As a child, I remember my parents introducing me to Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Bones, and the Enterprise, these complex characters and graceful-looking starship soaring from planet to planet. I think some of the weekly aliens scared me, especially when they flashed them up at the end of the credits. (Balok, anyone?)
I didn’t understand the cerebral and more thought-provoking parts of the episodes because, as a child, you usually don’t have those parts of your brain developed until you start hitting adulthood. So it was good to watch as something fun as a kid.
It was one of my introductions to science fiction, and one I will always be grateful to my parents for introducing me to it.
I usually associate a song with a pet’s passing, but I think this time, I’m too emotionally numb right now to think of one.
Levi was an amazing little buddy. His tail was always wagging, usually so hard it was a blur, and he seemed to smile at us. As he grew older, and his vision and hearing started failing, he didn’t seem to smile as much, but his tail still wagged, especially for his chorizo or Schmacko, the former of which was the mode of delivery for his Vetmedin and diuretic pills and the latter of which was his most favourite treat of all time (not the brand name Schmacko, but he knew the word meant “treat” and we gave him Beggin Strips, which he loved).
Warning: This post talks about sex education and mentions a sexual act by name. It doesn’t actually talk about what happens during that act, but it mentions the word several times anyway. If you don’t think you can handle it, don’t read it. If it piques your interest and you can’t help but read it, go ahead. Proceed at your own risk.
When we were in fifth grade at St Paul Lutheran School, the teachers gathered all the boys from 5th through 8th grade in the upstairs 8th grade classroom in the school’s addition and all the girls from the same grades in the 5th grade classroom in the school’s (old) main building for our one and only lesson in sex education.
Now, the reason I’m relaying this story is because James and Jacqui’s daughter Charlotte is getting “the talk” soon at her school, although this seems to be a little older than when we got that same talk. Mind you, I don’t think we had as many boys in the classes ahead of us, so it might’ve been easier for the teachers to just chuck us all together to give us the talk all at once. “Never mind the boys in 5th grade are 10 and 11, they need to know this stuff. Let’s get it done and over with in one fell swoop.”
I remember being very nervous because it wasn’t something we probably talked about or were terribly too much aware of at that age. Mr. Matthias (one of the junior high teachers) said a few words about different things, and I think I was so in shock that I honestly don’t remember much of the day to this day, other than a film the teachers put on to explain sex, Lutheran style.
Of course, I’m sure there was a bit of snickering by using anatomical names for the bits that make boys boys and girls girls. But I get the distinct feeling that the male teachers, unsure on how best to approach the subject, decided they were in deeper water than they dare tread, so, like many teachers before them paddling in an ocean they weren’t accustomed to swimming in, they resorted to the best teaching aide they could: the film projector.
The movie went through the normal things: as you get older, your voice drops, you grow hair everywhere, blah, blah, blah. That wasn’t too much of a shock because some of the boys in our class (and definitely in the classes ahead of us) were going through this already. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I noticed it and thought, “Oh well, you have to become an adult somehow.”
The funny thing about that movie is that, other than the changes to our body we might expect, I don’t think it actually taught us anything we needed to know in a straight-forward and scientific manner. It was full of, pardon the word choice, innuendo.
The story I tell everyone, because this is what I remember the most, is when the film approached the subject of masturbation. The protagonist of the story — let’s call him Johnny — was in a library, looking around at different books and things. He picked up a book, looked around sheepishly, and then went to the bathroom with it. The next shot showed stalls side-on; all you could see of Johnny was his feet and lower legs entering a stall (as if you were at the end of 3 stalls and peering underneath, and he’s in the furthest stall from you). He opened the book and put it on the floor, then he hiked himself up on the toilet, with his pants around his ankles.
The announcer stated something like, “Masturbation is bad.”
Now, to my 11 year old, slightly over-analytical and quite literal mind, masturbation was a word I had never heard before, so obviously, the definition of masturbation in my head was “reading on the toilet”. That’s what’s shown on the screen, so that must be what the announcer was talking about.
I was in shock. Dad took a book or magazine to the toilet to read. Quite a few people I knew took a book or magazine into the toilet to read. It even seemed to be a Fack family trait. I didn’t know this was a sin! Did they know? Should I tell them? Would God punish me for taking a book into the bathroom? And why? What was so wrong about that?
