Theo’s Last Miracle

theozTheo was a mountain of a dog.  The vet  decided he was half Great Pyrenees and half Chow. When Jack first adopted him he was a very dangerous dog and bit any one who approached, especially if they wanted a hug.

But Theo lived a long time, especially for such a big guy, and slowed down over the years. The last person he bit was a roofer who didn’t stop when Theo barked (he only gave one warning, if you stopped… he stopped. If you tried to move past him…….).  I got home after work around six and the roofer was still on the roof waiting. He wouldn’t come down until I put Theo in the house.  Fortunately, the roofer had on two pairs of  jeans and Theo had very few teeth left.

Like most people, I waited too long to take Theo to the vet to have him put to sleep. The last year of his life (he was 13 years old and 125 pounds) he didn’t move much, smelled bad, every thing hurt and he didn’t even enjoy chasing cars as they left the drive way.

On a Saturday morning I decided it was time.  He was so old he couldn’t get in the back of the truck anymore, so we built a ramp and pushed him up. Once in place he was so happy because rides were always his favorite. As usual when we drove through town people smiled and pointed at Theo because he looked magnificent, massive and regal as though holding court. He loved the adoration of the people.

I cried the entire ten miles, but Theo was in a great mood.  After parking the truck at the vets office, I started to grab our make shift ramp but Theo did something he hadn’t done in five years. He bolted over the back of the tail gait, his enormous body was completely airborne! Then he trotted to me so I could pick up his leash.

Theo pawed the door twice anxious to go inside. He generally didn’t like going to the vet’s office but today he was ready to roll.  I was told by the nurse we would have to wait a few minutes so we walked outside.  I was sniveling, wiping my face on my sleeve and telling my dog how much I loved him. But Theo was unimpressed by my misery.

theoz 2There was a little creek next to the parking lot and for the first time in ten years Theo wanted to play in the water, like a stupid puppy. We had taken this dog to the lake and to creeks countless times over the years and he HATED getting wet.  He would do anything to avoid even getting his saucer sized paws damp. But today was different. My tears had stopped because of Theo’s shocking behavior. He was giddy with joy. He smacked at the water then started biting the bubbles he created.

“We’re ready for you, Ms. Hampo,” the nurse called and Theo literally charged  the building, nearly dislocating my arm. He bulldozed past the nurse and went straight into the examining room.  I started crying again as I knelt down I held his huge red head in my hands, looked him in the eye and knew he knew exactly where he was going and this was Theo’s best day ever.

(As always I love love love your comments and if you like Hampoland and know an agent or publisher…..)

Just A Little Drug Deal

granger and kidsWhen I was in labor with Lex, eighteen years ago, my brother Granger came to town.  He picked up Mary and Jack from the elementary school and brought them to the hospital.  But on the way, he stopped at a fairly shady hotel/motel.  He ran into a room for just a few minutes, then got the kids some ice cream and came on up to the hospital.  Yes, Granger had to take care of a little business, it was just a tiny drug deal, before coming up to the hospital. But that was Granger, brilliant, magical but undeterred by the constraints of society or the laws of the land. This picture is from that day, in the hospital.

I lost years, on and off, being mad or offended by Granger. He always said the wrong things, I thought. He told me to ask his ex-wife how to get rid of my crows feet, he showed up two hours late for Thanksgiving dinner, he showed up two days late for Christmas. He told me our family was “redneck white trash perfection”. And teased me for being uninformed because I didn’t listen to NPR.  When I was ten he left me in his apartment with his dog and a loaded gun and told me not to answer the door. He fought with my mom (back then I didn’t know why, now I kinda get it).

I lost time with him because he made me mad because he didn’t act the way I thought he should. Instead he was Granger. I never doubted he loved me, but he hurt my feelings and made me furious.

Last night I was watching a twenty year old video of my daughter Mary, and his daughter Faith playing fooz-ball in our living room.  They were probably eight. I heard Granger talking in the background. Just a couple of sentences but his voice was so deep and musical.  He was talking about getting a tiger cub.

