So Long, Pluto

By one of those curious twists of the state of time, space, and matter, it seemed good in my eyes on Thursday night to seek the reliable shelter of a State Park, in which to interrupt my trajectory while hurtling across the awe-inspiring hugeness of the State of Texas.

A Texan went to visit Ireland.

He saw an Irish farmer out working in his potato field, got out of his rented Cadillac and approached the fellow, and hollered:

(Texas accent): Say, pal, is this your land?

The Irishman cuts the engine on his ancient tractor, removes his battered hat, scratches his balding red head, mops his pate with his tatty handkerchief, jams his hat back on.

(Irish accent, with pride):  Sure and it is, Mester.  Been in my family for a hunnerd years. (Beams, gap-toothed, at the Texan, who is now standing in the dirt road in his cowboy boots, dove-grey Western suit, string tie, rocking with his thumbs hooked over his tooled leather belt with its garish silver buckle.  Door of Cadillac stands open.)

Texan:  Why, that’s mighty fine, mighty fine.  How much land have you got, if you don’t mind my askin’ ? (Chews a toothpick)

Irishman, with pride:  No, I don’t mind a wee bit, sence you’re askin’.  You see that tree stump off there in the distance?  Why, our land goes all the way from that stump, back aways past the house and farmyard, barns, horse pasture, to that stoon fence, ye can just barely see it from here.  (Scratches head again.)

Texan:  I declare.  That’s a right purty leetle piece.  You know, Farmer, back in Texas where’n Ah come from, Ah kin git in mah truck an drahve from sunrise to sunset, and Ah will still be drahvin’ on mah own land.  (Air of superior self-satisfaction)

Irishman: (Shaking head sadly)  Ach!  I had a truck like that meself, once.

The twist of fate is made curious by a happenstance: the first Texas State Park I spied on my map happened to be full, but the sweet and adorable Mescalero Apache ranger at the park office told me that there was plenty of room at the next park down the road, which happened to be right down the road again from the famed McDonald Observatory, home of the second biggest and most scientifically unique telescope in the world.  Yowie zowie, I love space stuff!  And my knowledge base is terrible, so I got all hot and sweaty at the thought of increasing it in such a majestic way.

I scuttled down the ranchy road, reaching the park just about closing time.  Picked myself out a choice spot and settled in, nervous about the javelinas (pecaries, a nasty species of wild pig that stinks and had it in for dogs) and wild boars, that can tusk up a dog or small human faster than you can say “Old Yeller.”  We have seen a lot of their poop, fresh, in our campsite, and if they only come sniffing around of a night, that’s fine, as long as they respect the rules.

The next day I mounted Old Jenny and climbed up the twisty road to the Observatory.  They were having a program on Sun Spots, but since I regularly check the Solar Weather I wasn’t so interested in that.  I wanted Deep Space.  Wormholes, Dark Energy, you know, cool space stuff.  I wanted to see the giant telescopes, but the next available date is a couple of weeks from now and I don’t plan to be here then.  Plus it costs $115, which would be money well spent, but that’s a week’s worth of camping money, so.

But they have “Star Parties,” interpretive viewings of the heavens both aided by normal size telescopes, and with the naked eye, so that one comes away with greatly augmented knowledge of celestial bodies and visible galaxies and nebulae (one, beside the Milky Way: the Orion Nebula.  I was hoping to get a glimpse of the Horsehead Nebula, but you need a higher power telescope for that).

The McDonald Observatory is located on top of a mountain situated above the Sonoran Desert, and is one of the darkest places in the world (at night, and not a cave).  Thus, I was tremendously exited at the prospect of guided stargazing in that spectacular location.  I bought a ticket for $15 and returned to my campsite to do a bit of dog hair mitigation and await the appointed hour.

We got there early (“we,” unless otherwise noted, means my dog and I) and cooled our heels till show time.

Big tour buses pulled up.  I noted them, then blocked them out of my consciousness.

With the approach of show time, I took Atina out for a potty break and put her in the van, ignoring her rueful expression.  It’s tough being a dog.

When I entered the lobby my heart went splat on the floor, then went into a run of sinus tachycardia.  Panic attack. 

Hundreds of lovely young people wearing Texas Tech and University of Texas and Texas A&M sweatshirts milled and shouted in the lobby.

I bailed into the gift shop, which was geared toward children, with book after book after book on the constellations…fer krissake, how many books on the constellations do they need?

I perused the wall charts, the glow in the dark universes that I stuck on my erstwhile son’s ceiling, to give him something to do while he wasn’t sleeping….and noticed something odd.

There were only eight planets.

