I seem to be grieving, lately. I think about Gadget and cry a little bit, by myself. Or I sob on the phone for an hour to a friend about how I feel robbed of the writing career I could have had if I weren’t sick. I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to get organized and get out of my own way, and that everything is so damn hard.
I’m angry and frustrated and sad that I don’t have access to reference books because I can’t go to the library. And that, because of that, I don’t feel able to prepare a book proposal for one of the TEN books I want to write or edit or have already mostly written and which I feel I’m incapable of ever actually pitching.
I’m angry and sad and frustrated that I can’t walk my own damn dog. That other people get to walk my service-dog-in-training. That I don’t get to see him run. That I don’t get to see any of the world go by or say hello to casual strangers or acquaintances. That I can’t get to my van to try to train Barnum how to do a default sit upon exiting without me spinning around on a rock, afraid I’m going to run him over, because the clearance on my (indoor) powerchair is so low.
I’m sad about Gadget. I’m sad about Norm. I’m sad about my two former best friends. I’m sad about all the other people I never see because they were friends of the friends who don’t speak to me anymore. I’m sad that the people I do still have in my life, the people I care about and who care about me, are struggling so unbelievably hard, too — seem to have more than their fair share of the world’s crap dumped on them, and that I can’t do anything to help.
I miss having IRL friends. I miss having any holidays actually be fun, as opposed to something to just get through and try to ignore except that they make life more difficult because stores and services are closed, and I have to shuffle PCA coverage around.
I miss having neighbors who cared about me. I miss liking the way I looked. I miss so many things I can’t write about here. This isn’t the life that I wanted. I’ve been so willing, over and over, to adjust and lower my expectations and get creative and make it work, and I just want a break. I miss just having two major diseases instead of three.
But I can’t stay in a perpetually bad mood, because I have Barnum. He is my oxytocin pump. Almost every day, at least once a day, sometimes two or three times, we have training sessions. I engage my mind. I connect to his mind. I get to see him learn and think. I get to be the source of eager anticipation: food, clicks, a target to pounce on, a door to slam.
Sometimes he puts a little extra zazz into his work by adding a bouvie bounce. Today, I asked him to get off the bed, and he jumped off, and then he looked at my helper (whom he adores) and did a little bounce into the air, just ‘cuz. It was totally like he was putting a flourish on the end of the behavior. I said to my helper, “Tada!” We both laughed. He is really the silliest goofball of a dog I’ve ever had. The rest were all so dignified. Thank goodness for this goofball.
When we play, I laugh. I forget that I’m sad. Barnum gets his green squeaky ball — the one that squeaks REALLY LOUD, as if a baby or a small animal was shrieking in pain — of course, he loves that, and then he runs with it. He looks at me, his butt in the air, his front legs on the ground, squeaking the ball against the floor. “Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!”
I zoom over wiggling my fingers, saying, “I’m gonna get yooooo!” He JUMPS up, beside himself with joy, and scrambles, like a cartoon character, his legs spinning like windmills while he goes nowhere, getting no traction on the wood floors. He keeps just far enough away that I can’t reach him, but close enough that I almost can.
If I’m able to surprise him — get closer to him than he expected, goose his butt — he leaps, his body giggling. “Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!” He runs and pounces on this dog bed, then runs and pounces on the other dog bed: “Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!”
I hide in the bathroom when he thinks I’m in the bedroom. Then I call, “You can’t get meeeeee!” He comes running for me and stops in the bedroom, looking around. Where IS she? Tiptoe to the hall. . . . Tiptoes to the bathroom. . . . Doesn’t see me, goes looking in the living room again.
I called, “You can’t get me!” and he comes running back. Tiptoes into the bathroom, looks behind the door, and I pounce: “I’m gonna GET you!”
LEAP! Scramble scramble run squeak! Run run run squeak! Squeak! Squeak!
I still wish Gadget was here — to teach Barnum, to be the adult while Barnum still acts like a puppy. To open doors and carry messages and retrieve things I drop and show Barnum how to do it. To be calm and quiet and compliant. I love Barnum, and I still miss Gadget. I want them both. I want my Einstein and my clown. I want to see them running side by side, through the field and down to the pond.
I know so many people who are struggling, depressed, sad, in a funk, scared. I keep sending out this link to the Magic “Make Everything OK” Button. [I don’t know if that page is readable with a screen reader, so I’ve included a description under my signature.]
It continues to give me a giggle, but it’s not a furry dog with a squeaky toy. It’s not Gadget. I think, after all this time — almost two years after Gadget’s death and three years after Norm’s, after the deep, deep layers of loss in every aspect of my life — everything is OK enough that I can finally start to face all that I’ve lost, everything that isn’t OK.
I’ve been in survival mode for so long, when it wasn’t safe to grieve, or when I was too overwhelmed by too much loss to process it. I think I am finally starting to recover enough that the numbness is beginning to wear off. It hurts like hell, and then I numb over again, and then it hurts again.
As long as Barnum’s OK, I think I’ll get through this. Even though things are not OK, I think I’ll be OK. You know what I mean?
– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (who was my everything), and Barnum, SDiT, not my everything yet, but a hell of a lot
[Make everything OK page description: A large, raised button in the middle of the screen says, “Make Everything OK.” When you click on it, a window appears above it that says, “Making everything OK in progress,” above a bar that fills, the same way an upload or download bar fills from left to right. Then the window is replaced with a new box that says, “Everything is OK now.” And below that in smaller letters, “If everything is still not OK, try checking your settings of perception of objective reality.”]