Hearing his voice broke my heart and made me so happy because I miss him  desperately. Why didn’t I turn the camera on him for just a few seconds.

Children of mine, do not waste time, valuable and precious time being mad at each. Children of mine, don’t lose a day of love being offended by some off handed comment, oversight or ignorant stance.  It’s not worth it.  Just love and accept each other, as you are.  Because you are all perfect in your weird, quirky, selfish, lovely way.

It’ll be a few years, I hope, before I get to see my brother, Granger, again, but I promise you, when I do see him I won’t waste a precious second of our time together.

PS If you know any publishers or literary agents…help me out. I need one. Thanks

How Lynyrd Skynyrd Shapped My Life

lynyrdWhen I was thirteen years old my first “big love” that included making out was with a boy who was a senior.  We were students in a prep school in Tennessee and his name was Plez Bagby (Pleasant Harwood Bagby III I think)  He was from Virginia, he was a gentleman and I really liked kissing him.  He was also the drummer in a rock and roll band. They played Free Bird (of course they did)

When Plez and I broke up I spent hours pining away to Free Bird. So loud and heartbreaking, “If I stay here with you girl. Things would never be the same.”

A few years latter, when I was in high school at Boca Raton Academy my dad made me drive a massive chocolate collared 1976 Thunderbird. We listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd nonstop for two years. When Gimme Three Steps came on I’d roll down the windows, hit the gas and howl. We listened to so much Lynyrd Skynrd in face I named the car Lynyrd.

There were a bunch of kids at my house when we heart about the plane crash that killed three band members. A palpable wave of sorrow gripped us and a big piece of our idyllic teenage world darkened.  It didn’t seem possible or fair or real.

For kids in the south the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd ran through our bone marrow. We loved The Police and Bob Seger and Aerosmith but Lynyrd Skynyrd….those were our boys. And for some reason that feeling continues today. When I’m feeling nostalgic for the old days I’ll listen to the brilliant  Bob Seger “Live” Bullet album. But Skynyrd still gets just as much play in my world as all my new favorites.

A couple of years ago Lexie was asked to do a musical Taekwondo demonstration at her high school.  After much thought she worked out a kick ass routine to “Gimme Three Steps”. It was awesome and the rural Arkansas crowd went wild. Clapping and cheering….for a Martial Arts routine. That’s how much power Lynyrd Skynyrd has.

When I drive my eleven year old son to football games on Saturday morning there’s one song he and his friends want me to blast, over and over. Sweet Home Alabama. I don’t know why it just works for them, fills them with joy and power and a sense of righteous victories.

And now I’m going to say something may will find sacrilegious . The first time I heard Natural Outlaw’s song Mississippi all I could thing was “Lynyrd Skynyrd”. It starts out deep, like the river, “I am a man who takes care of my own” then the song flows to New Orleans and  explodes with guitars and drums and key boards. There is so much pain and passion and truth in the chorus, “I don’t want to rule the world, I just want some peace.”  There I sit, a middle aged white lady, in traffic in my ancient white Nissan, singing as loud as I can,  “And I won’t stop till they lay me down oh that river she takes me.”

The song is huge and gritty, raucous and dark but it speaks to something in all of us. It doesn’t’ matter if your an corporate executive, a homeless man, a ditch digger or a house wife. We all have to keep going, like the Mississippi and we’re all just looking for a home and some peace. . Recently I listened to the band play the song live, they were painfully loud, I looked over and my husband had teared up. I hadn’t seen the man cry in four years. But soumthing about the song, about looking for peace hit him hard in a rock and roll kind of way.

Mississippi reminds me of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man, That Smell and Gimme Back My Bullets.  And it just tears me up because it has a Lynyrd Skynyrd invisible quality I can’t describe. All I can do is sing along.

“Miles and miles and states and states, she swims on course. I don’t know if I have it in me to swim with that much force.

Go on and listen.