I Remember You

Thomas, I brought you home today. I must say, you look different. (Humor is the best medicine, right?)

But I remember you.


I was upstairs editing late when Michael called my name in that voice. You know, the one that makes everything in your chest fall into your gut. You had collapsed and gone into respiratory distress. The vet put you in an oxygen tank and gave you pain meds to make you comfortable. Your heart had broken.

Our hearts broke too. But I remember you.

I remember you as a kitten, born to a pregnant cat we inherited with our first house. Unexpected. A surprise that would lead to so many years of joy.


I remember you helping us garden. We would have gotten twice as much done without you, but it would have been half as fun.


I remember you walking us to the barn and back every time we took care of the horses knowing we couldn’t make it on our own. You were a great hunter. You could protect us from anything.

I remember how upset you were when we made you an indoor only cat because of the coyotes. It took many months and a very large outdoor enclosure to convince you we were old and wise enough to go to the barn on our own.

You had a grand life and you left it quickly. Those are good things for you. This is not for you. This is for those of us who will always remember you.



Book Review: Praise of Motherhood

I haven't done many book reviews and I don't read a lot of nonfiction so I'm stepping out of my comfort zone in a couple of ways with this post. Just so you don't get the wrong idea when I start picking at some of the things I didn't like about Praise of Motherhood by Phil Jourdan, I want to say up front that I enjoyed this book. I think my biggest complaint wasn't with content, or writing, or any of those things, but with the presentation of the book. Specifically, the title and back cover blurb.

The title, Praise of Motherhood, led me to think it was about one of two things.

1) It was about the challenges of being a mother, perhaps written from the perspective of a dad/husband given the author's name, in which case, I, as a non-parent, could see little reason to read it.


2) It was about how awesome mothers are, in which case, I already know how unbelievably awesome my Mom is and I don't need a book to tell me.

If a friend hadn’t handed me this book, I would never have picked it up from the title. In my personal opinion, the title pre-limits the audience in an unfortunate way.

On to the back cover blurb:

When Phil Jourdan's mother died suddenly in 2009, she left behind a legacy of kindness and charity — but she also left unanswered some troubling questions. Was she, as she once claimed, a spy? Had she suffered more profoundly as a woman and parent than she'd let on?

Jourdan's recollections of his struggles with psychosis, and his reconstructions of conversations with his enigmatic mother, form the core of this memoir. Psychoanalysis, poetry and confession all merge to tell the story of an ordinary woman whose death turned her into a symbol for extraordinary motherhood.

The 'troubling questions' intimated in the blurb, a large part of what intrigued me about the book as someone who usually reads fiction, never played a significant part in the narrative nor were they, in my opinion, ever truly given an answer. I didn't see this as a flaw in the book, but rather a flaw in the focus of the blurb.

Additionally, while Praise of Motherhood did explore the author's relationship with his mother, it didn't strike me as a story about the author's mother. She was a constant throughout the narrative, an anchor in his life and a woman who really didn't seem know what to do about or for her troubled son, but who stood by him regardless. I think she was a heroic figure, but I never experienced a deep connection to or understanding of her life the way I did the author's. It was, for me, more about the author's journey prior to his mother’s death and his struggle to come to terms with losing her.

When I first started reading Praise of Motherhood, I stumbled over the writing style/voice of the author, but developed a deep appreciation for it by the end of the first chapter. Phil Jourdan's writing takes on an almost poetic quality, the ideas flowing smoothly so that you soon find yourself swept helplessly along like a leaf caught in a river's current. It's deceptively easy to coast from one chapter to the next. In places, I would even call the writing beautiful.

The author himself comes across as a sometimes dark, sometimes gentle, often lost and troubled soul. The story he tells leads you through many turbulent years of his youth and occasionally slips into creative fiction passages that speculate upon his mother's life and her views.

Would I recommend Praise of Motherhood?

That's a complicated question.

There are things about Jourdan's story that I found captivating because of my long-time interest in psychology. Would someone who didn't share that interest be intrigued by those aspects of the book? I can't say.

There are places I truly sympathized as someone who has lost a parent. Would someone who hadn't experienced such a loss relate as well? I don't know.

There are glimpses of a brilliant imagination that I enjoyed as a reader and writer of fiction. Would everyone enjoy that aspect? They might.

Praise of Motherhood is a fascinating and candid exploration of the author's life and struggle to cope with the passing of the one person who was always there for him. It's a fast read and anyone intrigued by any aspect of the story would not be ill-served by picking it up. Phil Jourdan truly brings his journey to life for his reader and it's a riveting journey.

Visit the Goodreads page for Praise of Motherhood to read more reviews and for links to purchase or visit Phil Jourdan's blog.

Happy reading!

Memory of a Dog

I'm going to go off topic for a short post in memory of Akila. I feel he deserves at least that much.

Akila: Died 9/27/2011

Akila was never a good dog. He was always a little too clever and spirited to be good. I remember sitting at the Humane Society in the visiting room with him. He wasn’t the dog we came to see. That dog had already been adopted.

We were strangely hesitant to commit to Akila. There was some whispered warning there that we probably should have heeded, but what fun would that have been?

We eventually decided that if he ate the annoying fly buzzing around us we would take him home. Yes, really. That was our deciding point. As if on cue, he did exactly that. I do believe it was the first and last insect he ever ate.

Shortly thereafter, I put him through obedience classes, which generally went something like this:

“Akila, come!”

Hmm. Mom wants me. I suppose I should… Did you smell that! I have to go check that out! Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll be right back!

He never really learned to come when called, but the instructor graduated us. I still suspect it was out of pity.

Akila’s independent streak continued, leading us on many wild chases through the woods and down the street and even into neighbor’s houses. He would behave for several months, coming when called and lulling us into complacency, then he’d catch wind of something and sprint off while we called frantically after him. Now and then he would even pause and give me that ‘Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll be right back’ look before loping off into the trees with his goofy long-legged lope. Of course, right back with Akila could mean anything from half an hour to four hours later.

Interestingly, this behavior led to the development of a super power. Specifically, my hag voice, which has been known freeze people in their tracks. It is the only thing that could ever drag him back early from one of these adventures. I am sure my neighbors will have nightmares about it for years to come.

Akila and his favorite cat with my nephew.

Like the cat’s he always got on with so well, Akila never felt the need to please us. He liked us, he thought a nice round of Frisbee catching followed by a milk bone was the best, and he slept by the bed every night in silent appreciation of our care.



Over the last few years, some of that changed. He started losing nerve function in his back end and losing his mind a bit, but even when he was reduced to wobbling around the house and falling a lot, he would occasionally sprint off into the trees, using his hind legs together more like a pogo stick to propel him forward.

Then the bone cancer came. It was clear that his spirit would never give in, but his body had. It was time to help him go. To the last minute, he still wanted his milk bones and he loved the gourmet hamburger we made him for lunch. Then the vet came and he reluctantly moved on. Living with him was never easy. Losing him was harder still.

His body rests on the hill behind the house. Wherever his indomitable spirit is now, I hope he can eat all the popcorn he wants, steal hamburger from the counters, and have many adventures. He will be missed.