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May 25, 2007 / allyo

The long journey to goodbye

When someone you love starts showing their age, it can be unsettling. Even knowing everyone’s time here is limited, seeing that fact manifest itself in greying hair or a hesitant gait is an unwelcome reminder. You start to think about saying goodbye, even if that goodbye is in all likelihood still years away.

Then you move from being slightly unsettled to it becoming a part of your reality. It’s like living with someone with chronic pain – I knew growing up there were times when my grandma needed an arm or a hand to steady herself. When she was dealing with an RA flare-up our lives had a slower pace and a different rhythm. So too, when someone ages, your interactions change according to their limitations. This can go on almost indefinitely, and it becomes almost comfortable with time.

Finally, it becomes clear that the end is approaching with ever increasing speed. Maybe it’s still a couple years away, maybe more, but still it can’t be denied. Interactions take on more meaning, and that future goodbye echoes in your head, over and over.

Even when it’s a beloved pet, I’ve found, this is the progression. Mad Dog’s been steeling himself for Cory’s eventual passing for a long time, much longer than me. I laughed at him for years but recently we had a conversation about what we’d do if we woke up one morning and he had gone. That’s what we’ve always hoped for since he’s been insanely healthy, but now, things have changed a bit. He has a problem, and at first the vet was 100% positive about treating it. But drug therapy has shifted into surgery and consultation with a specialist, and finally, silence. It’s been over a week since MD talked to him last and I’m starting to wonder if there’s bad news coming. So now we’ve talked about what happens if we have to put him to sleep. And we both wonder if it’s coming sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Cory continues to be under our feet at every opportunity, to steal food from high atop counters or straight out of Jamie’s hands, and we yell at him and pet him (his fur, once a delightful silky soft pelt is dry and brittle) and snuggle with him as much as he’ll let us. He’s still more akin to a cat than a dog when it comes to affection and it’s on his terms or not at all. And as the days slip by, I’ve stopped thinking in terms of years, or months, and am just living in the present.

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