When you just let loose of where you’ve been
and you start looking forward to where you are going,
everything will break loose for you. – Abraham-Hicks
Time has ceased
But cherished memories still linger
This is the way of life and all things
We shall meet again
You are only sleeping.
―José N. Harris, Mi Vida
Last weekend, we put our sweet dog, Alja, to sleep forever. The one I always called Monkey Dog because she was always jumping and playing and doing something silly, who was so alive and conscious. She heard planes go overhead and would watch them go. You could see her nose follow the path. She greeted everyone like they were her best friend that she hadn’t seen them for years, even if she had never met them. She was smart. She understood “squirrel” and “fox” just by the tone of our voices. Spelling didn’t work. She would jump up at the first “S”.
When we picked her out at the breeders, she was so small you could have held her in one hand. The breeder wanted us to get to know her while she was still in her family but I couldn’t go at the time, so Wolfgang would go alone and she would stumble over to him and fall asleep between his feet, full of trust and love. When we brought her home, she fit on a quarter of the blanket we had bought. When she was full grown, she was too big for the blanket.
When we were renovating this house, I was here alone with her and wanted to go back to Frankfurt after having done some work and she sat at the top of the stairs to the door and wouldn’t come. She had decided that this was home. She will always be a part of this house to me.
When we went hiking in the mountains, she was always climbing up high rocks and trying to pull ahead. Her joy and excitement were catching. It made the hard work less hard. Walking in the woods here near the house with her was one of the joys of my life. She seemed so alert and engaged. It was having a real companion on the way.
She was always my husband’s dog really. I took an “Animal Communicator” course just to see what might be possible and another participant in the course who tried to contact her said that she asked Alja who her favorite playmate was and she saw “some guy,” she said and seemed upset. She expected another dog. But I knew that Alja’s favorite playmate was my husband. He would lay on the floor and she would try to get the ball away from him. She never tired of that game.
But she and I had a special relationship. In the house, I always talked to her like she would understand. Somehow it felt like she did. People say that dogs don’t understand. That they just hear blah, blah, blah, treat! blah, blah, blah, walk! But that’s not how it felt to me with her. She seemed to know and sympathize.
Two and a half years ago she started to get sick and my life went on hold. The doctor had an idea what was making her sick but he wasn’t really sure so we tried lots of things. She would get better for awhile and then it would be worse again. So we would try something else. She lost muscle mass, she became incontinent. We tried something else. That really didn’t work either and she became blind. And the loss of muscle mass accelerated.
Three weeks ago, I stayed home with her while my husband went sailing to get his sailing certificate. We had planned to put her in a pension and I would go with him but she was just too fragile to give to anyone else. We had the feeling she wouldn’t live out the week. And I was tested for the first time in my life. My whole day was wrapped around her, getting her out to pee every two hours all through the day and night, getting her food, making sure she was ok. The bond between us deepened in a way I can’t really describe. And her condition improved at least some. We started to hope that she was getting better.
Then last Friday when I was already in bed, she started bleeding from the nose and it wouldn’t stop. She was hemorrhaging. We have a very kind vet who came over at midnight and he said he believed the bleeding would not stop. It was too thin, not showing any signs of clotting and that she would probably bleed to death. So we helped her go. We held her in our arms as she took her last breath.
My house is empty and my heart is broken.
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
But she wasn’t around, and that’s the thing when your parents die, you feel like instead of going in to every fight with backup, you are going into every fight alone.
―Mitch Albom, For One More Day
On June 5, 2016, it will have been five years since my mother died. Somehow I feel like I never really grew up until she was gone. I feel now like I am walking a highwire without the net that I had always sensed beneath me, always took for granted without really noticing it was there. My father died when I was in my twenties and that was hard enough but my mother was there. Always. We fought, we bitched and sometimes I felt like she was the biggest pain – but she was always there.
I have to admit, I didn’t appreciate all she did for me when she was alive. I was too wrapped up in my own drama and my own story about what she “didn’t do” or “hadn’t done”. Now that she is gone, I think of so many things and I realize every day what my responsibility was in our relationship. I would so like to apologize for what I did, what I said, to tell her I am sorry I was such an ingrate, so unfeeling sometimes to the point where she said once that she was afraid of me. But I have only realized those things now because that net is gone and that feeling of vertigo is what makes me look in the first place.
My neighbor above me where I teach has a little boy, just under two years old. My neighbor is beautiful, intelligent and strong willed. She is over 30 and a therapist. She has always seemed to me to have everything going for her.-But I watch her struggle every day not to give in to her feelings of frustration, confusion and anger when her son doesn’t want to do what she would like him to do. He is a little ray of sunshine most of the time but she told me that last week he threw himself down in the middle of street screaming and beating his hands on the pavement. She wasn’t even sure why he did it. She had a look on her face I will never forget.
And I think of my mother, beautiful, intelligent and strong-willed and the mother of three children before she was 25 in an era where women were supposed to function regardless of what they were going through or how overwhelmed they felt. When I was five, my mother pushed my father to support her to finish her degree so that she could teach school. It was unusual at the time and I really see myself in that bull-headedness. I know that she “felt” better after she started teaching, more herself, more in control. And the money she made was used for us. It helped pay for all of our schooling and got everyone of us out of a financial disaster or two. Funny enough, I never saw that as an expression of her love. Not until she was gone. I never understood what money might mean to a depression baby, who had lived on the road during World War II because her father was a colonel in the army and they moved a lot. Now I know and it is too late to tell her.
I think of her every day. I miss her every day. For some things, there a no second chances. Take every chance you get to say I love you. Don’t wait.