Thursday, February 26, 2015

CHAPTER ONE THE DECISION—FINALLY REALLY MEETING SCRUGGS (9TH installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(9TH installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)
Once again I bolted from the room of the cattery; adoption was out of the question!
You would have thought I should have learned to avoid the large-dog kennel by then.  But I am an alarmingly slow learner.  At least that was what I said to myself as I again passed by the Rottweiler.
 “One more chance,” I said. Just one more chance.
Again nothing.
I had passed by kennel 83 so quickly I had not even looked at its occupant.  I expected to see the same gyrations and happy dance I had seen before.  Puzzled, I backed up to see what was going on with him.
There he sat. He was not moving, and his head was down.  He knew I was there, I could tell from the twitch of his ears that he heard me.  But there was no joyful dance, no twirling, no eager nose thrust through the bars.  It was as if he had given me everything he had and knew it wasn’t enough.
At that moment, my heart broke.  Before I had a conscious thought of what I was doing, I was crouched down by his cage door.
“Ah, boy, come here,” I said as I thrust my fingers through the wire mesh.  “I’m sorry, boy.  I’m sorry for ignoring you.  Come here.  Let me say ‘hello.’”
I was crooning and tearing up as I sat on the concrete floor, feet in the gutter.  The dog looked up at me, his eyes shifted toward mine.  His whole being telegraphed his hesitancy to again be disappointed.
God, I knew how he felt. 
Love is so hard to find.  Too much disappointment comes before true love is found.  It is a test of faith to put a heart out there in the open with the danger that it will be smashed or ignored.
“Oh, baby boy,” I said, as all my past failings and disappointments washed over me.  “Come here, baby.  Let me give you a scratch.”
Slowly he got up and came to the cage door.  Hesitatingly he put his nose to my fingers.  I gently rubbed his nose.  He backed up and looked at me.  I met his eyes and then quickly lowered mine.  No threat from me, no challenge in my heart.
He came back with a slight wag of his tail.  He put the side of his face against the gate.  I thrust my fingers deeper into the cage and scratched his ears.  With a deep sigh he moved his body closer to me, stretching his neck.  I gave it a good solid scrubbing, feeling the rough texture of his coat.  I could also feel scabs on his throat and behind his ears.  Briefly I wondered at the circumstances that brought him to the shelter.  But just by looking at him, I knew they probably weren’t good.  He was thin, dirty, scabby, and covered with flea droppings.  He hadn’t had a bath or flea dip or enough food for a long time.  Yet, here he was, giving me another chance to really see him.  What I saw was a dog of the streets, trying to connect with a human; a dog brave enough to put his heart out there for me to take.
Rubbing this dog’s face, and seeing the tentative wag of his tail he held between his legs, something stirred within me.  I thought of the bumps and bruises in my own life.  Was I as brave as this dog?  Had I given my husband another chance to see me beyond the wall I had erected to hide my grief?  Was I giving God my full faith that he would see me through my travails?
It was as if the dog listened to my heart and heard me.  He turned his face toward me, licking my hand and rubbing his head along the chain-link fence.  His tail began to wag a little faster as he licked my hand again.  In that moment I knew that he was something special.  I also knew I couldn’t leave him behind in this cage.
I didn’t want another dog.  I hadn’t looked for another dog.  But God, in his infinite wisdom, gave me what I needed.  And when I chose not to turn away, a feeling of peace so pure and clear hit my being; it was the knowingness I had long associated with the God whispering in my ear.  This voice without a voice told me the dog’s name was “Scruggs.”  I knew it with all my heart, and a prayer of thanks slipped from my lips with barely a conscious thought.  I thanked God for this gift and decided the dog was going home with me.  As I made this decision, and when I said the name out loud, the dog knew it, too.
“Scruggs,” I said, “you’re coming home with me.”
At the sound of his name he looked up at me.  He heard the promise in my voice and began a celebratory dance of twirls and tail-wagging, with a happy grin and a joyous light in his eyes.  Together we made the decision that the de la Peña household had grown by yet another dog. 
And his name was Scruggs

