Family Musings

Laundry and Laps

Years ago, I wrote an article for a now defunct Mom website, with the title artfully called “Laundry Guilt.” In the missive, I shared my intense hatred of laundry and the volcanic piles that erupted around the house and trailed into the garage where our washer and dryer resided. It was a never-ending cycle of dirty clothes, then clean, but then dirty again because my four children have laundry distraction issues and would rarely fold and put their lavender-smelling fashion into their closets.

That was a decade ago. As my children grew, their clothing choices shifted to a very elite number of items – and 99% of the time, these are found at the absolute bottom of their laundry hamper. So, when that softball jersey or favorite top or skinny jeans is needed – the detritus of the laundry hamper is spilling over and seeping onto the hardwood floors, creating chaos and concern. The guilt still lingered. For many, the chore of laundry can be soothing. You can see a finished result. A once basket of dirty clothes is now clean. The towels are now fresh and fluffy. Socks have mates. World harmony is restored. Namaste.

But I’m not in yoga class. This is real life and no one is letting me have 10 minutes of Shavasana. Laundry, for me, means work. Totally mindless, busy work that sucks all the fun out of my day (and night). It never ends. There is no finish line. Once spotless and echo-y hampers quickly evolve into baskets half full – not half empty. There is no positivity with laundry – only pure pessimism. A needless cycle of sorting, stain sticking, spray washing textiles that when untouched in the safe and secure crib (that us Mothers call a laundry basket) will turn into a wrinkled glob of denim, Lycra and orphan hoodie strings if left unattended to.

You know when the Social Security Administration mails you an unsolicited letter advising about all the years you worked and that in 10 million more you can qualify for benefits? I feel the same way about laundry. There is so many more piles to tackle, rewash, bleach, don’t bleach and wrinkle release. Where is the reward? When can I really start to go back to yoga and not worry about doing laundry?

I hear the laundry lovers out there. Why don’t you train your kids to do their own clothes? Believe me, I have tried. And when there is a full-on emergency, my four lovely and talented children will run a load or quick cycle. The training wheels are off and they can do it! It’s an old adage a former manager shared with me. Either people are unwilling or unable. My four children fall into the first category.

“You will miss this,” others may share with a wink and knowing look. “No!” I shout back, “I do not miss the laundry hell.” What I do miss terribly is the schedule when they were little – the summer reading contests at our library, beach trips, Scouts, the school Christmas shows, and that totally unsolicited hug with “I love you, Mom” attached to it. Today, I confess to you, dear reader, about a whole new level in fluff n’ fold remorse. Just last week, as I was sitting at the foot of my bed folding a towering basket of towels, my Fitbit starts buzzing on my right wrist – shaking me out of my cotton and terry cloth coma. My device declares that I just completed 10 minutes of laps. Now I’m swimming in guilt.

Family Musings

Growing Up With Puzzle

I believe I will see all of my pets in heaven one day. I remember when I was small, a teacher said that animals have no souls, don’t really love you and can’t go to heaven. Well, I chose not to believe her. I still don’t. The good thing is that I don’t remember that horrible teacher’s name or even what she looked like – only her biting and chilling advice.

Just last month, our beloved family pet, Puzzle, was put to sleep. He was an amazing 15-years-old. He was part black Labrador, part Daschund. Strangers debated his genealogy on the daily. My husband actually found him on the Internet and drove to San Pedro to convince the pet rescue volunteers that we were his forever family. We were searching for a similar lowrider breed and a handful of Corgi rescue people turned us away. My husband was convinced they were doing credit reports and judging us by our zip code. I think they saw a large family and sensed havoc and a possible rehoming (I really can’t stand that word) issue. The snotty Corgi people missed out and we gained Puzzle.

That was his name all along – Puzzle. And he was definitely true to his name. A total enigma. We didn’t want to change anything about him when we adopted him. In fact, he was about six months old and had a broken leg set in a small white plaster cast. He was such an integral part of the family (really not a dog, but a human counterpart) and had instilled such a beautiful personality to each of my family members that we honestly didn’t think he would ever not be a part of our loud and frenetic family.

