Day 212 - Gidget.
I have had a lot of pets in my life. A lot. Hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, cats, dogs. Later in my life I have graduated to horses, chickens, ducks and goats.
I think for the most part, I have been a good pet owner. My animals longevity a testament to that. Most of my pets have made it to a ripe old age and have been taken care of in the end and not forced to suffer. Our pet traumas, thanks to my hyper vigilance, have been minimal.
Yesterday my son’s little dog died. He was distraught. I was distraught. His dad, my parents and my daughter were all distraught. It was a very sad day. No one knows what happened...when they went to bed together, she was fine. When they woke up, she was dead. She was older (despite my son’s refusal to believe or admit this) and she had some health problems. She had a seizure disorder also so I am sure that affected her, perhaps fatally. She was on a new diet and medicine so she was doing better. In the end, her death is a mystery.
As with all life, none of us know how much sand there is in our individual hour glasses. Hers apparently emptied yesterday. It comforts me to think of death like this. Like life is this sealed in piece of glass and our time here is preordained. I think the thought that it is all up to chance and circumstance is terrifying. I prefer to think of it as a preset thing. Something that no matter what we do, it is not alterable. When the last grain drops, so do we. A little macabre for a Monday but it is where I am.
Now that I have children old enough to have their own pets, it has been a whole different adventure. I am constantly trying to impart good animal care upon them when they are often distracted and can’t be bothered. I am here to fill in the gaps so it all works. One of my children does better than the other in this department.
What made yesterday even harder was my son’s reaction. He was incredibly upset for a little while then he just seemed to move on. He even stated that he was moving through the cycles of grief very quickly like checking some sort of box was required before he could begin the new dialogue he wanted to start...getting a new dog.
This was hard to hear. It was hard to listen to him go on and on about a new pet when the last one hadn’t even been gone a day. It was a multi-faceted issue: he is 14, he has autism and he is not a kid that is good at feeling things deeply for any length of time. He is a quick healer, well quick mover on’er. I am not sure all that much healing is going on.
It was so difficult to try to support him all day when he was not grieving (to my way of thinking) but planning for his new dog. His need to replace greater than his need to grieve...or so it appeared. Finally, I had to say that I could not discuss a new pet right now. I was still too sad over the loss of little Gidget to even consider a new dog. I needed time. He was not happy with my response but he is frequently unhappy with my response. Regardless, since I seemed to fail at being able to be there for him (he was fine and refused to talk about any deeper feelings other than reporting back to me “the facts”), he seemingly incapable of slowing down long enough to allow the sadness to penetrate, I decided that I could and would set a boundary for me...I needed time and that perhaps in taking time for me, he might get the benefit of some down time as well.
He didn’t really understand. He didn’t get it. He finally let it go and moved on deciding I was in a “bitchy” mood and said he was going to go and didn’t want to talk anymore. I sighed and reviewed the interchange and felt, like I often do, that I innately come up with the absolute wrong thing to say to him and that no matter the great love and compassion I have for him, I am destined to always, forever get it wrong. I feel like I am forever showing up in his life with the wrong tool for the problem at hand. He is having a plumbing problem and I bring a hammer. He is hanging pictures and I show up with a wrench. It feels so awful to love a person as much as I love him and be wholly incapable of giving him what he needs.
The loss of a pet was no different. I listened to his obsessive plans for a puppy all day...what kind, when he would get, how much it would cost. Hours on end of idle chatter about something that I think is a horrible idea. I think he is not capable of providing the stability and care that a puppy would require...which is why he has never had one. Also, I think his autism interferes with his ability to really read the animal’s body language which results in him not understanding that his behavior is being seen as a threat to the animal despite his intentions to the contrary.
So I came to a conclusion...I am going to research and see if they have service dogs for kids with autism. This is the best dog for him. It isn’t going to be what he wants and I am sure it will be as expensive as hell. But I think that he might benefit best from some other being that can help him feel his way through this world since feeling, for him, is something that is outside the realm of normalcy and often places him at odds with everyone and everything. Strong emotion comes for him and overtake him but his expression of those feelings is often inappropriate and outside the scope of acceptable behavior. Perhaps a properly trained dog and a properly trained kid would be a good combination.
For me, I am going to grieve the loss of the sweet little dog that did her best to care for him and calm him when he was upset. I am going to remember her sweet little face and prancing manner when she walked. I am going to remember how much she loved cheese and would dance around the kitchen whenever anyone got a cheese stick out of the refrigerator. I am going to remember her face turned towards the sun on the back deck...lying there without a care in the world. This is how I am going to remember this sweet being that had a hard life before she came to our house and a not easy one after.
Raising my children has been the greatest lesson in letting go. But also in setting boundaries. There are no other people on this earth whose lives impact mine more. Their pain is my pain. Their joy is my joy. But there are times when I cannot follow where they lead. I cannot let their issues become my own. I need something wholly different than they do. And as a parent it seems that conventional wisdom says that they come first...but that is not always possible for me. I cannot place my son’s need to move on over my own need to grieve. I have to find space in my heart for both, a container that hold them both, imperfectly as the container might be, it is all that I have that might be able to contain the diverse and contrary feelings surrounding this loss.
So I will being again this new day. Praying for guidance and peace of mind. That I am kind in my thoughts and words and treatment of myself and my children. I will see that the grief that is not being expressed by my son, is being felt in real time by my daughter. And that my son is processing his emotions in his own way and his own time...as am I. I will try to be stalwart in my conviction that I can make space for all of us...even when circumstance brings much evidence to the contrary. I am going to keep going because it is all I know to do. Good bye sweet girl...I will miss you.