Dog Days of Summer

My dad took this at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Miles run today: 8

Meals my mom has cooked for us this week: 3

Meals my mom has cooked for the dogs this week: 3

We never had a dog when I was growing up.

My dad was not fond of pets, so we snuck in cats and rabbits and hoped he wouldn’t notice too much.

Then, when my sister was post-college, she got a dog. And my dad decided that maybe dogs weren’t so bad. My parents also apparently missed the stress and agony of taking care of grumpy dependents after my sister and I moved away.

So my parents got three dogs.

Not all at the same time, of course, but the pack grew. Each dog brought his or her own neuroses to the pack, and my parents nurtured them and addressed them with anti-anxiety medications when necessary.

Today, my parents also cook chicken for the doggies, feed them in three courses (humans in our family get by with one), get up from the dinner table to let their dog babies go outside when and if the whim strikes them, apply eye drops eight times daily, worry over their seasonal allergies and even wander around with them in the middle of the night as if they are newborns.

I call my parents’ pack (now down to two dogs) The Grand-dogs.

My kiddos and I are visiting my folks this week, and the kids are treated very much like The Grand-dogs.

While my parents expand my kids’ brains by taking them to every museum within a 60-mile radius, The Grand-dogs are having the artistic sides of their brains expanded by listening to classical music streaming through the TV. Dickens prefers Debussy and Spanish guitar pieces. Vida is hard of hearing and gravitates to something with cymbals and grand percussion.

Although my sister and I were allowed roughly one soft drink every six months while growing up, my kids will come home after an outing with my dad carrying a 62-ounce Dr. Pepper each. The Grand-dogs are allegedly on a strict diet, but they cluster around the dinner table as we eat. Why? Because they are partial to homemade bread, and pieces of it “drop onto the floor” on a regular basis near my dad’s chair.

Last year, while we were at the beach, my son had gone on an early-morning beach walk with my dad and The Grand-dogs. My dad had allowed The Grand-dogs to “be free,” resulting in one of them rushing the (empty) street at the end of the walk. They were fine, but my son was horrified. I told him that at least The Grand-dogs didn’t suffer from being pent-up. We wouldn’t want to add claustrophobia and its cure to the psychotropic list.

Three years ago at the beach, my dad took the kids to a pirate-themed mini-golf course. The rest of us lolled about the beach house in naive certainty that the group was playing an orderly game of mini-golf.

I get a call from my dad about an hour later.

“We’re going to play another round,” he says.

“Okay. How’s it going?”

“Oh, we’re fine, but your son plunged into the pirate pond a little while ago.” Chuckle, chuckle.

“Hahaha, Dad. Well, you kids just keep having fun out there.” Click.

An hour later, my kids and Dad walk in. My son is soaked from head to toe.

“What happened to you?!?!” I shriek.

“I told you he fell in the pirate pond,” my dad says, with a ‘duh’ tone to his voice.

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you were serious!”

“Well, I told him to stop standing on the rocks, and he didn’t. So….”

I call this grandparenting at its finest.

All I can say is that if you’re gearing up for reincarnation, you could do worse than to put in a request that you come back as one of the future Grand-dogs.

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What Lies Beneath

So much happens beneath the surface.

Trips to the lake for the year: 1

Hours spent visiting with my parents and sister yesterday: 9

Words written in my novel since Monday: 0

I love the water and feel grumpy if we’re near water of any depth and I can’t get in.

I spent a fair amount of time at local lakes as a kid. My dad had the sailing bug, and we would take our sailboat out as often as he could get physically motivated.

My favorite part of sailing was stretching out on the bow and staring up past the sail at the puffy clouds in the piercingly blue sky.

My mother’s favorite part was reliving the Capsizing Incident of 1981 wherein various beloved objects like her new Tretorns with yellow swishes were dumped into the bottom of Lake Lanier, never to be seen again.

These days, my husband and I don’t have a boat. But we have something better: friends who have a boat. We were invited to join them for a day of jetskiing and swimming and generally lounging around the lakeshore.

My rule: never turn down an invitation to a beach house or lake property. Never.

I’m such a Water Person that I forget others don’t share my passion. Friends of mine have expressed their fears of lake and ocean swimming. I get it to a point, because I’m not a camping kind of person, and some of the fears overlap. But water is involved here, people! Water!

Here are their fears:

1. You can’t see the bottom, and there might be something weird lurking there. Unless you live in Australia or Florida, the worst you’ll probably come up against is an old tire or a bored catfish. (I would love to see a Far Side cartoon about catfish plotting to scare humans.)

2. Fish pee in the water, and your mouth is going in the water. Have you eaten a Twinkie ever in your life? Much worse, my friend. Much worse.

3. There is no chlorine to clean the water. This is true. Chlorine is our friend, and I’m quite fond of pools. However, I’ll take my chances with nature. It’s been around a while… probably longer than chlorinated pools.

4. There are bugs. Yeah. I don’t like bugs much either.

5. A creature akin to the Loch Ness Monster may lurk in Lake _____. My parents used to watch the TV show, “In Search Of.” It had spooky music and pseudo-scientific leanings. They watched it when I was heading to bed, and I caught glimpses of the intro: images of the Loch Ness Monster. It spooked me, but I always secretly wished they would find some big, herbiverous creature in some lake, somewhere. It hasn’t happened yet, and I also never got a visit from E.T., so my life has been full of disappointments.

Oceans and lakes seem to bring out our biggest natural fears, next to death and the dark… we can’t tell what lies beneath the glossy surface. We have video now to show the underwater worlds, but those of us who jump in the waves or bump over them in jetskis are only touching the surface. I think that’s the part I love about water. We don’t really know what’s under there when we jump in. How exciting is that?