling well for a few months, then had a stroke before she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I still watch people in parking lots and know they live in another universe than I do. And the kids are doing great. I still miss Jasmine. 

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Short Story Sunday: Grandpa’s Dog

Grandpa’s Dog

“I’m taking him to the vet and having him put down.” Jeff said into the phone.

“No you aren’t.” I said, ready to scream.

“It is cruel to make him suffer like this.”

“He isn’t our dog to put down.” I almost growled at my husband.

“I don’t care. Grandpa will understand. He’s always complaining about how he hates Bruce anyway.”

“The kids will be heartbroken.” I said trying to stall him.

“They’ll understand.”

“What about my mom? She’ll never forgive you.”

“Gretchen, I’m taking Bruce to the vet. I’m sorry.”

“I want to say good-bye.”

“Bruce will understand.” He hung up. Damn him.

Bruce was Grandpa’s dog. He was old. The oldest dog I knew. Jeff thought he was 16. I knew better. Jeff thought Bruce was half wolf and half Alaskan malamute. I knew he was half Irish. Jeff liked to bake him organic dog treats. I knew Bruce preferred bourbon and prime rib. Jeff thought grandpa was crazy to have such a large dog. I knew Grandpa was half crazy and Jeff was right, it was about the dog, but it didn’t have anything to do with its size.

Once a month I kept the dog for Grandpa, while he “Went to the cabin with his old college buddies.” I hauled the dog to weddings, to funerals, to camping trips and hanging around the house. He’d been there for my college graduation, my wedding, for my kids. My mom had watched the old dog before me. My grandma before her.

Of course Jeff didn’t believe anything my family said about the damn dog. He’d spent years hearing us tell bad jokes and tall tales. It was how we spoke, in stories. I blame it on my Southern parents. Jeff just thinks I’m funny. He tells me I should have my own show on cable. HA HA HA. He thinks my family is quirky and quaint. Right now nothing was funny or quaint.

I raced home from the studio. I’m a photographer, mostly editorial, corporate portraits, product photos. Good thing I’m the owner of the business, otherwise I’d never deal with my husband, my children and Grandpa’s damn dog. I would have had the dog with me today but he was too stiff to climb into the car by himself and at 125 pounds I didn’t feel like lifting him today.

Jeff was still at home. I parked blocking the driveway. Thank God the kids were still in school. I have never been so angry with anyone in my entire life. I barged through the door yelling at my husband. “All I asked you to do was check in on him for me at lunch time and you decided to kill him. Well for once in your life listen to me…”

I yelling stopped when I saw Jeff. He had a towel around his hand. He was bleeding.

“The old guy bit me when I was trying to get him out of the house.” he said with a shrug of his shoulder.

I saw Bruce poke his old white muzzle around the corner.

“Why the hell did you have to bite him?” I yelled at the dog. Bruce tucked his tail and cowered. His ribs stuck out from his sides. He looked ancient and pathetic.

Jeff reached out to scratch the dog behind his ear. “Don’t yell at him. It’s like he sensed what I was going to do. Poor old guy was scared.”

“Don’t touch him.” I yelled. I looked at the wound on Jeff’s hand. It was clean. I went back to the dog. “Damn you, after all I’ve done for you.” Bruce looked at me with glassy brown eyes and shook, tail still between his legs.

Jeff put his arms around me “Gretch, don’t get mad at the dog. “

“You don’t understand,” I gasped.

“He’s old and scared.” Jeff said stroking my hair with his good hand. “You know dear, all that dog hears is “Bruce, blah blah blah. Blah blah blah”. He laughed and gave me a quick hug.

I pulled away. “He’s a werewolf.”

“Oh Honey, don’t call him that. He’s just an old arthritic dog. Poor old guy.” He leaned down to touch noses with the dog. Bruce licked Jeff’s face and thumped his tail on the floor. “You aren’t a werewolf are you old guy? You’re just a prince in disguise. You think she’ll give you a kiss?” Jeff started to make kissy noises.

I thought I was going to throw up.

“There’s a reason why we never see Grandpa and Bruce together.” I growled. They’re the same animal. Bruce isn’t 16, he’s 85. ”

Jeff took a deep breath. “I’m not going to put him down. We’ll wait till Grandpa gets home and discuss it with him. Werewolves. That’s a good one. So when you work at night does that mean you’re a vampire?” he laughed again. “You can bite my neck anytime.” He kissed my neck.

I backed away feeling the panic rushing up inside my body. “Jeff, it’s true and now….”

I couldn’t say the words. Now my husband was going to become a werewolf and I’d have one more old dog to take care of.

 

~ end

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

In Appreciation of Rex The Dog – A Halloween Tail

dogsleep

Consider the dog…

Rex was a small dog of the largest order. He had the courage of a lion, the voice of an opera star and the heart of a lover.

