Lately, someone around here has grown more hard of hearing. As both David and I are shouting, I can’t tell who it is. Years ago, I saw a play entitled, “You know I can’t hear you when the water is running.” The story followed the married life of a couple from newly wed to old age. The gist of the storyline was that a couple went through married life doing the same things over and over oblivious of their own behavior. In scene 1, the wife yells something to the husband and he says, “I can’t hear you.” The story probably had some deeper meaning, but I am shallow, so I laughed and laughed, little realizing David and I would someday sound just like that couple.
We probably always did sound like them to other people. At least two of my girl friends pointed out that they did not approve of the way I yelled at David. He never yelled when they were around. One of my friends, whom David called “nearly sane Sally”, had an ex-husband living under her house sleeping in the crawl space at night, and the other, KK , had a stranger she identified as a ‘roomer’ living with her after she and her husband split. So, I did not take much notice of their comments. Besides, when I asked him, he did not think I was mean. I am bossy for sure, but I am an older sister and he a younger brother so it works out. If I don’t tell him what he should do, he asks me. Over the years, he has seen the wisdom of my suggestions, including getting dogs, which he now admits he could not live without. I always knew he was a dog person.
David and I both had terrible experiences with dogs as children. We were both bitten by ‘strange’ dogs, underwent rabies shots, and had our own pet dogs “put down” by our parents. The trauma made David not want another dog, ever.
I have tried other pets. I had a short-lived rabbit named Thumper when I was 12. I have had cats, because after the rabies incident, my parents would not let me have another dog, although dogs were my first love. I have dozens of photos of me with dogs from before “the incident,” but the one to the left is my favorite. Me, my Mom and Fiesti the dog who was put down. I had him from 1947 to 1952.
Fiesti, Mom and Dianne – Myrtle Beach, 1947
My Dad took many photos of me with Fiesti, and me with other dogs. My wicked step mother has the bulk of them in her attic. At least she did. When she forbid my Dad to communicate with me, he sent a fistful of photos from my childhood in an envelope via the US mail. Later, before they died, my Aunt Audrey and Aunt Marge gave me the photos Dad had sent to them over the years. I have assembled the remaining photos in an album, but I know some are missing.
I don’t write much about my Mom because she had problems with prescription drugs and she died at age 56. My Dad remarried six months later to a woman introduced to him by the funeral director. I figure the bitch was laying in wait for Mom to die. Stepmother and I did not like each other.
The first thing she said to me had to do with how ‘broke’ Dad was, that he “didn’t have a dime to his name.” Well, he was broke by her standards, but he had a job and a pension plan. She was one of those wealthy Southern women who lived in a big plantation house she had inherited, and thought folks were “broken” if they didn’t own land and have a half-dozen tenant farmers growing cash crops like tobacco. She also received government subsidies for her fallow land. She had her first husband’s ancestral Civil War swords hanging over the fireplace mantle, as well as a forgery of a painting of a British General. She told me she had “commissioned a dealer to find it.” I know the original hangs in the National Gallery in London. I wondered how much she paid for that piece of junk.
The second thing she told me was that I needn’t think I was going to inherit any of her money.
I got on with my life and did not see my Dad very often during the last 10 years of his life. As I was “persona non grata,” as he put it, the last time I saw him he was dying of cancer, and my aunts Marge and Bernie, down from Wisconsin, took me out to the plantation. Of course, my ugly stepmother found a pretense to throw me out as soon as I had arrived. I always suspected her issue was that my Dad thought the world of me and she was jealous.
Dianne and Fiesti in Southern Pines NC 1949
I never saw my Dad again. I was married to David by then, so my life centered around him, my dogs, cats and later birds. The last time David got out of the hospital, he broke down crying over his little dog when she ran up to greet him as he arrived home. These days, he likes to quote Harry Truman who said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” He knows that I, of course, am his best friend and he is mine, even if we can’t always hear each other and are surrounded by dogs.