When I rounded the corner on my way to the bank, I saw two police cars and an animal control vehicle parked in the roadway up ahead, gathered was a small crowd of people at the corner. As I slowly drove passed, an animal control worker leaned over the body of a small dog that lay still on a small grass area that lined the sidewalk. The dog must have collided with a car, the thought deeply saddened me.
Less than ten minutes later, on my return, I again passed the scene. This time, on the grass alone, was the lifeless body of a dog next to a yellow fire hydrant. The emotional memories of loss pressed against my chest causing tears to stream down my face. When I arrived home and exited my car a woman stopped to ask if I had heard what happened to the dog. I said to her that I thought a car had struck the dog. She shook her head with a sadness I could feel before she slowly described the horror that had taken place five minutes before I rounded the corner.
The owner had just left his house to walk his dog. Out from nowhere an unleashed dog aggressively charged his dog. He kicked the charging dog away at which time the owner of that dog started yelling from across the street. A brief altercation ensued when the unleashed dog’s owner demanded money from the man who kicked his dog. The owner refused, turned away, and quickly headed back to his home.
A brief time later, his teenage son volunteered to take the dog out for a walk. Unfortunately, the man who demanded money returned with another man each bearing a machete. One of the men yanked the dog’s leash from the son’s hand, dragged the dog over to the yellow fire hydrant where the man tied the dog’s leash so it could not escape. They then brutally attacked the dog with the machetes, severing the dog’s spine.
I could not respond to the woman, in shock, I fumbled with my keys to unlock my front door, I desperately wanted to get inside and close out the world. I sat on the couch to ponder the depth of man’s brutality admittedly knowing humanity has exhibited such evilness since its appearance on this planet. Tears of heartbreak dripped from my chin as images of the dog laying there next to the yellow fire hydrant repeated in my mind.
The next morning my dog, Buddy, and I started out for our morning walk. We rounded the same corner and as I neared the fire hydrant I noticed several bouquets of colorful flowers, stuffed teddy bears, and several dog toys now lay around the fire hydrant. I crossed the street with Buddy and approached the memorial. Someone had hand wrote a poem on a piece of cardboard and taped it to the top of the fire hydrant. The title read, “The Rainbow Bridge.” It was a poem about pets that cross over this bridge to find endless fields of green grass.
After breathing everything in, I turned away with tears in my eyes and started back across the street with Buddy. There is no way to truly comprehend mans’ ability to commit such heinous acts. As I walked farther away from the memorial, Merced appeared even uglier something I thought impossible. After arriving back home with Buddy, I returned to the fire hydrant with a Buddy Bone and placed it in-between the vibrant spring flowers. I wrote on the plastic baggie, “R.I.P. Innocent One.”
Quickly identified, the police arrested the butchers where they remained in custody for many months during their trials. Almost a year would pass before a conviction would keep the sub-humans jailed for another year. Over the months until the sentence was known the memorial remained. As the self-appointed caretaker, Buddy and my morning walk included removal of old flowers and repositioning stuffed animals.
Two years have passed, but the image of the innocent dog laying on the ground has become indelibly etched into my memory. To this day, every time I come around the corner and see the yellow fire hydrant, I think of the dog and the colorful memorial, I believe the entire neighborhood does as well.
“There’s no time to lose, I heard her say. Catch your dreams before they slip away. Dying all the time, lose your dreams and you will lose your mind. Ain’t life unkind? Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, who could hang a name on you when you change with every new day?” ~ Rolling Stones.
By the time I started Kindergarten, I knew my family was different from all other families in my neighborhood. The other families took vacations, celebrated Christmas, and held birthday parties, we did none of those. People came to visit my neighbors, we had no visitors. Most mother’s worked part-time or not at all. My mom was gone before we left for school and did not return until after dark. We were poor the others were not.
