22 December 2014
“Guys, snap out of it! Sooner or later we’re going to realize that horrible things happen to this family at Christmas. And stop expecting for every year to be different.”
~ Baby Jessika
And so it came to pass that almost a year to the date of losing our mother, we have said goodbye to another family member.
Just a few months shy of his fifteenth birthday, Sissy’s faithful companion Buster woke up feeling poorly yesterday. Over the past few years, he’d begun to slow down physically but intellectually he never waned.
During my last visit, it had been a couple years since we’d seen each other but the minute I walked through the front door, Buster’s face broke into his Annual “Oh Boy! Someone’s Makin’ A Turkey For Me Again Finally!” Look and thumped his old tail against the wood floor.
I had to shower AND pee with the door open because he refused to allow me one iota of privacy, He heaved himself up from the floor with a sigh of disgust each time I went outside to smoke, but he followed me just the same.
Baby J repeatedly told him he was her “baby brother.” Nicole spoiled him with treats. And it was Mom, who swore she’d never have another dog after losing her cocker spaniel to a speeding car in high school, that so took to Buster that she finally caved in and adopted her little Yorkie Olivia.
Buster was allowed to lope his eighty pounds of gassy old man around my mother’s house – and even into the former “Cuban Room” – the jewel in Mom’s decorating crown – an activity generally forbidden to the rest of us.
A Florida guy, he loved the beach and chasing sea gulls but he also relished the move to Massachusetts and spent long hours inspecting and marking each new snowfall as if he’d discovered the white stuff for the whole world.
His favorite movie was Gremlins and if you set that DVD on repeat, he’d sit patiently in front of the TV for hours.
He had gotten on in years – yes – but still held the regal pose of the art of him that was Shar Pei. And he still gave us what we called “the ass” when he was disgruntled with us. He’d stare, snort and then turn his entire body away from the offending party, refusing to acknowledge us further.
Without writing too much painful detail, Buster was rushed to the animal hospital on the cold winter’s night. Three ladies carried him gently into the examination room. After a few tests, the doctor kindly informed Sissy that Buster had internal bleeding due to cancer – something previously undetected.
While the rest of us in other states rallied our ready cash and credit cards for what would be an expensive-but-money-is-no-object surgery, Sissy asked the doctor two questions.
1. Is he in pain? Not yet, but he will be.
2. If he were your own dog, what would you do? I’d let him go.
My sister is the most wholly unselfish person I know. Without her even telling me, I knew what she would do. I closed the airline website where I was going to begin changing her holiday travel and I hung up on the bank.
Her choices were to live a few more months with Buster as he succumbed first to pain and then to the inevitable or to allow him to go quietly into that good night.
Just before seven last night, Buster went to sleep wrapped in a soft warning blanket and in the arms of his best friend.
Gentle Readers, you may call me crazy (or even crazier than usual) but it simply cannot be a coincidence that Buster and Mom passed almost exactly a year apart.
I truly believe with all of my heart that our mother may have been a little lonely during this holiday season and knew that Buster wasn’t long for this world.
She knew he was sick and Sissy did not. She also knew that Sissy would have boarded a plane to join the entire family in Florida, only to miss the passing of her best friend. Buster would have died alone.
It’s kind of a Christmas miracle, if you think about it.
Now dear Buster is romping like a puppy again. With Mom and Nana, Yaya and Poppy.
And Ziggy, my childhood dog BFF who allegedly ran off to live on a farm. I never believed that, of course, but they’re all together now anyway. All dogs go to Heaven.
As we always do, we must keep moving. It’s almost Christmas and with all of the ghosts of our family members watching us, we better make this one count.