It’s a Dog’s Life

Dog at the KerbWe mourn each passing stage of our children’s lives because we know that those years are gone forever and with them disappears the beauty of perfect innocence. We console ourselves that the next stage of growing up will bring with it many new discoveries and joys.

That’s why we get our children a dog. If you have ever lived through the life of a dog you know that its lifespan of ten to fifteen years is equivalent to the period of innocence of a child growing up.

Our little puppy was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and she shook with fear just being looked at. But soon enough she began to play and bounce around and attempt a funny little growl.

In no time, she was house-trained and allowed to sleep in the bed with our little girl. They would dream together of running in summer fields, jumping to catch the dandelion clocks in that momentary wind. Breathless in their love for each other.

Then coming home from school to a dog who’s so excited, she’s left a puddle on the floor but no one minds a bit. And someone slipping a piece of chicken under the dining table, claiming that it fell off her plate.

The excitement of Santa Claus, still real for now­—but time is running out. And the dog sleeping guard under the Christmas tree, protecting the presents according to our little girl. But we knew it was the smell of peanut brittle and candy canes, too much for any dog to resist.

As our girl runs faster, the dog runs faster too, even though our dog’s legs are aching and old and now she dreams of puppy days, long ago when her best friend was a toddler who danced for the first time not long after she learned to walk and Mummy cried.

Our little dog doesn’t look much older, even though her fur is greying and her best friend has grown so tall. But she’s still as excited as she always was when our girl comes home, like it’s the first time she has ever seen her.

And then the emptiness begins, like shredding old photographs and we know that soon the time will come when both our girls will be gone. One gone to the world of grown-ups and the age of lost innocence. The other gone back to those fields, running in the sun with our baby daughter, with all the energy in the world. Gone to the endless fields where one day we hope to meet again and run together for all eternity.

Because it’s a dog’s life.

Magical Thinking

115451191My Mum always said that everything happens for a reason. But she also said that God helps those who help themselves. And things would get better when her boat comes in.

Somewhere in that magical thinking was a clue as to why things happened. If things happened for a reason, I looked to find a connection. If God helps those who help themselves, I constantly searched for ways to help my Mum. And though I prayed for it, her boat never did come in. In the end, I believed that it was all down to me. Things happened because of me.

When Mum told me that my little foster brother would have to leave forever, I wondered if I had done something terribly wrong. After all, he was only four years old and we had been together since he was a newborn baby. He slept in my room and we played Lego together, always making a pirate ship that would sail away to far-off places in search of buried treasure.

We packed his meager things in two plastic bags. There wasn’t much. His Puff the Magic Dragon record, the Lego and his Sippy cup. And beside the two plastic bags was Little Bear. My brother liked to take care of that worn out teddy, the way four year olds do.

He wouldn’t eat his oatmeal for breakfast that morning. Wouldn’t drink his milk. He knew that something was wrong when we folded up his blankets on his tiny bed for the last time. And we hugged him so much more than usual on that dark morning.

Mum said I was not to cry when they came for him. She said it would upset him to see his older brother cry and he wouldn’t understand. So I held it in as long as I could. So did my Mum.

He screamed when they pulled him out of my Mum’s arms and he screamed all the way down the pathway to the waiting car. But I couldn’t hear him scream after they closed the car door. All I could see was his tiny face, pressed against the window in desperate agony.

I knew I had to have done something wrong, something that made it so that everyone around me would leave. My Dad, my Nana, my brother, all gone. Everything happens for a reason and I was the reason. I had done something very, very wrong.

I held the tears in until I could hide under the blanket in my bed that night. And I pressed my hands over my ears so that I couldn’t hear my mother sobbing in the next room.

I know now that some things do happen because I make them happen. But I cannot change things that are outside of my control. I also realize that believing that things only happen because of me is an emotional reasoning that has nothing to do with reality.

And thirty years later, when I met the man who once was my little brother, he still loved me.

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