My little friend, Terri, lived across the street and was the only house that had a built-in swimming pool. Honestly, that’s the only reason I liked her. One day after swimming her mother wanted to wash the chlorine from Terri’s now blonde/green hair. Her mom lifted Terri up and laid her across the kitchen counter-top and pulled her close to the edge of the sink where her head hung down. I stood there watching intently. Terri’s mom carefully wrapped a towel around her daughter’s neck and turned the sprayer on. As Terri’s mom ran her fingers through Terri’s hair, which was full of shampoo, she would suddenly stop and with excitement in her voice would say, “Oh, my, what is this? Have you been eating chocolate? I see candy in your hair.” Terri giggled as her mom smiled. I stood there confused, did she really find chocolate in Terri’s hair? The game repeated with bubble gum, a lollipop, or popcorn. The genuine love and affection exchanged between Terri and her mom was something I would never come to know with my mom. Perhaps this is the reason I carry the memory with me through the passing decades.
It is the uncomfortable times in childhood I recall most vividly. Like at age seven, thereabout, the city erected at the corner from my parent’s business a stoplight and a cross walk made for pedestrians. There was a market across the street that sold giant dill pickles. Every time I had to cross the street and pass the cars that had stopped, I could not lift my eyes from the ground, I knew they were all looking at me, judging me. It was the most horrible experience I can remember. Although both of my older brothers were mean to me, the one older by a year was a budding psychopath. He delighted in torturing me. Once when I was six or so, he rolled me up in the living room rug and sat on top of me while I was trapped inside. I could not move an inch and screamed, let me out! He laughed as I struggled to breathe. Other times he would tackle me and use his knees to pin my arms to the floor and give me a pick belly by slapping my stomach until it turned pick. Next, he would commence with the Chinese water torture where he would repeatedly tap his finger between my eyes until I cried. Every doll my grandmother sent from New York he would dismember, cut off all its hair and throw it into the pond in the back yard where I would find it with a knife sticking out its torso or other parts. At some point in time, he learned how to ground himself with batteries. He would hide around a corner in the house, as I passed, he would grab hold of my arm and electricity would shoot through my body.
My eldest brother by four years lifted me up over his head in the front lawn and threw me down onto a bed of rocks that surrounded a small tree my mom had planted. I lay there in shock, I was around eight. My older brothers would take the rotary off the telephone making it impossible to call mom for help. That same night a parent from the neighborhood came knocking on our door. When my mom let her in the doorway, I was hidden close enough to listen to their verbal exchange. “The other parents in the neighborhood and I have discussed the neglect of your children. They need supervision when not in school. Today, a neighbor witnessed your daughter thrown to the ground from over your son’s head. If this continues we will report you to the proper authorities.” She said with condemnation. Unmoved, my mom replied, “Well if anything were to happen, I am assured my children can fend for themselves and will survive.”
Survive what, what was going to happen? My imagination went around the world with all the terrible things that my inexperienced mind could conjure. I thought my parents were going to die and from that day forward my mind was constantly on guard. Afterward, at least twice a month, I started breaking out in hives across my stomach and neck.
My mother was mentally ill. I knew it long ago but never gave it much thought. In my adulthood, she would think she was Queen Esther. She said there was cancer causing agents underneath the house. The police picked my mom up at 3:00 am walking in her pajamas three miles from the house. My father left my mother in a huge five-bedroom house that sat on three acres of land. We children had grown up, married, and did not pay mom much attention. I was the one left in Santa Barbara but became estranged from my mom by choice. When my son was born, my need for my mom resurfaced and we reconciled. Soon after, I realized how her mental illness had affected every aspect of her being. I took her to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her as bipolar and prescribed Lithium. Unfortunately, two years later diagnosed with terminal lung cancer my mom died.
I was 43, recently divorced, and drinking alcohol heavily. My psychiatrist called county mental health to assess my condition when I confessed I had made a list of people who I was going to kill. In the hospital, I believed I could pass through the locked door if I could reach maximum running speed down the long hallway. When I slammed head on into the door I flew back five feet through the air. They tied me four points to my bed, shot me up with drugs, and left me there for hours. The following years passed with many hospitalizations and psychotic episodes, or black outs I like to call them because I cannot remember anything during those days of not knowing I existed.
