Wednesday, December 13, 2006

...another one opens

I have a brother, his name is Mike. 15 days ago, I would have told you I didn't know where my brother was - whether he was happy or sad, dunk or sober, alive or dead. 11 days ago I would have told you that I had not seen him in nearly 13 years. Today I can tell you that my brother is happy, sober and alive. The way I found out is truly unbelievable. In fact it is so unbelievable that my life is beginning to feel like a Lifetime made-for-tv-movie about a family that was reunited with their long lost son/brother after nearly 13 years. The day after my dog Buddy died saddness was starting to sink in. I would see something dark lying on the living room floor (my gym bag) and do a double take after realizing that it couldn't be Buddy. Or something would fall off of my son Ben's lunch plate, and there was this empty silence where the sound of a dog sniffing under the table for "floor d'oeuvres" should be. I called my best friends in the whole wide world, Elaine and Amy, in New York city. They are dog owners, dog lovers and the two people I knew would understand my grief. We talked for quite a while cried together and said goodbye. My sister, Molly, called later that day - around 1:00 pm - from our folks' house and left a message on my machine. Mom and Dad had gone down to California and Arizona over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit with family, and were arriving back that afternoon. I didn't know why Molly was at their place, but I figured it had something to do with returning keys. My husband got home around 2:00 that afternoon, and not long after that I called my folks to see if they'd arrived home yet. They had pulled into the driveway right after Molly had called me - then Mom said "Molly has some pretty amazing news, but I don't think I can tell it..." Molly has two kids so I figured it was something to do with my neice or nephew. What I was not expecting to hear was this: "We found Mike." On Thanksgiving day KOMO 4 News in Seattle aired a "feel good" story on the six o'clock news about a homeless man hepling out at a food bank. It was a pay it forward story; here's the guy who basically has nothing and yet he's giving back by helping those who helped him. Had I watched the news on Komo 4, I would have seen my brother for the first time since Easter of 1994 - on the TV news for cripes sake! Molly and I and our families spent Thanksgiving at our other sister, Kim's house. As I mentioned before, my parents were in California. None of us were watching KOMO 4. None of us saw the news broadcast. Luckily, and somewhat ironically, a friend of Molly's who had been Mike's landlord for "a few of the most depressing months of my life..." (a quote from Mike) was watching the six o'clock news on Thanksgiving and saw the broadcast. When Molly got to work on Friday, there was an email from this friend stating "I saw your brother on the news last night - he looks good..." Can you imagine? Just try to imagine that you have not seen a loved one for over 12 years. Maybe you feared the worst. Perhaps you'd worried that they were dead, that they drank their kidneys into failure, that they now only existed in some morgue as John Doe... These are the thoughts that I spent the last 12 years trying not to think. Now imagine that you've not only found out that this loved one is alive, but that they have exorcised their demons, and have learned enough about hunger, and generosity and gratitude that they now want to help out others. My brother is still homeless. He lives in a shack in the woods that he built 7 years ago. But because of his generosity, someone found work for him. He is saving his paychecks to buy a camper or RV to live in. And he has spent the last two weekends with my folks at their house, which, by the way, he helped build - 13 years ago. You can help stop the hunger

When one door closes...

In the near month since I last posted, so much has happened. So much that I wanted to write about. So much that I wished I had a keyboard that plugged directly into my brain - because whenever I thought of just what I wanted to say I was invariably in the shower. Or driving. Or doing anything other than typing on the computer. When I last posted, I was feeling optimistic. Buddy, our beloved Buddy-Bud was battling canine lymphoma, and I was going to shower him with love, home cooked organic meals, and hoeopathic and vitamin therapies to improve his quality of life as much as possible until the inevitable happened, or (hopefully) until he got bettter. Then, we turned such a drastic corner and there really was no hope, no turning back. I had wanted to post updates on Bud's condition, but there was no improvement. Things went from bad to worse, and in a couple of weeks I was faced with a difficult decision. What I wanted most for that lovely creature, was peace in the end. What there was, was howling, barking, paralysis and incontinence. Twice I called about having him "put down." The first time was on a Saturday night - to the emergency animal clinic my vet always references on his answering machine. After finding out all the details - including directions on how to get there - I said to the woman at the other end "I'm going to have to call you back..." I really wanted him to go on his own. You know, there would have always been that "Did I do the right thing?" question haunting me. The second time was on Tuesday, November 28th. Buddy was outside laying on the snow in the front yard. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it was soothing to Buds to be laying on the cold ground. I made sure I had a wool blanket under him and kept checking him to see if his body was too cold. He could no longer move his hind legs to get up and go potty, and I knew he needed to go. He started howling, then barking and I thought "...This is it..." I talked to one of the veterinary assistants at my vets practice, and we made a tentative arrangement for the vet to come to my house that afternoon to put Buddy to sleep. That afternoon, about a half hour after my husband got home from work, Buddy passed away. I was with him all day and finally, after bringing him back into the house - carrying all 65 pounds of him in the blanket like a sling - I laid down on the floor with him so he could see my face and I just started to talk about his life with us. I started with how he found us, and about how he used to steal little snacks off the kitchen counter (a pint of cream, a loaf of freshly baked bread left out to cool...) Ben and Daddy were in the living room, and oops - something spilled, so I got up to help clean it. Buddy must have turned his head to watch me go because when I came back in to the kitchen he was looking my way and I said "Well hello old friend!" Then I noticed that he wasn't breathing. He wasn't breathing. For nearly three weeks I had listened to him struggling against swollen lymph glands to fill his lungs. It would keep me awake at night. Now, at last, he found some peace. I cried, but I was so relieved for him to be free of his suffering, and that I didn't have to be the one to end his life. My husband said he doesn't believe in euthanising pets. I now understand why. Allowing a creature the honor of living out its own life to its natural end isn't always easy or pretty but I believe that we made the right choice. Buddy waited until his whole family was home, and then let go.