The Fragility of Life

Monday, January 11, 2010

I have moved my writing office from the carriage house to the dining room, where I can keep a close eye on Marge, our nearly 13-year-old mutt and love of our loves. We returned home from seeing IT'S COMPLICATED (which, btw, isn't) on Saturday evening, and fed our dogs as usual. I noticed Marge acting uncomfortably after dinner, unable to rest or relax. She then started trying to vomit, but couldn't. She kept looking at us, and then her stomach, and Gary, thankfully, immediately, called our vet, who told us to rush her to the ER. Prognosis after X-rays? Turned stomach. Potentially life-threatening. Surgery, a must. Chances of survival? 50-50.

Just that day, Marge had played with her sis (as we call Mable, our two-year-old Labradoodle/Beagle mix), and gone on a walk. She had barked at deer in the woods; she had played tug-of-war with me on her stretchy, PetSmart duck toy she'd gotten for Christmas.

And, now, here she was, a needle going into her paw, me whispering into the softest ear I've ever known, "Hold on. You're my best friend."

Gary and I didn't sleep that night. As midnight turned to three a.m., and still no update, I thought the worst. She was old; she's had so many issues of late.

It has been a brutal past year or so. My mom passed away of cancer in June, and now the other girl in my life was fighting for her life. Why would God take my two best friends so soon? How could he test me so harshly and frequently?

I write memoirs, where I spill the most intimate details of my life. But, on a daily basis, my laptop -- along with Gary -- are really two of the few who I feel comfortable sharing such information. I have lost so many, that I have become guarded. I worry that as soon as I become close to someone, I will lose him or her again.

My mom and Marge were two of the few I could talk to without fear, knowing I would receive unconditional love. Take that away, and what are we left with?

I cried all night, as I waited to hear from the vet, so hard that the bed shook, my stomach ached, and Gary repeated, "Come back to me. Come back to me."

And, slowly, I did. A piece of me -- a very selfish part -- wondered if it might be for the best if Marge simply passed. She does not have much time left. She is old. She will get sicker. Could I care for another person I loved so much, try to nurse them back to health, believe, hope, hug, kiss, cater to and cajole, knowing, truly, the eventual outcome?

I thought, at 4 in the morning, of the ultimate irony of the projects in which I am deeply involved right now: A memoir on my mother and Erma Bombeck, two of the greatest influences in my life, women who taught me the power of believing in yourself and the fact that laughter can buoy you through life's tragedies; and the anthology I am editing, a collection of essays from some of America's favorite humorists about their dogs (I'M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP!). The goal? To raise awareness and funds for strays/shelters/The Humane Society by making people laugh.

I thought of Marge fighting for her life, of how life can change so dramatically in the blink of an eye, of how we all must fight, every day, to survive.

That's when Gary leaned over to me, also unable to sleep, gauging my restlessness, and said, "Just think. Marge is getting the tummy tuck you never will."

And I started to laugh.

I shut my eyes and prayed for my mom to fly her ass to the ER. Stat! I told her I needed one of my best friends for just a little while longer. No matter how much caring I had to give. No matter how much time she had left. As long as Marge had the chance to be healthy again, I wanted her, those ears, those eyes. My feet were cold, dammit.

I learned from my mom -- a nurse and woman of great faith -- that is the nature of unconditional love.

You take the good with the bad. Death is simply a part of life. Only by risking your heart, your soul, can you find true love, true joy, true happiness.

And, then, as if on cue, Gary's cell rang. Marge had made it through surgery.

And, here she is, snoozing in front of me, sore, woozy, but resting.

When Marge catches me staring, her eyes widen, brighten, and her tail gives off a pathetic but telling thump, thump, thump.

She is home.

I remember what author, icon, and animal lover Rita Mae Brown told me when I sat next to her at an author's event in Charleston this fall. "Dogs don't know how much time they have left; they live in the moment. And what a blessing that is. Humans spend so much time fearing death, fearing the end, that we lose sight of the now, this very moment. If we could only be like dogs, even for a day."

I am trying to take her advice. No matter how much time Marge has, or I have, or any of us have, I plan to hit "Publish Post" on my blog, and then lay down beside her, to live in this moment, and whisper into her ear, "You're my best friend."

And I know, because it always happens, she will kiss me gently on the face, and I will sigh, and suddenly be centered, and somehow have, once again, the strength to take each day as it comes, to try and laugh, at least once a day, no matter how much my heart may be breaking.

13 Comments:

Blogger Beth said...

