More than a month has passed since the summer solstice. Daylight is officially narrowing and the universe is whispering, c a r p e d i e m ! Time is in full throttle fast forward mode, and I’m over here looking for the pause button to take a closer look. I’m doing my best to taste it all, but new courses keep coming as I’m still blowing on my first bite, waiting for it to cool. There’s another four-top and the waiter is itching to clear the table, but I’m still working on my plate. It’s like I’m in a store and the salesperson keeps peppering me with questions: What are you looking for? I’m just looking, I insist. Can’t I just look? Evidently there isn’t time. Days fly by and big things keep happening.
A few months ago, I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of my dog’s limbs flailing and her writhing on the floor beside my bed. After an interminable who knows how many seconds, she stopped and stood up, drunk and disoriented. I carried my 62-pound girl down the 22 stairs, and once outside, she slowly returned to normal, clueless as to what had happened. She did her business and we went back to bed. The next morning our vet ordered labs to check kidney and liver levels and sent me away with the name of a neurologist we should see just in case.
A couple of hours after we got home it happened again, this time more violent, scarier and for longer. She frothed at the mouth, writhed frantically and then stopped, eyes blank, staring ahead. You’d swear she was gone, but in the seconds that followed, she was back, soaked in her own froth, but back nonetheless. I was hysterical on the phone with our vet who explained that two or more seizures in 24 hours are cluster seizures, and we need to get to the neurologist now. So off we went just as rush hour began to form, up I-285 to an animal hospital called Blue Pearl. Whomever named the place did a great job, as I had beautiful pictures in my head, as if we were driving to Oz, heaven or even just a soothing spa for the infirmed.
Once there, I was still a tear stained mess, but the hospital was comforting and matter of fact; we were just another routine check in, another dog who would stay the night, another owner who would pay in the thousands. I said my goodbyes in her crate, climbing in and lying next to her, and was reassured to see a beautiful lab just across the aisle also with an IV in his arm, calmly hunkered down for the night. Nothing else for them to do but lie down and stare at each other across the aisle. Like leaving your child at college for the first time and finding you like his roommate. The lab’s sweet face also helped drown out the sorrowful moans of the dog three crates down, who was either in crazy pain, scared or just terribly missing its person.
This same week was graduation week and the next two days buzzed with my son’s pre-graduation party, high school graduation and family dinner after. I wanted to get fully lost in the happy celebrations, but I kept one foot back at Blue Pearl thinking of Lucie, whom I assumed gave similar thought to this sudden and worrisome turn of events. My sister reminded me she’s a dog and doesn’t ruminate like her owner does, which helped. The hospital began their tests, first a CAT scan, then a spinal to detect inflammation (aka cancer), coupled with a complete neurological workup. After an interminable day and a half wait, I got the call: no tumor, no cancer, and instead the best possible diagnosis we could hope for (and highly unlikely per our vet and the neurologists): late onset epilepsy which requires twice daily medication. We dodged a bullet. Big exhale.
As if overnight, though, she is aging. Her haunches don’t have the range they once did, and at bedtime I hear her sighing trying to get comfortable. She still smiles big toothy smiles and gives us kisses, and whenever she hears keys, she’s up by the door ready for a car ride. Her smile says thank you, I love you to the moon and back, and never says I’m in pain, I’m sad or disappointed.
After graduation we migrated to Jekyll Island, Ga. for my husband’s annual conference there. It’s our annual happy place, a free mini 3-day vacation which ushers summer in. I got the email one night as we were driving home from dinner, that my mom’s twin brother in California died. Alzheimer’s. The car was loud with post dinner chatter, but as I read the email my aunt sent about my Uncle Pete, I wished for a phone call instead, something more personal. I sent flowers to my aunt and cards to each of my cousins. Even though I rarely saw them on the west coast, a door I wasn’t ready to close had closed on its own.
Speaking of doors, last month I came home to our back door kicked open, cats missing, drawers flung open and an empty spot on my dresser where my jewelry box sat. They only took my jewelry box and thankfully the pieces I wear most were hidden elsewhere. But still, the guy who kicked in our door and splintered our 150+ year molding is now carrying my memories of which he has no clue the sentimental value. My mom’s sterling charm bracelet held loads of charms among them three silver placards each bearing her children’s names in script, James, Anne and Susan. There was a lobster charm because she grew up on the north shore and a cocktail shaker too, because who doesn’t love a good cocktail? My bracelet had fewer charms which included a Christmas tree, a heart locket and a church with a small hole in the steeple. If you held it up to the light you could read the ten commandments inside. Thou Shalt Not Steal, remember that one?
July arrived and brought a big dose of happy travel and new experiences. Seventeen days in Portugal and Spain put life as we knew it on hold, giving me that pause button I’d been looking for. We covered lots of ground, walked cobblestone streets, ate new foods and I spoke loads of Spanish. I’ve tried to record it, jotting down menu items we loved and taking pictures. Mostly, though, I’ll remember being together all that time, navigating brand new places and while not loving every minute of every day, loving that each was chock full of new memories in the making.
The playful whir of baccalaureate, graduation and travel have long passed, replaced by the important work of college class registration, tuition payments and soccer and high school details. Long languid summer days at the pool or grilling outside haven’t yet started and they just might get skipped this year. But the birds are singing loudly all day long, the squirrels aren’t stealing the tomatoes ripening on the vine and if that alone isn’t cause for celebration, the lighting bugs put on a Disney-worthy show each night, filling the yard with twinkling stars.
Tomorrow my younger son starts 11thgrade. In two weeks, I’ll leave to drive my older one to college, climbing up a half dozen states to New York to settle him in. I can’t predict how it will all go, how life’s new normal will be, and I’ll admit sometimes I worry. I guess that comes with the territory. But I can say how grateful I am for all of it, for these precious creatures I’m with.