Sunday, November 10, 2013

Foxtail Life

Sometimes, life is like grappling with a foxtail. Though you don't want to be forced into that direction, the only way you may go is forward.

The last few weeks have been like that—somehow being impelled forward to an end point I didn't want to face.

Have you ever had to deal with a foxtail? I had never heard of the nuisance before my husband and I first got together. We have a sort of blended family: his, hers and ours, when it comes to pets. Into our marriage, I brought my Sealyham Terrier, whom you have already met. My husband brought Widget.

Widget was the kind of dog, I was sure, nobody could learn to love. Despite being a purebred Lhasa Apso, her straggly mop was always reminiscent of Nobody's Dog. She was alright, I suppose, as dogs go. Except when she got it into her head to be obstinate.

One disconcerting habit Widget developed was rooting around with her nose under the fence at the far end of our backyard. This yard, you need to understand, is the undeveloped back half of an acre lot at the indistinct edge between Suburbia and the rural nether regions just outside our city limits.

It comes fully stocked with weeds.

Low-slung Widget seemed naturally constructed to shove her nuzzle just underneath the fence in such a way as to scoop up those nasty foxtails. We were forever taking the poor thing to the vet to have foxtails surgically removed from up her nostrils, no matter how we tried to avoid it. After all, it is a pretty tall order to completely sanitize the great outdoors.

The key thing about foxtails is that they transform every pathway into a one way street. They can go in. But they won't come out. Nobody has yet genetically engineered a reverse gear for the pesky things, and I doubt that will happen any time soon.

There are other things in life that sometimes cause me to wish there were a reverse gear at hand—you know, in one of those kits labeled, "In case of emergency, break glass here." I could sometimes use that reverse gear. That rewind. That "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

But sometimes, there is no way to make things better.

Sometimes you just have to go through.

And endure.

They say those are the types of experiences that build character, but now is not one of those times I am in the market for character. What I'd really like is a world without fear, a world without serious disease. Kind of like Amy Grant's holiday favorite where she sings, "This is My Grown-up Christmas List." I wish for all sorts of good that are just not built to happen, once the foxtail has passed this way.

Sometimes, there is no going back.

When I wrote that thought above, I was stuck on a much-delayed flight to Columbus, Ohio, back to my second home to be with family. Understandably, I was in a rather dark mood—how else can it be when we are stuck going forward to a place we never wished to be? Yesterday was spent with bereaved family members, sharing the visceral sad moments that one day in the very distant future, some family history fanatic will dutifully harvest as dusty, dried fragments of the pain we all are going through right now. Somehow, on this end of the spectrum, I'm hardly an enthusiast for "Telling the Story," or preserving it for future generations.

As they say about the birth process, it's a messy ordeal. But at least at the moment a mother has given birth, there is joy. Fast forward to the other end of the spectrum, no matter how far removed from that joyful starting point, it is still a messy ordeal. From this vantage point, though, our only respite is to combine the sadness of loss with the hope of promises about the future.

In those one-way processes of life, birth may produce joy, but the best that death can hope for is faith.

Illustration above, "Alopecurus pratensis," from Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. If you don't tell the story...who will? I am sorry for your loss, sending you a hug:)

  2. I'm sorry for the pain that just has to be endured. Wish there was anything I could to help, but there isn't. I haven't said in too long just how much your writing means, and how many hearts you touch. Thank you for talking to us all on 'paper'. The things you say, and the way you say them, and the images and ideas that tie everything together are priceless.

  3. Every now and then, you wrie an entry that has a particularly compelling power - this entry is one of them. It speaks at viscerial level.

    Thoughts and prayers with you and yours.


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