Rex was a real son of a bitch too. He’d stare anyone down. Take on large dogs five times his size with gusto – always being the one to draw the most blood.

Rex’s owner took him everywhere. Rex went to business meetings, poker games, and all manner of business. Where his man went Rex followed tail in the air, head high, quick feet. Rex loved parties where ladies would come in big pretty skirts and scoop him up in their arms and hug him. They’d talk in high baby like voices to him that he liked a lot. It would get him all excited, so much in fact that he wanted to jump and bark. They’d throw him balls and kiss him when he returned.

Later they’d want to kiss his master as well, but it rarely went past a kiss. When it did Rex would stand guard at the door, just in case.

Rex watched for the watchers of the night. These were the people who smelled more like predators than most folks. They were always good to Rex – better than most, but Rex knew to watch. He’d watch them because according to the rules of the dog one has to watch one’s back for larger dogs. The predators weren’t larger but they were more dangerous. But like some of the big dogs, Rex loved them. He saw them protect his master from harm that his master couldn’t see. There were evil forces that only dogs and other predators can see. His master and most people were not predators.

“One can love without complete trust if one is being protected.” Or at least that is what Rex made himself believe.

Rex had been with his master since he was a teen. Now his master was 25. He was a successful man, about to be married, on the edge of greatness. But Rex knew it was time to go to where all good dogs go.

Nights grew colder and fall came. Rex had a hard time walking. He was 14 years old. Not a young dog anymore. Then one night he curled on the foot of his master’s bed and fell asleep forever.

The next night his master, still devastated by the loss of his small and noble companion heard a quiet knock on his door. It tapped out a rhythm not unlike a popular song at the time. He went to the door and there stood a beautiful girl. He knew her. He knew her father and well-respected family. She looked so lovely with her blonde bottle curls and paisley shawl around her milky white shoulders. She wore a ball gown of pink and cream. What was she doing there?

He told her she needed to leave, it wasn’t proper for a girl of her age, and standing,  to be out alone at a man’s house,  but she talked her way in. The man should have lived a long life and joined his faithful dog Rex in Heaven. Instead he discovered the girl, and the two friends who had come with her were predators – some of the very ones who had fed Rex treats and thrown him balls.

Rex’s Master, to this day says that night he went to Hell. Dragged down by rogue Vampires. Rex would have warned him, or at least he thought.

He has had many dogs since then, but he’ll always remember Rex, the dog with more charm and spunk than 100 dogs put together.

Teddyanddog

That has been a favorite story for the Vampire kids for a long time. It first appeared here in 2012.

Rex went away and the next day was Halloween night, the night his master unwillingly became a Vampire. My kids have often sadly commented that we can’t turn our dogs into vampires so that they can be with us longer.

Note: A dog turned into a vampire would not be a Werewolf Dog. We all know that. Werewolves and their dogs are an entirely different matter.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Night Dogs

Tangled Tales

 

Night Dogs

Constantine Jones sat on the bottom of the museum steps wondering what just happened.

Earlier that evening he’d put on his best Armani suit, a Hermes silk tie, and was feeling good about the outcome of the evening. It was to be a charity event. Beautiful people would be there dressed up. Everyone would be relaxed, and happy, and it would be delightfully fun.

After discussing art and drinking champagne he’d lured a few well-heeled patrons to remote galleries to see some unusual modern art. There he took a few pints of blood from wrists and left his donors with no memories, except those of a delightful conversation with a well dressed, nice looking young art expert. Well, a 165 year old art expert, but that was besides the point.

Then in the main gallery, the California Room, he saw her standing in front of the Thomas Hill grand painting of Yosemite Valley. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the room but she was attractive in a cute sort of California girl way, and had that delightful look of both shyness and playfulness. Her olive green dress shimmered along the neckline with iridescent beads. As she turned her head towards him it was like a lightning bolt had hit his heart. First sight.

Second sight as well. A smallish dog of unknown breed stood next to her with a service dog vest on. A service dog. Why did she need a service dog?

With his usual ease, Constantine approached the woman. He asked if he could pet the dog. She said yes. She told him she’d had a head injury when she was in Afghanistan. She’d been in the Army. He would never guessed. The dog could detect seizures.

They talked for an hour about art, and life, and it seemed as if he’d met his soul mate. It was the best hour he’d ever spent. Then she was gone. He hadn’t even asked her name.

So like Prince Charming, he sat at the bottom of the stairs wondering where Cinderella had gone. All he had of her was one of her earrings he’d found on the steps. It was a gold strand with a single diamond on the end. The diamond was real.

I might as well walk home he thought. It was just a couple of miles. He’d clear out his mind. The full moon, and lights from late night downtown bars and restaurants lit the way.

Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a large dog wearing a back pack. A service dog? A smaller dog in a vest followed. Around the next corner, in an alley, he saw three more large dogs in the dark, all wearing packs.

