Saturday, December 15, 2007
Light and Dark
I feel fortunate to live in Southern California. We are spoiled by the weather, here. I'm wearing a down-filled ski jacket in our non-insulated playroom because the temperature has dipped below fifty degrees. This is after the day had already reached a high of almost seventy, in the greater Los Angeles area.
I am feeling especially lucky as we approach the winter solstice (December 22nd, this year) because the shorter days are not darkening my moods as I had thought they might.
Two years ago, we had to put a beloved pug down, right after Thanksgiving. He was fourteen years old, and it was time. The early evening darkness in December that year seemed only too appropriate for the acute grief I felt over the loss of Caesar.
I was approaching final exams and term papers at the end of a semester, then. I kept thinking to myself, I can't do this, I can't do this.
My heart was broken.
I wanted to give up. School--everything--seemed pointless without my little baby. The only reason I continued making an effort was that I was one semester away from a Bachelor's degree, finally (and my fortieth birthday). It would have been sheer stupidity to get so close to finishing, only to give up.
I cried a lot, at home, because Caesar wasn't there. I just couldn't believe that he wasn't around anymore. Denial is supposed to be one of the four stages of grieving a death, before reaching the fifth and final stage, acceptance (as I had learned from repeatedly viewing "All That Jazz").
I missed the bond. I realized that my little fawn-colored pug had been a tangible symbol of my own inner child, and that I was able to transfer on to him all of the love and nurturing that I had always craved for myself.
It may sound silly, but I really feel that Caesar was the closest I ever got to having my own son.
Domestic Partner and I waited seven months until we adopted new dogs. We knew we wanted two pugs, and Moxie and Prudence came as a pair that needed to be placed together. We also got one-eyed Oscar thrown in as a freebie. Oscar was twelve years old when we adopted him with the two girls, and all three ended up being ideal pets.
"Why did you get a dog so old?" a friend had asked. "You're just going to have to go through the same loss all over again, very soon."
We knew that. Oscar wasn't Caesar, but he bonded with me, and he truly helped to fill that empty space left behind by Caesar, both in my heart and in our bed at night.
Oscar lived with us for eleven months until it was his turn to be put down. I cried for him, too, and I miss him as much as I miss Caesar.
Every year, now, with the approach of winter solstice and the early darkness, I will think of Caesar, as well as other dogs I have bonded with and loved.
The tears of grief are finished, for the time being. When I think of Caesar and Oscar, I sing songs to myself, in their memory, while riding my scooter. "Hush-a-bye Mountain," from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday," from The Muppet Movie; "I'll Cover You," from Rent; and "I Will Remember You," by Amy Grant.
Something else I learned, from reading the Peanuts comic strip: "It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness."