Saturday, February 19, 2022


The other day Rick was looking outside and remarked, "Wow.  Look at those clouds. What an ominous sky."

I immediately smiled and corrected him, "It's pronounced om-nee-us. It's an omnious sky."

He chuckled.  "Right. Omnious. How could I forget?"

"Well, you can, but I can't. Ray said I'd never forget him, and that kid was right. Every single time I hear the word Ominous, I think of him, smile, and silently pronounce it Omnious. I loved that kid."

Ray was a student in my Creative Writing class many years ago. He was skinny, almost wraithlike, with platinum blonde hair that he wore just below his ears. His skin was pale and his eyes were large and blue behind his glasses. He had a sort of bug-like look about him, but in an endearing sort of way. His smile was large and easy, and he was thrilled to be in a Creative Writing class. When he found out that all the writing was to be read aloud, he was a bit leery, but upon hearing assurances that each writer first got a round of applause, then positive comments before one constructive critique, his concerns were settled.

As it usually happens in CW, the students formed partners or small groups among themselves. Most often, these turn out to be writing critique/help associations, and not based upon friendships. I individualized instruction in the form of one-on-one conferences at my desk during class time, so students found the groups/partnerships to be extremely valuable.

Ray, who was into Wicca and Native American spiritualism, and had recently come out (very difficult back in the 90s--he helped found our school's Gay Student Union), chose as his critique partner Nathan. I sat back and waited for...I don't know what. But something, certainly.

Nathan was joining our huge, diverse urban high school after being homeschooled for his entire life.  He was a fundamentalist Christian who always had his Bible with him. He was very quiet and from a big family. Creative Writing was already quite a jolt, I was sure, and Ray had to be a living, breathing Culture Shock for him. 

Those two, however, got along famously. Ray was so kind and gentle, and he was so accepting and tolerant that he could get along with anyone. He once confided in me that his father had no idea what to make of him, and that he had little in common with his own family; he loved school where he could be himself and be around all the people he really liked. 

One day Nathan admitted that it was difficult for him to work in CW class because it was often a bit chatty and he couldn't concentrate. Ray asked if we could have one day a week where we worked in silence, except for my conferences. I immediately said yes, and that we would even call it Nathan Day. And so we did.

Ray ended up truly enjoying reading his work aloud. He got quite good at it, and often became very dramatic. In CW2, which was the poetry semester, the students had to write a sonnet. When Ray came up to read his aloud, he took a moment at the lectern to compose himself, then made a sweeping gesture with his hand as he intoned in a deep and un-Ray voice :  The omnious horizon loomed ahead--

And I almost lost it. Almost. Omnious. Honestly, I can't remember if I corrected him later, during critique, or if I just corrected him on the paper or what, but bless his heart, I will never forget that as long as I live.

At the end of the year, Ray gave me his photo. On the back he wrote a great many nice things about me and our time together. At the bottom he wrote, "You'll never forget me." I remember when I read it, I chuckled at its confident assurance. I also thought it was just like Ray--most people would say, "I'll never forget you," but not Ray. Even now, I'm smiling and shaking my head.

He was right, of course. I've never forgotten him. I've no idea where he is now or what he's doing (of course, I hope he's writing), but I bet he's remembered fondly by many, many more people than just his Creative Writing teacher. 



Saturday, February 05, 2022

Z Is For Zydrunas

 Meet Zydrunas, my granddog.

Zydrunas's name is pronounced zih-DROO-niss, but you can call him Z. As is usual in our family, he has a lot of nicknames, too:  BrownDog, Brown, Best Brown Dog, Bubba, and Big Brown are just a few of them. There is not a single person or pet that exists in our family who doesn't have a dozen or so nicknames. Your family may be the same.

His name comes from the Cleveland Cavaliers All Star center, now retired, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who both of my sons greatly admire. 

Jared and Sam, who lived together in 2014, adopted him from the Cleveland kennel. They told them that he was already a year old, had been found wandering around a chemical plant, and was in very good health. Sam and Jared specifically chose a dog from the city kennel because they euthanize dogs after they've been there too long. 

Here's a photo of Zydrunas on his Rescue Day.

 That smile was the first of many in his new life. There cannot be a more joyful, more exuberant, more completely happy dog than this Big Brown Dog. Here he is right now, just so darn happy to be alive and with the people he loves.

When the boys stopped living together, Jared took full custody of Zydrunas. Then when Jared moved in with his new family, Sam took full custody. Throughout it all, they have co-parented Z and shared the costs associated with his care. Jared comes for visitation frequently, and Z can barely handle it. The zoomies are cataclysmic; nothing is safe.

Like many big and strong dogs, Zydrunas has no idea of his size, and he often climbs onto me for a Visit and a Cuddle. He is a 70-pound dog, and when on his hind legs, he is only about a foot shorter than I am. Still, when he wants Nance Time, he must have it. And because I am so completely and crazy in love with this dog, I am more than happy to oblige.

For Christmas this year, I got Sam an Embark Dog DNA kit (which he has yet to use) so that he can finally find out exactly what kind of dog Zydrunas is. We think he's probably part pitbull and part boxer. We don't really care; we're just curious. We love this dog no matter what he is.

Wouldn't you?

(Other posts about Zydrunas's early days are here, and here.)

Zydrunas wraps up the Alphabet Posts for me. We hope you have a restful week ahead.

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