So Monday night I got home and there was no impossibly frantic tail-wagging and jumping up on the hind legs. And I felt, for the first time since Beth left for Morristown, alone.
It was a particular kind of aloneness that I’ve felt before. Like the weeks on end I spent in Urbana while Beth was in the hospital in Chicago after eye surgeries. Or the night of the day that Gus was born. He was delivered by C-Section, squawked, and then proceeded to try to die right in front of my eyes. That night, with Beth doped up in her hospital room and Gus in the neonatal ICU with a 50-50 chance of surviving the night (by the doctor’s estimate), I came home, sat on the couch, and the first thing I saw was a tower of disposable diapers we’d built. Our friends had given them to us as a shower present. Now that was lonely.
Back then I tried the stiff upper lip routine. I’d conjure up a voice that would say, “Don’t feel sorry for yourself.” Now, I hear a little voice — it sounds a lot like Woody Allen’s — that says, “Go ahead. Feel sorry for yourself. If you don’t do it, who will?” So I do and it passes quickly. Takes a lot less energy than fighting the urge.
But I’m still sad. Times like these, some people suggest thinking of all those folks who are less fortunate. I get the count-your-blessings part of that. But it’s never worked for me. In times of misery, knowing that others are even more miserable doesn’t perk me up. Then there’s the “Welcome to Holland” thing. If you don’t know about it, a parent of a child with a disability wrote an essay by that title. The central idea is, say you always wanted to go to Italy. You book the trip, you get on the plane, but somehow, you land in Holland. You’re disappointed that it’s not Italy, but you learn to appreciate all the things about Holland that you never knew you would. I get that, too. But you know, what if sometimes you feel like you landed in freaking Siberia?
I wish we’d landed in Italy. I wish Gus had grown up to play a mean shortstop and become a Rhodes Scholar. I wish Beth could see. I wish she didn’t need a Seeing Eye dog.
Over the years I’ve learned just to go with feeling bad for awhile. And, most important, I’ve learned I’m not alone unless I want to be. After the drive home from dropping off Hanni in Urbana, I had dinner at Kate and Joe’s. They’d invited me knowing I might be a little down. (For the record, we ate Italian food.) These past two weeks with Hanni, our friend and fellow White Sox fan Lora walked Hanni while I was at work. Lora would tell me stories about their walks each evening. Ira — a friend of Beth’s from college days and now my friend, too — visited with his wife Debbie and delivered a new dog bed for Harper last week, just like they did for Hanni years ago. They also lavished attention on Hanni. I met our friends Rick — who is visually impaired — and his wife Rhona (who isn’t) for coffee yesterday at their invitation. Beth’s 94-year-old mother called last night to make sure I was OK.
In the past I might have resisted having company at a time like this, thinking I was supposed to fight the good fight myself. I might also have turned down Beth’s request to fill in for her here on the blog.
Not anymore. My thanks to all our friends and family, you’ve made a rough time a lot less so. And thanks to all of you blog readers who’ve been reading and commenting and following our little transition. It’s been great having you along for the ride.
Beth and Hanni are back Wednesday, so with any luck at all, the next post will be Beth’s.