Not believing I have a mental illness other than depression now and then, I stopped taking my medication six months ago. These past months I realized I do not know who I am. My life feels as if caught in a rip tide, pulled into uncharted waters. I told my few friends they were using me and I deleted their phone numbers, blocked them from Messenger, and unfriended them from Facebook. My moods were like corn seeds in a popcorn maker heating up to explode. In contrast, everything was black and I had a plan worked out as to how I was going to commit suicide, the only thing that troubled me was what to do with my two dogs, should I take them with me?
Sometimes, I do not sleep for days and have so much energy my legs refuse to be still. Or I am very depressed and I drink all day, conjuring up all the woes in my life time accomplishing nothing but sinking deeper into despair and anxiety. I have been looking for the correct diagnosis for what might be my mental illness. I took an online test which read I needed to seek help immediately. I called the psychiatrist I buffed off and made an appointment. Two days later in his office, I asked him, the first time in three years, what was my diagnosis? With the air of authority, he answered “Schizoid-effective Disorder – Bipolar Type II,” adding, “Your perception of events is often wrong or delusional.” “What is this medication for?” I asked. “Schizophrenia.” He answered as doctors do in a monotone voice. I was speechless, delusions… I don’t have delusions… or do I? If so, who am I really? How can I ever be known to myself if my perceptions of myself are wrong or delusional? Sitting in the quiet of the night, someone began knocking at my front door. I was surprised to find my deleted friend laughing as she said, “You can’t get rid of me that easy, crazy woman.” I nearly cried.
“That’s Merced,” after three years, I still use these two words to brush off the reality some people I experience leave on my psyche. It is like the series Twin Peaks you should not expect anything resembling normalcy here in Merced. For example:
My two dogs and I started out for an early walk before the hot weather imprisons us in the house for the rest of the day. I visit the park often to chronicle the still falling Eucalyptus trees. Somebody, online, actually rated the park 4 stars, he commented, “a great park with three felled tree bridges and one man-made.” Was that meant to be a joke, but it is true?
After running their free spirits away, my tired dogs and I started the walk home. A few seconds after this photo,
I clipped each leash back on their leads; Mitzi tends to not like to share the park. Sure enough, here comes Merced, she was about 24 years old, 150 pounds, 5′ 8″, and broad at the hips. We noticed each other. She swayed her shoulders side to side. The “I’m bad” double step many Mercedians do. Without fail, I look straight down at my phone so that she knows I care less about her performance nor her presence. I looked back up as Mitzi started to growl so I pulled her in by the lead until she was within three feet to my left side. The girl gangsta walked past Mitzi who then barked, and to my WTF, the girl kicked Mitzi in the ribs; an abused shelter rescue dog under my care was kicked for barking. Mitzi howled in pain and ran behind me whimpering. The girl stopped and I stood there giving her the death stare.
Past experience had taught me there is no heated argument, interlude, nope. You skip that and go right into getting beat up. Having been attacked once for being vocal in Merced, I knew better not to say a word. Yet I felt my heart beating and begging for me to say something. My stare never wavered until finally, the girl said, “I’m a wolf, a wolf, I eat shit like that for breakfast.” “Well, my! Guess we should be moving along,” I said as I created some distance between wolf girl and me.
Looking back I felt she was far enough away that I could run if necessary. So, I let my rage out with my face raised to the sky I howled like a wolf over and over, adding, “I’m a wolf.” I laughed as I heard her profanities echo through the trees across the park.
When I called my girlfriend in Colorado later that night she replied, “I told you not to irritate the natives.” I just cannot keep quiet. If I see something I inherently know to be wrong, you will hear me speak.
Israel routinely launches missiles into Gaza without concern of what or who the missiles blow up. The graph shows the stark imbalance between Israeli and Palestinian deaths, which one could claim as Israel’s mass killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Israel deliberately targets schools and hospitals just like in Aleppo, but you don’t hear about Gaza.
Husband/Father – Gaza City
On the night his house was bombed he was working as a security guard for the agency U.N.
My neighbors came to tell me what had happened. I didn’t know if my children were alive. Straight away, I went to the nearby hospital. I found my wife, my son, Diya al-Din aged 14, my daughter, Rama aged 12, my four and a half-year-old son, and my second daughter one year and three months old. All of them were torn apart, they were all dead.
