Christmas Lights

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Opening the side door of my house, I hear the cries, whimpers and barks of my two faithful companions. Climbing the few stairs leading to the kitchen door, I hear the sound of a Labrador tail pounding against the cupboards. With warm, grateful canine expressions, Shiloh and Cricket welcome me home.

After the robust, mutually enthusiastic greeting, I walk to the table and deposit my purse and keys. I open the slider for the dogs to go outside while I settle in for the evening. Like every night, I head into the bedroom to plug-in the Christmas lights hanging along the curtain rods to warmly drive out the darkness with colors spilling onto the walls.

I head to the kitchen to call the dogs back in the house and begin to prepare dinner for all of us. Walking down the hall to gather my gym clothes, I notice half of the string of colorful bulbs have stopped working. Feeling deep sadness, tears start rolling down my cheeks.

“Those are your lights, Richie.” I said out loud with only the dogs to hear me.

Richard loved Christmas lights and would have a string of them in the living room until summer. We used them as ambient light instead of candles. Neither one of us liked harsh lighting in the evening while we watched TV. The Christmas lights were perfect. He would plug them in every evening and unplug them when it was time to go to sleep.

One night last April after being awake only a couple of hours, Richard said, “I am so hungry and frustrated because I can’t get enough to eat. I might just as well go back to bed.” I said, “Ok.” Knowing he was weaker and weaker every day, I followed up with: “Do you think this is your last night in the living room?” He replied with a nod, “Yes.”

Staying in the living room for a few more minutes, we reminisced about things we shared in that room through the years. With gratitude, laughter and tears, we talked about Christmases and watching our favorite TV shows. We talked about the hours of sharing our hearts with one another over the previous year and how it was, by far, the best year of our relationship. We talked about ending life well, purely loving, how tangible God became for us and how hard this journey has been.

I moved over next to him and he put his arm around me. We sat in the silence holding hands for a few minutes, enjoying the lights. Then we knew it was time to transition into the bedroom. Richard made his way down the hallway with his walker. The familiar sound of his twisted gait always caused me pain. That night it was excruciating. I knew that was the last time I would hear that sound.

After helping him get ready for bed, I made my way back to the living room. I turned on the table lamp and slowly reached for the string of Christmas lights wrapped around the blinds. I carefully removed them while fighting unhelpful tears. I gathered the lights together and took them into the bedroom.

“What cha doing?” Richard said. “Bringing the living room to you.” I replied. Fighting tears, he said, “Thank you.” I followed with, “I’m not hauling the rest of that stuff in here. It won’t fit.” We laughed together. We always found ways to laugh together.

So, here I stand today looking at the half lit string of lights. A decision must be made. I walk over to the cabinet and retrieve a new box of Christmas lights I bought at the end of the season for this very reason. I carefully take down the lights in the bedroom and wind them up putting them off to the side. Untangling the new set of lights, I place them around the room in a similar fashion as “Richard’s” lights. The bulbs on this string are all white. They need to look different from Richard’s lights; they are my lights.

The tears have stopped flowing yet there is still a deep sadness. My life is good yet I miss all the wonder of him. I pick up the old lights and take them out to the trash. I don’t need lights to remember him. He will always a part of me. I must continue to move forward.

Resurrecting Larko: It’s a great year.

 

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Canine Companions

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Shiloh is on the left. Cricket is on the right.

I am a crazy dog person. I admit I have a problem. It is a problem I fully accept and will do nothing to change.

These two run my life. Very few people know what my furniture looks like without something covering it. Dog hair is on every piece of fabric in my house and I often stumble over dog toys as I move from room to room.

My dogs ride with me in the car whenever weather and schedules allow. I roll down the back windows in the winter time so they can put their heads out and enjoy the fresh air. Fur floats freely throughout the vehicle refusing to be contained even after the fur bearing beasts are back in the house. Leaving signs of ownership, the back windows display masterpieces they create with nose prints and slobber marks.

They are expensive, loud, inconvenient, demanding, limiting and dirty. So why does this insanity continue?

This morning I woke up, saw it was light outside and glanced at the clock. Ah, two more hours of sleep before I need to get up. After being in one position for several hours, it would be helpful to move around a bit to get more restful sleep for the next two hours. Is it worth the risk to show signs of stirring? Feeling stiffness in my shoulder and numbness in my arm, I slowly roll over to the side of the bed and glance at the floor.  “Oh, good, Shiloh must be in the living room.” Carefully, I move myself into a comfortable position and settle in for more sleep. Cricket, seamlessly moves with me, continuing to snore through the process. She pushes herself  toward me resting her head on my leg and offers a loud snort, as if to reprimand me for moving her. At least she settled back in. Whew, it was worth the risk of moving.

Within 30 seconds, I hear the sound. It is a cross between a cry, whine and whimper. “Hi, baby boy.” I say as I reach over to pet Shiloh’s head and scratch his neck. The sound is now accompanied by a wagging tail, attentive ears, a bright toothy smile, breathy pants and a look of love uniquely his. Busted! Now, I know I have to get up and let him out.

As I make my way to the patio door, trying not step on dog toys or wake myself up more than necessary, I say, “Come on, Baby Girl. You are going outside, too.” Cricket dutifully runs down the hall and out the door with Shiloh.

After they come back in the house, I walk back down the hall to the bedroom to try to go back to sleep. I get into bed and Cricket quickly follows, finding her spot. Then it happens. Shiloh jumps up on the bed, over Cricket and around to my other side. He crawls up the side of me, puts his sweet head on my shoulder, snuggles in as close as he can get and mumbles sounds of contentment. Cricket then snuggles in a bit tighter, sighs and begins to snore. Feeling the warm loving presence of my two canine companions on each side of me, I soak in the reward. Ah, a Mommy sandwich. We all fall back asleep and all seems right in my world for another hour.

Feelings of loneliness, grief, uncertainty, sadness and fear are all soothed when I am surrounded by puppy love.

This is why I have dogs.

It’s a great year.