That is wrong.  There are nine.  Everyone knows there are nine planets!

Then I remembered: Pluto has been decommissioned as a planet, because it is made of frozen water and no rocks.  You have to be made of rocks to be a planet.

It’s not fair.  Other planets are made of weird shit, so why, after all this time, could they not make Pluto at least an HONORARY planet?

I bought a placemat of the Periodic Table, which has picked up a number of new elements since the last time I studied it, and bolted for my van.

The rest of the evening was devoted to doctoring my crushing panic attack.

It wasn’t merely the prospect of standing in loud lines with droves of college students.

It was the sudden realization that I, too, have been decommissioned, like Pluto, and for the same reason: lack of a solid core. 

In our last bitter conversation, my son made it clear that I am not the mother he wanted…or, in his opinion, needed.  He needed stability.  He needed a rock core, not just some object made of frozen gasses.

Pluto and I are no longer welcome in his universe.


Since I have cried all the way across the enormous state of Texas, I have very clean eyes.  It seems that tears do not simply run out.  The body just keeps making more.

And since my decommission I have had plenty of time to reflect on the universe of mistakes I have made in my life.  Mistake after mistake after mistake.

And all boiling down to what?

Well, at least I have money, for a couple more years, to pay my expenses.  That’s a plus.

See, me and Pluto just keep going around and around and around, but the end is interincluded in the beginning, so there is no getting off this particular merry-go-round.

So me and Pluto and Atina will go ’round until it all winds down and it’s time to bail out.  That’s what happens to stars before we blow up and become Something Else.

Leave a comment


  1. I thought they had since added Pluto back into the solar system.
    Somebody probably complained about it being named after a cartoon dog….which came first….the planet or the dog? LOL

  2. I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I liked it that way. There are so many things I never would have experienced if I had “stability”. I’m the same as an adult. I don’t like staying in one place for long. Life with a solid core sounds terribly dull and unsatisfying :). Maybe he’ll figure that out someday. I could argue if a person doesn’t make mistake after mistake after mistake, it’s because they aren’t living. I think we all deserve the opportunity to chase happiness and it’s rotten when other people poo-poo on that.

    • Bless you, oh my validating angel!

      I’ve tried to explain to him that there are different kinds of people in the world, and that’s a good thing; but he takes after his dad, who was traumatized for life because his family moved from one side of a small, small town to the other.

      Children are a vale of tears.

  3. I think that your grieving all across Texas is a very appropriate place to do it….it’s so bare and depressing, imo. Let the tears flow, for they must come and will nurture your next steps in life like rain does for plants, trees, flowers, etc. Now, for my honest opinion, that you didn’t even ask for: I’m quite sure that you raised your son to the best of your knowledge and abilities at the time, and loved him fiercely. His adult issues are his own and do not belong to you. It’s not like you abused him, for crying out loud. Regarding the whole moving around issue: some families move around, some don’t. My oldest son, who is autistic and ID/DD lived in 10 different homes as he was growing up, nine of them in the first 14 yrs. of his life. When he was two yrs old we moved three times in one year due to unforseen circumstances! As much as change is so very hard for him, he has never complained about it. Yes, he struggled with each move, but not too much more than any kid would. Millions of kids of military parents move frequently…sure, some don’t like it, but it’s just the way it is. Just because you moved around a lot, by need or choice, was not a “mistake” because you could have no idea how he’d feel about it later in life. So, I hope that you are able to let go of what he sees as your “mistakes”. We all make “mistakes” in parenting and all of life, for it is part of the learning process and none of us are perfect. There is a quote that says something like “people can only hurt you as much as you let them”. Now, there are certainly exceptions, but I think there is something to be learned from it in your situation. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be hurt, too, but I suggest that you do not need to allow it to continue to hurt you…the negative statements about your parenting and it’s effects on him. Of course, the loss of him in your life will remain hurtful…I just don’t want to think of you buying into his opinions and complaints and continuing to be hurt by them. I find myself, again, wondering if I should delete all this because you really didn’t ask for advice. But, I have gained some wisdom over the years through my own life experiences and training/experience in psychotherapy….sooooo, I offer that to you to do with as you choose. Take what you like and leave the rest. I simply care about you, my friend. Peace and Blessings to you, S

    • I really appreciate your input, Sara. I very much respect you and your perspectives on things.

      I have come to the same conclusion…his shit is his shit, and I need to come to a place of acceptance, because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

      When I wrote about my mistakes, I was thinking about mistakes I have made in my own life. Most of those were done in manic/hypomanic states, and I do own them anyway, even though they arose out of pathological states of warped perception.

