DEAR GILES

You know I’m all about dogs, but this advertisement for libraries doesn’t really make sense….

Mr. Frog started looking at dogs for adoption online today. We’ll never forget you, but we’ll probably adopt another dog sometime to keep us company the way you did.

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Picture from August 8, 2014.

DEAR GILES

Yesterday was remarkably warm and sunny, and it would’ve been a perfect day to go for a long walk with you.

I may be able to return to the other public library system I was working in last year as a substitute librarian. I spoke with the assistant director yesterday, and she said I can be reinstated contingent on passing the criminal background check again. Hooray! I may get to continue being a librarian after all.

I think I might just be constitutionally unable to be emotionally invested in organizations. I’ll have to watch out for that. But I also am continually baffled at how horrible management can be regarding transparent communications and accountability for decisions. I couldn’t stay in a system that seemed to operate on fear, punitive relationships, and utter disregard for staff.

Today, I’m remembering your corn chip scented feet and the little tufts of fur that stuck out between your toes.

post-hike nap
Picture from July 10, 2015.

DEAR GILES

For Mr. Frog’s birthday yesterday, I made him cheese and onion quesadillas with a side of roasted veggies.

quesadillas and roasted veggies

After we ate the late lunch, we took a walk together on the spring-like day to the park. There were lots of people out enjoying the warmth, and we passed our neighbor across the street at the corner of the park. It was quite crowded as we walked along the path that we used to take with you, circling the pond once and then coming back home.

We spent the rest of the evening on the couch. Mr. Frog started playing Bioshock Infinite, a game I got as a birthday present, and I fell asleep and napped like I often do for a big chunk of the evening. I got up later in the evening, and we had some birthday ice cream cake. There’s a pleasure to the simple celebrations and time together.

hiking in the river
Picture from July 9, 2015.

DEAR GILES

It’s Mr. Frog’s birthday today!

In celebration, yesterday I took him out to SeƱor Wong’s (now rebranded SW Craft Bar) in downtown Saint Paul and a performance of “A Man’s Requium” by SEOP Dance Company of Korea at Ordway Performing Arts. The subject of the performance was not particularly celebratory (oh death!), but Mr. Frog said he enjoyed it.

We came home, lit a candle for you, and finished watching the last two episodes of the first season of The Leftovers on dvd. It’s a fascinating if depressing show about a small town three years after a Rapture-type event in which millions of people worldwide simply disappeared in the blink of the eye. Unlike other versions of this story I’ve encountered that have focused on Christian morality and the idea of the faithful and salvation, this show instead is about existential uncertainty, grief, and survivors’ guilt. The first few episodes can be a bit challenging because the narrative unfolds deliberately without a lot of exposition or explanation. I like how it works though–so much that a later episode with some back story felt really out of place to me (and also unnecessary). I love the way the show unfolds characters and their interactions with each other in puzzling ways that always hint at more than is said or done in that scene.

Of course, as with many other things in my world, I saw you in a lot of this show. For one thing, it’s about loss and grief. But for another, there is the enigma of dogs in this show. From the very first episode, dogs appear as feral creatures in town. One mysterious character shoots dogs on sight and says to the main character that dogs are no longer humans’ companions. This altered presence of dogs in a human world bereft becomes a recurring theme in the show as the characters rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the mass disappearance.

body pillow
Picture from July 14, 2013.

DEAR GILES

I think I’m fighting off a cold or flu. Ugh.

One of my favorite moments of each day is lighting your candle in the evenings. I’ll be able to do that every night now that I don’t work in the evening twice a week.

Maybe I’ll try taking some walks to the park this next week. I haven’t really gone for any walks in the neighborhood since you passed, and even longer than that since you could only make it a few steps down the block since the beginning of this year. I’ll listen to an audiobook maybe or some music and just take some time to revisit the steps we used to trace on a twice daily basis.

cupcakes!
Picture from January 31, 2016.

DEAR GILES

So today is my first day no longer a librarian. Yesterday I had a nice last evening at the library, which was a great way to say goodbye to that life. I got to chat with a librarian who came over from another branch to help out since we’re so short staffed. And I said goodbye to a couple of really wonderful regular patrons.

I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with all this extra time now. It might be more difficult to be home a lot more in this house without you. Maybe I’ll start sketching and painting your portrait.

sleeping paws

DEAR GILES

I quit my librarian job today. Everything just feels impossible there, and I feel like the leadership is taking the institution in entirely the wrong direction. Not only that, but they are actively dismissive of staff feedback and concerns. These are all things I knew two years ago when I started as a substitute librarian in the system, but I had hopes that there may be ways to nudge leadership in different directions.

I know part of my sense of hopelessness in the system might be related to my grief over your death, but I also had a moment of clarity after yet another frustrating meeting today where I realized that nothing is going to change in the way they need to for a stronger library. Things are only going to get worse with deprofessionalizing the staff and embracing a vision of customer service instead of a learning commons that I think is necessary for a public library that truly values its role in communities as a place to develop literacies, civic participation, and a joy of learning.