Would God be angry with me for taking books or comics or anything into the toilet with me before I knew it was bad? He seemed like a very angry and vengeful God in the Old Testament; maybe He would hold my sins against me before I even knew that bringing reading material into the bathroom was a sin!
I’m not quite sure when or how I discovered that the word the announcer was talking about in the film and the act it referred to were not the same thing. I’m sure it was during some conversation that I highly embarrassed myself by showing my naivety. My mind wasn’t developed enough to capture the implication or context between the two things. And while the film makers (as adults) obviously knew what masturbation was, and they decided not to go any further other than to say it was bad, they didn’t take into consideration they were putting adult values on what was meant to educate children and young adults about subjects they didn’t know about: puberty and sex. They wanted to imply the sexual act but assumed that children and young adults would pick this up somehow.
I think I went about 6 months or so where I was terrified to take anything into the toilet with me when I had to go to the bathroom. Probably my friend Tommy or one of the other boys in my class told me what masturbation was or I didn’t think God would be so petty as to punish a child for taking reading material in the toilet, so, sometime later, I ventured into the toilet with a Transformers comic or something like that. God didn’t strike me dead, so that was a good thing.
In short… if you have kids, and it’s time to have “that talk”, as uncomfortable as it may seem… Have that talk. And don’t be embarrassed about it!
Jenah passed away on 5 March 2012, nearly 16 years old. She was mostly deaf and one of her eyes had somehow slightly split and would deflate every other day (before re-inflating), and the final straw came when her other eye did the same thing. It was heartbreaking to have to put her to sleep. We made the right decision but it was still heartbreaking nonetheless.
I cannot put into words the absolute heart-wrenching grief I still feel about her death to this day. Her death has impacted me very deeply, and her absence in our lives has left a gaping hole in what feels like my dry husk of a body.
The words, “you gave her a good life” and “she was loved” and “she’s no longer in pain” and “she lived longer than most dogs like her did”, are very much appreciated but ring hollow in my head. Because she’s not here, and never will be again.
But there were happier times. And her memory lives on. I can think of 101 stories to tell you about her. The time we found her stealing toast off a plate on the coffee table. Or when we came home to find she’d dug up anything she could find in the back yard, only to arrange it in a circle around her with that stupid satisfied grin on her face. And then there’s the morning Noel and I looked outside to see her running around in circles on top of the pool cover.
I guess the best way I ever described her was in our entry for the Hill’s Special Diet “Second Chance for Love” competition back in 2009. It ended up I arranged the words in the right way to win first prize. The Web site sadly no longer exists, and I can’t seem to find the original computer file (I think I lost it in the February quake, sadly), but there was a shortened version of my story in Pet magazine.
So, instead, I give you the winning entry: “Jenah”.
Noel and I wanted to adopt a dog a few months after I arrived in New Zealand. He’d never had a dog as a pet before, and I convinced him the SPCA would be a good start to find one. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and it would be great to have a fur friend at least.
We saw a handful of big dogs and small dogs, long-haired and short-haired dogs, when our eyes fell on a small walnut-coloured dog. Noel asked a friendly SPCA worker if we could walk that dog, and she said yes. “But what about this dog?” She led us over to a kennel where we hadn’t seen a dog before. There, peeking around the corner, her beautiful brown (but sorrow-filled) eyes staring back at us, was meek and mild Jenah.
After taking both dogs for a walk, we chose Jenah for her very demure and loving nature. The SPCA representatives said we had a two-week trial, just in case, but I knew in my heart she was the dog for us. Noel and I went out right afterwards and picked out dog toys, beds, everything a lovely dog would need to be happy.
That afternoon, Noel and I sat on the back steps of our house while Jenah checked out her new back yard. Noel still wasn’t sure about a dog, and no sooner had the words left his mouth, Jenah trotted up, wrapped her paws around his neck and kissed him a few times before cuddling him. He looked at me, tears in his eyes, because she’d said thank you.
We’ve had Jenah now for a little over 12 years. She’s been our protector, our loyal friend, our cheeky girl, our duck-loving fur baby, and everything in between. There’s an intelligent sparkle in her eyes, and she still picks up new words every day. We love her as much as we’d love a child, and we often forget she’s a dog!
