Life is all about change. Nothing is permanent, including ourselves and those we love. As I write this I am sitting in a hospital room, with my 80 year old Dad, who is hooked up to fluids and medications that will hopefully, bust the clots in his lungs and keep him alive for a while. How long? Who knows? This change in his health came about suddenly, with little warning. A week ago, he was traveling across the United States, coming to a new home in Wisconsin from Louisiana, with his grandson and son-in law. He was obstinate and spry, able to shout driving directions to my husband at every turn. Now he struggles to form several words together in a sentence, and speaks mostly with 1 or 2 word answers.
Our relationship is changing, he who once took care of me when I was little, carrying me on his shoulders, buying me Slim Jim’s at the convenience store, and playing tickle monster on the floor (a game where he would lay down on the floor and try to catch my sister and I as we ran around him, if caught we got tickled) is no longer able to care for himself. Now I am taking care of him. Tying his shoes, holding him up to walk in his walker, making him meals, buying his groceries.
Our duties, relationships, and roles in relationships are constantly changing and evolving, a continuum from the person being taken care of to the caretaker, to once again, being taken care of. We go from being helpless babies to competent adults (or teenagers- when we think we know everything-) to needing to be taken care of again at the end of life. We embrace the first 2 parts of our lives, and try to run from the last part.
Our relationships and loves of our lives (family, pets, & friends) are what makes life worthwhile. As we age these relationships slowly change into new balances of power and reality. A sudden change can shift the ground beneath our feet, what we once thought to be true, is not. Contemplating the loss of a parent makes me feel like an orphan – even though I am in midlife! My old roles were daughter, wife, parent, & friend. My new roles are – no longer daughter – still wife, parent and friend. Change changes us.
Roles change with our aging pets too …
We go through the same changes in the lives of our pets, only faster. When we enter into a pet relationship we (usually) know our pet will not outlive us. Their little hearts beat faster, they go through the stages of life faster, and they love faster, better and less selfishly than we do. They accept the changes that happen to them with a sense of peacefulness and calm. They don’t over-analyze (unless they are a Border Collie) but just ACCEPT. They live in the moment, for the moment and with the moment. Perhaps they are here to help us learn how to accept change. We humans fight against the inevitable and our pets “go with the flow”.
Today, I am going to try to be more like my dog, accept the change that comes my way today, and live in the moment.