Maybe it was a training exercise. The dogs could have been German Shepards looking for drugs or a missing person, or even bodies. It was weird, but at this point he didn’t care. He just wanted to go home. He was a Vampire so weird and unusual was over rated anyway.

Constantine thought about the woman he’d met. She’d been a nurse in a convoy, and there was a bomb. She didn’t say anything else except that her dog was named Tess. She liked Jazz music, indie films, and indie books. Of course she liked art too. She was a high school art teacher now, having moved on from nursing. But sometimes she helped out the school nurse. Weird how he got those details. He’d told her… what had he told her about himself? Not much. He was a Vampire so he never told much, at least not at first. He’d told her that he ran a philanthropic foundation that supported the arts, and other causes. He told her he had two cats and liked astronomy. She also was a watcher of the moon and stars. Then she kissed his cheek, excused herself, and a few minutes later he saw her walking out the front door of the museum.

As a Vampire he usually had a good feel for people but he couldn’t get a final read on her. Again, he thought about the fact that he didn’t even get her name. But the dog was named Tess. Tess the service dog.

Constantine thought about war. He could imagine the horrors she’d been through. He was a child during the Civil War or the War Between the States, whatever they wanted to call it. Those weren’t memories he cared to relive. He’d come out to California as soon as he was old enough to be on his own, as soon as he’d become a Vampire, and stayed there.

As he walked along the dogs with packs stayed in the alleys and shadows. Looking at the local news feeds and police scans from his iPhone he found nothing. One of his neighbors was a K-9 cop. Constantine would ask him about it tomorrow.

Arriving home at his craftsman style bungalow he noticed a few dogs in packs at the end of the street. This was getting weird. Odder, and a nice surprise, was that a woman in a slightly wrinkled olive green dress, and a single diamond and gold earring was standing on his front porch.

Tess the service dog stood beside her. Hanging off of her shoulder was a back pack.

No. It couldn’t be. She wasn’t Cinderella. She was a Werewolf.

They introduced themselves, again, but this time with names. Her name was Diana. Like the goddess of the moon.

“You have my earring,” she said smiling and holding out a hand.

“You have my heart,” he heard himself saying, much to his surprise.

Then he kissed her under the full moon, as Tess sat at attention and wagged her tail.

~ End

 

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Vintage Halloween (with Vampires and Wolfhounds)

A large wreath on the front door was made of faded and cracked plastic flowers. You know, those plastic flowers that were sold in the Five and Dime stores in the 1960’s. Faded ribbons and bows hung in odd gray pastel tones.

Without even asking I knew Eleora had taken the flowers off of graves that nobody had visited for years. Long forgotten wives and mothers. I knew Eleora had replaced the faded flowers with real ones and taken time to sit and chat with the departed and sing them songs from their times.

Eleora opened the front door and greeted us wearing a bright yellow skirt with a well worn orange sweater with black cat head shaped buttons. Her feet were bare and her toenails painted a glossy red on one foot and black on the other.

“Do you like my Halloween wreath? I made it yesterday.” She took my hand and led me inside.

“Shabby chic.” I said. “Very nice.”

She gave me a hug and kissed my face all over then took the hands of my children and danced them into the house.

The old lab mix slid around the corner barking, followed by two HUGE wolfhounds.  I was surrounded by a sea of happy wiggling dogs. The sharp spikes in my leg was a tiny black kitten who had enthusiastically crawled up my jeans.

“Who are you?” I asked picking up the tiny purring monster. “Oh my goodness you’re cute.” It mewed back in one of those precious tiny kitten voices.

My brother Max had been there, because the wolfhounds were his. My daughter took the kitten who was named Jinx. A fitting name for a black kitten.

Eleora and Tellias are ancient Vampires. They’re seniors, despite the fact that they look like they are in their late teens or early twenties.  This dear old couple has been together for over 2,000 years – a long time for any romance.

Eleora had decorated the walls and windows with old paper Halloween cut-outs. Mostly cats with a few pumpkins and other creatures of the night. She’d also included decorations made by generations of both Vampire and Regular Human children who’d come in and out of her life over the past century.

Tellias came down the stairs, his white blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing old farmer overalls without a shirt. He had a Mr. Rodgers cardigan on over it.

He gave us all hugs and kisses, a smile on his lovely face. Ancient yet forever young.

“Let’s celebrate Halloween early. Max dropped off two cases of Poet’s Blood!” He led the procession of dogs and family to the formal dining room and took crystal goblets from a large ornate hutch.

I heard a car door close and knew my brother Max had arrived. He came in looking handsome as usual obviously straight from work all in black leather.  I noticed he still had a weapon on his belt. The dogs went crazy dancing and barking.

Halloween is a time to celebrate. More than that, it is an excuse to celebrate and have fun. But we need to celebrate good times and those we love more often without an excuse of a holiday or other special event. It is always time to love and share, especially if you have elders or anyone who is alone or needs a little extra help or company.

xoxo

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman