I was told this week by someone I was close to that my teasing had been hurting their feelings. I was so surprised and felt very badly about it. It had never occurred to me, that I was being insensitive or mean. I was very hurt.

Part of it I think, is because of the families we grow up in. Maybe this person’s family didn’t tease often or in the same way that mine does.  In my family, we are always gently poking fun at each other and teasing. If it ever did hurt, we let the other know right away, and they wouldn’t do it again. But I don’t remember that ever being a problem.

The boys, Dad and Chris, are especially big on teasing and even good-natured name calling when in competition with each other. They love jeering and laughing…all in fun. For example “My grandma could do that better in her sleep!!!” All silly…all teasing…all in fun.

Mom is one of the best sports I know. She pokes fun at herself all the time…including her hearing loss and balance problems. She doesn’t cry or become embarrassed when she doesn’t hear something or stumbles because of her balance. She’ll laugh at herself, which makes us feel like we can laugh WITH her. I have always admired this about my mom. When she mishears something, (and sometimes she can be really OFF on what she hears), she is always the one to lead the laughing. She lets herself kindly and lovingly be teased. And I consider her a sensitive person…but not in a defensive way.

Everyone in my family has learned there is a time to tease. For instance, if mom is treated like she is a lesser person because of her hearing loss at some meeting or errand, we don’t laugh. We try to comfort and are righteously angry on her behalf. If I mess up in front of people while giving some sort of small speech, they won’t laugh. They will comfort and hug.

But we’ve all learned to laugh at the small mistakes and to tease each other. This situation with this person has taught me to be careful with who I tease or how I do it. (For example, teasing over instant messaging may not be the best, since there is no facial expression or voice). I can’t expect everyone to be like my family, and they know me better than anyone.  They know the way I tease and how I mean it. It has also made me appreciate my Mom, who can laugh at the things that happen with her hearing loss and balance, and in doing so, she creates an atmosphere of cheerfulness… not depression. She is amazing and I really admire her.

Kyersten Portis

Family Dog

So today Mom went to look at a dog we may get. A fourth dog! Wow!

He’ll be filling a hole we haven’t had since our dog Max passed away…the Family Dog. Chloe is mom’s hearing assistance dog, my two dogs are, well, my two dogs…the Family Dog has a special place in the family. He gets the attention of four of us, rather than just mostly from the one owner. The Family Dog is usually more spoiled and more cuddled. He is special.

Whether this one ends up being the Family Dog or not, I’m not sure. But we need one. It may seem funny saying the house feels empty without the Family Dog with three other dogs, three cats, and a bird wandering the house. But it does feel strangely like something is missing.

Despite my excitement at hearing about a possible new addition to our furry family members group, I ended up sitting down on the floor and crying. (Sitting on the floor certainly looks more pitiful when you are crying, but in this case I was merely sitting on the floor because my water bed has a hole in it. Every time I sit on it, it spits out water. Then that would make me laugh and when you are trying to have a good cry, you certainly do not want to be laughing.)

Talking about getting a new Family Dog made the loss of our old Family Dog, Max. I honestly can barely remember NOT having Max. He was with me more of my life than not. He was always there to cuddle, to talk to, to play with, and was always the loyal friend. He was with me as other animals and people passed in and out of my life. Constant. Loyal.

So many people think it is silly to mourn a pet. I never thought it was. After all, I am with my dogs more than I am relatives or friends. (Not to say I love my animals more than my relatives…but I certainly would rather be with my dogs than most of my relatives. Ahem.)

Also, I think you form a different kind of bond with something that is dependent on you. Especially with dogs…you ARE their world. (Cats…well, you are their cook. ) Max adored his family….oftentimes he would just sit and stare at us lovingly. You could almost see him thinking “awww, this is my pack!” He would also follow us around constantly. If he was a person, he would be a Stalker. But since he is an animal, he was just loyal.

I miss Max. This new Family Dog, if we get him, will never fill the role Max did…not the same way. This dog will have his own personality and way of filling the role, but it will still be a special bond, an animal that is part of the family, interwoven into the family, giving us all someone in common.

I look forward to hearing the shouts about the house again: “It’s your dog too! YOU let him outside! It’s your turn!”

Kyersten Portis