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CHAPTER ONE (Cont’d) THE DECISION—SUPERSTITIONS AND BLACK CATS (8th installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(8th installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

Even though the Rottweiler in cage 81 would have nothing to do with me, a wet nose pressed through the fence three cages down the aisle as I retreated to cage 83. Without thinking I backed up and gave his head a scratch between the eyes.  He closed his eyes and sighed deeply with contentment.
I looked a little more closely at the dog.  He was a rich golden color with white socks, a white blaze on his face, and white on his chest.  His tail looked like a scruffy plume of feathers, but he held it erect and proudly.  The face, though, was covered with wiry whiskers.  Momma may have been a golden retriever but daddy was a terrier.  I decided he was so ugly he was cute.
But I wasn’t there for a dog!  No, no, I was on a mission to find a cat.  No more dogs!
I left to find an attendant but ended up in the office.  The staff was harried and very busy tending to the normal business of the Humane Society.  There were people looking for lost dogs, as well as the people needing to come into compliance with the authorities after being cited for having unlicensed dogs.  Standing in line, I was pleased to learn several people in line with me were seeking to adopt an animal. 
“So are you adopting?” I asked the blonde woman standing in front of me.
“Oh, God, yes,” she answered.  “I read about the tragedy of so many animals left here because their owners lost their homes.”  Her eyes briefly teared as she continued, “I know they came from homes where people loved them, and I just can’t let them die here.”
I found my self-control beginning to break listening to her shaky voice.     
“The cards,” I asked, pointing to the cards she held in her hand.  “Are they for animals you’re taking?”
She looked at two blue cards and one pink one and then smiled.  “See, this blue card and this pink one?  The blue is a bulldog mix and the other is just a mutt.  I’m taking both of them.”
“The other?” I asked.
Again she smiled, “It belongs to a big ‘ole cat that looks like he never missed a meal.”
I couldn’t help but smile myself.  She was happy to enlarge her family by saving the lives of well-loved pets that were unintended side effects of the mortgage crisis created by the humans in their lives.
“How did you know which cats were available?” I asked.
“You need to ask the attendants,” she said.  “They will know which animals are available for adoption.”
With this new information, I quickly returned to the cattery to find an attendant. Of course, once again I passed through the building where the large dogs were kept.  Again I stopped at kennel 80 to check on the Rottweiler.  Again she studiously ignored me, even when I sat down on the concrete walkway, putting my feet into the gutter, trying to meet her at eye level.
However, the greeting from cage 83 was even more vigorous than before.  I was treated to pirouettes and graceful, arching leaps.  I passed quickly by, trying to ignore him the way the Rottie ignored me.
As I started to leave, a volunteer came through the building on her way to the cat ward. 
“You work here?” I asked the obvious, pointing to the identity tag on her blue scrubs.
“Yes,” was all she said.
“The cats,” I asked, pointing to the cages.  “Can I take the momma home with me?  You know this one with the kittens?”
The volunteer looked at the cage to which I was pointing and quickly averted her eyes.
“No, we are not fostering any more mothers with kittens,” she said.  “We have too many now and no homes for them to go to when they are weaned.”
“But the mothers?” I asked.
She gave me the death look.  Saying nothing, she turned to cage 107 that held the black kitten.  She ran her fingers over the bars; the kitten scampered up to her and then bolted to the back of the cage when the volunteer stretched her fingers inside to stroke her.
“See this kitten?” she asked.  “She’s the cutest one I have.”
I nodded, but stood next to the cage with the momma and babies.
“Not much chance of her getting adopted, though,” she continued.
“Why not?” I asked.
“’Cause she’s black,” the volunteer said, looking hard at the kitten.  “A lot of people who come to this shelter are afraid of black cats.  Stupid superstitions!”
“Crazy,” I said.  But it wasn’t the first time I had heard this statement.  It was echoed throughout all the adoption agencies.  Black cats were hard to place because people feared bad luck.
I joined the volunteer at the cage and also ran my fingers across the cage.  The kitten skipped up to me and then rubbed her face along the cage for me.
“Can I hold her?” I asked.
Shaking her head, the volunteer told me that it was against shelter policy to allow animals to “bond” with potential owners until the day they became available.

