Love Just Is…

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The Poodle took to barking early this morning. It’s not a usual thing for him to do. In fact, he’s usually curled tight into a ball, sound asleep in his bed, so much so that I literally have to pry him out of it for his morning walk. His carrying on so early in the morning brought me back to Valentine’s day just weeks ago. On that morning a hard knock on the door just after sunrise would be the reason The Poodle bolted from his cozy spot barking like crazy as his nearly twelve year-old legs tumbled the rest of him down the stairs. It’s a wonder he didn’t wind up at the vet’s office.

I had been making my bed before the silence of the morning was interrupted. For heaven’s sake…who could that be? I wondered as I looked at my watch. Making my way down the stairs I spy, through a window by the door, the reason for The Poodle’s exuberant barking….

Ah…but who else!  It’s Alexandre-the-Greatest.

I opened the door to a beaming smile and my nephew presenting me with a delicate orange rose surrounded by baby’s breath followed by a hug that surely shook the earth….at least, it shook mine. Love poured out of this terrific young soul and for that brief moment in time my entire being was in the pure awe and enjoyment of it.

On this morning however, there was no knocking at the door. In fact, all was quiet on the western front as it were. Espresso in hand, I looked everywhere for a reason for the harsh break of my usual morning calm. I’ve no idea what got my Poodle love into such a tizzy; there weren’t dogs barking in the ‘hood nor was the paper being delivered. I could have yelled at him to stop, as I have done on more than one occasion out of head-splitting frustration. His bark is loud and deep for a medium sized boy! But on this morning I held my tongue and instead, issued soothing hushes followed by my whispering in his ear: Thank-you…um…for bringing whatever that was to my attention.”

No…I cannot be undone by such deafening barking. I know this is just a moment in time….an annoying one to be sure, but one moment all the same.

You see, I’d just read a faithful blogger’s post about the passing of her own Poodle-love and it knocked my heart into my gut. Her Poodle-love Sam was the heart and soul of her writings…of her life…and as a volunteer service pooch, it was clear Sam brought joy to a wide community of folks, from those in hospital to those living around the block. Hearing of someone losing their four-legged love naturally makes one think of the rainbow bridge that looms on the horizon for their pet. Yes, it is ever on my mind even as I struggle not to live in fear of that inevitable day.

As I walked The Poodle later in the morning the sun was struggling to break free of clouds. I hurried faster than usual to keep warm, much to The Poodle’s dismay. As I reached the bottom of the hill, right at the lake, I stopped to see if our resident beaver was anywhere to be seen. “Hmm….not today,” I say to The Poodle. A wisp of melancholy welled up inside of me as I stood watching the ducks glide effortlessly through mud-colored water. I thought of Poodle Sam and even my California friend who gave wings to my journey into Poodle love. Through earbuds, I was listening to David Darling’s Solitude— and of course my thoughts took a unexpected turn down a long ago path–as if to match the gloomy sky–and so then I was stuck in the past….

Many years ago, as I struggled with the end of a marriage I went to an astrologer to have my chart done. Providing only my birth date, birth place and time I was hopeful that she could give me a scintilla of understanding as to what the hell was happening with my life and why. When I met with her weeks later for the reading, she told me a lot of things– which for the most part were spot on–including something that affected me so viscerally that to this day it still bubbles to the surface every now and then (like today) and not in necessarily in a good way.

You are crucified when it comes to love.” It is not meant to be….

It made sense to me given my childhood and a host of other things.

As much as I’d ruminate on that for years afterwards–and believe it’s truth when stuck in my own pity party over one thing or another–I can, in this decade of my sixties, believe otherwise. Whew….Isn’t that lovely! How could I not with this Poodle happily trotting, albeit slowly, by my side! And, I’d be blind not to see love in the dried remnants of an orange rose …or even in the eyes of my husband after tense moments in a day that compels him to say “you are my home.” I could go on and on kind reader, but I’m sure you’d be bored silly. Let’s just say that in moments of doubt, sadness or fear…in moments when heart and soul are a tangled mess on contemplating life without hugs and goofy smiles…orange roses and bottles of red wine…or poodle love and sister hugs…and everything else too numerous to name — I remain humble and grateful that, contrary to anything written in the stars, love just is. And, yes….I am unabashedly greedy for more in whatever nuance comes my way.

There is bliss in that.

Good-Bye Sweet Benjamin

This has been one difficult year all the way around. Unfortunately today is no different.

Benjamin and sis

Benjamin and Sis in Italy

My sis had to say goodbye to her beloved cat, Benjamin, today. She was pretty torn up about it when she called a couple of days ago and told me what had to be done. She had thought of letting him pass quietly at home, surrounded by family, but her veterinarian convinced her that doing so was actually less humane; Benjamin would starve to death and that would be infinitely more painful for him. So sis would take him to the Vet to be put down; the doctor would make sure they had a private room, and sis would have hubby and son by her side. They would still be able to say good-bye to sweet Benjamin together and he would pass peacefully.

