Good Dog

My friend’s dog died two weeks ago.  He was one of my favorite dogs.  I met him a few years ago at a party I attended at my friend’s house.  I had a plate of food and sat down outside and there were at least twenty other party guests sitting around with a plate of food on their lap, but Cooper decided that he wanted to sit next to me.  He followed me all day long even though I never offered, or dropped, a bite of food.  I didn’t know it then, but we had just become friends.

Any time I went to my friends’ house after that, Cooper would follow me around and be so happy when I would pet him or pay attention to him.  He was a sweet bulldog and I’m so happy I got to know him.

I went to my friend’s house tonight after a fun night out on the town, and we were so full of our evening that I didn’t even absorb Cooper’s absence until I went into their living room, and it hit me so fully that he is gone.  I was misty-eyed as I remarked that it was so weird that Cooper wasn’t there, and my friend’s husband said: ‘here he is’, and pointed to the pretty box with his ashes.  I held the box for a while, even though I know Cooper’s soul isn’t in there, but I really felt that beautiful dog’s presence in the room with us.

There are very few times in one’s life that the feeling of unconditional love is encompassing, and tonight was one of those nights.  My friends said that Cooper’s spirit now lives on ‘Bulldog Island’.  When I was a child, and our dog had to be put down, my father told me that she went to live in the ‘happy hunting grounds’.

All I really know is that Cooper was a good dog, and he will be missed.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

On The Eve Of My Son’s 21st Birthday

Twenty-one years ago I was pregnant with my son.  I had wanted more children, but it didn’t work out that way.  I can still have a child, but wouldn’t want to.  It was a beautiful, balmy, late September day today, but it started out more overcast and muggy than it was twenty-one years ago.  It was sunny by this afternoon, and I decided to take a drive in the hills.  The leaves are just starting to turn, but the scenery was lovely anyway.

All those years ago I had woken up feeling fine, and had to run some errands.  My mother was staying with me at my apartment in Vernon, Vermont, to help out after my son’s birth.  I began feeling strange shortly after waking up, but thought it was just Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I went about my day, driving my mother into Brattleboro later that afternoon to do some grocery shopping.  While we were at the grocery store, I began feeling more odd and nauseated, but I didn’t feel like I was having contractions because I had some serious contractions the week before and gone to the hospital in the middle of the night where I was chided by the nurse on duty for not knowing false contractions from true ones.  If it were all happening again, I’d tell her what a stupid thing that was to say to someone who, a) never had a baby before, and 2) could have been in real labor regardless of what she thought.  I know she was just taking out her bad day on me, but I wish I had been more outspoken back then!

So, I reluctantly went to the hospital so that they could run a monitor strip on me to check contractions.  I got to the hospital around 5pm, and my mother and I were put in a room and the nurse on duty asked us if we wanted something to eat while we were waiting as it was dinner time.  I had some peanut butter crackers because I wasn’t feeling very well, but thought I should eat something, and my mother got a meal.  It was after 6pm by this time, and I was still waiting for the nurse to come and hook me up to the monitor when my water broke.  My mother started laughing as I blurted out “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”, while trying unsuccessfully to make it into the bathroom – as though I had an uncontrolled bladder issue…

The nurse came in moments later and said: “Well, you’re not going anywhere now!”  I got moved into a room in The Birthing Center, and I told my mother she could just take my car back to my apartment until I had the baby and would have my sister drive me back, but my mother no longer had her license and didn’t feel comfortable driving in the dark anyway.  My sister was living fairly close to the hospital so she was able to get Mom and have my brother-in-law bring her back to the apartment after my birth coach arrived.

My son’s dad was living in New Jersey during the week for work and told me he couldn’t get back until that Friday night or Saturday morning, and it was only Tuesday.  That was disappointing, but not really unexpected.  My birth coach, Ruth, was a friend I had known since college, and she had two teenaged girls and was probably the best person to have with me.  I had decided to forgo any drugs, and even an episiotomy.  (I’m just grateful being tied to a tree wasn’t still in vogue.)  I was determined to do everything ‘right’.  I ended up with forty-two stitches that my doctor said would have been less if I had let her do an episiotomy.  Lesson learned, doc!

Not to be too graphic, but my response to the more intense contractions was throwing up.  Ruth ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while I was resting, and I had to ask her to please chew some gum, or somehow get rid of the smell of peanut butter on her breath because it was making me more nauseated than I already was.

She laughed because I was worried about hurting her feelings.  At the height of contractions (nearing the, literally, eleventh hour of labor) I told Ruth that I didn’t think I could keep doing it, and to her great credit she didn’t laugh at me, or roll her eyes, but just squeezed my hand and told me that I could, in fact, see it through.  I didn’t freak out and scream like the clichéd ‘woman having a baby’ motif, but it was the hardest, most painful, experience I’ve ever endured.  After my doctor sewed me up I told her that I was never going to have another baby.  She said “If I had a nickel for every patient that said that, I could retire now!”

At 5:49am on September 26, 1990, I gave birth to an 8 lb.,1 oz., 19.5 inch long, beautiful boy.  He remains the absolute best thing I have done in my life, and I would do it all again.

