Category Archives: unconditional love

I Sleep with Dogs

Joan’s relaxing in the guest bedroom. I glance out front at the muddy Honda station wagon that’s arrived with her this time from somewhere in the cosmos and smile. Joan would surely know her carbon footprint. I hear her stir and stand in the hallway outside the bedroom door, waiting.

“God, you scared me!” she says as she opens the door. Even paper dolls get spooked sometimes.

I laugh. “Ha – got you!”

I follow her to the kitchen, where she opens my cupboard and removes a box of loose green tea. She pulls a small tea bell with chain from her sweatshirt pocket, fills the bell, latches it, then drops it in a mug of hot water. She repeats the process and we two sit down at the table.

“Have you talked with Dan?” Joan asks, eyes averted as her hands wrap round her mug.

“I’m waiting to get the police records.” I respond.

“No need to wait. He’s waiting for you to call. I told him you would.” She reaches for some strands of hair to twirl, forgetting it’s all in a braid down her back. The hand returns to the mug. Our eyes meet. “You know, Dan and I had a pact that the first of us to die would try to contact the other person from wherever we were. I tried calling Dan for a long time — it’s hard to know how long when you’re out here but I’m gonna guess it was like 10 years of time there — and he never picked up. I finally gave up. You know, I had things to do…”

“You did? Like what?” I asked, intrigued.

“Like stuff I’ll tell you about later. Anyway, a few years ago as you were finishing up Approaching Neverland, I knew it was only a matter of time before you took the leap,” her hand caressed the back of her head as it searched for her braid. Finding it, she pulled off the rubber band from the end and ran her fingers through to unleash her hair so she could twirl the ends.


“To try and figure out who killed me. Aren’t you gonna just ask me who did it?”

“Can you tell me?”


“You’re such a brat!” I yelled as we both burst into laughter. You’re gonna make me figure this out even though you know, aren’t you?”



“You need to understand the dark side.”

“And you’re going to lead me there?”


How is it that 30 years past your murder and 50 years after you took my hand as we skated to the corner I still feel your fingers wrapped around mine?

I walk her to her car. As she drives away, the sign on her back window comes into view: I sleep with dogs.

Tomatoes with Orzo

Now Joan is in my kitchen. It’s warmer today so I’ve dressed her in a sleeveless shell and sky blue yoga pants that bell at her calves. The paper tabs slide up and down her (very thin) frame as she moves to the hip hop music from the stereo while chopping tomatoes. As she bends to peer into the cupboard for a bowl, the tab loses its grip. She reaches back to fold it.

“Oh look — you still have the bowl I gave you for a wedding gift,” she grins as she pulls the manila bowl with red and green stripes from the shelf. “I thought this would be perfect for making cookies.” We share a smile. She exchanges the large bowl for a smaller one from the same shelf, deftly scoops the tomatoes into the bowl, then rinses the cutting board and sets it in the sink.

“We got word that the Susanville Police Dept is surrendering all of their records on your case to us,” I say.

She steps back to lean against the counter as one arm wraps around her waist and her hand covers her mouth. “I didn’t want you to have to do this,” she says so softly that I have to tip closer to hear her.

“I know — but you would have done it for me.”

She nods.

I add the simmered orzo to the bowl along with some olive oil, toasted pine nuts, lemon zest and chopped parsley before handing her the other spoon. Our eyes connect.

“Dig in.”

Connecting the Detective

After 3 weeks of trying, I finally connected with the detective at the Susanville Police Dept. that was recently assigned to Joan’s case. He admitted he hadn’t yet reviewed her file, but said he would soon.

“I know it’s been 31 years but I’m at a point in my life where I’d like to do everything I can to help you solve my sister’s case,” I said. “I think I’m finally emotionally detached enough that I’m willing to provide whatever insights I can bring to bear on the evidence that you already have and work on my own to dig up more information.”

“Considering the gravity of the case, I’m not sure how much I’ll actually be able to share with you from the file,” he replied.

“I’m willing to work with whatever you have,” I said, hoping he noted my pragmatic tone: surely the last thing he would want would be to hold someone’s hand as they relived their sibling’s murder. But that was the furthest thing from my mind.

For decades, I’d stayed as far away as possible from any details of Joan’s case. Suddenly, I had to get into that file.

Mother’s Day Reflection

This Mother’s Day, I took the time to reflect on what I learned over the years from my mother, who happened to be bipolar. Almost everything seemed to come down to the following five things:

1.  Laugh often. Laugh hard.

Life is tough. When something makes you laugh, squeeze it for all its worth. Afterward, things won’t seem so bad.

2.  Don’t judge others.

If Mom could be weird but mostly wonderful, others could be, too. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

3.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Very few things in life are so important that you can’t take a break from them for a cup of coffee with a friend.

4.  Forgive completely.

Even the worst offenders can sometimes redeem themselves. If they don’t, forgive them anyway and move on. At least you’ll be done with them.

5.  Love unconditionally.

Our time here is short. The time we get to spend with our loved ones is even shorter. Make sure they know you love them no matter what they say or do.