The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Archive for March, 2018

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung into the air

my mind now lies, I know not where

If you find it, best beware

And let me go retrieve it there.



Boys and dogs

This is a story about a dog.

Well… I think it is anyway.

It‘s been, what, oh about 4 months since Mollie the Bouvier came to live with us.  She was just turning 1 year old, but she neeeed a new home. Even during her first home visit, she seemed to feel the need to keep an eye on the boys. She plunked herself down in front of Sean, and refused to leave when the visit was over. This reaction allowed the owner, who had serious misgivings about giving her up, to let go and be at peace with it.

You‘re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the picture of Sean and a mirror…

On her first evening with us, when I put Sean in bed, she hopped up in there, too. Sean thought it was great fun. He chuckled a pleased little chuckle, and patted her in his usual way, which is well-intended but not very gentle. She took it as her duty to endure this, and it became a habit.

I suppose none of this has answered the question of why I have a picture of Sean up here in this post

In the mornings, I give Sean his meds, we listen to Raffi, and play peek-a-boo. I talk to him sometimes, other times he jabbers at me. Charlie, the old geezer Bouvier, usually sits with me on Dustan‘s bed. We do this until finally Sean drops one foot over the side of the bed – the signal that he‘s ready to start considering getting up. It is then that I turn on the shower in the adjoining bathroom, go back in and assist him with standing up and walking to the shower.

A few weeks ago, Mollie started joining us for our morning soirée. Being still puppy-ish, she doesn‘t sit still for long though. She hops up on his bed, over to me, back over to him, down the hall to check out arriving grandkids…you get the picture.

And somewhere around the same time, Sean started doing something interesting. He started greeting Mollie every chance he could. He has an odd way of saying “hello”. He lifts up his shirt to show his tummy. I have no idea why, it‘s just a thing.

So every time he‘d stand up to go to the bathroom, he‘d say “hi” to Mollie. And then try to pat her back.

And then he started greeting Charlie.

And then the fish tank.

And well… anything and anyone he could.

And then, one morning, as we came into the bathroom, he looked in the mirror, and by golly, there he was in the mirror. He started saying “hi”, except he didn‘t have a shirt on to lift, so he walked over to the mirror, and did something he and I used to do in greeting long ago- he bonked foreheads, with himself.

And he smiled.

And then he laughed, and chattered what I assume was a volley of affirmations to himself.

And just like that, he was out of the shell he had fallen into over the previous months, where poor health and pain had reduced his days to a steady march of surviving from day to day. I‘m not saying he was cured. But he – the person named Sean, who despite his limitations lives, laughs and loves in his own inimitable style – that guy was back.

So I don‘t know, is this the story of a dog doing what a good dog does, with no idea of how it affects her humans? Or is this the story of a human, doing what a good human does with a little of the right kind of outlet? Is this what humans need – not necessarily to be loved themselves, but to have someone willing to be loved?

Maybe we‘ve been thinking about this all wrong. Imagine if every child could find a companion into which to pour his or her capacity for love. Perhaps if we can practice love, we get better at it. It may sound like a dream, but is this how we get kids to stop shooting other kids?

I don‘t know if a puppy is the answer to life‘s hardest questions. Life‘s hardest questions seem to come so fast these days – seems we spend all our time anymore asking, without any time to really answer. The few answers we come up with are hurried, panicked hand-slaps at the dragons we face. Then again, maybe we allow too many questions in, ones we don‘t have to answer so badly as the simple ones like, “who can we love today?”

Note I didn‘t say, “who‘s going to love me?” That‘s a good question, something our psyche is all geared up and anxious to answer. But maybe the best way to answer it is to answer a question with a question.

“Who can I Love today?”

Oh look. There‘s a mirror. Practice makes perfect.

Falling on our butts in a binary world

Yesterday in the shower, Sean fell. And I had an epiphany.

For those who don‘t know, Sean is severely disabled. Besides “profound mental impairment” as the medical charts read, he also developed a severe seizure disorder that really became an issue starting in his early teens. What this means in practical terms now, at age 30, is that he can‘t safely stand unattended, and can‘t understand why not.