I love you, my dear son, more than I have ever loved anyone else.  I am so happy I got to be your Mom.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Six and Four

That’s how old the boys are that I provide child care for occasionally, and spent my day with at a lake yesterday.  I used to watch them regularly but changed jobs last year.  The older boy was just two months old when I started the job.

My son was in full-blown adolescence then so it was perfect work for me to watch a child who needed and wanted me as my child was pulling away.  The difference between my son as a baby and the baby I was caring for was so stark.  I didn’t know a child could be so easy to care for.  My son’s pediatrician told me that my son was a ‘high need’ baby as I sat in his office back then, crying from lack of sleep and feeling so inadequate as a parent, and indeed, I was nursing him every two hours, which continued for seven months before he stopped nursing so voraciously, and he was colicky as well.  My mother came to help me during that time, while my son’s father was two states away at his job, coming back on weekends.  My son’s father and I weren’t happy as it was, and having a child only put more stress on our relationship.  We broke up and I moved out when our son turned a year old.

When my friend’s second boy was born, I began watching him at two weeks old, and he was an easy baby as well.  I loved caring for those boys.  It was so good for me because I wasn’t watching a whole group of children as I did when I worked at a daycare center, and I didn’t have twenty-four hour responsibility for them.

I still had parenting duties with my son, even though it wasn’t very joyful anymore, but I had enough positive experiences that dealing with my son’s adolescent angst and unpredictability was more manageable than it might have been.

I would give my son hugs and tell him that I loved him every day, as he stood there, arms by his side, at least allowing me to hug him briefly.  I would say that although he was rapidly changing, I was not, so it was going to take me far longer to adjust.  It was so painful for me to go from living with a boy who wanted to be with me, who called out to me several times a day that he loved me, who enjoyed spending time with me, to the stranger who I now occupied the same physical space with, but could hardly be further from emotionally.  Oh, and did I mention I was living with treatment-resistant depression, and I was a single parent?

I might have screwed up far more than I did with my son if it hadn’t been for my childcare job.  As the boys got older, they were somewhat in awe of my son, especially the older boy I watched.  When my son was there the older boy wanted to follow him around and it was sometimes a challenge to help my son have private space when the boys were with me.  I would usually see if my son could spend time with one of his friends during school vacations or days when I had the boys and my son was around.

I took those boys on many adventures during our days together, but our favorite pastime was finding cows.  I’d drive them to farms and we’d visit with cows and read books about cows, and while other animals were included, cows ruled.

I don’t think I could love those kids anymore if they were my own, and I’m so grateful when I get to watch them now.  The last few times I spent with them, the older boy has been questioning me about why they don’t see me that much.  I explained that I had another job, and they have school now, and days that I could see them their schedule and mine didn’t work that often.  He looked at me and said, “Well, we just don’t see you enough.”

So, I can’t get adult relationships right in my life, but I have a six year-old who knows how to work a room!  Yesterday before I left he hugged me and said “I just don’t want to let go.”  I said, “I know, me either!”  The younger boy and I have a happy, loving, and super fun connection too, but the older boy knows how to articulate what he’s feeling, and isn’t shy about telling me.

I have to figure out how to spend more time with them because they’re going to be seven and five in a few months, and the opportunities to spend significant time with them grows slimmer with each year.  While I so enjoy working with children, it can also be heart-wrenching.

I’ll be bringing my son back to college in a week, and he’ll be back home for Thanksgiving and his winter vacation, but he won’t be back next summer.  We know we love one another, and our bond is solid, but he’s a man now – no matter how much I wished to keep him a boy – and I feel the grief about losing him rising up all over again.  I don’t need to be consoled through platitudes or pity – not that anyone is trying to – but I do need a new purpose and I don’t know where to go or what to do yet.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

I Was In The Right Place, But It Must Have Been The Wrong Time

Right Place, Wrong Time, Dr. John (modified) lyrics

I went to karaoke last night and hung out with my fake boyfriend for a little while, which was great, but also put somewhat of a barrier between me and my regular crowd.  The bartender who’s usually there wasn’t because he and his wife just had a baby, and it altered the club’s dynamics.

He’s a somewhat gruff guy, but also a super sweetheart.  It’s interesting how I didn’t realize how fond I am of him, or how much he adds to club’s ambiance until he wasn’t there.  We’ve established more than a patron/bartender friendship from nights where I had my friends who run the karaoke drive me home, so we’d be the last ones there, and the bartender put me to work clearing tables on several occasions, and just hearing stories about every day events and observing personality quirks.

I played pool with my fake boyfriend, and danced a bit, and later we went to a nearby river that I was planning on going swimming in, but the bottom was mucky where it’s usually sand, so I ditched that idea and we just talked for a while.

He’s in that world-of-hurt place, and while I might provide an ego-boost because he knows how much I like him, it’s a ‘right fight, wrong arena’ deal.  I’m not going to be part of the fall-out.  I’ve seen pretty much all the dog and pony shows, and have no desire to be anyone’s re-bound.

And that’s what’s good about being older.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.