We were led to believe she’d been beaten as a puppy (we got her at 6 months old), and it took us a long while to convince her all people were not bad. Noel took a long while to show her belts don’t hurt dogs, newspapers don’t roll themselves up and hit dogs, and hands are for petting, not for hurting. It took years, but it worked. No dog, pet, child or human deserves to be treated like that.
When we cry, she consoles us. When we laugh, she smiles. When we’re sick, she cuddles with us. When we have good times, she’s by our sides.
She welcomes everyone who comes to our house, whether she knows them or not, a big smile on her face, her tail wagging eagerly, and a bit of a cuddle after they sit down. (Well, either that or her toy duck gets planted in their lap!)
We’ve given her the nickname of “Toast Monster” for her almost-obscene love of toast.
When she joined our family, she was near the time where she might have been put down, so in a way, we saved her. But in many other ways, she saved us too.
We couldn’t ask for a better companion in our lives than Jenah. She’s added a dimension of richness, wonderful stories, and love to our lives. And for that, we will always be grateful to her and the SPCA.
For those of you who don’t know, my Dad and Mom have a company of manufacturers’ representatives. That company consists of my Dad, my Mom, my brother Brian, my sister-in-law Darcie and my brother Jeremy.
Now, today, they had a meeting with a woman named Brenda from one of the companies they represent. She flew in to show them different basic bits and pieces about lamps they sell.
So, Darcie and Brian asked Noel and me if we could watch Gavin, their 2-year-old-in-December son. Of course, we said yes, not thinking it’s been about 20 years since I’ve changed a diaper.
A few days prior, Noel and I went shopping with Grandma and Mom at Woodfield Mall and found some Duplo Legos, those big for-2-and-up Lego blocks. One was a fire truck with a flashing light and siren, the other a box of assorted Legos. So we bought those for him, and thank God we did, because that kept him busy for a few hours.
Unfortunately, children his age get tired. And crabby. Real fast. So I tried to put him to sleep with no avail. He cried and pouted and screamed and I thought that it would be best to let him stay up to tire himself out. Not the right thing to do!
He only got more crabby and more rambunctious and whatever either Noel or I tried to do to settle him down only distracted him for a few minutes.
In the end, Brian came out of the meeting to put Gavin into the crib. I felt totally awful that he had to do that because I was such a crap babysitter that I couldn’t plonk Gavin into the crib and walk away.
Gavin cried. He screamed. “Mama! Dada!” And he went on and on for about 15 minutes until a period of silence between crying and yelling ensued. Then another. And then the silence was more than the screaming and he fell asleep.
I, more than Noel, was relieved. And the nap lasted extremely long… about 2 hours, I think. Of course, I was worried — it is my brother’s child after all — and Noel was probably laughing at me about it. But… I’d rather be safe than sorry.
We got Gavin out of bed when he woke up — he kicks the wall when he wakes up — and Noel said, “I think you need to change his diaper”. There was pee on the back of his shorts, and when I got the diaper off, it weighed more than Gavin (Yes, I did check it before he went to bed. Yes, it was dry then). Lesson being never give a boy 2 juice boxes before he goes to take a nap.
The meeting ran over by about 2 hours. Noel and I were at a loss as what to do. I took Gavin out for a few minutes to find, to my delight, a construction crew working on a burst pipe at the intersection. We walked down there, his sticky hand (from his ring pop) grabbing mine. He was mesmerized. Digger trucks. Dump trucks. Construction workers.
I thought Noel might be getting worried so I tried to get Gavin back to the house so we could get Noel, but Gavin kept stopping to watch the construction. I thought, we have a winner here.
We got Noel quickly and got Gavin’s stroller and walked down to a shady part (as it was extremely hot) to watch the Village Public Works fix the pipe. And Gavin was enthralled. 45 minutes of the best free entertainment you could get.
In the end, we took a walk. He enjoyed that, and we enjoyed watching him. I think Gavin is more fond of Noel but I could be wrong. He is such a sweet kid!
Darcie asked me if babysitting Gavin has made me reconsider having children of our own after the disastrous Jamie fiasco. I’m absolutely stuffed, as I’m sure Noel is. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know!