As I sit here with Soren, my faithful Labrador at my feet, a soft melody plays on a Hammond organ in the background, the Christmas tree glows in the corner and my babies sleep.
Where did the time go? The last time I wrote it was Autumn. Winter blew in on Sunday and promises to stick around. Lots has happened so for those faithful few who visit this space let me fill you in.
My children grow. Someone asked me how I liked Edmonton. It’s been a year now. They wondered if we would stay. I never really know how to answer that question and so I said, “I am watching my children grow and this is what is important.” Earlier tonight I went to Jakob’s School Christmas concert. He is getting so big and navigating these years seems harder every day. How does one guide their children in such a way so as to turn out a decent human being? How do I respect him and ‘keep it real’, all the while teaching him about how to be kind, and respectful, and compassionate?
Ella has her good days and bad. Three weeks ago she had dental surgery and had eight teeth pulled. Previously, she had shark teeth and her baby teeth showed no signs of coming out on their own. She is a trooper and weathered it in true Ella style.
We couldn’t be happier with the way the schooling situation turned out. Seriously – it’s a miracle. She is in the grade two class with her fantastic friends and after Christmas there will be only 21 kids in the class with a fulltime EA. She has room to grow and learn and has a class full of cheerleaders to help her along the way. That being said, she is still a stubborn mule most days and I wonder when we will get past the “no” stage. Every day after school she asks for a slurpee and every day I say no. At that point she collapses on the floor and there we wait until discipline is threatened or she finds some other motivation to get up. She is fighting sickness more often than not and her teachers will agree that her bad days and good days are like night and day.
Then there is Audrey. Audrey is 22 months going on 5 years. She is such a smart little cookie and tries her hardest to keep up with her brother and sister. She really has the best of both worlds as she has the support of a brother and sister yet is at home without them for most of the day and therefore can play on her own.
Ben is just rounding out the busiest semester of his life with 2, 3 or 4 concerts any given weekend with rehearsals all week and as well as on weekends in between performances. I’ve only lost it about twice. That’s gotta be a personal best but I think we’re ready to be done.
As we contemplate life however, we also contemplate death. This will be Ben’s first Christmas without his mother. I really don’t know what to say to this. I mourn for him and I mourn for my children – that they will not know her and that their few memories will inevitably fade over time. Yes, they might carry with them highlights, things they are told or photographs that they might cling to but they had too few Christmas’ with her. When the kids’ would lose a tooth, she would always send them a dollar. I thought of this as Ella came home with her 8 teeth. There would be no card from Grammy for this milestone.
We also contemplate death of a different kind, a more complicated kind. In October, our dog showed some signs of trouble in his back leg. At the end of October we took him to finally get Steve removed. Steve is the name we gave to a fat lump under his shoulder that he has had for years. We knew it was benign but thought it was time for Steve to go. We hoped it would improve his mobility – after all, just in September people would still comment on how puppy like his demeanor was. Since October however, even with the lump removal Soren has rapidly declined. In two months, he has essentially become lame in his back legs. I took him to a vet who specialized in rehabilitation just in case it was something we could fix, and we truly believed it was, but after our visit it was quite clear that while the vet could not say exactly what was causing it, the prognosis was grim. More than likely it is a tumor (similar to Steve, benign in nature but detrimental nonetheless) somewhere on his spine that was interrupting neurological function – the message isn’t getting from his brain to his legs. As he is, we have to sling a towel under his hind legs and help him outside and support his rear while he does his business. When a person buys a puppy, they never think of taking care of a geriatric dog. Because of this strain, he is in a lot of pain in his back, groins and other joints – we manage this with pain-killers but can’t know for sure how effective it is. In two months his body has become contorted because of the muscle loss and the way compensates with other muscles to pull himself around – which he doesn’t do much of anymore.
No one coaches you through this and it is confusing because whilst I don’t support assisted suicide for humans (not the space to discuss that), I recognize that Soren is not a human. He is a dog. The average lifespan for a Lab is 10-12 years. We’re there. Even if we paid the thousands of dollars it costs to have a CT scan there is no guarantee that the ten thousand dollar surgery to remove a mass would be possible and no guarantee that it would fix the problem or that another issue wouldn’t arise after. So here we are. It’s heart-breaking, it’s confusing and it’s something people rarely talk about. We say Soren was our first child. We were married a year before we brought him home as a five month old puppy. He has been there to welcome home each of my babies. He has been a better companion than I could have ever asked for. Even since October I have had trouble settling into life without him at full capacity – I have no reason to go for a walk in the ravine, no one to clean up under the table and no welcoming committee at my door.
But the time draws near. The life he lives right now is no life for a dog.
I suppose it is all part of life however – saying good-bye to the ones we love and coming to terms with the reality that my kids won’t see their Grammy again and Audrey won’t grow up with Soren by her side (maybe that is what hurts the most).
The Pursuit of Happiness
I long to settle into a rhythm but am reminded that life is constantly changing. I live in limbo – half the time preparing to stay and half the time preparing to go with no idea where I’ll be 6 months from now, a year from now, or 5 years from now. We’ve seen a lot of highs, lows and uncertainty but one thing I have learned along the way however, is that I can be, or I should be able to be happy despite my circumstances. Even without a place to land, a house to my name, a steady job, good friends around me, money in the bank or a clear picture for my future, I can still be happy if I can just take the moment for what it is. Christmas is coming and we are so fortunate. There will be more gifts than can fit under my ugly Charlie Brown tree for my children from those who love from afar and for today, in this moment, life is okay.
Christmas can be a very hard time for a lot of people but I encourage you to take the moments. Say to your yourself, “In this moment, I am okay.” Or even, “In this moment I am blessed,” and hold on to it with dear life. Sometimes life really isn’t as bad as we make it out to be in our minds.
With the stress that life has brought as of late, I had to interrupt my regular reading regiment and pick up something a little lighter. The book I picked up was, Hector And The Search for Happiness. It sounds stupid doesn’t it? Yeah, well, it was exactly what I needed. It’s short, it’s light and it goes down like coffee and baileys. Read it with Vince Guaraldi – you won’t be sorry.
Who knows when I’ll get to this space next, so if I don’t talk to you before then, have a Merry Christmas.