It’s hard to be a mother.
I didn’t have kids but I have dogs and it’s been a rough month. It started out okay, but then life has its tough spots and so does love. Trying to be a good enough mother is impossible. And being a compassionate kid is just as difficult.
Whatever you love, it’s tough to do it right. For me, it means putting blankets over my pooches in winter, not going on some vacations and spending money on their health. Basically, it means caring all the time.
Being human and imperfect, I was trying to take care of their health this week. In the car, after the last appointment, my dog laid her chin on my other dogs back and stared at me as if to question why we had had to go to the vet again. We had just left the doctor’s office and I knew she was scared.
So, we went for a cheery walk in the sunshine and that made everything alright. We frolicked freely down the bike path, relieved to be outside in sunny Sonoma. But, on the next trip, after looking at x-rays, the vet pulled up her chair close to mine. Nose to nose, she said something about how hard this might be. I don’t remember because I went blank.
I flashed back on our bright and happy walks all week. I had turned around many times to watch the dogs scampering behind me in glee, ears perked and tails wagging. I felt like a good mom — they were happy. She toodled along — that’s why her name is Toodles, she toodles along
But then the doctor said she had bladder cancer and it could be any day or years.
When you are a mother, your heart breaks and opens at the same time. You want to protect them and sometimes you can’t. You can’t figure it out; love just is.
Toodles is sometimes called Noodles because nobody can remember her name. And that was my mistake; maybe it should have been Martha or Sue. Being an imperfect mom, I made my best guess.
But love comes with loss and difficult decisions. And being responsible for another life is huge. I wish I had known before my mom died how challenging it was for her to take care of us. But, I was a kid. Kids don’t always appreciate parent’s struggles. I had to separate from her in order to grow up and sometimes compassion comes later.
Now, how I long to have one more afternoon with her.
I remember the time we went shopping at Nordstrom. She was tired so we sat under a naked mannequin and watched other shoppers. We laughed so hard we bent over holding our stomachs. She was witty and hilarious commenting on the clothes women were picking out that we thought were horribly ugly. We roared at the Hawaiian moo-moo’s and tight yellow jeans that seemed odd matches for the women choosing them. Those great moments are long gone. And losing my dogs will be the same… but love will remain, however flawed.
As Albert Einstein reflected late in his life, in a letter to his daughter: “When I proposed the theory of relativity, very few understood me …for love we live and die. Love is God and God is love. This force explains everything and gives meaning to life.”
Love each other. Because one day we say goodbye. How will I know when it’s time? While dealing with urine on the rug, I’m relieved when she rests in the sun, tummy side up. I don’t know what day or hour it will be, but I will be watching closely.
This piece originally appeared in The Sun on April 28, 2016.