I once heard the saying "A dog is a happy tale with sad ending." And its true; today my sister called to tell me that our dog, Freckles, died today. Freckles was our family dog, and we'd had him since I was ten years old. While he was friendly to everyone, he was mostly my dad's companion. We always joked that my dad wanted a male dog to be his "son" after having four [human] daughters. I was strangely calm after talking to my sister. Freckles was over 12 years old; he'd had a good, long life, especially for his breed. I'll miss him, but I sort of expected this to happen soon. He was blind and deaf for the last year of his life, but had an impeccable sense of smell. As soon as someone entered the yard, Freckles would lift his head and sniff for a moment and inevitably trot on over, straight as an arrow, to say hello. He was just a cool, friendly dog.
What I wasn't prepared for was talking to my father. He is home alone, because my mom is visiting my sister in North Dakota. The one thing that will always get me upset is hearing my father upset. He's never hid his emotions, but he's never often lost himself in them. When I called him, he was crying. He sounded heartbroken, and he was alone. Under normal circumstances, I'd want to take a few days off of work and go up there to be with him right away, if anything to just keep him company. But I am already taking at least a week off for Dad's surgery in a month. And it kills me that he's grieving over Freckles with no one there to talk to. I hate not being able to be somewhere to support someone when they need it.
How can I help Dad handle all the surging emotions he'll feel after the surgery when it upsets me so much to see him like this? Can I really be strong enough to help him through this? Knowing myself, I'll push everything I feel aside until it is over, and then feel it all at once. (Like mother like daughter, really) I know this isn't the healthiest way, but what other way is there? The most important thing will be my father's recovery, not my temporary mental health. I'm just lucky to have the support of so many people on my end. My friends got together and bought me a phone card so I can call them when I go up for the surgery, because there is no cell phone reception on the farm. Emily has listened to any concerns I've told her, and has reasonable, supportive, honest things to say about them. Dan has been incredible; he's going up to the farm with me for the surgery, and I know he'll do a lot to calm me down during The Wait.
I just still feel unsettled about the surgery, and knowing how lonely and sad my father is right now somehow makes my fears about the surgery worse. Any reminder of mortality is unwelcome right now to anyone in our family. I don't want to think it anymore, or fear it anymore. I just want this whole ordeal to be over.
And it wouldn't hurt to be able to cuddle with my dog when I go to the farm. I guess my dad won't be the only one who will be missing Freckles. He's the black and white one in the front.