That was it!  I found my anger beginning to boil over.  The whole atmosphere of the pound was getting to me.  I bolted from the room; adoption was out of the question!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

CHAPTER ONE (Cont’d) THE DECISION—PANIC IN THE CATTERY (7th installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(7th installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

So, it was with a large helping of trepidation that I went to the shelter.  I was giving myself one last chance to find an animal that would have no other chance if I did not step in and adopt.  I steeled myself against the pain of seeing so many hopeless animals at the end of their sad lives, animals I knew would be gone in two or three days—put to death to ease the over-crowding.
My original intent was to go directly to the cat ward, but it had been moved to the far end of the facility through a maze of dog kennels. As I tried to find my way, I ended up going through the large-dog kennel: the last place I wanted to see. 
As I hurried down the aisle of the large-dog kennel, I saw a Rottweiler sprawled on the floor, her head resting on the elevated curb separating her inside cage from the outdoor run.  Her breathing was labored, her eyes droopy.  My heart stopped.  How could anyone leave such a beautiful dog to suffer like this?  I literally skidded to a stop and backed up to her cage.  Without thinking, I called to her and tried to connect.  There was no way I was leaving that dog in that kennel to suffer.  If she made even one positive move toward me, I was taking her home. But she needed to make the first move. 
Rottweilers are a special breed of dog.  They are a working breed and, as such, are very tuned in to their owners’ needs and expectations.  However, the owners must be calm and assertive, not cruel or unpredictable.  If a Rottie is exposed to cruel or unpredictable behavior as they are maturing, they will become aggressive.  They are animals that quickly learn patterns and will adapt to whatever they believe is expected of them.    Temperament is everything to a Rottweiler.  I would not intercede on behalf of a dog that was not stable.
I stood at her cage and waited.  She looked at me but did not get up. 
“Hey, sweetie girl,” I said.  “How did you get here to this place?”
She looked at me but quickly looked away.
“Can you come here, girl?” I asked.  “Come here, sweetie.  Let me look at you.”
She made eye contact but still did not respond.  There was no aggression in her eyes, but there was no willingness to connect either.  I waited a few minutes, hoping she would be curious enough to come to me.  Instead, she stood up and moved to her outside dog run.  I heard her began to cough.  Her coughs racked her body so hard she almost collapsed.  Nonetheless, her body language was clear: “Leave me alone.”
I moved on down the aisle, trying not to look at the dogs.  But three cages down, in kennel number 83, a scruffy golden retriever mix threw himself on the chain-link gate to his cage.  He was all happy grins and wags, inviting me to stop.  I spoke briefly to him, sending him into spasms of joy; he was jumping up and down and twirling like a dervish.  But my heart was not bent by his demonstrations of affection.  I was on a mission to find a cat.  With not so much as a backward glance, I left the building and found the cattery.
Inside the cat ward the cages were stacked three high with kittens crying for their mothers, older house cats lying calmly waiting for their owners to return, and the feral cats caught only to be discarded at the pound.  Too many cats and kittens pressed their needs against my psyche.  I almost bolted from the room.  How could I find just one kitten or cat out of all these creatures that needed someone to care for it?  How could I pass by the older cats whose owners no longer wanted them or, worse yet, had lost their own homes and now could not keep their companion cats in newly rented apartments?  And the kittens: there were so many kittens.  Some were sick with eyes running with greenish pus.  Others were barely old enough to be without their mothers, getting thinner and thinner because they could not eat the dry food they were offered.  Some cages held the newly abandoned babies.  It was easy to tell which ones had just come into the shelter.  They were the ones who cried piteously at the cage door and reached through the bars to grab at whoever walked by.
I did a quick turn around the room, my eyes searching for just the right one.  Was it the gray-and-white kitten newly deposited in its cage, the one that reached through the bars and grabbed at my sleeve?  Was it the black baby with the impish copper eyes who skittered up to the cage door, then pranced away arching her back as she went?  Or should I take the beautiful calico momma with the litter of three identical calico daughters?  Would they let me take her and foster the babies?
Panic finally overtook me.  Gasping for air I rushed from the building.  Inadvertently I again passed through the large-breed kennel area.  As I passed by kennel 83, the same scruffy golden retriever mix began his tail-wagging.  I dragged my fingers across the chain-link fence and was rewarded with a quick swipe of his tongue and a laugh in his eyes.  I hurried past, not wanting to look too closely at the dog, afraid of what I would see in his eyes.  I did stop briefly at the Rottweiler’s cage hoping she would respond to me. 

