Monday, April 30, 2012

Thank you

A very heartfelt thank you to everyone who emailed or commented condolences for our little dog, Max.  We are all handling it in different ways, but each of us seems to be doing the best we can.

I wish I could write a light-hearted post and get back to normal today, but I just don’t have it in me so you’ll have to bear with me.  Without sounding overly dramatic and for fear of coming across as the crazy cat (or dog) lady, I will try very hard not to dwell on our loss; but this is by far one of the toughest things I have had to go through in my adult life.

I’ve certainly lost others--my grandparents most significantly—but Max’s passing has stirred feelings that I don’t recall having with those other deaths.  Maybe it’s because he was a dependent of mine and although we adopted him as an adult, I still feel like I have let him down in some way.

I will say that I have a renewed sense of family and purpose.  With my sleepless nights and stressful days this last weekend, I should be feeling grumpy and tired.  Instead, there is a fire in my belly.  I have more patience with the children, ordinary moments have seemed more extraordinary, and perhaps most significant I now understand that these times, these days, these small frustrations--dirt, mess, toys on the floor, tiny underpants to wash, stickers on the chairs, crayons spilled in the playroom—these are what I will miss the most when the children are gone.  I know this because our house is just a little bit neater without Max’s presence and I would give everything I own for him to come back and mess it up again.

I can’t tell what’s running through Marshall’s head, but I can assure everyone that he is getting a lot of extra attention.  He seems to still be looking for Max, particularly when the family arrives home after an outing—I would guess he thinks we’ve brought Max home with us.  To watch that hopefulness in his eyes and wagging tail followed by a realization that we are one dog short feels like I am reliving my own acceptance time and time again.  It is brutal.  But I am so very thankful that he is still with us, easing us into this transition with his boundless energy and sweet, dirty face.

It's hard to see, but Frances surrounded Marshall with all of her friends, including her treasured baby, when we left the house this morning for our errands.  She didn't want him to be lonely without Max.

I’ll close with an excerpt from an old Erma Bombeck column that is certain to make any parent tear up, and I’m so sorry for that.  But as you all know, sometimes you just need a good cry and on this particular rainy Monday afternoon I couldn’t need it more.

An Erma Bombeck Column:
A young mother writes: "I know you've written before about the empty-nest syndrome -- that lonely period after the children are grown and gone. Right now, I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry and muddy boots. The baby is teething; the boys are fighting. My husband just called and said to eat without him, and I fell off my diet. Lay it on me again, will you?"

One of these days, you'll shout, "Why don't you kids grow up and act your age!"
And they will.

Or, "You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do ... and don't slam the door!"
And they won't.

You'll straighten up the boys' bedroom neat and tidy -- bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you'll say out loud, "Now I want it to stay this way."
And it will.

You'll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn't been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you'll say, "Now, there's a meal for company."
And you'll eat it alone.

You'll say: "I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?" And you'll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti.
No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms.
No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps.
No more clothespins under the sofa.
No more playpens to arrange a room around.
No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent.
No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathrooms.
No more iron-on patches, wet, knotted shoestrings, tight boots, or rubber bands for ponytails.
A lipstick with a point on it. No baby sitter for New Year's Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn't ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.
No PTA meetings.
No car pools.
No blaring radios.
No one washing her hair at 11 o'clock at night.
Having your own roll of Scotch tape.
Think about it.
No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste.
No more sloppy oatmeal kisses.
No more tooth fairy.
No giggles in the dark.
No knees to heal, no responsibility.
Only a voice crying, "Why don't you grow up?"
and the silence echoing, "I did."

I’ll be back to my old self very soon, I promise!


  1. Lucy, I'm sure you've had a lot of articles thrown your way, but did you see this one from the Washington Post: "The death of a pet can hurt as much as the loss of a relative."

    It rang true for me and many, many others!

    1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much for sending that to me - what a great article. I don't feel quite so strange now for my periodic crying throughout the day today. I'm sending this on to my family, too!

    2. You should let yourself feel those feelings! It's very healthy. I'm glad the article helps.

      I lost one of my two childhood cats, Buffy, 13 years ago. He died of congestive heart failure. I will never forget that night and coming home from the emergency vet--without Buffy--staring blankly at an episode of ER. If I hear someone mention that TV show, I think of Buffy!

      I lost my other cat, Reggie, two years after that. He and I were best buds--the strongest bond I've ever felt with an animal. He was diagnosed with diabetes a few years prior, so it wasn't a complete shock when things went downhill. We decided to give him peace when things became bad. I was in the room, and if I think about his final moments, to this day I need a few minutes to let myself tear up, then collect myself.

      Animals are there for you in a special way, different from humans. I'm so, so glad this article can give you some comfort. Max is the luckiest dog in the world to be missed by such wonderful people like you and your family! You gave him so much love!!

      All that is to say, I know how you feel. Here's a virtual hug!

  2. I meant to comment on your initial post, but I am, as usual, a day late and a dollar short.

    I'm so sorry for all of you. I know how much you love ALL of your babies and it makes me sad to think that you guys are hurting. I feel sure that little Max felt your love every single day of his life, but most especially at the end.

    I know you'll find a way to get through this, hard as it is, while celebrating Max and his life and everything he was to each of you. Take care and know that I'm thinking of you all.