This is a truly lovely piece of writing, Wade. Live in the moment, indeed. Hug Marge for me.

January 11, 2010 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Blake said...

What a way to begin my day! Thank you Wade for once again telling from that deep heart and soul. And we forget to remember sometimes that living in the moment can be relearned.
So happy that Marge is with this world for a bit longer!

January 11, 2010 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger The Expatresse said...

What a lovely piece. I'm so glad all three of you are fine. Dogs are wondrous creatures.

January 11, 2010 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Penney said...

Oh, honey! I'm glad Marge made it through the surgery and will be with you a while longer. Dogs are so awesome, I still miss my Buck the Wonder Dog, and still sigh when I look at his picture. I have another dog now, Princess Jackie the Royal Manipulative Bitch, but they are all unique in their ability to love and make us love. Give her a snuggle for me.

January 11, 2010 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Peggy Leven said...

I held my breath until I read that Marge was back home. We are a veterinary family: husband's a vet, son in vet school, daughter a vet pharm rep... and we love our dogs. My german shorthair, Obie is 13, and i treasure each day as I lift her gently into my car as we go off to work. I have rugs all over the house to keep her from slipping and falling due to a degenerated spine. I give her soft beds everywhere to lay on and snuggle with her extra yardage of skin and body bumps and lumps. Her soulful eyes and slower movements remind me of her precious days left as a senior. Her raspy bark every morning as she slowly stretches to get up is unmatched, only by her missing teeth and bad breath. Nothing is better than an old dog! Love to you and Marge and may her recovery be uneventful! <3

January 11, 2010 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger bunny said...

I cried through those last two paragraphs...your story so hit home for me. Our oldest "dogter" just turned 13, as well. Savannah has suffered from diabetes for almost 4 years and the complications of the disease do nothing to aid her advancing age. Thanks for the reminder to live in the moment with her. Savannah and I send Marge a big lick and a hug!

January 11, 2010 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger dksbook said...

My spouse's dogter, who we found in a ditch on Christmas Eve in 2001 with 12 puppies and dreadful heartworms, died in late June last year. She walked down the stairs to greet mr. dks when he came home from work, and just lay down on the cool tile by the front door and died. We had her for 8 wonderful years, and she managed to raise a standard poodle pup (MY dogter) to the age of 6 months before she moved on to her heavenly pack. I miss her terribly, and Amelie, the poodle, visits her grave every day, just sitting there, breathing and blinking.

I am so glad you have Marge for a while longer. Rub her gently behind the ears from me and Amelie. I am sure Goldie has already whispered for her to take heart and recover because you and Gary still need her special kind of love.

January 11, 2010 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Dina said...

Oh Wade. I hope Marge sticks around for a little bit longer! Been pondering getting a dog. Now I know it's totally worth it.

Also, you make me cry and laugh, what a gift.

xxoo

January 11, 2010 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Shameless Agitator said...

Wade, your post brought tears to my eyes.

My first best-friend, Amber, died five days before my Grandma died, Christmas 2003. Katie died unexpectedly in February 2007, at the groomers. Two tiny boxes holding their ashes sit in a place of honor on my dresser.

Now I have Jezebel and Lily, sisters from different litters. They keep me sane, they are my angels.

You, Marge, Gary and Mable are all on my heart.

~Andrea

January 12, 2010 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Eileen said...

We lost our girl, a scottie dog, last year and it gutted me. I couldn't bear that she was gone. I will be keeping Marge in my thoughts and cheering her on to renewed health.

January 23, 2010 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger befit4life said...

What a touching reminder to live in the moment. Thanks Marge for being the vehicle to deliver such a powerful message.

Peace ~ Harmony ~ Well-Being

May 1, 2010 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Colleen Rae said...

Lovely words, Wade. Indeed, dogs and cats too live in the moment. We could emulate them for happiness. Glad Marge is on the mend.

May 4, 2010 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Sara Conrad said...

Hello Wade. I am currently waiting for the vet to come and let my girl dog (13.5 year old GSD)free. I have set the day aside to mourn and cry as much as I want. She stopped eating a couple of days ago and I know she has had enough. She has been the most excellent dog and I'm so glad that I was able to give her a good home after her original owners had to give her up. She has outlived two of her boy companions and several of her kitty cat friends too. Even though I'm making the right decision for her, it is heartbreaking beyond words.
Wishing you the same strength, for the days to come.
SaraC

May 11, 2010 at 8:10 AM  

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