The house is so quiet. I can almost feel the sensation of an empty nest. What is the opposite of a sense memory? Maybe a sense prediction? The boys’ grandparents (Nana and Opa) just left this morning after a cruise to Alaska, during which they let us temporarily adopt their two dogs for twelve days. The boys were in heaven. Chris considered it to be good practice for when we again become a dog-centric family. I viewed it as a challenge, as there would now be six males in the house with me. Let me preface by saying that we adore these dogs. Chris and I have known Archie, a little, squat, chestnut-colored Chihuahua, from way back. Back when we were just an “Us” and not an “All Of Us”; back when dinosaurs roamed the earth; and back when Republicans still tripped up the stairs of Air Force One. Arch is sweet and spry, and selectively deaf and proud of it, as any 98-year-old has the right to be. He takes a variety of vitamins and medicines depending on which body part might be acting up at the time (again, much like any other 98-year-old). His brother (no shared DNA, picture Devito and Schwarzenegger in Twins) is Beaux (pronounced “Bo”, not “Buicks” as Alex at first thought when he read the name). He is a leggy white, miniature poodle with tons of energy and very little brain. The two together are like the canine version of the odd couple…they seem to complement each other perfectly except when they’re not. (Hmmmm, kind of like every married couple I know.) So it was with great anticipation and trepidation sixteen days ago that I received training on the care and maintenance of these pups. Nana handed me three pages that included their itinerary (the humans’, not the dogs’), a detailed list of instruction on the dogs’ routines and meds, and an informal DNR for Archie (Yikes!). Luckily, we did not have to make any end of life decisions. Everything went quite smoothly except that first day. Beaux had some serious separation anxiety. He whimpered and shook for a good twenty minutes. I believe his heart is significantly larger than his brain, poor guy.
Anyway, change is tough…no matter how you dice it. It requires us to alter the grooves in our vinyl. For those of you that aren’t familiar with vinyl, or rotary phones, or Republicans in the white house for that matter, vinyl is the stuff they made records out of in “olden” times. The records had grooves in concentric circles, and the needle on a record player would follow those grooves around and around to play an old and familiar tune. To alter those grooves would be to change the tune entirely. So, it was, that we made every effort to comfort Beaux and give him as many of the routines that he was accustomed to in order to keep his grooves the same and to let him know that this change would not destroy him. Sure enough, we all made it through. Nana and Opa had a great trip; Archie didn’t die (whew!); the boys got practice in the art and maintenance of canines again; and Chris and I didn’t kill each other. (Don’t be alarmed regarding that last bit, it is just that I have learned to set reasonable goals when it comes to our relationship.) Mission accomplished!
This morning, the dogs and Nana and Opa packed up and headed home. After they pulled away Zach and Sam went bouncing into the house to finish getting ready for school, but I stayed outside with Alex. He had turned away, but his shoulders were shaking ever so slightly and I knew his eyes were filled with tears. I wrapped my arms around him, so he could bury his face against me. He said, “I feel the way Beaux did when they went to the airport….like his heart was breaking and he couldn’t stop the whimpers.” Saying goodbye is so hard. It’s one of the biggest changes we endure. To have something in your grasp, then to have to let it go…is so difficult to bear. But Alex saw how his heart ached just like Beaux’s, and he knew he had to simply feel that and move forward. I was teaching them the meaning of the word empathy the other night. Zach said it is kind of like sympathy, but not exactly. I said that was right. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, but empathy is feeling sorry and truly understanding the pain they feel. Those sneaky life lessons are everywhere, as long as we keep our hearts open to them. Who knew my little tornado middle child, the one we once called Benito for his Mussolini ways, would wind up being such a sensitive pup. I dare say more change is coming for us…middle school is here, and the rocky terrain of adolescence is just around the bend. I only hope I can embrace it with as much heart and hope as my nine-year old.
Much Love to All,