DEAR GILES

Today has been going much better because I didn’t have to talk for the whole day and my sinus headaches is gone. Rather than chance the reoccurrence of pain, I went ahead and bought cold/sinus/allergy medicine first thing this morning, and I’ve taken it regularly throughout the day. I’ll probably grab dinner with the other Writing Center staff member this evening and otherwise try to get a lot of reading done. I still need to finish reading this book manuscript to write up a review. And I have a set of six essays to read and score for an award. And I want to get started with Alexander Chee’s Queen of the Night before the end of the week.

I’m missing the experience of reading with you curled up next to me. It was always so wonderful to feel your soft, warm fur next to me while I was already doing something that is one of my favorite things. Your presence and contact just made it that much better. Sometimes I read aloud to you, but you never really seemed to appreciate that so much. I think you were unsure if I was asking you to do something as I droned on. So you would go back to sleep, but you would still try to pay attention a bit in case I mentioned something wonderful like dinner or squirrel.

reading together

DEAR GILES

I talked for about 8 hours straight today, all through a pretty bad sinus headache, and then I promptly fell asleep for the next five hours in my hotel room instead of eating dinner or doing extra work I had lined up. Oh well!

I just lit a tea candle for you here. I meant to light one for you yesterday as well but didn’t have a means to create fire. I picked up a disposable lighter at the store this afternoon to rectify that issue.

walk smile
Picture from May 10, 2015.

DEAR GILES

I’m in Dallas for work–providing some writing instruction and tips for students starting their doctoral studies in the doctorate of business administration program. This means Mr. Frog is home all alone with you to keep him company and protect him in the house. :( Now when I’m out of town or Mr. Frog is out of town, we’ll really be lonely without you around.

I lead the session tomorrow morning, and I’m thinking about starting off by introducing myself and projecting your image to talk about how much you were a part of the way I understood and imagined myself as a person for the last twelve years.

cats!
Picture from March 5, 2015.

DEAR GILES

I took a jog around the pond again yesterday, and I saw that the geese are back. The geese were never very friendly to you, especially when their goslings hatched and they were intent on protecting the little ones from you. You just wanted to say hello, but the larger geese would waggle their necks and hiss. We had to skirt their gatherings, even if they spanned the walkways.

pizza coveter
Picture from March 2, 2015.

DEAR GILES

Today we leapt ahead an hour for daylight savings time. Your internal clock always took a little adjusting to these biannual shifts in time keeping. In the fall, you would wonder why we didn’t feed you on time. In the spring, you would be delighted that we fed you early. I was also amazed by how well you could tell time. You would start staring at us for food two hours before dinner time, but it was always consistently two hours before dinner time. And if we were somehow engrossed in something and missed your usual dinner time by even 15 minutes, you would give up and stop staring at us at that point.

grin
Picture from October 16, 2013.

DEAR GILES

Today, Mr. Frog observed many squirrels around our house and yard. We’re convinced that they’re getting bolder in their claiming of spaces now that you’re no longer here to protect us from them. They’re definitely hanging out in the garage, and they frolic a lot in the yard now, including by the little frog statue.

hugs
Picture from September 22, 2013.

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.

span
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.

20160212_090559.jpg
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.