      I can’t do anything to “get him back.” That ball is in his court now. I’m going on with my life, and I’ll do what makes me happy. I hope he will come around, as that would add greatly to my happiness, but I suspect he has gone over to the Dark Side of his father’s side of the family, who have always seen me as exotic and irresponsible, even though I shared the #1 spot in my Medical Scholars Program class with his father, was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, etc etc etc. So I managed to keep up despite the “disability” of coming from a background in the arts and especially of being a banjo player 😉

      So now I’m looking for a home base in the Southwest where I can enjoy peace and quiet, and continue my nomadic lifestyle while having perhaps a funky campground where I can have a “permanent address” with which to qualify for my mmj card. I’m in Arizona now, in a dreadful barren HOT place that looked good on the map…I am terribly heat intolerant. And I love the high desert, and this ain’t high…But the lovely thing about driving one’s house is that if you don’t like a place, you simply leave! Which is what I will do after I rest up, do the laundry, fill my fresh water jugs, and dump the waste water tanks. Then I’ll look for someplace better.

      Take care, Sara. You are a lovely person, and I’m honored to know you.

      • I have a great deal of respect for you, Laura, and admiration. You seem to face challenges head on until you get them worked out, you know yourself/your needs/strengths/weaknesses etc so well, you are true to yourself in your interactions w/ the world, and you often have a great humorous take on life. There’s more, but that’s a good start 😉 I’m wondering if you’re somewhere near Tucson now, since I think they have the warmest temps in the country right now. Godspeed in getting to the high desert, my friend.
        Thank you for your beautiful words about me…I am honored to know you as well. Peace and Blessings

    • Great comment.

  4. You most definitely have NOT been decommissioned. Not by God, not by us, not by your angry son. He needs to grow up. Yes, it’s hard to have a parent with a serious mental illness. Still, he’s not taking responsibility for his own behavior and its effect on you.

    • Thank you, Kitt. Yes, my son needs to grow up. But I’m not holding my breath. His father hasn’t grown up yet, and it’s been 25 years since we divorced.

      In many ways I have been decommissioned. I can’t work…at anything. I can never tell if I will be able to do anything at all on any particular day. I have my dog for company and to assure that I get a little exercise, and go outside several times a day. If not for that, I wouldn’t go outside. It would not occur to me.

      I can’t even volunteer, because I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to show up. Even my blog, I try to establish regular events, but days go by and I forget. I’m told by my shrink that this is all due to long-term brain illness causing cognitive damage. This is like having a nightmare and waking up to find it is true. So I went for cognitive testing, and voila, it is true.

      So not only have I lost my only child, I’ve lost my SELF, the one I worked so hard to become after getting off the streets. My new identity….disabled person who is incapable of even being a poster child..feh. Who needs it?

      • I, too, grieve my former self, but believe in spite of cognitive decline and inability to “produce” that I have a purpose, that I have value. Hard to adjust our expectations of ourselves when we once were high achievers. I know. I get it. Still, you simply have a NEW commission, a different commission. As you write when you can write, as you love Atina, as you reach out and support others when and how you can, you do that commission. God works through you.

  5. People come in all shapes and personalities. Grief takes its time. Sending you love. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Sigh….yes….hugs….one of these days I’m going to hunt you up and give you a proper hug.

      • The nearest UK airport is Teesside. But there aren’t a huge number of domestic flights into it these days. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go to Canada, which would be much easier for you – no flying necessary & it would be possible to keep Atina with you.

        • Sounds great! I’m in Arizona, right near the Grand Canyon now. If you could get to Canada and have a bit of time we could do some sight seeing. The Canadian Rockies are beautiful, British Columbia is stunning. Niagara Falls isn’t bad 😉

          • It all depends on when I get to go on the exchange we have with the Sisterhood of St John the Divine in Toronto. I think they have a holiday place in BC.

            • Oh cool! I have a very dear friend in Toronto who has had two more children since I last saw her. Wouldn’t that be great? I could meander in that direction, visiting friends as I go, stay with dear Shira Rahel Robin, and get to finally meet you! Just so it’s not in the winter. Similar latitude as you, tons of snow, yuck. I used to live across Lake Ontario from Toronto, in Rochester, NY. In fact, I have dear friends there who need visiting. So good to have my little home on wheels, I can go anywhere! I learned of a couple who traveled the entire world in their Land Rover, sleeping by the side of the road at night, for forty years, and finally the wife got cancer and died, but she wanted her husband not to stop traveling just because she was gone, so he still is, as far as I know. They got over oceans via freight liners. Very inspiring! I consider border crossings enough of a challenge, at least for now 😉


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