Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Black Dogs Dad

“Oh will you never let me be? Oh will you never set me free? The ties that bound us are still around us, there´s no escape that I can see, and still those little things remain, that bring me happiness or pain . . . These foolish things remind me of you”
Jack Strachey

Friendships change, it happens . . . it’s still such a bummer though. Ending a dating relationship is painful, but not always an enormous surprise, you’re either going to spend the rest of your earthly lives together or you’re going to break up. Families are great but you don’t hand pick them, they’re foisted on you and you love them with no rhyme, reason, or explanation. Friends though . . . friends are people you choose to be with . . . on purpose, so a faded friendship carries its own special sting.

Right now you must be thinking “Laura Ellen, you seem so jovial and delightful, who wouldn’t want you as a friend?” I agree but man oh man some people really do find ways of living their lives without me. Some friendships just sort of drift off and naturally filter themselves down until you become Christmas card friends. That’s all right, people’s lives and priorities change and Christmas card friends are still friends per se. Other friendships though, come to an end abruptly and sometimes with a final kick in the backside on the way out.

Today I took my inner child, Ruby Grace, out for a walk in the rain snow mix and we tromped and splashed through every puddle we could find. On our walk we passed the snow filled court yard up the street and around the corner where Black Dog likes to play. Black Dog used to stay at my house when Black Dogs dad would go out of town. I liked loading Black Dog up in the car and driving up to the foothills to play in the “good” dog park, but if we just needed a quick walk and a little quality ball throwing and chasing time we would walk over to the courtyard. Back then the house was full with me, my inner child (Ruby Grace), my inner shrew (Lola), two cats (Lucy Lulu and Delilah Jane), and Black Dog . . . but not anymore.

My friendship with Black Dogs dad has changed. It’s best I suppose, but it has it’s painful moments. It’s weird, isn’t it . . . how sometimes it can be better for something to go away because it was so painful and yet you’re still pained by its absence? There are reasons for friendships to change, fade, and even end. You can remember all the bad things and all the times you thought “what am I doing here?!” And what were you doing there? You were probably having a good time, at least part of the time. We don’t invite people into our lives because they never, ever make us happy. I like people that aid and abet my happiness. With Black Dogs dad it was his inner child I grew to love most. When Black Dogs dad is happy his eyes twinkle and I mean it, really. I’m not using a goofy phrase, his eyes really twinkle. His inner child doesn’t surface often so when he’s let out he really shines. It’s the most beautiful part of him. Black Dogs dad’s inner child is creative, playful, introspective, meticulous, loveable, loving, mischievous, and at times flat out silly. I love Black Dogs dad’s inner child. My inner child, Ruby Grace, loves Black Dogs dad’s inner child. The adults though, Black Dogs dad and me myself and I, often got in the way of our friendship.

As I write this it dawns on me that maybe that’s how it is with most relationships gone awry. We are all taught to abandon our inner child, our creative selves that love finger painting, that see beauty and fractals where others see a mess. Somehow as adults we’ve come to believe that seeing life, and people, with childlike wonder is inappropriate and should be left behind as we age, and age us it will.
It seems backwards to me. In our adult lives we don’t seem to love as well as we could, we’re too busy being adults. As adults we need to pay bills on time, show up to work on time, learn boundaries, honor our commitments, the list goes on. These things are all true and I am not condoning childish behavior. Childish is not childlike. Our adult selves are always trying to make sure someone doesn’t get the best of us, doesn’t make a fool of us, doesn’t draw us in only to hurt us. If we don’t want someone to get the best of us then hats off to everyone, no one will ever get the best of what’s in us if we don’t show it. What if someone does hurt you? Well, it hurts, but you’ll survive and go on to try again.

I look back at the playful times with Black Dogs dad, times when his inner child surfaced. There were all the concerts we went to together and danced like maniacs from the first note to the last, the times we took Black Dog to the park, going to soccer games, and playing Guitar Hero. Black Dogs dad can do an almost perfect impersonation of me. Black Dogs dad can make up great stories with goofy characters and voices right on the spot. Black Dogs dad can make me laugh until I snort. Black Dogs dad is a gifted painter. When Black Dogs dad plays his guitar he has a very particular smile that is not seen at any other time. His inner child doesn’t just come out then, his inner child races to the surface and fills the room with unbridled happiness. All these great play dates our inner children had together; I can mentally splice them together so the movie that plays in my head seems like it was all ice cream cones and carousel rides . . . but it wasn’t.

The adult side of this story can be painful and the memories are not a misty, melancholy movie set with Bryan Ferry singing “These Foolish Things” in the background. The adult side of me reads over the last paragraph and wonders “Was it ever real? Did I see more than was really there?” The adult part of me and Lola, my inner shrew, have to sometimes remind Ruby Grace, the sweet inner child, that we all shared some extremely painful moments in this friendship with Black Dogs dad. Lola screamed in anger and Ruby Grace curled up and cried. And Ruby Grace, loving and forgiving, twinkle eyed child that she is, reminds Lola and me that we loved him.

What if our adult sides had given way to our inner children more often? What if we had both agreed to open up our skins and be careful with each other and kind to each other and let the gleeful parts of ourselves out and not worry so much about how the other one may or may not hurt us? Our adults often acted so childish and not childlike. What if we had spent more time enjoying the essence of each other, and our own selves, rather than trying to outdo each other? What if we had listened better and more often rather than just biting our tongues, waiting our turn to speak because “Hey, I’ve got something really cool to say so hurry up and finish whatever unimportant thing you’re saying, to which I am not really listening”?

I don’t know the answers to all the “what if’s” because life goes the way it’s supposed to. I really believe that so I accept that our friendship had to ebb. I wonder sometimes if our friendship will flow again. Likely it will, it’s part of our history, but will it ever be the same? Probably not, but it probably shouldn’t be. In order for any relationship to survive it has to endure change. Not everyone comes into your life to stay. Even the closest of friends, someone you thought would always be around, has to go sometimes. New friends and new relationships come into our lives and their necessity eclipses what came before. It’s not wrong, it’s the changing of the seasons. They’re all beautiful, but only in their time.

As with some of the most celebrated art work ever created, sometimes you gotta take a few steps back to recognize life is a fractal and to see the beauty of the entire finger painting.

POST SCRIPT: This story was written quite some time ago and it has seen countless revisions based on my feelings, my relationship status, Black Dogs dads relationship status, phases of the moon, what shoes I’m wearing, the price of a gallon of crude, beer, and anything else I have deemed important at any moment in time. What does not change is the importance of the Black Dog, his dad, and the affect they have had on my life. I love them both . . . even when I feel like strangling Black Dogs Dad.


  1. You make me want to leave work and fingerpaint!

  2. That is AWESOME. I hope everyone is inspired to finger paint!

  3. The worst is when you do let the inner child come out to play and then feel so guilty after! There is nothing wrong with playing! :) What a great post.