Tag Archive | death in the family

Good girl gone

Tess about 4 years ago.jpeg

One of my favorite pictures of Tess, from three or four years ago. She loved a camera and cameras loved her. Her eyes were still amber then.

If anyone ever tells you that losing pets gets easier with time, they’re lying, especially if you have to make the ultimate decision for them. Over 42 years, I’ve had the great luxury of only having five dogs – they’ve all lived very long lives for their sizes, and many of those years we were a two-dog family. Trigger, who lived to be 12, came home with me when I was 20. Our beloved Tess came home with my sister and me in the last vestiges of my youth – I was a mere 49, which seems young at almost 62.

But never have I had the luxury of a dog dying in her sleep. Even little Trudy, who at 16 years and 3 months had a massive stroke, had to be assisted in her final exit. Tess, a graceful beauty – we called her “Barbie” for her delicate ankles and catwalk poses (but I also called her “Catfish” in her younger years for her silly, swishy walk when we used to go for miles) had dealt with neuropathy for a long time. She had her 12th birthday party in May, and things just seemed to swarm after that. Her dainty ankles puffed up and she fell more and more. But she never lost her sweetness or her smile.

Still a beauty.jpeg

Our gorgeous girl spent most of her time sleeping or resting the last few weeks. Our beloved vet, Tim Palladino of AllPets, made a house call so she could depart on her own bed. 

She so enjoyed our big family Memorial Day party, but she wasn’t interested in the hot dogs her dad grilled for her. She did really dig the Caesar salad, though, and cleaned the cheese grits pan.

When Tess was tiny and I was recuperating from a life-changing/potentially life-saving surgery, she stayed in the bed with me and patiently chewed on the corner of our expensive newish nightstand. We’ll cherish those little teeth marks forever.

She annoyed the heck our of Toby, who was 9 when Tess joined the family, until Tess was old enough to be her best pal. (Toby made it to almost 14.) She preceded grandchildren but loved, endured, and protected them fiercely as each came along. Zuzu is their buddy, but Tess was their guardian.

Only child.jpeg

Big little Zuzu will have to learn how to be an only child, at least for a while. She’s wearing Tess’s going-away lei in her honor.

Today we had a little memorial and gardenia-planting for Tess. I’ll close with pictures from that. My heart isn’t in this. It still hurts.

Pop planting.jpeg

Pop put the lovely bush in the ground,

Everyone Get Some Dirt.jpeg

then all the kids helped fill the hole with dirt.

Group effort.jpeg


The kids are happy to have a reminder of Tessie, but Sylvia, who said a few words along with Pop, wanted assurance that we’d never move and leave Tess’s gardenia behind. No matter what, she’ll live in our hearts forever.

Reach out and touch (somebody’s hand)

When Jude heard the news about his Pop's mom, he sat down to make a sympathy card. We're lucky grandparents.

When Jude heard the news about his Pop’s mom, he sat down to make a sympathy card. We’re lucky grandparents.

As much as it pains me to type these words, the fact is this: My little mother-in-law, the woman who raised the man I love, slipped away Saturday morning, at about 9 her – Yakima, Wash. – time. She was 93.

We fly out tomorrow, as already scheduled (though it won’t be pretty – when John checked us in online, he was immediately notified that at least one flight is overbooked). We couldn’t get anything workable sooner – this time of year flights are scarce.

I’ve put off writing this, but this morning, as I was ironing John’s shirts for the trip and listening to Aretha Franklin Live at the Fillmore West on my new little retro record player he got me for Christmas, I realized that I could and must reach out and write this.

Reaching out and touching each other is how we get through these times.

Doris and I didn’t know each other that long in the big picture, having just met about a dozen years ago, but it was instant love, partly because we shared this wonderful man. She thanked me repeatedly over the years for coming into his life and I thanked her each time I saw her for raising a gentle man to love me and never think I’m too weird for words.

She started slipping mentally a few years into our relationship but she never lost her ability to love, not even in the later years when she hardly knew which end was up at times.

As I’ve written before, she really said her goodbyes to us in July, when she had a few very, very lucid minutes. She told us she’d had a good life and to take care of each other and love each other.

We do and we will. But we’ll miss her being around to occasionally remind us.

Goodbye, little Doris.

Doris didn't like this photo from Thanksgiving 1981, but I rescued it from the trash. She's with her very long-lived mother – the mother she's been searching for as the dementia worsened. I hope they're together now. And I love how Doris is sassy in red.

Doris didn’t like this photo from Thanksgiving 1981, but I rescued it from the trash. She’s sitting with her very long-lived mother – the mother she’s been searching for for a couple of years as the dementia worsened. I hope they’re together now. And I love how Doris is sassy in red.


The song remains the same

Easter was definitely different this year – partly by choice and partly because we had no choice – but, as usual, the family song remains the same.

We were happy to have my son-in-law’s mother and sister (and Natali’s boyfriend) with us. They and precious little Luke helped fill the gaping hole left by Bill’s absence. We had lots of little ones to bring joy, noise and energy, and we’re so lucky for that. Mother was thrilled to have them all there, even though she’s weak and fragile.

Mother (Grandma, Grammy or, as Annabelle calls her, Gammy) couldn't wait to get her hands on Luke. That went a long way toward cheering her up

Mother (Grandma, Grammy or, as Annabelle calls her, Gammy) couldn’t wait to get her hands on Luke. That went a long way toward cheering her up

But Mother had a hard time emotionally. And we had a hard time watching her have a hard time.

We’ve been down this road before – when Daddy died, Mother grieved herself down to tiny proportions, my sister developed full-blown anorexia, and, from what I can see in photos, I got pretty darned thin myself. But we were all much younger then and Mother was basically healthy. We all recovered over time and, though scarred, survived.

But now Mother’s health is scary (she has myelodysplastic syndrome) and we don’t know what the future holds. She lives by herself a good 20 minutes from me and farther from Cathy. We don’t like at all. I put life on hold for a while, but it’s calling me back to other duties, and that’s hard, too – I still feel like I should be driving out to Mother’s every day, though she says I don’t need to.

Mother never really spent an Easter as a widow, as Daddy died right after Easter in 1982, and by the next year, Mother was a few weeks away from marrying Bill. At her age, she doesn’t see that happening again, though she’s cute enough (and normally outgoing enough) that if her health levels off again, nothing would surprise me.

But that’s a big if.

The kids give her a reason to keep on keeping on, though. And a new one arrives this week.

So we’re sad, but very happy – and also worried. What will be will be. And the song will keep on playing.