July 31, 2018


From a parking deck
to our front porch.
One day I looked up and he was pushin' eighty,
An' brown tobacco stains all down his chin;
Well, to me he's one of the heroes of this country,
So why's he all dressed up like them old men?

  -- Guy Clark, "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train"

It's a wonder we ever open our hearts.  Especially those of us with a network of defense mechanisms that rivals military bureaucracy in its complexity.  But we do, sometimes, when love comes knocking.

I wasn't expecting some things.

I'd forgotten the unrelenting exhaustion that comes with having a baby in the house, and the mantle a parent assumes when a toddler graduates cruising and becomes a fully mobile machine hell-bent on putting every single thing it can reach into its mouth for sampling and analysis.  Even after puppy-proofing, having Molly is reminding me of that thing where you know where your young child is at all times, a radar, an awareness that is always present and scanning, even when you're involved in another task.  It's like leaving Bluetooth on and then wondering why your phone battery drained so quickly.  P.J. and I are both sleeping but utterly spent.

I wasn't expecting the swell of emotion this morning at work.  I miss my dogs.  Molly wasn't squirreled-out this morning; instead, she sat patiently with one ear up and her head tilted and watched while I brushed my hair and teeth and dressed for work, issuing the occasional small whimper for attention.  She wanted to be beside me.  Rose accepted affection as though she would take the crumbs left over, almost resignation.  I know I'm doing twelve different kinds of projecting and anthropomorphizing right now, but I miss my dogs terribly and want to be home with them, to give and receive love.

And then there's the part that completely blindsided me.  This morning, even though late for work, I spent that moment with Rose, lavishing affection, and saw in her face an expression that I've only ever seen on Chester's face.  Her eyes said, I'm an older dog now.  They said, I'm mortal.  Rose is eight and I know the odds are we have years left to enjoy her company, and it has been a thing of mirth, watching her and Molly play together these past two days.  But this morning, her eyes said, I'm the older dog now.

My own eyes are leaking now, just from typing that.

It might come from watching her manifest alpha behaviors that Chester used to exhibit, and an intersection with grief.  Rose is still my sweet girl, and I must look past my heightened awareness of the white hairs increasing steadily in her fur and on her muzzle, past having her doe-like grace and slower pace thrown into relief by Molly's puppy energy, past how much sand has already poured through the neck of her hourglass, and past the memory of her at Molly's age, sitting in her pen looking up at us with a pensive, curious puppy face.  Past all of these things, I must see Rose as Rose, my simpleton baby girl who needs me now more than ever.

I have two children, but I have only reared one.  It is foreign to me how a parent's heart handles siblings.

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