Saturday, February 23, 2013


A few months ago, my daughter-in-law got a new job working for Animal Control. It's right up her alley and is great practical experience as she works toward a degree in Veterinary Medicine. At first, I asked her all about her job, but it only took a few texts and a few pictures of these abandoned animals before I had to tell her that I couldn't take it; their stories upset me too much.

Not surprisingly, we stopped texting and I started to lose touch with her. It upset me because I felt like we were getting close. I texted her that I didn't want to hear anymore and then realized how hurtful that must have been to her. Her job means a lot to her and I dismissed it. I quickly remedied the situation and told her that I didn't mean she couldn't tell me about her work. I added how much I admire her because it's not a job that many people could handle. I'd been sure that she would want to bring home every stray she encounters. And she does. But she's also practical and professional and knows that she can't.

We continue to text and she sends me pictures of animals in their cages and fills in their back stories. I don't tell her anymore that it upsets me. I want us to be close.

Then I saw a book at the bookstore that made me think of her: Unsaid, by Neil Abramson. The inside flap reads:
As a veterinarian, Helena had mercifully escorted thousands of animals to the other side. Now, having died herself, she finds that it is not so easy to move on. She is terrified that her 37 years of life were meaningless, error-ridden, and forgettable. So Helena haunts-- and is haunted by-- the life she left behind. Meanwhile, David, her shattered attorney husband, struggles with grief and the demands of caring for her houseful of damaged and beloved animals. But it is her absence from her last project, Cindy-- a chimpanzee who may unlock the mystery of communication and consciousness-- that will have the greatest impact on all of them.

When Cindy is scheduled for a research experiment that will undoubtedly take her life, David must call upon everything he has learned from Helena to save her. In the explosive courtroom drama that follows, all the threads of Helena's life entwine and tear as Helena and David confront their mistakes, grief, and loss, and discover the only way to save Cindy is to understand what it really means to be human.

It sounded like it might be a difficult book to read. It sounded depressing, yet compelling. I bought it.
Unsaid is Abramson's debut novel and was well-crafted and as compelling as I'd hoped. He employs the deceased Helena as his narrator, so we see the story unfold from her perspective. It was a clever way to unveil all the emotion that the characters deal with as they work with the animals Helena has left behind. The courtroom drama is also well done. Not surprising since Abramson is an attorney. I was torn between the strong pull of the animal rights perspective and the practical need for scientific research. He balanced that well, and it again reminded me of my daughter-in-law.
It would be simple to be idealistic and wish that every animal in the world had a home and was well taken care of. It would be easy to admonish those who have to take a more practical approach to the animal control problems in the world. What we easily forget is that many of these people love animals and have chosen to work with them.
I could never do Chelsea's job. She is much stronger than I am. The animals that she works with are lucky to be with her, however briefly. She tends to them and takes care of them. She cares for them. I'm going to send her my copy of Unsaid. Like Helena, she's going to make a wonderful vet someday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

She's Still Got It

My usually reserved 93-year-old grandmother has always been something of a flirt around men. Her increasing dementia hasn't stopped it. In fact, after we'd all had ice cream yesterday, I left the room and she had my husband all to herself.

When I returned, they were smiling and my husband was laughing.

"What did I miss?" I asked them.

She smiled coyly. "I said, 'Now my lips are all sweet and I don't have anyone to kiss'."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Comic Timing

My husband took me to a comedy club last night. I don't know why we don't go more often; it wasn't all that expensive and we had a blast. We'll do this again soon.

There were four comics in all. First, the emcee opened. He was an older guy with a lazy type of demeanor. I knew his job was to warm up the crowd and worried a little that he might not be able to do it. His jokes verged on being insulting. They reminded me of a throwback to older days when it was funny to make fun of women as being inferior to men. Luckily, he got a little better.

The next guy up was obviously high. He was college-aged and his material seemed very unfinished. He had a few funny moments with jokes that were edgy and clever. But for most of his act, the funniest thing about him was how bizarre he was. He reminded me of one of my son's friends. I think that made me laugh more than anything. He appealed a little more to the younger people in the crowd. In time, I think he'll flesh out his jokes and will have a real future.

Following him was George Kanter, a middle-aged man who made a lot of jokes about everyday life and aging. For everyone over 20-something, he was hysterical. We could relate to almost everything he said. He used physical comedy as well as jokes. Because really -- if you're going to joke about aging, you have to act it out.

We were well warmed-up for the next comedian: Josh Sneed. Josh is a 35-year-old who focused his routine on his fellow Americans and their obsessions with food, tv, and other pop culture. He turned a lot of the focus onto himself with his self-deprecating humor and it was funny. Laugh-out-loud funny.

By the end of the night, we had laughed a lot. At all four comics. They were so different, at different phases in their lives with different sets of material. I think everyone in the audience had their favorite, based in large on which comic you could relate to. I related to George a little more than the others. The fact that I related to the aging and middle-aged humor might have upset me except that it was funny. Really, really funny. I'm glad George and I can laugh about it. The only other alternative is to cry.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Third Time Wasn't a Charm

I've just returned from my third business trip to Brussels - one of my favorite cities in the world. Each time I go, I sit or stand in the Grand Place for hours, eating waffles and watching people go by. I think it's become my 'happy place.'

But on this trip to Brussels, I did not travel alone. I went with my boss and another colleague, and my beloved Brussels lost some of its magic. No, that's not true. Brussels was as magnificent as ever; I just didn't get to savor the ambiance the way that I have before. This time, it was all business.

I took my companions to the Grand Place since this was their first time there. We looked at it briefly, snapped a few pictures, and then walked on to see Manneken Pis and all the waffle stands. They liked the architecture and the romantic allure of the square, but this was business, and we moved on.

But at night, after we returned to our hotel from dinner, I ditched my crew and ran back to the Grand Place, where I had a few magical moments to myself again. Not nearly enough, though. Not nearly enough.