Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Styles With Which We've Grown Accustomed

When I was very young my mother and sister and I lived away from my grandparents and the rest of the family so trips home were special occasions. My grandmother and I were quite close and even after nearly four years there is not a day that goes by when I'm not keenly aware of her absence. Even as a child I knew that we shared a bond that––although not any stronger or more valuable than her relationships with her other grandchildren––was unique and powerful. I was thinking of one of her favorite stories, which involved my departure from Idaho Falls with Casey and my mother. We'd spent a long weekend with Grandma and Grandpa and when the time came to leave I was beside myself with grief. As we said our good-byes in the front yard I began to cry and became inconsolable. My mother practically had to drag me into the car, where even as we drove away I was racked with sobs. Several blocks from their home, Mom finally asked me what was wrong. "I didn't get to kiss Grandma's knees goodbye," I blubbered. My mother had no choice but to turn the car around and take me back where I did indeed hug and kiss my grandmother's knees.

* * * * *

There are mornings when leaving the apartment is almost unbearable, when Winnie and Pip are curled up in nice little balls around me on the bed, when Duncan is stretched out between us sleeping soundly and Olive blinks her eyes open when the alarm sounds and I stir. She takes turns sleeping on our two pillows and this morning when I turned and tried to get up she reached out her paw and touched my forehead as if trying to push me back down into a warm, blankety slumber. But the shower and tea beckoned and so I rolled out from under the covers and moved down the hall. The kettle took its time coming to a boil and it seemed the shower , too, was lazy in warming up. The sky was gray and even after the blinds had been drawn the morning light was still low and dim. I sat on the couch a long while, my big red blanket pulled up around my chin wondering if I'd ever manage to wake up. Everything seemed to urge me back to bed and although I was more than willing to go I knew I had to go to work in order to keep the animals in the lifestyle with which they've grown accustomed. Duncan was warm and cuddly outside and refused to venture too far from my side. We walked lazily along the edge of the property, each step in the wet grass a long sigh. When I brought him inside he sat in the doorway, cocked his head and frowned at me. I knelt down and he fell against me, licking my still damp hair. He smelled of morning, sweet like citrus and strawberries, and was as warm as a pillow. He did not want me to go and I did not want to. But I grabbed my bag and keys, kissed him on the head and locked the door behind me.

I crossed the parking lot and climbed into my cold car where I sat a few moments while the wipers pushed the water off the windshield. The sweet, licorice mint steam from my mug rose up and coated the windows so I turned on the air until they were clear. I backed the car from my spot and just as I was about to pull away I glanced at the bedroom window where the blue curtains I'd forgotten to pull hung long and limp. There was a rustling and then a sweet red nose appeared. I watched as Duncan pushed his head under the curtain and back out of his face. He sat there watching me watch him. I smiled and put the car into drive just as he reared back and placed both paws against the glass, his head still cocked, the frown still on his face.

That was all it took. I pulled over, left the car running and went back inside where he was waiting for me at the door. We laid down on the carpet and hugged and while his tail wagged and thumped loudly against the tile, he licked my arms and hands, then my head and face. When he was satisfied he climbed to his feet and plopped himself up on the couch, content at last.

Being late for work because the dog won't poop is one thing. Being late because he needed extra love is something else entirely. I'd gladly do it every morning without remorse or shame, for while I'm supporting him in the style with which he's grown accustomed, he's just as busy supporting me in mine.


Charlie said...

Maybe that was Duncan's version of "kissing Grandma's knees"?
- Charlie

Lori said...

They ask for so little, in the scheme of things... and what's more important than a little extra love when they give us so much? Good call!