I was in the Bubble of Numb; that odd expanse of time after the death of a parent when you don’t quite feel the loss yet. When you are suddenly the head of the family, going through clothing and furniture and minutiae. When you “make arrangements” and call the life insurance and watch people take things – mostly with your blessing because there is SO much.
There are humans I love who helped me beyond anything I could have expected: My mom’s best friend, Shirley (my OTHER mom). I now live in her neighborhood and she is MY friend. My lifelong girlfriends, Karen and Amanda, who helped me set up a small celebration of life for her. My high school friend, Kathy, who sent her husband over to fix my failed A/C condenser when it died two days after my mom passed in the oppressive July heat. My mom’s neighbor, Sonya, who wrote a beautiful poem for her and supported her daily as their family, who took the reins of the estate sale and saved me from a thousand little heartbreaks.
I love my humans. And Izzy is a great crazy pants dog. But Doc was my constant.
Doc unfailingly did the thing that the truest doggiest of dogs do: They go where love is needed.
And the Bubble of Numb burst spectacularly for me one day.
What follows is a short, ugly list of events:
-I got laid off from work, found another job, but for less money. The environment was toxic, but I had to feed my kid and dogs.
-Chase Bank tried to come after me regarding my mom’s house – which I had signed a quitclaim for in 2002. It cost me $700+ to provide a legal document-which does not exist in my state – to get them to leave me alone.
-My son, who has Asperger’s like me, had turned 11 and suddenly grew a mouth the size of a Silverback gorilla. Yeah, Puberty!
-I also inherited my mom’s cat, Gracie. We loved her, but she had developed a tumor in her neck and could not eat. Her kidney, which had been popped outside the muscle wall since she was a kitten when someone stepped on her, was not functioning. It was the only time I had every taken an animal to be euthanized. I understood it – logically – but heart was heavy because she was so close to my son.
-I got laid off to half-time at the Toxic Job. I lost my house. I had to go on food stamps to feed my kid. My boss denied my half time unemployment claim. He gave me the option of staying only to run The Cutter. The Cutter is an old school, manually operated, slicer with a giant blade. The work is physical with bending and carrying and there were no safety gloves. A co-worker took several top layers of skin off the back of his hand. I stayed when I could, when there was work.
– I sold my furniture. I kept my bed and Connor’s bed. Everything else was TV trays and plastic drawers from Family Dollar. I also kept an old wicker trunk my mom bought me. Doc would lay on it at night. I would sit next to him on the floor and repay him in the currency of ear noogies and belly rubs. He would listen to me, sigh and close his big brown eyes.
-My car brakes died as I was headed to work down Main Street hill. The car itself died as I pulled into my work parking lot. I suddenly became dependent on others for a ride to work. I did not live on a bus route. Luckily, my son could walk across the street to school.
-I took bankruptcy. Lost the house, killed the car, said goodbye to a dear old cat.
-I left the Toxic job for an even worse one in property management. I already lived in the complex in a garden apartment. Why do they call it a garden apartment? Because all kinds of shit grows there – like mold. The apartment flooded two weeks after I took the job. I was able to parlay the situation into a third floor apartment closer to the office. But I was stunned at how ill-prepared the management company I worked for was. I was disgusted at the way they treated people. Oh, and found out we couldn’t get ServiceMaster or anyone else to help because they didn’t pay their bills.
-I suffered a mini-stroke. This building tornado – this universal wave of doom made up of a thousand little raindrops of bullshit and circumstance – picked me up and threw me down hard. My head hurt – things went black – I fell in the middle of my bedroom floor. Done.
Doc was sitting next to me. He leaned his little, shaggy body against me. I don’t know if I was crying or if my face was just leaking. There he was.
I took an unpaid 3 days off – since I only worked half-days – who cared? I sat on my floor, next to Doc.
We watched Night Gallery on Hulu. All of Night Gallery. I commented to Doc how Bill Bixby seemed to be all kinds of evil in this show.
I shared my cheesy scrambled eggs with him and Izzy when I could not buy dogfood.
Doc never doubted me. He was never disappointed. He would make me laugh by menacing the giant raccoon who ruled the apartment dumpster. King Trashy-Trash was his arch-enemy.
I would sit up late into the night, just to talk to him and pet him.
Izzy would snooze nearby. I was grateful.
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE – (This is why you just read all the bad stuff.)
When my world was at its smallest and darkest, little golden things started showing up.
-I took a job which effectively doubled my pay for doing something that I didn’t hate. I could buy food for my kid and my dogs all on my own.
-I moved out of the apartment and rented a house in the same neighborhood as Shirley. Connor didn’t even have to switch schools.
-I got better. My brain healed itself and I began to see the lightness in things. I decided not to die. Not to give up. I had a child and two dogs who loved me – who depended on me. I began to try to put together a life beyond Night Gallery and cheap food and sketchy apartments and half-ass jobs.
-I met an amazing man. I told him right away that my life was shit at the moment and I didn’t believe in love. He was struggling at the time as well. But somehow he decided to prove me wrong about love and we threw our lots in together. He is the best human being I have ever met.
-Izzy and Doc got to go on their own vacation for 3 days at the home of an animal behaviorist. She also had other animals. Doc made friends with a horse and chased chickens and got to be what I imagine the dog version of a cowboy is.
-My son grew up. And even though he still has King Kong mouth sometimes, I am very proud of him. While Daz is the best person I ever met, Connor is the best person I ever made.
And Little Doc. My beautiful, feisty boy. He was becoming a little old man – crotchety when he needed more attention. Still playful and loving and vocal and interested in whatever we were doing.
He and Daz would take long walks together – to the pond to see frogs and turtles – to wherever the path led exploring. Once of the reasons I love Daz is his relationship with Doc. Two creatures of a certain age– brown and silver – beloved friends journeying together.
Daz decided to immortalize Doc in a mural – trying to capture his giant, giving spirit.
Although he was small, his love was growing too big for our house. He still had more adventures in him…