My oldest brother, Byard Lee Martin, passed away a few years ago. I know "Byard" seems like an odd name, but it was my father's name and, I am told, is actually a name that was somewhat common ages ago. There was an eight year age difference between my brother and I, so in growing up, we really didn't spend much time together. While I was busy reading Spiderman, he was caught up in high school and in his battles with my father.
My brother's relationship with my father was difficult to say the least. My dad could be physically abusive, mentally abusive, and emotionally abusive. It was a painful trinity. When Byard Lee was born, my dad was only eighteen --still a kid himself. My dad was too busy with his own friends, work, and outdoor sports to pay much attention to my brother and attention was the one thing he needed most. Without going into a lot of detail, my brother had a pretty rough life. Yes, some of it was due to his own decisions and actions, but a lot was due to the environment and things beyond his control. You know, the whole nature/nurture thing.
The day Byard Lee died, I called my uncle (who he had lived with for awhile some years ago) to give him the news. His response was that my brother didn't have such a great life anyway.
I drove to the town where my brother lived the day after he died, hoping I could help his adopted daughter and his biological daughter in any way I could. I never really had a chance to build the bond I wanted with my brother while he was alive, so I wanted to at least be there for him in his death.
His daughters suspected me of coming down to try and "pilfer" anything I could grab. I didn't waste my time telling them that Byard Lee really didn't have anything. Ironically, they were the ones who called me the day before, the day he died, asking for my help and support.
Because of what they thought and because of their own ignorance, I wasn't allowed to speak at my brother's funeral. In fact, no one was allowed to speak. His services were conducted at the Veteran's cemetery and they were short, efficient, and cold.
I wanted to do something for my brother and to help get past some of the grief I felt. They say we often miss most the relationships we never had a chance to develop. I knew that was the case for me. I wanted to write something for him --but more for me-- something that would help alleviate some of the pain, guilt, and longing for a relationship that would now never be.
Byard Lee's life was one of pain, but there was one thing that stood out in my memory and that is what I decided to write about.
So this is for my brother, who some would say I didn't even know that well. That may be. But even so, I miss him more than I can begin to say.
More than a few years back, Molly, my dog of eight years died. She was part Australian cattle dog and part (we think) Kelpie. Basically, she was a mutt, but she was a pretty cool mutt. She could launch her 45 pounds into the air to catch a Frisbee or a ball in a way that made you think she might be able to fly. She was lovey when you needed it. She was also loyal and put up with a ton of shit from a guy who was too immature to totally appreciate what a great dog she was.
Her death was a sudden thing. She went outside, then came back in and lay down on the floor by my desk. A few minutes later she began making noises like she was going to vomit.
These things happen when you own a dog, so no biggie.
I told her to go outside and, (obedient dog that she was), she got up and staggered towards the living room before collapsing in the hallway. Within a half hour, she was dead.
We tried to get her to a vet in time. To his credit, the vet did all he could do. He put her on oxygen, gave her a number of shots, but it was too late. Later, he informed us that his guess was that when Molly was originally outside she may have bitten at a wasp and was stung inside her throat. She went into anaphylactic shock, her lungs quickly filled with liquid, and that was all she wrote.
It was the only time I can remember crying over an animal. We were raised to believe that animals were animals and people were people –the same emotional attachments should not apply.
Since we don’t have a lot of property around our house we had the vet dispose of the body and my wife, two daughters and I buried her favorite toy in the back yard as a way to have some kind of closure.
The loss of Molly came during what was one of the worst years of my life. There were other losses, a motorcycle accident, and more that I won’t go into here.
I swore I wouldn’t get another dog for a long, long while. I didn’t want to discredit the loss of Molly that way. I didn’t want to invest time and emotion in another pet that soon. I made a vow that I wouldn’t even consider another dog for at least a year.
And then, eight months later, we met Maggie.
Maggie is a German Shepherd. German Shepherds are regal, intelligent, strong, dignified. She was a sweet puppy, but I don’t know if she had that natural dignity thing down yet.
One of the first things she did was dig up the toy we had buried in memory of Molly.
And because she was a puppy, her ears flopped over, making her look a little less than smart.
As a puppy she was about the size of what her head is now.
Now she’s about 85 pounds of dingy. Oh sure, she tries to understand what you’re saying. She demonstrates this by cocking her head to one side.
She can’t catch a Frisbee, but she’s hella-strong. As a joke we tried playing fetch with her using a fence board. She was okay with that.
She’s a sweet dog, but is able to convince anyone who comes to the door that she’s a maniacal, rabid, monster with razor sharp teeth. Of course, all they’d have to do is toss her a cookie and she’d be their friend for life.
She stays within her boundaries, but still likes to keep an eye on what’s going on in the neighborhood.
She recognizes the sound of the UPS truck and it bothers her whenever it goes by, because sometimes it stops at the house and a stranger comes to the door. Strangers are exciting!
She’s used to receiving a Meaty Bone and having her dog run cleaned just as soon as I get home.
And she can be lovey.
I still miss Molly. I’m not in love with Maggie.
After all, she’s just a dog, right?
As I pointed out in my last post, I’m a manly-man –primarily because I can piss outdoors. But I often receive odd looks from other manly-men because of what might be called manly-man idiosyncrasies:
I don’t really follow sports. At all. None. If I were to follow a sport, it would be soccer, a sport most manly-men in the U.S. do not follow and many consider unmanly.
I sometimes use words like “idiosyncrasies” and then point out that I should get some kudos for doing that.
