12 June 2009

Coming Around Again

I walked early under the Shadow of Death. It approached with the loss of my mother's parents, and again with the death of my father's dog. Just when I began to put it out of my mind the father of the girl next door was killed when a tractor-trailer jack-knifed into his car on a wet road. Then my own father died of a heart attack. I was twelve. Shortly after I turned thirteen, I was struck by a car and would not walk again for over six months. Then began a series of losses of relatives and friends such that by the time I graduated from college I felt weighed down by a burden of grief. I had a girlfriend, but she had doubts about spending her life with me. I just wasn't fun. I had become a serious young man.

So, I walked in the woods behind my childhood home. I stopped at the edge of a large pond (long since drained) and said goodbye to all the people I had lost. One by one, I let them go. I promised to visit them now and then, but I could no longer carry them with me. I had to take time to just enjoy being alive.

It worked. I later learned that my meditation was similar to one psychotherapists recommend for grief/depression that consists of putting all your losses or sad thoughts in a little boat on a river, and then letting it drift away with the flow.

The problem is that the river flows in a circle. Sooner or later, the boat comes around again to pick up another passenger. Until it's your turn to get in.

Now we're getting ready to euthanize our remaining dog, a Great Dane. She is old, arthritic, and suffering from laryngeal paralysis, which means her vocal folds snap shut when she gets hot, excited, or fearful, or whenever she walks more than a few steps. Which means she strains and wheezes and whistles to suck in air. Our vet said that if we don't euthanize her first, then a day will come when she will simply go into cyanosis (her tongue and mucuous membranes will turn blue from lack of oxygen), collapse, and die. For the first time in 31 years, the house will be empty when we come home.

The boat has picked up about a dozen people in the past few months, including my mother and many family friends of her generation. Now it's time for the dog. And next month, my childhood home. We will put it up for sale, because we don't want to be absentee landlords, and the neighbors were good to Mom. They deserve a new neighbor who will be good to them. And the house deserves an owner that will bring it out of the 1970s.

For the first time in 53 years I will be unable to visit the home I grew up in, except as a stranger who can only stand on the street and look at the outside, nostalgic for an interior that no longer exists. Indeed, I will help disassemble that interior by putting the contents into an estate sale.

Its OK, really. You get used to your griefs like you get used to your aches and pains. They recede into the background, and you can do what you want to do, and experience what you want to experience. Including joy, including elation. But every once in a while, something just yanks that background to the front.

We rented "My Dog Skip" from NetFlix and watched it the other day. At the end, well, oh s--t. We just cried.

1 comment:

motheramelia said...

Prayers ascending, Scooper. It looks like it will be soon time to set some more boats adrift, although you've certainly done that through your writing. I'm sorry for all your losses. May God's peace and joy accompany you and your wife through this.