Kill the Rabbit

Photo on 5-22-15 at 7.21 PM #2

I’ve been getting daily calls from my friend Cody who lives in Birmingham. He usually calls before 8 am. Cody is a gifted painter and I’ve been blessed to visit his studio. I feel honored when I’m invited into a painter’s workspace. To me, it is tantamount to being invited into a friar’s private cell or a Medicine Woman’s teepee. One of the things I love most about living in a big city (when I’ve been able to do that) is that I get to have so many wonderful conversations with other artists. Cody’s friendship has been a port in the storm during my time down here in Dixie. Not that there aren’t many wonderful artists here in the South. Of course we know there are. There just not as easy to find as in LA or New York. The South has produced some of America’s greatest writers, we know! Cody and I talk about art (of course) and politics and political art and existential philosophy. He keeps the home fires burning while his wife completes here medical residency at UAB. She recognizes his gift to the world as an artist and also how he makes what she is doing easier so she is willing to be the “bread winner” in the family while he creates art and does the lion’s share of raising their two and a half year old boy. It’s a beautiful arrangement and I’m blessed to see what it looks like when a gifted physician honors the contribution of a homemaker and artist.

Often when Cody and I are visiting on the phone, I’ll hear his son playing in the background, occasionally chiming in with some comment on his father’s half of our conversation (little ears are always listening) or asking some wonderfully thoughtful and childlike question. Today I chuckled as I heard in the background, coming from the TV, a familiar refrain: Kill the Wabbit, Kill Wabbit! Ha! Some things are classic and timeless. In my mind’s eye, I could picture Bugs and Elmer’s antics in the Wagnerian spoof.

With Mother in the physical rehab unit and Chad back in Auburn, having the house all to myself, I’ve risked becoming sort of a hermit so I made myself get out and get to the gym today. My workout music of choice lately is Nine Inch Nails. I’m friends with band member Robin Finck’s wife, Bianca Sapetto so it got her on my mind today and I decided to reach out. I hadn’t spoken with her in a while. She gave me the wonderful news that she and Robin are expecting a second daughter in July! I’ve had the privilege of seeing Bianca’s parenting skills up close and it’s like watching Yo Yo Ma saw on that oversized fiddle. I’m delighted that another child will be so lucky as to have her as a mom.

When the track Hurt came on today at the gym, (not exactly hard-core motto by the way) I remembered how desperately I love that song. It warranted a second listening and then I though of the Johnny Cash cover of the song– brilliant. I gave that one a listen to– and then again– and then again. In the truck when I left the gym, I listened to the Nine Inch Nails’ version a couple more times and finally, since I was now somewhere I could have a complete come-apart, on the verse

What have I become,

My sweetest friend?

Everyone I know

Goes away in the end.


all that resentment and rage that’s been right at the surface for the past few days just stepped to the side and the wellspring of grief came like a kick in the chest. I haven’t cried that hard and that deeply in a while. It’s the kind of cry that’s supposed to be good for you but it was so– hmm, no words– well, for lack of a better word, hard, I didn’t feel immediately better and to tell you the truth am still reeling a bit. Part of that could be from all that happened after that catharsis too.

I had scheduled a co-counseling session over the phone with another Iraq vet for after the gym. Memorial Day has me thinking as it always does but with each passing year, I get more and more pissed at the people “celebrating” Memorial Day and spitting out that greeting with the same jovial intonation as they would wish someone a Happy New Year. Nothing about the fact that so many of my brothers and sisters will never come home makes me want to eat barbecue.

How these veterans co-counseling sessions work is that we take the time we have to talk and cut it in half. For the first half one veteran talks while the other listens. Then we switch. It’s against the “rules” to try to fix or make the other veterans “feel better.” This is just about deep listening. Usually, I’ve found, when someone is allowed the space to “discharge” their pent-up grief, rage, and terror without the possibility of “feedback,” they share in a different way and they start to live in a better relationship to their experience at war and in the military. This seems to be true of people who have experienced trauma from other sources too. The last thing somebody needs when they are letting go of all that shit, is someone sitting there saying, “there, there.” Fuck “there, there.” “There, there” never healed anybody. Anyway, I had just used the part of our session where I did the talking and was ready to listen to him when he said, “Oh my friend has just come to take me to lunch.” I sort of felt like I’d been a victim of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” when I was the only one who did any showing. Granted I was already in a tender place as I’ve said. I decided to suck it up and just head home.

