Dear Gwen: The First Teenage Edition


This is going to be a little different then my normal letters, but I haven't been writing here as much and I want to make this a little more... just this moment. The past year has been weird, and wild, and wonderful. 

Parts have been so hard: we had to let Daisy go, which was the biggest loss you've experienced in your life so far. The closest people you lost were all when you were too young to really get it, and the more recent losses have all been much more removed. It's been a lot of emotion to move through, but I'm so proud of how you were able to talk about your range of emotions and process them, not just that day, but in all the days since. Its been quite the lesson in the rollercoaster that is grief, something that made you even more empathetic when we had friends experience deep losses since then. 

Your anxiety is still very much a part of your daily life, but one you continue to take in stride. You're open and honest, coming to us for help and reassurance; something I hope you continue to do ALWAYS! I think they thing that feels most wild to me about you becoming a teenager is it feels so close to adulthood, and so I find myself thinking more and more of the things I want you to take with you into your teenage years but also beyond. Even when you're off in college, working and living a life that you build yourself, I want you to know that your Daddy and I are going to be here to listen, to help you hash things out, and we're always on your team. But the way you handle these extra challenges in your life, well they make me feel pretty damn confident about the way you'll keep handling newer and bigger challenges... including using us and your friends to bolster you and help you find the way. 

This past year hasn't been all challenge though... or all sad/trying challenge! You've just recently taken on the new challenge of learning the violin, all while keeping up with your school work, continuing with percussion, and becoming the DM for your schools Game Club D&D game! You're also continuing with Girl Scouts and we're in the midst of cookie season! It has not been easy, but you're working hard and trying your best, being on top of your practicing, staying after school and putting in the work. Its busy and can be overwhelming sometimes, but you're making the most of it.

I'm sitting here at my computer while you're at school, staring into the distance and trying to look back over the past year and remember every little moment that I want to preserve. I know its not possible, but what I want to remember most about this time is the little things. I want to remember that this year you started going to the gym with me more regularly. That you still love skiing and horseback riding. I want to remember that while you definitely talk to me like a stereotypical movie teenager sometimes, you also still want me around to walk you to the bus in the morning and ask for extra hugs before bed at night. I want to remember that while you're shooting up like a weed (probably about 5'1" at this point!), and so long and thin, you're head still fits just right tucked against my neck and chin. While you might not always remember to just. get. yourself. some. water. in the morning, you will easily cook yourself some lunch on the weekends - grilled cheese, hamburgers, ramen, etc... your cooking abilities very much match your palate, and are expanding regularly! 

This year you starting taking over buying gifts for people for special occasions. Saving up and spending your own money on thoughtfully chosen items, that you know people will love. 

You are into fantasy of all kinds, especially D&D related... and we have watched Stranger Things together as a family, knowing that Season 4 would especially hold your interest. You still love creating amazing things with Legos, drawing, and have started learning Welsh with me on Duolingo! You love animals, the color red, and lighting pinon incense. We've been rollerskating/blading more, and you're getting really good. You're also still an incredibly voracious reader, powering through series after series. We read the Hunger Games Series together this year, and moved on the Ender's Game and its sequels now. You'll spontaneously break into song, and when you do its just as likely to be some Classic Rock piece as it is some 90s Grunge as it is something thoroughly Pop-ie and modern. 

I want to remember that while there are moments of annoyance, there are twice as many moments where you impress me with your humor, your love, your maturity. 

I feel like I'm forgetting everything I want to remember about this time, and everything that I want you to be able to look back and remember. But the truth is, its so hard to capture all the layers of YOU, and all the pieces that make this age so damn wonderful. This stage of balancing between child and adult, of growing, changing, and holding on to the parts of you that you want to take from one stage to the next. Just know that your Dad and I love you so damn much, and are eternally and endless proud of who you are, who you're becoming, all that you still have yet to show us about yourself. You are kind, loving, and care so hard for your friends and family. We are better for it. 

I'll end here for now baby (as for better or worse, you'll be my baby forever!), with this, "Best Gwen I ever had." 



Missing Her


She lost her best friend. It happened yesterday.

He was a good boy. Fourteen years old. He was always beside her. When she ate supper. When she watched television. When she used the restroom. He even slept on the floor near her bed.

He was a Labrador, and then some. The biggest in his litter of 12. His shoulders were wide, his neck was a column of muscle.

He wasn’t a playful dog, but he was happy. He was gentle. He liked children, chewing, lying in the sun, he loved tomatoes. He enjoyed walks, but only short ones. He seemed to go crazy over “Downton Abbey.”

He could eat more than any dog she’d ever seen. He was a garbage disposal with a tail.

When she worked nights in a commercial kitchen, he waited for her to get home. She’d arrive after work, he would be seated at the front door, squealing.

She would bring him things from work. The spoils of her occupation. Fish guts, lamb fat, chicken gristle, and sacred ground beef.

And he loved her for it.

But she owed it to him—and then some. He’d seen her through hard times. He knew her emotions like a roadmap. He knew when she was sad, happy, or angry, before anyone else did.

When her father died, he crawled on a sofa and placed his hundred-pound body in her lap. It almost crushed her.

“I love you,” is what he was actually saying. Which is the only thing dogs know how to say—except: “Feed me right now or I’ll poop in the kitchen.”

He was with her when she lost her job. He was with her when she moved houses. He was with her when she passed a class, certifying her as a teacher. He was with her when her mother was ill.

Yesterday, she took him to the vet. She sat beside him for a few minutes before the doc came. His eyes were glassy, his back legs didn’t work. He was in pain.

Decisions were made. They hooked an IV to his leg. The fluid went into his veins. He fell asleep in her arms. His mouth slung open. His eyes became empty.

She didn't cry. Not at first. It wasn’t until she was on her way home that it hit her. At a stoplight, she found herself in a sort of daze when she noticed black hair on the seat. Dog hair.

She had to pull over just to keep from wrecking the car.

Sometimes, I wonder if mankind is cursed. Because living hurts. Life itself hurts. Because nothing lasts. Good things die too soon. Bad things last too long.

And just when you think things can’t get worse, the television proves you wrong.

Another day, another shooting. One group of people screams at a another. It’s hard to tell the difference between nice folks and the other kind anymore. It’s difficult to know what to believe.

Some believe the world is turning into fertilizer, and they have every right to believe that. For all I know they might be right—I’m not smart enough to tell them they’re wrong. Others believe differently.

I believe differently. I won’t believe our world is hopeless. I can’t.

Not as long as dandelions still cover highway ditches, and the clovers still pepper Tennessee mountainsides. Not as long as whippoorwills still flutter in treetops and make sounds I enjoy.

Not as long as the sun still comes up, and the moon still glows. Not as long as babies keep growing, and mothers keep loving.

These things, I believe, are proof of something. You might even call them miracles. I don’t know where they come from, but they come from somewhere. Everything comes from somewhere.

Maybe they come from above the clouds. Maybe from the other side of here. Maybe from a place of cherubs, rivers, and perfect prairies. Wherever this place is, it’s the same place dogs come from. And I know it’s where they return.

Goodbye, Gurgle.

-- Sean Dietrich 


I miss her smell. Her trotting in looking for food whenever we were in the kitchen. Her soft ears. I miss her.


the rainbow bridge


Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... (Author Unknown)