Paying tribute to a friend
who knew you when . . .

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 9.36.41 AMSome things require you to take a moment. Learning that a friend had died meant doing just that: giving the news the time it deserved, the time it required, the time to remember and then say goodbye. A single column could never cover all the wonderful things about my friend, the things that made her become a person who helped others, who loved others, who made others laugh.  There aren’t enough words to describe what she meant
to her family and friends. But since words are what I do, and she and I both loved words, I offered some about my friend Rita Long Baker here.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer whose essays here are about her personal thoughts and adventures.
No reprints without permission. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

The veterinarian asked me to cook what?

I knew something was wrong when I walked in from a debate watch Monday night, and there was no pitter-patter of little feet at the door.  It has been years since my lovey, Desi, had not run to the door from whatever comfortable perch he had found to demand that I transition quickly from newsroom slave to his slave.

But I opened the door, and nothing happened. I called out. Nothing. My heart began to pound.

By the time I got to the stairs, he was coming down, quickly and quietly – not slow and tentatively. He was almost himself, except he didn’t bark. And he didn’t jump.

I kept an eye on him. I checked his food dish. I manipulated his four limbs and checked his stomach. Nothing bothered him. Well, except half-ass walks.

During a full week of fighting a virus that had me bed-ridden, his walks were more less walk and more stand. I could barely make it to the end of the block, so his beloved jaunts through the neighborhood had become bathroom breaks. It didn’t matter that we were doing them four times a day.  They were too short.

By Wednesday, he had decided he was sick of food. Even with a regular walks resumed, he still looked like he felt puny. He didn’t even wake me up in the mornings. He always would wake up before I did, eager to get out the door.

On Wednesday evening, he threw up while we were walking. He didn’t eat his dinner. Thursday, he ate only half his food. Early Friday morning, he threw up in the middle of the night.

So Friday morning, we walked down to the vet, where everyone, for just a minute, stopped working. They all love him art his vets. They know he’s the world’s best dog.

The vet checked his teeth, lymph nodes, chest, stomach. His temperature was normal. His reaction to being poked was normal. He was even bouncing around, tail wagging.

The doctor said it was probably something he ate. The doctor said that it might if, for two days, I cooked for him, something bland like boiled chicken and rice.

I just looked at her. Continue Reading

March Madness: Why I Root for Underdogs

I woke up early Thursday morning, headed to the computer and changed my NCAA bracket hours before the first tip-off. Rather than make mine match President Barack Obama’s or ask sports columnists for advice, I decided to play with my heart. After all, it’s only money.

I chose Princeton over Kentucky.

Princeton was this year’s Cornell on my bracket. A win for an academic powerhouse would prove something: that students can be athletes.

I chose Gonzaga over St. John’s because, well, I choose them every year. And they do not disappoint.

And I chose Oakland over Texas – even though I’ll be attending the Final Four with a best friend who is a Longhorn. (I don’t plan to let her see my bracket. It wasn’t about foolish loyalty. I reserve that for my alma mater, Carolina, who I just know is going to the championship game every year (although this year, just for the money, they fall to Syracuse in my bracket. I’ll never be so glad to be wrong).

Yes, I cheered for the little university just miles north of Detroit because I believe I believe in magic, miracles and Cinderella. And they almost proved me right. They gave the Texas players a run for their money at the end that left them losing by only 4 points.

That’s respectable for a Cinderella team that no one thought had a chance.

You always have a chance. Just ask Morehead State players who sent Lousville home.

Japanese tsunami follows first emotional one….

As I watch CNN coverage of the tsunami resulting from an 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit northern Japan, I am spreading my prayers between those impacted there and in Hawaii where the waves then headed – and with the families of two girls in Detroit.

Today, I am watching footage that seems to come from a movie – “The Day After Tomorrow,” “2012” – pick your disaster.

Last night, I got the call that put words in my head I can’t stop hearing:  My friend’s 14-year-old came home from school to tell her that a 15-year-old classmate had committed suicide.

15 years old.

Her teen got that news right after the news that another classmate, also 14, had run away with an older man – not a boy, not a classmate, but a man. And the teen’s mother had not even reported her missing.

What is happening to our children that their sadness so overwhelms them that they feel death or unspeakable risk is their only way out?

I don’t remember being particularly happy at 15; I didn’t like where I lived. I didn’t feel attractive, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t allowed to date (not for another three years).

But I knew that I was loved, and I enjoyed school and reading and all the activities I participated in during my years in school. I stayed too busy to think about being sad.

Even my parents’ divorce and the realization that I’d probably never see my father again wasn’t enough to take me off my path.

I never thought about quitting. I never, ever thought about dying. Or catching the first guy who could take me away from it all.

I’m praying for the people of northern Japan, where hundreds have died – and for the people of Hawaii who are battling the resulting tsunami.

But I’m also praying for three Detroit families: one who has lost a daughter, one who is missing a daughter and one whose daughter is grieving for people whose lives were so much sadder than hers.

  Continue Reading