She was again lying inside, sprawled on her side.  Her only response was a few more coughs and brief eye contact, but no wag of her stumpy tail.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

SCRUGGS and SAMANTHA CHAPTER ONE THE DECISION--LOOKING FOR LOVE (6TH installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(6TH installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

In the beginning, it was not love at first sight—not at that place and definitely not “him.”  The hole in my heart and in my life had grown larger than the Grand Canyon.  My marriage was stagnant; my love for practicing law had waned; and my home felt empty, even unsafe.  In my mind, God had deserted me, and I needed to fill the void in my heart and find the peace I needed.  But I was not looking for “him.”
Death hung over my house for too long, and grief was beyond me.  I could not cry over the loss of my family or my animals.  I was too afraid to let the tears roll, too afraid to allow myself to feel and find all the cracks in my armor. 
With all the emptiness in my life I developed a crazy idea that if I saved the life of an animal I might save my own, too.  My hemorrhaging heart needed something to stop the bleeding.  However, with the death of our eleven-year-old Rottweiler, Alice, Prince Charming and I had promised ourselves no more dogs.  Losing them was too hard and too painful, leaving us feeling too empty.  Even our two remaining large dogs, the full-blooded Rottweiler named Tara, and the Rottweiler mix we called Fina, were grieving.  Alice had been their pack leader, and Cosmo had been Fina’s special companion; thus, their absence disrupted even our animals’ lives.  It was for them, as much as it was for myself, that I was set out on my quest to find a companion cat to complete my dog’s life.  Besides, one cat was just not enough in our large house.
I made the rounds of cat adoptions at PetSmart and PetCo.  There were plenty of beautiful, well-socialized cats, but my timing was never right to find the appropriate cat for my household of dogs.  The rescue organizations were reluctant to allow their cats to go to a home with the two big dogs, and they turned a deaf ear to my protestations that my dogs were raised with cats.  Tara, at 116 pounds, was an intimidating force, but her heart was gentle and her demeanor loving.  Our eleven-year-old cat, Caesar, had raised her, teaching her the rhythms of our household.  Even when I explained that Fina, a rescue from the streets, was mourning the loss of her companion cat, the presence of the two large dogs, Rottweilers at that, was enough to send shudders of fear through the volunteers.  No cat was allowed to go home with Tara and Fina in our house.
That was how I ended up at the Pomona Valley Humane Society on a hot summer day. I forced myself to walk through the aisles of cages.   This was the last place I wanted to be.
The Pomona Valley Humane Society in Pomona, California, was located at the base of a large hill, known in town as “Elephant Hill.”  The facility was tucked in an old industrial area, fronted by the wreckage of the former General Dynamics Plant, with the Pomona Police Department’s firing range hovering over it.  During the Cold War Pomona had grown prosperous with the munitions and missile manufacturing plants centralized in the city.  People had come from all over the country to settle in the city with its postwar housing.  But with glasnost came the closure of the plants and the buildings.  In its wake were neighborhoods known for Mexican gang activity.  Up the road from the shelter and down the highway was “Sin Town,” the first area built just after World War II.  The name “Sin Town” was the nomenclature given to it by the local police agencies patrolling the area because of its drug dealers, semi-retired prostitutes, and black gang members.  Across Highway 71 was an area heavily populated with recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America, both legal and illegal.  Signage in the surrounding area was rendered predominantly in Spanish.  It seemed to be expected that the current residents prefer Spanish and that the rest of us are semi-fluent.  In other words, the Pomona Valley Humane Society was not one of the better addresses in the city.