But not before hooking up with a deep-voiced, smoking hot, athletic and masculine country boy I met on Scruff and thereby prove to myself for the thousandth time that sex as self-medication simply no longer works for me– and this guy was like, well, he was the sexual equivalent of pure grade uncut coke. But hey, drinking stopped working for me about eight years before I eventually gave it up for good (let’s hope). Maybe I’ll get “sober” in this way too before it kills me.  I was lonely before I connected with this guy– nah, that’s poor terminology –there wasn’t much “connecting” going on at all. I was lonely before I met him. Being with him was like fuel on the fire of my loneliness. What I really want is someone on the other pillow in the morning for the rest of my life –not one more exercise in the fetishization of the closet which is at the center of homosexual activity in the South. Have I finally learned my lesson? We’ll see.

Then I went to visit Mom at the rehab place. She looked so sad and lonely there in the bed when I walked in. Ridgewood Physical Rehabilitation Facility is also connected to a nursing home so in a way, it’s like Mom is in a nursing home even though she’ll be coming home in two weeks. She was young just a minute ago!  I did not like seeing her there one bit. I brought a salad and ate dinner with her. I wanted nothing more than to take her with me when I left. But she needs to be there so she can get strong enough to live on her own again. The plan is still for me to get back to my life and career in July. When we were done with dinner, I kissed her on the head and said goodnight, headed home to blog and go to bed.

I decided to call my friend Scotty in California on the drive home. I needed a lift and I love this guy so much just the sound of his voice makes my heart smile. I’ve been friends with him and his wife Susie for ten years now and there is no material possession in this world that I value more than our friendship. In fact, I value our friendship more that all my material possessions. It was so great to get to visit with Scotty even though our conversation was a serious discussion about PTSD and nothing trivial. I was still on the phone with him when I got out of the truck at my place. He noticed that I had fallen silent on my end of the phone. “Are you there?”

As I crossed the back yard, I noticed my cat Dennis sitting like the MGM lion underneath the dogwood I planted last Spring. Then I noticed movement on the ground in front of him. That’s when Scotty said, “What’s wrong?”

The little grey bunny was only half alive, panting and clearly in shock. Any attempts to flee (he could only use his front legs by this point) were halted by Dennis’ cruelty. I know it’s nature and all but why the fuck does nature have to be so cruel? It’s not like the little fucker is hungry or anything. He goes through two dishes of dry cat food and several bowls of milk a day. I think this little endeavor was more for his entertainment. The blood on Dennis’ whiskers matched the blood that drenched the pitiful little cottontail’s hindquarters. Upon closer inspection, I could see that he couldn’t move his back legs at all but was otherwise pretty much alive– just terrified. I thought briefly about trying to find an emergency vet open somewhere. I do, after all, have just stacks of cash sitting around these days. “What do I do?” I asked Scotty afraid I already knew the answer. “Awe man, you gotta put the poor thing out of its misery.”

Scotty stayed on the phone with me while I walked down to the workshop to get the shovel. I tried not to look at the poor thing’s eyes as I positioned the blade at his neckline, slid it gently under his velvety little ears. I just froze there for a few seconds praying for strength to do what I did not want to do. I closed my eyes and brought the shovel down hard. I wanted to make damn sure the death came quickly. When I opened my eyes, through the blur of my tears, I saw no life in the little body. Scotty stayed on the phone with me a few minutes longer so I didn’t have to process what had just happened alone.

I buried the bunny underneath the dogwood. The experience took me back to when Scotty and I had dug a grave for Joan Baez’s dog, Fargo. I’d been holding the dog in my arms when the vet put our furry friend to sleep. Joan sat nearby and silently cried.

I’m weary of death and sickness. I hate remembering the war this weekend and I don’t feel like I can tolerate any fireworks. I want my Mom to come home and I want to “man up” and I want no one to ever, ever use the expression “man up” again. Dear God, I could do with a smooth spell for a while. If not, please give me the strength to get through it all.

Yes, it’s been a very, very hard day. But I must end with some gratitude because that is the way I want to live my life. I can’t let the darkness suck me down. I am thankful for a wealth of friends who are there for me and with me to celebrate the good things in life and help me make it through the hard stuff. I’m grateful for you, the readers of my blog. I’m grateful for this comfortable bed and this beautiful house and the floor fan and the candle. I’m grateful for the white sage smoldering in my great-aunt Ola’s tiny skillet over there and I’m grateful for a full belly. I’m grateful for my four-legged children– even that murdering bastard, my cat. I’m grateful that I am able to bear witness to some dynamic parenting going on on the planet right now, even if I’ll never know that joy myself. And for my own parents and all the sacrifices they made so that my brother and I could have a better life. For all these things and the thousand other blessings I enjoy, I’m grateful. Thanks for listening.

See y’all tomorrow.

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