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We Built A Tree.

The ride home from Jersey was long. It was much longer than usual, but more fun, as we had a stopover in Jersey City for a second Thanksgiving dinner with friends.  It was a welcome distraction from the shock and sorrow of our Thanksgiving trip. Then we drove home in the dark, waiting for two blabbering kids to finally quiet down and accept the peaceful lull of the long highways home. They did. I even shut my eyes for some time. Then we arrived home to rebuild our holiday weekend.

We did this:

And a bit of this:

What we didn’t do, or at least what I didn’t do..a lot..is focus on the pain of the weekend. The loss of both family dogs. The emptiness in my mother’s heart and in her day-to-day tasks that no longer include the feeding, care, love, and snuggling of two dogs. Not even one dog. As a kid I read “Where The Red Fern Grows” in which both hunting dogs pass away at the end after they defeat a mountain lion. Old Dan dies from his wounds. Little Ann is so sad that she dies a few days later after losing the will to live. I cried myself to sleep for a week while reading the book for 6th grade English. Then my teacher showed the filmstrip version in class and I ran out of the room sobbing. It was my worst nightmare. And it wasn’t even real. What happened recently to my family is very much real but I’ve lost the ability to cry myself to sleep for a week or to run out of rooms sobbing. I don’t know if part of me has hardened over a bit, or if it’s just too much to comprehend, while also working more than one job and helping to care for two kids. I think it’s that second one. I don’t feel hardened over. Just..old.

After Kaylee had passed, we woke up on Thanksgiving morning to visit my grandmother at her rehab facility. There were bright moments, like one of the nurses or nurse-like people helping her was a guy I looked up to in high school. And she was so deliciously happy to see Des and Scarlet. She cannot see or hear very well, but she could feel Scarlet’s hair and she was strong enough to hold Des in her arms. After we wheeled her into the cafeteria, we could only talk for a bit before we had to leave. “I understand,” she said. But she didn’t. I didn’t want to leave her. It occurred to me the cruelty of time limits on our lives. How she can hold Des only for a few minutes before her arms hurt or it’s time for visitors to go home. How even my parents can only hold Des for a few hours or days before it’s time for us to go home. How even I, who can now hold him day in and day out, will one day lose the ability to do it so luxuriously. Right now I do it as if I’m swimming in time.

It seems so cruel, but I know it’s not so. Not only so. My sister exploded into tears when we were leaving and I admit I don’t know how I didn’t. It was the bib. All of the patients had to wear bibs. And I thought about my Nana being strapped with a bib, over a thousand miles from home and without her love of 70+ years. Is this her reward for staying active all of those years? For eating right? For surviving? Oh, but it is. It is. It’s terrible and treacherous and heartbreaking and nausea-inducing and sorrowful and so painful. And, it’s all good in the end. That’s what I have to believe. That’s what I believe.

They may be but just brief moments, or one brief moment in the whole of time. But they’re our moments:

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