Worse yet, the animals coming to the shelter have suffered as much as their prior owners.  They suffer from malnutrition, lack of medical care and, more importantly, have little or no hope of leaving their environment alive.  Disease, neglect, and abandonment come in large helpings to these animals.  Happy endings are few and far between.  The only saving grace is a large staff of volunteers who try as hard as they can to make the final days of these discarded animals as pleasant as possible.  The cages are cleaned several times a day and food from local donations are plentiful. The animals have fresh water and clean bedding. Unfortunately, there are just too many animals and too few people who want them.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


 (5TH installment)

The one remaining constant that still gave me comfort was my gadabout, handsome, silver-and-white tabby cat, Cosmo.  He took time out of his daily visits throughout the neighborhood to walk me to my car and then escort me into the house at night.  He never missed those duties.  He was my sentinel watching my comings and goings.
But one night I came home there was no Cosmo running out from the bushes to greet me at the door; he had not even escorted me to my car when I had left three hours earlier.  When he had missed both duties, I was worried.  I even took time to walk up and down the street to call for him.  The more I called the more silent the night became.  No answering “meooowww” came lilting from some neighbor’s yard.  By the time I came through the front door, I was shaking with dread.
“He’s not coming back,” I said, as I came into the den to find my husband reading.
“Who’s not coming back?”
            “Cosmo.  He’s gone.  I know it.  He’s just not coming back.”
            My husband looked up from the newspaper he was reading, leveling his long-eyed stare through his reading glasses at me, not focusing on my face, only my words.
            “You don’t know that,” he said, rattling the paper, bending back to his reading.
            I felt my eyes squint into my own slant-eyed stare, the one I used more and more frequently when in the company of my Prince Charming.  Anger built at the dismissive way he had ended the conversation.  But, more than that, despair again washed over me at the thought of Cosmo not coming back.  The despair, however, was quickly replaced with a building rage.
            “Of course I know that,” I snapped.  “He didn’t come out to greet me, and he didn’t answer my call.”
            A heavy sigh emerged from my husband and there was a short rattle of the paper. “You know Cosmo,” he said.  “He’s the ‘Dude.’  He’ll come home when he wants.”
            Before I could choke it back I felt my own sigh escape my lungs.  I wanted to argue.  I wanted to scream at Prince Charming and tell him he was wrong.  Instead, I crushed my hands to the sides of my head, hoping to subdue the throbbing pain building behind my eyes.        
“Please let me be wrong this time,” I prayed.  “Please, God, let Cosmo come home.”
But God did not hear my prayer.  Cosmo, my independent, handsome tabby cat never came home.  I searched and prayed and looked some more, but he was never found.  It was the final blow to my charmed life.  His leaving took my faith, my trust, my love, and my sense of me.  I was truly lost.

So this is where the story of Scruggs and Samantha begins.  It begins at the end of me. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


 (4rd installment)

