Posts Tagged 'Beth Finke'

The best antidepressants

Beth and her classmate in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

That's Beth and her classmate Carlos and his beautiful Golden retriever at Rockefeller Plaza. So New York's nice, but Beth and Harper need to come back to Sweet Home Chicago.

So Monday night I got home and there was no impossibly frantic tail-wagging and jumping up on the hind legs. And I felt, for the first time since Beth left for Morristown, alone.

It was a particular kind of aloneness that I’ve felt before. Like the weeks on end I spent in Urbana while Beth was in the hospital in Chicago after eye surgeries. Or the night of the day that Gus was born. He was delivered by C-Section, squawked, and then proceeded to try to die right in front of my eyes. That night, with Beth doped up in her hospital room and Gus in the neonatal ICU with a 50-50 chance of surviving the night (by the doctor’s estimate), I came home, sat on the couch, and the first thing I saw was a tower of disposable diapers we’d built. Our friends had given them to us as a shower present. Now that was lonely.

Back then I tried the stiff upper lip routine. I’d conjure up a voice that would say, “Don’t feel sorry for yourself.” Now, I hear a little voice — it sounds a lot like Woody Allen’s — that says, “Go ahead. Feel sorry for yourself. If you don’t do it, who will?” So I do and it passes quickly. Takes a lot less energy than fighting the urge.

But I’m still sad. Times like these, some people suggest thinking of all those folks who are less fortunate. I get the count-your-blessings part of that. But it’s never worked for me. In times of misery, knowing that others are even more miserable doesn’t perk me up. Then there’s the “Welcome to Holland” thing. If you don’t know about it, a parent of a child with a disability wrote an essay by that title. The central idea is, say you always wanted to go to Italy. You book the trip, you get on the plane, but somehow, you land in Holland. You’re disappointed that it’s not Italy, but you learn to appreciate all the things about Holland that you never knew you would. I get that, too. But you know, what if sometimes you feel like you landed in freaking Siberia?

I wish we’d landed in Italy. I wish Gus had grown up to play a mean shortstop and become a Rhodes Scholar. I wish Beth could see. I wish she didn’t need a Seeing Eye dog.

Over the years I’ve learned just to go with feeling bad for awhile. And, most important, I’ve learned I’m not alone unless I want to be. After the drive home from dropping off Hanni in Urbana, I had dinner at Kate and Joe’s. They’d invited me knowing I might be a little down. (For the record, we ate Italian food.) These past two weeks with Hanni, our friend and fellow White Sox fan Lora walked Hanni while I was at work.  Lora would tell me stories about their walks each evening. Ira — a friend of Beth’s from college days and now my friend, too — visited with his wife Debbie and delivered a new dog bed for Harper last week, just like they did for Hanni years ago. They also lavished attention on Hanni. I met our friends Rick — who is visually impaired — and his wife Rhona (who isn’t) for coffee yesterday at their invitation. Beth’s 94-year-old mother called last night to make sure I was OK.

In the past I might have resisted having company at a time like this, thinking I was supposed to fight the good fight myself. I might also have turned down Beth’s request to fill in for her here on the blog.

Not anymore. My thanks to all our friends and family, you’ve made a rough time a lot less so. And thanks to all of you blog readers who’ve been reading and commenting and following our little transition. It’s been great having you along for the ride.

Beth and Hanni are back Wednesday, so with any luck at all, the next post will be Beth’s.

Meet Harper the Hunk

Harper, a Yellow Lab with brown-tinged ears and paws, lies at Beth's feet. Harper's

That's the new guy. He's colored a lot like Hanni, brown ears and all.

So last weekend a friend from New Jersey came to visit Beth at the Seeing Eye. A couple years ago Beth attended the American Library Association’s national conference. She wrote about it back then — she was there to accept the Henry S. Bergh Children’s Book Award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The Bergh ceremony was held in conjunction with the convention.

As you well know, Beth tends to meet new people easily. At the convention, she met Stephanie Burke and her aunt, Maria Apone. Stephanie is the head of a library in North Arlington, New Jersey, and Maria is a teacher in Fairview, NJ. Beth eventually appeared at Stephanie’s library and Maria’s school, and they’ve all been friends ever since. Fast forward to last weekend: Maria came to Morristown to see Beth and meet Harper.

During the visit Maria was good enough to snap some great shots of Harper and Beth. Turns out photography used to be a pretty serious hobby for Maria — this Jersey Girl even had a shot of Bruce Springsteen published in The Village Voice. In these shots, though, Harper’s the boss.

Here are Harper the Hunk of Burnin’ Love’s statistics:

61 lbs.
Birthday: 12/13/2010
Age: He’ll be two on December 13
Turn-ons: Nylabones
Turnoffs: Not being able to find Nylabones

Here are a couple more:

Beth petting Harper's head while he lies on the ground in harness.


Harper in harness at Beth's feet.

Even has Hanni's nose. He looks like he's all paws.

And the new guy’s name is …


Like Harper Lee, who wrote one of Beth’s all-time favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Beth likes the name, and so do I. She’s not corresponding much because The Seeing Eye is keeping her way busy. But she did report that Harper doesn’t mind the rain one bit. That’s a good thing, because Hanni — despite her Lab lineage — absolutely hates the rain.

Say hello to Harper, or at least part of him. Thanks to Marcus for the photo.

One of Beth’s classmates — Marcus Engal, who’s a public speaker and writer himself — has an iPhone; apparently, the voice interface works really well and a lot of her classmates have iPhones, so who knows, maybe there’s one in Beth’s future. Anyway, this classmate took a stab at taking a picture of Harper. You’ll see it’s not maybe composed as well as we might like. It’s kinda’ hard to tell head from tail. But I think we can forgive the photographer, and you can tell that Harper looks a lot like Hanni, at least in his coloring.

Speaking of Hanni, she’s doing quite well, but the first couple days were a little trying. Luckily, I’ve seen it before. Years ago Beth visited our friend Sheelagh in Northern Ireland. Taking a guide dog overseas is problematic, so Beth left Hanni with me and made the trip accompanied by our friend Siobhan. They had a rollicking time from the get-go.

Meanwhile, for the first couple days Hanni moped, either lying near our condo door or near Beth’s office chair in hopes that her buddy would come home any minute. I was chopped liver.

But after Hanni figured out that I could serve the food as well as Beth, she started hanging next to me. We went for walks, she was off-duty, and she got petted lavishly. She played with other dogs, and their companions struck up dog conversations with me. So we bonded. At least until Beth got home, at which point I was again chopped liver.

It’s been like that this time, too. She was sullen at first (except for meal time), but she’s rallied, and we’re having a good time. She gets petted on every elevator trip or walk down the block. And I can tell she’s going to do just fine in her new life with our friends in Urbana.

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January 2017
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