The Mousa family, Sabra District – Gaza City
On January 14th the father, the mother, three sons, and one daughter were killed inside their home when it was destroyed by Israeli missiles that dropped from the sky. The neighbors said, suddenly we could hear a plane coming down a bit and then going up again and then we heard the rockets. All the neighbors gathered to say, there is an attack on Abuwalo’s house.
Husband/Father – Khaled Abed Rabbo – East of Jabalia, Gaza
His mother, wife, and his two sons were ordered out of their house by Israeli Soldiers. Outside were three Israeli tanks. A soldier in one of the tanks opened fire on the family group. Two-year-old, Jamal, was shot nine times, seven-year-old, Salud, was shot twelve times. The father told delegates from Amnesty International, I wish the Israeli Army had taken my blood and not the blood of my children. They left me watching my children dying. I appeal to all of the human rights organizations, I appeal to the free world, and to everybody who has a conscience to treat the cases of the children with humanity.
A teenager who had witnessed the carnage asked, what is our sin? There are no rebellious groups in our neighborhood. Why are they (Israelis) harming us? We just want our rights, just that. We want to live like any other girls, any other women, any other man in any other country. We want to live like them.
In the twenty-three days of the conflict, 1,400 Gaza civilians were dead, including 300 children. In the same period, 3 Israeli civilians and 6 Israeli Soldiers were killed.
What country funds Israel so it can (as the graph shows) launch purposeful attacks into Gaza and overkill civilians without ill-repute? Of course, the United States, to the tune of $10.3 million dollars per day. Every day, $10.3 million U.S. taxpayer dollars is given (NOT LOANED) to Israel. Support #FreeGaza #BoycottIsrael
To explain why I am writing this now is that the actions of the heart do not come with statutes of limitations. My thoughts of my actions have passed through my mind for many years, but I didn’t have the courage to think about them and they moved on to other passing thoughts. Now, I realize by doing so has allowed my guilt to deepen so that these feelings are ever-present. Please allow me to express what has bothered me for weeks.
Although my behavior confirms I was calloused and selfish there is no memory of the causes. And, I cannot believe I was inattentive to the emotional needs of the one I love most, you, I must acknowledge the truths of this matter.
The issue is that when we went to the doctor to inquire about the option of abortion, I was proud you chose what I was hoping you would. Afterward, we did not speak about your position, your plans or what I could do for you. The next memory I have is learning on your Facebook page you gave birth to Damian.
There were many times over the months of your pregnancy I wanted to come over to Mario’s but I was too ashamed. I felt Mario’s large family would judge me as a neglectful and inadequate mother. I was embarrassed to show my face feeling that it was my fault that my seventeen-year-old daughter was in the position she found herself.
Therefore, I was thinking only about myself rather than your need for support. As your mother, I had a responsibility to protect you, especially as a teenager. The realization that I never saw my daughter in her pregnant state, that I didn’t get a call when she felt scared, nervous, possibly unsure or when the baby turned over and kicked for the first time is devastating.
Of all my thoughts, the worst is not getting that call when you went into labor; to not be present at my grandson’s birth brings me to tears. When I combine all these truths I have expressed above my chest fills with grief and guilt and a flood of tears speak of my profound need to apologize for what may be unforgivable.
Presently is my need to bring closure to this open wound as such pain of the heart, if not addressed, will continue to ever be present. So, with these confessions, Daughter of Mine, Emily, Emily Esther, Emma, Z, Z-Be, Zeeb, Little Love, Muffin, I’m very, very sorry for not standing by you.
Gaza > The people with loathing black hearts cannot see the ancient forest for the trees. They buried their dead youth killed by gunfire for throwing stones. They buried their innocent children after incoming bombs destroyed their hiding places. They became homeless when a bulldozer destroyed their home.
Israel > The people with loathing black hearts cannot see the ancient forest for the trees. They buried their neighbor after the old man was stabbed while standing on a street corner. They buried a loving mother of five after she was stabbed in front of her young children.
Two Palestinians killed four Israelis and the Israeli Army will retaliate and kill fifty or more Palestinians. Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and murder them, there won’t be any trumpets blowing come the judgment day and on a bloody morning after perhaps one tin soldier will ride away.