As a new year rolled around, the losses kept on coming, only this time they were close to my heart.  In January my thirteen-year-old cat disappeared, snatched by a coyote off the front steps of our house, leaving only her torn collar and her blood at my door.  In February my former mother-in-law, paternal grandmother to my grown daughters, died, devastating them both.  In March, another cat disappeared; he just never came home.
In April my mother’s long battle with her health entered its final stages.  She stopped eating, and she faded before my eyes.  My father’s grief and panic were palpable.  His tearful phone calls telling me the “end is near” caused me to burn up the freeways between Diamond Bar and Long Beach.  I could cover the forty-three miles in less than forty minutes, even though a third of the way was surface streets.  And yet, for all the times I raced down the freeways to be with my mother and father at the end of her life, I wasn’t there for them when she passed.  I was frozen in place, unable to drive, unable to think.  It was only the call from my daughter telling me that her grandfather would not let the funeral home take my mother’s body until I arrived that finally forced me to move.
As I traversed the freeways to be at my mother’s bedside that final time, I questioned my reason for practicing law.  Was it really my passion or just something I had learned to do very well because it made her and my father proud?  Was I now free to follow my own path without her judgment?  With my mother’s death, thoughts I had never allowed to be credible began to take shape.  But, with my grief, I stuffed those thoughts back down and soldiered on to fill the void in my father’s life.
But as my mother died, so too did my trust of the motives of other human beings.  I had been formed by my mother’s pride but also her judgment.  In the end, I had failed her, but that failure was not mine alone.  I blamed my father for making my mother die in a nursing home instead of her own bed.  My emotions made no logical sense but, nonetheless, those emotions ruled my actions and my attitudes.  I no longer trusted myself or my ability to solve the problems of the world.  I began to judge my prince by my own failings and found him wanting.  I wanted him to “be there” for me, but I had no idea where “there” was.  How could I trust him to care for me if I wasn’t there for my own mother?  How could I trust any man when my own father, who had loved my mother all of his life, cast my mother aside to die in a facility?
I railed at God. “How could you abandon me?  How can I endure this pain?  Are you really there?” 
I somnambulated through my life.  Gone was my sense of humor and my compassion for others.  I was wrapped in a cocoon of grief and seclusion.  A “Do Not Disturb” sign was firmly planted on my soul.  The prince was not allowed in, but it was the death of his beloved Rottweiler, Alice, that closed his door to me.
Alice was clearly my husband’s dog.  She had adopted him years earlier, and her eyes were only for him.  She was his companion in everything he did. She slept on the floor next to him and kept him company at night after I had gone to bed.   One day she just lay down and didn’t get up.  It was my husband who carried her to the car; he held her in his lap as I drove to the animal hospital.  When the vet gave us the news she was dying of cancer, it was my husband who quietly told the vet, “End it now. Don’t let her suffer.”  He held her mighty head, pressing his cheek next to hers as the fatal dose of medicine was given, gathering her body in his arms as she took her final breath.  Then he silently took her collar and tag, leaving the office without a word.  At home he cracked open a bottle of vodka, picked a lemon from the tree the two of them had planted together those many years before, and then he watched the sunset, just as he and Alice had done so many times before.
No words were spoken between us that night.  His grief was too heavy to support words of any kind.  Thus, his silence joined mine.  Communication between us died.  The grief in our house seemed too thick for any marriage to survive.  The nightly ghosts gathered around us, each pressing their haunting on our psyches.  The distance between us grew into an un-crossable chasm.
Failure, guilt, anger, loss, and grief were the primary emotions filling my life.   I was too numb to love. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015


(3RD  installment)