I don’t camp out very often.
I rarely go fishing.
I would rather read a good book than play touch football.
I don’t understand the whole slapping-of-the-asses thing in sports.
I used to hunt, but I haven’t done that in well over ten years (although I still enjoy going to the range and shooting once in a while).
There are a bunch of other manly inconsistencies, but these seem to be the biggest. If I walk up to a group of men, I often feel awkward because they’re usually talking sports and all I can do is stand there, nod my head, and say lame stuff like, “Yeah! That play was amazing! Go my favorite sports team! Kick that three-pointer!”
One of these days someone will ask me a specific sports question and my whole façade will cave in. I will be in definite danger of losing some major man-points.
I can still do some manly things. I can lift up a car hood and scratch my head. I can make minor home repairs without majorly injuring myself. I can do three pull-ups. I can even use a fairly wide variety of power tools.
But now for the big reveal: I actually prefer hanging out with women. Not because they’re better looking, sexier, and don’t scratch themselves as often as men –although I don’t discount any of those things. No, I think the preference is because most women are interested in the same things I am.
Here are some examples. They’re generalities of course, but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.
Women read. That’s the biggest thing right there. Because I also read, I can discuss books with women and not feel like I have to fake my way through it. And, admittedly, a woman reading is just damned sexy.
Women like movies. Granted, many of the movies are chick-flicks, but women seem to get into other movies that don’t require explosions and high body counts as well. And you can discuss movies with women after viewing.
I like the perspectives that most women have. Most women have quick wits, are funny without being cruel, have positive attitudes, and often show insights into life situations that men simply won’t talk about.
Women are often far more supportive than men. I think it’s probably awkward for many men, but women have no trouble saying stuff like “Hugs,” “Aw, don’t worry.” “That was really nice,” etc. Most men will say something along the lines of, “Hey, either fix the damn thing or get over it and move on.” Not that that’s not constructive, but it does lack a bit of finesse.
Maybe my appreciation for the company of women comes from spending so many years surrounded by women (my wife and two daughters). I know my thoughts and feelings might be biased because of that, but it is what it is.
And that's the best kind of bias to have.
And if I lose some man-points because of it, well, I’m okay with that too.
I’ll start by stating the obvious: there are advantages to being a man.
Now I’m not going to get into a philosophical discussion about how the U.S. is still primarily a patriarchal society, that women still encounter a “glass ceiling” in many work places, or that our government is still overloaded with male representatives (although I suppose those things are advantageous for men –damn, we’ve got it pretty good).
No, I mean our bodies.
Even if a man doesn’t have a very good looking body, he still has advantages. Here are just a few:
1. Men never have to deal with “that time of the month” (however, there are some who would argue that we have to deal with it in an oblique way because we’re often around women during “that time of the month” and that can be a little stressful sometimes. I know, I know, poor men…whaaa).
2. Men don’t have to worry about becoming unintentionally pregnant. (Although a few years ago the news touted a story of the first “man” who had a baby. I gotta call bullshit on that one. The plumbing simply isn’t there. If the plumbing is there at the time of birth, it’s a woman giving birth. I don’t care how man-ish she might look.)
3. Most men don’t have to deal with the changing bodies and moods that go with being pregnant. I will say though that my wife was a bit Jekyll and Hyde-ish when she was pregnant with our first daughter. I’m not throwing stones here, but boy, the stories I could tell.
4. Most men have a fairly easy time being happy with sex. It usually doesn’t take much for a man to toe the line, get ready, get set, and go. And he invariably reaches the finish line much faster. Easy-peasy.
5. For the most part, men don’t have to deal with the whole menopause thing. Sure, for a while the temperature flip-flopped back and forth in our house. It was either hotter than a furnace or colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra and I learned very quickly to stay the hell away from the thermostat unless I wanted to have a hand chopped off. Still not going to throw stones though.
The advantages of having a man-body go on and on…
But one of the best things about being a man?
Pissing outside (notice I said ‘pissing’ and not ‘peeing.’ This is a manly thing, after all).
Particularly if your pissing outside after drinking beer with other men.
And there’s a campfire nearby.
It’s not a gay thing. Well, maybe for some it is, but hetero men will usually stand a good distance away from each other and try not to let their eyes wander too much. Wandering eyes while pissing outside with other men could have three possible outcomes, none of which are good:
1.) We could be psychologically damaged if we find ourselves falling “short” of other men.
2.) There’s the potential of getting beaten up if the other guy is insecure in his sexuality.
3.) It could throw off our aim and we end up pissing on our shoes.
But the risks are worth the reward.
Ask around. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many men who haven’t or who don’t enjoy a good outdoor piss. Even men with tiny back yards will find some place in that yard where they can piss –hopefully without being seen by a neighbor. I’ve known men who live in apartments who find a place within a short distance so they can piss outside. Sometimes those men get arrested because they take the pissing outside thing and turn it into something ugly and creepy instead of simply celebrating our natural ability.
I don’t know why it is…Maybe it’s just the fact that we can do it is why we do it. Maybe it harkens back to animal instincts and marking territory. Maybe it’s a unique way to bond with nature.
Then again, maybe…just maybe…it’s because women kick ass in so many other ways –not the least of which is being able to deal with all the other stuff I mentioned earlier and deal with men— and pissing outside is the one thing we know, without a doubt, we can do better than them.
Well, most of them anyway…
It’s a small victory (that’s what she said), but sometimes you take what you can get.
Just observing, sometimes remembering, often shaking my head, then writing.