Sunday, April 1, 2018

For Easter - A Chapter From the Book of Barkley - Learning to Walk on Broken Glass

CHAPTER 50 – Learning to Walk on Broken Glass

 "One day some people came to the master and asked 'How can you be happy in a world of such impermanence, where you cannot protect your loved ones from harm, illness, and death?' The master held up a glass and said 'Someone gave me this glass, and I really like this glass. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight. I touch it and it rings! One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. I know this glass is already broken, so I enjoy it incredibly.'" - Achaan Chah Subato - Theravadan meditation master

 As children, we view the world as if it will always be as it is that day. Mom and Dad will always be there; the dog will live forever. There is little that cannot be fixed by glue, a bandage and Mom's chocolate chip cookies. As we get older, those perceptions sometimes still remain, that we will live happily ever after; we will have children, who will have children, who will have children, the family living forever, in defined order of aging and passing. We go into adulthood believing what is useful for us to believe, or rather what is intolerable for us not to believe.

 After the death of Barkley, we went out to see my Dad, to laugh and remember, much more than the life of a dog. While I was there, I took Dad and my new husband one day up to the cemetery on top of a hill, where we could watch our shadows upon two small graves. Big Bro did not go; still weary from both chemo and radiation, but helping us prepare flowers to take to those graves. I remember standing there, shafts of sun hitting that small stone, listening to the short song of a bird hidden, who sang four short notes then ceased, as from a distance came the incurious, calm sound of bells.

 As my Dad did, I realized long ago, that one must sometimes don that shirt of flame, which we do not have the power to remove but only to bear, without being devoured by the blaze. There is no perfect order, there is no guarantee, but there still is, and always will be, beauty. If we didn't learn that, we'd only move without living and grieve without weeping, neither worth the toll they take on that which remains. For myself, I chose now to weep, and, with that, remember. I think again to those beliefs peculiar to childhood, namely those things we believe, simply because we are yet too young not to believe.

 The first was Santa Claus. I had my doubts that first year I sat on Santa's lap at the hardware store and he had on black geek glasses. Santa should look like Santa, not a 30-year-old CPA. Still I kept it quiet, buying Mom's explanation that he was just Santa's stunt double, Santa being busy that day. Certainly Santa was real, he had to be real. Then there was the Tooth Fairy. Dad still has this little note, written in my handwriting, an affidavit to the Tooth Fairy attesting that indeed I did lose my tooth, but I swallowed it with the piece of apple that pried it loose. It's wrapped around a little plastic box filled with baby teeth. Big Bro was a little less subtle. One night, long after I was asleep, Dad was alerted from the bathroom where he was preparing for bed with a "Dad, I caught the Tooth Fairy," and he had Mom by the arm and was tickling her and they were both laughing.
The Easter bunny had just a slight role at Easter, being a tradition to bring sweets to celebrate the gift and the Sacrifice of Jesus, rather than being the reason for the whole holiday. Still, before church, we loved to find the little baskets outside the door, with candy eggs and a chocolate bunny. Until one day, when we got up, and there was no basket. Mom and Dad announced we were too old for the Easter Bunny. Instead, they were taking us on an outing tomorrow! To the State Capital! Yes, children getting to visit a government building instead of a basket of candy! You can only imagine our excitement. On the drive there, we whispered intricate conspiracies from the back seat to get out of this, to no avail, not wanting to hurt our Mom's feelings. So we learned what a rotunda was. Dad finagled a tour at a local brewery on the way back, likely needing a drink after watching our tax dollars in action. Watching the cans getting processed was a whole lot more fun than politicians in suits, and as we drove home, Mom did stop and get us some ice cream, realizing the day hadn't gone as she'd hoped but appreciating that we at least tried.

 I think deep down we had known for some time the Easter Bunny was our Mom and Dad. But we were not yet openly willing to admit to another fractured fairy tale. Still though, our parents let us hold on to the perception that the world was unbroken as long as they could. Some things, though, could not wait until adulthood. One was finding out we were adopted. So many people, then, and even now, ask me about biological parents, and I have no answers for them. But for the reason of the severing of that tie, which is not the concern of the world, neither of us sought to find them, outside the scope of our hurt or their harm, even if we refused to pass judgment for the reasons we ended up where we did. Or perhaps we did pass judgment, but were simply unwilling to pronounce sentence.
All I can truly say is my brother and I came into the best possible family. Disciplined, loving, hard working people that came from nothing by way of material means or privilege and still crafted a life of learning and beauty. Our clothes were handed down, or handmade, our food from the garden, pasture or forest behind the house, our bikes used. But we had everything that was truly important, and that was a deep appreciation for every day, even those marked with illness or imperfection, easily forgotten when we were greeted upon returning home by our Mother's smile and the joyous bark of a dog.

This was the beauty of family, simultaneously fragmented and undefeated, emboldened and afraid, yet still seeing the good in the world around us. So we carry on, my brother and I, as we tell our stories. "Remember when Dad was told to give me the ‘birds and the bees, boys and girls are different talk’ because Mom was sick? It consisted of a photo of a boy from the Sears catalog in his underwear, a finger pointed to a critical area and the admonishment ‘Don't kick your brother there!’" He would then laugh and remind me of something silly I had done in school, memories that shone in the sunlight on the telling, his laughter still ringing like a touch on glass.
In our stories, we are children and our favorite dog is always with us. We are not just immortal; we are invincible. We will run and run until our bones turn to water, and we fall in a puddle of arms and legs and barking dog, forever joyful. On the wall of the family room is a family tree that my aunt drew out with careful calligraphy, giving us each a copy. I note many branches, some ending abruptly as some died young, some were widowed, some childless, a lifelong bachelor or spinster among them. Now on a branch, which had ended abruptly, is a name, next to mine, something I owe in part to a dog named Barkley.

For Barkley was indeed my family, his story, joining these others, each entwined into a family history of black sheep, white knights, the victors, the vanquished, each carrying with them loves and burdens and more than one four-legged companion with which they shared the journey. Each name, name by name and page by page, will be laid down until inevitably, only one name will remain, for that glass is indeed, inevitably broken. That person will, I hope, capture the names, and whisper the stories that haunt the winds, even if no one is left to hear, but ghosts on the page, with no earthly house in which they wait for us. As I start to weep my brother touches my face, in benediction, in blessing. That is the true beauty which sustains us; that His sacrifice through which the world was saved is re-enacted here in this world every day, in the saving grace of a small imperfect family and the memory of a dog.


  1. That was a beautiful post. Happy Easter from all of us and thanks for joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

  2. Replies
    1. You too, dinner had to be rethought, the rack of lamb that I thought was placed in the fridge, got put in the freezer and was frozen solid. Stuffed chicken breasts seem to be on the menu now, but I do have a homemade apple pie in the oven. Have a wonderful Easter.

  3. Mom says this was one of her favorite chapters in the Book of Barkley. We have a lot of family here today and they have been talking about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too. But we still have one or maybe two "believers". Mom says no sense in bursting the balloon too soon:)

    Happy Easter from all of us!!!

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed TBOB. After 4 books in 4 years I'm taking a break of a year to just blog only but I'm glad the stories were told. I think my late brother would be smiling about the stories. Have a wonderful Easter!

  4. We love that quote at the beginning! <3 And BOL to visiting the state capital building instead of getting candy for Easter. What a disappointment!


Welcome to The Book of Barkley and the Blogville dog blogging community. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on our Lab Rescues that have joined our household since Barkley left us.

Stop in and say hello. However, comments from strangers offering business links will NOT be posted. I