Daisy gives Sean a hug.
My mom’s 15-year old Cocker Spaniel, Betsy, died a week ago Sunday. My mom was completely devastated, even more so because my father had told her she could not get another dog until her bills were paid off. Mom called me in tears a couple of days later. “But I’m never going to get my bills paid off!” she cried.
I had never heard my mother so distraught. Betsy had been her companion for years. Betsy was there after I left to live with my husband and when my brother, Sean, left to go his own way. Betsy shared a part of every meal with my mother and was quite possibly the most spoiled dog on the face of this earth. She was bottle fed as a puppy, and this, my mom claims, is the reason Betsy never quite believed she was anything other than human. She could show you your place with just one look. “Excuse me, but this is my couch. Didn’t you know that?” She hated baths and haircuts and loved food and furniture. She was a piece of work.
My heart broke every time I talked to my mother on the phone the week after Betsy died. She told me how she woke up from a dream in which she was feeding Betsy dog biscuits and cried. Betsy, though completely deaf towards the end, was always there to greet my parents at the door. My mom used to bring plastic baggies to every restaurant and always ordered chicken because she knew it was Betsy’s favorite. Friday night was the first time she had eaten out and not had a baggie to fill. She broke down and cried again when she got home.
So I bought her a dog. In hindsight, I’m sure there could have been a better way to go about getting the dog, but I was desperate. I couldn’t stand to hear my mother in so much pain. My mother is the most caring and selfless being I have ever known. Since my grandfather died two years ago, my mother has devoted all of her time to the care of my grandmother. Grandma, though spunky and independent, suffers from Macular Degeneration and can no longer see well. Mom drives her everywhere, takes her shopping, helps her pay her bills and calls her three times a day. I’ve never heard my mother complain, though I know she would like to have some of that time to herself. She does what she has to do and is happy to do it.
Of course buying the dog meant that I was defying my father. Though I love my father, he has and always will be an extremely selfish man. He and my mother are polar opposites, which is why I suppose their marriage has lasted 35 years. They balance each other out. My mother’s grief, as intense as it was, had no effect on my father. It was as though he wore a suit of armor meant to keep him insulated in his own insensitivity. On Saturday, the day after my mother cried after coming home from the restaurant, my father left for a 2 1/2 week road trip out west. And that’s the day we went to get the dog.
We drove to Birch Run to get her. She was nine weeks old and her father’s name was Noah, a sign she was meant to be ours as that is my last name as well. It was a great trip; me, Mom and Grandma, who is always up for adventure (especially when it involves animals). We couldn’t wait to see the pup and bring her home. Unfortunately my mother also couldn’t wait to tell my father. She decided we should fess up right away and called him at the motel he was staying at in Missouri. I was charged with breaking the news to him. I was told we had two weeks to get rid of the dog and the call ended abruptly with Dad hanging up on me. “I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep tonight,” said Mom.
Late the next afternoon I called my parents’ house to talk to my mother only to be greeted by my father’s voice. I immediately panicked and hung up the phone which was stupid as my parents have Caller ID. My dad had come home. He had cancelled the remainder of his trip and drove home from Missouri. I prepared Nathan for the inevitable. We were going to get a new dog. I was a bundle of nervous energy the entire evening, not able to concentrate on much until my mother called me later and said, “I get to keep my dog.”
I don’t really know why my dad felt he had to come home, but at this point I don’t really care. My mother is a little happier. There are still tears and a hitch in her voice when she talks about Betsy, but there is also joy and happiness when she talks about the puppy she has named after her favorite flower, the Daisy.
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