There are people in this world that don’t understand someone spilling heart-wrenching tears over losing an animal. “It’s just a cat….or it’s just a dog….or a bird”  they’d say.  You’ve heard it before I’m sure.  There is no judgement here, really. I’ll admit to being one of those folks a lifetime ago. Honestly, I think good people don’t consciously intend to devalue someone’s loss of a pet. They simply don’t know better. But once you bring a pet into your life your heart opens and expands in unexpected ways. Sure, you have another soul in your life that needs you and vice-versa. But it’s the unconditional love that seems to me to be at the heart of it and our pets are part of that experience.  Unconditional love is what we all need to experience, as well as give. That is the true purpose and nature of our souls after all, LOVE….pure and simple, LOVE.

Benjamin’s passing was not altogether unexpected. He was advanced in his years and for months now he had been battling kidney failure. Sis felt certain he would pass sometime during her trip back west last month–when we both had to travel to Arizona to complete “mamma” business. But as sick as Benjamin was, he persevered. It was almost as if he purposefully waited. In fact, I’m thinking, the sweet cat that he was, that he wanted to ensure that sis returned home, got settled and happy again following the sadness and drama of Arizona, before giving up the fight.

Losing a beloved pet is heartbreaking, especially one that has been part of not one family, but two. Sis got Benjamin during her single years. Then she married and had a child which added an entirely new dimension to their relationship. Benjamin accepted it all, embracing all the changes in his cat life and through it, he certainly influenced their family life, providing just another level of richness that was already there.  Because of Benjamin, there was even more love to fill the space of their home life and with it lots of laughter. Another thing that a soul needs….laughter!

You see, Benjamin was the sweetest, most unusual cat. I first met him during a trip to Italy to visit my sis and her husband some eight years ago. It wasn’t sis’s first overseas trip but it was her first time overseas as a military wife. There was absolutely no question that she wouldn’t bring Benjamin with her and by all accounts he settled into his new Italian digs without too much trauma.

I’ll never forget my first night with Benjamin. I had arrived from the States after a long flight and was naturally quite tired. Following welcome hugs and kisses from sis…as well as a light snack of good wine, delicious salami, cheese and perfectly crusty bread, I was ready to hit the hay. Sis showed me to my room and made sure I had everything I needed before kissing me good night. I headed to the bathroom, closed the door and got ready to brush my teeth. As I turned on the faucet and adjusted the water to cold, the most extraordinary thing happened. From out of nowhere…. in a flash….Benjamin comes flying into the bathroom (how did he get the door open remains a mystery) and quite literally deposits himself right INTO the sink, whereupon he allows himself to be showered with cold water.

Oh no! I’ll confess to being so startled that I must have yelled out because my sis came rushing in to see what was the matter.

“Oh that,” my sis says in relief. “That’s OK. Benjamin loves the water…this is just what he does.”

I was incredulous. Really?! I’ve never seen a cat do such a thing (and we had cats growing up).

Sis stayed for several minutes and together we watched Benjamin (whose body filled the entire bowl of the sink) roll around and literally play in the water. Folks, there was no doubt that this cat was in heaven. He was having fun!  He’d put his mouth up to the flowing water and drink some in and then he’d move this way and that allowing the water to cover his back and head. I couldn’t help but laugh! What a sight! If only I could have taken a video of the scene.

Benjamin did the same thing, multiple times of course, during the weeks that I spent with sis. In fact, on several occasions I purposely left the water in the sink running at a trickle while I took a shower just so Benjamin could enjoy his own shower time.

I know that sis and family will miss this beautiful cat. There has to be a little hole in the fabric of their family life now that Benjamin is gone. One less meow, one less cat-nip-fueled play, one less heartbeat….it all adds up.  And, their other cat Taboo–a black bundle of quiet reserve who loves to hiss at The Poodle when he visits –will no doubt mourn the loss of his best buddy.  There is heartbreak in this as Taboo feels the void as well, adding another layer of sadness to this entire day. Taboo will need some extra loving in the days to come. Without a doubt, Alexandre-the-Greatest will see to that.

What soothes the soul during times like this are the memories. Memories like Benjamin jumping in the sink every time the faucet was turned on; or his first introduction to baby Alexandre, just a few days old, swaddled in a blanket. Memories like this and countless more, warm the heart and in that instant there is a smile that brightens simply everything. I’m counting on those memories to bring certain lightness to my sis’s heavy heart in the days to come. Perhaps not today. Today will be tear-filled, there is just no other way around it.

From my heart, thank you for the memories dear Benjamin. Thank you for bringing joy to my sis and everyone around her. Thank you for this moment in time…another opportunity… to stop once more and think about this whole circle of life thing.

Enjoy what you can of each day, but more importantly, give of yourself, what you can…large or small….every day.

It’s what memories are made of.