Puzzle LJS
One of his favorite jaunts was La Jolla Shores

On December 21st just after midnight, he left us. We had spent about four hours at the local emergency veterinary hospital. The employees were so kind as my husband and I and all four kids crowded into a “quiet room” and discussed the pros and cons of why or how to maintain our dog’s declining existence and frequent seizures.

When we were ready to have the female veterinarian assist with his ending, I knew I couldn’t stay in the room and witness it. I love animals. I’m the one who watched the water level in his stainless steel bowl, cleaned up the pet waste and dutifully walked him around our neighborhood and nearby park. I just don’t love the finale. When I was in elementary school, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian but after having a litter of little kitties born in our backyard dryer and seeing only one survive – I knew I needed to choose a different career path.

“Puzzle, I will see you again in heaven,” I whispered as he lay in my youngest daughter’s lap. His cataract-clouded eyes closed and labored breathing growing more shallow with each inhalation.

Last day
Here with his “twin” sibling, both age 15.

Just hours earlier – it was a typical Erma Bombeck-style evening in our home. My only son, who stands a towering 6’6, injured his knee on the sidewalk outside of his apartment and it blew up like an exploding grapefruit. He called me asking for medical advice – so I had him come over to inspect the orthopedic damage. My diagnosis was a kneecap contusion and treatment recommendations included a sandwich bag full of ice cubes and Naproxen.

During my son’s convalescence, Puzzle started having a seizure beneath the couch. There I was assisting our treasured pet while my son was incapacitated with his knee elevated. One hand was helping my dog and the other was tossing a bag of ice at my son’s kneecap. What else could happen tonight? I just want my head to hit my piled high pillows.

Puzzle’s seizure subsided and he stumbled around our small house with my 18-year-old daughter trailing him to make sure he didn’t bump into anything. But his can-do spirit was short-lived and he started having another violent seizure in the kitchen. My oldest daughter wrapped him in her dorm blanket and the kids piled into the car toward the emergency animal hospital. My husband and I followed behind the caravan. The last seizure was the reckoning we had all been ignoring for weeks. We knew Puzzle’s health was not great, but we needed him.

As my youngest daughter said after he died, “Puzzle was the glue that kept us all together. We probably don’t even like one another!”

Yes, it’s true. Puzzle was the great equalizer in our home. He had this wry, sarcastic look about him, like he had a secret that he would never tell. He didn’t see himself as a pet, but another noble part of the family. He slept at the foot of my bed for the past 15 years. My husband and I now have colder feet as we pull up the covers. We see shadows on the bed in the early morning hours and think it’s him. Doors are left open and there is no sneaking out by our four-legged friend. No frantic barking when the mail carrier shows up at our doorstep. All the bedroom and bathroom trash cans are piled with detritus – no one is scavengering for a discarded snack or interesting leftover.

It’s been almost one month since he left our home for the last time. We are still mourning him. We miss him terribly. Tears still flow. I found a half-eaten tennis ball under the couch cushion and we can’t bear to throw it away. Dog tags are going to be refashioned as jewelry by my youngest daughter. His remains are sitting in our entry way table, like a gift that wants to be opened. He was cremated on Christmas Eve. We each cannot bear to tear into the bag and review what is left of him. A sympathy card came this week from the animal hospital. The employees were so loving with their handwritten thoughts for our family.

Here is one excerpt from the card:

“The heart remembers most what it has loved best. Puzzle will be sorely missed.”

And another:

“The extent of your grief is a measure of the love and dedication you gave each other.”

The Christmas cards have been tossed weeks ago, but this card remains on our mantle. It lifts our spirits. My husband will pick it up on his way toward the sliding door and review the sentiments. We are healing now.

Puzzle Backseat Driver
Forever the backseat driver

Fifteen years is a good run for a pet.  We knew we hit the Lotto with the long years of loving Puzzle. When you are so comfortable with someone, it feels like it will last forever. Puzzle was just like that. He never grew tired of the belly rubs, the second helping of dinner if one of us forgot and the excitement when I would put on my athletic shoes – that was our signal that a walk would be imminent. My youngest daughter is the same age as he was. They literally grew up together. In fact, we all grew up with him in different stages over the past decade-and-a-half. He made us better people.