So, I give him his shower each morning. We start standing up, and then when his back side is clean he sits down for the rest. He usually barely makes it to the sitting down part, but it‘s got to be done, so we have things in place to make it easier and faster to get through that first stage. There‘s a shower chair. We redesigned the bathroom to an open floor plan. The soap is in a pump so we can get to it one-handed while keeping in contact with Sean with the other.

Well, yesterday I tried something new. To try and stop him from getting water in his mouth, and then aspirating it, I turned everything around. Shower chair under the shower, him with his back to the faucet. But he didn‘t like that much. It was out of his routine, and he kept trying to turn around. So finally I said, “fine, turn around then”.

But I didn‘t immediately move the chair. I was just reaching for the liquid soap dispenser, and though I could get away with a moment with no chair behind him.

Except the usual soap was replaced by a plain bottle that required two hands. And in that moment where I grabbed it, flipped it, and squirted soap out, Sean decided the time for standing was done. He bounced off the back wall, and because he has little bent-leg strength, hit the floor heavily with his butt.

And so, now, he‘s got a big ol‘ bruise on his butt. And I feel awful.

While treatment is clear and Sean just needs to heal, I‘ve got a few choices, going forward, regarding my sense of responsibility. I could transfer my anger to someone else. Who the heck replaced my one-hand pump dispenser? Eh, it could be that I failed to notice it was empty and someone, not understanding this intricacy of Sean‘s process, just grabbed something out of the supply closet. Who knows. I could blame the chair for not being there. You laugh, but I have some experience with panic-induced rage. It seldom is even remotely logical, and I usually just add to the things I need to apologize for later. I could blame Sean for dropping. Nope. Can‘t do it.

Which brings me to myself. I let go of him, and he fell. And so do I beat myself up over it, or let myself off the hook?

How about none of those, by themselves?

I‘ve been stewing about this for 24 hours now, and in the meanwhile, having engaged on Facebook on a variety of issues of the day, some of the patterns and arguments here have tried to flavor my stew. And I‘ve realized that this example bears some similarities to the things we rage about here too.

Very little of what we experience has binary answers of “right” vs “wrong”. That‘s not to say there isn‘t truth and falsehood, but we humans, being intrinsically bent to evil, seldom experience any sort of pure clarity in our lives. This experience yesterday was, at the last, caused by letting go. And that is something I can do something about. Who put that bottle of soap there? I can search for a guilty party, but yelling about it, while maybe will change them, it will do so in a damaging way – they will be just a bit more defensive, a bit more insecure, and no one operates well under insecurity.

And so it is too with the social issues of The Day that we debate so fiercely. To say, for example that “the conservatives caused all of this” or “the liberals caused all of this” fails to grasp the totality of the problems we discuss. The Cossacks did harm, but they also experienced it. Illegal immigrants, people with guns, powerful businessmen, freaky dreamers, well-meaning do-gooders – all have caused harm, and experienced it. In fact, I‘ll go so far as to say all of our explanations and solutions fail to wrap our minds around the totality. And we will always fail to grasp it. Always.

So what do we do instead? There is a philosophy that, curiously enough has been around for a few thousand years. For whatever reason we reject it over and over. We reject the name behind it, because it has been hijacked and appropriated by Charlatans, Tyrants, and Schemers who see its practitioners as easy targets. We reject it because it denies us our perceived right to rage. We reject it because it requires of us to surrender our pride.

But, as I think about all the options to dealing with mistakes, I remember that I only have the option of control for myself. I can not control others directly.

Pride leads me to believe I can control others. It leads me to believe I should. Ultimately it leads me to believe I must, and that, right there, is the pattern of Evil.

The pattern of Good is explained by love. It reminds me that not only can I not control others, that heck, I can‘t really even control myself most of the time. I can only love or hate.

And the next step is where it gets real sticky. I am reminded that this is where the realization that if my goal is to be a good person, that in some way I must rely on a Strength greater than my own. That Strength allows me to forgive, because it forgives me. Note I don‘t say “excuse”. I am forgiven. And if there is any payment required for that, it is that I accept being forgiven, and practice it towards others. Lives come, lives go, sometimes tragically. Love takes time, it creeps in through your practice, and bleeds like life-blood into the people around you. Sometimes it takes generations to re-establish itself. But my only role, the only skill I have in it, is to accept and pass on that hidden Higher Strength.