Of dogs, brain injury and life

Sometimes, a long drought of blog posts might mean bad things have happened to the author.

Fortunately, that’s not the case here.

I was, in fact, following the details of a drama that might make a book someday. I took copious notes. And, on the train back and forth to the city (where this drama was playing out), I read a number of books. So until I can say more about said drama, I shall commence reviewing a few of the books, at least the memoirs, here.

Quick sidebar: One of the books I read was Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Not a memoir, but it’s the story of an orphan girl with irrepressible enthusiasm. I chose it to fulfill a condition of my 2015 reading challenge that required me to read a book older than 100 years. A fun book that succeeded in getting me to root for the protagonist.

My most recent foray into another person’s world was A Three Dog Life: A Memoir by Abigail Thomas.

Three Dog LifeThomas is a woman with three dogs and a husband who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, one so injurious that he can no longer live at home. Her book is about coming to terms with this new life in the comfort of her dogs. (The title comes from an Austrailian Aborigines practice of sleeping with their dogs for warmth on cold nights, the coldest being a “three dog night”).

Besides her insight into the effects of traumatic brain injury (fascinating to me because I have a relative with TBI), I found Thomas’ approach to time and her perspective on aging to be interesting.

As to time, the reader never really knows what is happening when. The book is roughly chronological, but that’s never made clear. I think it’s interesting because one of the results of her husband’s brain injury is that he loses all his short-term memory. He’s never really clear on what’s happening when either, so I think her approach in her writing attempts to mirror this.

And then there’s aging. As an aging female, I felt like I had found a simpatico soul Here are a couple of examples:

“It’s easy now–it’s middle-aged lady, nobody’s looking, nobody notices. I go without lipstick if I feel like it, and I always wear my comfy clothes. It’s a life with fewer distractions, but should something beautiful show up, a middle-aged woman is free to stare.”

“What I used to fear was growing old–not the aches and pains part of the what-have-I-done-with-my-life part or the threat of illness, none of that. I just couldn’t imagine what my life would be life without the option of looking good.”

Thomas manages to combine one’s ambivalent about aging with her attempts to come to terms with her husband’s condition, and this is the true beauty of this memoir.

“When I was young, the future was where all the good stuff was kept, the party clothes, the pretty china, the family silver, the grown-up jobs. The future was a land of its own, and we couldn’t wait to get there. Not that youth wasn’t great, but it come with disadvantages; I remember the feeling I was missing something really good that was going on somewhere else, somewhere I wasn’t. I remember feeling life passing me by. I remember impatience. I don’t eel that way now. If something interesting is going on somewhere else, good, thank god, I hope nobody calls me. Sometimes it’s all I can do to brush my teeth, toothpaste is just too stimulating.”

I’m a sucker for a clever turn of phrase or a philosophical observation that rings true, and Thomas doesn’t disappoint. Life is not a sure thing, and A Three Dog Life prescribes how to cope.

“Still, now great to be enjoying the ride, however uncertain the outcome. I’d like that. It’s what we’re all doing anyway, we just don’t know it.”




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