December 23, 2020

Make It Go Away

by Gretchen

I’m sitting here, early in the morning, watching the pink and purple sunrise through the back windows with Rubin curled up beside me. He’s not much of a cuddle dog unless he’s feeling poorly or one of his favorite Aunties comes to visit (you know who you are!). But this morning, he’s decided lying next to me, under a blanket (also something he never does), in front of the fireplace, feels right.

We are both early risers. The others in the house (you know who you are) like to sleep in, cuddled together under the down comforter, curled around each other like two peas in a cozy pod.

I love these quiet mornings especially when Rubin decides to be close. Especially because I know, after years of working with old dogs, our time together is diminishing.

He’s gonna be 14 years old soon and that is as both surprising to me as it is unbelievable. How did we get here? I am surprised because Rubin has had a lot of health problems and there were many times, over the years, where I wasn’t sure he was going to make it to 6 let alone 14. (And yes, I know we’re not there yet so I don’t want to curse it.) Unbelievable because the time has been both mighty long and too short. That we have arrived here so quickly takes my breath away…

Rubin is not an easy dog. He is much better in his old age than he was as a youngster, but still he is feisty and obstinate and in some ways, old age has made those traits even more challenging. And yet, here he lies cuddled close, snoring like only an old man can snore, twitching with old man dreams, and my heart feels like it’s about to explode.

And after the year we’ve had, my heart feels particularly fragile these days.

As 2020 draws to a close, there is an impatience, fluttering in my belly, to just make it all go away – the pandemic, the politics, the isolation, the challenges. Early in May, I remember thinking that 2020 was like all the episodes of The Twilight Zone playing at once, one spooky doomsday after another. Now, late December, I’m ready for the credits to roll and for the next show to begin — something funny and light-hearted, or perhaps a romance where all the loose ends are wrapped up nicely and everyone walks away happy and content.

Just something different than this feeling that something horrible is about to happen, pig-piling onto everything else horrible that has already happened or is happening. Something, I suppose, like hope — that elusive swelling in the chest that makes me rise up and see more beauty in the world than ugliness, more kindness than hatred, more life than death.

I suppose we all feel this way and I am not the only one who has their equivalent of an old dog whose time is limited nestled on the couch next to them. 2020 has made me reflect on the gifts in my life and the fleeting nature of those gifts. Rubin is just the largest and perhaps most powerful reminder for me that even the best things in life (and the worst) leave us.

And I worry, more than I should,  that 2021, as if it was an actual person, will not be able to bear the weight of all my expectations.

So I sit, in front of a warm fire, watching the light on the horizon turn from pink to yellow to eventually a light grey, my old man dog, his ears still twitching with the scent of dreams, trying to breathe in the now and not worry about the last moment or the next. It’s hard to do. I’ve never been good at it, never balanced well between regret and expectation, memories and dreams, but every day, if only for a moment, I try. One breath, then another.

Wishing you all a peaceful transition, from this year to the next. May we rest our tired bodies on the gentle hopes of 2021.

Be well. Stay safe. May there be hugs in our future!


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