Monday, April 22, 2013

The Age of...

I know I probably owe my recently demised Ashley a post of her own.  All the other dogs have gotten one in honor of their passing.  Yet, I find I can't quite bring myself to do it.  In part because I took this death hard and there is a lot of guilt involved.  Before Kelsey discovered Tum Tum, Ashley was her touchstone, so this felt different than even the pain of losing the others.  Since Noelle, our Dalmatian, picked on her (Ashley was part Pit Bull and could end a fight, but she rarely started one and never without some serious provocation), she lived upstairs much of her life to keep away from all that canine drama.  As a result, she and Kelsey comforted one another during Kelsey's tough early years dealing with her disease.  It was when I refused to let Kelsey take Ashley to her apartment that Tum Tum came into the picture.  Kelsey couldn't care for a dog, I knew - she could barely care for herself.  But, sometimes I wonder if I did any better for dear, sweet, loyal Ashley who, in the last moments of her life I found out had a mass in her stomach.  I had no idea and have to wonder now how much of the behavior I put down to Grumpy Old Dog Syndrome was really something else.

But, also because I figure people are just sick to death (pardon the sad pun) of those kinds of posts from me.  Sometimes I just think Kelsey opened up a vortex and people and pets have been sucked through it at an alarming rate ever since.  There seems to have just been so much loss in the last few years.   Yet, truth be told, I think it's just because I'm at That Age.  The age when my friends who are a little older are legitimately slowing down and when someone calls or emails and the conversation begins, "I've got some bad news..." you immediately wonder who it is.  And what it is:  cancer is a word that looms way too large in my vernacular these days.  Heart disease is not a rarity either.  It's still a tragic loss when a contemporary passes on, and we all shake our heads sadly and say they died too soon, but it is no longer the shocking rarity it was when we were in our 20's.  And that makes sense.  It's the law of averages.  A few years ago I realized the need to keep a stock of sympathy cards at the ready for my friends when their parents passed away.  Now I occasionally have to also use one for a friend or their spouse. That trend won't reverse with the passage of time.  It's just something I have to know and learn how to accept.  And, I have no doubt that I'm not the first person to grapple with feelings of both guilt and secret relief when they learn someone around their age has health problems and thinks, "Thank God I have my health."  For now anyway.  And that's also not going to go away as time marches cruelly on.

I admit I've struggled a little recently, my heart still tender from my friend's passing, a little rattled by the news that another friend had a mastectomy (although the post operative news is very good), and now the sudden goodbye to Ashley.  If this is what life is going to be like going forward, I thought to myself a time or two, what's the point?

On the flip side of the coin was a lovely family evening with two of my cousins and our spouses earlier in the week.  I don't get to see my mother's family often - although they were part of the draw to moving to this area - yet, I realize that every time I do I come away with a great, warm feeling that you would hope to associate with family.  They all have known one another all their lives, so they share common stories and experiences, yet they accept Greg and me like we are - well - family.  It's like curling up with a cozy blanket.  It's a comfortable feeling.

Then at the end of the week came my Lovely Philly Friend who was in town over the weekend and invited me to come with her, her husband and mother to the zoo, almost as if she somehow knew I needed a little rescuing.  I had to think about it for a few minutes since it involved recording the hockey game - which was being played a day later than scheduled in Boston after the city went through its own rather dramatic week.  But, I knew as soon as I pulled into the parking lot that I had made the right decision.  It was completely life affirming.  A crisp day that began with some random snow in the air, the animals were up and restless, but it wasn't overly crowded by the human animals.  It's hard to describe the magic of the zoo if you're not an animal lover. And maybe even if you are, because it can seem wrong and sometimes sad to see animals contained.  Yet, to have a beautiful animal walk up within a foot of you and the two of you share a moment, both safely contained from the other, well, it's hard to put a value on that.  And it happens so often at this particular zoo.  Tragedy happens there from time-to-time, but magic happens too.  A little like life.

So, after the see-saw emotions of the week settled in, I concluded that, for those of us on the latter half of our life's journey, we just have to take the joys that the world has when we get them and balance them against the sorrows that we now have to accept will come more frequently.  We have to be thankful that we've stuck around long enough to be at this point on the road and not waste moments of happiness when they cross our path.  In short, we have to live in the Age of Reason, not the Age of Fear.

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