Six or seven strands of thought lie discarded like leftover dishcloth yarn on the coffee table, because Molly is sick. She had an impressive episode of diarrhea on the wall-to-wall carpet in the boys’ room this afternoon while I was on my way home from another state (geographically, mentally, emotionally). Snowman called my cell phone to report the situation. Still hundreds of miles away, I snapped back to Dog Mom mode.
Molly is going on 5, and every little thing that bothers her concerns me. Bernese Mountain Dogs have a life expectancy of 7.5 years, on average. We knew this going in, but it seems terrifying now if I let myself think about it.
(Puppy Molly, May 2002)
She came to us at 8 weeks old. Her pawprints are on my heart even as I worry about hers. Every time she seems not quite up to snuff, I worry and wonder about the heart murmur diagnosed when she was a pup. She makes my heart skip a beat.
Tonight she has been restless. She won’t drink water, passed by her dinner, likes being outside better than inside. I am on the couch, thinking those middle of the night thoughts we don’t like to have, considering whether to call the vet in the morning or just make her some plain boiled hamburg and rice. (But really, I will always call the vet about Molly, faster than I ever called the pediatrician for the children.)
I don’t like it when the dogs are sick, but I especially don’t like it when Pure Luck is away. As I’ve said before, Molly and Sam are the children of the second marriage. We parent them together, and our approach to what is good for them is a partnership. It’s not that I can’t figure out what to do without his input; I just don’t want to do it. We sat together worrying while Molly had her x-rays at Tufts in 2002, not knowing if there was anything the doctors could do for a puppy dog with bilateral hip *and* elbow dysplasia. We committed to two surgeries together, and we figured out how to pay for them together, and after the surgery we spoiled her together and picked out a little brother for her together.
In the middle of the night I think about my parents and how separate their decision-making categories were. My father took command of everything he viewed as meaningful and left all the menial to my mother–whether she wanted them or not. My mother dutifully performed or coordinated the mundane and the ordinary, and whether she found any of it interesting or inspiring or anything other than enervating I will never know with certainty.
I sought a relationship that would be more of a partnership, but I found marriage the first time around to be a battle for supremacy: who would make the meaningful decisions? whose preferences would matter most? who would do the dull things neither of us cared about much, but both of us knew needed doing? For us, each of these moments was a skirmish, an opportunity to win or lose, a chance to launch an improvised explosive device.
And so it has been on the inside, for me. I lean into the meaningful, but the menial insists, the mundane persists and the mechanical resists, each calling for my attention. I want to be like my father, too busy thinking great thoughts to do any but the showiest "tasks." His household skills consisted of mixing drinks, hanging pictures and laying a good-looking fire in the fireplace. And those, of course, were the tasks that felt meaningful to him, since they were hospitable and aesthetic. But I nag at myself and judge myself for caring so much about what I want to do that I am not available to the everyday needs.
I feel that way especially tonight, knowing that while I was away, having a lovely time, Molly was getting sick and making a mess that I didn’t really want to clean up myself, no matter how much I love her. I want to be like my father and simply trust that all the fuss and muss of daily life will be taken care of magically. But I don’t have that life! And I didn’t even want it. I’ve worked hard to build a partnership on the outside. Now if I can only make one on the inside…