Sunday, November 28, 2010

Magic Wand Anyone?

I hope the shock on my face wasn't projected through the room when I saw her.  

Always a strong woman, for as small as she is, she always seemed larger than life.  A free spirit who lived, it seemed to a degree, by the seat of her pants and was the epitome of "just do it."  It is only recently that I realized that I am taller than she.  In my head, her presence, her strength, she was always so ...


Just a few weeks ago, she was in a bed just a few doors down from the one she is in now.  But she was still that tremendous presence. The laughter rang through the room as we all talked about so much.  It was only a small set back.  Easy to overcome and be back, larger than life in a short jiffy.

Today, I was shocked at  how pale, how fragile, how frail she looked.  I could look past the drug haze, but still, the reality of the situation was palpably clear.  She was Pale. Fragile. Frail.


I didn't feel this with my own father.  I watched him whither down to nothing, but it still felt as though I were an outsider.  Someone allowed in on occasion, but not truly intimately involved in the process known as dying.  That was mostly my own doing, and I blame no one else for that.  

Now....  now I am intimately involved.  Two women that I hold in the highest of esteem are hurting, each in their own way.  I step up.  I give a hug.  I listen.  I engage.  

I hurt. 

Do I have a right to hurt?    Do I have a right to feel this badly?   She is not my mother.  

But she is someone who means as much to me as a mother could.  And in many ways, more than my own mother.  Over many years, she has hugged me, kissed me, confided in me, and listened to me.  We have laughed and cried together.  Shared and complained together. 

And my dear, dear friend; her daughter... how she hurts.  She has been there for me in my worst hours.  Do I have the courage, the strength and the stamina to be there for her?

I have always admired the relationship the two of them have had.   It is a mother daughter relationship, but it is also a true friendship.  I have watched them laugh together, cry together, and stand solemnly together.  

As the reality of the closeness of the future becomes clear, the hurt grows.

The pain exists on so many levels.  So much left to do.  So much left to see.  So much left to explore.  So much left to be a part of.

So much left that will not be gotten to.

It hurts to see the pain.  I want to wrap my arms around them  and make it all go away.  I want to say that there will be that one more thing that can be done.  I want to come up with the magical answer that turns everything around.  

I want the pain to stop for all.

But no matter how much I hold either of them.  No matter what research I do.  No matter how many stones I try to look under.  The magical answer isn't there.

Goodbye is all that is left.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guardian Angel

"I am taking you somewhere very important,"  I told her.

Her soulful eyes regarded me with interest, but I wasn't sure she understood.

"I have a job for you.  I don't know if you are able to do it, but it is a huge responsibility.  I am entrusting you with someone who needs you desperately."

Still, she looked at me.  I wasn't sure my message was getting through, but I had to trust, somehow, she understood.

Loneliness eats up a person.  Days on end of staring out a window, shuffling to the refrigerator for a glass of water, and sitting back down to stare out the window; they take their toll. 

Not too long ago, the days had more meaning, more purpose.   They had a reason for getting out of bed.  Someone to take care of, some reason to make sure the blinds were opened.   A way to guarantee that she was up and moving, if for nothing more than to open the door a few times a day.   There was a constant companion to listen to the worries, the concerns, the joys and the stories, day in and day out.  There was a shadow from room to room.  There was a presence in the middle of the night that said, you are not alone. 

There was a guardian angel in the room.

But after 15 years of being a guardian angel, the body could no longer do the job that it seemed she was set on this earth to do. 

Dogs don't live as long as we.... don't ever live as long as we ever need them to.   It is a reality we who live with and love dogs realize at some point in our shared existence.

And so goodbye must be said. 

And for one, lonely days begin.  No, not completely alone.  Plenty of others check in and check on her.  Bring meals, offer days out, but at night, there is no one left to say goodnight to.

But she did anyway.... to the empty room.  Every night, she spoke aloud to the guardian angel whose presence could not be seen anymore, only felt.  And every morning, she awoke to an empty room, an empty house.

As I drove, I was hoping fervently that this new dog soul could live up to the responsibility I was giving to her.  I had looked and looked and looked for one to take the job, but somehow, none reached out and grabbed me.  Oh to be sure, plenty tugged at my heartstrings.  But none spoke to me.  I felt I was pushing too hard to find the right one, so I stopped looking.   And when I did, Mandy came along.

A tentative soul, she is soft and gentle and kind.  A kind of mirthfulness is hinted at in her eyes, but she is steady and caring.  Anything I asked, she agreed to do.  She showed me strength in character, and I threw up a silent prayer that she is the right one.

That she is the new guardian angel.

It is a lofty job.  A hard job.  One fraught with responsibility. And reward.

And so we arrived.  She settled in as if she had come home from a short trip out on the town.  She toured the place, took in all of it's nooks and crannies.  She greeted all who were there to meet her as if they were all long lost friends.  It was kisses and wags all around for everyone. 

Small tests happened and nothing phased her.  This seemingly tentative soul couldn't be rattled by a shaken garbage bag, an electric lift chair, a knock at the door, a child on the floor, or music from an electronic keyboard.   She was steady and solid.

And so, after some time in the day had passed, she and I ventured outside together.  She had already explored the yard, but this was our heart to heart time. 

She regarded me curiously this time as I asked her if she understood now what she was here for.  I asked her if she understood just how important the job was.  I asked her if all we had been talking about made sense to her.

 With a tail wag, she gave me a very clear response: "I got this."

And so we left them alone. 

Evening came.    Several trips outside, and one evening meal had come and gone.  A check in was in order.

A visit on the pretense of leaving a dessert afforded a view of the settled scene.  Mandy was content, laying on the dog bed in the middle of the living room floor, much as the previous guardian had done.  From there, there is an excellent view of the chair, the door, the kitchen and the bedroom entrance, nearly all of the house, except the bathroom.  She would get up and seek out attention, soak it in and give it back ten fold.  Then take her post once again.  When her charge got up to go to the bathroom, Mandy watched from her post as her charge went down the hall.  But Mandy was not content to remain in an out of sight post.  Instead, after a few moments, she dutifully got up and sauntered down the hallway to confirm that all was in order and ok, in spite of anothers presence, fully willing and able to give attention and love.  She couldn't be distracted at that time. 

She had a job to do.

She's got this.