Wednesday, August 30, 2006

lessons learned, and gunnar

Hello old friend, it's been awhile
All our old clothes are back in style
We went our separate ways, only to return
To face a lesson we failed to learn

We didn't understand the truth
We were blinded by the eyes of youth
But time kept on moving
And a change has come
You think that I don't know
Where you're coming from

But I feel just like you
And I cry just like you
But I heal just like you
And under my skin
I'm just like you

You gave your love and your innocence
And they took away your confidence
Well I'm not those women
And I'm not those men
Put your arms around me
I am your friend
--keb' mo'

every once in a great while i get nostalgic for people and places gone from my life. such moments don't happen often, which is probably best, since they're quite a distraction.

more often, i'm totally caught up in the moment. there are children to herd, meals to fix, meetings to make and deadlines to sweat. cumulatively, such things tend to overload my substandard wiring, causing me to spontaneously fall asleep on the couch.

occasionally, though, i have moments of clarity. such moments have power. the power to remind me that where i am is a far better place than where i was: geographically, as a human being, as a student of life. i know so much more than i once did; there are so many things i would do differently.

relationships that ended that need not have. angry words, angry silences. ducking responsibility, taking too much responsibility.

all leading inexorably to today, a time when that which i know disappears in the shadow of that which i don't. when so much has been determined and yet somehow so much is still undecided.

i don't know near enough to be making the important decisions i'm making for myself, for my family. but who else is gonna volunteer for the job? so decisions are made, actions are taken and reactions accumulate. layers of complexity intertwine, inextricably, weaving an indecipherable pattern.

last night i was tasked with ending my dog's life. it was an easy decision--gunnar, our old golden retriever, was desperately ill, and deteriorating quickly. he was in distress, and our options were all used up.

easy call...but not for me. someone led him into the exam room, and left us alone. he had no strength left in his legs, and, with me holding him, he slowly sank to the floor.

i talked, never above a whisper, because my voice wasn't working properly. he was listening, i know, because his blind old eyes widened when i asked if he wanted to go for a walk, or go for a ride, or go see raleigh-dog.

i thought back on the short arc of our 10 and a half years together, and reminded him of the times we went to the beach, to the park, the golf course. we reminisced about his first cross-country trip, from north carolina to portland, and our last, from north carolina to seattle.

i thanked him for being so good with our children...except when he ate their toys. i gave him a hard time about that. i reminded him about the little song he'd sing when he was waiting for me to get his breakfast and dinner.

his breathing slowed, and the vet asked if we were ready. we're ready, i told her, though i've never been less ready. for anything. i told gunnar he was okay, that he'd feel better soon.

the end was quick, peaceful. the vet spoke softly, i cried quietly. for half a moment i wanted to go with gunnar, wherever he was going. but that time will come, soon enough.

the vet said there are no right or wrong answers in situations like these. but i made a decision, and gunnar's life was over. what kind of friend am i? i don't know.

action, reaction. indecipherable complexity. there's something to be learned here.

if only i can figure out what it is.