As my life spiraled out of control, my faith in God began to waiver.  No matter how much I told myself that God only tests us to the point of our endurance, I was convinced He had taken me beyond that point, and I was afraid I couldn’t find my way back.  Anger at God, and an overwhelming disappointment in his majesty, mounted with my losses.  Even solace in prayer eluded me.
I sank deeper into despair as my losses were measured in the prolonged illnesses and then deaths of family members, trials lost, clients sentenced to prison, and finally the disappearances and deaths of beloved animals.  For eighteen months the losses overwhelmed me. 
First, my mother, who was my best friend, suffered a stroke and was hospitalized.  This was after she had recovered from a broken knee, then a broken hip and eventual hip replacement followed by a knee replacement.  She had been in and out of hospitals for more than two and a half years and confined a wheelchair for most of that time.  The stroke and heart attack were just layers of pain my father had suffered; he despaired at the physical and then mental decline of the woman he had loved for more than sixty years.  It was only after the stroke that my father finally had to make the devastating decision to find a long-term care facility for my mother.  She was destined to live out her final days among strangers, away from the man she had loved for the majority of her life.
My father was not the only one destroyed by my mother’s declining health.  I had long ago promised my mother that I would never let her languish in a nursing home.  But I couldn’t keep that promise; I lived on the other side of the county, too far away from my father for my mother’s comfort.  So, for more than a year I carried the guilt of failing my mother in her time of need.  She died in a bed that was not her own.
But during the time my mother was hospitalized I suffered a failure of confidence in my ability as a lawyer.  I lost three trials I thought I should have won, blaming myself instead of the facts presented to the jury.  The comforting words of my husband/partner were lost on me when he told me my client’s guilt was unavoidable.  My ego was either too large or too fragile to hear his words.
Then, my physical health began to fail in the winter of that year.  I became ill with pneumonia then pleurisy.  The illnesses sent me to the hospital.  For six weeks I should have been too weak to work, but I kept up the pretense of health by working and then collapsing at home, giving off an air of indifference to hide my weakened physical state.  That summer I went under the knife for a surgery that was more complicated than expected, and three weeks later I was back under the surgeon’s knife.  For more than three months I was virtually unable to walk, much less drag a briefcase.  Worst of all, my memory was severely affected by post-anesthesia dementia, leaving me worse than useless in the law practice.

With the loss of the trials, my health destroyed, and my confidence in tatters, I was unable to communicate with my prince.  I shut him out of my life; my sense of loss was too personal to share with anyone, especially someone I admired and aspired to emulate.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


(2ND installment)

Sometimes a story begins long before the characters are aware they are involved in a life-altering experience.  So it is with the story of Scruggs and Samantha. 
Long before they came into my life to alter its trajectory, events were happening around me foreshadowing the possibility of a sad end to my fairytale Cinderella marriage to my Prince Charming.  Maybe then, a short history of my Cinderella story will help you understand how life can get in the way of happy endings.
My Prince Charming came to me when I was in my late thirties, my children mostly raised and gone.  He came in the guise of a handsome criminal defense lawyer, and I was a prosecutor.
Like the plot of most love stories, we were separated by the demands of our professions. But, even though we came from opposite sides of the criminal justice system, the sparks flew between us.  We couldn’t help ourselves, though both of us were reticent at first to cross the professional lines of prosecutor and defense lawyer.
We were lucky; my fairy godmother came in the guise of a nosy supervisor who noticed the sparks between the prince and me whenever we met at the counsel table.  Had she not mentioned it to me, I never would have had the courage to cross the courtroom and ask him to lunch.
Once started, the trajectory of our love affair was virtually a straight line from our first date.  Within a year I joined his defense firm, and within a year after that we were married.  Our life was the perfect modern-day Cinderella and Prince Charming marriage.  Our love was conceived in respect, nurtured by trust, and cemented with communication.  With little or no effort I became the perfect New Millennium Cinderella with a successful marriage; a flourishing law practice; a home filled with animals and love; and, best of all, I had a perfect husband who asked only that I love him.
But life is not simple, even for Prince Charming and Cinderella.  There is a toll extracted with the passage of time.  Marriage partners grow and evolve, interests change, and emotional and physical challenges become like grit in a gearbox, all of it making it harder for the partners to balance the demands of their professional lives with their families and their own needs.  Sometimes things slip quietly away—no one even aware they are gone until it is too late.
Seventeen years into my perfect marriage and partnership, everything began to slip away as our lives began to spiral out of control.  I lost my way as a criminal defense lawyer, and my confidence was in tatters—the price paid for too many losses.  My prince’s strong body began fail, his spine destroyed from too many landings and take-offs from carriers during his reckless youth as a Navy fighter pilot.  Then, I lost too many who were close to me, leading me to shut out of my life the man I loved most—afraid I would lose him, too, if I loved him too much.  In return, I became invisible to my Prince Charming. 

It wasn’t his fault.  I shut him out, refusing to speak of the unbearable pain I was suffering.  Nothing had prepared me to face the horrible emotional and physical toll that was extracted during a time when so many were taken from me.  Talking about my pain only made it worse, so silence became my refuge.