I miss you so much, Mr. Giles. I wish I had quit this job months ago so that I could’ve spent more time at home with you in your final weeks.

huh?
Picture from January 28, 2016.

DEAR GILES

I hid in bed for big chunks of yesterday. Also yesterday, I changed my profile picture on Facebook back to one of you and me together from last year, and people have been “liking” it and commenting about your passing. Paul and Giles, Paul and Giles. It used to be a Paul and Giles thing. Now it’s just Paul.


Picture from January 31, 2016, when we got ready for our pre-housewarming party with some close friends who helped us move.

DEAR GILES

I find myself veering into the territory of high stress, high anger all the time again. I’m sure part of it is that I don’t have you with me every day to talk me off the ledge. You’re not here to listen to my rants and provide a counterbalancing force of calm and support. Every little thing seems insurmountable, and all I want is for things to work the way they are supposed to work without my having to fight every step of the way. It makes me angry to see otherwise like-minded coworkers express such resignation or complacency with the way things are, but I also get it. This struggle is too much, too constant, and genuinely unnecessary if we truly were to be valued in the institution.

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Picture from February 12, 2016, your last day with us.

DEAR GILES

I was lying in bed earlier this morning, and I liked listening to the rain drops on the roof when a little bit of rain passed through town. Then there was a dusting of snow mid-morning, but it’s still fairly warm, so the snow won’t really stick around.

This past week at work, a couple more people noticed and commented on the button I’m wearing with your adorable image. I like having you next to my heart, and I like it when people bring you up because of that picture so I can tell them a little about how wonderful you were.

Yesterday, I came across this video about weird things couples do with their dogs, and I’ve watched it a handful of times now because it is so very accurate and captures the silliness and joy of having a dog as part of our pack at home.

Remember how we asked each other about your poops? Remember how we asked you to make decisions for us? Remember how we fought each other for your love? Remember how we Skyped when I was in California? Remember how Mr. Frog sang songs about you? Remember how you used to steal the bed space like the corgi does at the end of the video?

at powderhorn park
Picture from summer 2015.

DEAR GILES

Yesterday was hard. Today was better, although I seem to have switched from sad mode to a kind of manic mode today and ended up cornering a manager (not mine) for an hour and ranting at him about the sorry state of things at work.

I’m still not sure what I’m doing with work. I wish I had you to talk to about it and to cuddle with and just be with. You were always a sympathetic ear, whatever I needed to talk about.

reading paw

DEAR GILES

I lay in the bed this morning listening to Kevin Hearne’s Staked, read by Luke Daniels, and watched the snow falling outside. It’s a light snow, alternating between small flakes and heavier, wetter flakes that fall quickly. There is so far just a coating of snow on the ground, and I think it’ll be a fairly small amount of accumulation.

This would’ve been the perfect kind of snowfall to take a walk in with you. There isn’t much wind, and it wouldn’t be too cold nor would there be too many snowflakes flying into our faces. You were always happier to walk in snowfall than rainfall, and I liked seeing us leave behind us our matching sets of paw prints and boot prints. When there was more snow on the ground, you would have fun leaping through the snow banks.

In our two previous homes, we would watch the snow falling together from the warmth of the apartments. I know I took at least a handful of pictures of us staring out the window together. At our new house, our couch doesn’t have quite the view it did in those apartments. But you still liked to stand on one end and look out the window that abuts the screened-in front porch and out the far window. If we had more time together in this house, it would’ve been nice to spend more time upstairs, where the windows extend lower to your level so that you could more easily look outside. I always liked seeing your little head in the upstairs back window when I left the house for work and other places. I would lock the back door, cross the yard, and then look up and wave goodbye to you as I went out the gate to my car.

snow at the house
Picture from November 30, 2015.

DEAR GILES

It was hard to get out of bed this morning. As Mr. Frog said last week, “Who will make me put on pants?” Without you to take care of, it is easy to stay in pjs all day when we don’t have work to drag us out of the house. It is easy to sit on the couch and do nothing productive, only feeling sad while depressing Law and Order: SVU episodes roll by inexorably and make us feel like the world is full of horror and horribleness.

We want to paint some pictures of you, finally. It’s something I’ve wanted to do all these last 12 years we spent together, but I never got around to it.

feet

DEAR GILES

I checked out a 2CELLOS cd from the library and had it playing this morning as I got ready to go out. Their version of Sting’s “Shape of My Heart” came on, and I was transported back to when I was a teenager listening to Sting’s Soul Cages and marveling over the depth of grief captured in that album that he wrote while mourning the loss of his father. (Note: “Shape of My Heart” is from a later album by Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales. These two albums are connected strongly in my memories since I discovered Soul Cages after backtracking from Ten Summoner’s Tales.)

It was only a few weeks ago that Mr. Frog finished painting the front room of the house and set up my electric piano. I want to bring music back into my life, and I hope that it reaches your ears, too.

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Picture from January 29, 2016.